Little by little I am getting my life under my control. That’s really what all this “getting fit” stuff is about: control. I want to walk into my married life a full-fledged adult who has left childhood insecurities and habits behind me along with my maiden name. it’s hard. The problem with taking control is that you try to take control of everything at once, including the things you’ve left to their own devices that they are so way out in left field you’re going to have to work to bring them back. Well, I’m taking the baby steps and finding that gradual gratification feels better than instant gratification. I have a savings account now, and not that it’s a substantial amount, but it’s more than what I would have before I turned over my new little leaf. I’ve also dropped 8 lbs in the last week and a half, and although I fell off the bandwagon pretty bad this past weekend, I’m ready and raring to go this week.
School will be coming to an end here very, very soon. The end of April marks the last of my semesters as a full time college student. Starting this fall and until I graduate next spring I’ll only be taking five more classes before I can call myself a professional. That’s pretty awesome. I’m also thinking after the wedding I’m going to start looking for an entry level position type job and leave my current job. My current job is really just making me…depressed. I can’t really take it much more, which sounds so dramatic, but it’s true. Customer service would be my own personal Hell if that’s where I’m heading. I really think I would take the fire and brimstone over people complaining for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Anyway, that’s enough of that. I have a new recipe to share, Skillet Lasagna. I got the idea for this recipe on Kraftfoods.com. Here’s my play-by-play.
Ingredients: 1 lb ground beef, 1 green pepper, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup Italian dressing, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 can (about 16 oz) spaghetti sauce, Italian seasoning to taste, and about 12 ready-to-bake lasagna noodles broken up in 4ths.

Directions: Brown the meat in the biggest skillet you have (really, believe me on this) and when the meat is fully cooked, add the chopped garlic and peppers. Saute until the garlic smells fabulous 😉 The next step is to add the water, dressing, and pasta sauce and bring to a boil. This part is messy, if you have a splatter screen I would highly suggest using it now. Don’t panic that it looks more like chunky tomato soup than anything resembling lasagna, this is where the over-ready noodles come in. I should mention than I made this using normal noodles, and it came out just fine, although if I do that again I’ll probably boil the noodles for a little bit first, just to soften them up and give them a head start, but like I said, not too detrimental to the whole recipe. Here’s a better picture of what you should be looking at by now. A big soupy mess! I promise it gets better though. I broke up the big noodles into about 4 pieces, and as you can see, there’s a reason I said use your biggest pan! Once you add the noodles lower the heat on the sauce mixture to about med-low. On my stove it was still bubbling, so I figured any more than that and I’d have a huge mess to clean up. Leave this to simmer, stirring every couple minutes. you’ll see it start to thicken up after about 20 minutes or so. be careful about the noodles sticking to the bottom of the skillet too, they’re tricky little buggers. After 20-30 minutes, or after the soupy-ness is gone, you should have a pan looking like a dish of lasagna blew up in it. Yay! Once all the soup is gone you can turn off the heat and serve right away. This also freezes very well, like all pasta. Anything lasagna shaped doesn’t really last long around Justin though. This is how I served it, nothing fancy. I actually usually serve any type of pasta with home made garlic bread (sooooo good, sooooo fatty) but I forgot to buy the stuff for it…or my subconscious kept me from buying it and making the weekend a huge pitfall for this whole diet thing. One other thing missing from the picture there was the delicious Mike’s Hard Lemonade (light, haha), which was my drink of choice last night.
So there you have it! I make a mean lasagna, but it literally takes about 2-3 hours because I go all out. And really, cooking all Sunday isn’t in the schedule for awhile, unfortunately. I’ve really been getting into fish lately, and I love salmon, so that might be the next thing I show here. I have some time tomorrow too, so I might be making another big batch of stroganoff, yum!
Anyway, I’m happy researching different places to go on our mini-moon in September to practice for our all-out honeymoon in January. Aren’t we lucky? We get to celebrate getting married twice 😉

I’m siiiiiiiiick. I’m also whining though the keyboard. I started to feel run down yesterday, but I attributed it to stress and allergies. I woke up this morning with a sore throat, cough, sore neck, sore arms, sore everything. I went to my 10AM class this morning because we have an exam on Friday, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open or anything in focus. I chalked up the rest of the school day as a loss and came back home to try to sleep it off until work. Fast forward a few hours and it’s 3:30, Justin calls and asks where I am, since I usually come to work early. Sleep had not chased whatever I have away, so here I am. At home, which is nice, but sick and miserable and feeling like a major baby. Boo.
I did accomplish one thing today, I made an amazing crock pot meatloaf and potatoes. I had no idea how it would turn out, so I didn’t take pictures to share, but I will when I make it again. Crock pot = new BFF.
I do have a recipe to share, although it’s so ridiculously easy I’m almost embarrassed to be proud of it, haha. I found myself with an abundance of ground beef that we pulled out of the freezer for the camp and never used, so it needed used up pronto. (Hence the meatloaf as well.) So I made a favorite of mine that I like to put a little spin on; Cheesy Beef Stroganoff!
This recipe is so easy, like I said. You can probably have it done in under 20 minutes, the longest part of the recipe is browning the meat. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb. ground beef (or turkey, pork, whatever)
  • About 8 oz Velveeta (you don’t want much more, or you over power every other taste with cheese, unless of course you like that!)
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup.
  • egg noodles, however much you want
  • chopped mushrooms (optional. I’m not a big fan but Justin loves them)
    Brown the beef, drain the fat/juices. Add about 3-3 cups of water and egg noodles, simmer until the noodles are done cooking. Add the cream of mushroom and chopped mushrooms and mix it all together. Once all that is heated up cut up the velveeta in little cubes and melt those in. And…that’s it. Seriously. This also makes enough to feed about a family of four for well under $10. I freeze half of what I make for some other time, but there’s only two of us, and as good as this stuff is, you can’t eat it more than two days in a row. haha. It’s seriously the best stroganoff recipe I’ve ever made, and I’ve tried crazy-complex ones that use cream of every vegetable ever and white wine and craziness. Go with this one if you are in the mood for stroganoff.
  • That’s about all I have in me tonight. Tomorrow I start my observation at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, which I’m really curious about! I think it will be an excellent learning experience. This weekend will be dominated by wedding stuff, and I have a mountain of homework to attend to. I am starting to see the light at the end of the school tunnel though, I can’t wait!

    I tried Yoga for the first time ever today, and got up at 5:30 to do so. I really enjoyed it, so from now on you’ll catch me on campus at 7am on Tuesdays and Thursdays finding my inner peace….or something.
    Anyway, I have a new recipe to share! I am a huge chicken salad fan, and have been searching for the perfect chicken salad combination, and I have found it! Of course with something like this, it’s all about your own personal taste. I like weird, period. I like interesting food that makes you second guess what’s in it, but I swear this is kick ass chicken salad! here’s the ingredients, and as you remember, just measure it out to taste, it’s the best way to cook!

  • Boneless chicken breast (I used two)
  • Hellman’s lite mayo
  • dices green onions (love onion, I use LOTS, like…7. This is where personal taste comes in. If I fed this to Justin he would kill me)
  • honey (I know! crazy huh??)
  • Lemon juice (I found a particularly juicy lemon, I don’t recommend using the juice of more than one)
  • diced celery (What is chicken salad without celery, I ask?)
  • sesame seeds! (I know, weird, but I just happen to love love love sesame seeds)
  • Salt and pepper.

    so yeah, that’s about it. The rest is child’s play. First I cut up two boneless chicken breasts. I like my chicken salad in cube-form, but you can do whatever you like texture-wise. Then I cooked the little darlings in a skillet (with pam, no calories!) and I used sage, parsley, and garlic salt, because I have an addiction to spices. Sage? AWESOME. Might be my new favorite (sorry tarragon!) While that’s cooking I mix the rest of the ingredients together and then dump in the chicken. It’s usually best refrigerated, then spread on some nice wheat toast. YUM I’ve been eating this for like three days now, I think I’m in love.

  • But honestly? It’s not bad for you at all if you use lite mayo and it’s FILLING. Gha. Now I’m hungry.

    Except for one little wedding detail I left out…
    A closeup of the bridesmaid flowers! The picture I posted yesterday really didn’t do them much justice, huh? I’ll admit, I’m not real sure what the little bitty white flowers are, but they really give it a put together look. I was originally just going to go with half a dozen big calla lilies for the bridesmaids, but then I thought it might look a little weird, they’re all a little on the small and vertically challenged side (Love you guys!! haha) so maybe carrying huge flowers might just over power them and the dresses, and I’d rather my wonderful friends be the focus of the pictures and not the flowers. I’m pleasantly surprised how easy the flowers were to pick out and arrange. I basically started with the calla lilies and walked up and down the white section of the floral wall picking out flowers and comparing them with the lilies, putting them back, and repeating until I found what fit together best. Yet another reason silk is so much better than real. I think I might even hit hit them with essential oil to make them smell better. I was thinking of setting up our spare bedroom with a couple oil burners and letting the flowers sit in there for a couple hours the day before the wedding and give them a more floral scent…no one will be the wiser! haha.

    Anyway, I said back to cooking, and I meant it…for the most part. Yesterday I made stuffed pork chops, again just throwing ingredients together and hoping for the best..
    First, I took just general thin sliced pork chops. Notice my technique with the butt of the knife? I realized yesterday we are desperately in need of a meat mallet…will be going on the registry. We’ve been living there with the same kitchen appliances for a year and this has been the first time I ever needed one…go figure! haha Anyway. I made the pork chop slices as thin as possible to aim for a quicker cooking time and much easier handling, you’ll see why here in a minute. Pork is a wonderful thing to cook with. It’s not as tough as beef and it’s not as touchy as chicken, if that makes any sense at all. Also, I make chicken all the time because I love it, but Justin’s pretty sick of it. haha. The second step (or you can make it first, whatever) is the stuffing. I don’t know about you, but I adore home made stuffing, but who has the time for it? Seriously? I get it on Thanksgiving, that’s about it. So I make instant. ha. I used Stouffers cornbread stuffing for this recipe because it’s my favorite, but I’m sure you can use just about anything and it will taste good. Or you can just stuff them with whatever is handle. Tomatoes? Sure. Olives? Celery and onion? The possibilities are pretty much endless when it comes to stuffing, you really don’t have to use bread or bread products. I chopped up a few celery sticks and a couple small onions to the stuffing mix just to give it a little more flavor, but if you don’t like the taste of onion or whatever no need to do it. I should have been born in Thailand or something, I love seasoning and intense flavor almost to the point of overpowering…poor Justin 😉 But I behave myself when I’m cooking for others. I’m a terrible baker due to my experimenting, but I’m an excellent cook. Anyway. Make the stuffing, let it cool off, add the celery and onion, onto the next step… This part is kinda gross. in order to keep everything together you have to get in there and really kneed the stuffing into a ball and flatten it onto the pork. Put as much in as you like. Justin and I like stuffing so I put in as much as possible, but some might be more into the pork flavor than stuffing. Up to you! The next step is to literally wrap the stuffing in pork. This is where very, very, very thin meat is very helpful, the meat needs to be flexible. If all goes according to plan and the meat is thin enough it should pretty much just stick together. If you’re having trouble keeping it together try eliminating some of the stuffing from the inside. I used Giant Eagle brand pork, but I don’t think it really matters. I don’t have any expierience with any other, so there’s my disclaimer if, say, Wal Mart pork doesn’t do what you tell it to. 🙂
    Onto the cooking!
    I used a skillet for these, which in hindsight may not have been such a great idea. They cooked a little unevenly so I kept having to hold the rolled pork on its side so it would cook, haha. Next time I make these I might try baking or broiling, just so it will cook evenly. I recently fell in love with the broiling method of cooking, especially for crispy potatoes. Anyway, back to pork: a nice little trick to keep the pork together is to initially land the pork on the side where everything comes together, it kind of cooks together and stays put very well. I sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on these bad boys because I didn’t want to go too crazy, but I’ll probably add a crunchy breading with parm, some spices, and mozzarella cheese next time I make them, the outside was lacking something. I tend to overdo things initially though, so I thought I might ease Justin into these. When these little beauties are done, they should have a nice gold/brown color. Remember, pink and pork do not go well together! There will be no medium rare pigs running around my kitchen. haha.
    Overall I think they turned out rather well for a random brainstorming during a lazy Sunday afternoon. Justin ate them right up, and he’s by biggest priority. I’ll admit, he’s not exactly the pickiest eater I’ve ever met, I like to affectionately refer to him as my breathing vacuum cleaner when it comes to food. 🙂 He’s also the perfect match for my eccentric cooking skills. He’ll let me know if I crossed the line, and if I crossed the line for Justin then I know I’m in bad, bad, very bad territory. haha. I’m glad he can deal with my cooking though, sometimes I hit something perfect, other times I go a little overboard, but I can usually pull together a pretty kickass meal. I think my next conquest is going to be wedding soup. It’s still soup season, although I do with it would warm up.
    Anyway, that’s it for now. Tomorrow I’ll be complaining again about the price of textbooks, as spring semester 2008 is right around the corner!

    Just another manic Monday.  Ugh.  So freaking busy today.
    Anyway, I have another delicious recipe that I promised I would share. This went over well with Justin. Brian, and Brittany. I made this shortly after Justin and I got together and I’m pretty sure this is one of the reason’s he proposed. That and my lasagna, but that’s another story all together.
    This recipe is for cashew-encrusted pork, otherwise known as bound-to-get-lucky-and-proposed-to pork. It’s based off of this recipe from Kraftfoods.com, although like most things I cook, I pretty much do whatever the hell I want. First you have your pork tenderloin, although if you are starving to death and want a quick meal I would not suggest tenderloin- it takes nearly two hours to cook, and we have a hardcore hot-as-hell oven. Go with pork chops, they work very well too. If you do go for the tenderloin, stab the little bugger to death and cut it in half, like you see here. Trust me, better to wait two hours than four. the first variation I make from the original recipe from Kraft is that I don’t use pecans, I use cashews. Honestly the first time I made it I just picked up cashews by mistake, but I think it would taste better anyway, we both love cashews, and I’m really not a fan of pecans. Take them or leave them. To crunch them up into itty-bitty pieces I put some in between two pieces of wax paper and use a jar (any glass jar) to beat the crap out of them. This part would probably be best if we had a meat mallet, but that will go on our registry. haha. I also usually use a whole can, or as much of the can as I get after Justin attacks it. next is the ingredients! da da dum. It also leads into the super-messy part. You need: dried tarragon leaves, honey, minced garlic, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and vegetable oil (or any oil, whatever). I also add Italian seasoning, garlic salt, onion powder, and sage. I’m kind of a seasoning freak. Add as much or as little as you like. I really like experimenting with the sweet/salty combo. I also think the honey/tarragon mix is pure genius. Unfortunately I cannot take credit for that, but what can you do. This is usually my favorite part. Although the mixture doesn’t taste very good uncooked it smells amazing. I just use the smell test until I get it right. heh.
    After you do get it right, cover the pork pieces in the mixture and rub it in good. Then roll the pork with the mixture on it in the cashew pieces untill you have a nice even coating. Sprinkle the remaining cashews on top. I find that any smallish glass dish works best for this recipe. Add peaches and a couple chopped onions around the pork. I know, it sounds weird, but it is so amazing I can’t even tell you. Cover dish with foil and cook until pork is cooked through. Like I said, the pork can take forever and a day to cook, but it’s so worth it. After your toiling you should end up with something like this. I have to say, it’s not as colorful as I would like it, but maybe I can amend it a little to add some color…red strawberries? and something green…maybe green onions, I’m not sure. This is seriously one of our favorite recipes. I asked Justin the other day what he liked best out of everything I cooked. The first thing he said was the ham I posted about a month ago….but let’s face it, you don’t have to be a culinary genius to cook a ham. Seriously, unless you’re butchering the pig yourself there is absolutely no skill needed to unwrap ham, put in pan, and turn on oven. Not exactly impressive. So then I asked him what his next favorite thing was, and he said the lasagna/this recipe. Sooooo, I guess we have a winner here, because I’ve cooked a lot.
    This weekend is the big weekend. Justin’s family (parents, brother, sis-in-law) and my family (parents, brother) are….meeting! haha. We figured it’s probably about time considering we’re all going to be family here in 284 days! EEP! I’m excited/nervous though. I’m sure everything will be fine, but damned if I’m not having a glass (or 5) of wine before the actual event. So Friday We’re hitting up the local (amazing) winery and will probably have a good old time with my parents Friday night. I’m sure I’ll obsess over this some more in the next few days, but it will be great to finally have everyone meet.

    I thought I would take a break from typing away about wedding stuff. You know, I don’t want to bore you to death. So here are some pictures of what has been going on lately, as well as some recent cooking adventures I’ve embarked on.
    Here are a bunch of us at Justin’s and my Halloween party 🙂 That naughty nurse there is my future sister-in-law, who insisted on beating on me all night 😉 haha. But seriously, you get some rum in her and she’s abusive! jk, sort of. The hippy is Brittany, another future bride who’s tying the knot in May. She’s one of the people I’m able to obsess with, although we’re constantly battling it out for who gets to talk about who’s wedding now. We like to drive our men crazy….and it doesn’t help that they live right around the corner from each other. 😉 There Brittany and I again, and that devilishly good looking man in the middle there is Justin, of course. It was actually that day that Justin (Justin!) suggested it might be a good idea to move the wedding up…then he proceeded to go immerse himself in Brian’s special “spiced” cider and we weren’t able to talk about it until later the next day…damn him. haha. But all’s good now and I’m happily running around like a chicken with its head cut off making arrangements…while he sits back and watches in amusement. sigh. 🙂 I think I’m being pretty good though, I can avoid talking about weddings if I wa- oh, wait. Maybe I can’t. Ohhhh well. I’m allowed. It’s all around me and starting to creep up rather quickly! Like today for example, I bought the first of the bridesmaid gifts. I’m still on the fence about sharing, as they can read it and I’d like to surprise them…Maybe I will anyway and keep some secrets 😉 haha. I just love all this planning! I should have gone to school for party planning or something…except in this economy it’s probably not the most secure job to have.

    Ok, Ok. I’ll stop. On to cooking!

    Last night I cooked my ass off. Seriously! I got off work at 4 and was just pulling out the dinner I made at around 6:30 when Justin got home…and then I went back and made some more things to stockpile our fridge/freezer with! I went all out last night for dinner. It’s not often we can sit down to a real home made dinner together anymore, literally. We’re always running around on the weekends so we usually go out for wings or something (which I really don’t mind, haha) and we work opposite shifts at work, so that’s out of the question. So when I get to cooking, I really cook! These are crab meat stuffed mushrooms. I mix butter, onion, a little milk, chopped stems from the mushrooms, Italian seasoning, tomatoes, breadcrumbs, shredded mozzarella cheese, and, of course, crab meat. I mix it all in a saucepan on the stove and spray a baking sheet with pam and then spray the mushrooms with pam. Butter tastes a little better, but I don’t like to add the extra calories. Justin loves mushrooms, and although I didn’t like them much before, I’ve really acquired a taste for them, especially stuffed or fried…I don’t really like them raw, haha. But anywho, this is a great as really easy recipe. You just snap out the stems so it leaves a little hole in the middle. Heat up all the ingredients in a saucepan then scoop a little into each of the mushroom shells. Heat them in the oven on 400 for about 15 minutes until the tops are nice and crispy =) They are delicious and now I’m starving. Damn. The next picture here was my first attempt at stuffed chicken breast, and it was amazing. Not that I’m full of myself or anything 😉 But yeah, first I marinated the chicken in zesty Italian dressing mixed with fire roasted tomato dressing and then I stuffed them with mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, and chicken stuffing. After that I topped the chicken with grated parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning and a tomato to garnish. I should have added a little green in there somewhere for looks, as everything is a reddish color, but it tasted great so whatever. haha. The potatoes are twice baked. I baked the potatoes for about an hour to get them soft enough to scoop out, then I cut each of them in half and scooped out the middle of each to make a shell. I mixed the potato I scooped out with mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesan cheese with bacon. I think Justin decided he’s marrying the right woman when he saw all this on the table when he got home last night 😉 I was very proud! One of the things I’m most proud of, though, is that I can up with it all myself. No recipe! The final thing I made that night after dinner is my broccoli soup. This stuff is amazing. Seriously, I could live off of it if you let me. I got the basic recipe here, but I embellish a lot. Take that recipe and I also double the onion, because I love them, and double the broccoli. I also add ham because Justin would eat only ham for the rest of his life if he could, and I also added tiny chopped mushrooms last night because I had them on hand and red potatoes. The original recipe I made the first time, and it was good, but I wanted something a little more meal-worthy for something real quick. The potatoes really give it the meal quality if that’s what you’re looking for. If you want a soup that’s great as a starter, leave out the potatoes and this is definitely your soup. I really think it’s better than any other broccoli soup I’ve ever had, and it’s very versatile. I can’t say I’m a big fan of Velveeta, but this soup really makes it delicious…and it’s less fat than regular cheese! yay! haha. I made a huge batch of this stuff and froze about half of it. I’ll seriously eat it for dinner every night this week at work. Justin may or may not dip into it, but when I’m not around to tell him what he’s eating that night he has burgers. what a man 😉 That’s all for now, I think I’m going to take a trip down memory lane with you and share Justin and Ariel through the years…aren’t you excited?

    I think I mentioned before, I looove to cook. Last night after work I opened up the fridge to try to figure out what I wanted to make for dinner for tonight. Something easy, as I just got off work and just wanted to veg out on the couch. sooo…
    I came up with this. A tasty stir fry made not with soy sauce, but Ken’s Steakhouse Asian Sesame with Ginger & Soy. Credit should be given to Bree, who introduced me to this delicious dressing. I call it Asian Sesame Chicken Stir Fry. Anyway, in keeping with the tradition I have of not supplying measurements, the ingredients are: rice (minute), boneless chicken breast, marinaded (I’ll tell you the marinade in a jiffy), about half a bag of frozen broccoli, (but feel free to use fresh, of course) a whole bag of mixed veggies, including carrots, corn, and green beans, and then a tiny bit of dried tarragon leaves. Emphasis on the tiny, tarragon be strooonngg. For the chicken marinade, I used quite a big of that dressing I mentioned earlier, a couple drops of soy sauce, oriental chili sauce, (love the spice!) and sesame seed oil. I simmered the chicken on low in a frying pan (Justin’s pretty particular about his wok, so I don’t touch it 😉 Once the chicken was cooked through I added the rice and veggies and dumped more sesame dressing over it all to coat it, then just let everything simmer together. It’s fiance approved, and I love it, so I highly suggest trying it simply on the basis of how simple it is. We’ll be eating that for dinner here come break time, yum!

    I was actually in a hardcore cooking mood last night. On top of having the chicken cooking I was boiling water for tea and baking muffins. haha. I was on a roll. Today for lunch I made another favorite dish of mine that you may or may not be familiar with… Cucumber Salad, made my way of course 😉 This is actually a weird comfort food for me. My mom tells me when she was pregnant with me she always craved onions and vinegar, and would eat this type of stuff all the time. Now I love really strong-tasting food, so I love this salad. Justin went to his parents house today and came back with a lovely bag full of produce, so in this salad I put cucumber, onions (usually red, but this time yellow from the garden), tomatoes (my personal favorite veggie), along with that Salad Supreme seasoning I told you about in my previous cooking post (seriously, I swear by it), dried basil leaves, and then a mix of white wine vinegar, distilled white vinegar, and red wine vinegar. Told you I like it strong! I just cut up the veggies and mix the rest of the ingredients into a Tupperware container so I can seal it up and shake it. I’ll warn you, this really isn’t for everyone, and with the amount of vinegar I like in mine you may want to be cautious, but that’s one reason I don’t care about giving measurements. The definition of good food is vastly different for different people. I love just about all food, but like I mentioned before, I like very strong, flavorful food. The spicier the better, too.

    Anywho, just thought I’d share my latest culinary endeavor..I’ll be doing grilled chicken or kabobs next 😉