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August 2013

On the fly chicken tortilla soup recipe

I love chicken tortilla soup.  I like to think of it as chili lite.  However, I had never made it myself.  No reason, I just always relied on others to fulfill my tortilla soup cravings.  But tonight...?  Tonight I was feeling quite ambitious.  I went into my tortilla memory banks and pulled out all the tastes I could remember.  Then when I thought I had all the right ingredients on my kitchen counter, I referenced a couple recipes online to see if I was right.  Then I got to work.

What do ya know?  It turned out so good that I almost immediately wanted to make another batch.  Here's how I did it.  Hope you try it and love it as much as I did!


On the Fly Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 2 cooked chicken breasts - shredded
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 cup salsa
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • About 1 cup of crushed Tostitos
  • Garnishes: Greek yogurt, salsa, chives, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, chopped avocado
  • Place the shredded chicken, oil, garlic and cumin in a soup pot and toss to coat.  Turn on the heat to medium and add the onion.  Cook until the onion becomes transparent about 2-3 minutes. Add the corn, water, bouillon, chili powder, salsa and lemon juice.  Turn the heat down to med-low and let the soup simmer about 30 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add the crushed Tostitos and turn off the heat.  

    BAM!  You're done.  Now all you need to do is add your favorite garnishes and eat up.  My first bowl had a dollop of Greek yogurt, some Monterey Jack and a couple chives.  Second bowl I had straight up.  Third bowl... OK, I didn't have a third bowl.  But only because after my family had their share it was all gone!  Enjoy.

    The Hip Hop Kids are here! Book review and giveaway


    My son is going into kindergarten this year.  He has been in preschool for two years where he has learned quite a lot about the alphabet and is now starting to string letters together to form words.  We can sit and read together for about 10 minutes at a clip.  He gets very happy when he figures out that certain letters in a row spell certain words.  

    But then the ten minutes are up and he gets bored.

    I am always looking for new books to help keep his attention while teaching him how to read at the same time.  And to be honest, there are only so many books about Skylanders I can take, myself.

    Thankfully, I was introduced to a new series call The Hip Hop Kids which incorporates many different skills like rhyming, alphabet knowledge, counting and shape & color recognition.  I was given the first book in the series Rhyming Words with Milo the MC to review with my son.  

    Guess who loved it... yep, we both did.

    Growing up, I had my fair share of Pumas with fat laces and must have watched Breakin' and Breakin' 2 Electric Boogaloo about a million times each.  This little book brought me back to those days when we would go outside with our oversized "boom boxes" and act like we knew how to bust out a coffee grinder or head spin on some cardboard in the side yard.  Of COURSE we didn't know what the heck we were doing, but it didn't matter.  It was fun ...and so was reading this book with my son. IMG_2538

    This first book introduces us to Milo the MC who raps his way through the book to teach readers about rhyming words.  He also introduces the rest of the Hip Hop Kids consisting of Daisy the DJ, Greg the Graffiti Artist and Brenda the Breaker.  Each subsequent book in the series will feature each character and a different learning skill.  My son is looking forward to reading them all!

    The writers of the series and founders of The Hip Hop Kids Chris Bivona and Gustavo Angel want YOU to experience the fun, too!  They have offered me 3 copies of Rhyming Words with Milo the MC to giveaway here on my blog.  All you have to do is enter using the Rafflecopter form below.  3 winners will be chosen when the contest ends on 8/28/13.  


    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Best of luck to you!

    Disclosure: I was given a copy of Rhyming Word with Milo the MC free of charge.  No other compensation was given to me.  All opinions are my own.

    One lunch, Two restaurants: Noodles & Company and Smashburger

    I love noodles.  Every kind.  If I had to pick a favorite type of noodle, it would be a toss up between Chinese style lo mein noodles, egg noodles and Japanese style udon noodles.  The good news is I found a restaurant that has them all!  Noodles & Company in East Brunswick, NJ offers the biggest variety of noodles I have ever seen.  Each dish on their menu looks better than the next.  

    Last month, I was given the opportunity to try out a few of Noodles & Company's bowls with my family.  Here is what we tried:


    Our order consisted of the Wisconsin Mac & Cheese, the Japanese Pan Noodles, the Spinach & Fresh Fruit Salad, and the Garden Pesto Saute (which is only offered for a limited time).  

    IMG_2373 IMG_2372

    There were only 3 of us eating and two of the people were kids, so I knew from the beginning that this was WAY too much food.  But to be totally honest, I could have become a member of the Clean Plate Club quite easily if I was only eating one bowl.  They were all delicious.  My favorite was the Pesto saute while my kids really enjoyed the Japanese Pan Noodles.


    We were so full and worried that all the delicious leftovers would go to waste.  Fortunately, Noodles & Company had very convenient leftover containers right there at the condiment stand.  We were able to bring everything home with us for a second meal!


    Once we packed up our delicious noodles in the leftover containers, we headed out to get some dessert milkshakes down the road at Smashburger.  We had been to Smashburger before, but had not tried their shakes.  We figured with the addition of their new PB&J shake to the menu, it was the perfect opportunity to slurp some down this time.


    This hand-spun shake combines premium Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream blended with strawberry syrup and crushed Nutter Butter Cookies to create an authentic peanut butter and jelly blend with every savory sip.  The Peanut Butter & Jelly shake is available from July 1 through September 30, 2013.

    My kids LOVED it.  I didn't think they could fit any more in their little bodies, but somehow they managed.  All in all, we had a delicious lunch and left East Brunswick with our bellies full and smiles on our faces.   If you have the chance to visit Noodles & Company and/or Smashburger in your travels, I highly recommend them both.  Both restaurants have friendly helpful staff, delicious good-for-you food and are extremely clean - bathrooms included! 

    About Smashburger:

    Smashburger is America’s fastest growing, fast casual “better burger” restaurant with more than 208 corporate and franchise restaurants operating in 29 states and in four international countries.  Smashburger has 13 locations currently open throughout Northern New Jersey including Clifton, East Hanover, Florham Park, Hackensack, Montclair/Glen Ridge, Morris Plains, Newark Liberty International Airport (Terminal C), New Providence, Paramus, Parsippany, Ramsey, East Brunswick and recently opened North Brunswick.  By offering fresh, premium “smashed to order” burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, signature side items and hand-spun Häagen-Dazs shakes, Smashburger has modernized the way people think about burgers.  To learn more, visit www.smashburger.com.  And look for their newest location opening soon at 1060 Cedarbridge Ave in Brick, NJ!


    About Noodles & Company:

     Noodles & Company, a premium fast-casual restaurant chain, brings the world's most popular, classic noodle and pasta dishes together under one roof to create Your World Kitchen.  Unlike any other, it is a restaurant where Japanese Pan Noodles rest comfortably next to Penne Rosa and Wisconsin Mac & Cheese, but where global flavors don’t end with the noodle.  Inspired by some of the most celebrated flavor combinations in the world, the menu offers appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches, too.  Everything is cooked to order, just as you like it, using quality ingredients.  Dishes are delivered to your table allowing guests time to sit and relax or grab a quick bite – all without the need to tip.  With more than 330 locations, from California to Connecticut, guests can find a location nearest them and take a tour of the global menu by visiting www.noodles.com.  For those craving more, please follow the company on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr or on our Noodles & Company blog affectionately called ‘& Company.’  

    The location we visited is owned and operated by Hillside-based Mascott Corporation and is located at 683 Rt. 18 South, East Brunswick.   


    Disclosure: I was given all the above foods mentioned free of charge.  No other compensation was given to me.  All opinions in this post are my own.  All italicized paragraphs  in this post were taken from both Noodles & Company's and Smashburger's press releases.

    I've got the moves like Martha: Summertime remix


    College Dorm Room Chic is the new Shabby Chic

     Last winter I attempted to clean out my freezer and pantry by skipping the grocery shopping for a bit.  I was convinced that our family of four could live off what was in there for at least that long without buying anything else besides the essentials.  It worked out so great, I thought I would do it again this summer.  Here are some things I got out of the experience:

    -Three things that are not good substitutes for milk in your hot beverage when it's gone: butter, ricotta cheese, yogurt.

    -Two things that are good substitutes: Hershey syrup and vodka.

    -Putting all that mint that took over your backyard in a bowl won't go over well with the fam if you try to pull it off as a salad.

    -Some spices make a nice tea when you pour hot water over them.  Ginger is a great example.  On a similar note, you know what bears a striking resemblance to maggots? Wet fennel seeds.

    -After digging deep into the furthest recesses of the pantry I found the powdered milk I bought before Hurricane Sandy. Good news! It tastes exactly the same whether it is expired or not!  According to my son, it made his tea taste like Chinese food, so I'm thinking of serving it with rice for an exotic dinner tonight.

    -We STILL have a bottle of Jaegermeister in the freezer.

    -Expiration dates on frozen vegetables are just a myth. How did I prove it? Because I found some spinach in there with an expiration date somewhere in '07 (we moved here in '08) and it still tasted good despite the strange color.

    -If you light an apple pie scented candle while eating saltines dipped in applesauce, it's almost like you've got the real thing. 

    -Sneaking kale into a smoothie is cool.  Making a smoothie out of only kale is disgusting.

    Now that we are finished with this summertime project, I have well-proven my point that a family of four can live off of what is in our house for at least a week at any given time.  

    ...I did not say they will live happily, but that's what the Jaeger is for.  Cheers!  


    60090_10201685088992022_437971543_nI've been having a lot of good conversations with God lately. I've had so many questions that I just don't know the answers to.  

    Funny, but when I ask God these questions, He responds with the exact same answer for each.  After every thought bubble leaves my head and floats to Him, I hear the word compassion.  Every time.

    At first, I didn't get it.  Why compassion?  Why not understanding or empathy?  

    Because they are not enough.

    Having compassion means you step into the same situation you are questioning and really feel it.  You feel a different perspective than your own.  You embrace those feelings you don't undestand and make them yours.  You suffer.  You then understand.

    In doing that, you teach yourself how to make it better.  How to soothe your mind.  How to be a better person, friend, daughter, mother, whoever... How to see more than your own side.  How to look through someone else's eyes at the same situation.  How to better understand your own feelings.  How to accept differences.  How to forgive and how to ask for forgiveness.  

    How to let go.

    God is good.