Friday, September 21, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

I've been meaning to make this dish for awhile now. It's a hearty main dish that is super easy to throw together, it just takes awhile to bake. My favorite things about this dish are the fact that the chicken does not require pre-cooking and that once it is in the oven you don't have to worry about it again until it's done! Unfortunately the night that I cooked this dish my husband ended up coming home late and not hungry and my daughter scrunched up her nose and refused to eat it. I will have to try it again when things are a bit more calmed down at my house. And when it's a bit chillier outside. It is definitely one of those nice filling tummy warming dishes and I thought it was delicious!

Cheesy Chicken Tater Tot Casserole
1 (32 oz.) bag frozen tater tots, partially thawed
1 (3 oz.) bag bacon pieces
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Layer half the tater tots onto the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the bacon pieces. Top with 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Add diced chicken on top. Season with salt and pepper. Add another 1/3 of the bacon pieces and another 1/3 of shredded cheese. Put the rest of the tater tots on top. Finishing with the remaining shredded cheese and bacon pieces. Pour 3/4 milk all over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about an hour to an hour and a half.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Under the Sea Birthday Party

This post should really be named "How to Throw an Amazing Under the Sea Birthday Party for Kids Using Pinterest Ideas" but I thought that might be a little lengthy. Okay so here it goes. My daughter, Lana, is turned three this month. She is absolutely obsessed with octopuses and sharks and whales and dolphins. So the logical thing to do for her birthday party this year was an under the sea theme. First we started out by sending out socktopus invitations to her little friends. I posted about these earlier but I'll put in a pic so we don't miss any of the details of the party.

Of course we attached a little birthday invite and hand delivered them. This was Lana's first party with friends instead of just family so it was pretty much a big deal. The next thing I did was make a plan of attack for decorating the house. I wanted to use an idea that I saw on Pinterest about using scrapbooking paper to cut out animal shapes to decorate a room. So I googled some coloring pages on fish, sharks, octopuses etc., printed them out on card stock to make a template, then traced it onto some scrapbooking paper. I cut out the various aquatic animals and decorated them with googly eyes. Then I taped blue tissue paper up to cover all the dining room walls and taped the sea creatures to it - adding some sand and plant life around the bottom. Ta-da! Instant dining room turned ocean floor! Next we took the idea of stringing balloons onto fishing line to create lanterns (Pinterest) and instead used it instead to make "bubbles" on the ceiling and a "sea curtain" door.

Luckily right after I decided to go with an ocean theme for the party I happened upon some clearance fish dishes at Walmart. Snapped them up for the ocean nibbles buffet! The kids each got to take one of the sectioned fish plates home as part of their favor. The menu? Jell-O Jiggler fish and starfish, veggie tray, meat and cheese tray, goldfish crackers, pretzels, gummy sharks, Swedish fish... tried to squeeze as much ocean-themed stuff in there as possible. For the punch I got some blue Hawaiian Punch and poured some it the night before into a fluted bundt pan. Plopped some Swedish fish in there to have fish "swimming" in the "ocean." Nice bonus was that as the ice ring melted it didn't dilute the punch because it was... well punch!

And of course we had the cake! I dabble in cake decorating so I decided to practice some figure modeling this year. And some chocolate molds. It all came together quite nicely. Yellow cake bottom, strawberry cake top with buttercream frosting, vanilla wafer "sand," chocolate lollipop aquatic life and of course Lana and her octopus topper! The kids loved the fact that they could eat the sea creatures!

Okay that covers the decorations and food. Now for the party games! I just took some good old classics and gave them an ocean twist. First up: Ocean Bean Bag Toss! This game was super easy to do. My Mom and I had made Lana some bean bags to play with out of some bed sheets awhile back. My husband bought some black poster board and drew the ocean design on it with Sharpie paint. We actually kept this to continue playing with after the party!

Next was painting wooden fish. The fish we got at Michaels for a dollar a piece! They came with paintbrushes too! Of course I do recommend that if you are indoors to cover your floors (we covered ours in newspaper and butcher paper) and have smocks for the kids to wear (we used some of Daddy's old work shirts). Then just give them some paint and let them go! We let the finished products dry on the kitchen counter for the remainder of the party and then put them in the kid's gift bags for each child to take home.

Next game was Pin the Ice Cream Cone on the Octopus. I had an old poster from my Mom's teaching days of an octopus. I simply cut out some cones from scrapbooking paper and attached it to the octopus with double-sided tape. Then I cut out an ice cream scoop for each kid, labeling it with their initials to be able to tell who's was who's in the end. We blind-folded the kid's with a scarf. The kids did really great with this!

And the big finale was Oceans in a Bottle directly from Pinterest. I was concerned about this activity because it could have gotten very messy and after the painting activity the floor cover had to be trashed. But the kids listened and followed the instructions to the letter. It was the hit of the party. I do recommend pre-measuring the "ingredients" out for the kids. And dollar store funnels to have for each kid is a must! I did a couple test runs beforehand to see how much of each thing was needed for the bottles I had bought. It was so much easier just to hand out the cups for the kids to pour into the bottles! Smooth sailing!

Ocean in a Bottle 
18 ounce beverage container 
10 shells per container 
1/4 cup sand 
Green and blue food coloring 
Silver glitter 
Mineral or baby oil 
Hot glue gun

  1. Pour sand and shells into clean bottle.
  2. Mix a drop of blue and green food coloring into 6 cups of water, then fill the bottle halfway.
  3. Add a pinch of glitter.
  4. Fill the rest of the bottle with oil, leaving a little air space at the top.
  5. Run a bead of hot glue around the bottle opening and screw the lid on quickly. 
And that was my daughter's super awesome ocean-themed birthday party. I'm glad that it was a success and the kids all had a great time. Me and Daddy definitely need a year to regroup and gear up for the next one.

 Happy third birthday Lana! We love you!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mississippi Sin Dip

It was pretty late last night by the time we got home from the barbecue, got the munchkin showered and in bed and found homes for all her birthday gifts (did I mention she will be three on Wednesday? Where does the time go???) so I didn't get this posted last night. Mississippi Sin Dip is pretty delish, very rich and reminds me of a crab dip with diced ham instead of crab meat. Here's how you whip it up:

Mississippi Sin Dip
16 oz sour cream
8 oz cream cheese (softened)
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup chopped ham
1 green onion chopped (optional)
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
French loaf bread

Mix all the ingredients (except the bread) together until well blended. Hollow out the French loaf creating a "boat." Save hollowed out pieces to toast for dipping. Pour mixture into "boat" and wrap in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Toast bread pieces. Serve warm with toasted bread pieces.

So easy yet looks so elegant! And super yummy as well! Would be great served with crackers as well. My grandmother thought that herbed crackers would be really tasty. I have to agree - will definitely make sure to have some on hand next time I whip this up! Enjoy!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

Here are the second flavor of truffle pops that I promised for the barbecue tonight. Whipped up some edible chocolate chip cookie dough (sans eggs) and dunked them in some chocolate CandQuik, finally dunking them in some blue decorating sprinkles. I think that the next time I make truffles, I'm going to get some real chocolate and melt it down to dip in. CandiQuik is really thick and tastes a little chemically to me. Here's the recipe folks:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
chocolate candy coating
popsicle sticks, cut in half (use kitchen scissors to make a clean, smooth cut)

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Mix in milk and vanilla.Add flour and salt and mix on low until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Chill dough in refrigerator for about 30 minutes until firm enough to roll or scoop into 1-inch balls. Place rolled balls on a wax paper lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. Melt candy coating following instructions on the package. Remove a couple of balls from the freezer at a time and insert the cut stick into the ball. Dip in candy coating and let any excess fall off back into the bowl. Add small sprinkles on top and place on wax paper to set. If the chocolate pools at the bottom of the ball, dot the balls on the wax paper until most of it is pulled off the ball and then place it on a clean spot of the wax paper to set.Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week.

The cookie dough is awesome! Could just eat that out of a bowl (and I did). I mixing up the Mississippi Sin Dip tonight at the barbecue. If it's tasty I'll make sure to snap a pic and post the recipe! Have a great Labor Day everyone!