Recipe: Easy Mexican Slow Cooker Soup

For some reason I never think of using my slow cooker during the summer. I think when it comes to summertime cooking, we focus mostly on grilling. As much as I love grilling, with the way our schedules have been, it hasn’t been the most convenient to grill our meals. Most of the time M’s not home for dinner, and lately I haven’t been feeling up to cooking a full meal for just myself.

The other weekend I was trying to think of what I could make that would be multiple meals for M and I to grab and take to work for lunch/dinner. That’s when I pulled out the slow cooker from storage and went to work. What I came up with was a delicious Mexican soup jam-packed with veggies and protein.

Easy Slow Cooker Soup

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3 thawed boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans diced tomatoes with chili peppers
1 can reduced sodium black beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 package frozen corn
Chicken broth (I didn’t measure, I just poured until most of the ingredients were covered)
Chopped onion, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, black better to taste

  1. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray to prevent sticking and making cleaning easier
  2. Place 3 thawed boneless, skinless chicken breasts into the slow cooker.
  3. Dump the diced tomatoes, black beans, green bell pepper, and frozen corn on top of the chicken. Pour the chicken broth until most ingredients are covered (maybe 2 cups). Season as needed.
  4. Cook on high for 4-5 hours. After four hours, remove the chicken breasts and shred with forks, then place back in the slow cooker, stir to mix seasoning, veggies, and chicken.
  5. Enjoy!

I was able to ladle the soup into 6 different single serve, reusable containers to make it easy for us to grab and go. I also made some corn muffins to eat alongside and added a little bit of shredded cheese on top when I had some at home. It’s lighter than a chili, so just about perfect for a sumer soup.

Your turn: What’s your favorite summertime slow cooker recipe?

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Easy Desert Recipe: Cinnamon Banana Roll-Ups

Looking for a quick desert, or even just something to calm the sweet tooth? The other night I came up with this quick and easy desert that complimented our spicy dinner.

We had some leftover crescent roll dough, so I decided to make something with it. Enter Banana Roll-Ups.

Cinnamon Banana Roll-Ups: Ooey, Gooey & Yummy!

Cinnamon Banana Roll-Ups: Ooey, Gooey & Yummy!

Cinnamon Banana Roll-Ups

Crescent roll dough
1 banana, sliced
Butter
Cinnamon
Sugar
Honey

  1. Spread a thin layer of butter on the crescent triangles. Then sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar over the butter layer.
  2. Thinly slice the banana over the wider half of the triangle.
  3. Roll up the crescent dough, wide part first, careful that the bananas don’t all fall out. Sprinkle a little extra cinnamon and sugar, if you so desire.
  4. Bake according to the instructions on the package.
  5. After removing from the oven, I drizzled a little bit of honey over the top of the rolls and we enjoyed them fresh from the oven–ooey-gooey-ness!!

You could probably use any kind of fruit in this recipe! I just had half a banana that needed to be used up.

Your turn: What was the last desert you pulled off at the last minute?

Good Reads: Thinking Positive, Healthier S’mores, Pre-Workout Eats

My days are extremely busy, so I hardly get free time to read as much as I’d like, but I wanted to share a couple of posts I’ve found recently that are worth sharing!

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It’s All About… (Black Dog Runs Disney): Life is all about perspective. We can take it as seriously as you’d like, or you can just let the chips fall where they may. This is a great post about the whole Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend during the NFL Draft, and how it should be treated the same as if he were kissing a female. What’s your perspective?

Healthier S’mores (Lululemon Blog): Umm…hell-llo!!! It’s summer, which means bonfires, cookouts, etc., which means my favorite summer treat–s’mores! I can’t wait to try these, and I hope you do, too!

Pre-Workout Carbs & Fat Loss (Eat to Perform): Working out at 6:30 in the morning makes it hard to get in the best pre-workout fuel–you’re still waking up and not hungry. I’ll drink a pre-workout drink, and I’ll get in half a banana with peanut butter if I’m particularly hungry, but lately it seems that’s more difficult to eat.

Let Me Introduce Myself (See Mama Run): Esther is a former co-worker and friend of mine and she’s joining the blogging world! She’s run many half and full marathons, plus a relay race (just months after giving birth to her adorable daughter)! I am excited she’s taking this step and I can wait to read along.

Your turn: What’s been some of your favorite reads this week?

Good Reads: Sports Bras, Healthy Cooking & Eating, Defending CrossFit

Sometimes I find it relaxing to just be able to sit down with my MacBook and read new blogs. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do that in quite some time. However, here are some good reads from the week:

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5 Sports Bra Commandments (Keep It SimpELLE): As a woman who is “blessed” with an ample chest, sports bras are always something that is a pain! I hate trying to find the right bra, but when I do, I try to buy as many as I can afford–and they can be expensive. There’s nothing worse than an ill-fitting sports bra as you’re trying to push for a 7-miler, or go through Karen in the CrossFit box (150 wall balls). Elle is right on point!

Healthy Cooking Solutions (Slim Sanity): I love if I can find a healthy substitution for cooking and baking, because then I hope I can enjoy my favorite foods without a lot of guilt. Alysia shares some great tips, some that I knew and some that I didn’t. I really need to try doing mashed cauliflower! M loves mashed potatoes, so why not try something different and healthier?

5 Adjectives to Avoid While Eating Out (Diary of an Ex-Sloth): Crispy, Slathered, Battered, Breaded, and Rich…yep, those are some tempting, but also some naughty adjectives when it comes to foods! Giselle offers great alternatives for some of your favorite foods that just might contain those words. Great things to remember!

In Defense of CrossFit (T-Nation): This paragraph says it all: Again, God bless CrossFit. Women in droves are lifting weights, squatting, deadlifting, climbing ropes, sweating, and building beautiful bodies. In an increasingly unfit world of sloppy cows and praying-mantis legs, CrossFit helped redefine sexy and gave women the green light to do what they should have been doing all along to look their best. Your wife or girlfriend, once content with lifting pink dumbbells and running on a treadmill, took one look at Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet and magically became interested in setting PRs, building thick, muscular legs, and learning to clean and jerk. Maybe she even bought a pair of bootie shorts. Thank you, CrossFit.

Your turn: Share something great you’ve read this week!

Food Prep: Delicious Recipes for Easy Meals

Life has been a bit busy lately. I’ve been trying to do some meal prep and easy meals to make life easier…and maybe a little healthier.

M’s been working long hours at the racetrack while live racing is in session. When I say “long hours” I’m talking from 6 am to 9 pm…five days a week. Poor guy. It sucks because he doesn’t get to eat much, and when I’m hanging out on my own I’m not that motivated to eat right. So, for both of us, pre-planning is the best route to go.

I’ve done easy things like washing and cutting up carrots and celery which I can take for sides for lunch, making chicken salad for M to take and snack on with some crackers when he gets a few quiet moments at work, and I’ve also marinated and grilled chicken breasts that can be heated up for dinner or lunches. I’ve actually really enjoyed the grilled chicken because it’s so flexible–shred it for a salad, eat it cold or heat it up and eat it with my carrots and celery.

Another easy, yet delicious lunch I discovered last week is a salad with chicken sausage. We buy this spinach and asiago chicken sausage from Sam’s Club every once in a while and I love it. I’ve sliced it up to have with whole wheat pasta and tomato sauce, as well as just eaten it plain for dinner. But one night I had a bag of salad and wanted something different. I poured some salad in a big bowl, sliced up some carrots and celery, added some slivered almonds and sunflower seeds, then heated up one sausage link. After cutting it up into smaller pieces, I added that and some light Italian dressing to the salad. OMG. I’m telling you, it might sound weird, but it’s delicious! So good that I had it for lunch the next two days (I just packed the salad in one container, the sausage in a sandwich bag, and brought the dressing with me to work).

One of the most satisfying work lunches ever!

One of the most satisfying work lunches ever!

Another favorite has been this Meatball Parmesan Casserole that I discovered on Pinterest. If you think you might be pressed for time, you can pre-make the meatballs and store in the refrigerator to bake another night. The longest part is the baking, but if you can have these ready to pop in the oven, it helps so much.

To add a little something, I place slices of zucchini under eat meatball, as well as scattered along the top under the cheese. I love zucchini, especially in Italian meals, so any time I can incorporate it, I will. Plus I think it adds some fiber and extra nutrients to the meal. The meatballs are great in a sandwich, as well as leftovers for lunch the next day.

Meatball Parmesan Casserole

Meatball Parmesan Casserole

And, finally, for breakfast, I have loved the Lean Green Bean’s Baked Oatmeal. I made this recipe in one pie pan, substituting chopped walnuts and slivered almonds for the pumpkin seeds and I used peanut butter instead of the Nutzo (but I added some cocoa powder as well as the cinnamon and some nutmeg). Baking this in the pie pan yielded four servings for me. And I loved heating these up every morning, adding some more peanut butter to the top and having some fresh berries on the side. It’s a great way to wake up! Next time I’m going to try adding some of my protein powder to it for some added protein.

The Lean Green Bean's Baked Oatmeal

The Lean Green Bean’s Baked Oatmeal

I’ve come to appreciate taking a little extra time, when I have the free time, to do some food prep. It might not exactly be Sunday night like some people, but it works…whenever I do it.

Your turn: Have you started doing food prep? If so, share your favorite pre-made meals!

Combining Two Passions: Horses & Healthy Living

I love horses. And I love fitness. I’ve run in two half marathons (training for my third now) and am an avid CrossFitter. I’ve always been active, but I’ve gotten more so as I’ve gotten older, and I’m obsessed with following healthy living blogs. So when the opportunity to combine my equine passion with my fitness passion came up for the Equine Chronicle, I jump at the chance to interview two competitors on the Quarter Horse and Paint Horse circuits and see how they attempt to live a healthy lifestyle in a world where fried foods usually reign.

If you’ve ever wondered, can you be a healthy equestrian athlete on the road, Melissa Sachs and Erin Shapiro Boatwright have your answer: YES!

On top of this article, I started an online article series, happily working with Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. I’m so thankful for her insight and willingness to help. It’s a great series and I’d love for more ideas on how to grow it.

First up, the initial article:

HealthyHorseShow_Page_1 HealthyHorseShow_Page_2Read the rest of the article here: Healthy Horse Show Living

And now, the initial article for the online series: Healthy Horse Show Living: Breakfast Basics

Better health is always a topic of conversation from the newsroom to the boardroom and now the tack room. Equestrians are athletes too, and in order to be able to show your horse at its best, you have to be at your best. If you read theMarch/April issue of The Equine Chronicle, you learned how two competitors, Erin Shapiro Boatwright and Melissa Sachs, strive to live healthy lifestyles in and out of the barn. This online series will continue to help give you tips so you can start making healthier choices and perhaps live a healthier life at home and on the road.

Start Every Day with Breakfast

The old saying is “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” For some horsemen and women, it’s often the most forgotten part of the day. We’re more concerned with getting our own horses fed and chores done and maybe squeezing in a few rides before the heat of the day. Soon, it’s after noon and your stomach’s grumbling. You realized the last thing you ate was dinner the night before.

Finish reading the article here.

Recipe Adventures: Tuna Cakes

Ever just get a craving for one main ingredient and want to find a way to make it different? That’s how I was about tuna the other night. I just felt like having tuna, but I didn’t want to make the same boring tuna salad like I usually do, I wanted to make something a little more sophisticated. So I did a search of my Pinterest recipes, and then searched online until I found a tuna cake recipe that required only the ingredients I already had and went to work.

I used this recipe on AllRecipes.com as the base. When I finished making them, I decided to then incorporate a chipotle mayo for a sauce, just in case it needed to be kicked up a notch. So I used the recipe from the mayo from this tuna cake recipe (which I didn’t make because I didn’t have any Old Bay Seasoning, nor any panko), but substituted plain Greek yogurt for the light mayo.

The overall impression? It was a good base, but I need to add more to the tuna cakes for more flavor. I’m thinking maybe some minced garlic, or even just buying some Old Bay Seasoning. I also though about dicing up some green and red pepper to include, since I’ve had crab cakes with peppers inside that were delicious. The cakes I made held up well in the pan (after I make the patties I put them in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up some, definitely don’t skip this step.)

I served the tuna cakes with some SteamFresh veggies with pasta and fruit for a well-rounded meal. I wish I had leftovers to flake into a big salad, but maybe next time?

Here they were in the skillet (I failed to get a photo of them on our dinner plates):

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Your turn: Share your most recent recipe adventure!

Healthy Holiday Challenge: Elf4Health

I’m so excited that Lindsay and Elle decided to bring back Elf4Health for the second year. If you’ve been reading my blog since last year, you’ll remember me sharing some of my adventures participating in Elf4Health. It’s a fun, free program created to encourage continuing a healthy lifestyle (or starting) in the weeks leading up for the holidays. Different “challenges” include Meatless Monday, cleaning out the closet, trying a new workout, workout with a buddy, etc.

I totally encourage you to sign up. It’s a great community (I think there’s already 400+ elves signed up, men and women) to support a healthy lifestyle. You’ll be paired up with another elf twice during the challenge, and those pairings can lead to a great friendship–I still chat with my elves Annica and Lindsay.

Here’s the gist of the challenges:

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Sign-ups are going on now until this Friday, Nov. 22. There will be a second round of sign-ups, but I recommend getting in on the action early! (Check out Lindsay’s blog for the sign-ups.)

You can follow along with me as I chronicle my Elf4Health Challenge via the blog, Twitter (@MLArszman), and Instagram (MLA317).

I hope you’ll join us!!

Your turn: Out of the challenges above, what one would you be looking forward to the most? 

Slow Cooker Love: Perfect for Cold Weather

I’d like to start off by saying my thoughts are with those in Indiana and Illinois affected by the storms yesterday. My family farm is in Central Indiana, and they were lucky with no damage, but communities just minutes away were not as lucky. Here in Kentucky, we just had a lot of rain (luckily).

Lately I’ve been in love with my CrockPot. I’ve always known it’s perfect for meals to be cooked all day. I mean, how awesome is it to come home from working all day and dinner already be done? But I don’t really take advantage of it until the weather turns cold…and I’m sure a lot of you are in the same boat.

The past couple of weeks I’ve made some pretty tasty meals in the CrockPot that I found on Pinterest, so I thought I’d share them with you. (Unfortunately I failed on the photo taking department with the meals, so you’ll have to bear with me.)

CrockPot Pineapple Chicken

I found this recipe on AllRecipes.com. However, I changed it up a bit and used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut the amount of brown sugar used (I figured the pineapple would be pretty sweet already). Using the boneless chicken breasts allowed me to be able to shred the chicken after it cooked for 3 hours (on high), which I really liked better.

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We served this on brown rice that I quickly whipped up before we ate. It was even better the next day!

*Make sure you use canned pineapple that’s only in pineapple juice, not syrup, for less sugar.

CrockPot Lasagna Soup

This was a recipe I originally found on Pinterest, but it’s listed on SparkPeople. This was another easy recipe that was pretty low fat and low in calories. I browned the ground turkey before putting in the CrockPot (some say you can put raw ground turkey in there, but it makes me wary). I did change up the recipe to go with what we had in the cabinets and refrigerator.

Here’s what I did:

1 pound ground turkey
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried basil
1 14.5 oz can of Italian diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can low sodium diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
Pinch salt and pepper to taste
Diced onion
Diced green pepper
2 cups whole wheat noodles (I used up 2 boxes–elbows and swirls)

Next time I’d love to use some zucchini, as suggested, but my CrockPot was full with all of this! Topped with some mozzarella cheese in the bowl, and it was delicious! Perfect after a cold run that night.

Chili

And who could forget the always-dependable chili in the CrockPot? This meal can be what you make of it–simple or complex. I don’t have any real set recipes for chili (but the hubby has one tried-and-true that he loves), so it’s hard to share.

One thing I discovered one time making chili might sound odd to you, but I actually really liked it. One night I really wanted chili, but we didn’t have much in the cabinets. I looked up different recipes and saw something about using celery in the chili. I had a can of black eyed peas I wanted to use, and my mom said that was ok. So I created a black eyed pea chili, with ground turkey, diced tomatoes, and diced celery. Seriously…try the diced celery. It adds a little crunchy and crispness to the chili. M wasn’t too sure about the meal when he saw the black eyed peas and when I told him there was celery, but he actually liked it.

I encourage you to play around with your slow cooker this winter, and share a favorite recipe! I’m going to try to do a new slow cooker recipe once a week–you never know what you might discover you love!

Your turn: What’s your favorite, go-to slow cooker recipe?

Apple Pie Protein Smoothie: A Cold Taste of Fall

It’s September! But, yet, it’s still like 90* outside. You want to celebrate Fall, but still continue to celebrate Summer. I think I found the best protein smoothie to do just that:

A week or so ago, I had cut up an apple to go with my lunch. It was a big apple, so I had half of it left by the time I was full. I decided I was going to try freezing the slices I had left to later try my hand at a smoothie with frozen apples.

The other morning, I was really bummed that I didn’t have any spinach or plain Greek yogurt to make my normal protein smoothie after CrossFit. Then I remembered about those frozen apple slices. I quickly grabbed up some ingredients and came up with, what I think, is one of the best protein smoothies I’ve ever had. It was seriously like having a frozen apple pie in a glass.

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Apple Pie Protein Smoothie

Half to a whole apple, sliced (doesn’t have to be frozen, but I liked how cold this came out when the slices were frozen)
1 scoop vanilla bean protein powder
1/4 cup of nonfat milk (rough guess–depends on how thick you want it)
Slivered almonds
Ground flax seed
Cinnamon to taste

  1. In a blender, combine the apple slices, milk, protein powder, slivered almonds, and flax seed.
  2. Sprinkle cinnamon to taste.
  3. Enjoy!

Sooo good! You can change it up however you’d like–use Granny Smith apples instead of Jazz apples…use vanilla almond milk…that’s the beauty of protein smoothies–they’re easy to make to your taste!