Taco Tuesday!!!

I know, I missed last weeks Taco Tuesday recipe, but here’s two recipes for some yummy dips to make up for it…Enjoy both dips with your favorite tortilla chip or veggies!

Mexicali Dip:

8 oz. pkg.  cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sour cream
2 tbsp. Taco Seasoning mix
1/2 c. picante salsa or traditional salsa
1/4 c. sliced black olives
1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 oz.) (Cheddar works well)

 

Mix cream cheese and sour cream until well blended, add additional ingredients (food processor works best)..Chill before serving.

 

Old School Velveeta Queso Dip:

I call this old school because this was the easy dip my mom use to make for gatherings, before we knew all other possibilities with Velveeta cheese, this is still a favorite and only has 2 ingredients!!

1 lb of Velveeta cheese cut into 1/2in cubes

1 10oz can of Ro*Tel diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained ***mom used traditional salsa instead of canned tomatoes***
You can microwave this until well blended (in 3-minute increments), or throw in crockpot until hot and blended…

Super Savers Saturday

Now that Christmas is over, this is a good time to hit those clearance sales. If you plan on changing your tree decoration theme, stock up on those items now, don’t forget gift wrap, bags, and cards for next year. The bonus with these sales are that Christmas color totes go on sale also, which makes a great holding container for your new purchases for next year.  We still have a couple Christmases to do, so I take this opportunity to get those gifts that I waited for clearance sales to get,  yes I know I’m frugal,  but when you have a large family, save the money where you can. Here’s another tip I recently learned,  shop online, leave those items in your cart without buying, some stores send you coupons and deals to continue your purchase. If you earned extra points, Kohls cash, etc,  use those on the clearance deals, no money out of pocket. Not only do the holiday items get marked down, winter items (jackets, gloves, clothes, etc) do as well, oh and those cute outside inflatable decorations, this will be the time to buy them. Always shop around, same stores but different locations mark down differently, and while one store may be 50% off, the next may already be at 75% off, I will go the extra mile to look for the better bargain, and always check to see if there’s a coupon for that item. Remember to use this tip after every holiday and season to put some extra money in your pocket and it’ll save you for the next one.

My top 5 stores to hit for clearance:

  1. Walgreens: Not only for the candy, the perfume and shower gift sets are clearanced as well, don’t forget to check out the As seen on TV items, some get marked down also.
  2. Kohls: This should be #1, but can’t pass up a good candy selection at Walgreens lol. I use my Kohls cash for the Christmas items that I waited to grab, plus I love their Christmas village collection.
  3. Dollar General: This year I noticed they began 50% before Christmas to make room for Valentine’s stuff to go. Great time to grab all the gift wrap and bags…
  4. Target: Although I never ever go here, my sister likes to go through and pick up some toys they clearance out.
  5. Walmart: I am not a fan of Walmart, and will only go in the middle of the night, and by the time I get there most is always picked through, but you can still find some good items, especially if you go early enough when they sales start.

Here’s another money saving tip when buying gift cards, check the coupons on the store apps, some may have a percentage off for certain places, ex 10% off when you purchase $25 or more to IHop, may not seem much but definitely can add up if purchasing more. Also, Kroger advertises 4x fuel rewards points on certain gift card purchases, that can help with savings on gas prices that are on the rise right now.

 

Happy shopping, happy saving, and Happy New Year to all!!!

Our Christmas Miracle

First, I would like to start off with asking if you believe in Christmas miracles? I always believed that was some superstitious saying, up till 2 years ago when our family received the biggest miracle ever. With full permission from my sister in law Jennie, I’m going to tell you her story how she became our miracle, our 1 in 50! Before going into our story, I would like to give a little information about brain aneurysms, symptoms you do not want to ignore, and hopefully it will help others.

Brain aneurysm is a bulging weak area in the wall of the artery that supplies to the brain, most cases they cause no symptoms and go unnoticed. In rare cases, the aneurysm ruptures, releasing blood into the skull causing a stroke, depending on the severity can cause brain damage or death. Family history, smoking, high blood pressure, gender, and previous aneurysms are risk factors; although there’s typically no symptoms and may be discovered during tests for another, usually unrelated conditions. Once ruptured, person may suffer from severe headaches, blurred vision, changes in speech, and possible neck pain.

On Christmas Eve two years ago, I get the call from my mother that my brother took his wife, Jennie, to the hospital and she didn’t know why at that moment, I’m thinking they just celebrated with her family, could be food related, or gallbladder. My mother calls back a while later to let me know Jennie had a brain bleed, she became 1 in 50 that had an aneurysm rupture. Jennie was only 39 years old at that time, never smoked or drank, she was true definition of healthy, how did this happen to her?  My heart sank for her, my niece and nephew, and especially for my brother..we had watch our father suffer a stroke, and he did pass away from that about 5 years after his first stroke. Not knowing the severity of this yet, I couldn’t imagine what they were all going through, it was Christmas Eve, it’s suppose to be a joyous moment for all.

The rest of this story comes from Jennie’s words, I wanted to share it from her experience, a survivor’s story. Before the rupture, Jennie has been going to the doctors since October 2015 for back, leg, and stomach pains,her legs were constantly going numb and hurting, her lower back was also constantly causing pain as well, and with the pain also associated with her stomach, doctor ordered a colonoscopy, her father passed away from cancer, which started in his colon, so it was important they look into that. All results came back negative, so the doctor thought it could be from ovaries, so she went to see the OB/GYN for that, they didn’t think it was from ovaries, but ordered ultrasound just to be sure, that was scheduled for the week after Christmas. The pain still existing in her legs, back, and stomach, but the headaches started to come on, she associated that being job related. One morning, she woke up with a stiff neck that lasted for a few days, but chalked it up that she must’ve slept wrong, not putting anything together.

On that night, Jennie was in the basement and felt like she was going to pass out and her head felt like it was on fire, she made it to the chair and called out for my brother, who grabbed her coat and shoes and made her go to hospital. In true Jennie fashion, she wanted to wait since the kids were upstairs putting on their Christmas pj’s and didn’t want to stop their family Christmas eve tradition, but my brother knew she had to go immediately. She arrived at the first hospital where they found the bleed, then she was transferred to another hospital for the surgery, they attempted to insert the coils (Endovascular coiling) into the aneurysm, but it was carrot shaped and in the interior communicating artery, and they couldn’t complete the surgery. They transferred her to a third hospital for a craniotomy, they would’ve had to cut open her skull and clip the aneurysm.

The chief of Neuro surgery just happened to be on call that Christmas day, he told my brother that he was going to attempt the coiling again, if not then he would go right into the craniotomy but was not going to tell him which he did until after he was finished. Thankfully he was able to do the coiling successfully. Jennie was our Christmas miracle that year, she spent 16 days in Neuro ICU, had to learn some motor movement over again, but she survived!! The first year after the aneurysm she had a MRI every 6 months to monitor, she had some extra due to headaches, she just recently had her 2nd year MRI, also a little early due to the headaches, some headaches lasting up to 18 days, the next option for is the nerve block in her forehead. Jennie is also on blood pressure medication due to it being elevated, but mainly because high blood pressure causes aneurysms. Luckily, she has no major deficits besides the headaches, especially when there’s barometric changes like the rain, she has some memory loss, but I honestly don’t think she does, she’s still sharp as a tack…even with all of that, the major thing is she survived, our 1 in 50 is alive.

As with any experience like this, our tightknit family became tighter, our bond is stronger. While, Jennie was in the hospital I began texting her every morning sunshine, just to let her know I was thinking of her even when I couldn’t be there with her. It’s been two years, and I still text her every day, I may have missed some when things were busy, but those were turned into Good afternoon texts, and when I’m sleeping in or maybe Jennie becomes impatient waiting for my text, she will text me first lol.

I really do hope those reading her story takes something from this, either it will be the warning signs, the importance of going to the doctor even when you feel off, or just reaching out and telling your loved ones that you will be there, because as we know tomorrow isn’t promised, those little things can wait, those fights aren’t worth it. And to you Jennie, thank you for coming into our family over 25 years ago, bringing in that extra little something we were missing, thank you for not dying that night, thank you for having the strength of not giving up, we know it has been a rough road you had to travel since then, and thank you for being all of ours Christmas present that year, we love you.

 

Jennie and her mom crocheting slippers, since she wasn’t able to go anywhere, her mom had her hold the yarn 🙂

References: https://www.webmd.com/brain/tc/brain-aneurysm-topic-overview#1

Frugal Friday..Road trip edition

With Christmas being days away, many traveling to see family and friends, here’s some simple money saving tips… Who couldn’t use these tips at this time, right?! Use these tips every time you travel, so you don’t break the bank!

1. Pack your own snacks and drinks. Fill a cooler up with prepared subs, sandwiches (don’t put the condiments on until ready to eat). *wrap sandwiches then put in Ziploc bag to keep from getting water logged*

2. If your grocery store or credit card offers money off for gas with points, ex. Kroger 1,000 points equals $1 off gas,  save them if you have a road trip planned.

3. Download apps for fast food restaurants, etc.. coupons at your fingertips for when you do want something besides sandwiches.

4. Staying in a hotel? Check your credit card points, I’ve had a few stays basically free with this…

5. Before going, have your vehicle completely checked out, to avoid unexpected costs… I’ve actually had two tire blow outs on me while on vacation with work, next year all vans will be tested before we leave! Plus this tip keeps everyone safe.

6. This goes along with my buying gift cards through the year post…. While planning your trip, buy gift cards you know you can use in that area in advance,  or purchase couple Visa type gift cards, use those instead of cash… unexpected travel, grab some of the gift cards you were saving for holidays, they can be replaced later down the road.

7. Mom I hope you’re reading this one….. DON’T SPEED! Drive legally, this will save on those tickets you’ll have to pay, keep family and others safe on the road, save on your insurance, etc…. Just don’t do it.

**HAPPY TRAVELS**

Nacho Soup

Racking my brain all week for new recipe for Taco Tuesday edition, and thanks to Facebook timeline  showing up the Nacho Soup I made last year, and actually making again today. This is an easy, filling, comfort food that’s great for those winter chilly days.

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds chicken breast, boneless, skinless

1 large onion, diced

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

6 cups chicken broth

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can black beans

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup cheddar cheese

1 cup monterey jack cheese

Garnish

sour cream

additional cheese

tortilla chips

cilantro

diced tomatoes

PREPARATION

1. Place chicken, onion,  and spices into a 6-quart slow cooker. Mix the ingredients together. Once mixed, pour in chicken broth.

2. Set slow cooker to HIGH, cover and cook for 3 hours.

3. After 3 hours remove and shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

4. Return shredded chicken to the slow cooker and add tomatoes, beans, heavy cream and cheese. Cover and set slow cooker to the LOW setting.

5. Let soup cook for an additional 45 minutes.

6. Top with your favorite garnishes, tortilla chips, and Enjoy!

Homemade baked tortilla chips with nacho soup.

Dressing vs. Stuffing

I should’ve done this before thanksgiving, but getting both mothers to give up their recipes wasn’t an easy task. As y’all know I’m from Georgia, we prefer cornbread dressing, my husband is from Michigan, where they enjoy stuffing, and yes this is an argument over who’s mom makes it best lol. They both are good, but I do stick with my southern roots and prefer cornbread. On this post, I’m going to post both recipes, and let y’all decide which you would prefer (please leave your choice in the comment section), honestly there’s not going to be a clear winner, but it’s going to be fun to see the results.

Linda’s Cornbread Dressing:

1 pan of prepared cornbread cooled and crumbled (any cornbread recipe you like will do)

1 onion diced

3-4 hard boiled eggs chopped

3-4 sticks celery diced

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 cans of chicken stock

Directions:

Mix all together except chicken stock, add that a little at a time until moist, put in shallow baking dish and bake at 350 degrees until top is golden brown.

Lou’s Stuffing:

4 loafs of bread dried out for at least 2 days (wheat or white, or mixed, doesn’t matter)

4-6 hard boiled eggs chopped

2 onions chopped

1 stalk of celery chopped

1 stick of butter

1 tbs each of sage and poultry seasoning, salt and pepper to taste

1 small container of mushrooms sliced

Chicken stock

Directions:

Cube bread and set aside

Sauteed onions, celery, mushrooms

Mix all ingredients together, add stock a little at a time until all is moist, bake at 350 degrees until brown. **This can be cooked inside the bird as well**

Chicken and Dumplings

When it comes to down home southern comfort food, this is ranked in my top 5. Unfortunately, this is one of those special dishes my mom only makes a couple times a year, and we all know nobody makes it better than mom….Well, move over momma, I found the recipe and on my first attempt, it wasn’t bad. There’s two way to make chicken and dumplings, us southerners like it with only chicken and dumplings, I noticed Northern states make it with vegetables and biscuits (totally not the same!), so here’s the recipe for what I consider the right way 🙂 The recipe I found differs slightly from my mothers, I’ll put both ways up, but they really do taste the same either way.

Ingredients:
3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
2 quarts chicken broth
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. salted butter, cubed
milk (a little less than a cupful)
****Mom uses all self rising flour, no baking powder needed, uses water instead of milk, Instead of broth uses the water she boils the chicken in and adds little broth if needed****
Directions:
1. Cover chicken with water and boil until fully cooked, remove chicken and shred it, set aside
2.In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Then add in cubed butter. You can combine it all using a fork or a pastry cutter. But the best way is really with your fingers. Just smush the butter between your fingers while you gradually mix it in with the flour mixture. Now pour in the milk and mix all together.
3. Dust your working area with flour, place your dumpling dough on the counter and dust it with more flour. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thickness. Be sure to add flour as necessary to keep it from sticking underneath or to your rolling pin.
4. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, start cutting out your dumplings into squares.Dust your dumplings with a bit more flour. The extra flour is all gonna help keep them from sticking but will also thicken your chicken broth some as well when you add them to the pot.
5. Bring your chicken broth up to a boil. Add in your shredded chicken and stir. Begin adding dumplings one at a time so they don’t all stick together. Stir frequently while adding them.****I added chicken after I put the dumplings in****
6. Allow dumplings to cook for about 15-20 minutes. You should notice your broth starting to thicken and your dumplings may start to sink a little to the bottom because they are soaking up the broth. Take one out and taste test it. It shouldn’t have a doughy taste anymore. Season with salt and pepper
Recipe credit thecountrycook.net
 

Chicken Fajita Quesadillas

When we celebrate Christmas with my in-laws, we do it after Christmas, and by that time we are sick of the traditional meal. A few years ago, my mother in law found this recipe on Kraftsrecipes.com, and it was so good, that it became our new tradition after Christmas meal. We serve this with yellow rice that’s topped with black beans and onions (soak the onions in vinegar for a tangy taste).

  • OUR MODIFICATIONS:

  • we use regular flour tortillas
  • Any peppers will do
  • Any type of Salsa
  • We double the recipe

Make It

  • Cook and stir chicken in large skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium heat 4 min. or until done.
  • Add onions and peppers; cook 4 to 5 min. or until crisp-tender. Stir in salsa and beans; cook 3 min. or until heated through, stirring occasionally.
  • Spoon 1/4 cup chicken mixture onto half of each tortilla; sprinkle with cheese. Fold tortillas in half. Add quesadillas, in batches, to separate large skillet sprayed with cooking spray; cook on medium heat 2 min. on each side or until lightly browned on both sides.

Top with your favorite garnishments, enjoy!

Photo credit: Kraftrecipes.com

Broccoli Soup

I’ve been searching for Broccoli Cheddar soup for a month now, and had no luck at any of the drive thru’s I went to, normally only go for my decaf coffee (yes, decaf..trust me I don’t need caffeine lol), but always ask if they have the soup yet. I was skimming through cookbooks my sister dropped off the other day, and there was broccoli soup…I honestly couldn’t contain my excitement, so reading through it, seemed easy enough, so I ran to the grocery store to get the ingredients, also grabbed cans of tomato soup for the kids, ain’t gonna lie I won’t even bother trying to make that homemade. So here is the easiest (and really good) broccoli soup recipe I tried..

4 cups of broccoli cut into bite size pieces

1 ½ qt (6 cups) Chicken broth

2 cans cream of celery soup

2 cups shredded mild Cheddar cheese

2 cups Milk

4 Tbsp cornstarch

½ c cold water

 

  1. In large pot, cook broccoli in chicken broth for 10 min (may need longer depending how mushy you like your broccoli)
  2. In medium bowl, mix cream of celery soup and milk
  3. Blend cornstarch with cold water until well blended, then stir into soup mixture. Pour that into the broccoli and chicken broth
  4. Cook over medium heat, stirring steadily, until thick and bubbly.
  5. Stir in cheese and simmer, stirring until hot and melted…Don’t bring to boil.

Photo credit.. allrecipes.com

The real on PCOS!

I’ve seen many posts on different blogs about PCOS, but I have not read one with someone living with this. Guess what, I’m going to tell my story, my nightmare with this disease. Now, this is my personal story, not everyone who suffers with this is the same, so what works for me, will not work with everyone. So, what is PCOS? Well to be truthful it sucks, but medically it’s Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a condition that ovaries accumulate cysts, instead of follicles growing and going on to ovulate, it releases male hormone into the blood. When I was diagnosed the testing was if your LH to FSH ratio was 3:1, means you have the disease. Many women who suffer from PCOS, do not ovulate, which makes it harder to become pregnant, suffer from diabetes, obesity, acne, horrible cramps, unwanted hair growth, just what every woman wants to suffer with, right?

I’ll go back before I was even diagnosed, so maybe some can relate to the symptoms. For as long as I can remember I’ve had irregular menstrual cycle, sometimes I’ll get two in a month, and there’s been times I would go months without having one. When I was pregnant with my third son, Jarron, I was having horrible cramps in the beginning, went to ER and the doctor told me after an ultrasound that there was a fibroid pushing the baby out. I just sat there like can that really freaking happen? I was sent to a high risk OB, who told me that was almost impossible to happen, and after 2 more visits with this doctor, I was released to see my original OB….My son Jarron is almost 14 years old, so no that didn’t even happen, lol..

That first fibroid that was found during my third pregnancy, was the first of many, and I mean many! For years I suffered from heavy never-ending periods, I was anemic, pale, and literally weak. After our wedding in 2008, I noticed I was gaining weight, was in constant pain, and that was not like me what so ever, I’ve always been a healthy weight, I never gained more than 12 pounds pregnant with any of my children, after another emergency room trip, I was told, I will quote the doctor, “A hell of a lot of cysts on uterus”. I contacted my OB/GYN, they ran the tests for PCOS, did ultrasound, and decided they would need to go in and remove the cysts, he informed me I had at least 2 dozen embedded in my uterus wall. I had that surgery three times that year, each time there were more and more. The PCOS test they ran, my number were less than 1 ½ what would’ve been considered having the disease, so I didn’t have it at that time. A year later, almost to the date, I was back in the office with pain, more weight gain, more fibroids, he ran the test again, remember the 3:1 ratio, well mine was beyond 6:1, that’s how fast it progressed.

So, the time has come to decide on another myomectomy, or have full hysterectomy, the doctor was convinced the hysterectomy was the better choice so I could stop suffering. I was all for the hysterectomy, I was finished having kids (I only spit out boys anyways lol), but when I talked to my husband about it, he was against it. He was concerned about the changes I would go through, and he told me he didn’t feel like I really done with children, my youngest was about 7 years old at this time, I believed I was done. So, I talked to my doctor about it and he basically told me he didn’t believe I would be able to get pregnant again, well….challenge accepted! As with many with PCOS, I was put on metformin because I became a Type 2 diabetic (OMG, the side effects of that med is brutal!!), he started me on six rounds of Clomid, at this point we were trying to get my body to ovulate, because having anovulatory cycles isn’t that good for you, then I was on couple rounds of Femara. Within these two treatments, I did have two chemical pregnancies, basically the egg was fertilized but never implanted. After the end of femara, I was ready to throw in the towel, I just received the letter that my nursing school was starting, and I really didn’t want to be pregnant in that time. I talked to my husband and told him that I wouldn’t get the hysterectomy, but I was ready to have my tubes tied.

My doctor had me on another type of med, this medication would help me start my menstrual if I went so long without one, I can’t remember the name of it, but he said before I take it, just take a pregnancy test to be sure I wasn’t pregnant. I’m in my first month of nursing school, having horrible cramps, but no period, and I felt like it was coming, but just wasn’t there, so I decided I was going to start that medication. Now, I already contacted my doctor to have my annual done, and told them I wanted to schedule my tubal while I was there. After school, I stopped at the store to grab a test, went home and found my medication to take, I took the test (just so I can say I took one before the meds), went to throw it away (why look, it’s going to be negative, right?) for some odd reason my eye caught there wasn’t a NOT before the Pregnant, it was a cool digital one, lol. I was in complete shock, didn’t want to tell my husband just incase it was another chemical, so I kept it under wraps, until I went to my doctor. The Dr. was so excited for me when he walked in, then I went on telling him, that I didn’t feel it was right timing, he said it always happens once you stop trying, kinda like going to buy a sports car then your wife becomes pregnant, I replied well I just bought a mini-van, so it’s meant to be. Of course, I was happy about it, hey I won the challenge, but I seriously thought how am I going to manage school, pregnancy brain, and 3 other children. I’m a good multitasker, so another challenge was on.

Is anyone wondering what does this have to do with PCOS? Well, it has a lot to do with it, during my pregnancy my cramps started going away, my numbers were looking good, and I even lost all the weight I was gaining (yes, that is okay, I was losing my weight, the baby was gaining weight just fine). The doctor believes the extra hormones I was getting from being pregnant, is what I was lacking, and it was all balancing out. I have not been on metformin since I became pregnant, my levels are still well, and I have not had one cyst/fibroid since I was pregnant with my daughter (yes, I finally got my girl!!). I’ll never be cured from this, and there’s the chance it can all come back, but I do stick with a good diet, despite all my recipe posts (we don’t eat those everyday lol), I am still a type 2 diabetic, my levels stay right at the border so I know my control is okay. I do have a high cholesterol, which was found after I was diagnosed with PCOS, faithfully taking medication for it, we’re not sure if this is related to PCOS or hereditary (my father had high cholesterol).

Please remember, this is only my story, I was able to get pregnant with the disease, but I know many who haven’t, and a few close friends went through adoption to have their family. Also, I’m not saying if you do become pregnant, your symptoms will disappear or lesson, I consider myself lucky that it happened this way. What I am saying is don’t lose hope, there’s many options out there for many, I really thought 5 years ago this disease was going to run my life, but it didn’t, it actually made me stronger, more willing not to ever give up, and to discover when one person may be in doubts, no is not the final answer.