polar express party+hot chocolate recipe

Last Friday evening, we hosted a Polar Express Party for the kids in our neighborhood. We live in a gated circle drive that has 20 homes, almost all of which have young kids. This has been so much fun for Bear, as they all play outside together everyday and have become such good friends. Bear passed out party invitations (free template found here) to his new friends one day after school a couple weeks ago and he talked about the party nonstop after that. He was so excited to have his friends over and watch the Polar Express (we’ve never seen it!) which didn’t end up happening because the kids were having so much fun playing, they couldn’t be bothered to slow down and actually look at the TV. Guess that means the party was a success?!

For privacy reasons, I left most pictures of the other kids off of this post but I wish you could see their sweet little faces. We had a total of 12 kids and 6 adults in our house that evening and it was pure madness in the best possible way. I didn’t take a lot of photos or go all out on decor because honestly, this wasn’t intended to be a Pinterest-worthy event. I wanted to sit back and enjoy everything, not be running around with a camera in my face the whole time. I think we all have more fun that way and Bear is already planning next year’s party! I might need a few more weeks recovery time before I’m ready for that. ;)

(The wires don’t normally hang down from our TV- we are waiting on the Geek Squad to come do some maintenance. The kids didn’t care!)

Right when the kids showed up, we had two gingerbread house kits that they got busy making. The girls got into it more than the boys and seemed to really enjoy decorating the houses. After that, many cookies were consumed and much playing was had. My favorite part of the party was the hot chocolate- I could drink my weight in this homemade crockpot recipe we’ve been making the last several years. If you want an easy hot chocolate recipe that will feed 12-15 and is rich enough to cause cavities by the cup-full, here it is:

The Best Crockpot Hot Chocolate
Ingredients:
6 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk (12 oz.)
1 pkg. milk chocolate chips (14 oz.)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
Stir all ingredients in crockpot on low heat. Cook on low for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes. Switch setting to warm and serve with marshmallows!

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We feel really lucky to live in a neighborhood where the kids are all around the same age and enjoy one another’s company (most of the time). Even Boonester couldn’t be bothered to sit still and take a photo, he was having so much fun crawling around after the bigger kids. He will be running around with them before we know it!
Now that we still haven’t seen the Polar Express, Bear and I will be watching it over the weekend. Zach told him we could do something special tonight and he chose to go see The Grinch again…so looks like we will be watching lots of Christmas movies over the next few weeks. I’m not upset about it- bring on all the popcorn, hot chocolate, warm blankets, and snuggles!
xo, Britt

king ranch chicken casserole

It's been a hot minute (or months, rather) since I posted a recipe on here and I'm glad to have a new one to share with y'all! The only reason why I do is because, disclaimer: I didn't actually make this myself. YET. Our nanny, Bethany, is the sweetest human on earth and made this King Ranch Chicken Casserole from the Magnolia Table cookbook the other day for us for dinner. We loved it and when I shared a video on Instagram, so many people asked for the recipe that I thought this would be the easiest way to share it. The casserole is so cheesy and delicious- we devoured it and kept going back for seconds and even thirds. My picky boys were even big fans, and that's saying something because they rarely love a new recipe. Just in case some of you are behind on the times (like myself) and don't have the Magnolia Table cookbook, I'll share this comfort food goodness below! And a big thank you to Bethany for not only providing us with a delicious meal, but also letting me share your masterpiece on the blog. :) I think we need a weekly "Cooking with Bethany" series, what do y'all say? You should taste her snickerdoodles! And now I'm officially starving. 

If you're not a bean person, you could definitely leave the black beans out of the recipe and it would still be amazing (same with onions). This dish is comfort food at it's finest- a twist on Mexican food (enchiladas) in the form of a hearty, Southern casserole. The original recipe paired with a salad, but we loved it as is without anything with it. I can't wait to make this casserole on a cold winter night!

You'll need:
Vegetable oil spray
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
One 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
One 10.5 oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
One 16 oz. jar salsa verde
One 15 oz. can mild enchilada sauce
One 8 oz. container sour cream
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups shredded meat from store- bought rotisserie chicken or poached chicken breasts
Two 4 oz. cans fire roasted dice green chiles
20 corn tortillas, cut into 3/4 inch wide strips
4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups grated monterey jack cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 in. pan with vegetable oil. In a 7-quart soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 6 minutes. 
2. Add the broth, beans, chicken soup, salsa verde, enchilada sauce, sour cream, paprika, garlic salt, kosher salt, and pepper. Stir until well incorporated. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the chicken, chiles, tortilla strips, and cheddar until well combined. 
3. Pour into prepared baking dish and scatter monterey jack on top.
4. Bake until heated through and monterey jack is melted and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
*Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days


Cheers to almost the weekend!
xo, Britt