Crockpot Whole Chicken

***UPDATE 11/11/2014: I’ve moved! My new site is www.lovecreatenourish.com, so anyone here from Pinterest can head over there! ūüôā

 

First things first: my resolution to be more disciplined is going well! I’ve been keeping tabs on what I eat, portion size, and have exercised every weekday so far, not to mention the other important parts of my discipline. Overall, successful so far.

So, I wasn’t going to blog about this recipe . . . because it’s not really a “recipe”. It’s pretty much the easiest thing in the world and one of the most delicious things in the world. I can’t believe it took me over three years of cooking to be brave enough to attempt it. And I really didn’t need to be brave, because, seriously — easiest thing¬†ever. What is it?

CrockpotChickenChicken in the crockpot — a¬†whole chicken. I have to be honest, I just really don’t like working with meat that has bones and fat that you have to pick apart to eat. When I was little and my mom made bone-in pork chops, I’d eat as close to the bone as I dared and then would hand it off to my dad to finish it. When I make bone-in pork chops now, Brett actually cuts it for me, because yes, I am three-years-old. He picks apart the good stuff so I don’t have to get too close to the bone. I know, I know. Ridiculous. He’s so lucky to have me around.

So that was another reason I was nervous about making this chicken, but I didn’t need to worry. Brett dissected it for me so all I had to see when we ate was the meat. And it was so, so good. Tender, juicy, perfectly cooked and extremely flavorful! It was also extremely cost effective. The meat filled a tupperware bowl, and then I chopped three cups of it to make these easy, delicious enchiladas. (Seriously, try them! Four ingredients!) The rest of the leftovers were turned into chicken salad for sandwiches.

The best part was that I made crockpot chicken broth afterward. All you do is add water to the bones/skin/etc., (I did six cups and will probably do more next time), turn the crockpot on low, and let it cook overnight. Once it’s strained, you can refrigerate or freeze it. I realize I’m late to this party as a lot of my friends already do this, so I’m glad I finally joined! I was even feeling congested and crappy for a few days . . . then I made potato soup with the chicken broth, ate a bowl, and woke up feeling almost 100% better the next day. Seriously, if I haven’t given enough reasons already to try doing this, that has to be the best yet!

CrockpotChickenBroth

Here’s the “recipe”:

Crockpot Whole Chicken + Crockpot Chicken Broth

  • 1 whole chicken
  • seasonings of choice (I used garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt)
  • water (I used six cups, but will probably do more next time)
  1. Remove giblets from chicken.
  2. Place chicken in crockpot. (I sprayed my crockpot with non-stick olive oil spray.)
  3. Combine spices/seasonings and rub all over the top of the chicken.
  4. Cook on low 7-8 hours. (I had a 5-lb. chicken; cook less for smaller chickens.)
  5. Once cooked through, remove chicken from crockpot for serving.
  6. Place bones and skin back into crockpot. Add water.
  7. Cook on low overnight. Strain and place in containers to store for future use.

A Matter of Discipline {+ Free Weekly Food Journal}

***UPDATE 11/11/2014: I’ve moved! My new site is www.lovecreatenourish.com, so anyone here from Pinterest can head over there! ūüôā

 

Did any of you make a New Year’s resolution? Have you already totally failed at keeping said resolution? Or maybe you’ve just been slacking off lately? Well, here’s your chance to jump back on the wagon. Who’s with me? Winter’s almost over, spring’s almost here (even though we’re supposed to get, you know, just a foot of snow tomorrow), and I say it’s time to make some new resolutions.

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The great thing about resolutions is that they can be absolutely anything that will improve your life and lives of those around you. So what’s my new resolution? It’s simply to be more disciplined. It’s something I struggle with the most. No matter who you are, what age you’re at, or what life stage you’re in — everyone could use more discipline in some area. For me, it’s reading the Bible and praying¬†every morning. It’s making a to-do list of my design projects and checking them off the list. It’s blogging at least once a week (I’m so totally great at that, obviously). It’s researching and growing my online business. It’s keeping a record of my food intake (and improving my nutrition). It’s getting back in shape by exercising regularly.

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Right now the most difficult parts for me are my food intake and exercising regularly. We don’t eat unhealthily over here, but we’re definitely not perfect. Two nights ago we had spaghetti and meatballs, last night we had enchiladas. For me, it’s all about portion sizes and having healthy foods alongside the higher-calorie foods, like a decent-sized spinach salad with the not-so-huge helping of spaghetti. We also never have junk food or pop around, and barely ever have cookies or brownies or other desserts in the house. The great thing about that is that those things are more of a treat when we’re at someone’s house, so it’s kind of a win-win situation. Except that I really have to watch myself with the goodies — I can just tell I have that “winter tire” going on, with too many sweets and rich foods at our families’ houses and not enough exercise.

A way I’m keeping myself accountable with food intake is by utilizing this weekly food journal:

LoveCreateNourish_FoodJournal

Yes, I had a lot of fun designing this one, and made it gray to be easily printed and copied multiple times. Click here to download it for free!

Seriously, I think it helps so much to¬†see what food you’ve eaten, how much water you’ve drank, the amount of exercise you’ve done, and what effect is has on you. Even when I recorded my food for the first time last week, I could clearly see which days I didn’t drink as much water I should have. I was also a little congested and stuffy towards the end of the week, but the morning (Sunday) after eating homemade chicken broth (in potato soup) I felt almost 100% better, no joke. It’s little things like that where you might be able to see how your food and exercise habits relate to how you feel. Here’s what mine looked like last week:

LCNFoodJournal

As you can see, exercise totally fell by the wayside, as usual.¬†And to be honest, I haven’t really steadily exercised for almost a year now. It actually appalls me to write that, so it’s getting remedied now! I’ve just been lazy, that’s all there is to it. I mean, really, my husband has an exercise science degree, worked as a trainer for two years, and works with athletes in the weight room now . . . so I don’t have any excuses at all. My five-pound winter tire needs to disappear and I simply want to be back in shape, so Brett made me a little workout program for three days a week to start. Absolutely anyone can do it, no matter how overweight or out of shape you are, but the hardest part is actually¬†doing¬†it. Just thirty minutes of exercise three times a week to start. It’s so simple.

Anyone else want to join? I’m going to keep myself accountable on here so I have no excuses. If you want, click the link above to download my food journal free! Keeping track of your food intake can help¬†so much, and hopefully exercise will follow. Discipline in all areas of life is so important.

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A Mish-Mash of Life Lately

We¬†still have some of our Christmas decorations up. Don’t judge.¬†Life has been busy lately, or at least it seems that way. I’m usually up by 7am every weekday to help Brett get out the door (a.k.a., make his lunch), and while I typically don’t head into work until 10 or 11am, I use that time to get the majority of my design work done. I’m loving having consistent design projects, but not loving that I get on a roll, lose track of time, and all of a sudden I have to leave. Talk about major motivation to keep growing my business and blog . . . someday, someday.

Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted, mainly because of some hefty design work that I can’t wait to share with you in the future. I thought today I’d just share just a few snapshots of life lately:

pizzaloafI can’t help sharing pictures of good food. This was taken about a month ago when one of my best friends came to visit. I almost always have some sort of pizza on the menu every week, whether it’s stromboli, regular pizza, pizza bagels, pizza loaf . . . you get the picture. It’s so easy and cheap to make. In this case, we went with two pepperonis, one veggie, and one barbeque chicken. Let’s just say that last one was amazing. I had the leftover shredded barbeque chicken in the freezer, so once that was thawed, all I had to do was heat it up and throw it on the loaf before it was baked. SO good. Pizza loaves are always crowd pleasers. Just make sure you have plenty of cheese.

cookieThe Superbowl. We had Brett’s family over, and I wanted to make something cute but also really easy. Hello, giant cookie. You were delicious. I was going to just buy pre-made cookie dough for this, but I knew I had all of the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies already. When I Googled “giant football cookie” this was the first link. The only change I made was using all chocolate chips because I had no peanut butter chips, and I just used canned chocolate frosting. The white decoration (courtesy of Brett’s artistic side) is just melted white chocolate chips since I couldn’t find those cake decorating pens anywhere. This cookie really did turn out huge — we were eating it for weeks afterward, bits at a time. Yum.

olympicsSay hello to my nice old Mac. You better believe I brought it out to the living room to work while we watched the Olympics. We’re a little obsessed over here. I mean, it only happens once every few years — how do more people not care? Not a single person I work with has watched any of the events. I’m not a very athletic person, and normally the only sport I truly enjoy watching is football (and gymnastics and figure skating, duh). But some of these sports are insane! I can’t believe people actually do some of these things (going 85 miles an hour down a hill?!) for careers. We only watch NBC’s prime time coverage, so sometimes we accidentally know who wins medals, but most of the time we have fun guessing who will win each event and trying to say the athletes’ names. I’ll be a little sad when it’s all over this weekend.

mexicanfoodA lot of people go all out for Valentine’s Day . . . yeah, we’re just not those people. We did little things to make it special: Brett got me a box of delicious chocolates and I got him a metal cup he’s been wanting. I know, you’re thinking, “Seriously? A cup?” My husband’s been obsessed with survival kits lately, and the cup can be used for boiling water. Yep. I’m impressed with myself for just knowing that much. And what does that have to do with a picture of half-eaten food? This was our Valentine’s dinner, a day late. We went to our favorite Mexican restaurant and stuffed ourselves silly. I tell him pretty much every time we get this food that I couldn’t have married someone who doesn’t like Mexican cuisine. We eat way too much of it.

eggsHere was my Pinterest project this past week. I was really craving hard-boiled eggs, and since Brett hates them I get them all to myself. The reason they have weird brown spots on the shells is because I baked them in the oven — yes, you read that right! I saw the idea on Pinterest and had to try it. I would link to the website but the pin only had a description and no clickable link. Basically, all you do is put a dozen eggs in a 12-cup muffin tin, set your oven to 325, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Seriously, that’s it. I think I cooked them around 26-27 minutes, and while a couple of them were difficult to peel, they turned out perfectly! I’m totally doing this in the future. Way easier than boiling water.

So there was a tiny look at our life lately, and I just realized it’s mostly food. Exciting stuff, people. Anyway, this coming week is Brett’s winter break from school, and we’re flying out to Ohio to spend some time with my family. Even though our flight is literally at the crack of dawn, we’re so excited to see loved ones and relax. The forecast says there will finally be a break in the seemingly constant inches and inches of snow up here, so we shouldn’t have any problems flying this weekend. Is anyone else ready for spring? Me too.

Cheesy Veggie Chowder

***UPDATE 11/11/2014: I’ve moved! My new site is www.lovecreatenourish.com, so anyone here from Pinterest can head over there! ūüôā

 

I have another meatless recipe for you! You’d almost think we were vegetarians around here, but we’re most definitely not. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a vegetarian, buuuut we love our chicken and beef and steak. I just like to only cook meat two or three times a week and keep the grocery bills down, so I’m always on the hunt for yummy meatless meals. As I’ve said before (in this post) I grew up hating all vegetables except potatoes and lettuce, and even then I’d only eat lettuce in salads. Never, ever on sandwiches. I actually still never eat lettuce on sandwiches — something about the watery, crunchiness of it grosses me out. I do heap a pile of spinach on my sandwiches, though . . . which is healthier than iceberg anyway! So there!

Anyway, now that I cook almost every night, I eat vegetables way more often. I don’t know if my taste buds have changed or what, but I like broccoli now. Kind of. Only if it’s cooked thoroughly in a dish with lots of other flavors, or thoroughly soaked with a dressing in a salad. I think my extended family would drop dead to read this . . . I get teased a lot about my weird food tendencies. If it helps at all, I still hate eating plain fruit. Apples are the only fruit I can stomach happily. Seriously. Everything else¬†tastes good, but the texture . . . ick. I can’t handle it. That’s why I make myself a smoothie almost every single day. I typically put in a banana, a lot of frozen fruit, spinach, a little yogurt, and water or milk. It’s the only way I can deal with fruit. I know, I know. It’s weird.

But this chowder has tons of veggies! Lots of nutrition, right? Right.

Before_VeggiesNow, this recipe called for most of the veggies to be sauteed, potatoes + broth added and cooked till tender, and¬†then the broccoli added. Well, I decided to be extra productive on my day off last Monday, and I actually chopped up all the veggies I needed that week for various recipes. I separated them into ziplock bags by meal before realizing the broccoli was supposed to be added later. I wasn’t going to pick it out piece-by-piece now. And you know what? It turned out perfectly. It was still great. Having slightly crunchy broccoli in this soup would’ve ruined it for me anyway, so I think I’ll stick to doing it this way any time I make it!

After_VeggiesThis recipe is so good and extremely versatile. You could probably do any vegetable your heart desires. I wanted to add in a zucchini, but my grocery store was out. I did add in a red bell pepper and extra carrots and potatoes. It was so good, and after the hubby and I had two full bowls, we were left with three more servings. That was my lunch the rest of the week!

VeggieChowderI made some easy-peasy garlic cheese biscuits to go with these, recipe found here. It was the perfect dinner on a nasty, rainy night.

Cheesy Veggie Chowder (adapted from this recipe)

  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 c. finely chopped carrot
  • 1 c. finely chopped celery
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 c. chopped broccoli
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 4 c. chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 2 large potatoes, chopped
  • 1 T. flour
  • 1/2 c. cold water
  • 2/3 c. milk
  • 2 heaping c. shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Melt butter in large pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, and broccoli. Cook until mostly tender.
  2. Add garlic; stir well and cook 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add broth and potatoes; bring to boil and cook till tender, about 20-25 minutes.
  4. Whisk flour into water. Slowly stir the mixture into the soup and simmer until slightly thickened.
  5. Add milk; stir well and simmer 1-2 minutes while stirring.
  6. Add cheese and stir well.

A Pinterest Success: Christmas M&M Cookies in a Jar

Gifts in jars . . . what could be cuter? I got this idea from a conglomeration of pins that showed pretty much anything you could imagine stuffed into jars as presents: banana bread mixes, drink mixes, foot scrubs, handmade lotions — the possibilities are endless, and mason jars just make everything cute. Am I right? Just look:¬†GiftCookieJar_1You know I’m right.

I made one of these for each of my five co-workers, Brett’s co-teacher, our landlords, and my best friend in Ohio . . . eight in all. The jars came in a package of 12 from Walmart. Target also has them, as does probably every other craft store out there. The ribbon also came from Walmart’s craft aisle. As for the “directions”, I just used a couple fun fonts and printed them myself, adhering to the jar with two small pieces of double-sided tape.

GiftCookieJar_2I actually did a test-run of placing the ingredients in the jar and then making the recipe itself. No way was I going to give away a recipe that was a dud. Luckily I only had to make a couple of adjustments and the cookies were great. But I also learned an important lesson . . . let’s just say it looked like a flour bomb exploded all over my kitchen table, and that’s an understatement. It’s actually really difficult to measure out two cups of flour, mix in some baking soda and salt, and then put the mixture in a jar without spilling, oh, half of it.

So you would think my first step would be to re-visit the canning aisle where I got the mason jars for a canning funnel, right? Oh, you give me too much credit. Of course I didn’t go there. I didn’t even know those funnels existed. I went to the kitchen gadgets aisle, and there aren’t funnels there. None. And when I asked someone where to find them, I was led to — where else — the oil aisle for cars. Well, the good news is there were funnels, and I got so excited to use my new funnel. Seriously, my excitement over a funnel was a little ridiculous, and not long-lasting. The flour immediately got stuck in the mouth. Cue me banging the jar on the table to get the flour down and using a wooden spoon handle to shove it through. It took forever. So the bad news is I didn’t realize until after driving the 20 minutes to Walmart and 20 minutes back that I needed a wide-mouth funnel. Somehow I finally completed all eight jars, but I totally learned that lesson. Never again.

Besides all of that, I really did enjoy making these cute gifts and giving them away. I realize a lot of people make and receive tons of cookies around Christmastime, but to me, here was a major time-saver handed to you in an adorable package: going to a Christmas party and quickly need a dessert to take? Having a few friends over and nothing in the pantry? Or maybe you’re simply craving nice, warm chocolate-y cookies from the oven and don’t have the ingredients to make them from scratch? Well, here you go. All you need besides the mix are two eggs, some butter, and vanilla extract. Yum! Here are the instructions for the jars:

Christmas M&M Cookies in a Jar (adapted from this recipe)

What you need:

  • 1 quart-sized glass jar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. chocolate candies or chocolate chips¬†(I used half mini green and red M&Ms, half mini chocolate chips)
  1. Rinse the jar with hot water and dry thoroughly.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Place this mixture in the bottom of the jar.
  3. Onto this, layer the brown sugar, then the white sugar, and finally the chocolate candies/chips.
  4. Attach the following directions to the jar: (1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (2) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (3) Empty the contents of the jar into a large bowl and mix well. (4) Using your hands, add in 3/4 c. softened butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (5) Beat 2 eggs with 1 t.vanilla extract. Work this into the flour mixture until well-combined. If dough is too crumbly, place in refrigerator for 15-30 minutes. (6) Shape dough into 1 inch-sized balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Slightly flatten the dough balls. (7) Bake for 10-14 minutes until edges are slightly browned. Remove cookies to a rack to cool. Makes about 3 dozen small cookies.

Crockpot Mexican Chicken

My last post was almost a month ago. I’m not going to go into the reasons for the delay, but if anyone is curious, go to the site my mom and I have been keeping¬†here. We’ve been through a lot in the last month, but we are trying to praise God through everything . . . even when it seems this journey will be endless.

Today I’m sharing one of my absolute favorite recipes. I got back from Ohio last Sunday, and I really haven’t felt like cooking much. This awesome recipe is perfect for those days: throw it all in your slow cooker and forget about it for eight hours. When you’re ready to eat, the chicken completely falls apart and shreds itself as you stir it. Plus it tastes fantastic no matter how you eat it. We usually do burritos the first night, but we’ll eat the leftovers as salads, burritos, or plain with tortilla chips. It’s incredibly versatile. I forget where I found the original recipe, but I’ve added and subtracted lots of ingredients to suit our tastes.

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This is perfect for our single friends out there . . . simple, filling, tasty, and lots of leftovers. You can eat it for a week, or freeze some! We’ve frozen half of it before to have a few weeks later. How much better can it get? It’s also a great meal for guests. Not only do you not have to worry about dinner, but it’ll be a¬†hit, I promise! I’ve served this to my in-laws, other family, and friends of ours many times, and pretty much everyone has said they love it.

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In the age of Chipotle, everyone probably knows how to fold a burrito, but I thought I’d show you anyway. The trick is not filling the tortilla¬†too full, no matter how tempted you are. (1) Put your filling in a straight-ish line; (2) bring the [short] sides closest to the filling in; (3) holding those sides in, fold over one of the long sides and push back against the filling; (4) roll your finished burrito!

We’re pretty simple with condiments: sour cream, cheese, and spinach. Because it’s so versatile, this can be as healthy as you want it to be, though. Hope you enjoy!

Crockpot Mexican Chicken

  • 3-4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 or 2 bell peppers (color of your choice), diced
  • 1 jalepeno, seeded and diced (optional)
  • 8-oz. frozen corn
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 T. minced garlic
  • 16-oz. salsa
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 T. cumin
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1/2 t. cayenne pepper (more or less, depending on taste)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 c. dry rice (I use Minute Brown Rice)
  1. Place chicken in crockpot.
  2. Mix all ingredients except rice; pour over chicken. Make sure chicken is covered.
  3. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  4. Stir and shred chicken.
  5. Cook rice and stir into chicken mixture.
  6. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, tortillas, tortilla chips, and anything else your heart desires.

Mexican [Meatless] Lasagna Cups

Today I’m sharing a favorite recipe of mine. I’m kind of proud of myself, because this one is 100% my creation. I’m sure others have done this before me, but I haven’t ever seen this exact recipe.

The very first blog I ever read was Kevin and Amanda. It was right after we were married in 2010 and I was always scouring the internet for recipes. That blog popped up, and it started my journey into reading blogs every day. I’m addicted to a lot of food blogs and DIY blogs. Maybe in a future post I’ll talk about my favorites, but for now I’ll just say that there are some awesome bloggers out there who are incredibly talented.

A little while after I started reading Amanda’s blog, she posted this recipe for Lasagna Cups. I think I made them the next week. They were a hit! The hubs and I both love them. There’s something about the wonton wrappers . . . they bake up crispy and golden brown on the edges, soft in the middle . . . they’re just really, really good. So that recipe got me thinking: what else can I put in these wonton wrappers? The possibilities are endless! Pretty much my first thought was something Mexican. I grew up in a Mexican-food-loving family and was pretty spoiled to have authentic Mexican restaurants minutes from my house. Even now, I probably make one or two Mexican dishes a week. I knew I could whip up something delicious with those wonton wrappers in a muffin tin,¬†and keep it relatively cheap by going meatless!

If you’ve never done this before, you have to try it!

photo_2You just place the wrappers in a sprayed muffin tin and layer from there! These would be fabulous as a party appetizer if you just did one layer. When I make these for a dinner, I always do two layers like the original Lasagna Cup recipe.

photo_5Mmm, mmm. They are so good with a little sour cream on top. These are incredibly easy to make and only use seven ingredients!

*Side note on the photography: Yes, I would love to take amazing pictures like so many food bloggers do. But in this season of life, I work during the day and am typically making dinner anywhere from 6:15-7:30 pm. Up here in New England, it’s dark by then. So maybe someday I’ll have naturally-lit, beautiful photos. For now, I’m choosing not to be hindered by the light and I’m sharing what I love!

Without further ado, the recipe:

Mexican [Meatless] Lasagna Cups

  • 1 15-oz. can black beans (or any bean of choice)
  • 1 c. frozen corn
  • 3/4 c. salsa
  • 1 t. garlic powder or 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (more or less depending on your preference)
  1. Combine beans, corn, salsa, and seasonings in small saucepan over medium heat. Stir well and heat through.
  2. Spray a 12-tin muffin pan. Place one wonton wrapper in each cup.
  3. Place one large spoonful of the bean mixture in each cup. Top with a bit of cheese.
  4. Place another wrapper on top; layer bean mixture and cheese again.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 11-15 minutes until edges are golden brown and cheese is melted.

Easy Meatless Lasagna Pasta

Well, my goal was to blog while on vacation . . . clearly that didn’t happen. We were having too much fun relaxing and hanging out with my parents, friends, and family. We spent time with dear friends we hadn’t seen since our wedding day and were also able to see some of our college friends for a fun reunion. Towards the end of the week, we agreed that we could’ve used at least another week in Ohio, but my job wouldn’t let me take more time off, and Brett had to dive into football coaching the day after our return.

Speaking of our return, it was awesome fun (hint: that was sarcasm). We found an unbelievably great deal on plane tickets this time around . . . normally we drive because the price of driving doesn’t even compare to flying, and we were so excited to not have to make the 12-hour trip. Our first trip took 3 1/2 hours, including a layover, which was wonderful. On the way back, however, we were supposed to land in Boston at 10:30pm. Because of some issue with our plane, it was still in Orlando, instead of being in Pittsburgh to take us to Baltimore. We’d miss our connecting flight, and I had an interview the next morning at 8:00am.

Cue a bit of freaking out. Brett was able to talk to someone who switched our flight, putting us in Chicago instead of Baltimore, and then landing in Manchester, N.H., instead of Boston, around midnight. It sounded great in theory. We landed in Chicago with no more issues, ate supper, and were ready to board at 9:00pm Chicago time. This is where it gets so fun. We ended up sitting on the plane for TWO HOURS, waiting for passengers from a connecting flight. When they finally got on, we then had to wait for all of their luggage. We finally took off after 11:00pm, which was midnight our time, landing at 1:45am. I think we finally fell into bed around 2:45am. I got three hours of sleep before my interview, and went on to work for another eight hours.

All this to say . . . we’ve been slowly recovering from all of that. I had to work Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, while Brett had double sessions coaching football and a scrimmage Saturday morning. Who’s had time to go grocery shopping? Not us. When we’ve had down time, we’ve slept, played video games (Brett), or read (me). We’ve been eating from our pantry and freezer, and I’m pretty proud of myself that we’ve had enough to make decent dinners without groceries. We’re missing milk and fruits/veggies, but we’ve also made ourselves smoothies from frozen fruit. Sometimes it’s fun to see what we can scrounge up without spending money.

This is one of those scrounging-from-the-pantry meals . . . it won’t knock your socks off, but it’s nice making something cheap and filling. I used a mix of pastas, a can of Italian diced tomatoes, water, minced garlic, lots of spices, sour cream, parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Pretty much anything along those lines would’ve been great in this, like onion, peppers, spaghetti sauce, etc. I almost used a can of tomato sauce, but at the last minute decided not to.

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No, my stove isn’t spotless, yes, we have a green kitchen floor, and yes, these are lazy iPhone pictures.

I didn’t measure any of the spices I used, but I’m pretty generous with all of them. I’d rather have a lot of flavor than not enough. The one spice I’m careful with is crushed red pepper; the hubby and I both like spicy food, but too spicy can ruin it for me.

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Yes, we ate off of one plate that night. Our apartment is a mess right now with half-unpacked suitcases and backpacks, so dishes are one thing we can try to moderate since we don’t have a dishwasher.

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Brett said the taste of this dish reminded him of lasagna, hence the name. We ate it with some garlic bread from our freezer and applesauce from the fridge, which was on its way out. I don’t often make dishes without some form of a recipe, but this was pretty fun.

Easy Meatless Lasagna Pasta

  • 1 – 1 1/2 T. minced garlic (I keep a big jar in my refrigerator)
  • olive oil
  • 1 can Italian diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 3 c. water
  • at least 1 t. of each of the following: parsley, basil, oregano, onion powder, garlic pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 t. crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 16-oz. pasta (elbows, penne, rotini, gemilli, etc.)
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese
  1. Saute the garlic in a little olive oil until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes; stir well.
  3. Add seasonings; stir well.
  4. Add water; stir and bring to boil.
  5. Add pasta, stir and return to boil.
  6. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 15 minutes until pasta is done, checking every so often that pasta isn’t sticking to the pan.
  7. Add sour cream and parmesan; stir until thickened and creamy.
  8. Sprinkle mozzarella on top; cover 5 minutes until melted.
  9. Enjoy!

Lemon Creme Streusel Bars

While my blog is mainly about my design business, I don’t want it to be all design, all the time. Mostly because my life isn’t solely design . . . it’s made up of all kinds of things, and that includes food. I love to cook. I know a lot of people out there dislike cooking and never, ever look forward to it. Me? Sure, I have nights where making dinner is absolutely the last thing I feel like doing. But when I have a new recipe to try or a tried-and-true favorite that we¬†know is going to be to-die-for, I look forward all day to coming home and making it. Seriously. I think about it all day.

I never cooked before I got married, unless I was by myself at home and felt like making a crazy concoction. My favorite channel was the Food Network, but that didn’t mean I was automatically some great chef. However, it definitely inspired the food lover in me. And when I say “food lover”, I don’t mean I actually like all foods. As my parents, extended family, and my husband can attest to, I’m a pretty picky eater. I barely tolerated vegetables, even through college, although now that I cook I’m tolerating them much better.

Speaking of being picky, I really disliked lemon desserts growing up. My mom would always buy Thin Mints and Lemonades from the Girl Scouts . . . loved Thin Mints, never touched Lemonades. I still like a chocolate flavor way better than lemon, but I’ve come a long way in my lemon-liking tastes. Especially during the summer, when rich chocolate desserts aren’t all that appetizing at hot, sticky, sweaty cookouts. To me, a fruity dessert is lighter and doesn’t make you feel like you gained 100 pounds later.

I took these Lemon Creme Streusel Bars to a potluck this past weekend, and they were a hit. I saw quite a few people sneaking seconds.

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I found the recipe originally on Cooking Classy. She has way better pictures than I do.

Her recipe is for an 8×8 pan, but I did a recipe and a half, to make a 9×13 pan. Yes, that included a lot of calculations and things like “1.875 cups of flour” but, hey, it worked. They were perfect and SO delicious!

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You see that thick, amazing crust? To die for. This is one of my new favorite desserts!

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Here’s the recipe:

Lemon Creme Streusel Bars (originally from Cooking Classy)

  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 c. old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 t. + 1/8 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 T. finely grated lemon zest (I had a handy husband that grated the zest and juiced the lemons for me! Saved me so much time.)
  • 1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 t. lemon extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, oats, salt, and baking soda. Stir in both sugars and mix until no clumps remain.
  3. Stir vanilla into melted butter and pour over dry ingredients. Use a spoon to stir until mixture is evenly moistened.
  4. Press half of mixture into a greased 8×8 pan and gently press. Bake 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, zest, juice, egg yolks, and lemon extract until well blended. Pour over crumb crust and spread into even layer. Top with rest of streusel mixture. Bake 23-26 minutes until lightly golden.
  6. Remove and allow to cool at room temperature. Place in refrigerator at least 30 minutes before slicing into bars.