Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is the easiest soup you can make in the Crock Pot. Hands. Down.  I’m really not sure where I got the original recipe for this one, but I’ve adapted it slightly over time to make it even easier… if that’s possible.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken breasts
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 cans Ro-Tel tomatoes (I prefer cilantro lime for extra flavor, but original is great, too!)
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 pack taco seasoning
  • fresh or dried cilantro

For Serving

  • shredded cheese of choice (I use Mexican blend or cheddar)
  • sour cream
  • tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in crock pot.  Add chicken breasts to top of mixture.
  2. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 2-4 hours until chicken is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  3. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips.

To make life REALLY easy on a busy weekday, here are my tips:

  • Use frozen chicken breast-they cook great in this soup from frozen!
  • Use frozen diced onion instead of chopping a fresh onion.  This is my favorite substitute in a lot of meals-it cuts back on so much time and cleanup.
  • Use dried cilantro instead of chopping fresh.  I hardly ever keep fresh cilantro on hand anymore and this saves on grocery shopping and chopping!

Hope you enjoy this easy, hearty meal as much as our family does!

Why Moms Are Exhausted. The Real Story.

Why Moms Are Exhausted. The Real Story.

There is tired, then there is pure exhaustion.  If you’re a mom you know pure exhaustion well.  Now dads, I can already hear your mental eye roll (no, you may not physically roll your eyes, but I know you’re thinking it… stop it), but this has absolutely nothing to do with you or how much or how little you do around the house or with your kids.  Chances are, dad, you’re as much a part of household functions as mom is, BUT… and this is a big but (stop snickering, I know I said “big but”), moms typically tend to “run” the household.  By “run” I mean schedule, plan, organize, get people to practices, games, school, family functions, llama meet-and-greets (alright, I made that one up, but I would go to one…), and generally make sure all bases are covered.

I never really thought much about it until a friend and coworker posted an article and comic about the mental load working mothers bear (head on over to Working Mother if you’d like to see the original article).  I’m going to stop right there… working mothers?  Uhhhhhh… hold up.  Working. Mothers.  A bit redundant?  Whether you work OUTSIDE the home or INSIDE the home it is work.  Working full-time before kids, full-time with kids, and part-time with kids, I can tell you it is ALL work.  Disregard whether or not moms work outside the home, I think the author and creator of the comic in the Working Mother article were spot on on one thing: the mental load of a mom.  For example, here is my stream of thought after waking this morning:

  • *alarm sounds* I hear rain.  Where is the neurotic dog?  I need to take him out before he hears thunder and won’t pee and poop in the yard.  If he doesn’t pee and poop before we leave I’ll have to clean his cage when I get home from work after getting two kids and all of my crap out of the car.  I really don’t want to have to do that before I start preparing dinner.  Wait.  I need to pee.  Ok, I’ll go pee, then take the dog out.  I use the restroom, take the dog outside in the pouring rain, he uses the restroom, we come back inside.
  • By this time the dog is shaking because, well, rain and neurotic dogs don’t mix.  I give the dog medication so he’ll at least be able to semi-function without having a heart attack.
  • By now I’m running late, so I hop in the shower.  In the shower I think about the dinner I need to make for the night, the dinner for the next night when we’re having company, and the work carry-in the next day.  I ordered groceries for a pickup the day before that my husband picked up, but I forgot the most important ingredient for the carry-in dish, so I have to pick it up from the store when I get off work.  I then realize a few other things that would be good to have, so I should probably try to get it all in in one trip.  I’ll need to remember to add that to the current list I have on my phone.  It’s trash night.  When I get home I need to empty our large trash can, remember to empty the diaper pail, because, well, poopy diapers stink.  I should also take the trash and recycling to the curb when I get home so we don’t have to do it later because I try to go to the gym to get my hour work out in for the week (I realize working out an hour a week does nothing, but hey… Swerking is fun-check it out!).  By this time I’m about finished with my shower.
  • Hop out of the shower, dry off, apply deodorant, face cream (because I’m over 30 now… those wrinkles won’t fix themselves in the future and btw… why do I STILL have acne at 31????), lotion, Bio Oil (because stretch marks).  Check on the baby real quick because he usually needs to eat by now, trip over the neurotic shaking dog a few more times.  Put stuff in my hair so it doesn’t look too much like all I did was let it air dry, which I did.  Put a little makeup on so I don’t scare anyone (again… wrinkles, acne… don’t nobody wanna see that hot mess).  Head to get dressed.
  • Crap.  What I thought about wearing in my head last night won’t work because it’s pouring outside.  What goes with my bright red Hunter boots?  Nope.  Not that… ok, that doesn’t fit anymore. Probably should add that to my Poshmark closet to sell (yeah… that’s not working out so great for me-apparently no one wants my pre-baby clothes).  It’s kind of a fat day so that won’t look that great, but oh well.  It matches and is comfortable.  I’ll only be at work half the day anyway. Throw it on, add some accessories, good to go.
  • Baby hasn’t eaten yet, so I start a bottle.  Turn off all of the outside lights, open the blinds in the family room-my succulents need light, guys!  Feed the fish who hasn’t been cleaned in 2 1/2 weeks (yeah… he should be cleaned weekly… hang in there, Sherman!), open the dining room blinds-more succulents need light.  And water.  They really need water-I’ll remember to water them when I get home.  Yep, I told myself that yesterday and the day before, too.
  • By this time my husband is up and is getting the baby dressed with the clothes I laid out the night before because I KNEW I would run late in the morning and things would just go faster if I made sure the kids’ clothes were ready for the morning.  Trip over the dog again and realize I hadn’t packed a lunch.  Then I remember there are no leftovers because the grocery was out of the main ingredient I needed for dinner last night so my husband ventured back out for Tropical Smoothie instead so now I don’t have a lunch.  Frozen dinner.  Oh no… only 2 of those left.  I’ll add that to the list of things I need to get at the store today.  What did I think of when I was in the shower that needed to be added to the list?  Dang it… what was it????  Oh, yeah-coffee.  I then realize I haven’t had coffee yet either.  Make the coffee, get our oldest out of bed, he starts getting himself dressed, feed the baby, put him in his car seat that my husband brought out.
  • Rinse some blueberries, put them in my lunchbox, gather all of my belongings, tell the oldest to get his shoes on, then I think about the shoes I meant to buy him because his are worn out and he has no Velcro shoes when preschool starts this month.  He also needs to start learning how to tie his shoes.  We’ll work on that soon, I tell myself for the millionth time.  I carry everything out to the car, forget my frozen dinner, pull one out of the freezer, put it in my lunch box.
  • My husband loads the baby into the car, the dog runs out the door, my husband gets the dog back inside, buckles our oldest into his booster seat, I get in the car.
  • We start pulling out of the driveway around 7:30.  I woke up at 6:15.  All of this in an hour and 15 minutes.  This is just the START of my day.  Haven’t been to work, haven’t even dropped the kids off at my mom and dad’s house for the day (yes… I have the best mom in the world who hangs out with our kids all day while I’m at work 3 days a week-you rock, mom!).  This is just getting ready for the day.

Now, part of this is personality.  Ok, ok… most of this is personality.  It’s how I’m wired.  My guess is that most women are wired this way.  Is that wrong?  Nope.  From my observations there’s a reason-moms try to make sure all of the bases are covered.  Are people fed?  Are they clothed?  Are they clean?  Am I two steps ahead so I’m not three steps behind in 5 minutes?  Moms are multi-taskers.  They have to be to anticipate everyone’s needs.  Dads?  I’ll do the task I’m doing and don’t interrupt me until I’m finished because I can’t even chew gum and walk at the same time.  Guys, this is not an insult.  I repeat, put your weapons down, this IS NOT an insult.

This is where I disagree with the comic and the article’s solution: there is no “solution”.  Personalities, families, and people in general are all different.  I can’t say enough about how much of the load my husband shares.  I now work part-time, so I feel it’s only fair for me to do a little more around the house than he does.  I’m at home far more than he is, but when he is home he’s either keeping the kids occupied, taking care of them, or helping clean up, so he definitely does his share without being asked, then asks what else I need when he doesn’t know what to help with.  The problem isn’t even “doing more”… it’s how can I think less.  That will never happen for me-I constantly plan, think, and compartmentalize in my head, which cannot be changed.  What can change is to make sure I communicate when it becomes too much to handle and I start to burn out.  I think everyone deals with this differently.  I have friends who run/jog, work out, binge watch TV, craft, read, write, color, paint, you name it.  Find what it is that helps you decompress and DO IT.  Let people know when you’ve hit your mental limit.  How can you pour from an empty cup?  If your cup is empty, do what you need to do to fill it!  Keep up the great work, moms!  Even if you think it goes unnoticed, it doesn’t.  Your kids see you-they may not notice it now, but trust me, they’ll realize it when they’re older.  You rock, mom.

 

Fed is Best. The End.

Fed is Best. The End.

Really nothing more to say on this one… feed your child, keep your mouth shut, move on.  I really don’t know when it became everyone else’s business how you choose to feed your child, but as a mother of two I’m appalled at the reactions of moms.  MOMS.  You guys, get it together.  Momming is hard.  Really, really hard.  It’s a darned if you do, darned if you don’t job being a mom and everyone (I mean the cashier ringing you up at Target kind of everyone) has an opinion on how you should do your job.  You know whose opinion matters?  Yours.  Period.

Nursing moms-props to you!  It’s hard-been there, done that, got the… nothing.  I didn’t get anything for it-it’s a thankless job, but hey… my child benefited from it… maybe? You see, here’s the problem with the “Breast is Best” campaign.  It is best, until it isn’t.  It is best when your child is receiving the proper nutrition, the correct amount, and mom and baby are harmoniously intertwined in the ever perfect, natural nursing bubble.  How often does that happen?  My guess is almost never.  What is awesome is when you produce enough nutritious milk for your baby and you know what?  That is AWESOME!  You go, nursing diva!  On the flip side, some of us aren’t as lucky.  I nursed my first for 7 months.  7 months of what I refer to as “the period of which I have no recollection”.  Why do I refer to it as this?  Because I have literally blocked that 7 months out of my mind because of the torment that was breastfeeding.  I hated every second of it.  I didn’t produce enough which meant I had to supplement anyway, he didn’t gain all that much weight in those 7 months, and overall it was a nightmare.  He ate every hour on the hour until he was 6 months old.  Now, throw in a full-time job on top of that and hopefully you’ll understand why I blocked it all out-I was too exhausted and sleep-deprived to have the mental capacity to even remember anything.  I existed.  Survived.  Barely.  I had mastitis that landed me in bed for a full week when he was 3 weeks old and I never was able to maintain a perfect balance.  I either had way too much, or way too little.  I constantly worried if he was getting enough, if I was producing too much, and never was able to maintain a balance.  He would eat for about 30 seconds and fall asleep.  Every. Darn.  Time.  Once he was fully formula fed that little nugget gained weight like crazy, was happier, healthier, and so was I.  I could actually enjoy my child.  I held him because, well, he’s adorable and I love my child.  Before?  Nope… the only time I had time to hold him was to feed him, then put him back down because at any given time of the day he was attached to me and I couldn’t even function as a human being.

Flash forward to my second child.  I figured I’d give it another shot.  This time latch seemed to be a bit of a problem.  I’ll spare you the details on this one-he seemed to be getting plenty, but it was painful to say the least.  About a week after he was born I landed in the ER with mastitis and clogged ducts so bad that I had a 106 fever (yep… that’s not a typo) that would not decrease with any medication I took.  I was borderline hallucinating and could barely walk myself into the ER.  Now, throw in the fact that I now had a 3-year-old to care for in addition to a newborn.  Easy decision on this one-formula for this little guy.  Best decision I’ve ever made for everyone involved.  I was actually able to hold my child, feed him, care for him, not worry about the nutrition he was getting, or if I would end up in the ER again.  He sleeps through the night, is a happy and VERY healthy, chunky little 6 month old, and I’m able to cook dinner, function normally at work, and just generally be functioning adult (well… as adult-ish as I can be normally).

I have friends and family that nurse like champions-I am SO happy for them.  They have amazingly healthy, happy babies and are nursing pros, which is indescribably awesome because their babies are getting nourishment with all of the added benefits of mom’s milk.

Now, for all of you nursing-selfie-takers out there, no one is hating on you that doesn’t want to see your child sucking on your boob.  Nurse away-grocery stores, parks, wherever.  Feed your child.  Move on.  No one cares.  Not in a negative way, but we really don’t care.  Does it offend me that you’re having what seems to be the time of your life nursing your child while I struggled?  Nope-not one bit.  You’re taking care of your child and from one mom to another, you’re doing great!  What is concerning to me is that some feel the need to make this their identity, their battle if you will, to draw attention to themselves (yep… I went there) for their “cause”.  It isn’t a cause, moms.  Do your thing.  Feed your child, share in your success even-we’re rooting for you.  It’s a hard job!  Momming is hard period.  Focus on your kids, their well-being, and supporting moms in their mom journey.

Baked Turkey Meatballs

Baked Turkey Meatballs

When I don’t know what to make for dinner this is my favorite go-to.  They’re fairly low fat, filling, and everyone seems to love them!  An added bonus to this one is that I can stick them in the oven and leave them there until they’re finished-no splattering on the stove with tiny people running around the kitchen while I worry about them burning on the stove while I wipe a nose or get a snack for the millionth time.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey or beef
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs (+ extra for rolling meatballs in bread crumbs)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up.
  2. Mix all ingredients in mixing bowl.  Roll mixture into ball (approximately 1 inch in diameter to ensure they bake thoroughly), roll in extra breadcrumbs, and place on baking sheet.
  3. Bake 35 minutes or until meatballs reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Serve with pasta or desired side.

I take a few shortcuts with this recipe that make my life so much easier.  I use jarred minced garlic instead of fresh.  If you have time to peel and mince garlic when you come home from work with a child and an infant, you’re my hero, please teach me your ways.  I also substitute frozen chopped onion for fresh chopped onion because… onions make me cry.  I also usually use whatever lean meat I have on hand.  I normally have turkey, but when I don’t I use very lean ground beef and they are just as delicious!

Hope you enjoy this simple one!

Instant Pot Egg Bites

Instant Pot Egg Bites

They always say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I’m never quite sure who “they” refers to, but in this case I concur with “they”.  I love savory breakfast foods and you can count me in for anything containing egg!  These egg bites were quick, easy, and best of all they can last all week in the fridge and are great from frozen.  Another great thing about these egg bites is you can just throw in whatever you happen to have on hand at the moment since they don’t contain any crazy ingredients.  I created my recipe by using the same concept in the Instant Pot Bacon-Cheddar Egg Bites recipe at Cooking with Curls.

Ingredients

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • bacon, ham, or other meat of choice chopped
  • vegetable(s) chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

This is where you can get creative with whatever vegetables or proteins you would like to include.  I originally planned on using spinach, but didn’t happen to have any.  Instead, I used a whole avocado, which basically made this batch taste just like an avocado.  Other vegetable ideas are onion, bell peppers, and spinach.

Similarly, if you’re like me and might as well be a full-blown carnivore, you can use any meat you’d like or leave it out altogether!

I used whole milk for my egg bites, but any milk substitute works great as long as it isn’t sweetened or flavored.

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in mixing bowl using immersion blender or blend in blender until smooth.  If you are adding vegetables like bell pepper and prefer them to hold their shape, save these until all other ingredients are blended, then mix in thoroughly.
  2. Pour mixed ingredients evenly into 7 sections of silicone Instant Pot mold.  Loosely cover silicone mold with lid or loosely with aluminum foil.
  3. Add 1 cup of water to Instant Pot. Place silicone mold onto Instant Pot trivet and carefully lower into Instant Pot.
  4. Secure the Instant Pot lid and make sure the steam knob is in the “sealing” position.  Press the “Steam” setting and set it to 8 minutes.
  5. Once the timer ends let the Instant Pot release pressure naturally (this should take about 5-10 minutes).
  6. Remove the egg bites and let cool in the mold for a few minutes. Turn the mold upside down and gently push the egg bites out of the silicone mold.
  7. Enjoy the egg bites immediately, refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze for later!