Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Loaded Chicken Taco Salad with Creamy Lime-Cilantro Dressing

This is a super combination of ingredients and the dressing takes it over the top. I love the crunch from the tortilla chips too. Averie at Averie Cooks used Doritos so you can choose which you like better-- tortilla chips or Doritos. And we don't like our chips to get soggy so I served them on the side so we could put them on our plates individually. 

Don't be intimidated by the length of the ingredients list. It's a very easy salad. The recipe calls for a packet of taco seasoning, but I make my own and sprinkle it on to taste. That recipe follows the salad recipe in case you'd like to make yours too.

I really like variety in my menus (if you couldn't tell by the number of different recipes I make), but I'd be happy to eat this often.

Loaded Chicken Taco Salad with Creamy Lime-Cilantro Dressing

2 T. olive oil
1 1/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 (1.25-oz.) packet taco seasoning, divided
4 c. romaine lettuce
1 or 2 med. tomatoes, diced
1/2 c. corn, drained (canned or frozen)
1/2 c. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 med. avocado, peeled and diced
1 c. shredded cheese
1 c. seasoned tortilla chips, crushed
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. sour cream or plain yogurt
3 to 4 T. lime juice, or as necessary for flavor and consistency
1/4 c. cilantro leaves, minced
1/2 t. granulated sugar, optional and to taste
To a large skillet, add the olive oil, chicken, evenly sprinkle with 1 heaping tablespoon taco seasoning, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until browned on all sides and cooked through. Remove pan from heat and allow chicken to rest in pan while you assemble the salad.
To a large platter, add the lettuce, and evenly sprinkle with the tomatoes, corn, black beans, avocado, cheese, tortilla chips, and chicken; set aside.
To a small bowl, add the mayo, sour cream, lime juice, 1 heaping tablespoon taco seasoning, and whisk to combine. Add the cilantro and stir to incorporate. Add additional lime juice to thin out dressing if desired. Taste dressing and depending on how much lime juice was used, add sugar to taste.
Evenly drizzle dressing over salad. Extra dressing will keep airtight for up to 5 days in the fridge and makes a great veggie dip.
*Taco Seasoning (from Allrecipes)              
1 T. chili powder

1/4 t. garlic powder

Monday, July 27, 2015

Training Trainers

Parts of Alex's letter to me:

My companion doesn't speak too much English (although he's learning, and is pretty good at pronunciation for Japanese people). I definitely think that something is different now that I'm the senior companion, and a trainer, but I can't really say what is different. I definitely realize what I'm doing even more now that I know I am the oldest in missionary age in my area. Also, being a trainer really helps you want to do all you can to "raise" a good missionary. I now know why they say that trainers are fathers, and trainees are sons; I definitely feel like a father raising a child. In a good way.

It is a bit different with just two people, but I have to say that it's not as weird as I thought it would be. We both cook, but Elder T.loves cooking, so he does it a lot of the time. If you're looking for some good food to try, then some things we eat here just about every week are: "Mabodofu," and "yakisoba." I don't know what their English counterparts are, but I think you can find them that way. If anything I can thing as far as food is missed, pizza is very different here. But I'll live.
There are not any members here that speak English... We should be starting to use facebook sometime in the near future. We are told not to use it as a place to post p-day pictures, as well as to avoid "non-missionary discussions" on our pages. So, if there is anybody who wants to still know what I'm doing from those who read my Facebook page, they'll need my email, and I'll need theirs. But I don't know when that change will come. 
Alex's letter to everyone:
A plant at the mission home that Alex thought was pretty
This week has been full of cool experiences, and even some new
experiences. I don't think there will be a day while I'm still alive
that will not have at least one surprise in it. Through faith in Jesus
Christ, and obedience to His gospel, all those surprises will end up
for my eternal welfare, as well as those that I know.

The Kanji of the week is: 救いの計画 (which is actually a phrase),
pronounced "schoo-ee-no-kay-caw-coo" and means "Plan of Salvation."

This week went as follows:

Monday, we didn't do too much during the day, and spent most of it
relaxing. In the evening we went to a festival with friends and
members as a final "hurrah" for the three missionaries who were

Tuesday, Elder B. and I rode a bus all the way to Sendai (a four
and a half hour bus ride). We had a bit of time, so we ate, and walked
around for a bit before we caught a different bus to the mission home.
At the mission home, all those who were becoming trainers for their
first time went to a meeting to learn how to train new missionaries.
It was a good experience.
Decisions, decisions! Pork uterus or pork intestines for dinner
Wednesday, we both took a bus up to a city called Morioka, and there
met our new companions. Elder T. and I then caught a bus back
up to Hachinohe. When we arrived, I quickly prepared a lesson, and
taught an on the spot English lesson for all our students. It went
better than I expected.

Thursday, all of our data from the previous transfers (as far as
scheduling goes) was erased, because Hachinohe went down to a two
elder zone. I don't remember too much about that day, but we did
stuff, I'm sure.

Friday was spent all day in weekly planning. As we are combining two
companionships into one, we had to figure out all the stuff we needed
to do without our previous plans written down. It was an adventure,
and I'm glad we got it all out of the way.

Saturday we housed a bit, and then tried to do some streeting. Where
we planned on streeting didn't have too many people on the streets, so
we decided to try and hang up some posters. After that, we housed some
more. Eventually time came, and we went to the church and had English
class again. It was fun, and more prepared of a lesson than on

The raw horse meat that Alex talked about eating last week

Sunday we had fun at church. As with every week, we got to partake of
the sacrament, and I am ever grateful for that opportunity. As I am
the only elder that speaks English, I spent all three hours
translating for the recent convert who doesn't know Japanese. It was
an adventure, and good practice. After church, we had sign language
class, and then went home and did all our studies.

I hope that you all have a great week, and that you can all feel the
influence of God in your lives. I love you all!


Elder _________


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Experiences

Alex sent quite a few interesting photos this week, but none of him. I'm really glad to hear that he is eating new food and liking it. I sure miss him, but glad he's having these amazing experiences.
Pig Tongue


This week I have done some new things, and they were all good experiences.

The kanji of the week is: 手話 pronounced "Shew-wah," and means sign
language. (sorry if I already sent this one)

I don't have all that much time this week, but I would like to share
some of the new experiences I've had this week.

On Monday, we went with the branch president to a famous all you can
eat place in a nearby city. There, I had the chance to eat horse. It
was good, and I enjoyed. it. I got to also try pig tongue, and as
gross as that sounds, I liked it. One of the most rare (no pun
intended) things I ate was raw horse (called horse "sashimi"). Before
anyone freaks out, it was all safe.

The guts from the octopus

We also went to an fish market where you pick what fish you want to
eat, pay for it, get rice, and then eat it as you get it. Most of it
was raw, but it was good. While we were there, we got transfer calls,
and I found out that I am getting my first Japanese companion. I
already know him, because he was in this area already, but the area is
going down to two elders, so it is just me and my new companion now.
He's also a new missionary, so it's my first trainee. In the way that
we say it here in Japan at least, he is now my "son." Since he's been
here a transfer, he was being trained by a different missionary, but I
think it still counts. It's like adoption. I guess.

Alex's new companion, Elder T.

The other missionaries in the area minus Alex and his companion

There was also a festival going on, and it was really big and had some
cool traditional Japanese stuff. It was big, but there's an even
bigger one coming up soon. I'm looking forward to that!

Well, that's all I'm thinking about right now that I'd like to share,
but I hope you all know that I know that there is a Father in Heaven
that cares about you. He wants you to be happy.

Love you all!


Elder _____


An old looking firehouse that is still in use

A line for a famous restaurant in Hachinohe (this was
taken around 8:30 in the morning).

A man who has a ground hog on his shoulder at a festival

Here's the explanation Alex gave for this set of strange photos. Ummmm, ok.

The first picture is a friend and old investigator in a dark hallway
underneath a fish market that we went into because we thought there
might be something, but the only thing down there was closed. The
second and fourth one are of a fridge down there that was still in use
but looked abandoned. The third is of the light fixtures in the
basement, and the fifth is a picture of barnacles (still alive).

Video of a barnacle that is moving

A lady at the shop preparing octopus

Just to end on a not so gross note, here's a pretty flower photo that Alex sent.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fun Times

Alex's weekly letter from Japan:

(Some kind of thought that has to do with my week; use your imagination;)

This week's kanji of the week is: 金 pronounced "kah-neigh" and means
gold or money.

Monday was pretty laid back, and we didn't do anything in particular
for our p-day activities. In the evening though, we went and played
basketball with some members and some random people who were at the
basketball court we went to. That was basically that entire day.

Alex's bunk is the top left.

Tuesday we went up to a place called Hachinohe New Town, and we tried
to find an old investigator. He wasn't home but his wife was, but she
was busy. When we got outside the apartment building, a small
earthquake happened (nothing to be alarmed about); it was my first
earthquake outside, so that was cool. We then housed around for a
little bit and then headed off to visit a deaf member couple
unannounced. The wife was home, but the husband hadn't come back yet
and wouldn't be back until we had to be somewhere else, so we just
quickly said bye, and left. After that we went to a high school and
college to try and get posters hung up. They both took the posters,
but they weren't sure if they could hang them up. We walked around the
campus of the college a bit, and then went and handed out fliers for
our English class. After that, we went to a festival and had a great
time there. We had a bit of food there, and also got to talk with a
lot of people, so it was fun.

Wednesday was fun with sign language class, making some changes to the
poster for English Class, and English class. It was very fulfilling,
and we got stuff done that needed to get done, but I can't say there
is too much to write home about that day.

Thursday we finished some minor changes on the poster, and got some of
them made. We then headed over to a member's house and did home
teaching with him. It was a good lesson, but sometimes he goes off on
subjects that I have no idea what he's talking about. After that we
had to bike back home for dinner (another small earthquake happened
then) and then went to institute. Institute was fun and I love the
teacher and other members that go there. The class is entertaining,
and we learn lots.

Alex said this is a giant safety cone they found on a college campus.

Friday in the very early morning (3:30ish) there was a bigger
earthquake (level 4, I believe) that happened and woke us all up.
Nothing bad happened from it, but the trains were delayed a bit. The
reason that last part was important was because we headed early in the
morning (7 o'clock) up to Aomori for a zone training meeting. I had a
grand time there, and the spirit was very strong. I can't say all that
went through my mind about that, but the basics were that of "love,"
and "faith."  We then hopped on a train back home and studied for the
rest of the day (which wasn't much).

Saturday was weekly planning day and we got that done in a usual
manner. After we finished we had to head over to the church for DCS
(in english it's called Missionary Coordination Meeting), and after
that prepared and had English class. English class was fun, and we
stayed afterwards with some of the students and built relationships
with them. It was fun and I love the people who come to English class.

Sunday brought a unique experience, or at least a first, as I was
asked to lead the signing of a hymn. It was Families Can Be Together
Forever, and the signs were easy enough. Then, they asked me to sign
the prayer right after that too. I might have been able to do it if
someone else had prayed, but the person who said the prayer spoke so
quickly that I  couldn't keep up. It was a good prayer, but I had to
switch out so that the deaf members could actually understand the
prayer. After church, we also had sign language class, and we learned
how to sign about the millennium. We also tried to do some street
contacting, but that didn't go so well. There weren't that many people
where we went, and didn't really get to talk to anyone.

I hope that you all enjoyed reading this weeks letter, and I hope that
you all have a good week!


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Lime Cookie Bars

It's apparently national sugar cookie day, and I just happened to have made these last night from a recipe on Deliciously Sprinkled. They are almost sugar cookies. I thought they'd be crunchy, but they are soft in the middle. I made some rectangular and some round (they were just easier) and I dipped them in chocolate instead of using cookie icing like the recipe.

Lime Cookie Bars
3/4 c.unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 (3-oz.) pkg. of Jell-O Lime gelatin, dry
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 pouch cookie icing
Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking sheets. Set aside.

In a small bowl mix the flour, salt, and baking powder until combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or a stand mixer, cream the butter for 1-3 minutes. Add sugar and dry JELL-O powder and beat on high for 1-2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out. Cut the dough into small little bars, about 1.5in x 3in. Place dough bars on prepared baking sheet and place in freezer for 10 minutes. (this will help them keep their shape)

Bake for 8 minutes (or until slightly golden at the edges). Let cool.
Once cool, drizzle with royal icing and sprinkles.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Yet Another Week

Alex didn't take photos again, but since I bugged him so much, he sent me a couple that he said someone else took. Glad to get some this week.

Parts of Alex's letter to me:

Futons aren't really that uncomfortable to me. I like them, and quite honestly might consider getting some when I come back to America. We have bunk beds here in Hachinohe, and those are a bit uncomfortable, but that's because the futons don't fit correctly, and I'm too long for the bed frame. But it's fine, because it isn't really that bad.

I think I'm pretty close to a lot of the people here, both member and non-member. We have fun together, and are good friends. In this mission at least, the members have what is called a fruit basket where members can donate food, toiletries, or anything they think the missionaries might need. Also, some of the members have us over for dinner from time to time.

This week's letter:

When you have a plan for every week, for every day, and for every
hour, time flies by so quickly. At the same time, that time isn't
wasted because you have worthwhile activities planned for every waking

The Kanji of the week is: 手紙 pronounced "te-ga-mi" and means letter
(as in a written letter).

Monday was laid back, and we didn't do too much but rest during the
day. In the evening we had a practice lesson with the branch
president, and that was fun. He was a really good fake investigator.
After that we went and handed out English class fliers for a bit.
While there, we actually ran into a friend of a
non-member-but-basically-is-a-member, and talked to her for just a
minute. She had gotten a Book of Mormon from said friend, and said
that she wants to read it once she has the time.

Tuesday we had district meeting in the morning, followed by us trying
to find an old investigator. It took us a while to get to the area,
and a bit more time to actually find the house. We got lost a couple
of times and asked directions a few times as well. Eventually we found
it, and the guy said that he had no interest. So, we housed around the
area for a bit, and after that headed to visit two people. Neither of
them were home. After that we met the other two missionaries and went
to hand out some more English class fliers. That didn't take too much
time, and after that we went to the church and met a member there. We
then hopped into his car and drove to a different member's house to
give her brother some presents for his birthday. Her family aren't
members, but they are super nice, and I'm glad they let their daughter
choose to get baptized. That didn't take too much time though, and the
member surprised us (or at least me) by taking us out to eat.

KFC has fries instead of potato wedges in Japan. In Ecuador, they had yummy rolls instead of dry biscuits.

Wednesday we had seminary in the morning followed by studies and sign
language class. It was a fun class, because we also had lunch
together, and it was a review/ game day. When that ended we had a
practice lesson with a member, and that went well. After we finished
with that lesson, we quickly went home and ate dinner before coming
back to the church and prepping and having English class. It was fun
and I love the students who come.

Thursday we went and got stuff to fix our English class sign, and did
that quickly. The majority of the rest of the day was spent picking
weeds out of the cracks in the parking lot at the church. My mother
will be very happy to hear that I am using that skill on my mission as
well :) We then ate dinner and had a meeting to try and improve our
English class. After that meeting, we went and joined the members who
were at institute for the rest of the night.

Friday we had interviews in the morning with our mission president,
President Smith. He is a great guy and I love how devoted he is to
Christ and to the gospel. When we weren't in an interview with him, we
were with his wife, Sister Smith. There is never a dull conversation
with her, and I love her so much. She's a good person. After that we
went to an all you can eat sushi place, and that was delicious (forgot
to take pictures of that, oops!). We then spent the rest of the day
making subtitles for a video we wanted to show in family home evening
that night that didn't come in Japanese. We got the video translated,
but we didn't get it onto the video, so we just printed out the
translation and went and had the Family Home Evening at the church. It
was tons of fun, and the snacks and games were great!

Saturday was weekly planning followed by DCS followed by English
Class. That time there were a lot more people than normal that came,
and it was great. We also had fun with the students afterwards, and
had a great time. That's all that happened that day though.

Sunday we went to church, and I had to translate again for sacrament
meeting. It was a bit easier for the most part, because people were
giving their testimonies. At the last hour of church, we also gave a
lesson on the Preach My Gospel book. That was good, and I hope the
members learned something from it. After church we went back home, did
our studies, and then had dinner. After dinner we went and tried to
visit some people. The first person wasn't home, and we think that he
might have moved. The second person was home, and we got to talk to
him for a while. He was repairing a 40 year old engine for a
motorcycle, and we talked to him while he did that. It was good, and
he said that we could come and talk to him again next week if he's

That's my week in a very big nut shell! I hope you enjoy reading it,
and that you get something out of it! I love you all, and pray that
you're all doing well.


Elder ____


Blueberry Cheesecake Crumb Cake

Bursting blueberries in every bite! I made this coffee cake that I found on  Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts  (even though it's not a ...