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



Quick Fruit Salad

Last Thursday while I was shopping in Harris Teeter I saw that they had both blueberries and strawberries on sale.  I love fruit and thought that I could use these plus blackberries to make a quick fruit salad!


Quick Fruit Salad:

  • 1 container blueberries
  • 1 container blackberries
  • 1 container strawberries
  • 1 package Jello instant pudding mix, vanilla flavored
  1. Rinse all fruit and quarter the strawberries
  2. Add fruit to a large bowl
  3. Sprinkle the instant pudding mix over the top of the fruit (the plain mix NOT prepared) to lightly cover
  4. Mix well
  5. Cover and refrigerate to allow time for the pudding mix to combine with the fruit juices to create a sweet tasting dressing for the fruit salad

**I think if there had been more fruit juices in my fruit salad it would have worked just a tad bit better, but it was still delicious!

I can’t wait to try this idea with other fruits as well


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!

Baked Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal

I have an extremely busy week coming up at work and I knew that I needed to take some time yesterday to write out my meal plan and also decide when and what I would need from the grocery store.


One thing I decided to make this week to take to work was baked pumping chocolate chip oatmeal that I originally found a couple of years ago from Slender Kitchen.  The recipe is for a single serving so I went ahead and tripled the recipe so I would have 3 servings for work.

Baked Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal (From Slender Kitchen)

  • 1&1/2 c old fashioned oatmeal
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 3/4 c pure pumpkin (like Libby’s)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tsp mini chocolate chips
  • 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • dash of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Mix all ingredients together
  3. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and add the ingredients
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and allow to cool

**store leftovers in the fridge

Using  MyFitnessPal I calculated each serving to have 240 calories

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?!?

2 Ingredient Dinner

I am always amazed at how easy it is to fall into a rut of not cooking at home and eating out because life tends to get in the way.  I do it myself (sometimes more than I would like to admit), which is why I have really gotten interested in using my crockpot.  There is nothing better than coming home from work and having dinner ready to go.  Plus what is easier than putting everything into one pot?  How about if all you had to use was 2 ingredients?  Yes, you read that right.  I made dinner tonight with 2 ingredients and it was awesome.  This isn’t a new recipe for me, in fact it has become a staple around my house and with my family, but I couldn’t resist sharing how easy it is.

First things first next time you are out grocery shopping find this marinade and immediately put it into your cart.  I usually find it in the Hispanic section, but yesterday at Harris Teeter it was with all the other condiments.  Step 2 find yourself a nice boston butt roast.  You can use boneless (which I usually do) or bone in depending on what you can find.  I have also made this using boneless pork loin chops, but the boston butt is better in my opinion.

If the roast I got has a lot of fat I usually trim some of it off before putting it in my crockpot.  Pour in half a bottle of the marinade and cook on low for about 8 hours.  By the time the pork is done cooking it will be so tender is literally just falls about.  I serve the pork with brown rice and a vegetable to round out the meal.

PS: Leftovers are even better because the pork soaks up all the extra flavor from sitting in the marinade.

When dinner involves minimal time and ingredients there is no excuse not to eat at home.