Thursday, February 26, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip is one of my favorite dips to make when taking food to a get together, because it is quick and easy to whip up, and can be easily transported in a Crock Pot. The recipe that I use is the a copy cat of the recipe printed on the Frank's Red Hot bottle, but I tweak it just a bit and make it my own. Here's how I make it:

Ingredients
4 cups shredded cooked chicken (I usually use canned chicken)
1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1/2 cup Frank's Buffalo Sauce
1 cup ranch dressing ( I use Hidden Valley)
2 packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded mozzarella or colby-jack cheese
1 bag Tostito's Scoops

This is my version of the Frank's Buffalo dip, doubled. I use the above amount of ingredients for my Crock Pot, but if you want a smaller batch, just cut the above ingredients in half.

To make it, start by mixing your cream cheese, 2 kinds of hot sauce, and ranch together in a bowl. Then stir in your shredded chicken and shredded cheese.

For this recipe, I usually use canned chicken. I have baked chicken breast before and shredded them, and used for this recipe, but honestly, it was much more work than necessary and I couldn't tell a difference from the normal recipe, so I just save myself the time and use canned chicken.

Once your ingredients are mixed together, dump the mixture in your Crock Pot and heat it on low for an hour, or until warm. Once your dip is heated up, change the heat setting on your Crock Pot to warm.

If you don't have a crock pot, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a 2 quart baking dish. Use a 2 quart dish if you are making the above recipe, or a 1 quart dish if you cut my listed amounts in half, Dump your mixture into your sprayed baking dish and spread out. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes or until heated through (about 20 minutes for a 1 quart dish).

Serve with Tostito's Scoops and enjoy!

*If you like your dip more spicy, use an entire cup of hot sauce instead of 1/2 cup of regular Frank's and 1/2 cup of Frank's Buffalo. If you like your dip more mild, use an entire cup of Frank's Buffalo sauce  instead of 1/2 cup of regular Frank's and 1/2 cup of Frank's Buffalo.

**When I make Buffalo Chicken Dip at home, Lee and I often times like to use the left overs for pizza. Check out my Leftover Buffalo Chicken Dip Pizza Recipe!**


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Lee & Sara's European Adventure Part 2: Venice, Italy



Our first stop of our European adventure was Rome, Italy. You can read about that part of our trip here. On Christmas morning we woke up in Rome, packed up our stuff, ate some lunch, and headed to the train station. This was the only train we rode this trip, but we really loved it! We were weary about booking train travel, because we couldn't book that until the month of our trip, and everything else we booked several months in advance. Now that we know how easy it is, we will probably do more train travel and less air travel next time. Getting on the train was much less chaotic than going to an airport, checking in, going through security, etc. All we had to do was find the station, get on, and find a seat! Once the train started, someone came around and checked our tickets. Easy as that!
Here are a few snapshots from the window of our train from Rome to Venice. 




Most businesses are closed on Christmas Day, so we figured this would be a good day to travel. We got to Venice that evening and had to take the Vaporetti to get to our hotel. The Vaporetti is like a water bus. Venice is a group of very small islands, and there are no real roads there. To walk around the city, you walk through small alley ways and over bridges. There are no cars there what-so-ever. Their public transportation is the Vaporetti, and they also have water taxis and of course Gondolas.

Once we got to our hotel, we were STARVING! The man working the front desk at our hotel told us that there were only a couple of places open. We chose the place closest to the hotel, and were so glad we did. This restaurant was serving 3 course meals, and this is where Lee and I had the very best lasagna we've ever tasted! It had a hint of cinnamon in it, and as strange as that sounds, it was amazing!

We're only on our second city, and Lee is already tired of me taking pictures of him! haha. This is him and his first course on Christmas night. Below is the best lasagna we've ever tasted. 





The next day was our first full day in Venice. We didn't have any excursions booked, but we knew there were a few things we wanted to see. This day we toured a small church and an art museum, did some shopping near the Rialto Bridge (Venice's most famous bridge/shopping area), then we spent some time in St. Mark's Square & St. Mark's Basilica, and toured the Doge's Palace. St Mark's Square is the main attraction in Venice, and is what you would probably see if you were to see part of Venice in a movie. The Doge's palace was the palace of the "presidents" when Venice was its own state. Now that it is part of Italy, the palace has been preserved and used as a tourist attraction.




Not sure if you can see it, but Lee and I each stood on a bridge and took each other's pictures. This is what venise is like: lots of canals and little waterways and cute little bridges. 
This is a picture of the main waterway going through Venice


Here is Lee in front of an old gondola on display. This was in the courtyard of the Doge's palace. 
Here is a picture of the front of the Doge's Palace. So many sculptures and details on the outside of the building. 



The Doge's Palace is boxed in and there is a large courtyard in the middle. This picture is taken from that courtyard. 




This is a picture from inside a window of the Doge's Palace. 
Here is a picture of Lee and I in St. Mark's Square. Of course there is scaffolding everywhere, because they happened to be doing construction on it while we were there. The ground looks wet, and it was! This area floods commonly while the tide is high, and that was something really cool we got to see while we were there. 




Our second day in Venice we went to the top of Venice's bell tower & got to see the city from the top. It was really beautiful! We could see the city, the water, and the mountains, all at once.  We think they were the Dolomite Mountains. Next we went to two small islands called Murano & Burano. Murano is the island where they specialize in glass blowing & sculpting, & Burano is known for lace making & it's pastel colored houses, both of which were really awesome! In Murano we got to see a guy sculpting & blowing glass, but we got to Burano too late to see any of the lace being made, but we did purchase a lace hankie as a wedding gift for a friend, and it was beautiful!  That evening we took a gondola ride. That was really fun too because you got to see the buildings all from a different view. This night we were about 6 days into our trip, and we caved and ate some American food: Hard Rock Cafe, and I don't know if I've never been so happy to eat hot wings and ranch haha! This is the one and only time I ate ranch on this trip, and even when I went to Spain in college, they did not have ranch...the Europeans just don't know what they're missing out on! 


This is the Hard Rock Cafe we ate at in Venice. 

Here is our view from the top of the bell tower. You can see the city, water, and mountains all in one picture. So beautiful! 

A selfie of me and my love at the top of the bell tower. 

Here is a guy melting and forming glass in Murano. 

Lee loved this old wooden boat! 

A view of the water, mountains, and sun beginning to set in Burano. 

Here is a pic of the pastel colored homes in Burano. 
One of the best things about traveling over Christmas is seeing all of the lights and decor! I LOVE Christmas and everything that goes along with it! 



We enjoyed the sights we saw, but really the best part about Venice was the city itself. Even though it was cold, we loved seeing all of the boats, and the water, etc. It was so fun just to walk around and see all of the canals & bridges, window shop, etc. Venice is such a cool place!


Here are a few pics of us eating and drinking. Ignore my make-up-less face please! 


Speaking of window shopping, Lee found some Duff beer like they serve on The Simpson''s. We tried it out. It wasn't anything amazing, but it was cool to see that product in a touristy shop in Venice! 


I can't seem to find any pics of us on our Gondola ride, but once I find those, I will add them to this post. Our next stop after Venice was Munich, Germany! Check out my next blog post to read about how fun our visit in Munich was! 

If you read my post, leave a comment! I love reading feedback from my blog posts. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Doritos Chicken Casserole


I saw this recipe shared on Facebook a while back and thought it looked so yummy! I re-vamped it a little, and made it for dinner one night last week. It was a big hit! Quick and easy to make, which is always good for busy week nights. Here's how I made it:

Ingredients
3 chicken breast cooked and shredded.
1 can cream of mushroom soup (Or you could use cream of chicken soup, too)
1 can Rotel (In this recipe, I used two, but it was too tomato-y for our liking, so next time I will only use 1 can)
1 bag Nacho Cheese Doritos
1 8oz. bag Mexican style shredded cheese
Cooking Spray

To start, you need to get your chicken ready.  If you have chicken breasts at home, you could always cook them in a crock pot and shred them up. I didn't plan that far ahead, so I bought a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. I love using rotisserie chicken because its already cooked and it saves me some time! I pulled off the chicken legs and wings and set them aside. Lee and I ate these later this week. Next, I pulled all the other meat off the bone and shredded it up. I figured that would equal to about 3 chicken breasts like the recipe called for.




Next, I mixed up the Chicken, cream of mushroom soup, and Rotel. If you just use one can of Rotel, your mixture won't look as tomato-y as the pic below. For Lee and I, 2 cans was too much tomato. So next time, I'm planning to just use one can. 

Next, take 1/3 of your Doritos out of the bag and set them aside. Keep the other 2/3 in the bag, and crush them up. They don't have to be broken into teeny tiny pieces, but about bite size is good. 



Spray your 13x9 pan, and cover the bottom with your crushed Doritos. Then spread our your chicken mixture on top. 


Next, layer the 1/3 of unbroken doritos on top. 


Cover with cheese and bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and chicken is warm. I cooked mine for about 25 minutes. 



Once your cheese is melted, dinner is served! 


If you read my post, leave a comment! I love reading feedback from my blog posts.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) Number 2

In January, we attempted our first IUI. You can read about it here. It did not result in pregnancy, so Lee and I decided we would try again. Because my cycle was still longer than normal last month, we decided to do a monitored cycle this month. This means that instead of using a home Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK for short), I would go to the Dr. for multiple ultrasounds and blood work to confirm with certainty when I am ovulating.

We started the month with Clomid on cycle days 3 through 7. I went in around the same cycle day that I ovulated last month, and had the ultrasound and blood drawn. The best thing about working with a fertility doctor, is that he understands that time is of the essence, and doesn't ever make us wait too long for our test results. The nurse called me back that same afternoon and said that my hormone levels looked good (great news!), but the Dr. was a little concerned with the lining of my uterus being too thin. Apparently this can be a side effect of Clomid, and is fairly common. To fix this, I would take an estrogen pill, and have another ultrasound and blood work done 2 days later.

Two days later we got good news, and my second ultrasound showed the lining of my uterus to be thick enough, so I only had to take the pill for those 2 days. My 2nd round of blood work also came back good, so this meant that night, Lee would give me the trigger shot.

The trigger shot is basically a hormone injection that induces ovulation.  This shot was ordered through a pharmacy that specializes in fertility drugs on the east coast, so we had it mailed to us, and kept it in our fridge for a few days until it was time to use it. This part of the process was new to us, and certainly interesting. The same day of my second ultrasound and blood work, at 11:00pm, Lee gave me the shot in my stomach. This was a first for both of us, so we were really nervous, but it turns out, my husband is a rock star at giving shots! It wasn't too bad at all, and he made it pretty quick and painless. After taking the injection, we gave it 36 hours to work it's magic, and then we had the IUI 2 days later. If you're curious about what the shot was like, watch this video.

We got really lucky this time and had an AWESOME nurse who did the IUI. She seemed to really know what she was doing. It was much less painful than the first one, and for that I am so thankful! Now we are waiting out the dreaded 2 weeks before my pregnancy test. I have read on several other blogs and websites that the trigger shot can often times give false positives on home pregnancy tests, because it raises the woman's level of the HCG hormone so much. Because of that, I am not going to take any home pregnancy tests this month. I am going to try my best to be patient and wait the full two weeks and just get my blood work results.

We are really praying that this month's IUI will result in a safe, healthy pregnancy. Once we have our results and have had the opportunity to tell our families and close friends, I will write another blog post letting you all know if we are preparing for a baby, or getting ready for IUI Number 3. Until then, we will be crossing our fingers and toes, hoping and praying for good news!

If you read my post, leave a comment. I love reading feedback from my blog posts!

Friday, February 20, 2015

S'mores Treats

In anticipation of seeing my niece and nephew this weekend, I made a treat that I know they will love: S'mores Treats. These are a S'mores version of Rice Krispie Treats. They are quick and easy to make, and so yummy! Here's how I made them:

Ingredients
tablespoons of butter
1 lb.bag marshmallows- I used big marshmallows because that's all my grocery store had at the time, but mini marshmallows will probably melt faster
16oz. box of Golden Grahams
1 cup milk chocolate chips
Cooking Spray

To start: Spray the sides of your pot to avoid marshmallows sticking in places where the butter won't reach. Melt your butter  on medium-low heat in a big pot on your stove. Once your butter is melted, throw in your marshmallows.



Stir your butter and marshmallows, and let the marshmallows melt.



Once your marshmallows are melted, dump in your whole box of cereal, and your chocolate chips. Turn off your stove, but leave your pot on the warm stove and stir in your cereal and chocolate until everything is mixed well. Your chocolate chips will melt a little bit, and that's ok.


Once your ingredients are all mixed, spray a 13x9 pan with cooking spray, and dump in your cereal/chocolate/marshmallow mixture. Spread out and let cool for about an hour before serving. 

I like to spray the back of a spatula and use it to press down the treats in the pan to make them an even thickness. 

These treats are quick and easy to make, and are a gooey, yummy snack!

If you read my post, leave a comment! I love reading feedback from my blog posts. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Snickers Stuffed Cookies

Around Christmas time I saw these 1 pound candy bars at Target. On the package it said "Slice and Share!" This gave me the idea to slice the Snickers bar, and put cookie dough around it. I tried it out this past weekend, and the cookies turned out pretty good! Here's how I made them:

For the cookie part, I used the same dough recipe that I had for the M&M Cookie Cake, except I left out the M&M's. I started by mixing up the dough. I rolled the cookie dough into balls, about the size of a quarter, then I took a slice of snickers, and cut it in half. Next I put a slice of snickers onto the cookie dough ball and flattened it out, and put another cookie dough ball on top. press the dough around the snickers so that the chocolate is completely covered.



If you can't find the large 1 pound Snickers, just use regular Snickers or even fun size and slice them up. I used about 3/4 pounds of Snickers for this recipe.




Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown. This recipe made about 24 large cookies. If you feel like slicing and covering the snickers is too tedious, just chop up your snickers and mix the pieces in just like you would chocolate chips!

Because my cookies were so large, I had to bake them in 3 batches of 8.


These cookies were moist, gooey, and amazing!


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Saturday, February 14, 2015

M&M Cookie Cake




I have to start this post by giving credit where credit is due, and that's to my Mother-in-law. :) She gave me this cookie dough recipe. I tweaked it just a tad and made it my own. Since Valentine's Day is coming up, I figured it would be fun to try out my new heart-shaped pan that I bought. This one came from Aldi.

The recipe my mother-in-law gave me is for chocolate chip cookie bars. I subbed m&ms instead of chocolate chips, and instead of a 11x17 pan, I used this heart shaped pan. Here's how I made the cookie cake.
Ingredients:
2 1/2 Cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
8 oz. M&M's
Pre-heat oven to 325 degreees. Start by mixing the softened butter, vanilla, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together. I used my Kitchen Aid Mixer for this part. Mix the eggs in, one at a time.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the flour to your butter/sugar mixture, a little bit at a time. Mix thoroughly. Stir in M&Ms.
Spray cookie sheet, and spread out dough in heart pan (or square pan if you choose). Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cookie is golden brown.




This recipe does work best for an 11 x17 cookie cake. Because my heart dish was smaller than that, I had some dough leftover. I sprayed my air bake cookie sheet and spread the leftover dough out into a circle on the cookie sheet. I baked at 325 degrees until golden brown, and then I used all different sizes of heart cookie cutters and make heart cookies. Both the cake and the heart cookies were delicious! I brought the cookie cake to work and it was a big hit.

If you read my post, leave a comment. I love reading feedback from my blog posts!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Breakfast Braid

For this post, I have to start by giving credit where the credit is due, and that is to my S-Mom, Sheryl! She taught me how to make this one, and boy do I love it! This is one of her fav breakfast dishes to make, especially when her and my dad have the whole family over for the weekend.  Its so yummy, and a pretty quick to whip up. At our house, we love breakfast for dinner, and this was a great way to used up some of our our left-over ham.

The last time Sheryl made this for our family, she doubled the recipe, she used ground breakfast sausage. I am using ham simply because I need to get rid of our leftovers, but its great with sausage, and I'm sure it would be good with bacon (turkey bacon even if you're being healthy), or even meat-less. This is a simple, quick recipe and is great for breakfast, brunch, or dinner!

Here's how I made it:
Shopping List 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Cooked, chopped meat (I used about two thick slices of ham, but you could use sausage, ground turkey, bacon, tofu or omit the meat and use a few more eggs instead )
3/4 chopped vegetables of your choice. I used onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms, but I'm sure spinach, or any other veggies would be good too! I didn't actually measure my veggies, this is just an estimate. You could increase or decrease the amount depending on what you like.
5 eggs, whisked
1/2 block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1 can crescent roll dough
Cooking Spray

cook your meat and veggies in the skillet before adding them to the egg. 
To start: pour enough olive oil to lightly coat your skillet. Let it heat up, and once it's warm, toss in your vegetables and meat. Cook until vegetables are soft. Once your veggies are soft, add in your scrambled eggs. When I scrambled mine, I added about a tablespoon of milk to help make them fluffy, but this is optional! Stir to combine the eggs and veggies.

Be sure to scramble those eggs!
While your eggs are cooking, spray a cookie sheet (I love to use my air-bake sheet), and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lay your crescent rolls out with the long sides touching and the pointy sides facing out. Press together the long sides together. 

By this time, your eggs should be cooked. Stir in your 1/2 block of cream cheese and mix in with the eggs and veggies. 

Dump the eggs and cream cheese into the same skillet as the meat and veggies. 
This is what my egg, veggie, ham, and cream cheese mixture looked like. 

Once the cream cheese is mixed in, scoop the egg mixture onto to middle of your crescent roll line. Fold the pointy edges of crescent roll over the top. 

Here's what my braid looked like when I first put in my egg and meat mixture. 
Once you fold over your crescent roll corners, your braid should look something like this. 





Place in the oven and bake the crescent roll for about 10 minutes, or until the top of the roll is lightly golden brown.

Here is my golden brown baked crescent braid.



Once the crescent roll is golden brown, take it out of oven and cover the top with your shredded cheese. Place the braid back in the oven for 2-3 minutes, or until your cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and serve!
And of course no recipe is complete until you smother it in cheese!






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