Finding what works

As one of my gym buddies mentioned on facebook, a new months means a new opportunity to set new goals and/or revisit the ones you’ve already created for yourself.

Already I have slightly higher hopes for this month. We’re celebrating three birthdays (including my milestone — dun dun dun!) and I’ll take a trip up to see my parents for a three-day weekend. I also don’t anticipate having large work projects like I did last month, which should hopefully help with my balance. Somehow February always seems less daunting than January.

It was also nice to start the month off on a good note, though I suppose technically it was January. The weather was gorgeous (quite the contrast to today’s snow day) which allowed me to take Hurley to the dog park (and subsequently to get a bath) and get a long walk in the next day. Somehow the weather and increased activity helped give me a natural boost in energy to tackle things that had been looming on my personal to-do list.

Oh, and I officially have one month under my belt with the Day One app! I’ll have to decide if this is going to be a daily thing throughout the full year (I’m leaning toward it just so I’m in the habit of reflecting on the silver linings of the day, much like a gratitude journal).

Day One

I’m still limiting the number of new recipes I try. I’ve been surprised at how easy it’s been and how content I’ve been with having the same lunch (granted with variations) each week day. Although I enjoy cooking, cutting it in half has been fantastic.

Last week I made shepherd’s pie, which is a new recipe for me in that I haven’t made it myself (I’ve had it a few times with others, though). Who knew you could create semi-mashed potatoes without having an electric beater or masher?! That was the perk to this recipe. As always, I threw in more vegetables than the original recipe called for, but it always pays off.

Shepherds pie

I’m still torn on shepherd’s pie. I think because it reminds me a cross between pot roast and tator tot casserole, and I prefer both of those to shepherd’s pie. But it was nice to mix things up a bit.

pie2

Last night, in preparation for the snow day, I decided to try a stromboli recipe. My downfall with this (similar to burritos) is that I try to include too much so wrapping it is a bit difficult. In addition to the italian sausage and turkey pepperoni, I also included mushrooms and black olives. I wanted to add in pineapple but I knew I’d be pushing it.

The dough ripped a bit but surprisingly it came out in one piece.

Stromboli

I’ve decided it may not pay to be fancy. In other words, I’m probably better off sticking with a regular pizza or the pizza casserole I tried the other week. But either way it’s another easy recipe I wouldn’t have to look up in a pinch to make dinner.

Here’s to a new month, accomplishing goals and finding opportunities to hit the reset button (like today’s snow day)!

Creating checkpoints

For being a short week it felt incredibly long. As predicted, the newness of the year has worn off and I was reminded of why I selected “create” as my word in the first place.

Thankfully I think the four changes I’ve talked about thus far have made a small difference. I’ll admit that what’s been frustrating is that I think the tool that would help me the most (passion planner) is the one that’s been the most difficult to fully incorporate, though I recognize that’s primarily on me.

I’ve made a concerted effort to sit down on Sunday nights and look at my work week. I like picking out what I want the focus of at least three days to be, somewhat based on meetings and deadlines. Unfortunately it’s been hard to hold true to that. My weeks often end up being more reactive than proactive, and that’s where the tension starts.

To say I get pulled in a lot of directions in a given week is an understatement. My position is responsible for evaluating eight interventions, partnerships and team structure for two grants. How do I better prioritize and balance those areas? What committees and workgroups best align with our work? Which meetings are truly essential for me to attend?

One of my goals this year is creating opportunities for better focus and natural energy. Typically at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. One day this week I had six hours worth of meetings. In a row. On any given day I could have to focus on school health, self-management programs, medicaid data matching and health disparities. How do I minimize the mental drain and more effectively tackle my work?

It’s something I know I have to continue working on, which is why I think the passion planner could really help. I might need to take some time this weekend to figure out how to better utilize the planner to approach my weeks (a true evaluator!).

On the plus side, the passion planner is responsible for one great change. One of my personal goals for the month was to try BodyFlow at the gym. Part of creating the life I’d like is diversifying some of my workouts. Not only did I get to BodyPump this week, but the middle and I gave BodyFlow a shot (it helped that my regular spin instructor had a sub…).

I’ve fallen in love with BodyFlow. It’s a mix of yoga, pilates and meditation. My body is really stiff and tight with all my cardio efforts, so this should be just what I need. Plus I walked out of there feeling like a million bucks. Definitely a way to have more natural energy and better focus.

I’ll also mention that it’s helped quite a bit to scale back on my cooking. It’s really simplified things to plan on a soup, salad and/or sandwich for lunch each day, and surprisingly I haven’t grown tired of it yet. Plus I don’t have the dreaded task each weekend of trying to find new recipes to try. My meal planning time has essentially been cut in half.

Although I did try a new recipe this week — deep dish pizza casserole. It was a quick process and reheating it the oven for leftovers made it fantastic. Next time I might make my own crust, though it was nice that I could roll it out and it fit the casserole dish perfectly. And I’d likely get more creative with my toppings. I added in black olives, mushrooms and turkey pepperoni. I really wish I would have though to pick up pineapples as well, but there’s always next time.

deep dish pizza

I was also proud of myself for sending a new recipe to the middle that I knew I shouldn’t make just for myself. Half of it would get thrown out because I’m not great at eating leftovers, especially when it comes to soup (at least when it’s a new recipe and I’m not sure how much I’ll like it).

Thankfully on Tuesday night while I was at a board meeting (hopefully an exciting update on that next month!), the middle made chicken gnocchi soup. Particularly with the cold temps and snow, it really hit the spot.

Chicken gnocchi

I’ve only tried a bite or two of the gnocchi soup at Olive Garden, but other than being a bit creamier than this recipe, the middle and her boyfriend said it’s pretty comparable. It almost reminded me of a chicken and dumpling soup. Definitely something to have on my radar for a good winter dish.

Although this week was a bit trying for me, I’m also proud that I’ve been taking time to check in with myself so I can readjust (which I think is where the Day One app really comes in handy — and I’ve officially journaled for 22 days now!). I’m getting better at recognizing the triggers that formed the habits and patterns I’m trying to break so that I can have better balance and energy in life. Even though it’ll take work, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on my new year’s goals and perspectives. As we say on our team, onward and upward!

But first I’m going to hit up a BodyCombat and BodyFlow class to get me in the right headspace. 😉 When all else fails, there’s always a good workout and cuddle time with the pup.

Creating the first week

I think I’m in the honeymoon phase, if you will, of the new year (and not just because I finally have a functional laptop!). I actually think Brene Brown described it perfectly on facebook the other day:

brene

This week I’ve been slowly getting back into the routine while incorporating my new habits. I love using the Day One app each evening and I think my nightly routine may pay off over time. Thinking back, there was only one evening where the alarm had to prompt me to start gearing down for bed (and I was so proud for wrapping up what I was doing and actually getting ready for bed).

I’ve become more conscious of the time and have found myself starting the process much earlier. Monday night right after dinner, for example, I curled up on the couch with Hurley and Brene Brown’s book while a fireplace Netflix video played on my television. Way more enjoyable than trying to be productive!

Tuesday night

Even better is that I’ve been in bed by 10:15 every night this week. That’s huge for me.

I’ve also made another change in the new year in an attempt to simplify my life a bit. For lunches, instead of bringing leftovers, I’m aiming to stick to salads, soups and/or sandwiches. I’ll admit I’ve resisted this kind of approach for quite some time. I worried (and to some degree still do) that I’ll tire of it quickly. How am I going to stick with the same types of food day in and day out?

By having variety, that’s hopefully how. I decided to start off with a bang this week, which may or may not work in my favor with this new habit.

On Sunday evening I got everything ready — hoagie buns and avocados along with Tupperware for cracked pepper turkey, spicy mustard, cabbage and black olives for sandwiches. I prepped the salad as much as I could with lettuce, mandarin oranges and a hardboiled egg, then used Tupperware for my homemade dressing (purchased a blueberry vinegar and it’s fan-freakin’-tastic) and sunflower seeds.

It took some time, but I had everything ready for nearly the whole week’s worth of lunches. And what I really love is that everything seems so fresh when it comes time for lunch. It only takes a couple minutes to get everything put together, and I’m way more excited about this lunch than I ever was for a majority of my leftovers.

lunches

What’s also nice is that it’s cut down on how much I’m cooking, which certainly adds to my evenings. Last night, for example, I made a turkey taco casserole. It took probably 20 minutes to throw together before it baked (I added in the kidney beans).

Taco casserole

Taco casserole dinner

Even though I started cooking right when I got home from spin class, I didn’t sit down to eat dinner until shortly after 8. By the time I’ve eaten and cleaned up, I barely have any evening left to enjoy. That’s partially how I end up burning the midnight oil, since it’s not until nearly 8:30 or 9 that I can start cramming in my non-cooking tasks for the evening.

That also brings up an affiliated goal. For each new recipe I try, I want to make something (or ideal a few things to have a better ratio) I already know. I’ve already created a list of 10 meals that don’t require me to look at any recipe — pasta dishes, tacos, homemade pizza, etc.  This week, for example, I made the spaghetti and turkey meatballs recipe I tried a couple weeks ago. Made it on Sunday and used the leftovers for dinner this week.

I really went back and forth on whether this was something I wanted to do. As much as I love cooking and trying new recipes, it’s not necessarily conducive to my lifestyle anymore. I got into the habit of trying two new recipes a week when I lived in Columbia. At that time, though, I didn’t have a dog and the only gym classes I went to were on Sundays, Tuesday mornings and Wednesday evenings.

Life now is very different, particularly in terms of my schedule. I want time in the evenings to be with Hurley and there’s a specific class at the gym I could, if I wanted to, attend each day of the week (and I make a point to get to the classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings). That puts more restrictions on how much time I have to actually cook. And quite frankly, I’m tired of eating at 8 or 8:30 in the evenings. With leftovers for dinner instead of lunch, I’m eating by 7:15. It adds almost a whole hour to my evening (which I think Hurley already appreciates given he’s not thrilled mama is back to work).

Like I said, I could just be in the honeymoon phase of the new year. Regardless, though, I’m already enjoying the new habits that are freeing up my time and helping me feel a bit more balanced. I’d consider that a success for week one!

Great recipes, terrible technology

This will have to be relatively short and sweet given my technology malfunctions. I’d been wanting to blog about this since Wednesday, but my personal laptop has been on the fritz for a week (right now it won’t even fully boot up…) and my work laptop was with our IT department up until about noon yesterday.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been wanting to make a concerted effort to be intentional about the meals I’m making. (In other words, it’s time to ditch the reliance on crockpots and get back to cooking given I actually enjoy it.) Although I got the baseline recipe, if you will, from Pinterest, the other two meals I tried this week came directly from the author who inspired me to make the change.

I have to admit that I’m really proud of Sunday’s meal — one pan chicken with white wine and olives. In part it’s because I’d had an offer to go to HuHot and I turned it down in lieu of cooking a homecooked meal (primarily so I could have leftovers at lunch the next day). I’d been a bit nervous about this since I’m not a fan of dry white wines and chicken thighs tend to be hit or miss for me. But it was a lot of fun to pull together.

chicken bake

What I did love was having the lemons bake on top of the chicken! I’ve seen that a handful of times but just never did it. I probably shouldn’t have added the kalamata olives, but the carrots were a nice addition to the recipe.

chicken bake (2)

The leftovers weren’t quite as good, though it could be that it just lost some of it’s appeal in my Tupperware container and using a plastic knife. But I have to say, going back to cooking was a much-needed shift. And I hardly used a can of food this week!

Tuesday  night is when I started with my baseline recipe of mini buffalo chicken tacos. For some reason I have trouble buying frozen foods like chicken tenders or pizza. Instead, I did a quick google search and found a decent recipe for homemade chicken tenders. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I could whip those up — and adding buffalo sauce to the egg mixture seemed to help give it even more flavor.

chicken tenders

I also found a quick recipe for coleslaw dressing. I’d picked up broccoli coleslaw mix at the grocery store instead of buying a pre-made option.

FullSizeRender

Oh baby. This was delicious. The one downside is that the leftovers aren’t quite as good. My coleslaw ended up a bit soggy (especially by yesterday’s lunch) and the chicken tenders (not surprisingly) don’t stay crispy. But the flavor was still there and it was such a nice twist on tacos. I actually think this might make for a good salad so I may have to experiment with it a bit more.

I’m glad I held out on my final recipe until later in the week. Wednesday was an incredibly long day at work and I was so looking forward to spin class that evening. I knew it would recharge my batteries — plus I hadn’t been in two weeks. Sadly a traffic jam meant that, despite leaving 40 minutes before the class started, I was barely at the halfway point of getting to the gym when it was time for class to start.

I made my way back home feeling angry (livid is probably a better word…) and defeated. And what better way to set the world right than with a one pot cheesy spaghetti and meatballs.

You guys, I had no idea meatballs could cook in the sauce like that! Game changer. I’d also never considered adding ricotta cheese to my typical spaghetti dish. I have to say that I’m a fan. Although I didn’t find the noodles used in the actual recipe (I wanted to but my attempts at the grocery store were in vain). Instead if was my typical whole wheat angel hair pasta.

spaghetti

Although it took a little bit more time post-gym, it was nice to be back to cooking. We’ll see what the recipes for next week hold. Given my faulty and intermittent computer opportunities, meal planning may be particularly challenging. (Not good given it’s a task I dread each weekend anyway but I do it because the benefits are ten-fold during the week!)

And on a completely unrelated note, Hurley met his new cousin last week. Swoooooon! This was one of the only few non-blurry photos of them since they kept rough housing. It gets a little overwhelming (and I would not be surprised if they knock over the middle’s tree at some point…) but it wears him out, which makes me a happy mama.

IMG_6730

Shifting health gears

Fruitless as it may seem given we’re only a few weeks away from another holiday, I decided to get back on the health wagon. Thanksgiving was a much needed break with lots of indulging — even for Hurley and the family dogs.

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What was also nice is I was able to listen to a great audiobook on my drive up and back. The book (It Was Me All Along) caught my eye while I was in Cape Cod and it seemed to be what I needed to light a fire under me again (and it was incredibly relatable given my own weight loss journey). In fact, I even skipped my normal spin class last night to go to BodyPump with my favorite combat instructor! I won’t lie, my entire body hurts right now and stairs are a real struggle. However, it was well worth it. Time to mix things up with my health routine.

In some ways this renewed focus also impacted what I chose for recipes this week. I knew I wanted to focus more on protein since I’d really been indulging and carbs (not to mention sweets). Sunday night I put a BBQ chicken quinoa recipe in the crockpot. It was relatively simple to throw together, and I loved how well the chicken shredded after just three hours in the crockpot. It may not look all that appetizing, but I can assure you that it was.

BBQ chicken

I should mention the olives were just something I threw on the plate because I was craving them… They didn’t particularly fit the flavor, but I didn’t care.

My recipe the following night, though, did allow for green olives. I was nervous having two similar recipes back-to-back, but I really wanted to try the slow cooker enchilada quinoa recipe.

To mix it up slightly, I actually used a beef roast instead of chicken (great choice, in hindsight!). I also minimized the cream cheese given the recent experiences I’d had with my crockpot dishes calling for cream cheese. I didn’t want it to dominate since I love Mexican food without too much cheese in general.

It took a bit longer for the beef to cook, so I almost wish I would have started that on its own. What was great, though, is that I seasoned it the night before so it had the perfect mix of spices.

In part because I wanted a bit more heartiness to it, I did half a cup of quinoa and half a cup of brown rice. (The other reason I’d done that is because that’s all the quinoa I had left…). I barely even noticed the rice when all was said and done, so I might add more of that in the future.

Enchilada

It was like a thoroughly mixed burrito bowl, and in my opinion you can’t go wrong there. The less healthy addition is the lime tortilla chips I used. All in moderation, though…

This week I’ve also decided that I’d like to make more of an effort to branch out of my cooking rut as well. Although the crockpot can be a lifesaver during the week, I also miss cooking. Thanksgiving certainly reminded me of that, but so did the dishes I made this week (though they were quite delicious).

In a crockpot, all the flavors blend together and nothing really stands out, and oddly enough it was the audiobook that made me come to that realization. The author talked about balsamic glazed vegetables and feta cheese sprinkled on spinach salad and buffalo chicken pizza. It sounded so delicious and…clean, for lack of a better word. Crockpot recipes, while convenient and often delicious, don’t feel as fresh and light to me. It might take a bit more planning on my part, but I’m hoping I start limiting my crockpot use.

Beyond that, I’m also aiming to be more intentional (given that is my word for the year…) about where I’m finding my recipes. Don’t get me wrong, Pinterest is great and will still be where I start my recipe search. But I also recognize that I hate and am terrible at tracking what I eat. It seems like such a chore to me and I get really bitter about it. That being said, I feel like if I can be more cognizant of  the nutritional content of dishes before I make them, it might make at least a small difference.

We’ll see how these efforts go. As I said, it may be a bit fruitless given the holiday season is upon us. But sometimes you have to strike while the iron is hot, and my motivation certainly peaked thanks to this book.

Lap dogs

Apparently I’ve started a new tradition for myself. Last year I did the exact same thing on a Sunday evening — put bacon cheeseburger soup in the crockpot, officially switched my pandora station to Christmas music and decorated my tree. (I should also mention that this was last Sunday evening. I’m apparently a bit behind…)

I also took it as an opportunity to trial-run some Christmas photos with Hurley. He’s not super impressed, but my goodness does he look handsome!

Hurley Xmas

This is probably my third attempt at bacon cheeseburger soup (and heaven forbid I use the same recipe). Hands down, this was definitely my favorite rendition of it. It’s cheating a little since I technical combined two recipes. I started with this recipe as the base and incorporated parts of this one to avoid using half-and-half. It could also be because I used italian sausage instead of ground turkey since it was on sale, and I also used a block of cheese as opposed to shredded cheese. I’ve also decided the sliced carrots are the way to go, and celery was a great addition, too.

Regardless of what made this the winning dish, it was delicious!

Cheeseburger soup

The rest of the week was a blur between work and also trying to learn more about a board of directors. As part of my 30 Before 30 list, I went to a board matching event on Veterans Day. It’s more or less a speed dating approach to meeting nonprofits in the area. I really connected with one director who runs a programs for women experiencing homelessness (double win!), so this past week I not only attended a board meeting but also their big fundraising event. It seems to be a promising match, so stay tuned!

Then more excitement came — I’m a doggie aunt again! Meet Millie Vanillie Bean (to match her older sister Mocha Jo).

Millie

I seriously can’t get over how small and light-weight she is! It’s also strange to have to watch where you’re walking. Hurley’s pretty present (especially in the kitchen), but this 5-month old girl is so small that I’m afraid I’m going to step on her. You can barely feel her resting her head on you or standing on your lap. That will change as she grows (and I know all too well that goes with my little bear) so I’m taking advantage of it while I can. I think it goes without saying that Miss Millie will grow up surrounded by lots of love and cuddles, not to mention some fun-loving labrador mentors. ❤

Hurley hasn’t met her yet, so we’ll see how he reacts to the news. In the meantime, I’ve kept him busy with holiday photos. He was surprisingly better this year than he was last. It only took about 30 minutes tonight, which may as well be a record for us. When he sat on my lap and gave his aunt this look, though, I knew he was done.

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I also confirmed he’s not a fan of his jingle bell collar… At least it’s just a once-a-year event, right? And it pretty much secures his place on the nice list (though I’m probably a bit really biased when it comes to this guy).

Needless to say, we’ve officially kicked off the holiday season in our household!

Transition time

This week my body seemed to be utterly confused. I’m one of those crazy people who tends to turn on the Christmas music after Halloween (I figure there’s a short window for enjoying it so I may as well take full advantage of it). The 70 degree weather made it difficult to even attempt anything related to Christmas, though in no way was I complaining about that!

In fact, it meant I nixed the gym quite a bit to take Hurley on long walks along the trail instead. I figure I’ve got the next 5+ months to hit up spin and BodyCombat classes. How many opportunities am I going to get to make this guy’s day (aside from my typical smothering and spoiling, that is)?

Doggie Trail

Regardless, meal planning gets a bit tricky with the shortened daylight. I opted for a crockpot recipe on Monday so it would require minimal prep time while allowing me to eat dinner at a decent time. This time the winner was a beef stroganoff recipe that caught my attention.

I did appreciate the minimal prep, and it’s the first time I think I’ve ever used cream of onion before (which I’d recommend for dishes like this). This dish seemed to have a lot more flavor than previous stroganoff recipes I’ve tried. I’d been tempted to add peas or some type of vegetable to it (instead of having it on the side or with a salad) but sometimes you just have to let yourself indulge.

Stroganoff

In retrospect I would have cut back on some of the cream (either the cream of mushroom or halving the cream cheese). I’m not sure if my stomach can’t handle creamy foods as much or if I just know the impact heavy foods have on my energy level/workout ability, especially having it as leftovers for lunch. It may be that I picked up on it after day four or five of leftovers, though. I really do need to start cutting some of the recipes I try in half…

On Wednesday I tried an entirely new recipe for me — mini muffuletta meatloaf. I’d never come across anything like this, and it sounded delicious. I did switch out the pepper mix and instead used a black olive bruschetta I found at the grocery store. And I used ground turkey instead, which altered the flavor a bit. I also decided it would be less messy on my end to just cook one loaf.

Meatloaf

I was pleasantly surprised by the recipe, though I shouldn’t have been given all the flavors I love. It was also relatively quick. One thing that typically deters me from recipes like this is trying to find side dishes. I wasn’t quite as successful this time (salad and green beans), though I should have paired it with a baked sweet potato. Oddly enough, I think it would have been a good flavor combination.

The goal for next week is to have meals that are slightly more well-balanced. I’ve realized I tend to gravitate toward Mexican dishes since it’s easier to incorporate a range of foods (vegetables, grains, protein). Perhaps that’s what I’ll find on the docket for next week (along with putting up my Christmas tree since we have a holiday on Wednesday)!

Crockpot season

With all that was going on last week I had a delay in posting the recipes I tried. Coincidentally enough, this week’s recipes were relatively similar so I was able to merge both. I love when things work out like that.

I’m not sure what prompted me to try the healthy buffalo chicken bowl, but that’s how I started last week — mostly because I had chicken on hand and was able to get that going in the crockpot before I even hit the grocery store for the other ingredients. To hopefully make it a bit more filling, I also added quinoa to the chicken bowls, which I think helped.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised how well avocado goes with buffalo chicken. I don’t know that I’d ever intentionally paired the two, but it was delicious! I may attempt to make a wrap out of this for lunches at work. It’s filling with lots of flavor.

Buffalo chicken bowl

On Tuesday I decided to make crockpot mojo pork with cuban style black beans. I figured it was a perfect day to have it cook all day, since donating blood that afternoon meant no gym for me that evening (aka: much earlier dinner time so I wouldn’t have to worry about overcooking or drying it out). Sadly when I got home, I realized I didn’t have the lid all the way on so there were still raw spots…

I put the crockpot on high and used the extra time to take Hurley for a long walk (and to work up an appetite). I’d been really excited about the recipe since I love carnitas and this seemed to be a new twist on it. The little assured me it was delicious when we talked on the phone that night…and I realized as I was about to hang up the phone that I never made the cuban style beans. Fail on my part.

Regardless, it was delicious. And I loved having a different flavor on the pork. Surprisingly the lemon and orange juice didn’t come out quite as strongly as I thought, but that could also be because I had quite a bit of lime with my cilantro lime rice. I can’t seem to help myself!

Mojo pork

Flash forward to this week, and I’m once again using the crockpot. Last night I made crockpot Italian beef sandwiches. This time I didn’t have the roast cook all day, partially because I knew I didn’t want it to reach a point of shredding too easily.

Since I’m not a huge fan of peppers, I didn’t incorporate those into the dish. And as with last week (where has my head been?!), I realized as I was about to dish up that I forgot an ingredient — banana peppers. Instead I put them on the side. Just to try something new, I use havarti cheese instead of provolone (though I love that as well) and both proved to be a great addition.

The salad proved to be a nice contrast with feta cheese, pomegranate and green olives with a balsamic dressing. Full on flavor explosion! I probably would have been better off using a hoagie just from a juice/mess perspective. I also chose the wrong meal to be lazy about using my old placemats. Naturally I’ve got beef broth on the white strip of my placemat. What can you do?

Italian beef

Hurley certainly approved of the meal. I poured a little bit of the beef broth into his dog food for dinner and he licked kept going back to lick it the rest of the night.

Tonight he wasn’t quite as impressed with dinner (not that he got to sample it since it packed some heat). I made a variation of buffalo chicken meatballs recipe that caught my eye over the weekend. By that I mean I made the meatballs almost as directed and then paired it with spaghetti squash so it made for a relatively complete meal. The one modification I did make to the meatball recipe is that I used kale instead of celery (and used my nutribullet since it seemed like too much work to pull out my food processor).

This time I attempted making spaghetti squash differently — in the crockpot, of course. It was actually really nice to throw the squash in there before going to the gym and having it be ready when I got home. After putting the meatballs in the oven to bake, I scooped out the spaghetti squash and added in some cream cheese and the remaining 1/4 cup of buffalo sauce that was supposed to be drizzled over the meatballs.

The timing worked out really well, and I ended up putting the meatballs in the crockpot (in part to get it out of what I assume was the butter from the recipe) to heat it all together.

Crockpot

I wish I wouldn’t have used quite as much cream cheese, but that was my attempt to use up stuff in my fridge before it went bad. Same held true for the sharp cheddar cheese I threw on top. Although it was a bit overkill on the creamy factor, I loved the combination! The meatball recipe would actually make for a really great buffalo turkey burger recipe.

Dinner

There was also an unintended consequence in that I’ve been drinking a ton of water since dinner. Perhaps I should try this recipe again the night before I need to donate blood again. Good way to increase my water intake for sure! Plus it’s the first time I feel like I created my own recipe of sorts. I’d say I’m progressing in my culinary efforts, but this would be coming from a girl who made crockpot recipes for two weeks straight… Tis the season!

Fall favorite

With most foods I try, I’m indifferent about whether I’d make them again. I can probably count on both hands how many recipes I’ve made more than once. Last night, however, I made a recipe I will undoubtedly make again. I was actually tempted to send the photo to the family and tell them to try it ASAP and/or that I found our post-holiday meal using leftover turkey.

Although I love chicken and dumplings, I tend to have an on-again, off-again relationship with soups. Thankfully I spotted this chicken dumpling casserole. Perfect solution.

I should mention I doubled the dumpling portion of the recipe, in part since I put a little too much seasoning in it and I was nervous it would be too much. It turned out to be in my favor since it fully covered the chicken layer (plus I love dumplings). The other addition is that I added in corn as a way to incorporate vegetables. A little different but worth it.

Casserole Steps

Forty minutes later, I had this comforting goodness. Legit food love right here.

Dumpling Casserole

This is such a great substitute for chicken and dumpling soup. I’ve already vowed to learn this recipe by heart and whip it up all fall and winter.

The day before I also attempted a new recipe: sweet potato sloppy joes. It was certainly a different take, and surprisingly delicious. As always, I used ground turkey instead of ground beef. I added in quite a bit of seasonings to the sloppy joe mix and saved the leftovers for pasta later in the week since I’m not a huge fan of leftover sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato sloppy joe

That’s all I’ll say on the sloppy joe recipe since I’m still hung up on the chicken dumpling casserole. Seriously, try it.

New searching technique

I tried something a little different this week when I was searching for new recipes as I made my meal plan for the week. Typically I search for things on Pinterest like “healthy dinner recipes” or “low carb recipes,” depending on what mood strikes. This week, however, I searched for recipes that had great leftovers.

For some reason the first thing that jumped out at me was a crock pot ham and potatoes au grautin recipe. Following my grandma’s funeral when I was in middle school, I was overdosed on scalloped potatoes. For that reason, it’s rare that I crave something like this dish. It’s not that I don’t like it; it’s probably more that I’m indifferent to it.

The one slight modification I made to the recipe is that I didn’t use reduced fat cheese. In part it was because I couldn’t find it at the store and there was no way I was using the fat free cheese. I think I settled on colby jack or mild cheddar — can’t quite remember which.

Cooking it on high resulted in dinner in about three hours, which was perfect timing for a walk with Hurley and a few household tasks. So it wasn’t too much carb overload (particularly for lunch leftovers at work, which would knock me out), I tried to make half of the plate veggies (with lemon pepper, since I love adding that to steamed vegetables).

potatoes

Thankfully the recipe was a success! Tomorrow I’ll be on day three of the leftovers and I have no doubt it will be just as good. It might be a recipe to consider again around the holidays when there’s leftover ham.

The second recipe would be good at any point in the year, though this cool (and glorious) weather seems to be perfect timing for it. Last night I whipped up taco soup, and I’ll admit I was a bit nervous for this one. Mixing beef broth, rotel and cream cheese? I definitely had my doubts. Apparently they were unwarranted, though.

I did add two cans of beans to this as well and was tempted to add corn, but figured I would keep it relatively simple. I love that I could make it in about 20 minutes. Paired with veggie tortillas, this really hit the spot (especially with all the seasonings I added to it).

taco soup

The leftovers of the soup tonight were delicious, so Pinterest proved to be right again. In fact, I almost think the leftovers are better since it had a chance to thicken and the spices were more prominent. Heck, maybe searching this way will help me have more luck in not getting tired of leftovers so quickly… One can only hope!

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