E-Z Baked Ziti

This meal is much less of a unique recipe, but much more an easy satisfying meal to throw together rather quickly.

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E-Z Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

1 13 oz. box whole wheat rigatoni

1 jar tomato basil sauce

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 bag baby spinach

2 cups mexican cheese shreds with a touch of cream cheese

1 tsp. sugar

Seasonings to taste:

garlic powder

onion powder

salt and pepper

italian seasoning

oregano

basil

Directions:

1. Boil pasta according to package and drain.

2. Preheat oven to 350*.  Brown ground meat and drain.

3. Add sauce to meat with 1/4 c water to rinse jar.  Add seasonings to taste with sugar.  Mix in spinach.  Simmer over medium heat for ten minutes or until heated through and spinach is wilted.

4.  Mix pasta, sauce mixture, and cheese until combined.  Add salt and pepper if desired.

5. Pour mixture into casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Cover with foil.  Bake 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake 5 minutes more.

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Happy Valentine’s Day + Oreo Chocolate Truffles

Yesterday evening I remembered my husband needed to bring a dessert for a Valentine’s bake share at his work.  I decided to forego baking and mix up these Oreo Chocolate Truffles that have always been a hit at parties I’ve seen them at and it was no different when Chris brought them to work today. 

Oreo Chocolate Truffles

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Ingredients:

1-16.6 oz. package of Oreo cookies

1-8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature

2-8 oz. bags semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:  Put cookies in food processor and process until fine crumbs result.  (I processed one-third of the bag to start, added the next third to that, and the last until all were powdered to fine crumbs.)  Next, I added the cream cheese by breaking it into chunks and processed until it was evenly distributed.  Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Then, make 1 inch balls from mixture and place on pan.  (I used a cookie scoop and rolled balls of equal size.)  Once balls are made, refrigerate or freeze to cool and harden. 

Meanwhile, melt chocolate using a double boiler method on the stovetop.  I filled a saucepan about 1/2 way and placed a stainless steel bowl on top.  The chocolate chips were added to the bowl and heated over simmering water stirring consistently until a smooth melted chocolate resulted.  Be careful to not let water boil or chocolate will become sticky and grainy if overheated.  Next use two spoons to dip oreo balls in melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off, then placing back on wax paper.  Allow truffles to harden in the refrigerator.  Once hardened, put truffles into sealed container and store in refrigerator or eat.

Chris and I split one before they were packaged up and they were divine. 

Today was a normal work day aside from all of the red shirts and my pink one, oh and for the 3 cakes and chocolate cupcakes made by one of the teacher assistants, and the gift and Valentine sharing among the kids.

I started off my day with un-overnight oats—like overnight oats, but without the sitting overnight.

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In the mix:

1/3 c oats

1/3 c greek yogurt

1/3 c lowfat milk

1 banana

cinnamon

1 spoon peanut butter

2 handfuls blueberries

1 small handful of pecan praline granola

Lunch:

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Cheese stick, turkey, tomatoes, and crackers to make my own lunchable.  I saved the Chobani for after tutoring snack and had some cake from the lounge instead.

Dinner was take out from the Japanese Cherry Blossom.

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Cucumber Special Roll filled with snowcrab, tuna, avocado, ponzu and naruto sauce—I had 4 of these plus 2 pieces each of husband’s snowcrab roll and tuna roll.

I also had some vegetable soup.

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Not Your Everyday Football Fare

Any Saints fans out there?  Tonight was a big game for the “Bless You Boys" against the “dirty birds.”  And thankfully the New Orleans Saints pulled it together to get a W on the board against the Atlanta Falcons.

Earlier today Mom and I went to La Madeleine’s for lunch and she asked if I was planning football food on the dinner menu.  I desperately needed to cook my spaghetti squash that I purchased a few weeks back, so I wasn’t planning on typical game food, but more of a meal to go along with squash.  Just before the big game I asked Chris what he felt like eating for dinner with the squash and replied pork chops.  So on to the store I went to collect much needed staples and pork chops, which just so happened to be buy 1 get 1 free today.  Score!

Prior to running to pick up groceries, I turned on the oven and prepped the squash for roasting as previously done here roasting the whole squash.  I asked hub to stick it in the oven so it would be nearly done by the time I got back. 

Once home, I seasoned my center cut bone-in pork chops with salt and pepper and browned them in a pan sprayed with nonstick spray for 5 minutes on each side.  The chops were removed and I added a sliced green pepper, sliced onion, and a tad of water to the same pan used to cook chops stirring and scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  As the vegetables cooked sown I removed the seeded pulp from the squash and then scraped out the spaghetti strands to be added to the pepper and onion mixture.  Along with the veggies, I added about 3/4 cup of teriyaki sauce to the pan.  The chops were placed on top of the veggie mixture, covered, and  cooked on low for twenty minutes more to ensure they were cooked through. 

This meal came together on a whim and turned out great!

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The squash did not keep its natural yellow color; it absorbed the teriyaki brown color, but it was still tasty.  The dish reminded me much of braised cabbage and pork.  Chris said “dinner was great” and it reminded him of french onion soup. 

As for my earlier eats today, I started with oats—more because I wanted to use my new bowl and less of the fact that I had no banana or milk to put in it.

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So I stirred sweet potato pecan butter into my very plain oatmeal and topped it with Fage Greek Yogurt with Honey.  It turned out to be a satisfying, not very warm breakfast.

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Mom and I headed to the gym a while later for cardio.  I did 20 minutes on the killer of a stair stepper, 20 minutes on the arc trainer, and 10 minutes on the bicycle.  I finished with some stretching to try to relieve the pain in my lower back/tailbone area and left hip.

Mom and I then stopped for lunch at our usual.  I ordered the wild fields salad and a bowl of country potato soup with cheese and bacon, please.

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Spring mix with balsamic vinaigrette

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Totally.hit.the.spot.

I also had a few bites of Mom’s pasta salad and sandwich.

While waiting for dinner to cook I shared a piece of cheese with my German Shepherd, Niko.

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And during the game—no beer for me, just coffee…

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No nachos, wings, or burgers; just an apple.

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A Spin on Mexican

Today was  a normal October Tuesday.  I began with a cold breakfast of cinnamon raisin granola.

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Plus some chai on the side.

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I had 2/3 cup granola, 6-8 Kashi Island Vanilla Wheat Puffs, a handful of frozen blueberries, 3/4 cup of lowfat milk, and a sprinkle of ground flaxseed.

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As I have been the past two Tuesdays, I attended a workshop away from my school campus.  Again lunch was provided.  I chose the roast beef on wheat.  It came with chips, a cookie, and an apple.

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I also had some milky way bite size chocolates.  The apple was saved for a snack when I got home.

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With some peanut butter in the middle for dipping.  I was having a bit too much fun practicing my photography skills using the corner of one of hub’s garden boxes for scenery.

After unloading the dishwasher, folding laundry, and a bit of Oprah I got started on dinner.  At the grocery on Sunday I picked up some chicken breasts since they were buy 1, get 1 free.  I also purchased a jar of Peach Salsa and Gouda cheese.  That is where the Mexican comes in.  I simply baked the chicken at 350* after topping it with salt, pepper, and the salsa.  After 35 minutes I added some thin strips of Gouda (some went in my tummy on spot) and stuck the chicken back in the oven for five more minutes. 

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For a side dish, I roasted some butternut squash by cutting it in half, scooping out the seeds and pulp, and baking at 400* for an hour.  In keeping with Mexican, I used a spice common of the culture for flavoring—cumin.  In addition to cumin, I seasoned the squash with salt, pepper, and cinnamon after basting it in olive oil.

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Dinner was delightfully flavorful although the salsa lacked in the peach department.  I couldn’t hardly taste any peach, just a slightly sweet flavored salsa.  The squash was tender and flavored well.

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The squash tasted much like a sweet potato.

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As for the chicken and being a cheese lover, it was cheesy and tasty, but it was somewhat overcooked.  I always worry about undercooking poultry so often tend to overcook it causing dryness.

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My belly is full after eating the majority of this (and sharing a few bites of chicken with the pups)!  It was simple to put this meal together, but it does take some time to cook so I got other chores done in the meantime. 

Now I’m relaxing watching Biggest Loser and about to get back to washing and folding the massive amounts of laundry I desperately need to catch up on.  I don’t get to watch too much TV lately, but have some shows I like including CSI, 48 Hours, Biggest Loser, So You Think You Can Dance, and Real Housewives, and of course all things Food Network. 🙂

What are your favorite television shows?

My Lucky Day

Before I explain why I am feeling lucky today, let me begin by sharing my meals for the day.  I was in the mood for some cold cereal and milk, but when I got to the kitchen I remembered we were all out of milk.  Instead I decided on 1/3 cup of greek yogurt with a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin with a spoonful of canned pumpkin and a spoonful of this decadent macadamia nut honey (I purchased at Marshall’s the other day) mixed into the yogurt.

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I wasn’t sure about this breakfast as far as satisfying me, but the flavors were delicious and it was filling.

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Chai + Yogurt Bowl

Lunch looked a lot like lasts night’s dinner.  A “taco” salad made with spring mix, cucumber, grape tomatoes, a reduced fat colby jack cheese stick, a 1/2 cup of reduced sodium pinto beans with salsa and light sour cream for dressing—two tablespoons of each.

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Beans for Protein, Not So Much Flavor

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On side I had 8 pumpernickel pretzel sticks with a spoon of white chocolate wonderful peanut butter for dipping.  This was a fun snack to eat; it reminded me of those individually wrapped processed cheese and cracker sticks that I always loved as a kid.  

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See the resemblance.

                                 

These things were one of my favorite snacks when I was younger and I made Mom buy me some every time I saw them hanging in the baskets near the refrigerated dairy aisles.

After work I had a Kashi Bar to tide me over through exercising.

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I feel like I have been slacking on cardio, so I dedicated today to cardio and stretching with some abdominal floor work.  My cardio session included 20 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes on the bike, and ten minutes walking on the treadmill.  I feel good!

I had good intentions on cooking tonight, but stopping at the grocery for some staples after my workout led me to purchasing a rotisserie chicken for dinner instead.

When I got home after 7:00 I was feeling quite hungry so I immediately ate some pita chips (about ten) with salsa that was purchased to put atop a chicken wrap/taco.

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I steamed some corn and then got to work on my taco.

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While assembling this I picked the chicken from one leg and ate it on the spot.  I added half a breast to my low carb. whole wheat tortilla wrap.  I added about a 1/3 cup of corn, a tablespoon of freshly grated mild cheddar, two tablespoons of the salsa verde, iceberg lettuce, and a tablespoon of plain greek yogurt.  I am feeling pretty full, but may have a snack before the night ends.

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Side note: I often do have a snack after dinner, but it may not make it to the blog if I’ve already posted and shut down the computer.

Now as for my lucky day, first I get to work to find out I won the football pool from yesterday’s Saint’s game.  This is my third win this season, but I still need to win one more time to profit off of how much I actually paid for my 5 squares on the pool.

My other news involves a phone call from a Registered Dietician from the LSU Agricultural Center.  She was given my name from the chef who is conducting nutrition classes with our students and wanted to invite me to serve on the Food and Nutrition Education Advisory Committee.  The meeting is on Wednesday morning so I should have more information to share then.  The meeting just so happens to be at the gym where I work out, so I seeked out the conference meeting room before my workout this evening.  All I was told is she is trying to gain some insight with providing Food and Nutrition Education to teens in Jefferson Parish High Schools.  I happily accepted and will soon find out what all the advisory board entails.

Question of the Night:  What was your favorite childhood snack?

Friday Recap & Healthified Pizza

I apologize for skipping yesterday’s post.  I just wasn’t feeling it and after running a couple errands after work I came home and crashed for a couple hours.  Then I spent some time with my hub.  Here is a recap of yesterday’s eats.

Breakfast:  Sandwich Thin topped with Dark Chocolate Dreams PB, Sliced Nanner, and Cinnamon Sprinkling

Lunch: Salad with Sliced Pear, Sliced Squash, Sliced Cucumbers, Grape Tomatoes, Reduced Fat Feta, Light Raspberry Vinaigrette, and Pita Chips

Snackage:  Tortilla Chips + Spinach and Artichoke Hummus, Half Pear, + more (was feeling very snacky today so I also had a Reduced Fat Colby Jack Cheese Square and some cookies from frozen cookie dough; probably could have went a more healthy route, but I was tired and hungry which is not a good combo)

Dinner:  Healthified Tortilla Pizza–I used a whole wheat tortilla as the dough.  (A pita or english muffin split open could also be used.)  I topped the tortilla with a tablespoon of store-bought tomato basil sauce, a light babybel cheese round, sliced squash, broccoli, a spritz of cooking spray, red pepper flakes, salt, and parmesan cheese sprinkles.  It was baked at 400* for 12 minutes or so.  I had one whole tortilla to myself and split a second with the hub.  I’ve made these before for myself, but it was his first tortilla pizza.  His response after eating it, “I’ll have to make these for myself more often!”  So it definitely gets the hubby-stamp-of-approval!

This is a really simple, healthy way to get your pizza fix rather than ordering delivery or take-out.  And did I mention how good it tastes!  Not to mention it is fun and easy to make because the topping combinations are endless based on individual likes and differences.  I think this would be fun for kids to make their own personal pizzas as well, but I’m not there yet!

I confess–I also ate a handful of pistachios and a dark chocolate square before bedtime.

P.S. I think it might have been the artificial sweetener in the coffee at work that I had earlier in the day causing me to be so hungry.  I don’ drink it often at work, but when I do I get cravings in the evening after work.  That must have been it.  Does that happen to you all?

Question of the Day:  What are your favorite pizza topping combinations?

Cold….Orange Smoothie

It is that time of year once again where I battle the dreaded cold.  This morning I woke up with an ill feeling coming over me, so I opted for some warm oatmeal and a mug of hot green tea.

My oatmeal bowl contained:

*1/2 cup oats

*1/2 c water

*salt

*crumbled Vegan Banana Nut Muffin

*teaspoon of peanut butter

*a few dried cranberries

*honey drizzle

For lunch, I scrounged up some eats from the cabinet and fridge.  I used a can of crabmeat to make a crab salad to enjoy with Triscuit Thin Crips.  On side I had carrots with a dollop of hummus.

My crab salad included light miracle whip, dijonaise, sweet relish, salt, pepper, dried basil, and a squirt of lime juice.  To be honest, it was just okay; although it did serve the purpose of getting me some nutrients.  It certainly was not what I felt like eating.

I also had 2 tootsie rolls that I grabbed out of my candy jar heading to the lounge at work.

Once home from work, I came to the conclusion that I definitely have the onset of a cold.  My nose has sort of a tingling/burning sensation and my head feels a bit unclear.  So, in my attempts to nip this cold in the bud, I scrounged through the bathroom closet in search of a cold remedy.  I found some expired Alka Seltzer Cold Orange Flavored Tablets, but I cannot stomach the taste of them plus they were old (aka expired).  Nonetheless, I decided to give them a go.  But rather than take them with the 4ounces of water as recommended on the packaging, I added them to a 1/2 cup of water to dissolve and then threw them in my smoothie mix.  Hence, a cold orange smoothie was created.  I added about 1/4 cup frozen mango yogurt, half frozen banana, the 1/2 cup water with dissolved tablets, 1/4 tablespoon of vanilla protein powder, and 4 ice cubes.  I also had to add a tad more of water.

It may look pretty, but it was not the best tasting smoothie.  I thought the added ingredients would disguise the saltiness of the orange effervescent tablets, but I was defeated in my efforts.  I drank the smoothie basically for the medicine and I thought the nutrients provided in the yogurt and banana may be beneficial to overcoming my cold.  And I did get to practice my photography skills in the meantime.

About 20 minutes after my smoothie I began feeling really sssllllleeeeeppppppyyyyyyy. 🙂  So I took out some vegetable soup from the freezer (made several months ago, I knew it would come in handy at some point) to defrost on the counter, and laid down and was out within seconds.  I didn’t realize cold tablets had that effect on me.

Once awake from my nap, I heated up the vegetable soup to enjoy with some cheese toast.  Aaaah, finally some comfort in my day!

I do not remember my exact recipe for the soup, but I know it involved bottled vegetable juice, beef chunks, frozen soup vegetables, other frozen veggies, wagon wheel pasta, water, salt and pepper.

For the cheese toast, I broke up a Sargento Reduced Fat Colby Jack Cheese Stick and topped it on whole wheat bread.  It was then toasted in the toaster oven to soon be gobbled up with vegetable tomato broth from my soup.   Any time I have vegetable soup, I always reminisce back to school lunches where grilled cheese sammies are served along side the soup for some necessary dipping.  Rather than recreate the grilled cheese sandwich laden with butter and full fat cheese on white toast, I opted for a simple healthified version of cheese toast, which allows for the same great dippage power and taste.

I went back for seconds on the veggie soup with four crackers too.  Finally, I snacked on half of a sandwich thin with peanut butter, honey drizzle, and cinnamon.

Question of the Night: How do you overcome a cold?  Please share any tips or home remedies you might use.

Interestingly, there were some health myths explained on Shine.Yahoo.com–The Truth About 12 Health Myths.  A couple of them had to do with fighting a cold.

Off to get some rest.  Good Night! 🙂

Mel