Crack Chicken Casserole in the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker

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This post was created in partnership with Ninja and I received a complimentary product but all opinions within are my own.

You know those nights that you walk into the kitchen and suddenly realize that you forgot to defrost the meat for dinner. Yeah, sometimes those nights are great because hello take out pizza but 99% of the time I really want what I had in mind to cook. And with three kids, a business I run from home with said kids, soccer practice schedules, homework, rebuilding, and everything else on my plate, forgetting to take out the meat to defrost happens way more often than I’d like.

I’ve been dying to get a pressure cooker for awhile. At first I didn’t really know what the big difference was between a crock pot and a pressure cooker, so when I went to replace my crock pot after Harvey I looked at the price difference and just went for what I knew. Amateur move.

I quickly realized that I should have done my research before I went to Target. So, learn from my mistake people.

Here is the quick and dirty rundown of why you want a

pressure cooker vs a crock pot!

Crock Pot:

Only effective if you want to cook low and slow or keep something warm. While you can set it and forget it, you also have to plan ahead because they take so much time to cook.

If you want your meal to be crisp or seared on the outside, you have do that on the stove before putting it in the crock pot.

Pressure Cooker:

These are fantastic when you don’t have 10 hours to wait for your food to be done, and if you don’t want a bunch of extra steps involved. With the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker, there is a TenderCrisp™ Cooking Technology that others don’t have. It allows your food to be tender and juicy, while crispy on the outside - all in one appliance without extra hassle! (A busy mom’s dream!)

While you could slum it and get a different pressure cooker, I highly recommend the Ninja Foodi because of all of the extra features it includes making it truly stand apart. If you’re looking to stay healthy, you can use the Air Fryer air crisp, bake/roast, broil, dehydrate - and using up to 75% less fat than other traditional frying methods. This is a deal maker for me - I’m trying to live healthier and this helps me be able to still enjoy some of my favorites!

You also have the option to sear and saute items, create one dish casseroles, bake cakes, hard boil eggs, make rice, and about 500 other things. When you get your pressure cooker there is an awesome recipe book that’s included, but in the mean time I’ve created a recipe to get your ideas flowing!

Opps, Crack Chicken Casserole

Okay so remember how a few paragraphs back I mentioned that I tend to forget to defrost the meat. Yeah, well, that’s how this recipe came to be. Except instead of forgetting to defrost the meat, I forgot to buy bread. I wanted to test out my pressure cookers features before reviewing it for you, and I figured why not try a spin on the internet sensation - Crack Chicken. That baby is all over Pinterest. Normally, it’s some variation of shredded chicken, cream cheese, and hot sauce - give or take a few ingredients - and then you put the mixture in some delicious bread and have a happy sandwich.

Since I can’t eat anything spicy, I was going to go with a bacon and tomato version. And then I forgot the bread. Not one to be deterred easily (jk, I’m deterred way too easily I just didn’t know what else to make), I decided to wing it. Crack Chicken Casserole it is! I also decided to nix the bacon this time around to ensure the recipe could all be one pot and no additional dishes.

Like with most first experiments, there are a few things I would tweak. Like I could have gotten away with a little less water for the rice, so I’ve adjusted the recipe for you. This isn’t the prettiest dinner I’ve ever made, but I can tell you my extremely picky teenager had three bowls of it and asked for more the next day. So I’m landing on a mom win for this dish.

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The Recipe

Serves approx. 4

Ingredients

3-4 Chicken Breasts

1 block of Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 cup Cherry tomatoes

1/2 tablespoon Minced Garlic (can be adjusted to personal taste)

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 onion chopped

3 cups of water

2 cups of jasmine rice

Optional: green onions for topping + arugula salad as a side

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Instructions

  1. Pour 3 cups of water, 2 cups of rice, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and salt into cooking pot of the Ninja Foodi. Place wire rack into cooking pot.

  2. Season chicken and place on top of wire rack.

  3. Close pressure lid, turn on Ninja Foodi, and set to pressure. Make sure the pressure valve is set to sealed. Then set to high for 9 minutes.

  4. Once the timer goes off, release the pressure valve and let steam slowly release. Once it is ready to open, take out chicken and the wire rack. Add cream cheese ( I like to cut it in six pieces so it melts easier). Shut lid to keep warm.

  5. While that sits, shred the chicken and then add back to cooking pot. Mix everything together and serve.

  6. Optional: Top with chopped up green onions and a side salad.

I’d love to hear how you like the recipe! Leave me feedback in the comments below!

xx, Leslie

Travel Guide: Kid Friendly in Lake Charles, LA

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When Daniel called me and said he had a week long business trip in Lake Charles coming up I internally groaned. Then he said, “since the kids are out of school why don’t you come with me?” Cue inner retracting of previous pettiness and enter happy wife happy life territory. Okay, I kid, I truly actually never get mad at him for going on his business trips but the week long ones suck because we miss him. So, off to Lake Charles we went.

We stayed at the Golden Nugget Lake Charles and it was so much fun. I was a little worried about how we would fare with three kids at a casino all week - especially because Daniel actually was there for work and was gone from 7:00 am - 5:30 pm each day. Surprisingly though, this place had a little something for everybody. The kids were absolutely in love with the different pools on the property. So much so that Amelia has asked if she can have her 5th birthday party there, so there’s that. I liked that it had areas that were safe enough that Amelia could prance around in the pool while I sat with Atticus in the shade.

The room itself was really nice as well so it made those down times when we weren’t exploring really nice a relaxing. It had a nice sectional couch and ottoman, as well as a little dining table. I think all of our favorite part was the massive tub though. Keep scrolling to see some great things to check out if you’re traveling to Lake Charles with kids.

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The Room

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Kid Friendly Activities

One The Golden Nugget Pool: Or should I say pools, as in plural. There really is no beating this escape from ordinary pool land. There is a regular-ish pool, that has a beach like walk in minus the sand. It also has awesome lounge beds along the side of it that the girls loved. There is a lazy river, and another smaller pool that has a build in slide. There is also a big ol hot tub.

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TWO Crabbing on the Creole Nature Trail: If you are traveling to Lake Charles in May-September, the Creole Nature Trail is a must! It’s a great opportunity to get away from technology and learn a fun new skill. Sure, they might not go crabbing in their day-to-day life, but they’ll never forget the experience. PS - There are also a lot of other cool things to do on the CNT, be sure to check out their website before heading out.

THREE Millennium Park: This park is basically a kids dream. It’s a giant wooden pirate ship that also happens to have a rock climbing wall, a tree house, bridges, tunnels, and a lot more. For littler ones, there is a soft toddler area, and for parents it’s a relaxing area to hang out while the kids play thanks to it being situated right on Lake Charles.

FOUR Festivals: If you’re traveling to Lake Charles just for pleasure try to plan out your trip around some of their really cool festivals. They typically have at least one a month, but some months they have up to five or six. Everything from Mardi Gras themed festivals to the Iowa Rabbit Festival to the Mistletoe & Moss Holiday Market - and a whole lot of other great ones in between. Check out the link I shared to see their for yearly calendar.

FIVE Crying Eagle Brewing Company: Okay, okay, okay, stop looking at me like that. Yes, I really did just suggest a brewery as a kid friendly activity. We didn’t go here during this trip with the kids because we hadn’t discovered it yet. Shortly after when we took a couples weekend in Lake Charles, we found this gem and I made a mental note to add it to this blog post. We initially found this place when we were looking to kill about an hour of time waiting for some friends, and instead ended up having so much fun we stayed for for most of the evening. They have a great selection of drinks for adults, but they also have a bistro with truly delicious food (including a kids menu), and a whooollle selection of games. I saw several families on their outdoor patio area playing with their kids and dogs (yes it’s pet friendly as well). It’s really a great time for everyone.

Where to Eat

ONE The Golden Nugget Buffet: Admittedly this isn’t the most affordable option, especially when feeding an entire family, but I think it’s worth it to go at least once during your trip. They have a great selection of all kinds of foods and desserts and my kids went berserk over the cotton candy machine.

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TWO Steamboat Bills: This is one of Daniel and I’s favorite places to go in Lake Charles, and we’ve even been know to drive the hour and a half just to have dinner there on occasion. It’s casual, delicious, and a fun experience thanks to great staff and fun decor. Be warned, it’s best to go early because locals know it’s the place to be and it will have a line out the door at dinner time. That being said, the staff does an amazing job of making sure your wait isn’t outrageous even if you do come late.

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THREE Luna Bar & Grill: Now, you might think that because I’ve listed this gem as third, that it’s my third favorite, but you’d be wrong. One night we were wanting to get out of the hotel a bit and perused Yelp to help us out. We unknowingly found one of my new favorite spots. Luna Bar & Grill has such a cool vibe to it. Don’t be deterred by the ‘bar’ in the title, if you go during lunch or dinner time it’s completely family friendly. I haven’t gone any other time so I can’t vouch for anything past that. The food is amazing, like even the kids meals were so good and not just some frozen chicken nuggets thrown in the fryer. The walls are lined with hundreds of amazing posters highlighting the greats in music and the building itself is super cool. It’s a must for me in Lake Charles.

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Final Opinion

Lake Charles was an unexpected treat for our last trip of the summer. It’s people, Cajun culture, beautiful homes and lake views, food, and fun were all a pleasant surprise and one we won’t soon forget. We definitely recommend adding it to your bucket list.

Xx- Leslie

Best Food in Texas: Tiny Boxwoods, Houston, Texas

Ahhh, the Best Food in Texas series continues with this tiny little gem in Houston, Texas - arguably one of the best Texas cities for foodies. I first tried Tiny Boxwoods when my longtime best friend (who I always let pick the restaurants because she will NEVER steer you wrong) brought me a couple years back. Beatriz and I met in college when we we broke and bonded over our love of breakfast tacos among other things.

Now we’re adults (I mean, kind of) and we can eat real adult meals (but I mean, still love our breakfast tacos), so we get together for brunch as often as we can while living in other cities and have adult responsibilities. We like to try new places but we also have our tried and true favorites.

Tiny Boxwoods falls firmly into that category for me. I’m not going to say it’s because of the magical, melty baked to perfection chocolate chip cookie served on this little wooden platter of my aesthetically pleasing dreams, but I’m also not not saying it. Their whole place is just a vibe. You know what I’m talking about. It’s one of those places that’s just so damn cute that your experience there is almost as much about the ambiance as it is the food. But they don’t ride on their looks alone - their food holds up and makes you come back for more.

Admittedly, I took these photos a few months before I decided to do this series so they aren’t giving Tiny Boxwoods the justice it deserves - but check our their website or Instagram and then head over if you’re in the Houston area. You won’t be disappointed.

xo,
Leslie

Healthy Blueberry Muffins

So let's talk goodies. If you know me, you know I love to bake. Some people say I do it well, and I really like them because they give me nice compliments. But if I do bake well, it's because I've spent years practicing baking and failing more times than I can count. 

I started baking with my mom as a very young toddler. She was a stay at home mom and made everything from scratch. Something must have inherently stuck because even though my parents got a divorce when I was five, and I have no actual memories of her being a stay at home mom, the love for baking did stick around.  

Baking is cathartic for me; aside from writing, it's the one thing I know I can go do to relieve stress. I can loose myself in the rhythmic motions and only focus on making something good, rather than whatever is plaguing my psyche. The only problem with this is that along with being a stress reliever, it tends to help put on the pounds. That is not my favorite thing about baking, if I'm being honest.

I've been trying to live healthier, and with that progression, I had to step away from baking for a little while. The temptation to make sugary goodness was too great. But now that we've had some time apart, I've been excited to get back in my apron and make some healthier versions of my favorite recipes. 

Which brings me to these healthy blueberry muffins that Amelia and I whipped up the other morning. I was a little apprehensive, I'm not going to lie; because not only was I baking with new ingredients, but I was not going off of a recipe. 

I went off what I knew though. I would need to double the amount of almond flour I would be substituting the regular flour for. It's not an exact science, but that's a pretty accurate conversion. And I also knew that almond flour being gluten free would mean that it wouldn't hold together as well, so I added two eggs instead of just one. Another thing you should note about the difference between these muffins and regular muffins is that they will stay moist longer but need to be in an air tight container so they don't mold. Other than than, you're good to go.

So, with our matching aprons on, we got to work and crossed our fingers. Then we uncrossed them because it's hard to work with your fingers crossed. This was actually the first time I really let Amelia bake with me and every day since she's woken up saying "I make muffins." Needless to say, I think it will be an inherent love for her too. 

The moment of truth. Amelia and I sat in front of the oven impatiently waiting for our healthy treat. Color me happy when these bad boys came out of the oven tasting as good as they smelled. Amelia gobbled up two of them before I had even finished taking the after photos.