Thursday, May 31, 2012

Training to Run a 5K

I am on my fourth week of an eight week couch to 5K training program. I've been posting my runs on facebook, and I always get a few comments like, "I wish I could do that," or "I should do that." Like most other things on my blog, it's easier than you might think, so I wanted to let you know how I've been doing it. Believe me, if I can do it, you can do it.

This all started because my mom and her friend decided to run a 5K in May. They found a training program online, printed it, and started. Eight weeks later they ran/walked a 5K! When I watched my mom cross the finish line, I thought, "Hmm. I kind of want to do that." Which was weird, because I've hated running my whole life. It always hurt my ankles. And that was when I was skinny! (Yes, I used to be skinny! Ha ha ha!) Since I've gained my weight, I just assumed running would be more painful than ever, so I never bothered to try. But now I'm back on Weight Watchers and I started thinking that running could probably rack up activity points pretty fast. Plus, I thought it would be fun to be able to do something like that with my mom.

So I started looking around online for a program. I didn't ask my mom what they used because I wanted to try it before I told anyone I was doing it. If I hated it I didn't want to tell everyone that I couldn't do it. I found a few websites. Some just had a schedule to print off. A couple wanted you to pay to be part of their program. No thanks. Then I found the 5K Runner app. Oh boy, do I love apps. I have an iTouch and use it constantly. The app I found had a free trial version that included the first week of runs plus the one run on the second week. After that, it cost $2.99 for the full version of the app. That seemed fair enough. I downloaded the free app.

I love how the app works. You open it, select the week and day of the program you're on, and press "Start." A voice chimes in and tells you what to do. You don't have to worry about tracking your time. You can just listen to your music and run. When it's time to slow down and walk, time to run, and when you've reached the halfway point, you music gets quiet, the voice chimes in, then your music goes back to the regular volume. I just run from my house, because while it would be nice to run somewhere with sidewalks or even at the walking park where there would be no traffic, I know that if I make it too much of a hassle, I will talk myself out of it. If I have to load up the jogging stroller and my daughter and drive somewhere just to go running, it's probably not going to happen, because that's how I roll. So I start in front of my house, follow the program until the voice says I've reached the halfway point, then I turn around and follow the program back to my house. You don't get much more convenient than that.

As I mentioned before, this is a "couch to 5K" program. That means it's designed for non-runners like me. It eases you into running, three runs a week for eight weeks. The first day's run went like this: 5 minute warm up walk, 1 minute run and 1 minute walk repeated six times, 5 minute cool down walk. The total workout time was 25 minutes and the total run time was 6 minutes. Each day, it bumps up your running time just a little. Yesterday was week 4, day 2 for me and it went like this: 5 minute warm up walk, 3 minute run and 2 minute walk, 5 minute run and 3 minute walk repeated two times, 3 minute run and 2 minute walk, 5 minute cool down walk. Total workout time was 36 minutes and total run time was 16 minutes.

Have an android instead of an iPhone or iTouch? There are similar apps for your phone! I haven't tried them, but just pick one that has really good reviews and try it out. Not a smart phone person? Go old school! Here's a printable program I found on Pinterest. It's a 10 week program, but the idea is the same. If you can spare about 30 minutes three days a week, you can work your way up to running a 5K, no running experience required. If you've been thinking about doing it, do it! You never know unless you try.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sunshine Muffins

We like cornbread with our Posse Stew, so I decided to try this recipe from my Taste of Home's Fast Fixes with Mixes cookbook. It uses yellow cake mix in it so it's sweeter than your usual cornbread, but oh my goodness, it was yummy. This is definitely my new cornbread recipe.

It calls for a 9 oz. package of yellow cake mix, but of course all I had was the standard 18.25 oz. box, so I measured 9 oz. with my digital scale. I didn't think to measure out how many cups it was. I'm guessing it would be just over 1 cup, like maybe 1 cup plus 1 Tbs. or maybe 2 Tbs. The recipe makes about 14 muffins, which is annoying. You'll have to dirty another muffin tin, only bake 12 muffins and discard the rest of the batter, or bake 2 muffins after the first 12 are done if you only have one tin.

Sunshine Muffins

2 eggs
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. milk
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
9 oz. yellow cake mix
1 (8.5 oz.) package cornbread mix

In a bowl, combine the eggs, water, milk, and oil. Stir in mixes and mix well. Grease and flour muffin cups (take my advice and buy the cooking spray for baking that has flour in it). Fill muffin cups half full. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Posse Stew

This is one of my go-to recipes. It's great during the colder months and in the summer time it's a great camping recipe! I made it over the weekend because I had a pound of ground beef that I needed to cook and the wind was howling and it was chilly outside, so soup seemed like a good idea. I got this recipe from my aunt several years ago and it's always been a big hit. I forget to buy hominy sometimes, but I buy all the other canned ingredients by the case, so I always have the ingredients on hand. If you don't have hominy or don't like it, add in 2 diced potatoes instead.

Posse Stew

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, finely diced (I only used a half of a small onion)
1 can chili beans
1 can corn
1 can hominy OR 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can diced green chiles (I used 1/2 c. of my frozen Hatch chiles)
water (I use an empty vegetable can to measure the water)
salt & pepper to taste
sugar to taste (maybe 1/2-1 tsp.)

Brown ground beef with onion in soup kettle or dutch oven. Drain. Add all canned ingredients with their liquids. Add water to reach your desired consistency. For this batch I used potatoes instead of hominy, so I had to add a whole can of water. Usually I only add 1/2 a can. Add salt, pepper, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Copy Cat Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken

I love Cafe Rio. When I was still working, I ate there at least once a week. Now that I'm home with the kiddo I don't go quite as often, but it's still one of my favorite restaurants in town. If my husband liked it I'd eat there a lot more! I've actually never had the shredded chicken at Cafe Rio. I had the pork the first time I went and I've been hooked ever since, although I do branch out for shrimp or mahi mahi when they're the special. The point is, I don't really know if this tastes like Cafe Rio's shredded chicken, but it's delicious and easy so I don't really care.

The recipe calls for chicken breasts, which I used last time I made it, but today I had boneless skinless chicken thighs that I needed to cook. They both work great! Use whatever you prefer or whatever is on sale. The great thing about this recipe is it freezes really well, so if you're feeling a little ambitious double the recipe to use 4-5 lbs. of chicken and freeze the leftovers. I like to freeze it in 2-cup portions so I can just thaw what I need. It's awesome in tacos (as you can see in the picture), quesadillas, burritos, and even in Hawaiian haystacks. It isn't really spicy, it just has great flavor, so I'm pretty sure you could use it in almost any recipe that calls for cooked chicken.

Copy Cat Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken

from Real Mom Kitchen

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1/2 c. zesty Italian salad dressing
1/2 Tbs. minced garlic
1 (1 oz.) packet ranch dressing mix (3 Tbs. if you buy it in the big container)
1/4 c. water
1/2 Tbs. chili powder
1/2 Tbs. ground cumin

Place chicken in slow cooker. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over chicken. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or on low for 8 hours (mine was done after 7 hours on low). Shred chicken and return to slow cooker. You can remove some of the liquid if you want, but I don't see the point. Just serve it with a slotted spoon. That way the chicken stays moist and juicy. Serve as desired!

Pasta Salad

I had a hard time deciding if I should post this recipe, because it's more of an idea than a recipe. You can do whatever you want with it. You can use any pasta you want, any salad dressing you want, and any vegetables you want. You can even add pepperoni and cheese. I hardly ever make this salad the same way twice because I just use whatever I got in my Bountiful Basket. This week was no different. I used a tomato, a cucumber, and a green bell pepper because that's what I had. I used Kraft Light Zesty Italian, but it's also good with Kraft House Italian, and Kraft Caesar Vinaigrette with Parmesan is my personal favorite. I didn't use it this time because it doesn't come in a light version. You could even whip up your own dressing using this Italian dressing mix. The possibilities are endless! Have fun with it!

Pasta Salad

1 (13.25 oz.) box whole wheat rotini (if you use a pasta that comes in a 16 oz. package, use it all)
1 tomato, diced
1 cucumber, half lengthwise and sliced
1 bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 (2.25 oz.) can sliced olives, drained
2/3 (16 oz.) bottle Italian dressing

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until pasta is cold. Add to large bowl along with tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, and olives. Pour salad dressing over everything and stir until well coated.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pork Chop Hobo Dinners

I love Pinterest. I was looking at pins this weekend after I picked up my Bountiful Basket and I came across a pin for Grill Honey-Cumin BBQ Pork Packs. As luck would have it, the recipe called for corn, carrots, and potatoes, all of which I had sitting in my kitchen. I got the corn and carrots in my basket this week and had the red potatoes leftover from last week. I doubled the recipe and took the packs over to my in-laws' house for a cookout on their patio and was able to use up all of my corn, carrots, and potatoes. I love the sense of accomplishment I get when I use up produce from my basket! We also love hobo dinners, or foil packet dinners. Usually we put hamburger patties, shredded potatoes, and onions in them, so I was excited to try a new version with pork chops!

I had to adjust the original recipe a bit. It called for refrigerated cooked new potato wedges. I already had potatoes, I didn't see the point in buying more, especially precooked ones. I thought about precooking the potatoes I already had, but it seemed like an unnecessary extra step. We cook hobo dinners all the time with potatoes and they cook just fine, so I just sliced the potatoes thinly with my salad shooter and put them in the packets raw. The recipe also called for baby carrots, but I had regular carrots from my basket, so I just cut them into chunks about the same size as a baby carrot halved lengthwise. Instead of cutting each corn cob into 6 pieces, I broke them in 2 pieces each. Have you ever tried to cut a fresh cob of corn? Don't bother.

The last adjustment I made was how I cooked the packets. The recipe says to cook them on the grill, but my in-laws have a fire pit and when we have hobo dinners we always get hot coals going in the fire pit and cook them right in the fire. That's how we cooked these ones too, but if you don't have a fire pit I'm sure cooking them on the grill would work just as well!

As I mentioned earlier, I doubled the recipe. We cooked them all, but someone who reviewed the original recipe said that he or she makes extra packets and freezes them, then just thaws them before cooking them. I'm thinking that would be awesome for camping! You could make a few up and stick them in your freezer, then just throw them in the cooler or the fridge in your camper when you go camping. They'd be thawed by the time you're ready to cook them and all you'd have to do is throw them on the fire! And no mess to clean up! Pork chops are on sale at Smith's this week, so this week might be a good time to make a few for the freezer!

This is what the foil packets look like before you cook them.

And this is what comes out of the foil packets after you cook them!

Pork Chop Hobo Dinners

adapted from

1/2 c. barbecue sauce
1/4 c. honey
2 tsp. ground cumin
4 boneless pork loin chops, 3/4" to 1" thick
2 ears corn, broken in half
1 c. chopped carrots (about the size of baby carrots halved lengthwise)
2 c. thinly sliced potatoes
1 tsp. salt
heavy duty aluminum foil

Tear foil into 4 18x12" sheets. Spray with cooking spray. Mix barbecue sauce, honey, and cumin in small bowl. Place 1 pork chop, 1/2 ear of corn, 1/4 c. carrots, and 1/2 c. potatoes on bottom half of each foil sheet. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and drizzle with 3 Tbs. of sauce. Fold top half of foil over food and seal edges, leaving a little room in the packet for expansion. Grill packets over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or place on hot coals for 20-30 minutes, turning once, until pork chops reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Cut open foil packets and serve!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cake

This recipe came from one of my many cake mix cookbooks. I've made this cake a few times, most recently for my father-in-law's birthday. I think it's perfect for summer. It's nice and fruity. The downside is you have to keep it in the refrigerator, so make sure you have space for it.

On the upside, there's no oil in the recipe! Did you know you can substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil in most cake recipes? It's a straight trade. If the recipe calls for 1/2 c. of oil, use 1/2 c. of applesauce. If you don't eat applesauce regularly but would like to bake with it, buy a package of the individual serving cups. Each cup has 1/2 c. of applesauce in it, which it what most recipes call for. I've even found that if a recipe calls for 1/3 c. of oil, you can dump in 1/2 c. and it works just fine.

Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cake

1 box white or yellow cake mix (I used yellow)
2 eggs
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, undrained
1 (8 oz.) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 (3.4 oz.) package instant vanilla pudding

In large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, applesauce, and oranges. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool completely. When cakes are cool, beat whipped topping, pineapple, and pudding mix in medium bowl until well combined. Spread between cake layers and over the top and sides of cake. Store in refrigerator.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

This Week's Basket

Whoops, I'm a little slow getting this up. I barely had time to pick up my Bountiful Basket yesterday, much less decide what I'm going to do with it and blog about it! Tonight my husband is finally on his way home after being gone for a week, so I figured I better get a meal plan in place so I can feed him this week!

This week's basket included honeydew melon, red pears, lemons, apricots, blackberries, bananas, corn, onions, tomatoes, a cucumber, carrots, green peppers, and cauliflower. Nothing too exotic, so it should be pretty easy to use up! Here are my plans:

Honeydew: cut up and keep in the fridge to snack on

Pears: salt and eat

Lemons: lemon coconut cookies, freeze juice for later use

Apricots: smoothies, eat as is

Blackberries: smoothies, blackberries & cream

Bananas: tropical banana bread, banana cream pie, smoothies

Corn: steam and eat

Onions: It's a good thing onions last for a while because we don't really eat onions and there are tons of them. I can only make so much salsa. Maybe I'll branch out and try onion rings.

Tomatoes: bacon tomato sandwiches, salsa

Cucumber: Fritos salad, slice and dip in hummus

Carrots: meatloaf, cut into sticks and eat with hummus

Green peppers: stuffed peppers, Fritos salad

Cauliflower: I would normally roast it, but this week I want to try a new recipe for cheesy cauliflower pancakes!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cake Mix Chip Cookies

I am a big fan of cake mixes. I know, I know, there's a big push right now about moving away from processed foods and making your own mixes, etc., but cake mixes are just not something I'm willing to give up right now. I can buy them cheaply by the case and then whenever I need a cake it takes 10 minutes tops to have one mixed up and baking in the oven. Plus, I can make all sorts of other things like cookies!

I do have a disclaimer about this recipe. If you make a regular chocolate chip cookie with yellow or white cake mix and chocolate chips, you'll get a good cookie, but it's probably not going to be the best chocolate chip cookie you've ever had. However, the possibilities for mixing and matching cakes mixes and chip flavors are endless, and it only takes a few minutes to whip up a batch of cookies if you're in a hurry, and that's why I love this recipe. My favorite combinations are devil's food cake mix with chocolate chips and devil's food cake mix with vanilla chips, but have fun with it! If I ever find cherry flavored chips (I know they exist, I just haven't come across them yet) you better believe I'm going to make cherry chip cookies using cherry chip cake mix and cherry chips!

Devil's Food Cake Mix with Chocolate Chips

Cake Mix Chip Cookies

1 box cake mix
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake mix, butter, egg, and vanilla until dough forms. Stir in chips. Place rounded spoonfuls of dough on greased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes or until edges just start to brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely (just kidding, we all know you're going to eat them warm while the chips are still gooey and delicious).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lemon Coconut Cookies

This is another awesome recipe from Pinterest. The original blog post was for Chewy Lime Sugar Cookies. They sounded so good! The recipe is very similar to my Snickerdoodles recipe, but with a tropical twist. I couldn't wait to get limes in my Bountiful Basket! Before I got limes, I got giant lemons, so I thought I'd try to substitute lemon zest and juice for the lime zest and juice. It was a complete success! So use whichever fruit you have on hand, or if you have to buy a lemon or a lime, just go for the one you like best!

Lemon Coconut Cookies

adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
zest of 1/2 large lemon, or 1 large lime
3 Tbs. lemon or lime juice
1/2 c. toasted coconut
1/2 c. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, zest, and juice. Gradually mix in dry ingredients and coconut. Roll into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes or until edges barely start to brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Did you get a bunch of spinach in your Bountiful Basket this week? Did you look at it and think, "What am I going to do with that?" I did. It's not that I don't like spinach, because I do. I just never seem to get around to using it. I'll throw a handful in a smoothie every now and then, but then I kind of forget about it. My husband and I love spinach dip, but I've never really gotten fresh spinach to work as well as frozen spinach in either spinach dip recipe I use. The one time I did make it work, I had to steam the spinach before I used it in the dip, and you know me, I hate extra steps. I also needed twice the spinach I got in my basket, and I also hate having to buy more produce from the grocery store.

Luckily, I picked up a free cookbook at a local health fair a couple weeks ago, and there are a couple different recipes for spinach salad in it. Salad seemed like a great idea! It would be simple and I could use all the spinach up at once.  The recipe I chose to try has a strawberry dressing, which doesn't have any oil in it, which is great for my diet. It also used up more strawberries which is a plus, since I still have some left from last week! It turned out good! It's a nice change of pace from the usual salad. If there was any left over from dinner last night, I would have eaten it for lunch today.

Strawberry Spinach Salad


1 bunch spinach
1 c. sliced strawberries
1/4 c. sliced almonds
2 oz. feta cheese


7 large strawberries
1 lemon, juiced
agave nectar or honey to taste
salt & pepper to taste

Mix salad ingredients together in medium bowl. Place dressing ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Taste dressing and adjust agave or honey and salt and pepper as needed. Just before serving, toss salad with dressing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cake Batter Blondies

A couple nights ago I decided I wanted to make some cookies for my husband to take in his lunches. One of my favorite blogs, Six Sisters' Stuff, had just posted a collection of bar cookie recipes. I was kind of tired of all the cookies I usually make so I thought I'd try something new. Bar cookies seemed nice and easy. I went through all the recipes until I found one that I had all the ingredients for. It happened to be Cake Batter Blondies.

The original recipe called for yellow or Funfetti cake mix. I had yellow cake mix (I buy it by the case), but I also had cherry chip cake mix. Cherry chip cake with cherry frosting has been my favorite cake since I was a little girl. I can still buy it in my hometown, but it's not always easy to find. There are three grocery stores where I live, and at any given time, there's no telling where you'll find cherry chip cake mix or if you'll find it at all. Even if you can find the cake mix, finding the cherry frosting can be another adventure altogether. Luckily for me, my mother-in-law found both the cake mix and the frosting and made a cake for my birthday last month. I've been craving cherry chip cake ever since, so last time I was at the grocery store where she found it, I bought a couple mixes and a couple cans of frosting. Sorry, that kind of turned into a long story. The point is, if you happen upon cherry chip cake mix and cherry frosting, you should buy some. Buy a couple and if you don't like it, send the other box to me, or sell it on eBay to someone else who loves it but can't find it.

Back to the Cake Batter Blondies. Since cherry chip cake is kind of like Funfetti cake, I decided to use cherry chip cake mix for my Cake Batter Blondies. I have been struggling to limit myself to one piece a day ever since then. I could easily sit down and eat at least half the pan all by myself. It's insanely delicious. I'm going to dinner at my in-laws' house tonight and the remaining cookies are going there and staying there. It's a sacrifice I must make to the alter of the diet gods. Anyway, I'm sure this recipe would be equally delicious with Funfetti or yellow cake mix. Use what you like!

Cake Batter Blondies

from Six Sisters' Stuff

1 box cake mix (yellow, cherry chip, or Funfetti)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 c. milk
1/4 c. rainbow sprinkles (only necessary if you use yellow cake mix)
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
frosting and additional sprinkles, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix, oil, and egg in large bowl. Add milk slowly, allowing batter to remain dense. Mix in white chocolate chips and sprinkles if you're adding them. Spread batter evenly into greased 8x11, 9x9, or 8x8 baking pan. I used 8x8 because it's all I have. Bake 25-30 minutes. The middle will still be a little gooey, but will set up as it cools. Cool completely and frost if desired. The original post gives a recipe for frosting, but since I had cherry frosting to go with my cherry chip cake mix, I used half a can of cherry frosting instead. Vanilla or cream cheese would be delicious too, I bet, or if you're feeling ambitious, make your own.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Today's Basket

I almost didn't buy a Bountiful Basket this week because I bought so many add-ons last week, but at the last minute I panicked at the thought of running out of fruit so I hurried and ordered one. Since I've almost used up all the fruit from my basket, tropical pack, and 8 lbs. of strawberries I bought last week, I'm really glad I got a basket today.

Today's basket included red potatoes, romaine lettuce, avocados, spinach, tomatoes, blackberries, bananas, honey dew melon, pineapple, apples, mangoes, and apricots. Everything is pretty straight forward this week, plus I'm too tired to be creative today. Most of my fruit will go into smoothies or be eaten as afternoon snacks. The spinach will probably go into smoothies, or I might get crazy and make a strawberry spinach salad. If I do, I'll let you know. The avocados will probably become guacamole, and the tomatoes might become salsa, but other than that, I think I'll have a boring week. Boring, but tasty and full of fruits and vegetables.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tropical Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette

This is a great recipe to try if you got pineapple, strawberries, and mangoes in your Bountiful Basket this week, or kiwis in your tropical pack. I'm partial to serving it with Kalua Pig, but I'm sure it would be good with anything! Normally I would use the romaine lettuce that came in my basket, but this week I had iceberg lettuce leftover from last week that needed used up. The original recipe only calls for pineapple, but I've found that kiwis and strawberries are awesome additions. I am stingy with my mangoes so I didn't add one into the salad, but I bet that would be good too.

Tropical Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette

adapted from

1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 c. pineapple juice
1/4 c. olive oil
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1 head lettuce, chopped
1 c. diced fresh pineapple
1 kiwi, peeled and diced
6 strawberries, sliced
1/2 c. chopped macadamia nuts, toasted
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 c. toasted flaked coconut

Combine pineapple juice, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Mix well. In large bowl mix together lettuce, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, macadamia nuts, onions, coconut, and bacon. Just before serving, toss with vinaigrette.

Slow Cooker Kalua Pig

Anyone who knows my husband and me knows that we love Hawaii. We've been there three times and we can't wait to go back! Too bad airfare is so ridiculously expensive! Besides the awesome sushi and fresh fish, my favorite food in Hawaii is kalua pig. In Hawaii, they cook a whole pig in an underground pit. Yeah...that's going to happen at my house. But I did find this awesome recipe for kalua pig in the slow cooker. I've been making this for a couple of years now, and it is hands down my favorite way to cook pork. It's easy, delicious, and freezes well.

The original recipe suggests cooking the roast for 16-20 hours. I could never make that time frame work, so I shoot for 12 hours. That seems to be completely sufficient, as after 12 hours the meat shreds itself when you stir it with a spoon. If you don't normally get up early, it's a little inconvenient to get up at 6:00 a.m. to put dinner in the slow cooker, but it is so worth it. The recipe does call for Hawaiian sea salt, which I have. The first time I ordered it off the internet from this website, and then recently I asked my aunt to bring me some when she went to Hawaii. I've never tried it with regular sea salt, but I don't see why it wouldn't work.

This recipe makes a lot of meat, but don't worry. The leftovers are delicious. I like to mix up some of the meat with barbecue sauce and serve it on Hawaiian rolls. If you add it to another recipe like a soup or a casserole, just be wary of the salt you add with the other ingredients because the pork is pretty salty. I usually freeze our leftovers in 2-cup portions. 

Slow Cooker Kalua Pig


1 (6-8 lb.) pork butt roast
1 1/2 Tbs. Hawaiian sea salt
1 Tbs. liquid smoke

Pierce pork roast all over with carving fork. Rub sea salt, then liquid smoke into roast. Place in slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 12 hours. Shred and serve. We like it over medium grain or sushi rice. Great side dishes are Tropical Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette and Bread Machine Hawaiian Bread.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes

When I saw the red potatoes in my Bountiful Basket, I immediately thought of garlic mashed potatoes. I'd never made any before, but it sounded good, and I had garlic from my Mexican pack. I found a recipe on that looked amazing and had awesome reviews, but it had a ridiculous amount of butter in it and it called for cheese, which makes it that much more fattening. So I kept looking and found a recipe on It didn't have any butter, but still sounded good, so I tried it out. It was good, although I'm pretty certain the recipe on would be better, but we all have to make sacrifices, right? If you're one of the lucky people who doesn't have to make sacrifices, you should try this recipe and let me know how delicious it turns out. In the meantime, here is the reduced fat recipe.

Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes

8 small-medium red potatoes
4 cloves garlic, whole
1/4 c. fat free sour cream
1/4 c. fat free milk (I can't do skim so I used 1%...don't tell)
2 Tbs. minced fresh chives (I didn't have any so I left them out)
salt and pepper to taste

Chop potatoes into uniform chunks. I left the peel on, but feel free to peel them if you want. Peel garlic cloves. Place potatoes and garlic in large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 8 minutes or until potatoes are tender (mine took 10 minutes, maybe a little longer). Drain water off potatoes. Add sour cream, milk, chives, salt, and pepper and mash with a potato masher until they reach your desired consistency.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

I love rhubarb. It reminds me of my grandparents. I don't have a plant, but my aunt does, and every spring she gives me some. I like to just eat it raw with some salt on it, but she gives me way too much to eat it all, so I end up baking with it and freezing whatever I can't use immediately. This week I happened to have a flat of strawberries from Bountiful Baskets, so I went with Strawberry Rhubarb Upside Down Cake. The recipe came out of one of those mini cookbooks you buy at the checkout stand at the grocery store. It's a Betty Crocker cake mix recipe book.

Strawberry Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

1/4 c. butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
2 c. sliced fresh strawberries
2 c. chopped fresh rhubarb
1 box yellow cake mix
1 c. water
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce OR 1/3 c. oil
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While oven is heating, put butter in 13x9 pan and place in oven to melt. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter. Arrange strawberries on brown sugar, then sprinkle evenly with rhubarb. Press fruit gently into brown sugar. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, applesauce, and eggs on low speed just until combined, then on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter over fruit. Bake 46-52 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately run knife around sides of pan to loosen cake. Place serving plate (I actually used a cookie sheet because it's the only thing I had that fit) upside down on cake pan and flip plate and pan over. Leave pan over cake for 1 minute so brown sugar topping can drizzle over the cake. Cool 30 minutes and serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I recommend ice cream. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Green Beans with Bacon

I realized this morning that I forgot to take a picture of the green beans I made last night, but I wanted to share the recipe anyway, since some of you will have green beans to cook from your Bountiful Basket. The original recipe has you bundle the green beans with strips of bacon and bake them, which I'm sure looks very nice, but is way too much extra work for me. I don't care if my vegetables look fancy, I just want them to taste good, and these do. The original recipe also called for white wine vinegar, but I didn't have any, so I used balsamic and it was great. I'm sure red wine or cider vinegar would also work well, so use what you have on hand.

Green Beans with Bacon

adapted from

1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled, with 3 Tbs. bacon grease reserved
1 Tbs. finely chopped onion
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Cook the beans until crisp-tender and drain. I steamed mine, but I'm sure you could boil them too. Just before serving, heat reserved bacon grease. Add onion and saute until tender. Add crumbled bacon, vinegar, sugar, and salt, and heat through (it only takes 1 minute, if that). Pour over green beans and serve.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Today's Basket

On occasion, I get carried away when I order my Bountiful Basket. Every once in a while I will log on to order and there will be so many great add-ons that I can't resist. This week was one of those times! I ordered my basket, a tropical pack, a Mexican pack, a flat of strawberries, and tortillas. I guess I won't be needing a basket next week! Or maybe even the week after that, for that matter. I won't bore you with my ideas for my tropical and Mexican packs because I'm guessing that wouldn't apply to as many people, but I wanted to post pictures of them to give you an idea of what's in them.

Regular Basket
My regular basket had red potatoes, jicama, romaine lettuce, green beans, tomatoes, artichokes, a beet, pineapple, mangoes, strawberries, bananas, and green apples. Here are some basic ideas that are running through my head:

Red potatoes: fried with bacon, cheesy potato chowder

Jicama: cut into sticks and dip salsa or hummus

Romaine lettuce: green salad, Fritos salad

Green beans: roasted, steamed, or sauteed

Tomatoes: salsa, salads

Artichokes: steamed

Beet: I only got one, so I'm a little stumped, but I was thinking about roasting it

Pineapple: smoothies, grilled, raw

Mangoes: smoothies, raw

Strawberries: smoothies, raw

Bananas: smoothies, raw, tropical banana bread

Green apples: smoothies, raw

Tropical Pack
My tropical pack had pineapple, a mango, kiwis, a coconut, limes, vanilla beans, a plantain, and mint.

Mexican Pack
My Mexican pack had avocados, limes, cilantro, onions, garlic, green onions, poblano peppers, Anaheim peppers (at least I think that's what they are), and tomatillos.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Meatball Sub Casserole

I saw this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks ago, then earlier this week my friend mentioned on facebook that she had made it. She said it was good so I got excited to try it. We had it for dinner last night and it did not disappoint! I knew it would make more than we could eat, so I split it into two 8x8 pans so I could freeze half of it. As the oven was heating up, things got a little chaotic at my house and I forgot I had food on the counter, and our dog Penny ate half of the casserole I had intended to bake. Luckily I still had the other one in the freezer so I just baked it instead (I had just barely put it in the freezer so it hadn't even started to freeze yet).

Meatball Sub Casserole

from Confessions of a Semi-Domesticated Mama

1 bag frozen meatballs or 1 whole recipe of Easy Meatballs
1 loaf French or Italian bread (I used parmesan herb Italian bread)
1 (8 oz.) brick cream cheese, softened (I used fat free)
1/2 c. mayonnaise (I used reduced fat mayo with olive oil)
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 (24-26 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice bread and lay it in bottom of ungreased 13x9 pan or 2 ungreased 8x8 pans. In small bowl, mix cream cheese, mayo, Italian seasoning, and pepper until smooth. Spread over bread. Sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Top with meatballs. Pour spaghetti sauce over meatballs and top with remaining cheese. If you are freezing half of it, freeze it before you bake it (at least that's what I'm guessing, since I didn't actually get to test this theory, thanks to Penny). Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is heated through.

Easy Meatballs

I'd never considered making meatballs until I saw this recipe, but when I saw how easy it looked I had to try! Now I realize that most meatballs probably aren't any more complicated than this, but I still use this one because there's not much measuring involved and it uses 2 lbs. of ground beef, which helps me use up the meat in my freezer. I also love that it uses stuffing mix, since I always have some on hand in my pantry. Oh, and I love that it makes a big batch so I can freeze half to use later! They're just basic meatballs, so you can use them in anything you want. We like them in brown gravy (similar to Swedish meatballs) and in Meatball Sub Casserole.

Easy Meatballs


2 lbs. ground beef
1 (6 oz.) package chicken stuffing mix
2 eggs
1 1/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with tinfoil and spray with cooking spray. Mix all ingredients together in large bowl until well combined. Form into 1 1/2-inch meatballs and place on baking sheets (I usually get 28 meatballs). Bake for 16-18 minutes or until done. Serve or freeze as desired.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Slow Cooker Pineapple Curry Chicken

This recipe comes with a disclaimer. I've only made it once, and there was a kink, so I'm going to give you my suggestion for what not to do. I wanted to post it anyway because I thought it had awesome flavor, and it was something fun and different to do in your slow cooker.

I got the recipe out of the February/March 2012 issue of Taste Of Home. I've been wanting to try it ever since I read it. I finally got around to adding it to our menu this week. The original recipe called for 6 (12-ounce each) bone-in chicken breasts. I figured that up to be 4 1/2 lbs. of chicken. Always looking for a good deal, when I saw the price of chicken leg quarters vs. the price of bone-in chicken breasts, I bought the leg quarters. Don't do that! The chicken simmers for so long and gets so wonderfully tender that it falls off the bone, the bones fall apart, and you end up picking through your dinner, trying to fish out little chicken bones. I would suggest either going with the original recipe and using bone-in chicken breasts, or using boneless chicken. I would think that if you use boneless chicken, you might check it after 6 hours to see if it's done so you don't overcook it. You also probably don't need 4 1/2 lbs. of boneless meat. Maybe 3 to 3 1/2, I'm guessing, but that's only a guess.

Don't be scared by the long list of ingredients. It takes a little time to put together in the morning, but that doesn't make it hard. It's just a little time consuming. The hardest thing is removing the skin from the chicken, but if you buy boneless skinless chicken instead of bone-in chicken, you won't have to do that. Just remember that at the end of the day all you have to do is cook some rice and if you want to, toast some coconut and chop a little basil.

Slow Cooker Pineapple Curry Chicken

from Taste Of Home

2 (8 oz.) cans unsweetened pineapple chunks, drained with juice reserved
6 (12 oz. each) bone-in chicken breast halves, skin removed
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 c. julienned carrots (I just bought a bag of shredded carrots)
1 sweet red pepper, cut into strips
1/2 c. light coconut milk (I couldn't find light so I used regular)
2 Tbs. cornstarch
2 Tbs. sugar
3 tsp. curry powder
2 cloves garlic, minced (that's about 1 tsp.)
2 tsp. minced fresh gingerroot (I forgot to buy fresh ginger so I subbed in 1/2 tsp. dry ginger)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. lime juice (the juice of about half a lime)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

hot cooked rice
minced fresh basil (optional)
toasted coconut (optional)

Place chicken, beans, vegetables, and pineapple in a 6-quart slow cooker (I think I might have gotten away with a 5-quart one, but I'm not sure). In small bowl, combine coconut milk and cornstarch until smooth. Stir in sugar, curry powder, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, lime juice, pepper flakes, and reserved pineapple juice. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or until chicken is tender. I let mine go for 8 hours and the chicken just fell off the bone. It was great! Serve over rice and garnish with basil and coconut, if desired. I recommend it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bacon Macaroni Salad

This macaroni salad (an earlier version of it, anyway) was one of the first things I learned to do without a recipe. I had moved away and was craving a macaroni salad that my aunt makes. I called her to ask her for the recipe, but of course, she didn't use a recipe. She told me what was in the sauce and explained how to tell if it was the right consistency. I've eyeballed it ever since. I started measuring the ingredients when I joined Weight Watchers and needed to know how much I was using to get an accurate PointsPlus value. That also means that I can post the recipe on my blog!

Originally, this salad contained crab meat. Okay, so it was imitation crab meat, but whatever. I LOVE it like that. Sadly for me, my husband does not like crab, but he loves macaroni salad. The new version of the recipe came about when I was trying to make a macaroni salad that he would eat. What does every man love? Bacon. Okay, so it wasn't really my idea, I saw a recipe for a macaroni salad that used bacon. I figured I could just use my recipe but substitute bacon for crab, and I was right. It turned out great! But if you like crab, try it with crab! Both versions are also good with a small can of sliced olives, but I took that out because olives aren't free in Weight Watchers. On that note, I use light Miracle Whip and Splenda, but feel free to use regular Miracle Whip and sugar.

Bacon Macaroni Salad

1 lb. uncooked elbow macaroni
1 lb. bacon, cooked, crumbled, and cooled
1 large tomato, diced
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 c. Miracle Whip Light
1/2 c. milk
1 packet Splenda
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2-1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Cook macaroni, drain, and run under cold water until completely cooled. In large bowl, mix Miracle Whip Light, milk, Splenda, paprika, salt, and pepper until smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add macaroni, bacon, tomato, and cucumber and fold until everything is evenly coated with the sauce. Sprinkle with additional paprika if desired.