The Simplest Crockpot Lasagna

My dad recently came to visit our little family. I have never gone so long without seeing my dad before, so I was very excited to have him over. Growing up, my dad was the main chef in the family. I wanted to show him all the yummy things I had been making recently. I know that he absolutely LOVES lasagna, so I decided to give it a go.

I am not sure about where you are, but in August it gets mighty hot where I live! The idea of a lasagna cooking away in the oven seemed like a bad idea. So I turned to my favorite kitchen appliance-my crockpot. The idea of a lasagna cooking away all day without heating up my kitchen sounded GREAT! This would also allow me to take my dad to the zoo with Cupcake. She has recently become super interested in animals and I figured that’d be a heck of a lot more enjoyable than him watching me cook.

My dad is a great many things. He is brilliant, witty and always supportive. He also can be a bit particular. I was nervous to say the least. If he didn’t like it, I’d know. And then I’d be sad. Thankfully he LOVED it! He ate it and then started inquiring into how much we really wanted to have for leftovers. Cupcake devoured her portion. It was delicious and I am looking forward to making it again.

This recipe is very basic and simple. There aren’t a whole lot of veggies in it, but you could easily add a layer of that in! I am planning on making it later this week with a layer of sautéed spinach and onions. Yummy!

Ingredients

1 lb lean ground beef or turkey

29 oz can of tomato sauce

8 oz uncooked lasagna noodles (I use the no-bake kind, but any kind works)

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1.5 cups cottage cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese for top layer

Directions

  1. Brown meat in a skillet and drain off fat
  2. Stir in tomato sauce and mix well
  3. Spread 1/4 meat sauce on bottom of crockpot
  4. Arrange 1/3 uncooked noodles over sauce (Break them to make them fit)
  5. Combine 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese with cottage cheese is a bowl. Spoon 1/3 cheese mixture over noodles.
  6. Repeat sauce-noodle-cheese layers twice.
  7. Top lasagna with remaining sauce. Cover with 1 c shredded mozzarella cheese.
  8. Cook 4 hours over low. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

 Let me know what you think!

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Easy Crockpot Clean-Eating Thai Chicken

You know what seems really terrible? Teething.

My poor Cupcake is currently working on adding eight more teeth to her little mouth. She is in a ton of pain. She is drooling all over the place, not sleeping well, and barely eating. As a result, I have a very clingy little girl who just needs her mama!

You all know that I try to cook in a “clean” way.I try to not drive myself too crazy about it (I’m looking at you delicious Oreos), but overall I do attempt to make clean recipes. Often when I am looking online for some momming inspiration in the kitchen, I find what looks like a great recipe. That is, until I realize it is either labor or ingredient intensive. Mama ain’t got no time for that, especially with a sad Cupcake on my hands.

After searching for a little, I kept coming across a few recipes for Thai-inspired chicken. I noticed a theme and started pulling bits and pieces from different recipes. I decided I wanted something I could literally just dump in the crockpot without doing anything extra. That is the type of easy I wanted. Plus, with the crockpot doing all of the work for me, I had more time to hang out with my favorite little lady and cheer her up!

I was surprised with how simple prep was (approximately 5 minutes), how good this was! I have made it using chicken breast, thighs or drumsticks. Pick whichever is your favorite or on sale this week, depending on your needs!

This recipe can also be made as “clean” as you want. It does have soy sauce, which in my house we use, but it’s up to you if you’d prefer a substitute! All of our ingredients are from clean brands, but you’ll have to read the labels carefully if that’s your thing.

Little side note, store brand natural peanut butters tend to be made of only peanuts and salt. Brand name ones include sugar and added oils. So, I save money and get my clean pb? Works for us!

Onto the deliciousness…

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken
1/2 c salsa
1/4 c peanut butter
3 T soy sauce
3 T lime juice
3 T water
1 T ground ginger
1 T ground garlic

(Using freshly chopped ginger and minced garlic would probably be super yummy, but again, no time).

Directions:
1. Put all ingredients into ziplock bag. Shake, massage, etc. to spread ingredients all over chicken.
2. Dump bag and all contents into crockpot.
3. Cook on low 6-8 hours

I serve ours with rice and cooked veggies for a delightfully awesome dinner.

I apologize for the lack of pictures! Once my hubby got home last night, it was time to eat and then put Cupcake (and this Mama) to bed! I will try to get some for the next time we make this and update!

The Best Split Pea and Black Bean Soup

Ever make a really foolish mistake? Yea…well this is embarrassing.

I decided to attempt to make my own french bread this morning when I awoke to rainy skies.  In my head, a good crusty french bread pairs perfectly with soup. So, I was excited to find this recipe for a homemade lentil soup that used ingredients I already had in the house. I have been trying really hard to been more aware of the costs associated with different recipes that I make for my family. We have been cutting back on our expenses and I have found we spend entirely way too much on our proteins. We love meat! I am looking forward to the challenge of finding satisfying vegetarian meals that fill us up, while still are healthy and yummy. This soup recipe was perfect.

I dug into my pantry and pulled out all of the beans. I had a package of lentils that I had never used and figured now was a good time to try! I love a thick soup, so I figured it would be perfect. I chopped my onions and threw in some baby carrots. I was on a roll. I set my beloved crockpot to high for six hours and went about my day.

It smelled WONDERFUL. Weirdly, the soup did not seem to be thickening up at all, but I figured that it was okay. I knew the magic would occur eventually. I was happily coloring with Cupcake when I had a strange thought. I ran over to my crockpot and my very watery soup. Five hours and 54 minutes had passed. I lifted the lid and all of a sudden it hit me-

I USED SPLIT PEAS. I didn’t use lentils.

People.

I promise I can read. I used to teach elementary school! It wasn’t even that I grabbed the wrong bag. For the last YEAR, I have had a bag of lentils in my pantry. The lentils were never used at our old house. They made the trip to our new house. The lentils were never lentils at all!

This is when I started to panic a little. My hubby does not love split pea soup. I don’t like it AT ALL. I also made it following a recipe for lentil soup. I had a watery soup and I had no clue what to do. I ran to my pantry and started scouring the shelves. Dinner was now supposed to be in five minutes. This was the one night we really had to eat at a specific time. I had my first ever self-made loaf of bread for this meal. I was crushed.

Four minutes to dinner. I can’t find anything. We do not eat potatoes. I don’t want a creamy soup, so milk is out. The amount of flour I would need at this point would ruin the soup. Ugh.

Three minutes to dinner. Cupcake decides she reallllllllllllllllly needs her sippy cup (which is already half-full) filled to the top. Water, Mommy. Water. Ugh.

Two minutes to dinner. Sippy cup crisis averted, I return to my pantry. And that’s when I see the forlorn box of potato flakes I bought to make potato pancakes many moons ago and never used. I rip it open and pour a bunch in. It’s working! It’s working! It’s also weirdly clumpy! And oh no! That doesn’t look pretty.

One minute to dinner. Hubby puts Cupcake in her high chair and gets her dinner ready (she has been on a kick of only wanting carrots and “petz” (pretzels) with hummus for dinner). I pull out the hand-mixer. Whirrrrrr. 

I tentatively ladled the soup (now a thick-almost chili consistency-like soup) into the bowl. I sit down to the table. We say grace. I pick up a spoon and…

People. It was good. Like really good. As in, I am now questioning my opinions on all previously hated foods, good. Both my husband and I had two bowls. As further proof, Cupcake took a break from her “petz” streak and ate a little baby sized bowl, herself!

I don’t even know how this happened, but my immediate thought was to lie to y’all and pretend like this was on purpose, because it definitely is good enough to pass as being on purpose. But, I’m all for being real with you and finding the joy in my mistakes! If you’d like to try this yourself…

Ingredients
1 lb. bag dry split peas
1 can black beans
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c baby carrots
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 T jarred minced garlic
1 T cumin
2 t chili powder
1/2 t dried parsley
5 cups HOT water

1/4-1/2 c dried potato flakes *Added at end*

Directions 
1. Rinse peas and black beans. Discard any small pebbles or bad beans. Add all ingredients (except potato flakes) to crockpot

2. Cover, and cook on HIGH for 6 hours.

3. Remove the lid, and add the dried potato flakes. Use a hand mixer on medium for approx. two minutes, or until desired consistency is reached.

I hear that chocolate chip cookies were once a happy recipe accident, so I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad! Have you ever had one? Let me know about it in the comments section!

January Resolution Update

As part of my 2015 resolutions, I post my status each month to keep myself accountable for the goals I set for myself!

1. Design 2015 budget goals with husband to reflect past spending and current saving goals.

Eh, not so great. Our budget is up to date on the computer, and we are overall doing well. Our “allowance” idea would have worked better this month if we had planned better. My husband spent January finishing up residency interviews and therefore was on the road quite often. We had not decided ahead of time how these road trips would factor into our allowance. Therefore, we spent a bit more on dining out than I would have preferred.

Moving into February, we will be reattacking this goal. I have prepped our envelopes with our allowance and we’re going to give it our all! We do have a weekend away at the end of this next rotation, so we decided our allowance would not factor into the eating out those days. Instead, we will plan ahead to bring what we can and budget appropriately.

2. Go to the gym (or workout at home) a minimum of four days a week.

Ugh. Well, not so good on this one! Two of the weeks, I achieved my goal. Which means that the other two weeks, I did not. One week I only went three times. I made several excuses and did not push myself. This last week of January was made difficult due to Blizzard Juno. I find it much harder to motivate myself to do workouts at home.

Sadly this means my success was only 50%. I will certainly be looking for improvement in February! My husband’s work schedule is changing, so I will be utilizing the babysitting services at my gym. I am hoping this will allow me more flexibility to reach my goals since before I was limited to the time before my husband left for work.

3. Reduce my PR of a 9 min mile pace to an 8 minute mile.

Every week, I would push myself to run as fast as I could on the treadmill. Yesterday I decided to really haul it and see what this body could do. I ran a mile in 8:28! I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it myself. I had no idea my body could do this. My February goal is to get below an 8:25. The goal seems small, but currently I’ve only run an 8:28 once in my whole existence. I want to work on that becoming a more comfortable run, rather than getting stares from the neighboring treadmill occupants as I gasp along.

4. Try one new recipe a week and blog about it.

Pork “Fried” Rice

Orange Chicken

Clean and Easy Crockpot Pork Tenderloin

Breaded Pork Chops

5. I want to continue nursing Cupcake through 2015, unless she chooses to wean earlier.

Check! I experienced a major dip in supply following some weight loss combined with Cupcake getting sick and not taking all of her feeds. Thankfully, through a lot of work, my supply is back up and I have a very content little girl!

6. Visit my grandma every week before our move. Call her every week after we move.

Check! I went to visit my Gramma three times this month. In addition, there were two weeks where we had to stick with a call. The first week Cupcake was sick. The next week, my grandmother and her roommate both were too sick for Cupcake to visit. It’s getting harder and harder to keep my wiggly worm occupied at the nursing home, but thankfully she’s such a good girl!

7. Text/call/email a different friend every day to keep communication open.

So, this was one of the best resolutions I made! It really forced me to reach out to so many people in my little world. It made me realize that sometimes I rely on others to do that part of the friendship too much. It was great connecting with so many and I look forward to seeing how this resolution will help keep my relationships strong once we move!

8. I will cut my monthly consumption of soda.

My goal for January was to reduce my consumption of soda to four 8-oz cups a week.

This goal was really achievable! In fact, I am super impressed with myself because just a few years ago I lived off of soda. I easily would drink 2-3 cans (which translates to at least four 8-oz servings) a day!!!

My highest week I had 3 servings. I had a total of only 8 servings over the whole month.

My February SMART goal will be to maintain my current goal of no more than four servings a week. I want to turn my focus to the situations in which I drink soda and try and address the behaviors associated with that. I have noticed that I tend to want a soda for my afternoon pick-me-up. I do not want to drink coffee in the afternoon since that level of caffeine is likely to affect my sleep. My second goal will be that if I find myself wanting a soda, I will first make sure I drink 2 cups of water to ensure that I am not just thirsty. If I still want my soda after that, I can have it. I’m hoping the extra water will keep me hydrated, perk me up, and make me too full to drink the whole soda!

9. Subscribe to FlyLady Emails. Complete tasks to maintain clean and decluttered home.

I subscribed again to the emails and started on New Years Day. I created an organizational binder, which I love! I have found when Cupcake has an off-day, I cannot always get to the daily task. To combat this, I doubled up on days when I had more time. Over the course of the week, all chores would get done! I love how much cleaner my house is getting.

It also makes me happy because now Cupcake is becoming more aware of what Mama does during the day. I have to take her whole mattress out of her crib to change her sheets. This month, I noticed that Cupcake was intently watching me each time I changed them. I would show her two different options for her new sheet set and let her “pick” one (wherever her hand landed first haha). It makes me feel good that my habits will rub off on her and hopefully encourage her in the right direction!

10. Reduce time spent watching TV

This month I focused on the time I spent watching the news. This was a very hard habit to break, but there are a few ways I was successful.

-I stopped watching nightly news and only watched in the morning. Sometimes the stories on the nightly news were upsetting or bothersome and likely was affecting my sleep. Plus, most of the PM stories were covered during the AM newscast. I also realized that with the virtual world in my cell phone, I didn’t miss out on as much as I somehow thought I would.
-I never spend an hour on the treadmill. I counted whatever news I watched at the gym as my time for the day.
-In the mornings where I didn’t go to the gym, I turned the TV to a music station as soon as my time was up. We have a portable music player that I may eventually switch to so that the physical TV is off, but this was a good transition.

I encountered some difficulties as my husband was used to watching the news with me. However, he was supportive as always. He was also raised on a steady diet of TV, so this is a big change for us. I also found that I didn’t feel quite as “in the know” as I like. I digest news better in the TV format as compared to reading it online or in the paper. Moving into February, I hope this part will get better.

My SMART goal for February is to go through all the shows I have set for the DVR and figure out if they really add any true value or enjoyment to our lives and delete all that don’t. Big Bang Theory stays! If I truly love it, fine. However, if it isn’t truly meaningful in my world, it is a waste of time! I will not add any new shows to our lineup.

11. Post progress each month on the above goals.
Check!

Easy and Clean Crockpot Pork Tenderloin

The other day I was playing around on the web and stumbled across Whisking Mama. She had a recipe for “The Best Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin” and it really started a craving! It combined all things I loved. It seemed easy, it had clean ingredients, it used a crockpot, and pork tenderloin was on sale. I knew I had to try this so-called “best” recipe as part of my New Years Resolution to try a new recipe each week!

Cupcake seems to be confused and not realize that she is a tiny 9-month old who needs her naps. She took one 5 minute nap in the AM, which thankfully was all I needed to throw this recipe together. Cupcake’s godfather, who is one of my best childhood friends, came over in the afternoon to see the cutest little girl around. It was so lovely to have my crockpot slaving away over dinner so I could enjoy his company! I *heart* the crockpot.

Okay, enough of my yammering away..here it goes.

Ingredients

2 lbs pork tenderloin

1/4 c soy sauce (I like low sodium)

1.5 T mustard (we used spicy, but yellow is what the original recipe called for)

2 T olive oil

3 T maple syrup

1 t onion powder

1.5 t garlic powder

1 shallot, chopped (I omitted this because we didn’t have it in the house)

Directions

1. Mix together all ingredients in a bowl (except for the tenderloin). Set aside.

2. Put tenderloin in crockpot.

3. Pour mixture over tenderloin.

4. Cook on low 5-6 hours. Recommended in the original recipe is to turn the pork twice (at 2 and 4 hours) to ensure even cooking. I did this and thought it was perfect!

5. Serve with juices over meat

People, I loved it. Loved it! When I first thought of mixing oil, maple syrup and mustard together, I was admittedly a bit skeptical. After my giant flop last week, this was a magnificent surprise. Seriously, Whisking Mama was not kidding. This is the best. It was amazing and my husband already asked when we could have it again. It was seriously awesome. In fact, I am wholeheartedly enjoying my leftovers for lunch today!

My First Ever Pot Roast!

I usually am not a huge red meat fan, but lately I have been craving it! I have never even really been a huge fan of pot roast, but I came across this recipe on Pinterest and thought I’d try it out!

Ingredients:
Beef Roast ( I used a 3 lb one )
2/3 c applesauce
1 c water
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder
Paprika

Directions:
1. Place roast in crockpot upside down. Season liberally. Flip right-side up and repeat.
2. Top roast with applesauce
3. Pour 1 c water around roast (not on top)
4. Set crockpot on low 6-8 hours

Optional:
Add 2 cups baby carrots and 1 chopped medium onion in crockpot around roast

When I started this recipe, I did not have applesauce in the house. Then it hit me that I make applesauce for Cupcake all the time! So, I whipped out my BabyBullet and poof- homemade applesauce!

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Mmm. It sure smells heavenly! Check back later to see how this baby turns out. Needless to say… I can’t wait to try it!

Edit: So here are the results!

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My husband hates pot roast and he even went back for seconds! The only thing I’d do differently is add a full cup of applesauce. You really cannot taste the apples at all (which I personally think was okay for beef), but it kept it moist! Two-thirds cup was fine, but it didn’t completely cover the whole roast.

We topped ours with some cooked onions and it was divine!

If you try this recipe, let me know how yours turns out!

Easy Crockpot Chicken Fajitas!

As part of my October goals, I wanted to try new recipes and this one was a hit! My husband and I LOVE Mexican-inspired dishes and this one fit the bill.

What I love about this meal is it fits any diet! The crockpot recipe is Paleo, Clean and 21-day fix approved! Or, you can splurge and add in all sorts of sides if you prefer to eat differently. I love to make this when we have company coming over because it is oh so simple and I can secretly tell those on diets how it fits in. Can you tell I’m in love? I also REALLY love the fact that I’ve made this with any amount of chicken breast from 1-2.5 lbs and it all tastes divine. Seriously- fool proof!

Ingredients:
4 cups chopped onions and peppers (roughly 2 bell peppers and 1 medium onion)
1 c salsa (spiciness up to you!)
Chicken breast (1lb to 2.5 lb package)
3T lime juice
Seasonings
-we use a scoop of our favorite JD’s Salsa Mix (available at JDsalsa.com)
-alternatively you can use 1t of garlic powder, cumin and crushed red pepper, .5 t cayenne and .25 t salt

Directions:
1. Pour salsa into bottom of crockpot
2. Layer chicken breasts on bottom of crockpot
3. Pour lime juice over chicken
4. Sprinkle seasonings on top
5. Cover with chopped veggies
6. Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 7-8
7. When finished, chicken should easily shred using two forks!

When we make 1 lb of chicken, my hubby and I have plenty leftover for lunches the next day. I like to make more chicken so I can use it later in the week in enchiladas, or even chicken noodle soup!

We love our spicy foods, so if those don’t agree with you, alter the seasonings to fit your desires!

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Just as an FYI, JD’s Salsa Mix comes in mild or hot. We use it on EVERYTHING! We mix it into scrambled eggs and use this instead of heavily processed taco seasonings. It’s a perfect blend!

As a note: JD’s Salsa has no clue who I am and I get no kick-back for recommending them. (But hey, JD’s, if you want to send us stuff for free- we’d love you forever!). For real, it’s yummy.

I started this recipe this AM since my husband is running a half marathon in the rain today! Yuck! It sure will be nice to have a yummy lunch to come home to after we all get soaked.

Can I have your prayers that Cupcake doesn’t totally fall apart in this yucky weather?