Thursday, January 26, 2012

Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is the exciting conclusion of "The Whole Chicken Experience!" (That's what I'm calling this. Fyi.) This is the third meal from our chicken from Monday. I saved most of the chicken breasts for this. I usually cook this in the crock pot, but I was running late because I was shopping. And really, what's a better excuse than that? If you'd like to cook it in the crock, you can cook it on high for about 2 hours. And add 5 minutes to the last step. I'm pretty sure it is delicious no matter how you make it.


1/2 cup chunky salsa
2 cups of cooked shredded chicken
2 cups frozen corn
1 15 oz. can of black beans rinsed and drained
2 cans (10.75 oz. each) cream of chicken soup
1 can Rotel
1/2 cup water or chicken stock (I used spicy chicken stock from my rotisserie chicken.)
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeno (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
1 or 2 6inch corn tortillas cut into strips
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. Stir the salsa, chicken, corn and beans together in a large dutch oven.

2. Stir the soup, tomatoes, chicken stock (or water), jalapenos, cumin and chili powder together in a separate bowl. Pour on top.

3. Allow the pot to heat at very low for a minute or 2, then stir well.

4. Cover and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

5. Stir in tortilla strips, cheese and cilantro. Cover and cook on very low an additional 10 minutes.

I think this soup is rich enough on it's own, so the only topper I usually use is green onions, if I have them, which of course I will have them FOREVER now (see The Green Onion Experiment). You can also use black olives, sour cream and/or cheese. This batch was particularly spicy for some reason so I used sour cream to cool it down. And you definitely need tortilla or corn chips! I have fried a few corn tortilla strips before, but I was being lazy tonight.

This soup is awesome with Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread. It's super easy!

Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread


1 box Jiffy cornbread mix (8.5 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 cup butter or margarine (melted)
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons diced pickled jalapeno, drained well
1 cup shredded cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Combine corn bread mix, egg and butter.

2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

3. Place cornbread in greased muffin tin or greased 8 x 8 casserole dish.

4. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  


Turkey and Cranberry Sauce Sandwich With Sprouts And Sunflower Seeds

Last night I wasn't feeling very well. It was one of those feverishy, headachy, exhausting, depressing nights when all I wanted to do was put on my PJs and watch Doctor Who reruns. (Being completely caught up on Doctor Who and finishing The Hunger Games series are 2 factors that contributed to my utter distraught.)  I didn't feel up to cooking but fortunately I had the ingredients to a new sandwich that I wanted to try. Here it is!

I grilled our sandwiches because it's so cold out right now and a cold sandwich just didn't sound very good. I served them with tomato soup. And watched "The Girl In The Fireplace" again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The "Mix It Up Party"

My good friend Caitee has had some health problems in the past. But happily, she recently got all better! To celebrate the return of her long lost health, she hosted a small party of 10 friends. But not any ol' party... It was a CD exchange party!

Here's how it worked: Caitee invited 10 people. She asked each person to make a mix CD of their favorite songs, make 10 copies and bring them to the party. Then everyone leaves with 10 new CDs! Isn't that a neat idea??

Not everything went as planned, however. Out of the 10 people she invited, 2 cancelled. Out of the remaining 8, two guests didn't bring a mix. So including Caitee's mix, there were only 7 mixes. And 2 of the mixes were made by Dustin and I. Sooooo we only got 5 new CDs. But we love our 5 new CDs!

Despite the flaws, the party was a success! Great music, food and friends. Now if there had been a clown I think it would have been the party of the century. Possibly ever. So invite 10 of your closest friends over for a "Mix It Up Party," as Caitee so eloquently christened it.  Encourage them to design creative cover art and include a track list.

Not bragging about my amazing musical taste/awesome mix CD skills, but here are our tracklists:

The Dustin & Sherylyn Mix: Volume I
  1. Innocence - Nero
  2. 1901- Phoenix
  3. Nature Song- Maria Taylor
  4. Monsters- Hurricane Bells
  5. Janglin- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  6. Cousins- Vampire Weekend
  7. Buggin'- The Flaming Lips
  8. Skinny Love- Bon Iver
  9. Midnight City- M83
  10. I Didn't Mean It- The Belle Brigade
  11. In The Lost And Found (Honky Bach)- Elliott Smith
  12. Can You Tell- Ra Ra Riot
  13. Bodysnatchers- Radiohead
  14. Turning Page- Sleeping At Last
  15. Treat Me Like Your Mother- The Dead Weather
  16. Coat Check Dream Song- Bright Eyes
  17. She's Long Gone- The Black Keys
  18. The Recluse- Cursive
  19. Lazy Eye- Silversun Pickups
  20. Where Is My Mind?- Pixies
The Dustin & Sherylyn Mix: Volume II

  1. The Suburbs- Arcade Fire
  2. Here I Dreamt I was an Architect- The Decemberists
  3. Your Retro Career Melted- The Faint
  4. The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)- Flight Of The Conchords
  5. Work- Jimmy Eat World
  6. Sofi Needs A Ladder - Deadmau5 Feat. Sofia Toufa
  7. Roslyn- Bon Iver And St Vincent
  8. A Diamond And A Tether- Death Cab For Cutie
  9. Be Here Now- Mason Jennings
  10. Say Please- Monsters of Folk
  11. Teen Angst- M83
  12. Sleepyhead- Passion Pit
  13. We Are Nowhere and It's Now- Bright Eyes
  14. Amsterdam- Peter Bjorn & John
  15. Houdini- Foster The People
  16. Campfire Kansas- The Get Up Kids
  17. We Will Become Silhouettes- The Postal Service
  18. Hearing Damage- Thom Yorke
  19. January Wedding- The Avett Brothers
There were a couple of repeat tracks spread throughout all of the mixes at the party. For example, our friend Sean also had 1901 by Phoenix on his mix. And Caitee had January Wedding by The Avett Brothers at the top of her track list. And the number of Decemberist songs in all the mixes added up came to a grand total of 5! But we agreed that at least the band will be well represented. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Green Onion Experiment (Sounds Much More Exciting Than It Is)

I saw a tip on Pinterest that I'm trying out. Supposedly if you put the ends of green onions in a glass of water and place it in a sunny window they'll grow. Growing my own green onions will save me like a buck a year! So yeah, this is a pointless experiment....

But don't worry, my loyal followers (all 2 of you), I will keep you all informed of the riveting progress of my green onion experiment! Perhaps I will stumble upon an amazing solution to many world problems. Much like the discovery of penicillin. Stay tuned.  

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Remember how I told you that we get about 3 meals out of 1 chicken? Well, this is meal number 2:


1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups cooked shredded chicken (I used left over rotisserie!)
1 cup shredded cheese, divided
6 standard size flour tortillas
1/2 cup milk


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Saute green onions until tender (3 or 4 minutes.) Add garlic powder then stir in the green chilies, soup and sour cream. Mix well.

3. Reserve 3/4 of the sauce and set aside. To the remaining 1/4 of sauce add the chicken and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Stir together.

4. Spread a thin layer of sauce in the dish.

5. Fill each tortilla with the chicken mixture and roll up. Place seam side down in the baking dish.

6. Combine the reserved 3/4 of sauce with the milk and mix well.

7. Pour the sauce on top and top with  remaining cheese (or extra if you want.)

8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

There you have it! We got a little carried away with the plate presentation....

Monday, January 23, 2012

Saving Money- One Bird At a Time: Whole Chicken in the Crock Pot and Homemade Chicken Stock

So my blog is to help you save money right? One of the most fundamental things I've learned about frugal cooking is the fact that chicken is so much less expensive than beef! Before I read that somewhere on a blog about saving money, I hadn't even thought about it. The idea that ground hamburger is always the cheapest choice seemed matter of fact. But it's true. A pound of hamburger is around $2-$3. Most chicken is sold under $0.99 per pound. And the cheapest, healthiest way to eat chicken is to buy a whole chicken and prepare it yourself. You're scared aren't you? Most people can't stomach the idea of having to put their hands all over a raw chicken. It is pretty disgusting. But it's amazing the things you'll do if you really want to save money!

I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi. They get a bad rep but their products are quality and much more inexpensive than Dillons (Kroger) and sometimes even Wal-Mart. Something about contributing to a company that doesn't constantly raise their prices and wants people to save money is one of the reasons I shop there. Also... to save money! Aldi has their chickens priced at $0.85 per pound. So a chicken that is 5 pounds costs $4.25 before tax. Dustin and I (and Bette Davis Jr.) usually get 3 meals out of one chicken. (Well, Bette usually only gets one. But she is always close by looking for handouts while I prepare it.) One way to prepare a whole chicken is to cook it in your crock pot before cutting it up.

1. The first step is to rinse your chicken inside and out then pat it dry with paper towels. (I don't know why they say paper towels, but that's what everyone else says. I have used a dish towel before and Bette Davis Jr. dug it out of the laundry and tried to eat it... Perhaps that's why they recommend paper towels.) Some chickens have "innards" or "guts" so you have to remove those too.

2. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray.

3. If your plans for your chicken are for soups, pasta, tacos or anything that you'll be chopping or shredding later, you only need to add a few of your favorite seasonings. I usually use a little salt, pepper, garlic and paprika. But if you are going to serve your chicken whole, it's very important to separate the skin from the breast meat but keep the skin attached. Then rub salt under the skin as far as you can reach. (EW!) This keeps your chicken juicy. I also recommend using a homemade rub on the outside. Here is one for Rotisserie Chicken that I love:

Rotisserie Chicken Rub

2 Tablespoons Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon Sage
1 Tablespoon Dried Rosemary
Water, Olive Oil, or Chicken Stock

Combine all the seasonings in a bowl. Gradually add water OR olive oil OR chicken stock until you have a paste. Rub paste all over the chicken and inside the cavity.

4. Place your chicken inside the slow cooker breast side up and cook on low for 7 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. (Until it reaches 180 degrees.)

5. If you're serving your whole chicken for dinner you're done! But if you're using it for a casserole, tacos, soup, etc. allow your chicken to cool. Then pull the meat off the bone easily using your fingers.

6. Next put the bones back in the crock pot with the drippings. Sometimes I also put the skin back in too if I'm not planning on using it.

7. Add about 6 cups of water and cook on low overnight.

8. In the morning (if you have time) strain the bones and skin out of the juice and you now have your own homemade chicken stock! (I usually turn the crock pot off and put the pot in the fridge until I get home from work and then strain it.)

Your broth can last up to 6 months in the freezer. Once it has cooled you have to scrape a layer of fat off the top with a spoon. No big!

Kansas City Renaissance Festival 2011

Back in October Dustin and I went to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival with some awesome friends and family!
Several of us made our own costumes. Well, my aunt made them for the most part. I cut a few pattern pieces out on my costume but she did most of the work. 

Dustin surprisingly did a lot of his own costume. He found a pattern for his bracers, picked out his own materials, and put them together himself. He also sewed his vest and did all of the eyelets on all of our costumes (it takes a strong man!)
Obviously Dustin was an archer. Noble and solemn. I was his wild gypsy wife with a free spirit and carefree constitution. Our characters reflected our personalities in real life. If you knew him you may be shocked that he had the guts to dress up in a costume and pretend to live in the 14th century.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fast Learner?

I guess I'm getting this blogging thing after all. I know I have a long way to go if I want to achieve a beautiful page like those that I aspire to, but with the help of my clever husband I'm figuring out how to do simple things like apply a background and change my font size! I'm planning on sharing some kitchen tips I learned from The Happy Housewife and a few I discovered on my own tomorrow. Be excited! I know I am. :)

A Blogging Nightmare Prologue

I have never had a blog. Of course I had the standard "MySpace" and even before that the ever popular with the kids "Xanga." And obviously the life controlling "Facebook."

When I say I have never had a blog I mean an actual, adult, HTML inspired page. But ever since I signed up with pinterest, I've discovered a world of more than status updates and uploading photos. Style blogs. I'm amazed to see girls my own age and younger, blogging and inspiring me. Showing me that I have the right to give fashion, make up, home making and love advice to anyone who wants to hear it.

The most inspiring blog to me (so far) is It's the life of Elizabeth who loves "Winnebagos, the great Northwest and all things vintage and art... among many things." I first took interest in  her blog because of her amazing taste in fashion. I love the way Elizabeth pieces together articles of clothing that you wouldn't expect. I try to be daring in my choice of outfits, but her style is what I aspire to. However as I continued to explore her blog and realized it's much more than fashion. She puts her life on her page; updating her followers on her road trips, her then-boyfriend (now husband), and fun DIY projects including recipes.

Another blog that inspired me (a polar opposite) is The Happy House Wife, otherwise known as Toni, gives advice on things like cooking, frugal living and home management. Toni is a military wife and stay at home mom. She home schools her 7 children where she currently resides in North Florida. I don't have any kids (too many pets though...) and I work full time. But 5 months ago my husband lost his job. I have always enjoyed cooking but now that we are so low on funds, cooking every meal is an absolute necessity. I first found The Happy House Wife when I googled "cheap dinner ideas." Her blog is full of great tips, most of which I use weekly.

So gradually the idea came to me: I should start my own blog! That way I can combine all of my favorite tips, ideas and stories; ranging from fashion to slow cooker recipes. A blog designed for women my age with similar life circumstances as mine. Or even women with completely different circumstances that could maybe be inspired by me. Apart from being a small inspiration, I could maybe even make some extra cash... because we need it! My husband recently found a new job but it's part time and not nearly enough pay. He continues his search in this depleting economy.

So here's the "nightmare" of the situation: I know nothing about blogging! All I know is what I've learned from the handful of blogs that I've perused. So here in my first post, I'm hoping someone will take the time to read this and give me some tips!