2kousins

Family is everything!

First day of school 2014

Today was the first day of school.  Boy, have the years flown by!!!  Meagan began her junior year of high school.  Everyone has said this is the critical year with everything – yikes!  The pressure is so much more than when we applied to colleges and never did I talk about a college resume!  I am not even sure I knew what a resume was until I was already IN college!  I decided to go back and look at her first day of kindergarten picture – in some ways it doesn’t seem that long ago!

Meagan first day of school

Maddie started 8th grade.  Both are now upper class man in their schools and this is my last year of two schools and two schedules!!  She was super excited to start her classes even though most of her close friends were not in her classes.  She told me tonight – maybe that is good because then I can concentrate on my classes!  We shall see how long that theory lasts!  She makes friends easily.  Super proud of her – she saw a new girl sitting alone in PE during some social time so she left her group of friends and went and introduced herself to the new girl.  She said she got a big smile on her face.  Maddie has come a long way from being my shy little girl who use to hide behind my legs!

Madison first day of school

I love the routine that school gives us, but my cell phone sure was quiet at work today with them not home!  We are looking forward to what this year will bring each of them.  Sure do love these big kids of mine!!!!

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Disney World 2014

Last month, we went to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  We had not been in six years.  My parents went with us and they had not been since 1980!!!  A LOT has changed since they were there last including more parks!!  They felt like it was the first time they had been there because when they were there in 1980 there was Magic Kingdom and a few resorts.  The girls were really excited to show them all the new stuff.  We stayed off property for the first time and used our time share.  We stayed at Marriott Cypress Harbour, which was 10 – 20 minutes from all the parks.   We would take one day and do one park to help make our days not quite as long.  We spent our first day in Magic Kingdom and did half the park.  The next day we were in Epcot and then in Animal Kingdom.  On our fourth day, we left my parents at the resort for a day of rest and we took the girls to Universal Studios to see Harry Potter World.  This park was new to all of us!  We finished the week in Hollywood Studios and our last day was Magic Kingdom for the other half.  It was a very busy week, but we had a great time!  We managed to only be affected by the rain twice in the parks.  Most of the time the rain would hit and we would be eating inside – we would come out and the sun would be out again!  In Magic Kingdom on both days we somehow managed to leave our good camera behind both times!!  Those pictures we relied on our cell phones!  Other than that, we had no complaints of this jammed full week!!  My parents enjoyed all the parks and were so happy to see them.  This is just a few highlights because this post would be too long otherwise. (in reviewing this it is still long even with a few highlights!)

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We managed all modes of transportation that Disney has to offer.  The very first one we did was the ferry boat.  My dad LOVES boats, so we knew this would make him happy and the line was shorter than the monorail that morning!

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Liberty Square Riverboat – two boat rides in one day!

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Next day we were off to Epcot – we rode the monorail to this park.

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Hidden Goofy and Hidden Mickey in the aquarium.

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In London – had to try out the phone booth.  Amazing kids know what that is anymore!!

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Maddie finally made it to Paris!!  Well, sorta…..

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In France we saw this act going on.  This guy is CRAZY!!!  Look at what those stacked chairs are stacked on – bottles!!

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Next day was Animal Kingdom

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This poor guy was trying to nap with all these people staring at him!  At one point he looked up at us and then rolled over so he couldn’t see anyone.

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One of the best rides in the Animal Kingdom is Kilamanjaro Safari – my dad loved this ride because it is like you are on a safari and four wheelin!!  It is never long enough for me – I could do this for hours.

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Animal Kingdom has some of the best shows – The Lion King is amazing!!  You are in a circular theatre and they are performing all around you.  They use trampolines and fly trapeze.

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There is also Finding Nemo the musical – it is amazing how they can bring an underwater show to the stage!

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One of the rains that we got caught in was leaving Animal Kingdom.  Luckily we were done and beginning to leave the park.  First time we pulled out the ponchos.  The girls had never seen it rain so hard and we were soaked getting to the car!

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The middle of the week is when we left mom and dad at the resort to rest and the four of us headed to Universal Studios Florida to see Harry Potter World!  That was the main goal of the day and even though we walked the park, we really did not do anything else there.  We headed back mid afternoon to the resort so we could have a break as well.  After all, we still had two more days of parks left!

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As we left this park – literally stepped in the parking garage the rain started to dump!  Again, another great day that the rain did not affect!!  As we arrived back at the resort, Rick decides to do his usual playing around and started jumping in the elevator – and lo and behold the elevator stops!!  We are stuck!  We couldn’t resist the photo opportunity. We were only stuck for 5 minutes, but the rest of the trip Maddie refused to ride the elevator!

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Hollywood Studios!  Mom and dad were rested and ready to hit the parks again!

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This is the only attraction that rain caused a problem for us – we only saw half the stunt show.  That was a disappointment because we knew this was one dad would enjoy and he was, as well as, the rest of us!

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Maddie’s favorite place – animation studio.  This had changed since we had been there six years ago.  This time everyone that participated learned how to draw a character.  Today she learned how to draw Olaf from Frozen.  I need to take a picture if she will let me.  She did a fabulous job, but according to her it is not good.  I can draw stick people that is it!!  To me it is amazing!  Not sure where she got this talent from.

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LOVED this picture of Meagan!  Rick, Meagan, and I rode Rockin’ Roller Coaster and we didn’t know what to expect.  It was fabulous!!

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On the backlot tour you see how they make movies.  Mom and Maddie got a little more than they bargained for!!  The water came rushing down towards the tram, BUT it was not to come INTO the tram.  Well, this time it did!  Maddie was soaked!  Our docent was quite shocked when this happened!

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Last day we were back at the Magic Kingdom, but before we went in we did a character breakfast.  Part of our goal for this trip was to let mom and dad see as much of the WHOLE Disney World Resort, so we chose a place for breakfast that took us to one of their hotel resorts.  This was 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian Resort.  It was a fabulous buffet and a great way to start our last day.

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From the Grand Floridian we took the monorail over to Magic Kingdom and this was our second run in with rain that we had to put ponchos on.  This is what we saw when we arrived

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But with true Florida rain, it was gone within an hour and the rest of the day was great!

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On our way home, we were delayed, but dad didn’t care – he could sit and watch all the planes taking off out of the airport.  I think this is one of my all time favorite pictures of him because it describes him perfectly of one of his many loves in life!!

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It was a very busy week, but a great one with some great memories!!

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A Grilled Dinner

Here in California, we have been having a very HOT summer unlike some of the country with the crazy rain and flooding!  Wouldn’t it be nice if it would just even out and we all received a little rain and a little sunshine?  With the heat, I try to limit my oven use and we grill a lot more like most people.  Last week, on a whim I did our whole meal on the grill and just threw it together with no recipes and it ended up being one of our BEST meals in a really long time!  Maybe because it was new and different.  I have been in a rut cooking lately – blaming it on the heat and summer laziness.  So when I was prepping the meal I grabbed my cell phone and snapped some pictures just in case it was good, but the down fault to that is the picture quality.  BUT since this is so simple you really don’t need the pictures to get the idea so we are not after the quality of the picture this time, but the quality of the food!

I had planned to grill some steak and decided to do our potatoes in foil.  I had a recipe I wanted to try for baking zucchini, but it was just too hot, so I thought – why not try it in foil and see what happens!  BEST IDEA EVER!!!  So prep your steak to your preference.  I just used a little Montreal Steak seasoning that night on ours.

To do the potatoes:

Take a large piece of aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray in the center where you will put the potatoes.  Dice the needed amount of potatoes.  I made 3 packets for the 4 of us.  My youngest always gets her own packet because she doesn’t like all the extra stuff I was doing to the other two.   After you place the diced potatoes on the foil, sprinkle with some salt and pepper.  I a little bit of butter on top, sprinkled some cheese ( I used cheddar and jack), and then closed up the foil.  You will place another sheet of aluminum foil on the grill and then place your potatoes packets on that.  I have found if I don’t do this extra step the potatoes on the bottom burn.  They take about 30 minutes to cook.

To do the zucchini:

Take another piece of foil and spray with cooking spray.  Slice the zucchini long ways.  Place on the foil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, a little bit of butter, and then sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese on top.  Close up the foil and also place on the sheet of foil laid on the grill.  They were on for 30 minutes.

This was also a super easy clean up!!  All dishes used to prep were washed and put away prior to dinner.  Foil from potatoes and zucchini thrown out after serving.  All you have is the plate from the steak and the dishes you ate with!

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My entire meal on the grill!!!  It almost felt like we were camping!

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Not bad on a hot summer day!!

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Ordination of a Deacon

Yesterday, we had the privileged to be included in the ordination of a very special person we have known and loved for years!  We met Sarah at church and have quickly come to love her and her family.  My girls ADORE her and three years ago she saw a need in our small church and began our youth group.  Within that year, Sarah discerned about being a priest.  She always knew in her heart she would be a priest and the time had come to begin the process of starting seminary.  After two years of school, she is ordained a transitional diaconate.  She has one more year left of seminary and then next year will be ordained a priest.   Sarah asked Meagan to Acolyte for the service.  She was so honored to be able to do this and be a part of something so special for Sarah.  The service took place at our Cathedral downtown and is presided by our Bishop for this diocese. (There were actually four being ordained.)  Today at church, Sarah was able to worship with us as a deacon.  When she stepped up to the altar this morning, tears came to my eyes.  I knew in my heart that this is where Sarah belonged.  Not necessarily at our church (although we would love it) BUT at the altar!

Meagan before the service began getting some instructions.

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She was so excited to serve in our cathedral

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The procession was quite long – three sets of crosses.  Meagan was asked to carry the House of the Bishop Cross.  They were the last group to enter the cathedral.

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Bishop Barry Beisner laying his hands on Sarah’s head and ordaining her as a Deacon.

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He then gives her a bible so she can proclaim the gospel.

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These next few ones are harder to see as I was dodging heads in front of me, but she was setting the table to begin the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

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The Rev. Sarah Quinney and Meagan!

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This morning I realized I still had my camera in my purse, so I quickly snapped this.  She was setting the table for the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

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A deacon in the Episcopal Church assists with the liturgy and with the sacraments.  They cannot offer God’s blessing to the people or the forgiveness of of sins.

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Squaw Valley Hike

This past weekend I was hoping for some quality family time.  It was a long weekend and we had many chores around the house to be done, but I knew I wanted to try and do a new hike and preferably in the Lake Tahoe area where it was a little cooler.  We absolutely love Tahoe and it is so close to us!  We came home from church, had a quick lunch, changed out clothes and headed up to Squaw Valley.  We followed the directions in my book and wound our way back to the trail head.  It was an easy hike, but you definitely were climbing over some rocks along the trail, but it was a great trail and many others were out and about.  We had no information about where we were going or how far, but we just explored.  Sometimes those can be the most fun!!  The trail follows along Squaw Creek, which was surprisingly moving right along since we are in a drought!

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The girls both love to climb the bigger rocks.

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Maddie is taking in the view around her!

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Different views along the creek.

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Maddie towards the beginning of the hike trying to see the river – we could hear it!  Rick is just taking in the beauty around us – the trees, the blue sky, and the quiet of being outside!

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More of the creek

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One of the waterfalls

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Love this picture of them!!

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We actually climbed out to these rocks to take these pictures.  Rick was just sure we could get over the river and get closer – we chose not to try!

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The four of us

We saw this great log along the way.  I thought it would make a cute picture – Rick and Meagan hopped on and thought nothing of it!  Maddie on the other hand is the girly girl – she was all worried about what bugs might be crawling along the log!                                   She always keeps us laughing!

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So Rick is always looking for a way to embarrass the kids after all it is a right of a parent, is it not?  We had purchased some clothes for his upcoming mission trip to Haiti in the fall (more about that later) and he decided he would give the clothes a try for the hike and be sure they were going to work.  Maddie was hysterical when she saw him come out with these clothes on!  She thought he looked like a dork!  Well, she quickly forgets until we start heading back to the car!  Rick decides to try taking the bottom of the pant leg off and turning his pants into shorts.  I think everyone could hear the two of them going back and forth.  He walked a few car lengths with just one pant leg to really get at her.  BUT if you notice in the picture – it is Maddie who is taking a picture with her phone of her “embarrassing dad” and posting it!  She loves it – we know it!!

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We hope to make it back to this hike later in the year.  We know there will not be as much water in the creek with the way our drought is going, but you can actually follow this trail all the way to High Camp, which is at the top of Squaw.  We didn’t have time to go that far and I told Rick if we did, we were riding the gondola back down!!  We ended this afternoon trip with pizza in Squaw Village and walked around the fair they had going on and then headed home.  This is definitely on my list to do again!!

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Point Reyes Lighthouse

This has been on our bucket list of places to go for awhile now.  We have tried a couple of times to make the day trip and things would come up or the weather would not be good.  FINALLY we were able to go on Good Friday (Friday before Easter).  Rick and I both took the day off and the kids were out of school.  It was a much needed family day and the bonus was we were disconnected for 4 hours due to the location.  It was quite funny when we did drive back into cell phone range though – all four phones starting “dinging”.

The drive out to this area is really pretty – lots of small towns and then old farms that were established in the late 1800’s.  They each had signs so you would know how old they were.  We had stopped at a Subway at the last town before heading out to the lighthouse and put our sandwiches in a cooler.  As we neared the coast, it started to get foggy and we were concerned we would be socked in and not be able to see much.  It was super windy when we arrived, so we ate our lunch in the car then headed out to explore.  We had no idea what we were going to find – all I had ever heard was what a great place this was to visit!

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The views were incredible and the fog had lifted while we were eating.  It was a beautiful day even though it was quite windy!!  I think it probably typically is there on the coast.

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I just loved the trees along our path – as you can see it is all paved to the lighthouse.  The first lookout we went to above was a dirt path through the bushes.

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The girls

While we were walking we kept wondering “Where is the lighthouse?”  Usually you can see them standing tall, but here you cannot.  This lighthouse is actually down on a cliff!!

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To get to it you have to go down over 300 steps!!!!  (which means you have to come up over 300 steps!!!)  Needless to say, we worked off the Subway sandwich we had eaten!  This is not a very tall lighthouse either, which you can see a person walking around the deck of the lighthouse to gain perspective of height.

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Sign for stairs

There was another path that the girls wanted to explore from the parking lot.  Rick and I followed to the observation deck, but the girls kept climbing up the hill to the top!

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After all the exploring the lighthouse area, we decided to go check out one of the many beaches they have in this national park.  We all LOVE the beach – it is one of our many happy places!!  We spend time walking around and exploring the beach and just taking in all the beauty around us!!

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If you are ever in Northern California and can take the time – I highly recommend this area!!  And the best part – it is FREE!!!  We thought for sure we would have to pay to get in, but we did not!  This was definitely one of my favorite days!

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Simple Cornbread Casserole

My dear sister-in-law shared this recipe with me from Cooking Light.  It goes so well with grilled burgers, tacos, quesadillas, grilled hot dogs – okay, just about anything!

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Here is what you need:

  • 2 egg whites (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no-salt-added whole-kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no-salt-added cream-style corn
  • 1 (8 1/2-ounce) package corn muffin mix
  • 1 (8-ounce) carton plain fat-free yogurt
  • Cooking spray

Here is what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir well. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until set.
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Chicken Parmesan Casserole

I have been scoring with the family lately with new recipes!!!  And I love this one because it is all in one dish, which allows for easy clean up!  Our dishwasher has been out, so we have been hand washing – the less dishes used for a meal the less to wash!!

Ingredients:

2 lbs. raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped (I didn’t have any, so I just sprinkled in some of my dried basil)

2 cups marinara/pasta sauce (I used Ragu Traditional)

1 1/2 cups. shredded mozzarella cheese

2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese

3.5 oz. garlic croutons, roughly crushed, leaving some larger pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray with cooking spray a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Spread the cubed pieces of chicken across the bottom of the baking dish in a single layer.  Sprinkle the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and basil evenly over the chicken.  Spread the sauce evenly across the top.  On top of the sauce sprinkle the mozzarella and one ounce of the Parmesan evenly across the dish.  Sprinkle the crushed croutons across the top and follow the the remaining ounce of Parmesan.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

I found this recipe on Emily Bites.

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Loaded Teriyaki Ranch Chicken

This recipe is a breeze, and quite the show stopper! I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it for company.

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Here is what you need:

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
  • 1 cup teriyaki marinade
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 – 2 cups cheese, monterey jack, colby or cheddar all work well
  • 3 – 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 – 3 green onions, sliced thin

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Here is what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place the chicken in a baking dish and allow to marinade in the teriyaki marinade for 30 minutes or up to several hours.

3. Spoon ranch dressing over each chicken piece.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until chicken is not longer pink.

4. Sprinkle cheese, bacon and green onion on each piece and return to the oven for 5 – 7 minutes, until the cheese is melted and gooey and just delicious!

We enjoy this marinade:

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Enjoy! This recipe is adapted from SixSistersStuff.com

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Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches (Plus more Spring Slow Cooker Meals)

Even though it is warming up outside, I still rely on my slow cooker for weeknight meals.  It is time to say goodbye to the heavy winter roasts and stews and enjoy some lighter, more seasonal slow cooker meals.  This barbecue chicken is the perfect fit.  I make my own sauce with a few simple ingredients.  We like a sweet barbecue sauce, you could omit some of the brown sugar and add 1 tsp ground red hot pepper flakes for some heat.  Or you could buy a bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce and call it a day!

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Here is what you need:

  • 1 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Worchestire sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Here is what you do:

1. Combine the first 6 ingredients together.

2. Place chicken in a slow cooker and pour the sauce over to cover them.

3. Cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

4. Shred with two forks and enjoy on a toasted bun!

 

For some other Spring or Summer Slow Cooker Meals, try Missy’s Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches.

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Or try J

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