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It’s been forever since I made an entry here. And I’m not even going to and excuses. Life was no crazier than usual. But I’ve been too busy enjoying it to take time to write about it. 😉

The diet / healthy eating / whatever you want to call it has practically gone out the window. I still do a pretty good job of cooking and making lunches for work. But I’ve also been doing a ton of baking.

One of the new recipes I tried out recently was for Oreo Dirt Cake. Hubby just loooooves anything and everything Oreo, and I love trying out new things in the kitchen. So it was a no-brainer. And it was SO YUMMY. I could have just sat down with the pan and a spoon and eaten the entire thing. I’m not sure how I didn’t know about its existence before now.

Oh. Spoiler alert. It’s not really cake. 😉

Ingredients

– One package of Oreo cookies
– Two packages of vanilla instant pudding
– Three cups of milk
– 16 ounces of cool whip
– One cup of confectioner’s sugar
– Eight ounces of cream cheese

Directions

– Place the Oreos in a plastic bag and crush them. The easiest way to crush a large amount of Oreos at one time is to put them in a gallon size plastic bag and crush them by using a rolling pin. Mix the vanilla instant pudding, milk, cool whip and cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar until well blended.

– Place a layer of crushed Oreos on the bottom of the cake pan. Then alternate layers of the cream cheese mixture and Oreos. Sprinkle Oreos on top for garnish.

So easy.

And even more delicious.

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Happy birthday to me!

Today marks the BIG 3-0 for me!

Hubby was working. So I had a quiet day at home with my little mister. With cake, of course. 😉 And we’ll celebrate for real on the weekend when we both have a day off. 🙂

AKA… my husband ate pork chops, and liked it!

One of my biggest meal planning struggles is that I don’t like red meat or fish/seafood and my husband spent his entire life thinking he didn’t like pork. But a few years ago, he tried honey garlic pork (a recipe too simple to warrant its own post – simply pork roast cooked, cut into chunks and covered in store-bought sauce) and liked it. Then we started making bbq pulled pork sandwiches, which he apparently loves. But I still couldn’t convince him to eat pork chops, the food responsible for his worst childhood memories. Haha.

Until a couple of weeks ago.

I came across a recipe for Slow Cooker Smothered Pork Chops that promised pork chops so juicy and tender that they just fall apart in the slow cooker as you’re trying to take them out. I wanted to try it because I like pork chops and miss having them. And hubby reluctantly agreed.

But he loved them!

He said they had flavour! He said they were juicy! He said they were tender! He said he wished there had been more!

Turns out, he just doesn’t like pork chops that are underseasoned and cooked to the consistency of a rubber boot. 😛

So these will be supper again this evening!

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 pork chops, about 1-inch thick
Salt and pepper for seasoning
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Directions:
In a large 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is simmering and hot. Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Brown the pork chops for 1-2 minutes on each side in the hot oil until golden. Transfer the chops to the slow cooker. Add the garlic to the drippings in the skillet and stir constantly over medium heat until the garlic is aromatic and golden (but not burned or it will turn bitter!). Stir in the soy sauce, broth, brown sugar and red pepper flakes; cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour over chops.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours until the meat is tender. If using bone-in pork chops, fish out the bones from the slow cooker. Remove the chops from the slow cooker to a shallow pan or plate – they will most likely be falling apart in tenderness at this point. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the sauce in the slow cooker. Return the chops to the slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker heat to high and cook for 30 minutes to an hour longer, until the sauce is slightly thickened. If you want a super duper thick sauce, once you remove the chops from the slow cooker, pour the sauce into a pan and place it over medium heat on the stove. Add the cornstarch slurry and bring the sauce to a boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes until the sauce is thick. Add the pork and heat through.

Normally, I’m opposed to slow cooker recipes that require cooking before putting the food in the slow cooker. Seems to defeat the purpose to me. But any recipe that gets my husband to eat pork chops is definitely worth the extra step. 😉

And I only did two chops at a time. So I reduced the cook time to 6.5 hours on low. They were still completely cooked.

Vanilla Mug Cake

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you’ll probably remember that I went through a phase where I was completely addicted to Brownie in a Cup! It started way back when I was dairy-free and yummy dairy-free baked goods were hard to come by. It continued because it’s a delicious brownie that can be made in 60 seconds with ingredients I pretty much always have on hand.

Well last night I wanted cake. But I was home alone with a sleeping toddler. So I thought to myself “If someone was genius enough to figure out a way to make a brownie in a cup in the microwave, I’m sure someone has figured out a way to do the same with cake!” A quick google search revealed that OF COURSE people have figured out how to make cake in a mug in the microwave! Pretty much any variety of cake you could want!

I picked the first one listed here!

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp self-rising flour
pinch of salt

Place the butter in a large mug and microwave it for 20-30 seconds until melted. Add the egg and whisk it in with a fork. Stir in the milk, vanilla, and sugar. Add the flour and salt. Beat the batter until smooth. Divide the batter between two mugs. Microwave separately for 1.5-2.5 minutes each until risen and firm.

I didn’t need two cakes (well, let’s be honest – I didn’t need one cake, haha!), so I just made half the recipe. I had some liquid egg on hand, so it was easy for me to get half an egg. If you only want one cake but don’t have liquid egg, I wouldn’t recommend making one cake with a whole egg. Instead, I’d beat the egg in a separate mug/bowl before adding it to the melted butter and just pour in half.

I also didn’t have any self-rising flour. So I used all purpose flour and 1/4 tsp baking powder. My cake rose up wonderfully.

When my cake was done and had cooled for a minute or so, I used a butter knife to loosen it up and popped it out of the mug to cool because I don’t like warm cake. While waiting for it to cool, I made a makeshift icing by smushing together some butter, icing sugar, and milk. No measuring – I just played with it until it looked/tasted right.

And voila! Cake!

It was a little tougher than regular cake. But it served the purpose of being cake when I wanted cake. And it had a great vanilla flavour. I’d definitely make it again!

Mmmmm!

Probably the best thing about getting back on track with making meals according to a meal plan is finding a new recipe that is just yummy! And tonight I did exactly that!

Garlic Parmesan Chicken Lasagna

INGREDIENTS

For the lasagna:
10-15 no-boil lasagna noodles
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (use rotisserie chicken for lots of yummy flavor)
12 ounces frozen peas
½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup Swiss cheese
1 cup water
¼ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
fresh herbs for topping

For the sauce:
6 tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons minced garlic
6 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
¾ teaspoon salt
5 cups milk

INSTRUCTIONS

Make the sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant – stir continuously to avoid burning because burnt garlic will taste bitter. Add the flour, poultry seasoning, and salt. Whisk and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the milk, one cup at a time, whisking after each addition and allowing it to thicken slightly each time before adding the next cup. When the sauce is smooth and thick, remove from heat and set aside.

Layer the lasagna: Grease a 9×13 pan and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover the bottom of the pan with (about 5) broken lasagna noodles, half of the chicken, half of the peas, ¼ cup Parmesan, ⅓ cup water, and 1½ cups sauce. Repeat this layer once more. Top with a layer of broken noodles, ⅓ cup water, 1½ cups sauce, and ½ cup Swiss cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Making it pretty: Remove the foil, sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbly. Sprinkle with fresh herbs like parsley and thyme. Let stand 10 minutes or more before cutting and serving.

I did make a few minor adjustments.

I didn’t crumble the noodles and use broken pieces because I made it as a regular lasagna instead of a “bake”.

I only prepared about half the chicken and sauce because I didn’t make a full-sized lasagna. Being my first time making it, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. So I opted for a smaller size. If I had known how yummy it would be, I would have doubled the recipe instead. 😉 But the proportions given would have been perfect if I had made the full amount and done a 9×13 pan.

I didn’t use rotisserie chicken. So I tossed my shredded chicken in a little garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and black pepper to add some more flavour to the chicken itself.

We’re not big fans of Swiss cheese. So I used some Monterey Jack I had on hand instead. I also shredded a little extra and included a sprinkle in between each layer. You can never have too much cheese. 😉

It was absolutely delicious. Hubby was skeptical because “it’s not lasagna without meat”, but he loved it. Even the toddler ate it. And he’s getting a little more picky lately. So that’s definitely a success.

I’ll be adding it into our meal rotation!

January got away from me. :(

This past week has been such a whirlwind. Hubby’s grandfather, who has been in a nursing home for a year and a half with progressing dementia, took a physical turn for the worse and passed away on Saturday. The couple of days leading up to it were hectic and busy, and the days following were even more so. And, before I knew it, January was nearly over.

So meal planning and grocery shopping went out the window for at least a week. We’re only now starting to get back on track.

But I’m not going to let it get me down. Life happens. Circumstances get in the way. We had a crappy week. Time to get back on track and move on.

January goals!

A few years ago, instead of doing a New Years resolution, I did monthly goals. At the beginning of each month, I’d set a goal (or goals) that I wanted to work on for the month. Every month, there were some things I’d continue from the previous month and I’d add something new in. This year I’ve decided to do the same, because taking it a month at a time is a lot more reasonable than planning to do something for an entire year. And you can change things up as necessary as circumstances change.

January is almost half over. But I’ve been doing really well with my goal for January. So it’s time to put it in writing!

My goal for January has been to make a meal plan and stick to it. I get hubby’s schedule well in advance and mine usually a week or two in advance. So when I get my schedule, I’ve been sitting down and planning our meals. Right now, I’m planned up until about the 24th. And we’ve been sticking to it every day so far. 🙂

Along with this goal are a couple of sub-goals: to use the meal planning to be better prepared with lunches for work so we don’t end up buying unhealthy takeout, and to try some new recipes instead of eating the same things over and over. Those have been going well too! Neither of us has resorted to buying lunch any day this month yet. And tonight marks new recipe #2, along with the awesome muffin recipe I posted a few days ago!