Blog, Household Blog, Recipes

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

First I have to thank you if you are still reading my blog posts even if they’ve been sporadic these past few weeks.. I’ve had a lot going on and this year I’ve made a commitment to myself to take care of my mental health and help curb my anxiety by taking time to myself if that’s what I need, and taking a break from things that aren’t ‘serving me‘.

I do think this blog serves me in a great way — I get to share my love of cooking and the passion my family, truly my father, has for bringing people together with food. The same goes for my #traveltuesday posts and my love of traveling, and for some other exciting new additions (exciting for me at least) that I have coming to the blog in the new year.

Although I skipped blogging about food for a few weeks I certainly didn’t stop thinking about, cooking or consuming it! Last week my mom came to visit and she’s on the keto diet. She loves it and I wanted to help her stick to it at least a bit while she was out here visiting me. If you don’t know anything about the keto diet, it’s one that’s very, very low in sugar and carbohydrates. I don’t know the science behind all of it but I know it’s working for my mom so I thought I would find a recipe that was easy to make (once again employing the crockpot!) and that would stick to her diet, and I was craving taco soup, so I chose this recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup.

I was at least mildly skeptical of this soup. The main ingredient is cream cheese, and while I can get down with cream cheese piled high on my bagel I wasn’t sure about it being the main binding ingredient in my soup. This recipe checked every other box I was looking to fill, so I went for it.

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup: YUM!

I’ll be honest, when the soup was done cooking after 8 hours I was still a little concerned about the consistency. To make this one you just chuck all 6 ingredients in and hope for the best. I love all the flavors in it — taco, ranch, cream cheese, chicken — but again, the consistency had me worried. However, once I went ahead and shredded up the chicken everything turned around. The texture of the soup became much more palatable after the two pounds of chicken were mixed in consistently. I wanted something a bit thicker than the final product so I went ahead and mixed in two tablespoons of cornstarch to a bit of broth and mixed that in, letting it simmer until my mom got in from her snowy ride up the mountain from the airport. It was the perfect warm, hearty, tasty treat, with cheese and sour cream, cilantro, jalapeno and lime piled high on top. My mom was pretty mad that I ate the last bowl after our drunken shenanigans on Friday night. 

Our feast — I also made a Rotel/Velveeta/Cheese Dip, with Celery as a low-carb option.
This dip calls for a can of Rotel & Chiles, drained, a can of chili with beans, a package of cream cheese and a 16oz of velveeta. Heated all together on the stove with whatever dipping platform you choose!

I think you could easily modify this to be vegetarian — I would leave out the chicken, use veggie broth, and add black beans and corn at the end (to keep them from getting too soft in the crock pot), as well as some sliced up avocado on top for added protein.

Well that’s a wrap on this fantastic recipe. I’ll be making my own sort of recipe calendar for the next few months. My plan is to prep two-three batch meals on Monday that I can eat throughout the week. On top of running this blog/website and carrying out the jobs I’ve gotten as Christina Collaborates, I also work an office job and a hostessing job. The Vail Valley ain’t cheap and I’m hustlin’ hard. So on top of not having a lot of time, it’s important for me to stay well-fed to keep my blood sugar, and therefore my anxiety, well in check. I also want to be healthy and wouldn’t mind losing a pound or two. And apparently Obama did this kind of thing to eliminate menial choices to clear his brain for more important things. My best friend told me that, not sure if it’s true or not, but hey, it sounds good, and it’s certainly what I’m trying to do by freeing up some of my time and mental capacity. Keep following along for tips and tricks I learn along the way, as well as more tasty recipes each week.

Until next time, stay hungry my friends 🙂

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Blog, Household Blog, Recipes

Thai Sweet Potato Soup

This week my food inspiration came from the New York Times. I’m an avid fan of the publication, particularly their puzzles, and while I’ve seen their recipes from time to time on Facebook I have never made one. While that still remains true — I have never tried a recipe recommended by the NY Times — I definitely gathered some good intel from them this week. The original recipe I looked at was for this Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Soup, however I have a stipulation that if I make something in the crockpot it should be a full meal. I’m cooking for myself, and to have a whole crockpot full of soup 20181112_103315.jpgbut to still need a sandwich or something on the side seems silly; a crockpot full of soup can easily feed me for four nights so instead of making this soup I took the thai/crockpot/sweet potato inspiration and headed in the direction of a more hearty soup that would be a full meal in a bowl.

What I came up with was this Thai Sweet Potato Soup, which left everything in chunks and added in more veggies to round things out for a more filling soup. I chose to add 20181112_103016.jpgmushrooms the the recipe also, because they’re delicious and why not? I did add those at the end so they would just cook a bit, not get soggy cooking over the course of a full day.

I have to be honest about this one — while it was tasty and filling it wasn’t as delicious as my soup last week, nor was it quite as tasty as I was hoping for. It was, however, warm and filling, and paired with an egg-roll on the side it was nourishing and got the job done.

In our household growing up we would say a recipe was “company food” if we really like a meal — meaning that the food was good enough to

20181112_194203.jpg
It sure looked like company food..

serve to friends at one of my parents many dinner parties growing up. Things on the list include cold sesame peanut noodles, artichoke chicken, my dad’s famous spaghetti sauce, among others. I would most definitely not qualify this soup as company food. It wouldn’t be bad for a family of four to finish up in a night or two, but it certainly wasn’t worth eating four days in a row. I did end up freezing half as I got called unexpectedly out of town this week, so I imagine by the time I eat it again it’ll be plenty tasty to enjoy for two more nights.

 

I’ll be back next week with some tips on how to re-purpose your Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. Until then, I’m wishing you a very happy holiday for you and yours, may your week, and your year, be filled with thanks, gratitude, peace and love. ❤

 

Blog, Household Blog, Recipes

Loaded Potato Soup + bonus recipe!

I promised to bring you another delicious recipe today, so I’m glad I’ve found the time to follow through. I realized over last weekend that it would be easy for me to talk about recipes I’m actually making during my own week. I have plenty of recipe ideas stored in my head, and in my family’s archival cook book, but they say “you write what you know.” and what better way to get to know the food I’m selling you than to prepare it myself?

For me food is very sensory. It’s not just the act of consuming a meal that delights, but also the smells that fill the house and the warmth of a bowl in your hands. Last week in Colorado it started to get cold! Folks, this was not a test run — it snowed a few feet and then dropped into the teens at night. And what goes better with a snowy evening than a hot bowl of soup, the smells of which have been filling the house for hours?

This week I decided to use that elusive ingredient that I talked about most of us lacking in our cooking repertoire: time. You can’t keep a bottle of it on the shelf to season your foods to perfection, you truly have to let things sit and simmer and unfold in their own beautiful way in a pot. For this reason, I love the crockpot. It is so easy to dump everything in and come back hours later to a complete meal. When the cold weather crept in I thought of an old family favorite — potato soup. I believe our family recipe for this one resides in my mom’s head, not written down anywhere, but I figured I could google a recipe and find nearly what I was looking for. It’s also always fun to make a new take on a tried and true recipe, and that is what I chose to do this time.

I’ll caution that the crockpot recipe I made this week did involve more than just dumping each ingredient in a pot, but each extra step was worth it to me, and there are easier ways to complete this meal than I did.

I loosely followed this recipe on Sweet & Savory Meals, with a few tweaks.

When I found this recipe and saw that it called for bacon, I was adamant I was going to get the deli-cut bacon from the meat department, rather than buy the pre-packaged stuff. It was my day off and I knew I had *time* so I wanted to spend the day in the kitchen like my dad used to do, chopping and simmering and sauteing until things were just Fotoram.io (2)right. I also knew that the deli counter is intimidating for me. Some of you may have heard of the “impossible task” for people who are anxious. Interactions like those that occur at a deli counter, or a bank teller, or any other place where I have to interact with strangers in ways that are new or unusual for me, can easily be classified as my “impossible task”. My dad would certainly scoff at this — he was a frequent meat counter user, always trying to get the freshest and the best cuts, or asking the manager at the counter to separate these porkchops from those, because he only need this many, etc. I grew up watching him do this as a child, spending lots of time grocery shopping, so it should be easier, but alas, it is not and I frequently avoid it despite the better quality. As stupid as it sounds, this time I walked right up and had a pleasant exchange with the man behind the counter, and he helped me grab 15 slices of this amazing Jalapeno Applewood Smoked Bacon, and that was it. It was that easy to avail myself of this service that’s always available to me. It was great!. And if you know me at all you’ll know that’s basically all the important food groups to me in one slice of heaven!

Fotoram.io (1)I bought my own cheddar cheese instead of the store bought stuff, I substituted greek yogurt for sour cream, and I also substituted fresh parsley for dry. After this last substitution was made I honestly thought the meal could have done without any parsley at all. I don’t know what flavor I believed parsley to have, but the smoky flavor it added to my dish was a bit deeper than I was looking for. That’s not to say it wasn’t for everyone, but I enjoyed the milder flavors before the parsley unleashed it’s flavors.

Fotoram.io (3)The happiest substitution I made was on the final night I ate my potato soup. I had run out of chopped bacon and I saw my jar of pickled onions sitting in the fridge. Their Fotoram.io (4)homemade and I love vinegar so I put them on a lot of things and the brightness seemed kind of necessary after the parsley added that smoky flavor. Let me tell you this was the best decision I made. I pickle my own onions (white vinegar, pinch of salt, pinch of sugar) and I think everyone should keep a jar around for times like this to brighten or lighten up a meal. They can go well on so many soups, salads, burgers, tacos.. just yum.

Overall, the soup was absolutely delicious. It satisfied the need I had for something warm and cozy to enjoy at the end of these frigid days, and as I was cooking only for myself it provided dinner for most of the week. I enjoyed it every night and would definitely make again, if I wasn’t trying out new recipes to bring to you each week!

Also see my bonus recipe below!

 

 

Microwave Scrambled Eggs

This is the easiest breakfast I have ever made, and I am certainly a happy camper when I eat this to start my day.

Fotoram.io (6)I prefer to use a silicone cup for ease of cleaning: crack two eggs into the cup, scramble with salt and pepper to taste. Microwave on high for 1:20 on edge of rotating microwave Fotoram.ioplate. After they are done, take them out and add toppings as you please, mix well — I like a tablespoon of bacon bits and a tablespoon of cheese, then microwave for another 30 seconds with the toppings, mix again and you’re all done! Pictured here is a tablespoon of cheese with a spoonful of my favorite bbq sauce from back home (thanks Mom, and Moonswiners).

 

 

Blog, Household Blog, Recipes

Quinoa with Arugula and Lemon Vinaigrette

I love to cook but it takes up SO MUCH time. According to the Netflix show Cooked, Americans currently spend only 27 minutes per day preparing food, down from nearly an hour when our parents were growing up, and as the show also points out, those of us who don’t devote time to cooking lose out on developing flavors in our veggies, meats and stocks.

If I’m honest, even during a good, healthy week of cooking at home, I still might not average 27 minutes of cooking time per day in the kitchen. It’s difficult to find the time to cook around my collaborative efforts with families, my steady jobs and what little gym and recreation time I manage to fit in around my very busy schedule.

Despite the lack of time in my life, I not only love to cook but I love to eat food. It’s probably my first favorite activity in life; going out for or cooking and savoring a delicious meal is truly one of the finest pleasures in life, and I try to find ways to incorporate tasty flavors every day. Some days that means something frozen dipped in ranch (don’t judge!) but these days I’m going for healthier and more wholesome flavors that anyone can cook, and I want to share those ideas with you!

Join me every Friday for the release of a delicious new recipe that’s full of fresh flavors that you can get on your weekly run to the grocery store over the weekend, to prepare a fresh and easy meal that might even leave you with some tasty leftovers to pack for lunch on Monday.

Fotoram.io (7)Today I want to start with a very easy recipe that I’ve made multiple times with multiple different proteins: Quinoa and Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

I can’t speak highly enough of this recipe. I have made it separately with poached salmon, baked chicken and roasted veggies as a protein on top. The quinoa is earthy, the arugula is peppery and the lemon vinaigrette is oh-so bright. The three main ingredients are also great to keep around the house for throwing together a quick salad any time. Arugula and quinoa come in large quantities, so save the rest for throwing together another meal if you don’t want to mix everything together at once. However — my mom swears by quinoa that’s been soaking in the delicious dressing overnight. The dressing really tones down those earthy flavors to make a delightful leftover lunch.

Happy cooking and I’ll be back next Friday with another piece of love — I mean recipe — to share with you!

Blog, Crafts, Household Blog

Christina Collaborates Does Crafts

One of the things that I have the most fun doing with the children I nanny are fun crafts. Kids in the 2-4 year old range are still learning so much about different colors, textures and tactile feelings, and it’s always fun to find a craft that changes things up.

Most of you parents are probably familiar with slime, a phenomenon of scientific proportions that seems to be sweeping the nation. I’ve heard talk of 13 year olds making businesses out of selling slime to their friends. Who knew the entrepreneurial spirit could hit so young! The version linked to above is a traditional recipe, one that I actually followed myself about 15 years ago when I was in middle school myself. I would like to tell you about another kind of slime, fluffy slime, that I learned about this week. This one is so much fun!

what-youll-need-1.pngIt took a little while to perfect the recipe, which involved adding way more glue than they said so it wouldn’t stick to your hands, but when your final result is big globs of purple and pink foam, who wouldn’t be happy?

 

leavesI also truly enjoy when I can bring a craft from my childhood into the lives of the kids I watch. I hope that they’ll remember the time we shared working on these crafts as fondly as I remember them from when I was a little one. My favorite fall craft that I remember from being a kid is wax paper place mats. My mom and I would collect all the pretty leaves on the ground and then stack them between wax paper. With the help of an iron to melt the paper together you can make a really neat craft that doubles as place settings on Thanksgiving! This is an easy activity that you can do with children of all ages. For kids who are a bit older consider adding chopped up crayons in fall colors and making fun patterns between the layers ofWhat You'll Need paper. You can even add more than one layer if you’d like! Check out what The Seasoned Mom had to say on the topic here, and leave me a comment about your favorite fall crafts!

Blog, Household Blog

I’ve Got You Covered

Alright friends, on the East Coast work has officially let out and some of you are already downing a beer or two before you head out for tricks with friends or treats with kids. Despite the fact that it’s 5:30pm on Halloween, I also know that some of you are still without Halloween costumes. Never fear! I’ve got you covered. Before you pop the top on that beer make sure you have some of the following items in your closet/makeup case, and if not, run to Walgreens stat!

First, the tried and true, kitty cat.
This one is simple. This morning before work at the pilates studio I threw together this look in a cinch. Grab a cute black shift dress. I’m a big fan of this one, but the one I wore had sleeves. I also recommend throwing on a pair of these Old Navy leggings, or your go-to black ones, and you’re almost done with this costume.
Now you can follow this youtube tutorial. It claims to be easy and I’d say it probably is if you have some time. In the 5 minutes I had, I threw some dots and whiskers on my face and called it a day. I finished up with 2 little buns pinned on either side of my head and I was good out the door.

Next, the mermaid.
On my way to work I thought of a costume I much would have preferred. I think the cat is clichĂ© and I’ve done it a million times, so I would have liked something different, not to mention cats don’t come with same some connotation of glitter as a mermaid does!
I happened to buy a pair of teal leggings the other day, exact shade of The Little Mermaid’s tail, and some pink sports bras. I also have a purple workout top which helps for situations that require more clothes than a sports bra, which is nearly all of them in Colorado in autumn.
These aren’t the tops or bottoms I wore, but I seriously love Old Navy workout gear, and what I wore was from there. Any of these would help get the mermaid idea across.
Tank Top | T-Shirt | Patterned Leggings | Mesh Cut-Out Leggings

Now for some makeup.. I had heard that you could use fishnet tights and colored eyeshadow to make it appear as if scales were on your skin. I tried this.. and failed. The pattern barely showed up through the stockings and it just didn’t make sense. However, I came up with a method that I liked even better. On a quick trip to Walmart today I discovered a beautiful palette of glitter by Hard Candy. It’s basically like a dream come true. So I took my glitter brush and dabbed it into the pink glitter and put dots on my face, then purple, then blue, like fish scales. To pull it all together I blended it all a bit with the more neutral glitter colors.

Obviously for the mermaid you need a bit of help from your closet (or a friend’s closet??) but if you’ve got the colorful clothing this is a fun (and comfortable!!) costume you can throw together, while looking like you had it planned all along.

Finally, the jumpsuit.
These days, finding a costume has been made easier than ever. Gone are the days when the shelves are bare come Halloween day. I was in Walmart this morning and not only were there costumes left, but also plenty of adult onesies. I know that in some climates, such as my native Florida, it is not cold enough to wear a onesie on Halloween, but here in Colorado, for $20, it makes the perfect last minute pick on your way home from work. Just put on some warm layers, step in, zip up and go. I wore this one for Halloween with the girls I nanny yesterday.

I’m a huge fan of creativity in your Halloween costume, but not everyone has the time or money for that. Each of these options uses a bit of what’s in your closet, a bit of creativity and maybe a bit more imagination. But that’s the fun of it all, right?

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

 

Blog, Household Blog

The First Way I Can Help..

I actually have quite a funny way to get started helping you. The Squatty Potty.

 

That’s right. The first thing I want to do is talk about pooping. I didn’t mean for this to be the way you first met my blog, but the stars aligned and here we are. I am introducing myself to you, as a blogger, as a business woman, and I’m asking you to consider your bowel movements with me. Specifically I’m just asking you to try something new.

I first met The Squatty Potty, in concept, when I was watching Shark Tank on ABC on a Friday night probably 5 years ago. It wasn’t quite ‘Boy Meets World’ on TGIF entertainment, but it fit the bill drinking wine on the couch with my mom while on Fall Break or some such other vacation from college. It seemed like a great idea — “Don’t the Japanese poop while squatting?” — and then I never thought much more of it.

Fast forward to December 2016 when I landed a great job working as a nanny with a family in Avon, Colorado, who happened to have a squatty potty! I think I heard Nanny-Mom (I call the family I nanny for most consistently “nanny-family”, “nanny mom”, “nanny dad”, it simplifies things in my life..) say that she kept it in there for the girls (ages 2 and 4, so in various stages of potty training) to more easily climb on the toilet. But I had to try it!

I mean, it seems a bit weird, putting your feet in this place that other people have while using the toilet but it doesn’t have to be. It’s not actually that strange.. your feet were always in a similar place to others, right..? Okay, okay, I know you are probably feeling apprehensive, and I did too! But they have it in their guest bathroom, always under the toilet, always ready for use! So of course I have tried it and the verdict is..

Everyone should own one!

I won’t go into detail but I think you should try it for yourself! They’re only like $20 so go grab one at Walmart and see what the hype is about. Trust me, if the first thing I help you do is poop better, no matter how funny it may seem, things will probably go better for both of us!

 

In the meantime also check out what Buzzfeed had to say on the topic here, and if you’re a mom of toddlers and looking for some real torture, put this video on your TV. Guarantee your toddler will be crying for it for days.