Hello (from the other side of busy)

Hello.

I am sorry.

Like really really sorry.

I have been swamped with work and work that’s not really work and family, which you could call work, and cooking (that I’m not sharing) and cleaning and friends.

And wow.

I have a million excuses for why I haven’t been blogging or sharing anything anywhere.

None of them are any good.

Maybe the best is that I’m doing some freelance writing, and it feels good. I get an itch to be a real reporter and a real writer every once in a while.

I know I’m not.

But it still feels pretty nice to contribute.

will be back soon. I will because I need to write here, too.

See you soon!

Blue Cheese and Spinach Meatloaf Muffins and Honey Glazed Carrots

I am not the meatloaf-maker in the household. However, I am the one who uses the muffin pan the most so this recipe was made for me.

Mini Muffins

Blue Cheese, Spinach Meat Loaf Muffins
Ingredients
(adapted from All Recipes)

  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

Directions
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a large muffin pan with cooking spray.

Combine ground beef, blue cheese, onion, bread crumbs, spinach, eggs, and Worcestershire sauce (and a bunch of Italian seasoning) in a large bowl until well blended. Divide meat mixture evenly into the prepared muffin pan. Bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink in the center, about 30 minutes.

For the carrots, I mixed them with olive oil, honey, salt and pepper and roasted them with the meatloaf muffins.

Chipotle Black Bean Chili with Avocado Cream

I made the spiciest chili ever. But it was soooooooo good.

Spiciest Chili Ever

Chipotle Black Bean Chili with Avocado Cream
Ingredients
(adapted from Eats Well With Others and only adapted because I forgot some ingredients)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • chipotle peppers in adobo, minced (I used too much.)
  • 4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 small ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • too much chili powder

Directions
Heat the oil in a 4 quart saucepan. Add the carrots and onions and cook until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the peppers and cook for 1 minute.

Stir the broth and the beans into the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the avocado, sour cream  and lime juice. Pulse until smooth.  Season to taste with salt.

Serve chili topped with the avocado cream.

I used waaaaaaay too much of my Husband’s homemade chili powder. Way too much. So spicy I had to cut the soup with milk and Parmesan.

Which are also optional ingredients. If you want.

Thunder, snow and lightening very VERY frightening!

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of thunderlighteningsnow.

Thunderlighteningsnow is when it is snowing and thundering and lightening all at the same time while also being ridiculously cold.

This is what thunderlighteningsnow looks like, and it’s all up in Kansas’ business.

At 5:30 in the morning, I bundled up in two pairs of pants, two shirts, a sweatshirt, my boots and a water-resistant jacket. A hat that could have been a lot warmer and my husband’s gloves rounded out my SNOW SHOVELING outfit.

Our driveway was covered in at least a foot of snow and took an hour to shovel it. While it was still snowing. (An hour after my husband left for work, all the snow was back.)

Wichita KS Winter Storm

This is at 4:30 a.m.

Husband and I took turns shoveling and going inside to get warm. Of course, when we went inside, the snow that had accumulated on our clothing melted.

Water puddles everywhere! I am grateful for carpet.

We had to shovel the snow so Husband could go to work. Unlike me. Since I work at a bank, and all the bank branches are closed due to inclement weather, I did not have to go to work today! <—Adult snow day.

Downtown Wichita snow scene

Yesterday at work. No work for Shae today!

Husband, however, cannot NOT go to work because hospitals don’t close. Poo.

So Ivan and I have to play in the snow without Husband, and play in the snow we shall. Well, he shall.

Wichita KS Winter Storm

Wichita KS Winter Storm

This is at 7 a.m.

Wichita KS Winter Storm

Wichita KS Winter Storm

This is at 9 a.m.

Ivan isn’t always the biggest fan of weather… unless it’s sunny and awesome… but he jumped around like a moron in the snow. He really doesn’t understand why his footies are cold, but he does understand that eating snow is almost like drinking water.

Which he’s all about.

I am going to spend the rest of my snow day feeling bad for my husband and catching up on blogging, reading and menu planning.

OH! And check out the deathcicles hanging from my house!

Deathcicles

Crock Pot Cashew Chicken

I have a problem with crock pots.

Most crock pot recipes have to cook for 8-9 hours, which means I have to wake up extra early to prepare the meal before work.

I don’t wake up early. Let alone extra early.

But, on the weekends, I do not have to wake up early because I don’t have to go to work.

Crock pot recipes are also way better when the 8-9 hours is 3-4 hours.

Crock Pot Cashew Chicken Recipe

Crock Pot Cashew Chicken
(adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff)
Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. ketchup
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup cashews (plus extra if you like cashews)
  • salt and pepper

Directions
Shake the chicken breasts in a bag with the flour, salt and pepper. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and more salt and pepper.

 

Brown chicken for two minutes on each side, and then place the chicken in the crock pot. Pour the sauce mixture over the chicken in the crock pot.

Cook for 3-4 on low. Add cashews to the crock pot near the end of cooking so they’re suuuuper flavored.

Serve over rice, white or brown, or quinoa… or some other grain.

Cashew Chicken RecipeSuccessful dinner. (Really good news because I’ve had quite a few misses recently.)

An injured workout buddy and a blueberry smoothie

My workout buddy is hurt!

Ashley is not sure how she injured her back, but I am convinced it is from our workouts. Probably yoga.

So I feel terrible because I dragged her to yoga, and then her back started hurting.

Perhaps, because she had not hit the gym in a while, any new exercise regimen might cause strain and injury. Recommendations to heal her injury are heat, Ibuprofen and stretching. But no yoga.

I am a horrible friend.

Our workouts together have been working for me, though, and in a fairly unexpected way.

First, while I have not lost any weight, two pairs of dress pants that used to be too tight (well… they used to fit perfectly) are now fitting around my middle and through my thighs like they haven’t in months.

I. Am So. Happy. (And yet still so sad for my sweet Ashley.)

I am still too frightened to test my jeans. Maybe in a few more weeks… after a few more yoga classes… after a few more cycle sessions… Perhaps.

More good news? I shaved 50 seconds off my mile time without training by running. I didn’t run to reduce my time, which didn’t work during my Running Streak, which I barely finished.

I ran an 11:09 mile last week, and I am in shock. How did I do that without running at all? I don’t know, but I’m doing more of it.

In the meantime, here is a delightful smoothie I made for breakfast, and a recipe for another smoothie I hope to slurp down tomorrow.

Blueberry Banana Smoothie
Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 whole banana
  • 6 oz. of milk (enough to fill up the rest of your travel mug)
  • 1 tsp. of raw honey

Directions
Blend and enjoy.

It looks lavender!

Blueberry Banana Smoothie Recipe

Roasted Chicken Thighs and Balsamic Vegetables

Who loves a good chicken thigh?

Balsamic Chicken and Vegetables

Roasted Chicken Thighs and Balsamic Vegetables
(adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking)
Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 2 yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a roasting pan with olive oil or canola oil spray.

Combine the vegetables in a large bowl with the garlic, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Salt and pepper the chicken thighs, and then lightly spray with olive oil or canola oil spray (trying to get crispier skin!).

Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through and the chicken thighs are golden brown.

Balsamic Chicken and VegetablesAbsolutely delightful.

Enjoy.

My German Shepherd is going to be famous: PetsUncaged.com

Ivan, the German Shepherd, is going to be famous. He’s so stunning…

PetsUncaged.com

I am a contributing blogger for Pets Uncaged, a website featuring breed and product reviews for pets, and a nice blog where I will post my pup-tastic blogs!

The cat will make an occasional appearance… but he’s a jerk… so… what.

Check out my latest blogs about Ivan’s “scratch” reflex and how I work out with my dog.

Countries across the pond eat more and weigh less

Husband and I are moving.

Probably to Italy. Maybe France.

He doesn’t know yet.

I dream of living, dining and drinking under the Tuscan sun or along the river Seine. Uncorking wine bottles for my daily fitness, eating pasta and homemade tomato sauce for lunch and dinner every day and desserting on gelato well past my bedtime. And I have no intention of gaining a single pound!

Doesn’t that sound dreamy?

I could die living life like that in America!

I am not in La La Land, and my head is not in the clouds. This dream is not a dream.

According to MensHealth, countries across the pond eat more and weigh less. European countries like Italy and France do not have the high obesity rate ruining American health. These countries do not struggle with portion size and don’t have as many problems with processed food and empty calories like America struggles.

But, why?

In order to find the truth, I have decided to leave my homeland and explore foreign cuisine. I am going undercover in Europe! Who wants to fund my trip? In the name of investigative reporting, of course. Anyone? Any takers? Please… No one, then? Oh, fine.

I guess I’ll just do as the Americans do, and Google it! (I went to college. I know Google. We’re besties.)

SIGH.

According to the MensHeath article, Spaniards eat slowly, taking their time with each bite. Italians avoid processed food (and I am a sinner eating pasta sauce from a jar). The French, much like the entirety of Europe, do not eat in front of a television. Meal time is a respected tradition: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Of course, European countries are not the only nations eating real, whole food and keeping their figures trim. According to a Diets In Review editorial intern, southeast Asian fare is better than the Chinese takeout most Americans are used to.

I should know.

I snarfed down Great Wall’s Chicken and Broccoli with fried rice (not ALL of it) Monday night, and I am still feeling the after effects.

Ah, hindsight, you devious fiend!

Comparing my eating habits to those of the individuals living in European countries identifies a jarring reality. struggle with portion control. don’t get the nutrients I need from the often processed foods I eat. eat in front of the television… and I don’t even have cable to distract! (But I do own every season of Charmed.)

From now on, I am going to make a conscious effort to control my portion sizes, eat less processed foods and stay away from television when food is in my hand.

I am also going to stop fearing food.

Another little tidbit in the MensHealth article: in other countries, people respect food. I fear almost every calorie I eat and drink, but I don’t have to.

What are some of the most insightful things you have learned from foreign cuisine? Please share so that we, too, can learn for our neighbors.

How to make healthy food taste good

I am an aspiring cook.

I enjoy chopping, dicing, mixing, spicing, saucing, baking, roasting, grilling… All the -ings. You know?

Unfortunately, I am also aspiring to lose a little weight so I have been chopping and dicing healthy meals.

Problem? It is HARD to make healthy food taste good, which is probably caused by my taste buds being accustomed to added salt, fat and other bad-for-me deliciousness.

Who doesn’t looooove French fries?

Because of my tainted tasters, a regular old bell pepper doesn’t seem to make my recipes work. A simple tomato, balsamic vinegar and a touch of homemade chili powder… I am not getting the flavor I need when I make healthful, full of nutrient meals.

And nothing is worse than eating something that tastes like cardboard simply because it’s good for me.

EatingWell’s test kitchen put together cooking tips to make our favorite foods healthier, and I am putting my faith in them that their tips will make my food taste good, too. I summed up a few I liked.

Tip #3: Get crispy fried chicken in the oven

When I was 16, I waited tables at the only sit-down restaurant in my home town. Our specialty? Fried chicken. Having grown up in that town, working at that restaurant and eating that chicken… I love fried chicken. Who doesn’t? It’s just like French fries.

Husband and I have tried and failed to oven fry chicken. Every attempt has been just a bit off so that the chicken is almost inedible. We ate it. Begrudgingly.

The test kitchen advised dipping the chicken in milk, buttermilk or egg, dredging in seasoned flour or breadcrumbs, and then spraying with canola or olive oil cooking spray. The last step might be the step we were missing. Who knows how important spray can be? We also might not have had the oven hot enough. The test kitchen advised to bake at 425-450 degrees F. I think we’ve only gone as high as 400.

Tip #4: Add flavor without adding salt

My husband and I are cooks with the belief that salt is a wonderful ingredient. Without salt, meat isn’t even worth cooking and certainly not worth eating. I will never take the salt away from my meat.

The salt can come right out of the other food I cook, though, especially if I can get flavor from anything else. The test kitchen advised to add flavor with lemon and lime or fresh herbs. I don’t know which recipes I can add lemon and lime to, but I think now is a good time to start my indoor herb garden.

Tip #9: Add grains and vegetables to meaty dishes

My husband has already implemented this tip into one of our favorite meals: turkey burgers. He adds red and green bell peppers and jalapeno to the meat before cooking, and then we load on onions and tomatoes like people who enjoy bad breath.

The test kitchen advised, though, to add at least three-fourths of a cup of grains, such as brown rice, and vegetables, such as mushrooms, for every pound of meat.

Bonus: If we shmoosh the mushrooms, and then stuff them in our meatloaf, we might actually be able to eat them. Otherwise, they are disgusting.

The test kitchen’s other tips are basic tips to reduce calories and fat, such as reducing the amount of oil we cook with and removing the cheese from our meals. (Getting rid of cheese is easy for me.)

How do you make your healthy meals flavorful? How do you escape the bland without adding calories, fat and sodium?

I need all the help I can get.