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Hello, Sunday

Hello, Sunday

Today I took a nap, cleaned up the house, read a couple magazines and did laundry. It’s almost like I’m a normal person! Usually Sunday is full of running around and work and all the normal things that normal people do to get ready for the week get shoved to the side and forgotten. I did need to do a lot of work today, but I hit a wall, because there were things around the house that needed to be done, or I would completely lose my mind. So I took care of things around the house, and as a result I’m going to pay for it this week with having to be more focused, more efficient and working even longer days, but it is what it is.

My once-a-week crock pot cooking has been a success. We’ve been trying lots of new recipes, and not only is it super easy to throw a meal in the crock pot, but I also end up making enough food to feed us for at least two meals. This means healthier meals and less money on take out, with minimum time and energy investment.

Lemon Chicken Orzo

Two weeks ago I tried 365 Days of Slow Cooking’s Lemon Chicken Orzo soup recipe and it was just lovely. It is a warm and comforting winter meal, but not so heavy as a chunky soup. I ended up eating several bowls of it for one dinner, whoops! It’ll last a bit longer if you don’t strap on the feedbag like I did.

This week I made Skinnytaste’s Crock Pot Balsamic Pork Roast, and it is an instant favorite.  It is SO incredibly easy and SO incredibly delicious. We were so hungry that we ate the whole thing up before I even remembered to take a picture, but there are plenty of gorgeous pictures over at Skinnytaste’s site, so you should check them out.

Last night, Mr. Beez and I had a date night where we went to an early play, went out to dinner and then went to the movies. I let him pick the movie, since I pretty much pick everything all the time. He picked Gravity. I was not interested in it to begin with, but it was pretty good. It has tones of tension and the outer space imagery is all beautiful. We saw it in 3D and I expected to pretty much be horribly motion sick the whole time, but ended up being OK. I ended up liking it a lot, and it re-confirmed that I absolutely have no interest in traveling to outer space. Ever.

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Thursday, back at it.

This is my first Thursday back in the “real life” schedule. November through December was a mess of days on and days off and days with parts of both. Now we’re back to a more typical schedule. Thursday, for some unknown reason, is the day every week when Baby Beez totally loses her $**t. She thrashes and screams and I have to drag her in to school. I have no idea why Thursdays are so often like this. Baby Beez, however, did not get the message that today was Thursday and she acted like a normal human 3 year old, instead of a screaming beast. It helps that today is show & tell day (the theme is “white,” so she brought her white stuffed cat) and she really likes show & tell. Who doesn’t?

For last week’s crock pot recipe, I made Winter Corn Chowder from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.  Despite the cheese I threw on top, the recipe itself is vegan. I found the recipe, as written, to be a little plain. By adding in a little splenda (to make “sweet corn chowder”) or a little hot sauce (to make “spicy corn chowder”) it kicks things up to a better flavor.

Winter Corn Chowder

This week, I’ll be making the Old Fashioned Vegetable Soup from the same book, and will be serving it with grilled cheese sandwiches. With the weather so cold, all I can think about is soup.

Given my failure to properly track my Weight Watchers points lately, I am giving WW’s Simple Start program a crack. So far, it’s going brilliantly. It helps that I have been sick all week and chowing down on cold medicine, which has killed my appetite. But even with the hungries starting to creep back now that I’m feeling a little better, I’m finding it easier to operate off a fairly comprehensive list of approved foods, instead of being presented with all the things I can’t eat, and struggling to figure out what I can. As long as I eat (to satisfaction, not complete fullness) from the list, I only have to count the up-to-7 off list points. Counting to 7 is manageable for me.

I am listening to Hole’s “Live Through This” and pretending it’s the mid-90s. I’m not entirely convinced this album is office appropriate, but it’s what I need to make it through this dreary morning.

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32 Before 32: Keepin’ it Real With Pinterest (for once)

32 Before 32: Keepin’ it Real With Pinterest (for once)

This 32 before 32 is a two-for-one, because it is also my crock pot recipe for the week. When I decided to put “Actually Make Something I Pinned on Pinterest” on my list, I had something more crafty in mind. But then it came down to the wire last week and I still hadn’t made my crock pot recipe for the week, and I saw this pin for a tasty looking Crock Pot Chicken Korma (and here is the link to the original page). As a bonus, I already had all the ingredients in my house!

We were a few minutes away from leaving for brunch, when I remembered that I planned to serve the crock pot chicken korma for dinner. Also, I had to get it started before leaving, or it would not be done in time. Even with adding the extra step of sauteeing the onions and garlic before putting them in the crock pot, and chopping up the butternut squash, yam and chicken, the whole thing took about 20 minutes to prepare. This is absolutely a doable recipe to throw together before leaving for work in the morning.

crock pot korma

This recipe added some nice variety to the usual rotation of soups and stews that I make in my slow cooker. Was it as good as a korma from an Indian restaurant? Nah. But it was plenty good for an easy at home meal, and I’m sure it would freeze easily. The chicken isn’t even necessary, and I think this would taste very good as a vegetarian dish, especially with some added potatoes or cauliflower.  Mr. Beez declared the meal a success, and helped himself to seconds. Baby Beez refused to eat it, because she is only interested in cotton candy flavored yogurt and plain noodles for the time being.

Chicken Korma

Now if I could just get around to making a few of those 800 cookie recipes I have pinned….

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32 Before 32: Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce & Italian Sausage

32 Before 32: Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce & Italian Sausage

Last week I was in the mood for wingin’ it when it came to crock pot cooking. Although my family is Italian, I’m usually not a huge fan of tomato sauce.  We are lazy folks in this house and usually eat our noodles with the chunky garden Prego stuff in the jar (actually, Mr. Beez eats his noodles with Prego, I usually eat my noodles with butter. Even ravioli.)  I took a Feast of the Seven Fishes cooking class, and was struck with inspiration to try and make tomato sauce in the crock pot.  I knew the basics of it, and I learned at the class that you should always add a little bit of sugar to the sauce (even if you’re going for a spicy sauce), and also that cooking pork in the sauce will give it a richer flavor.

Crock Pot marinara ingredientsI wanted to make a chunky, zesty sauce, so I picked out these ingredients:

-Hot italian sausage

-Olive Oil

-Italian Blend spices

-Crushed red pepper

-2 big cans crushed tomatoes

-1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

-1 little can tomato paste

-1 package mushrooms, sliced

-kosher salt

-pepper

-garlic

-a big onion

-shredded Parmesan cheese (a Parmesan rind would work well)

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My first step for any crock pot recipe involving onions and/or garllic is to chop them up and saute them in a saucepan.  You can put them in there raw, but I find that doing that causes the onions and garlic to overpower all the other flavors.  Sauteeing them gets just the right level of flavor, and only takes a couple of minutes. Every minute is precious, but this first step is time well spent.

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Next I threw everything in the crock pot and stirred it up.  I didn’t have any particular order in tossing things in. With the salt, pepper and herbs I just added enough that it felt “right.” I used a small handful of sugar and a large handful of cheese.  Then I let things cook all day and let the house smell like lovely sauce.

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Ta-dah! This was a total success. There was way more sauce than we needed just for eating with the sausage and noodles, so I froze two quarts of it to use later.  The sauce was so rich and flavorful. I was proud of such a great outcome when I was just flying by the seat of my pants.

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32 before 32 Weekly Slow Cooker Meal: Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken @SkinnyTaste

32 before 32 Weekly Slow Cooker Meal: Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken @SkinnyTaste

When I set this goal of cooking a slow cooker meal each week, I knew it would not involve trying a new recipe each week. There would be plenty of tried-and-true recipes in the mix. Given how hectic things are around these parts (especially now that it’s the holidays), it’s hard enough for me to commit to one slow cooker meal each week. Expecting me to discover a new recipe each time and to remember to assemble all the ingredients for it is just not a realistic aspiration for me at the moment.

If you haven’t discovered SkinnyTaste yet, you should remedy that right away.  Gina’s recipes are delicious, flavorful, and best of all– WW friendly.  My biggest gripe with cooking is that it is often hard to figure out the serving sizes and points (even using the WW recipe builder).  At SkinnyTaste, the heavy lifting is done for you.

SkinnyTaste’s Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken is one of those ideal “toss everything in the slow cooker and head out the door” recipes.  Also, the ingredients are all things we reliably have stocked in the house.

Ingredients Crock Pot Santa Fe

And even if you don’t have all the ingredients readily available, the recipe is very forgiving with substitutions.

The first time I made this, Mr. Beez excitedly informed me how much he enjoyed it. He has asked me to make it again several times, and I have ended up making it almost once a month.  Not only is it easy, it is also incredibly versatile. You can use this Santa Fe Chicken as a filler for tacos or burritos, use it as a nacho topping, serve it alongside rice, or put it on a bed of lettuce and veggies as a hearty salad.

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

Ok so a close-up of a crock pot dinner maybe isn’t the prettiest of things. (Although somehow all SkinnyTaste food shots are simply gorgeous.)  Most slow cooker meals come out similarly– mushy, not very pretty, but oh so flavorful. The Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken was no exception.  5 minute prep time and dinner was all ready when we got home. What a win.