Momma Told Me: October 2016

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Simply Raised Comfort Food: Chicken Pot Pie Potatoes Recipe

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Momma Told Me: Sometimes less is more.

Growing up my childhood dinner plate was always filled with hearty, comforting, simple meals my mother would make with, typically, just a handful of fresh ingredients. For me the food always tasted especially delicious because I often had a hand in their preparation from start to finish. Whether it was the week's meal planning, picking out the perfect onion, or watching the kitchen timer while Momma simmered a sauce, I felt invested in each meal. Through the years the lessons learned in Momma's kitchen have stuck with me as I plan and cook for my own family. Two remain especially poignant; 1.)  The best meals aren't always the most complicated ones, and 2.) Food always tastes better when you have a hand in preparing it yourself. That's why I'm pleased Foster Farms has challenged me to create and share one of my family's newest comfort food recipes.
The first lesson might be a no-brainer, but the second one, I've found applies to many things in life. You see, when you put a little bit of yourself into something you not only invest extra, you often go the extra mile because your name's going into it. Foster Farms knows a little something about that, they've been raising my family's favorite ingredient, chicken, since 1939. That's over 75 years of raising chicken for countless West Coast comfort food meals.

And, much like your favorite 5 ingredient recipe, Faster Farms is constantly looking to offer more with less. Their new Foster Farms Simply Raised chicken is chicken, at its purest. Chicken sourced from birds fed a 100% vegetarian diet, with no antibiotics or steroids ever, and American Humane Certified. My Foster Farms Simply Raised chicken selections even come locally, from my own state! You spend plenty of time reading labels and trying to pronounce ingredients when worrying what to feed your family, so why should you have to worry about how the chicken you're preparing was fed and raised?
When you spend less time fussing over mystery ingredients, and break your recipes down to real, fresh, food- something delicious happens. That's precisely what new comfort food is. Rich and hearty recipes full of real ingredients you can see and taste. Today I'm going to share one of my favorite new comfort food recipes, just in time for Fall; Chicken Pot Pie Potatoes, made with Foster Farms Simply Raised Chicken.

You'll find the complete ingredients list, and instructions in printable format at the bottom of this post. For now, let's go over the simple steps to this delicious heart and belly warming meal.

Start by washing and preparing your potatoes- I find that medium sized Russet potatoes seem to cook fastest and offer a nice flat surface to core and use as your 'potato skin' pie vessels. Stab each potato a few times with a fork then set them aside. Tear off a square of foil, approximately 12" x 15" for each potato you wish to prepare. Using a stick of butter generously rub the foil to coat approximately 2" from each edge. Using a salt and pepper grinder generously cost the butter layer in salt and pepper.
While you can cook your potatoes however you prefer for this step, I find the foil method allows for just enough time to cut and prepare your other ingredients and the pie filling, while offering a lovely 'crust' like potato skin. Wrap your potatoes in the foil and cook in a 415F pre-heated oven for 40-50 minutes. Your potatoes should be soft in the center when a fork is inserted, when done, and should cool, unwrapped for at least 10 minutes prior to handling again.
While your potatoes cook you'll want to prepare your pot pie filling vegetables. For me a hearty pot pie has at least 4 veggies, but the more the merrier. My family loves mushrooms, carrots, diced onions and peas. With the Fall approaching we will probably also add kernel corn into the mix. I also find that baby carrots are the perfect size to dice up for these mini potato pot pies. Keep in mind the smaller you chop/dice your ingredients the quicker they will cook, and the better texture they will have- though, traditionally you want to see rich chunks of veggies and chicken in a comforting pot pie filling.
I like to prepare my Foster Farms Simply Raised Chicken breast fillets by cutting them into 1" cube portions. As a child I remember my mother's pot pies would always have the warmest gooey filling accompanied by the most tender chunks of meat. Tender, melt in your mouth chicken is key to making this a comfort food- and you're going to want your chicken to really stand out above all the other fresh ingredients in your filling. Remember to always wash your hands with hot water and soup after handling raw poultry!
Just before your potatoes exit the oven you'll want to start heating a large pot or skillet with a thin layer of oil to sear and flash cook your onions and veggies. Starting with any garlic, onions, any/or mushrooms, heat until the ingredients begin to turn semi-translucent and soft. Next, on medium-high heat, add your carrots and chicken. Saute until your chicken is no longer pink and add a pinch of salt and pepper, to preference.

Now it's time to to make that famous thick and creamy sauce everyone associates with a delicious pot pie filling. Sprinkle your flour across your ingredients and gentle turn to coat before adding your milk and cream. Bringing your sauce to a boil, stir constantly to ensure the mixture evenly combines and a creamy consistency develops. Once your sauce has thickened to a desired texture (keep in mind you will want it a little 'saucy' as you are going to bake your filled potatoes) remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare your potatoes by carefully slicing off the top 3rd and coring out the center of the potato, leaving a 1/2" border of potato all the way around. I like to reserve the potato 'filling' for homemade ranch mashed potatoes the following night, but they also can be chilled for 3-4 days and incorporated into another meal- or tossed with any leftover pot pie filling.
Generously spoon your prepared chicken pot pie filling into the hallowed out potatoes- this is, after all a comfort food and should be overflowing ya'll. Place filled potatoes side by side in a 9"x 13" baking dish. Don't worry if a skin or two tears- they're just as delicious when they're overflowing, they just don't look as pretty.
Now every great pot pie needs a 'crust' your spoon breaks into to reveal that warm, creamy, chunky, filling beneath. In this case a generous layer of cheese atop the over-stuffed potato skins will serve nicely. I find a sharp white cheddar really compliments the creamy filling wonderfully, while offering a nice snappy, easy to brown, 'crust' top. Toss these babies back into the oven for 10 minutes and get ready to let your mouth do its happy dance.
I'm not going to lie, this is my absolute favorite way to eat a potato- and it's my favorite chicken pot pie recipe, hands down. I feel like 1 or 2 of these is hearty enough to be a meal in itself, but we also pair it with a fresh salad from time to time to really compliment the comfort creamy nature of the pot pie, itself. These can also be prepared in advance and simply popped into the oven 10-minutes before preparing, for those busy Fall school nights when you don't quite have time to build an entire meal from scratch. However you choose to prepare then, there's no denying this is everything great about comfort food with real, whole, ingredients you can see and taste in every delicious bite. Now, share with me one of your favorite comfort food dishes, and how you tweak it to make it your own.

Be sure to check out the Foster Farms Simply Raised hub for more great ideas on new comfort food recipes your family is sure to love.

What Daughter Says: Sometimes ingredients shine best in traditionally comforting, simple, dishes.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Foster Farms Simply Raised Chicken.

Living Bigger Lives With Pets + The Purina Better With Pets Summit

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BetterWithPets #LetsLiveBig #CollectiveBias
The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD

Momma Told Me: We may make their world's bigger, but they make our lives grander.

If you've been wondering where we've been, well, the answer's all over, really. Most recently we drove 14 hours up the Pacific Coast, and 14 hours back down, just to hop on a plane to New York after a quick visit with Momma. I say 'we' because Nora travels well- Truffles the Tuxie, not so much. In fact, travel is always less stressful WITH my pets than without. I'm the sort of pet parent who has to Face Time with her pets when she's apart for more than 12 hours. But travel's not the only thing made better with pets...
Recently Nestlé Purina invited Nora The Morkie and I to Brooklyn, NY for their annual Better With Pets Summit. To be entirely honest, they invited Truffles, too, but I didn't think she was quite ready for the glitz and glam of a big city experience. I mean, just look at that view from our room at The William Vale- breathtaking, right? For those who have never been to urban New York, it's a different pace of life with buildings that disappear into the clouds and a constant ambient outside atmosphere that literally buzzes with it's own life. There are million dollar waterfront views, a feast of architecture and art (physical and performing), and nearly any type of food you could possibly want for delivery 24/7. It's the perfect example of 'living big.'
Our stay wasn't intended to be long- just a taste of New York living before we really got down to business. After riding 7 hours in a carrier under an airplane seat Nora was happy to soak up the afternoon sun on the down comforter as I pondered what to wear to the evening welcome reception. As cool, calm, and collected as I come off online you may recall I have a bit of intense anxiety in public social situations. Having Nora by my side truly helped me relax and feel like myself during the entire trip.
The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
Of course, being a little nervous didn't sway me from my classic loud and unique style- I'd picked up a 'hidden paw prints' Carly 3 months back just for this event and I daresay I was the loudest person in attendance at the welcome reception that night. A good pet parent can't forget about all of her fur-kids, so, of course, I finished the look with an ode to Truffles- hand painted tuxedo cat flats!
The William Vale Hotel- The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD

I wish I could say someone appreciated my 'fashion' but it's hard to be even a moment of focus when you're rubbing shoulders with some of the most inspiring innovators in pet-human relations and welfare. And did I mention that Nora got to share sidewalk with Pet-Celebs like Turbo Roo and Winnie the Therapy Dog? Of course I'd be lying if I said we didn't get our fair share of attention- having this maltese-yorkie cutie on your arm all night is the perfect ice breaker!
The William Vale Hotel- The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
Speaking of the comfort pets bring in stressful times- One of the very first people I bumped into was a volunteer from a local URI NYC project. URI, the Urban Resource Institute, provides a  comprehensive shelter and care program for families displaced by domestic violence. Can you imagine having to leave your memories and home behind simply in search of a safe place to lay your head at night? Now imagine having to leave your pet behind because the only safe place you have to go doesn't allow pets.

URI NYC, in partnership with Purina, has actually helped create one of a kind urban facilities that are not only pet friendly (fur, paws, or scales) but pet safe for victims of domestic violence. And safe doesn't just mean for the pet, but private, clean, maintained, sheltered areas in the middle of a sprawling urban city, where pets can be walked and recreate without fear of compromising the owner's location or identity. Because pets are part of the family, and a family should never have to be broken up as a compromise for safety.
The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
The evening's reception left Nora and I with a lot of food for thought. I could hardly sleep that night in anticipation of the following day's events. So I rose before the sun to pack up and head over to the Brooklyn Convention Center- while Nora imagined she was a Celebri-dog and slept in.
Celebrity Dog Preston- The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
The day's events opened with a breakfast reception, though Nora and I found ourselves too fascinated by the interactive screen exhibits and fellow attendees to actually sit down and eat. And let's talk about those attendees really quick- we were rubbing elbows with everyone from Purina executives and Insta-famous pet parents to philanthropic innovators and quite literally the father of modern veterinary medicine. It could have been quite intimidating, but in truth it really only served to amplify the day's message of how we live bigger alongside our pets.
The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
What does that mean, exactly? It's much larger than the simple concept that having a pet makes life more awesome- true as it might be, this year's summit hoped to inspire a diverse community of animal lovers to truly challenge what it means to Live Big with pets.

As the second panel of the day, How A Passion For Pets Builds A Better World illuminated- we, as a society benefit from the human-pet bond in immeasurable ways we don't always detect until that connection is removed or forbidden. In a heartwarming presentation we took a sneak peek inside the St. Louis Children's Hospital where an innovative pet-to-pateint program has been unveiled. This one of a kind program goes beyond the typical 'animal patient therapy' to actually unite patients with their own beloved pets, in a safe, regulated environment for the day. This was followed by insight from Brent Bauer, Research Director of Integrative Medicine and Health Programs (Mayo Clinic), who shared a vision where someday '15 minutes with a cat might actually be a written prescription."
The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
There's no doubt Purina is doing big things to support the people-pet bond nationwide- but their passion stems from much more than philanthropy- as Allentown Purina Factory Manager Jason Christofersen shared, "Pets are more than animals, they're family," alongside photos of his own family, which includes a senior Labrador.

And 'living big' correlates directly with the day's final panel, The Science of Innovative Nutrition For Pets, which introduced a new term to me, therapeutic nutrition. The concept elaborated that what one feeds their pets can directly impact the pet's current physical and mental capacity beyond basic energy and weight. Did you know that their are prescription based Purina formulations designed to treat conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes in cats? In fact, that particular formulation has had success in curing Type 2 Feline Diabetes! Even more exciting, the brand's Pro Plan Bright Mind dog food formulation to help enhance the lifestyle of Senior dogs, has inspired a soon to be released feline formulation for cats 7+ that has, in studies, extended the life expectancy of cats by up to a year!
The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
Yes, there certainly was a lot of amazing innovation to inspire bigger lives with pets, but some of the furrier attendees needed to stretch their paws- Just outside the convention center there was a socializing spot where Nora was happy to make some new friends and lap up the afternoon sun on the unusually hot New York Fall afternoon.
Of course we've talked a bit about some of the canine celebrities, but not every pet present was famous, or a dog. Many of the feline attendees hung out on loungers, and in carriers, as their owners soaked up all the inspiration and knowledge of the day's event. A few very special feline attendees offered their services to frazzled humans, in the exclusive Puppy and Kitten Therapy Booth.
The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
That's right, this event had it's own puppy and kitten hangout- a clear cube where attendees could recharge fora  few minutes while bonding with energetic, heartwarming, puppies and kittens. It would be hard to argue that this wasn't the highlight of the event- I wish I could say all the amazing vendors, sponsors, and speakers, stole the show- but this booth was a constant attraction. Just look at that face as an influencer holds a kitten while learning all about the emotional health benefits of animal-humna therapy!
As the day progressed more and more of the attendees mingled- people from every walks of life, with a passion for every breed and animal. Winnie The Therapy Dog was caught snoozing as the third panel wrapped- or maybe she was just inspiring us all to 'chill.' I, personally, took some of the down time as an opportunity to talk with some oft he attending professionals about pet behavior research and nutrition.
Attendees prepare welcome boxes for URI residents- The annual Nestle Purina #BetterWithPets Summit in Brooklyn, NY aimed to inspire through nutritional reserach, a puppy kitten therapy booth, and philanthropic initiatives. AD
The Purina Better With Pets Summit wrapped with a chance to give back as the entire summit gathered to prepare welcome care packages for URI residents with pets. One-by-one boxes were filled with bowls, collars, blankets and food to help an uprooted family acclimate to their new home. A finishing touch? A hand-written note of well wishes from us, the Better With Pets attendees, signed with love. It was a truly moving experience to be a part of and really summed up the day's theme of "Lets live big."

While I think the day was more about pampering and networking for Nora, I walked away thinking about how I could help inspire my own networks to live bigger with pets. Nora's much too hyper to be a hospital therapy dog- but we do have a local women's shelter I've volunteered at in the past. I'm definitely going to meet with the director and see if we can brainstorm a foster program for pets of women and families in transitional housing. I really felt Purina's work with URI is going to make a huge impact on both the lives of pets and owners going through some really hard times.

Are you inspired too? Share, on social media, how your pet inspires you to live big with the hashtag #LetsliveBig and follow the brand on Twitter and Instagram @Purina!

What Daughter Says: Living big is easy with pets beside us!

Encouraging Toddler Independence With Smart Snacking #GerberWinWin

Momma Told Me: We learn by exploring.

When I was a little girl I was quite precocious.

I was engaged almost constantly- as my mother was quite ill during my toddler years, and there was family in abundance to help out in the raising and caring of her only child. Looking back, I can imagine, some of my earliest memories are so dynamic and impactful due to the sole fact that each and every caregiver had their own passions and life experiences. My father would read to me with the funniest voices bringing each character to life, my grandfather had a passion for music and would often hum or sing along to a tune from Sinatra, and my Aunt (the fun one) constantly had something for me to tinker with or deconstruct. My mind was never lacking stimulus, and I thrived to the point I became a bit of a 'handful.' There were no limits to my exploration or the thirst for acquisition of new skills. I was quite the sassy and mischievous toddler.

Today my nephew, Nathan, shows his independence every day- as soon as he discovered how to make audible noises on command he 'talked' non stop. It was only a matter of time before his mother talking back to him turned into conversations and pronounced verbal skills. Of course then came the walking, the crawling, the climbing and the running. Isn't it curious how much we both take pride in a child's accomplishments while dreading the true freedom that comes with with it? A mother certainly has to stay on their toes with a toddler afoot! Savannah was sectioning off hallways and putting up bumpers before he'd turned 1- a triumph and a whole new set of challenges.
Everyday Nathan is practices his skills with great enthusiasm. He watches his mother father, and big sis and brothers with the intent of a mad scientist. I get a good giggle out of imaging how he 'learns' his new skills- and we never really know what he will pick up next- it's always a surprise. But, for Nathan, mimicking his family is the surest way to 'growing up' and learning more skills.

Going into one of our favorites stores, such as a trip to Target, often means a chance to explore. Nathan will insist on trying to 'drive' the cart down the aisles, pushing with all of his weight leaning into it, and not even tall enough to see around the sides at oncoming traffic. He's also sharp enough to know 'his aisles' at Target- they're always the colorful ones in the center of the store with the 'yummy' food and treats, and of course, toys! And Nathan's a kid who knows what he wants when we points at the large display of Gerber foods- it is hard to miss being all  bright and yellow!
Recently we discovered an entirely new addition to the Gerber lineup- Gerber LilBeanies- a delicious puffed navy bean snack that much resembles the snacks adults love to munch on, but with a much healthier twist. Navy beans are not only a mild flavor offering for developing toddler palettes, but offer a fun crunch that toddlers love to explore, in little puffs that are each for tiny hands to grab. And, of course, with the Gerber name on them, LilBeanies are GMO free and and free of artificial anything- they even contain 2g of protein and 1g of fiber per serving! And, for toddlers who enjoy exploring new flavors the White Cheddar and Broccoli LilBeanies are a delicious pick!
Help your child explore and discover with Gerber LilBeanies Navy Bean puff snacks, now sold at Target! AD #GerberWinWin
Nathan's a Momma's boy- so he goes everywhere Momma goes- and that includes errands, sometimes skipping his naps all together because he's so wide eyed and excited to explore. With his big sister in school during the week he can have all the heartfelt 'conversations' he wants from the back seat, riding as Momma's partner in crime to the DMV, Target, and even the optometrist. But when the energy starts to run out, and Mr. Independent gets a little grumpy, it's essential to have a fueling snack on hand to get past the crash and avoid a public tantrum. Gerber's LilBeanies come in handy there too- in fact the easy to res-seal tub is the perfect size for a diaper bag, and easily seals for transport and storage.

Having a snack a toddler can enjoy without help from the 'parentals' not only helps foster confidence and coordination skills, but keeps a toddler engaged when snack time happens to fall during time spent in a waiting room or other dull setting. It also means mom's hands are free to try on glasses with a little help and supervision skills from big sis. Nathan likes to sit with his LilBeanies tub right between his legs and explore the snacks as if each one has something entirely different to offer. It's actually kind of cute when he really focuses like that!
Of course every toddler takes plenty of down time to recharge- usually any car trip beyond 5 or 10 minutes means Nathan is lulled right to sleep. Savannah's mastered the art of removing him from his car-seat and snapping him into the stroller without a single peep. That woman has mad mom skills, after all, no one wants to wake a sleeping child!

At the end of a hard day of being Momma's sidekick, Nathan likes to relax and unwind at the park- I like to argue all of Oregon IS a park, but there aren't swings, magical bouncing panda rides, and slides in the backyard quite yet. And, did I mention that having a toddler around is the BEST gym plan a woman can find? With his inquisitive nature, and constant thirst to master new skills, Nathan never stops surprising all of us with the adventures he'll find or the situations he gets himself into. Of course, no matter what it is- it's always adorable.
Nathan just turned 2 this August, and, while he might be just entering 'terrible twos' he's definitely moving onto bigger and better explorations. In fact, he got his first bicycle- decked out in Paw Patrol of course, and looks forward to riding on a big boy bike just like his 'sissy.' We'll see what Momma has to say about that- slow down a little Nathan!
At the end of the day all that excising one's brain, copying daddy, and practicing new skills can be pretty exhausting for a toddler. Nathan never seems to want to close his eyes- ever since he was a newborn, he simply didn't want to miss a thing. I don't blame him, life's pretty awesome- especially when you're just getting to explore your world for the first time. Thankfully tomorrow is always full of plenty of new memories to be made and had.  Grab a limited time $1 Ibotta Rebate for Gerber's LilBeanies Original and White Cheddar and Broccoli snacks, available at Target now.

What Daughter Says: Toddlers constantly learn through exploration- every encounter is an opportunity to master a new skill, every person a potential role model.