Searching for simple

This week I put myself through the ringer trying to get back on track after being gone for a few days at a leadership institute (more on that later since it’s going to be a really big focus for my year of being intentional). I didn’t do an extensive search like I normally do to select my new recipes for the week, but somehow I managed to pick two that I’m absolutely going to make again.

Monday evening I was reminded of why I tend to plan for crock pot recipes at the beginning of the week. I went back and forth about which of my two planned recipes would be the fastest to whip up after spin class so that I wasn’t eating at 8:30 p.m. I settled on a one pot pasta with tomatoes, basil and chicken sausage since it appeared to require less of my attention.

I chose correctly — it was incredibly easy and quick to throw together. And it tasted delicious! I’ll admit I was a bit nervous since there wasn’t any sauce for it. I actually had a can of Italian style crushed tomatoes to throw in just in case. But somehow the tomatoes and basil come through to make it light and full of flavor. It didn’t pair quite as well with the fresh green beans….but they were on sale and they remind me of summer (which I’m more than ready for, at least weather wise).

one pot pasta

The leftovers weren’t quite as juicy but still good. Had I not reheated the leftovers at work, I might have added a bit of chicken broth or the diced tomatoes to it just so the pasta had a bit more liquid.

On Wednesday evening I made a dish that would have been perfect paired with pasta, though I’d talked myself out of the pasta part since I was having my one pot pasta leftovers for lunch.

Instead I paired the smothered chicken with mushroom gravy with vegetables, which seemed to work well. I’ve more or less given up on trying to cook chicken breasts on the stove while they’re whole. Instead it’s easier to cut them up into pieces — not only to eating it later, but also to ensure they’re fully cooked.

smothered chicken

The leftovers yesterday were just as good, and I ended up mixing it with the vegetables. I kept thinking it would all be fantastic mixed with pasta (almost like a stroganoff), so that’s my plan for the next time I make this recipe. I still can’t get over how delicious it was. Sometimes the simple and straight-forward really pays off!

Intentional about intuitive eating

On Sunday as I was meal planning for the week, I came across a slow cooker creamy chicken crock pot recipe. It looked delicious and really simple to throw together. Plus it reminded me of a dish a friend made for me (with pasta instead of rice) during my last week in Columbia that I loved. (It’s hard to believe that was exactly a year ago!)

I did my typical, “okay, how healthy is this?” questioning before deciding whether to put it on the docket. I was torn since it called for cream of chicken and cream cheese (kind of selling points for me since it’s likely what makes it delicious…) and no vegetables (though they could be added). Should I find modifications? Find a different recipe?

And then to my surprise, I decided I didn’t care. I put it on the list and made it Monday evening. In addition to the can of cream of chicken, I also used cream of mushroom. (The blogger is right — with more chicken, two cans helps.) The smell alone when I walked into the house after spin class was worth it.

Why the shift? It’s primarily because in the last week or two, I’ve been focusing on intuitive eating (you could say it’s another area where I’m trying to be intentional). It’s something the little talked about while we were home for the holidays, and a rockstar I got my MPH with posted this article about it on her facebook page. (I rarely put plugs out there, but if you’re interested in healthy living topics, Real Nutrition and Fitness LLC is beyond fantastic!) The article drove home the point that by saying I probably shouldn’t have something because it wasn’t healthy, I was actually creating an unhealthy view of that food.

With intuitive eating, nothing is off-limits. It’s similar to the “everything in moderation” approach to eating without that moderation restriction. It’s about eating to fuel your body and knowing when you’re full. What I also love is that it’s about having a healthy relationship with food. I don’t need to beat myself up or somehow justify having a dish that had cream cheese (I don’t want to estimate how many times I’ve said or even written on my blog, “I know this isn’t all that healthy but…”).

Plus I was able to balance the meal out, and that’s what really counts. I paired the creamy chicken with brown rice mixed with quinoa (a genius idea from a co-worker!) and loaded up on veggies as a side. So really, the “unhealthy” thing I was torn about only constituted a portion of an otherwise healthy meal. And it was delicious to boot! Comfort food without being too heavy, which I always love.

creamy chicken

Last night I also did a balancing act of sorts (with trying to make half my plate veggies) when I tried an oven-roasted sausage, potatoes and peppers recipe. This is comparable to another recipe or two I’ve tried, but it’s the first time I’ve used banana peppers (which I love!).

I’ll confess that banana peppers were the only peppers I used, but it turned out to be just the right amount of flavor for me — primarily because I used chipotle and pepperjack chicken sausage. So delicious! The leftovers were equally great, too. What was really surprisingly is that I only used salt, pepper and garlic powder as seasonings. The strong flavor from the peppers and sausage made me a bit thankful I didn’t throw in red pepper flakes.

sausage potato pepper

I’d say intuitive eating is definitely winning this week (though it’s still an interesting mindset shift I’m trying to make). It also doesn’t hurt that I’m getting way more steps now that the weather is gorgeous and Hurley gets double the time walking. We don’t mess around with this spring weather and extra hour of sunlight!

Intentional scheduling

As I’m trying to establish somewhat of a new routine, my focus of being intentional is shifting from my house to my schedule. (Primarily because I no longer have to dedicate my free time to packing or unpacking boxes!) I’m trying to be more strategic in how I schedule my days to hopefully maximize my productivity and balance.

A few weeks ago my life coach had me track my energy levels throughout the week. Using the energy levels log template I found on this website, I created my own tracking system in excel (naturally…) and was really surprised by the results. I actually found that on days when I work out at 5:30/6 p.m., I’m usually at a level 7 or 8 while I’m working out. The hour leading up to it, though, I’m only at a 2 or 3. No wonder I have to muster up a lot of motivation and accountability to get myself to the gym!

Having this information allows me to be more intentional about when I tackle certain things in my life. I shouldn’t aim to start a new project at work or make a personal budget on a day or during a period of time when I naturally have lower levels of energy. Those are the times when I can focus on less draining activities, like laundry or organizing my work inbox.

Not that there is always that flexibility or option, though. I can’t schedule every meeting I have during periods of high energy/engagement. But I can make small tweaks. I’ve noticed, for example, that my energy level really drops right before lunch. My solution? Scheduling my walking break with a co-worker around that time.

What was also an interesting discovery for me is that there were times when I would have high energy levels (in part due to coffee…) but couldn’t really capitalize on it because I didn’t have much focus. Those were times when I’d try to tackle half a dozen things but not really accomplish anything (probably because I got overwhelmed by having four draft emails, two excel spreadsheets and three word documents open).

As luck should have it, I was reflecting on all of this around the time that I was reading Life Makeovers by Cheryl Richardson. (My life coach was inspired to become a life coach because of this woman, so naturally I had to read a few of her books, too.) It helped me have another “a-ha!” moment when it came to focus and my need to cultivate that more:

“Teaching yourself to stay focused on one project, goal or opportunity at a time will not only allow you to be more productive and effective, it can also challenge you to go more deeply into the task at hand and bring forth more creative insight and wisdom. Too often we try to ‘cover all the bases,’ respond to every opportunity, or provide every possible service that someone might need, in hopes of striking success. But the truth is, long-term, sustainable success often comes from the ability to stay focused on one project or goal at a time.”

That’s what I’m hoping to be more intentional about in the coming weeks, particularly at work. On any given day, I’m dealing with at least five different program areas. On Thursday afternoon, for example, I had back-to-back meetings. The first focused on evaluating early childcare education nutrition standards, the second on data collection for our diabetes prevention program evaluation plan and the final on patient-centered medical home clinic transformation.

I don’t mention that to complain or toot my own horn. I love the diversity of my job and the fact that I’m helping evaluate so many different facets of chronic disease prevention and control that collectively could help individuals lead healthier lives. But I can tell you it takes a toll on my energy levels and what I feel I’m giving to each program.

As I mentioned earlier, I can’t always control when all my meetings or webinars are scheduled. What I can control, though, is how I spend my non-meeting time at work. Perhaps on Mondays I focus just on school health and on Tuesday I look at our diabetes prevention programs. Would creating a structure like that enable me to be more intentional and focused with the projects I’ve got at a given time?

That will be my area of focus for the next couple of weeks. Then I’ll move on to the larger focus of my life schedule since it does extend beyond just work. I love that Richardson mentioned that we try to cover all our basis and offer any service to others in hopes to gaining success. Hello, well-rounded over-achiever! In fact, one of the current “assignments” from my life coach is to identify all the balls I’m juggling and look at which ones (whether it’s volunteer opportunities or specific classes at the gym) I might be able to drop. I’ll have to plan for that activity when I’ve got a higher level of energy…

New place, space and recipes

This week is all about creating a new normal. Minus some very small hiccups (naturally including some snow), the move this weekend was successful and by Sunday evening I was more or less unpacked (because let’s be honest, Hurley and I couldn’t stand the sight of boxes and clutter anymore).

Monday night I really contemplated just heating up hot dogs or a can of soup and calling that dinner. It was 7:30 by the time I got home, meaning I was tired, hungry and impatient. But I splurged enough during the weekend and knew I needed to get back on track.

Thankfully this blackened chicken with cilantro-lime quinoa dish was faster and easier to whip up than I’d anticipated. Without a doubt, it was worth the extra 20 minutes it took to make dinner compared to heating up a can of soup. Not to mention much more satisfying and tasty!

For some reason I haven’t had much success in ending up with “pretty” chicken when I cook it on the stove. It cooks thoroughly (which is why it never looks presentable — I cut it all up in chunks to make sure it’s cooked all the way through) but the presentation suffers. But with an end result like this, who cares?!

Chicken and quinoa

The dish had so much flavor! I probably added a bit more seasonings to the chicken than the recipe called for, but it was just the right amount when it was paired with the flavor-packed quinoa. The chicken was actually a bit spicier as leftovers, and I’m happy to report it’s just as good on the second and third day.

Tonight I gave myself I night off — nothing but light cleaning, cooking and snuggling Hurley (my poor baby is finally less anxious about being in a new place).

For some reason I’d been craving a black bean burger but wanted to try a new recipe since I haven’t been over the moon about ones I’ve tried in the past (primarily because they never stay together). What’s genius about this spicy black bean burger recipe is that you freeze them for two hours before cooking. I had no issues whatsoever flipping them! Problem solved!

I doubled the recipe, in part because I didn’t want to have a Father of the Bride moment where I’ve got 4-5 black bean burgers and eight buns. Plus they should make for good leftovers through the weekend. I’m still just impressed they all stayed in-tact and cooked so thoroughly despite being frozen!

Black bean burger

As they were finishing on the stove, I decided to get a bit creative with them. One set of burgers had a mozzarella cheese, some had sharp cheddar cheese and for one of my burgers I actually used feta cheese (though I wasn’t quite as hungry as I thought so some went uneaten).

Tomorrow evening I may try to find a sauce to pair with the other burgers just to jazz it up a bit. The feta cheese, though, was a surprisingly great contrast. And the green beans definitely helped even out the flavor. While I didn’t use sriracha like the recipe called for, I threw in crushed red peppers and some jerk chicken seasoning. The burgers had some fire to it so I appreciated the side of beans.

I’m glad I ending up choosing simple yet relatively healthy recipes to tackle this week — and they weren’t even crock pot recipes! We’ll be back in the swing of things before we know it…but for the time being, I’m going to smother my overly attached labrador. <3

Type A at it’s finest

I had a wild weekend, let me tell you. Actually, this weekend and upcoming week are quite an adrenaline rush for a Type A planner like myself. I’ve been trying to get my ducks in a row for the move and most of my weekend was decided to just that.

Friday started with a final trip to the grocery store before the move (I’m being intentional with how much I eat out this year and I don’t want to blow that too much during my move process). I also wanted to celebrate National Love Your Pet Day (side note: Lindsay had her first article as a freelancer on that very topic!) with a trip to the dog park. (Although truth be told, that was primarily to wear him out so he wasn’t so anxious as I packed boxes later…)

Hurley bear

After BodyCombat came dinner. I’m not sure if anyone knows (although my family is well aware) how much I love ham. Love it. It almost has the effect that turkey has from tryptophan. It’s comfort food at it’s finest for me.

Anywho, I had leftover ham and decided to make a one pan chicken cordon bleu pasta. This shows you how much I’ve had chicken cordon bleu (or love ham, I suppose) — when I was making my grocery list, I honestly stopped to think, “Wait, why do I need to get chicken? I’ve got ham.”

It’d been one of those weeks, my friends.

Thankfully the dish went off without a hitch. I added more ham than the recipe called for (and probably cheese since I didn’t measure that). For the broiling part, though, I switched the pasta to a casserole dish. The handle on my pan is wobbly and I didn’t trust it in the oven on broil. Plus this gives me a better way to store my leftovers. The broiling part definitely brings the whole dish together.

chicken cordon bleu

I also made another “dish” Friday night. My bananas were starting to turn mushy so I decided to bake some banana bread. Not the normal way, though. I opted for a crock pot banana bread.

There was a moment of hesitation before I started making it, though. I’d done a quick search on pinterest for crock pot banana bread, but I probably should have included the word healthy. Not that it would have made a huge difference, though. This was super easy to whip together. I also added cinnamon and oatmeal to the top for a bit more flavor.

I’ll confess I had an unnecessary moment of concern about putting the paper towel on before the crock pot lid. I’d never done that before and since I was leaving Hurley to go to the gym, I didn’t want there to be some freak accident. Thankfully all was safe when I returned home.

I’m not sure if it was the paper towel trick or the low setting on my crock pot is just super low, but it took a bit longer to bake than I thought. I started it around 4:30 and finally unplugged the crock pot at 10 p.m. The top was still a little doughy but the rest was cooked thoroughly and tasted delicious. (The missing piece was my way of making sure it was cooked all the way through.)

banana bread

I’ve got one more crock pot recipe on the docket for this evening to round out my meals for the week. There’s no doubt that this week will be brought to you by coffee and more Type A behavior!

Intentional living space

I’ve been somewhat quiet about my word for the year, though I can assure you it’s not because I’ve forgotten about it or put it on the back burner. I’d be lame and say it’s because I’m trying to be intentional about what I post about my pursuits, but that’s not the case either.

Having to move did throw me for a loop in terms of kicking off the year. The things I thought I would get to focus on in terms of intention (time and energy were the big ones) fell to the wayside a bit. But it’s also been a perfect opportunity to be intentional about something a little different — and something I probably wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Right now I’m trying to be intentional about my living space.

Last week I took a community education class on feng shui, which was actually my second class on it with the same instructor because I find her so engaging. Plus it’s an interesting way to think about home décor and de-cluttering. One of the big points she stressed (though I’ve heard it elsewhere before) is that everything in your house should be useful, sentimental or beautiful. When I walk into my house, does it feel like home? Does it reflect me? Are there any items that spur negative emotions (the example the instructor gave is high school year books if you hated high school) that I can toss or donate?

Despite purging quite a bit last year when I moved to Lincoln, it’s ridiculous how quickly stuff can accumulate again. And thankfully this time around my level of sentimentalism (if that’s even a word) has decreased a bit since my move this time is 5 minutes instead of 5 hours. I can be more intentional about what stays and what goes. Have I actually used all my clothes, kitchen items and crafts in the last year? Am I honestly going to look through my economics or foundations of new governance notes again?

Those tend to be more rational questions, though. This time (although I’ll preface that it sounds a bit new age….) I’ve been aided by what I learned in my feng shui classes and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to focus on how I feel about objects. (Again, I know it sounds strange.)

As an example, though, I love my custom-built kitchen counter (hello new coffee bar!) and my entertainment center (which will likely become a new color in the next couple weeks). Those are pieces that were crafted with hard work and family, that are specific to me and what I love. You couldn’t pay me to give those things up in the move.

But there are also items that I’m not crazy about or that don’t necessarily bring out those positive emotions. That’s where I’m trying to be more intentional about sending them on their merry way.

With seemingly perfect timing, just a couple days ago someone on facebook posted a #40bagsin40days challenge. I immediately decided to embark on it to help with this process. Not only will it help me with packing and setting up my new house, but it will also help me accomplish my 30 Before 30 goal of going through my photos and computer files. The focus of just one area a day (though the next few days are about to get hectic with that), helps me take baby steps and not feel so overwhelmed with all the clutter (though it’s primarily the electronic clutter that’s driving me nuts). Just yesterday I whittled my work inbox down to nine emails. NINE!

But I digress.

I think part of the reason I was so resistant to moving is that I love what my home became. For the first time since leaving my parent’s house a decade ago, I feel like my living space finally reflects me and the things I love. But my hunch is that will happen much faster in my new home. I’ve been given another opportunity to purge and be intentional about what goes where — with more space and a sunroom!

your home

If only the long process of packing and physical moving didn’t come first…

Keeping it simple

Easy is the name of the game for the next two weeks. And probably for a few days beyond that if I’m being honest.

I gave myself a mini-break by spending the three-day weekend with the parents. Now with my move only 10 days away (and I have yet to pack a single thing…), it’s time to get down to business. Plus getting back early Monday afternoon meant I wanted to keep my trip to the grocery store super short and sweet.

For my dinner last night (and thus leftovers for the rest of the week), I tried a crock pot spinach and mushroom lasagna. It required a bit more prep work and dirty dishes than my other crock pot recipes have, but it was absolutely worth the effort.

In part because it was on sale, I used whole wheat lasagna. I also decided to use Italian ground turkey in the spaghetti sauce layer, which I think makes a great difference. Once the sauce and the ricotta/spinach layers were ready, the lasagna was easy to assemble. Plus my crock pot is almost the perfect size for lasagna noodles. The only ones I really had to trim were along the long edges.

Two hours later, I had this beauty.

crockpot lasagna

Probably because it’s smaller than the 9×13 casserole I’d normally use for lasagna, the layers were much thicker. It didn’t feel as thin and flimsy, for lack of a better word, as lasagna often seems to be when I make it (which quite honestly isn’t that often). This crock pot lasagna actually reminded me of a thick piece you’d likely get at an Italian restaurant, but made right at home.

The ricotta/spinach layer was just as delicious as the mushroom/ground turkey layer, plus it was a great way to get in extra vegetables. And all together, it was the perfect blend.

lasagna

Even the leftovers were fantastic — so much so that I don’t think I’ll have any problem eating it for the rest of the week.

Now if only I could motivate myself to start packing… Hurley’s just such a good distraction, especially since he’s so sleepy and cuddly from his weekend adventure!

Hurley

Intentional goal setting

It’s time to switch gears from recipes again for a more life chatty post.

One really great thing I’ve done for myself this year as part of my focus on intention is get a life coach. Crazy, right?! But I figure if I aspire to be one, it wouldn’t hurt to go through the process to get a better understanding of it.

The larger reason for getting one, though, was to help me be more purposeful about the direction of life. I had a lot of life changes last year, many of them fantastic. I moved so that I’m much closer to family, I’ve got a fantastic furbaby, I’m finally in a house instead of an apartment, and in some ways I have the dream job I’d been working toward for six years. And yet I couldn’t help but think, “Now what?” It’s hard to be intentional about how you spend your time, money and energy when you don’t really know what’s next or what you’re working toward.

It’s a question that’s led to many interesting conversations. I’ve been so fortunate to find the life coach that I have. Typically sessions are supposed to be 45 minutes long, and I have yet to have one that’s less than an hour because of our rich discussions. We’re so similar in personalities (further confirming for me that becoming a life coach is a goal of mine) that she keeps imparting this advice to me — it’s okay to be comfortable and content for awhile. It’s something that’s taken her years to learn because, like me, she always felt like she needed to be working toward something bigger and better.

The most recent conversation was about those larger goals. I’m better learning to distinguish between what I actually want and what I wish I wanted. Do I want to be a mover and shaker in the community because it’s something I really aspire to, or in reality, would working toward that goal just exhaust me as an introvert with a relatively full plate already? Sometimes I have to recognize and accept that those goals are better suited for other people.

Earlier this week Liz Gilbert (who you all know I love) published an article almost about this very thing but with a slightly different take on it. Instead of striving to be perfect, we should accept that we’re going to stumble and fall. But it was this paragraph in particular that resonated most with me:

Let’s just anticipate that we (all of us) will disappoint ourselves somehow. Go ahead and let it happen. Let somebody else be a better mother than you for one afternoon. Let somebody else go to art school. Let somebody else have a happy marriage, while you foolishly pick the wrong guy. (Hell, I’ve done it; it’s survivable.) While you’re at it, take the wrong job. Move to the wrong city. Lose your temper in front of the boss, quit training for that marathon, wolf down a truckload of cupcakes the day after you start your diet. Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted — by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on.

That’s exactly what my life coach is trying to teach me. Let others take on those roles and goals (the ones that I just wish I wanted) instead of me. Or in the plain words of the little, “you do you, booboo.”

It’s hard not to feel a bit of jealousy when you see others around you aspiring to great goals — training for half marathons, joining a board of directors, purchasing a house, starting a business. And it’s hard not to be inspired by their energy and want to jump on that band wagon.

My life coach’s advice? Let them do their thing. Be excited for them, but don’t force that upon yourself unless it’s a craving you have for your life, too. It also helps to recognize that perhaps the person training for a half marathon has had this goal for years. Or it may signify something big in their life, a battle that they’ve overcome. I shouldn’t force myself to train for a half marathon just because others view that as a measure of success for themselves.

All of this is easier said than done, of course, but I’m making much better strides at looking at my goals and being honest about what I want to pursue and what’s perhaps not suited for me. Not only that, but I’m less likely to beat myself up for not having those goals for myself as well. It may seem like common sense, but it’s taking some great life coaching to be a more natural acceptance for me — finally!

Perfect timing

This weekend proved to be quite a contrast to the last, and the gorgeous weather definitely put a spring in my step. Despite the 60-degree weather, though, I couldn’t resist pulling out the crock pot for a new dinner recipe.

Before taking Hurley out on a second walk (it’s my attempt to counter the effects of him being cooped up last week thanks to the 13 inches of snow), I started a skinny slow cooker chicken pot pie recipe. It’s one of my favorite perks of crock pot recipes — quick prep and then it just sits there for a couple hours. I actually used some of that time to make healthy banana bread baked oatmeal.

It didn’t take long to mix everything together for the baked oatmeal either (and there was next to no mess since it doesn’t require any flour or sugar!). I did end up adding in the 1/4 cup of maple syrup that the directions suggested as well as a sprinkle of brown sugar. While I love oats, I also wanted some sweet to it as well.

oatmeal

I thought the consistency would be similar to a banana bread, and in some ways it is. It almost reminds me moreso of those Quaker oatmeal bars, which I think will make for a perfect mid-morning snack this week. And I’m definitely glad I added in the maple syrup.

As the oatmeal bake was cooling, I put the frozen vegetables in the crock pot to finish up the pot pie recipe. Already I felt like this was much more successful than my actual chicken pot pie from a couple years ago — and not just because the portion size was more manageable. Having shredded chicken somehow made it better, and I was relieve to find that using almond milk instead of skim didn’t impact it at all (turns out almond milk doesn’t work well with pudding mixes…).

chicken pot pie

The timing was also nice since I pulled the banana oatmeal bake out of the oven just a few minutes before it was time to put in the biscuits. It’s probably better to have biscuits as opposed to a crust…except I bought two rolls so I can have fresh biscuits later in the week for leftovers. I can’t help that it’s my favorite part!

pot pie and biscuits

I may have to experiment with different seasonings and maybe crumbling the biscuit on top, but on the whole I loved it. The veggies were crisp and it had a thick consistency that reminded me of chicken and dumplings, obviously minus the dumplings. This crock pot dish was absolutely the way to go this evening. Perfect for a winter day, even when that day feels like spring. Not that this girl is complaining…

Twists on comfort food

It wasn’t until I started writing this post that I realized my recipes as of late are dishes that put a new spin on what I consider comfort food.

To kick off my weekend, on Friday night I made a one pot BBQ cheesy pasta. The primary change I made to the recipe is that instead of using a mac and cheese dinner box, I used veggie elbow pasta and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. It was really easy to whip together, and making it in one pot makes the prep and clean-up process so much easier.

I didn’t get a photo of it the night I made it since that’s when I launched my technology free weekend, but I don’t know that a photo would have done it justice anyway. The leftovers, while not as creamy as the initial batch, were still delicious.

bbq cheesy pasta

Last night I tried a crock pot Italian zucchini meatloaf. I made a couple modifications based on previous meatloaf recipes I’ve tried — primarily adding in mushrooms and also onions. And I only used 1.5 pounds of ground beef instead of 2 so I could save the other half pound for my recipe the following night. I’d actually been hoping to use ground turkey instead, but

What was great about this recipe is that I was able to use the extra zucchini as a side dish. Truth be told, I barely noticed the zucchini in the meatloaf (although I actually chopped mine up instead of doing the slices that the recipe called for). The Italian approach was unique and I think having mushrooms in it enhanced that flavor a bit. Thinking back on it, it almost tasted like big Italian meatballs.

meatloaf

I brought the crock pot out again tonight (because who doesn’t want something comforting after dealing with another 6 inches of snow?). This time I decided to try a crock pot pizza, though it’s a bit unique in that it doesn’t really have a crust. It was almost like preparing a lasagna with the various layers. My toppings were pretty similar to what was recommended in the recipe — artichokes, turkey pepperoni, black olives and mushrooms.

What was also nice is I was able to throw some of those toppings into my salad. It’s the first time I think I’ve used artichoke hearts into a salad, but I’m definitely a fan. The meal was just the right combination.

Pizza

The crock pot pizza really hit the spot. I’m half tempted to try it with a layer of pasta at the bottom, if only to soak up a bit more of the sauce. It would make it a less carb-friendly recipe, but that wasn’t my initial pull toward the recipe anyway. Comfort food in a crock pot — you really can’t go wrong!

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