Happiness Project #64: Santa Fe Mock Up Salad!

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Since I’ve now been enduring recovery for just shy of two weeks & everything physical is rather difficult, I’ve been desperately trying to find a way to feed my family, without relying on take out or assistance from family or friends every night. And wow, my friends, this recovery is not at all how I imagined it to be. When you’re not able to bend over (at all), or move remotely faster than at a snails pace or do anything but roll slowly out of bed like a small whale, if there’s anything I’ve learned thus far in these 15 days, it’s that back surgery is not for the faint of spirit. It’s not easy Or fun. Even though I’m supposed to be “relaxing” every day to heal. Which I’m sure to you sounds like a very welcome vacation of sorts. Relaxing, however, is just not me. I’d much rather be doing. Particularly since I’m relying on family to take care of my daughter every day while my husband’s at work. Sucks. Not being with my daughter. No car rides, or target trips or playground playdates for me. Just books, tv and blogging. Which, after two weeks of being utterly & throughly immersed in, has become sadly a tad boring to me. There’s only SO much good tv out there.

Which segways into this new salad recipe. The Santa Fe Mock Up Salad! Since I’ve only just recently started loving salad recipes, I’ve been determined to try out as many different flavored salads as my appetite can possibly handle. And I am overjoyed to admit that I have found another sald that I love JUST as much as my go-to Strawberry Fields Summer Salad! Except in this one, instead of mass amount of fruits, vegetables take the center stage. With juicy bits of chicken. Naturally. Ready for another fantastic summer salad? Here ya go…

1 8oz bag mixed greens

1 cup cooked and lightly seasoned cubed chicken pieces (approximately 1 full chicken breast)

3/4 can drained white corn

3/4 can drained black beans

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 cup crushed tortilla strips chips

Firstly, prepare the chicken correctly by cooking the whole breast in boiling, lightly salted water. Once the chicken breast is throughly cooked, shred with your fingers or cut up with a small serrated knife, into small bite size pieces. Set aside.

Drain both cans of the corn and black beans and mix them together in a small pan, on the stovetop, on low heat. Dap a tiny bit of salted butter onto the corn & beans, mixing for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the stovetop and set aside.

Now, the fun part. In a large salad bowl, throw in those fresh mixed greens. Followed with the corn and beans, mixing as you incorporate. Toss in those beautiful cherry tomatoes and top the salad with the cheddar cheese and tortilla chips. Toss, if desired.

Drizzle lightly with your favorite spicy peanut sauce dressing! Or a little bit of chunky salsa. Either one gives you that lovely desired pop of flavor.

And serve!

Hope you’re all having a beautiful, yummy summer!

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Happiness Project Recipe #63: Fathers Day Fun Bowls!

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Fathers Day Year 3! Fathers Day this year within my little Family of 3 wasn’t quite what I had hoped it to be. I had PLANS for the Father of my beautiful Little Girl. But we all know that life sometimes happens when you’re out making plans. With no exception this year. That grandeos plan of creating this lovely toddler painted hand print, decked out in a cute homemade photo frame? Nope. Instead of cute toddler prints with glitter and glue, the middle of this week consisted of emergency back surgery (for me). Which meant rest. And very little (nearly non-exsistent) physical activity. Which meant NO kitchen time. None. Imagine, just imagine, how depressing this is. Could you keep yourself away from your own kitchen for 6 to 8 weeks?? Yes, 6 to EIGHT weeks. See? Depressing. So needless to say, nothing that I had wanted to create for my beloved Husband happened.

HOWEVER. You want to know what DID transpire instead? A dessert recipe incorporating two of my Husband’s favorite things: vanilla ice cream and waffles! A chocolate dipped waffle bowl that required NO oven time! Which, in turn, required very little physical activity on my part. Doctor approved. And since no Fathers Day treat would be complete without something special just for his Little Girl as well, I threw (literally threw) in a whole lot of rainbow sprinkles. Which (naturally) ended up everywhere but on the actual waffle bowl. Chloe Girl approved.

So who’s ready for one of the simplest and cheeriest of no-bake desserts? Husband approved.

4 Waffle Bowls

1 8oz bag of chocolate candy melts

1 carton vanilla bean ice cream (homemade or store bought)

1 large banana, sliced up into equal parts

8 to 12 fresh strawberries, rinsed and pat dried

1/2 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and pat dried

*Rainbow sprinkles, optional

*If you’re eagerly wanting to whip up some home-made ice cream beforehand, here’s one of my favorite (& easiest) go to vanilla ice cream recipes.

Firstly, line up all of your ingredients for easy assembly. 4 waffle bowls, 1 bowl of strawberries, 1 bowl of cut bananas, 1 bowl of blueberries.

In a large bowl, heat up the candy melts, stirring in 20 second intervals until completely melted and smooth. Remove from the microwave.

Place the 4 waffle bowls on parchment paper and then, one at a time, dip the bottom half of each bowl into the bowl of melted chocolate. Deposit each bowl, upside down, onto the parchment paper to dry.

*If you want to add sprinkles to the waffle bowls, hold each bowl up by the rim, one at a time, and sprinkle on however many jimmies you want, until the chocolate is fully covered.

Next up? The strawberries! While pinching the head of each strawberry, dip each tip into the chocolate, one at a time. Let each strawberry sit on it’s side to dry.

Once the chocolate on each waffle bowl has hardened up and dried, grab up that yummy carton of vanilla ice cream and load those bowls up!

Followed with a generous heaping of those chocolate dipped strawberries, banana slices and juicy blueberries.

And maybe, just maybe, another pinch of sprinkles. More so for that eagerly awaiting toddler, than anyone else.

From my kitchen to yours, I hope you all celebrated a lovely Fathers Day! xoxo

The Children’s Book Worm! Interview: Mandi Pimental!

Hello fans! Since I am currently recovering from surgery and restricted from being up and about in my kitchen, I’m debuting a special book related treat for you: interviews with guest bloggers who, like me, have a passion for the written world of Children’s Literature! You all may know that after 17 years as a children’s lit specialist, children’s literature has been and still is a very important part of my life. And because I believe in the timeless magic with the written word, I am always beyond thrilled to make friends with other adults who also feed into this particular passion. So with no further adui, I am honored to introduce you to my first Book Worm Interview with the lovely Mandi Pimental! Enjoy!

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What is your favorite thing about browsing through a bookstore? What is your favorite current bookstore?

Can I say everything? [laughs] I can spend hours in a bookstore – I’m so in love with the written word and traditional print. My favorite bookstore is Barnes and Noble. I love the vibe there.

 Do you have a particular book from your childhood that has taught you something important as an adult?

I’ve always had a voracious appetite for learning. My top picks would my children’s Bible, my elementary encyclopedia set and I loved childhood fairytale stories – so Cinderella.

Are there any favorite childhood books, within a series or as a stand alone, that you continue to re-read as an adult?

There is a teen/young adult series titled Secrets of my Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita that I still read because it reminds me of my life in Hollywood. I also love Little Golden Books and have started collecting them for our future littles.

Do you read any new children’s literature, for yourself, now as an adult? If so, what are some of your current favorites?

I am actually working on a children’s book project, so I have done some reading for research. But my favorites to still read with my nieces and nephews are classics like Goodnight, Moon, Ramona, Judy Blume and The Bernstein Bears.

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If you have children or are wanting to have children, which books from your own childhood would you collect for your child’s 1st library?

One of my best friends just brought me over a box for our future littles, as we are trying to start a family, and there are so many classics in there that I spent almost two hours pouring over them. The titles that I mentioned above of course, as well as educational titles on colors, numbers and shapes, classic Winnie The Pooh and Harold and the Purple Crayon!

If you were ever able to write and publish your own children’s book, what would your book be about? Is there a particular message that you would hope to convey within it?

I have one that’s been in the works for a while, I am a professional journalist, so it’s on the back burner while I work on other projects – but it’s a Christian children’s book about how they can apply obedience and helpfulness into their own lives, even though they are little.

Three Cheers for our 1st Children’s Book Worm, Mandi! I adore how she has stuck to so many of the classics! And I love how she mentioned that her elementary Encyclopedia from childhood has had so much meaning to her as an adult! I can only just imagine how well loved that childhood Encyclopedia is.

Intrigued? Who else is clamoring to know more about Mandi’s writing her own Christian Children’s Book? I am!

Catch up with all of Mandi’s many blogging adventures (& prepare to be WOW’d by a plethora of gorgeous photos) at her lifestyle blog Nosh & Nurture!

Thank you for the lovely interview, Mandi!

xoxo

Happiness Project Recipe #62: Creamy Chicken Noodle Bake!

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Chicken Noodle Soup. Who doesn’t like Chicken Noodle Soup?? No one that I know. We all know that when sickness strikes, chicken noodle soup comes to the rescue. Every single time. But what about Chicken Noodle Soup as a standard dinner option? Even when there’s no little runny nose or no happy slap of rain upon the window pane? What about Chicken Noodle Soup in the Summertime? Yes, you heard this Mama right. Summertime Chicken Noodle Soup. When you’re NOT sick. With a twist!

What I love most about this recipe is that it’s both creamy and crunchy, all in one bite. Not at all like a classic bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup. Oh, sure, you’ve still got the cubed chicken and peas and carrots. But this dinner dish is a bit more like a casserole than an actual soup. With green beans, two types of pasta, as well as a lovely layer of bread crumbs. That’s baked. Not just stirred, Which makes ALL the difference. I think so at least. Because the truth? Even when I AM sick, the classic chicken noodle soup sometimes gets a little boring to me. Don’t hate me now, okay? I’m just being real here.

So who’s ready for a different spin on Chicken Noodle? Your kids (and dog, too) will love this one!

4 oz spiral pasta shells, cooked correctly and drained

4 oz elbow pasta shells, cooked correctly and drained

1-1/2 cups cooked and cubed boneless chicken breasts (approximately 3 whole chicken breasts)

1 cup fresh corn

1 cup fresh peas

1 cup fresh green beans

1 8oz can cream of chicken

1/2-1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

Firstly, prepare all of your fresh pasta and veggies correctly. Set each aside, separately until you’re ready to combine them all.

Cut up the cooked chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350D. Lightly spray a 8×10 inch baking dish with butter.

While the oven is pre-heating itself, dump the pasta and can of cream of chicken into a large bowl. Stir until the pasta is roughly combined with the sauce. Now, add in the corn, peas and green beans, stirring until well coated.

With the entire bowlful of combined ingredients, spoon out into the prepared baking dish. Lightly dust the top of the dish with panko bread crumbs.

Pop the mix into the oven and let bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cream from below the bread crumb layer starts to bubble up (ever so slightly.)

Pull the dish out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

A yummy Chicken Noodle Bake that everyone will enjoy. Even your furry kids. Must never forget our furry kids.

Happiness Project Recipe #61: Strawberry Field Summer Salad!

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Alright, my friends! When my Mom took my Daughter & I to Wendys after one of my specialist appointments last week, and I tried their new strawberry chicken salad, I fell head over heels for their salad menu! Which, for me, is kinda a big deal. Salads are personal to me. They need to be just right for me to truly enjoy them. Particularly if I want to go back for seconds (or thirds). Call me Goldilocks from the classic fairytale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where I need to try everything available first before I decide on what I like most. Snobbish, perhaps? Yes. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. Being a little picky with my sense of taste in regards to creating good food? Makes sense to me.

Anyhow, back to this salad! I decided to re-create Wendys strawberry chicken salad, with a couple of tweaks. Wendys salad has onions (which I detest, like you wouldn’t believe) and bits of cubed chicken (which I can only take for so long). Both of which I omitted for my own personal “snobbery.” Which you can very easy add in, if those two additions sound appeasing to you. It’s your salad, right? Right. So with a little bit of tang, a whole lot of sweetness and the perfect blend of crunch, you might fall in love with this salad as much as I have. Since I had 3 large bowls of this last week. Proud of me, sister?

10 ounces of mixed spring lettuce and baby spinach, washed and lightly patted dry.

1-1/2 cups washed, sliced fresh strawberries

1-1/2 cups seedless red grapes

3 to 4 tablespoons of toasted sunflower seeds

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

*1 cup cooked and cubed fresh chicken, optional

1-2 cups Apple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Salads are easy. That’s what I’ve come to love about them. So this one is no exception.

Once you’ve washed and sliced (or diced) up the strawberries, set them aside while you wash and pat the two types of lettuce dry. Throw those leafy greens into a large serving bowl. Add in the strawberries, grapes, lovely toasted sunflower seeds and blue cheese. Mix together briefly. And now pour in up to 2 cups of the apple vinaigrette dressing.

Toss together the entire mixture, with your salad utensils, or by hand, until everything is nicely mixed and coated.

And serve. Just like that. So simple, it’s kinda mind boggling to me. Which is just one of many reasons why I have finally (FINALLY) become a salad lover. About time.

What’s your favorite summer salad? I would love to know!

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