Saturday, January 31, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Who doesn't love buffalo chicken wings?  I know I do, especially when you cool it off with a dollop of creamy blue cheese dressing and crunchy celery sticks.  And, you know I love a great dip.  So, the combination of the two is A+ in my book.

I've made this Buffalo Chicken Dip several times for parties and it's always a hit.  My nephews, who love wings and all spicy things, went crazy for it and I think they ended up polishing off the entire bowl!

The first couple of times I made it, I used frozen chicken breasts that I boiled and then shredded. This time, I decided to see if I could knock off a few steps and shave time by using a can of cooked white chicken breast. Really, I couldn't tell a difference.  So, save yourself some time and effort.

Here's what you'll need:
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 can white chicken breast chunks (13 ounces), drained and shredded
2 cups shredded cheese (7 ounce bag of pre-shredded)
1/2 cup hot sauce (I like Texas Pete's)
*If you prefer spicy, use1 cup hot sauce.
1 cup blue cheese dressing
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
celery sticks
tortilla chips

Here's what to do:
Drain juice from chicken breast.

Using a fork, shred the chicken.

Combine chicken with cream cheese, shredded cheese, and hot sauce.  You can add in 1/2 cup of blue cheese crumbles if you'd like, but I prefer to serve mine on the side.  I mix the blue cheese crumbles in with blue cheese salad dressing.

Once mixed together- it will look bright orange!

Pour into baking dish.  Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Serve warm with tortilla chips, celery sticks, and blue cheese dressing.  Since some people are picky eaters, I put the blue cheese dressing on the side. Those who love it, can drizzle it over their dip.  I also put extra hot sauce out for those who like their mouths on fire.

It's perfect for game day!  Enjoy!


Delicious Dips!

I know you all must think that dip is all that I make.  Really, it's not true (I promise!).  But, I do love a great chip and dip! I blame it on my mom who is the "Chip & Dip Queen".  Maybe she's passing her crown on to me?'s a collection of all the different types of dips and salsas I've shared so far. 

Just click on the links to get the recipe!

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Big Bubba

I don't know about you, but during the winter months I get so parched, especially at school.  My lips get dry and chapped and my mouth gets as dry as the Sahara desert.  Reading books aloud and talking all day doesn't help matters.

This year, I decided to get pro-active and treated myself to a Big Bubba water jug so I can stay hydrated all day long.  I absolutely LOVE it!

It holds 52 ounces of water.  Plus, it is insulated, so it keeps my water nice and cold.  I ordered mine from Amazon.  There are tons of colors you can choose from.

Another splurge was with the Bubba Big Straws that come in a pack of five colors. They're reusable, made out of 100 percent food grade silicon, BPA free, and dishwasher safe.  

Another item I keep in my desk during the winter months is a Burt's Bees nourishing stick.  It's a lip balm with mango butter.  It's a lifesaver.

Stay hydrated and well!

Gotta Go Passes

The restroom.  Two words that cause so much strife in a teacher's life. Teachers use signals, tokens, sign-out sheets, passes and you-name-it.  Kids still want to go to the restroom ALL THE TIME.  

For years, I used a sign-out sheet- which worked fairly well...for most students. Of course, you'll always have those who want to go all the time.  It's fairly easy to keep track of restroom usage when students are with you all day in a self-contained classroom.

Last year, I taught in a self-contained classroom, but tried something different- the "Gotta Go" pass.  I gave students five passes for the week.  They put their name on them and dropped them in a basket when they needed to use the restroom. This worked out really well!  It was easy to keep track of and only a few students ran out of passes or lost them.  In that case, I charged them "tickets" for replacements.  I also rewarded students who had unused passes at the end of the week.  Students received a certain number of tickets for each unused pass which they could use during a classroom auction.

This year, I'm teaching only one 5th grade subject and I have four rotations of students coming and going throughout the day.  I naively tried the sign-out system at first.  THEN, after some "teacher talk" at lunch, I discovered (more like WE discovered) that some students were going to the restroom in every single rotation.  That's FOUR times a day.  Really?  I mean, I really only get to use the restroom at plan and lunch, and sometimes that's a stretch.  Plus, students were using valuable instructional time using the restroom too frequently.

So, back to the "Gotta Go" passes we went.

The Gotta Go Passes are easy to make.  Just create the design you want, copy on colored card stock and cut them out.  I was able to put 10 passes on each sheet.  I would suggest using a different color of card stock for each teacher so it's easy to sort out each week.

 Here are the guidelines:

  1. Everyone gets five passes.  It is the student's responsibility to keep track of them.  They put their name and homeroom teacher's name on each pass.  They can keep them in their backpack or binder, or wherever else they'd like.
  2. When a student needs to use the restroom, they must ask permission, then hand the pass to the teacher.  Some teachers have a basket or box to keep them in.
  3. Students have some "FREE" restroom time when passes are not required. They may use the restroom before the first hour rotation begins, at lunch, or after school without using a pass.  
  4. If a student has a medical issue, then that is taken into consideration and passes may be increased for that individual due to the circumstances.
  5. If a student runs out of  Gotta Go passes, then they're charged a certain number of tickets.  I usually make this a high number to deter from using so many passes during the week.
  6. On Friday afternoon, passes are sorted by homeroom and redistributed to students to begin a new week with five passes.
So far, it has worked well.  Most students are using their restroom passes wisely and are ready to go when lessons begin.  

The Traveling Trophy!  The class that collects the most passes gets the prize!
Or you could reverse it and the class who collects the least passes gets the prize!

Check out my teacher friend's blog Upper Elementary Fun to see how she uses Gotta Go Passes! (She's got some other awesome ideas, too!) There are so many great ideas and resources out there.  What works in your classroom? Comment and share your ideas!-Karen

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Killer Onion Dip

People ask me why this dip is called Killer Onion Dip.  Well, for one it has a killer taste.  Secondly, when you eat it, your breath will be... killer!  Trust me, it is totally worth it.  Just buy an extra bottle of mouth wash and dip away!

My mom has been making this dip for 50 years, literally.  When I was growing up, she would grate the onions by hand and then mix it all by hand.  That's too much work for my taste. So, I've modernized it and I use a food processor to get the onion just right and then blend it all together.  You can have those onions pulverized lickety-split (and with no crying)!

Here's what you'll need:
1/2 medium onion (you can use white or yellow)
1 block cream cheese
1/4 cup Miracle Whip (or light mayo)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 pinch salt

Here's what to do:

Pulse onion in food processor until smooth.

Here's what it should look like.  Pulverized juicy onion!

Add in your other ingredients:  cream cheese, Miracle Whip, lemon juice, and salt.

Blend ingredients until smooth.

Keep onion dip refrigerated.  Will last for about three or four days.

Enjoy your killer onion dip and don't forget the mouthwash!

Visual Notetaking

You may be wondering, "What exactly is visual notetaking?"  Well, it's the idea of representing ideas non-linguistically.  Or, you could say it's a fancy way of drawing pictures to represent what you're thinking.  Either way, it's a great tool to use in the classroom and will engage your learners.

From my experience, kids love to draw and doodle.  So, why not let them do it in an academic subject.  I can get just as much insight into what they know by looking at their visual notetaking versus traditional notetaking.

Visual notetaking can include concept maps and webs, plus utilize fancy lettering, connectors, bullets, frames, peeps, and thought /dialogue boxes.  It can be a combination of words AND pictures to represent ideas.

It's just one more tool that students can use to process information and a tool that you can use as a teacher to asses your student's thinking.

Students can use their visual notetaking to spur discussions about what they're thinking.  Plus, they get to show off their cool drawings to classmates!

There are also some white board applications that allow you to show animation videos which include audio narration that are synchonized to screencasts of your drawings.  How cool is that?  As I delve deeper into this creative way of notetaking, I'll share what I find out as I experiment with the smartboard applications.

If you want to know more, or see more examples, just google "visual notetaking" and there's tons of information out there.  There are even some video tutorials.  Give it a try!

I introduced visual notetaking while reading a novel with my students.  I first explained what it was and asked them, "How would you like to be able to draw pictures AND use words to show what you're thinking?"  A unanimous YES filled the room!

We discussed the anchor chart below which showed different types of symbols they could use in thier visual notes.

We then did some visual note taking together as we processed the first few chapters of the novel. Here is the example of our shared visual notetaking.

It looks like a mess, but that is exactly what visual notetaking looks like.  This is a very spatial and global way of thinking and it may drive some of your students crazy. Some of my own students like neat and orderly notes, and that's OK!  That's how they like to process and think.  Give them a choice and let them decide how they'd like to take notes or respond to a text.  Choices are always a plus in my book!

Here are some examples of my 5th grade reading student's visual notes from the novel, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  Instead of a traditional reading response, I let them do their response in the form of a visual notes.

I LOVE the expressions on the character's faces.  This student uses peeps
 and dialogue boxes to show what happened in the chapter.

This student uses peeps, dialogue boxes and thought bubbles to
show what the characters are thinking and feeling.

This student chose to use peeps with dialogue boxes and thought bubbles,
plus short summaries of each chapter.

Just by looking at these, I could tell my students "get it"!  They could tell me the big ideas from each chapter in a very creative way.  Plus, they LOVED drawing in reading class!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Busy Day Beef Stew

My husband's birthday rolled around again this year and his special request for his birthday dinner was beef stew.  My mom makes the best beef stew so I raided her recipe box for her easy slow cooker recipe for Busy Day Beef Stew  I LOVE using my mom's recipes, but when she gives them to me- they are sometimes not so easy to understand.  She sometimes just lists ingredients and not amounts.  She'll say, "oh, just use about this much", or "use three or four potatoes, whatever looks good."  So, this is how I learned to cook. A little of this.  A little of that.  Whatever looks good.  More importantly, whatever tastes good.
Below is a copy of her recipe.  As you can see, she lists ingredients, but I have no idea how many potatoes, carrots, meat, or onions to write for the recipe!

I've made it easy for you and listed all the ingredients with amounts.  You're welcome!  But, as always, feel free to do like my mom always says, "do what works and do whatever looks and tastes good!"

Here's what you'll need:
24 ounce bag of tiny yellow Idaho potatoes, cut into small chunks
12 ounce bag of baby carrots (about 2 cups)
1 package beef stew meat, cubed (about 1 pound)
1 yellow onion, cut into chunks
*2 containers mushrooms, clean and cut off stems  
1 cup beef broth
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
* 1 small can tomato paste
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

*  These are items that were not in the original recipe that I used. 
* You could use any kind of potato- just make sure the chunks cover the bottom of the slow cooker.

Makes about 12 servings.

Not pictured:  tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. 
Here's what to do:

Layer potatoes in bottom of slow cooker.

Later carrots on top of potatoes.

Layer beef stew meat over potatoes.

Layer onions over meat.

Layer mushrooms over onions.

Combine beef broth, tomato sauce, and soy sauce.  Pour over ingredients in slow cooker.

Cook on high for 5 hours, or low for 8 hours.

After cooking, I turned to low/warm and added 1 can tomato paste to thicken sauce and 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce to give it some "oomph".  At this point taste and see if it needs salt and pepper.

The beef stew is so good and everything just turns out so tender!  So yummy on a cold night and so easy after a busy day.  I guess that's why it's called Busy Day Beef Stew!  Enjoy!