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.


E-Z Baked Ziti


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




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.



Wednesday Recap

I was way too tired to blog last night.  When my husband got home from work at 9:00 I was passed out sleeping on the couch.  So here are yesterday’s eats.


Chai Tea + Overnight Oats in a Jar


In the mixture:

1/4 cup greek yogurt

1/4 cup oats

1/4 cup lowfat milk

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1 tsp. macadamia nut honey

remnants of peanut butter

small handful of granola

Lunch was at Boudreaux’s restaurant.  I had the fried popcorn shrimp salad with full fat ranch dressing.  I wanted seafood at the fair Sunday, but they were no longer selling it so I got my fix during lunch break at my math workshop.

After stopping at a coworkers house to meet her new baby, I headed to the gym just after stopping at TJ Max.  I wanted to get some Larabars, but they were out so I purchased a box of Kind Bars.  And ate one immediately.  It was quite tasty with large chunks of nuts.  Plus I got some coffee, and seedless black raspberry preserves only because a lady next to me was raving about how good it is.  And she didn’t lie.


Right after cardio and weights I headed home to try it out on half of a whole wheat english muffin.


Then it was on to dinner.  I roasted potatoes and mushrooms at 400* after coating with olive oil, salt and pepper, rosemary, and savory.

I plated the potatoes over spinach with a fried egg.  It was de-licious!




Yolky Goodness, Mmmmm!

And I just had to have the other half of my English Muffin with more jam because it is that good.


Seedless Black Raspberry–have a berry nice day! 😉

For the Love of Fall

Aaahh!  Today brought on the weather I’ve been waiting for!  Cool, dry air.  It won’t last too long in Southern Louisiana, but I’ll take it while it’s here. 🙂

My morning began with a cold mixture of cereal and milk.  I had about 1/2 cup of Kashi Go Lean, 1/4 apple cinnamon o’s, 1/4 cup of blueberry corn flakes, and a small sprinkle of granola.  I topped it with 1 cup low fat milk.  Refreshing! 

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I had a cup of hot chai tea on the side.

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Mixed Cereal Bowl—Thank you Hungry Girl for letting me know it is okay to mix different cereals. 

For lunch I topped some baby spinach with rest of the chicken salad from Saturday’s lunch.  It was better today because it had time to marinate all the flavors while sitting in the fridge.

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I had a banana for some additional carbs and fiber.  Oh, I also had a brownie made by a colleague of mine.

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I did not make it to the gym today because I stayed a little while after dismissal to finish grading last Friday’s tests.  My inner and outer thighs are a little soar from yesterday’s strength training anyways, so I am totally okay with letting my muscles rest even though I have not exercised consistently for two weeks.  I plan on going to the gym straight from work tomorrow.

When I got home I had a snack.9-21-10 007

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie

Next up, what’s for dinner?  I knew I wanted to incorporate some Italian chicken sausage into stuffed bell peppers, but wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make it.  I ended up using cous cous as a filler along with Italian seasoned bread crumbs.

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Italian Chicken Sausage Stuffed Bells


3/4 cup cous cous, cooked according to package

4 bell peppers

1/2 pound Italian chicken sausage, removed from casings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped


Garlic Powder


Salt + Pepper

1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese

1 slice of reduced fat provolone cheese


Preheat oven to 350*.  Remove stem top and seeds from bell peppers.  Put in pot of water to cover and bring to a boil.  When slightly tender, remove to ice water to stop cooking process.  In saucepan, heat oil.  Add chicken sausage and onion.  Saute until browned.  Add cous cous, seasonings to taste, and gorgonzola cheese and mix.  Add 3/4 cup of Italian bread crumbs and combine.  Stuff peppers with cous cous/ chicken mixture evenly.  Sprinkle each pepper with bread crumbs and top with 1/4 of provolone slice.  Place in glass casserole.  Put small amount of water in casserole dish to prevent burning and sticking.  Cook in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

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My thoughts on the peppers are they were quite tasty and I enjoyed them.  But I do wish I had parmesan instead of gorgonzola.  The gorgonzola cheese has a very pungent flavor similar to that of blue cheese.  So if you are not a fan of blue cheese, you may not be a fan of this.  However, parmesan could definitely be substituted and I would use that myself if making these again.

Served with some cucumber and tomato salad + Light Italian dressing9-21-10 016

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While the peppers were baking I simmered some homemade veggie stock on the stovetop for an hour.  I threw in two carrots, two squash, two onion, garlic, the bell pepper tops from the peppers, bay leaves, fresh basil leaves, and a few whole black peppercorns.  I plan on using the stock in a fall soup recipe tomorrow night if all goes as planned.


Question of the Night:  What is your favorite fall vegetable to cook with?

Soaking in the Sunrays

I got to sleep a whole extra hour due to my workshop being five minutes away from my house compared to my normal 45 minute drive.  Yippee for that! :)  My day started off on a good note with a hot bowl of oatmeal.

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My oatmeal bowl contained:

  • 1/3 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup of skim milk
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 tsp. of dark chocolate dreams peanut butter
  • half apple, chopped
  • less than 1/3 cup cottage cheese
  • drizzle of maple syrup

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Since some other teachers and I were given an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch, we decided to try out this new restaurant which I have been wanting to try since they opened and constantly pass by due to it being about two minutes from my home.  So we headed to Sun Ray Grill and Oyster Bar.  They have a couple of other locations, but I’ve never been to any of them.

For my meal I ordered the Spinach Salad with Warm Brie Dressing.  The menu described it as baby spinach tossed in a sun dried tomato and warm brie dressing topped with fried shrimp, sliced mushrooms, and bacon.  I substituted grilled shrimp for the fried. 


The shrimp were large and delicious.  As for my salad, I should have requested the dressing on the side.  It was swimming in a puddle of dressing and I could not finish it because the spinach was so wilted and soupy due to the dressing.  I also wish the sun dried tomato flavor was a tad more prevalent.  Overall, I enjoyed the salad, but toward the end it became overwhelmingly rich with the brie turning my stomach some. 

The others ordered smoky mountain burgers, chicken nachos, shrimp remoulade po’boy, and a chicken club pita.  They all seemed to enjoy their meals.  I definitely plan on taking my hub back to try some other menu items.

After settling in at home, I had the other half of my apple from breakfast with some greek yogurt.

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Dinner tonight was some chili that I cooked based on the recipe on the back of the chili powder.  I began by sautéing a chopped onion and minced garlic.  I then added a pound of lean ground beef.  After the meat was brown and drained, I added chili powder, cumin, sugar, corn, salt and pepper, and (don’t laugh) jarred tomato and basil sauce and ketchup along with a cup or two of water.  I didn’t have a can of plain tomato sauce as the recipe called for, so I had to modify to what was on hand.  My grandmother on my dad’s side always makes her spaghetti sauce as the base of her chili and then just adds chili powder, so I didn’t see any problem with using jarred spaghetti sauce.  😉



I usually do not like chili during the summer months (wait is it fall yet?) but this definitely hit the spot.  The chili turned out quite tasty especially with a dollop of light sour cream and tortilla chips for scooping!  Mmm, mmm, mmm! 🙂

Question of the Night:  Do you save soups and chili for the winter months or do you enjoy them year round?

Place Valued

I woke up this A.M. without an alarm due to the whole shattering of the phone. Well, my dogs were my alarm I guess. They woke me up twenty minutes earlier than I needed to be up, but I decided to stay up and make my breakfast and pack lunch with a head start to my day.
For b-fast I enjoyed a bagel thin with a scrambled egg and spinach with strawberries along side. I also had some hot chai tea.

Next up, lunch.  I had chicken salad (wish I still had some now) leftover from last night atop spring mix salad and some grape tomatoes.  On side I ate a small banana.

Pretty lunch

When I got home from work I ate a chobani pomegranate with a half teaspoon almond butter and I was feeling exhausted, so I took a loooooong two hour nap.  When I woke up I wasn’t in the mood to cook because I wanted to hit up the gym.  So I ate a turkey whole wheat wrap with wholy guacamole, sargento reduced fat colby jack cheese stick, spring mix, two teaspoons of salsa, and one teaspoon of light sour cream.  Modified mexican!?!

Even though it didn’t involve cooking, it was a satisfying meal!

I made to the gym after dinner at about 8:30 and did thirty minutes on the true strider elliptical and about 10 minutes of stretching/abdominal work.


Though it is a forty minute drive from my house, one place I value is the school where I have a job to go to each day; especially this year because many teachers in the parish were laid off due to budget cuts.  Luckily, this is my 6th year in so I have a little bit of seniority over newer teachers.  Teaching is a rewarding job, some days.  Other days it may make one want to pull out her hair due to mounds of unnecessary paperwork, frustration of students not catching on, lack of parental support, and student misbehavior.  But the days that are rewarding are the days when a student tells you he or she had fun today learning, or that lightbulb clicks on that he/she finally understands a concept.  Today was an example of the latter; as the students got a little sense of place value themselves, in the mathematically sense of course.  Here’s a small peak of a couple students in action.

Can We Say Future Football Player?

Question of the Night:  What is one place that you value and why?

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Back to work today!  All during the night that song was playing in my head, so I couldn’t sleep. Ugh!  Here’s the song in case you’re not aware of the 80’s hit by Soul II Soul.

So this morning I was not a happy camper when I arose at 5:45 to get ready for my first day back to school from the summer vacation.  I started with an almond butter and peach sammie with a sprinkle of cinnamon atop and Oroweat whole wheat sandwich thin.

Almond butter + Sweet Peach Half

Next I got ready and headed out on my 40 minute drive for my Back to School Staff Development Day.  By 12:00 my stomach was doing some serious talking.  Thank goodness lunch had arrived! 🙂

For lunch I enjoyed a spinach salad with celery, carrot, 1/4 fuji apple, yellow cherry tomatoes, feta, and 2 tbsp. of light raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  Mmmm, it was so refreshing and satisfied my hunger pangs.

Pretty Salad

And on the side–the other half of my peach from breakfast and a handful of blackberries.

Fresh Fruit

Late afternoon it was time for a snacky-snack, the second of my three Larabars I picked up at Whole Foods last Thursday.

PB & J

Whew!!! Today was a rough adjustment back into the swing of things.  I got home after work and began a little tidying of the house and needed another snack.  I must have been a bit hungry because it did not cross my mind to get a picture of my two slices of Hormel nitrate free turkey and Sargento light string cheese.  <Input image here> Two round slices of turkey wrapped around a tubular stick of string cheese<Embed image> 😉

Now onto dinner–a southern [stated in my most stereotypical southern voice as heard on TV] classic.  Shrimp and Grits.

I used Quaker 5 Minute Grits on the stovetop and added some Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese and garlic powder along with salt and pepper.  For the shrimp, I started by sauteing them on the stove in canola oil with salt, red pepper flakes, and dried rosemary.  Just before putting the pan in the oven I added a few splashes of worcestershire sauce.  The shrimp were baked until done.  Also, for some veggie action I roasted some squash with salt, pepper, and dried rosemary.

Lovin My Plating ❤

Up Close and Personal

The shrimp and grits came together quite quickly.  The longest part was the roasting of the veggies, which I didn’t mind getting a couple of other chores done while they roasted.  And roasting lately is my fave way to cook vegetables.  I wonder if it alters the nutritional value much!?!  Any nutritionists out there reading?  Please let me know.

I was thoroughly satisfied with my meal tonight, but I know in days, weeks, months to come I will be unable to answer that all too elusive question–what’s for dinner?  Now that I am back into the reality of my life I need to get back into a comfortable groove and figure out how to balance everything–socializing, working, cleaning, cooking and eating healthy, exercising.  And I don’t even have kids yet!  I’m scared!

Question of the Day:  How do you balance heading a household, working, and managing your healthy lifestyle?  Do you have any tips or ideas on how to accomplish all that needs to be done on a daily basis when it feels that there is just not enough time in the day?

Civic Duty Day

Bright and early on this Monday morning I arose on my last week off before returning to work next Monday. (Well, I’ll be going in at some point this week to get my classroom all set up and ready for students.) Anyway, I started my day off with a peanut butter banana sammie on a Nature’s Own 100% whole grain sandwich round. I prefer Jif Natural PB, but for some reason my grocery stopped selling it so I had to get the Smucker’s Natural. I forgot that I did not like this kind due to the need for stirring and refrigerating, which causes it to be extremely tough to spread. But i’ll finish the jar up and omit it from my grocery cart next time. I also had a cup of hot, white tea to go with my sammie.

Then I was headed to jury duty.  In the jury pool room, filled with a couple hundreds of people, we sat and we waited and we sat and we waited.  I had a cup of coffee while anticipating being called in for a case.

Thank goodness I brought my book with me because cell phone service was so poor inside the building and I couldn’t get on the Internet on my phone either.  What a bummer!?!  No being able to check blogs, email, news, etc.  Finally, the sheriff announced that an hour lunch break would be within minutes and still no one was called in to serve.  Not even five minutes later, the clerk came on the intercom to announce that 39 prospective jurors will be called at random to possibly serve a civil suit, not criminal.  Thank God for that!  And she calls out name after name and then I am called just as I took a bite of my first apple slice.  I proceed to the line of jurors where we are then taken into the courtroom to get an introduction of lawyers and brief description of the case.  Thirteen jurors were called up; I lucked out of that!  “Yes,” I thought to myself only to be informed by the judge that these 13 would most likely not be the final jury.  So I sat shivering the entire time (it was extremely cold, but I think it was both my being cold and nerves setting in) as I listened to the job and marital status of all thirteen jurors.  Some were excused; the rest were taken in the back by the bailiff.  Next up, juror # me.  I was called randomly at # 8 out of the next batch of 13.  Again, each juror stated his or her job and marital status.  Then the lawyers did a bit of questioning.  I fully had my mind set that I would be chosen, but in the end I was excused.  Back to the jury pool we were sent.

All of the others had been sent to lunch after the 39 of us were called out, so we missed the actual break.  We were informed that we could leave for an hour and return or wait about twenty minutes and probably be sent home.  So I noshed the rest of my snack brought from home and had another cup of joe.

Well and hour and half rolls on and we were still being held captive in the jury room because supposedly another selection of jurors would be called upon.  Contradictorily, no other jurors were called and we were allowed to leave around 2:30.  By now I was starved and headed home.  I couldn’t wait to get home to heat up one of the leftover turkey burgers cooked by my hubby on Saturday.  They are just so darn tasty.

Here is the original from Saturday served with some baked sweet tater fries.  I don’t have a recipe for the burger, but I know my hub put the following ingredients into the mix of lean ground turkey breast and lean ground turkey: chipotle salsa, pepper jack cheese, spinach (which can’t even be tasted, but is good nutritionally speaking), splash of worcestershire sauce, splash of olive oil, salt and peppa.  I think that is it.  Originally we ate them on onion rolls with avacado/light mayo, mustard, ketchup, romaine lettuce and tomato.  Today I ate it with mustard, ketchup, romaine lettuce, tomato, and pickles all piled on a Nature’s Own Sandwich Round.  Still, it was so yummy two days later!

Sweet Tater Fries

1 sweet tater

olive oil or cooking spray

salt and peppa

Tony’s Creole Seasoning

Preheat oven to 425*.  Line baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Put layer of chopped sweet potato fries flat on pan.  Drizzle with olive oil or spray with cooking spray to coat.  Sprinkle seasonings to taste.  Toss to coat evenly and be sure all fries are in a single layer.  Cook about 12 minutes then flip.  Cook twelve more minutes or until desired tenderness/crunchiness.  Enjoy!

Check out those grill marks (not sure about the top part, but who cares)!

Even though I wasn’t given a proper lunch break, I enjoyed serving the Parish of Jefferson today!  It was quite interesting to experience the judicial system, and I know for certain I won’t have to do it over again for the next two years.

Question of the day:  I ate a late lunch, so I am hesitant to cook dinner because I don’t want to eat all of my meals in such a short time span.  What would you do in this case? (Pun unintentional, but since it works)– Would you feel guilty and forego a typical “dinner” and opt for something light or would you claim innocence and eat a full on dinner?