Sunday, January 26, 2014

Crockpot Ranch Chicken and Rice

This this a super yummy recipe that the entire family will enjoy. Be warned though...this isn't a low fat recipe. To modify it, however, to make it a little healthier, you can omit the butter, substitute low fat cream cheese and use reduced sodium cream of chicken soup. Also I use brown rice instead of regular white rice with my recipe which tastes just as great and is better for you. I bet you could even use quinoa. I may have to try that next time myself.


4 chicken breasts 
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons of butter (melted)
8 oz cream cheese
1 clove of garlic (chopped fine)
2 diced shallots
Ground pepper 
1 packet of dry Ranch mix
2 packets of Boil in the Bag brown rice

Place chicken breasts in the bottom of the crockpot.  Sprinkle with the Ranch packet and melted butter. 

Then combine the cream cheese, cream of chicken, water, garlic, shallots and ground pepper in the crockpot. Close the lid and let cook for 8 hours on low or six hours on high. 

It should look something like this as you begin to cook it. I used spreadable cream cheese I had on hand. If you are using the block, yours will be in cubes. 


After two hours it should look something like this:

Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, use two forks to shred the chicken.  Prepare your noodles or rice. Then either add the pasta or rice to the mixture or you can serve the mixture on top of the rice or pasta. I prefer to mix the rice in with the chicken mixture. 

     Before adding rice.

 Cooked in four hours... My husband could not wait. This is with the rice added before serving. Give it some time for the rice to absorb some of the liquid from the mixture.

Add a salad or toasted garlic bread and you're ready to eat! 

My Weight Loss Surgery Journey

          Right image 9 months after surgery with 120 lbs lost 
                 (Click to see before and after images) 

I realize it's been quite a while since I blogged before today. A lot has happened since my last blog post. Summer of 2012, I made the decision that I wanted to have bariatric surgery. I've struggled with weight since my early twenties, tried any and every diet known to man and nothing seemed to work. At least long term. I wanted something that would help me to take the weight off and keep it off. My aunt had the surgery the year before and we discussed whether or not it would work for me.  I decided that this was something I NEEDED to to, not just wanted to do. Between the family history of cancer, heart disease and diabetes and being obese, I felt as though I was a ticking time bomb. Not only that, I was suffering from chronic back pain. When I was pregnant with my son in 2007, I experienced terrible sciatic pain which left lasting effects long after. Both ankles have been in bad shape for years from my many clumsy experiences and add the weight on top of those ankles which made it sometimes unbearable to walk. Geez also heel pain. Overactive bladder. I was a mess to say the least.

     This is what I looked like a week before surgery at 279 lbs.

My aunt had had a lot of success with Barker Bariatrics in Dallas. I checked into it, did a ton of research and decided to see if they were right for me. I set up an appointment October of 2012. They answered all the questions and concerns I had. I made the decision that day to have the gastric bypass surgery.

After jumping through many hoops, including stress and heart testing, sleep tests (where I discovered I had severe sleep apnea) and mental evaluation, not to mention all of the things I had to do for my insurance to approve surgery, I was finally able to schedule my surgery... June 26, 2013.

I'm not going to lie and say that I wasn't afraid. Honestly, I was scared out of my mind. It was unnerving to think about the possibilities. What if something went wrong? What if it didn't work? What if it did work? Was I ready for this? Even as nervous as I was I knew...yes I was. I had to do this. For my family. For my friends. For my students. But mostly, for me. I mattered. I had the chance to be the person I'd always wanted to be. Not necessarily skinny as I was in high school, but living a healthy lifestyle that would finally pay off. 

I wanted to be the kind of person who could go for walks or climb stairs without getting out of breath. I wanted to feel pretty when I looked in the mirror. I wanted people to notice me because I looked good and felt good about myself. I would hopefully one day not have to shop in the plus sized clothing.  I would finally be able to keep up with my son Jude and play and even outlast him when we did. 

  Who wouldn't want to spend quality time with this kiddo?

On June 26, 2013, I had the gastric bypass procedure done. The first week was the toughest. I couldn't really tolerate much more than sips of water. My husband, Lance, had to force me to take even a bite of broth. At my first appointment a week after surgery, I had lost 26 pounds since my weigh in before surgery. But I was weak and felt terrible. At that point I had buyer's remorse. I wondered if it would always be this way. The follow-up doctor, Dr. Thompson, assured me that it would get better, but that I had to get protein into my system to gain strength.

After following his advice and, as the weeks went on, progressing to puréed foods to soft foods to finally solids, it started getting easier for me. I started catching on with trial and error, figuring out what my body can or cannot tolerate. I now eat much smaller portions and eat about every two-three hours. Three meals a day with healthy snacks full of protein is what I eat now. The more protein the better. I have to take certain supplements for the rest of my life to get many of the nutrients my body would lack otherwise because of the surgery. 

When I went back for my three month follow up, I had lost 64 pounds. When I went back again for my six month follow up... I had lost a grand total of 110 pounds. Hopefully, there's a least a bit more to come. The weight loss had slowed down in the last few weeks. I've hit a plateau I guess. Trial and error again. Add more protein and more exercise. I'm definitely learning as I'm going.

It's difficult for me to look at the old pictures of me before surgery. I've come to realize that I need to be reminded of what I used to look like and remember how I used to feel. I didn't fully realize just how out of control it was then. Now, comparing pictures of now versus then, I can see and fully come to terms with how unhealthy I was. 

        Before & After: About 90 lbs lost in the second pic I believe. 

  Before and After:  A month before surgery and after losing 110 lbs

I'm a happier person now. I'm active. I eat right. I cook more now than before surgery. I take care of myself. I feel comfortable in my own skin again. 

It's amazing this journey I've been I certainly do not regret. I have my life back. I have "me" back, if that makes sense. This is the life I'm meant to be living, enjoying all that it has to offer. 

Tex-Mex Chicken & Black Bean Quinoa Casserole


1 c quinoa

1 small onion

2 cloves fresh garlic

1 large can chicken (shredded and drained)

1 can black beans (drained)

1 can of creamed corn

1/2 tsp salt 

1/2 tsp pepper 

1/2 tsp cumin

Red pepper to taste (optional)

3/4 c Panko breadcrumbs 

1 1/2 c Mexican blend shredded cheese

Prepare quinoa as directed on package. Next sauté a onion and garlic cloves in a non-stick skillet. Next, in a casserole dish, combine chicken, black beans, corn, salt and pepper, cumin, red pepper to taste, 1/2 c bread crumbs, and 1 cup of the shredded cheese.  Add in the cooked quinoa and mix. Then add a thin layer of Panko breadcrumbs to the top and the remainder of the shredded cheese, enough to cover then top of the casserole. Bake at 350 for 20-25 covered. Last five minutes, remove the lid to let the cheese melt and brown a bit. Serve and enjoy.

Fast and Easy Cuban Black Beans and Rice

--Gluten-free quick meal for busy moms and dads you can prepare in minutes--


1 T olive oil

2 diced scallions

1 finely chopped clove of garlic

1 cup of cooked instant brown rice

1 can of black beans (I prefer Goya)

1 pinch of oregano

1/2 t of cumin

Pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

A few squirts of Tabasco (optional)

In a non-stick skillet, heat oil and add in scallions and garlic clove. Cook for 1 minute. Separately, prepare instant brown rice as directed. Add in one can of black beans (drained) with the scallions and garlic. Add oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Optional: you can also add a few squirts of Tabasco for that little bit of kick, but not necessary. Heat until hot, then add in the rice. Mix and serve. And that's it! It's that easy!