Baked Ziti

A couple of weekends ago I went to see my mom for a quick one night trip.  While I was there I gave my brother’s girlfriend, Alesha, her belated birthday present.  I had gotten her a cookbook from one of my favorite Food Network stars, Ree Drummond (also known as The Pioneer Woman), called The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  I was excited because her recipes are relatively simple, she uses easy to find ingredients, and I thought my brother would appreciate her heartier meals too!  Alesha said she had heard of her, but she had never watched her show.  Luckily my mom had 2 of The Pioneer Woman episodes from The Food Network saved on her DVR so we all decided to watch one.  We chose the episode where Ree makes Baked Ziti for her kids and their cousins to enjoy while the adults eat steak and baked potatoes.

Since my brother was still working, and would be for awhile, we decided it would be best to cook at home that evening and since we were in the mood for new things we decided that Alesha and I would cook the baked Ziti.  I would like to point out that David, my brother, is not a big italian fan (neither am I), but I think it is more due to not being a huge lover of tomato sauce.  This meal was pleasing for everyone because it was not super saucy–it had just the right amount of balance between all the ingredients.  We found the recipe online (Baked Ziti by The Pioneer Woman) and followed it pretty much exactly except we used only ground beef.

It wasn’t hard to make and was actually my first time making a pasta sauce from scratch.  Now that I had done it once I can definitely say it is way better than the jarred kind!  We served the baked ziit with iceberg wedge salads and brownies for dessert.  The recipe makes a large panful, but the good news is that the leftovers are just as delicious!


in the beginning there were onions and garlic

The sauce cooking away

The sauce cooking away

mixing it all together

mixing it all together

lettuce wedge salad bar

lettuce wedge salad bar

yummy!! the finished product

yummy!! the finished product



Ribs, Who Knew They Could Be So Easy

Chase loves ribs, but I have never made them because for some reason I had in my head that they were super complicated to make!  Good thing Chase’s dad was bragging about the ribs his mom made one night because I decided to ask her what the secret was.  Turns out you can cook ribs in the crockpot on low all day and they turn out very tender and moist with hardly any work.  Really! It doesn’t get much easier than that.

I placed a rack of pork ribs in my crockpot and covered them with water.  I then cooked them on low all day while I was at work.  When I got off work I drained all the water out of the crockpot and covered the ribs with some BBQ sauce.  I then cooked on high for about 30 minutes while I made some corn muffins and green beans to round out our meal!  Anything that can lessen my time cooking once I get home from work is a winner in my book!

Restaurant Review: The Quiet Pint

Last night our neighbor across the hall, Skylar, and his friend Landon stopped by to see what Chase and I were doing for dinner.  We didn’t have plans so we all decided to head out and grab a bite to eat.  I was off work yesterday so the extent of my activity had consisted of the gym and a quick run to Wal-Mart so I was still sporting some pretty sweet gym attire, but no one seemed to mind too much.  Skylar had tried a new place called The Quiet Pint over near Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center so we decided to give it a try!

Even though we ended up getting there about 745pm on a Friday night we were able to find parking quickly and didn’t even have to wait for a table.  The inside is quite small and kind of feels like the tables are smushed together in some areas, which isn’t too bad until you have to ask an entire side of a table to get up so you can use the restroom.  All the tables were high which was fine with me, but Chase said he kept leaning back forgetting there was no back.  They did have a great craft beer selection both on draft and in the bottle/can.  I tried the Sierra Nevada Summerfest which was on special and actually really good!

The menu looked super exciting and I was having a hard time decided what to get.  I finally decided on a burger topped with pimento cheese and hand cut fries for my side.  Chase got the classic macaroni and cheese for his meal.  Unfortunately the food was just ok, nothing special, and definitely not what I was expecting.  My burger kind of seemed like a frozen patty that didn’t have too much taste, but also seemed kind of greasy which was weird.  The fries were over cooked to the point that every bite tasted burnt so I just left them alone.  Chase’s mac and cheese was ok, but again didn’t quite live up to my expectations from reading the menu.

After we ate we ended up moving to the bar to have another couple of drinks.  The bar is nice and roomy with 4 good size TVs to watch.  The only thing I didn’t like was that I was on the end of the bar so I couldn’t really hear any of the conversation.  The name may have quiet in it, but let me just say it was loud in there!

I would definitely go back for drinks, but I think I will probably pass on the food in the future.

An Oldie But A Goodie

As I was trying to decide what to cook for dinner this week while I am off work I decided to go for an oldie, but a goodie.  Pork chops, macaroni and cheese, and asparagus!!  Of course, in keeping up with the oldie theme I decided to use Shake and Bake for the pork chops.  Every time I go to buy Shake and Bake I can’t help but thinking “its Shake and Bake and I helped!”  I said that last night as I was cooking dinner and Chase looked at me like I was crazy haha.

There is not a lot to say about this casual dinner except that sometimes the oldest recipes are the best and just seem to hit the spot!

I also took some time yesterday afternoon (before I went to Zumba!) to mess around with my new camera.  I wish Chase had been here to take a picture of me sitting on the couch with my camera, camera manual, iPad to look at tutorials online, and what I am sure was a look of utter confusion on my face.  I found lots of helpful information online and just decided to start trying things out.  Trust me I deleted a lot more pictures that I kept.

This morning I downloaded the pictures I took yesterday to my computer (and deleted a lot more along the way).  I downloaded the Google program, Picasa, to use to make any minor edits I might want to after seeing good reviews online.  I noticed as I was looking at my pictures that a lot seem to be underexposed (too dark), which I sort of realized while taking them because there is a scale on my camera to serve as a guide and I did see it on the under exposed side.  I know it is because most of the pictures I took were inside in our kitchen which has absolutely zero natural light.   I made a few minor corrections to help with the contrast of the photos, but definitely look forward to getting more practice.


Willow Tree Angel of Spring 7.23.14

One of my first pictures

Apples 7.23.14

A basket of apples

Asparagus 7.23.14

Asparagus for dinner

porkchops 7.23.14

Pork Chops

Boiling Water 7.23.14

Boiling water for pasta (messing with shutter speed)

cupcake 7.23.14

Tasty treat

 Dinner 7.23.14

The finished product!!

Taco Soup

I am so happy the weather is finally starting to warm up (although today hasn’t been such a good example)!!  It is hard to believe that 2 weeks ago it was cold, rainy, and SNOWING!  I was off Tuesday (2 weeks ago) and I knew that I would want something warm and hearty for dinner to go with the cold, damp day.  Thankfully one of my technicians, Ashley, had just given me a recipe for taco soup and I knew it would be perfect!


Taco Soup
1 can corn (don’t drain)
1 can kidney beans (don’t drain)
1 can rotel (I used the hot variety)
1 small can diced green chiles
1 can diced tomatoes
1 lb ground beef, browned
1 packet taco seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp minced onion

Add all the ingredients to the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

I simmered mine on the stove stop for a little over an hour and it was delicious!  Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, and tortilla chips to complete the meal!

I plugged all the ingredients into MyFitnessPal (see a tutorial on how to do this here) and while I think I under estimated the servings at 6 it still came out to be a good calorie bargin at 249 calories/serving.

Working it out

So this past month has been a whirlwind of work, bad weather, and lots of errands and  to-do list activities.  After an incredibly fun weekend celebrating St Patrick’s Day I decided it was time to get back on track.

I went by WalMart yesterday and got the ingredients to make some super simple chicken in the crockpot to take to work this week.

Crockpot Salsa Chicken:

  • 1 package boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 can lower sodium black beans

Place all ingredients into the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours (or if you wait until the last minute like me cook on high for 4 hours).

I plan on taking a serving to work tonight for dinner and also as one of my meals tomorrow.  It is so good by itself, with brown rice, with tortilla chips, or I have even used it as a filling for enchiladas!  I also love this simple recipe because it freezes well.

I have kind of fallen off the wagon with my FitBit Flex, so I am currently charging it so I can wear it to work this week.  I definitely like seeing how much I am walking and also find that it is a great motivator to get those extra steps in.  I did just hit up the gym in my apartment for a short workout and I know that is something that I definitely need to make time for.  I feel so much better when I am working out and eating better.

I feel the need to get back on my goals and have been thinking about how I will incorporate them this week as I face one of my long weeks at work.

Daily Goals–Starting March 17, 2014:

  • Get in at least 10,000 steps daily using my FitBit Flex (the hardest day for me will be Wednesday because I am off work, so I will definitely focus on this)
  • Track my meals using MyFitnessPal every day
  • Do some meal planning/prep Wednesday to help me stay on track as I work through the weekend
  • Look at my Pinterest and pick some new recipes to try out
  • Think of ways to mix up my snacks/meals so I won’t get burnt out of the same ‘ol same ‘ol :)

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Don’t forget to wear green!

Shepard’s Pie

I originally got the idea for this dinner from the Skinnytaste Website (Sheperd’s Pie, Lightened Up) and I adapted it based on what I had on hand and my preferences.  Chase and I went to a great Irish Pub, MacDuffs, in Lake Tahoe while we were on vacation.  Chase got the Shepard’s Pie and raved about how good it was!  I decided I would make some when we got home and see if I could live up to his expectations.  I used ground beef instead of ground lamb, which is what is typically used in the traditional Irish dish.

Shepard’s Pie (adapted from SkinnyTaste)

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 large package of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 c fat free beef broth
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 1-2 packages instant mashed potatoes
  • salt/pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Brown ground beef, drain, and remove from pan
  3. Using the same pan, sauté garlic until browned
  4. Add beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and whisk in the flour
  5. Bring to a simmer then add the vegetables and ground beef
  6. Stir well and continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened
  7. While the sauce is thickening, I made the mashed potatoes in the microwave
  8. Pour the veggie and beef mixture into a baking dish and top with the prepared mashed potatoes
  9. Bake in the oven 20-25 minutes until the potatoes have browned
  10. Let sit for about 10 minutes before service

This made enough for a large baking dish and the leftovers were wonderful!  This isn’t exactly the healthiest or cleanest meal I could have made, but it was so good.  Next time I make this I plan to experiment to make it a little healthier without losing the delicious flavor.  Perhaps a sweet potato topping?!?