Simple Crock Pot Pizza Casserole

Of all the Simple Recipes I’ve been sharing around here, this Simple Crock Pot Pizza Casserole has proven to be the very simplest. Get this: No cooking necessary to make this recipe. A two-year-old could make this. Or a very busy adult. Either one will do.

pizza casserole1

This Simple Meal requires one dish (a crock pot) and thirty-seconds of prep (dump/stir/plug in). Your meal cooks itself.

As you can see from the above picture, I even cheated on my veggie side dish by simply setting out mixed greens and grape tomatoes. Therefore absolutely nothing about this meal took any work or actual cooking.

Now, you can add other cooked meats to this if you want. You can chop in some mushrooms and peppers if you want. None of those tasks take long, but they do take a few more minutes of prep. Sometimes I throw those veggies onto the table as side dishes, along with a can of black olives. Or, in a pinch, sometimes I skip it all and just throw out the mixed greens.

Either way, this meal is completely effortless, very inexpensive, and ridiculously good.

This spring, we’ve found this meal great to throw together before leaving for the soccer field. When we get home, we immediately get to sit down to an awesome, warm dinner. (Spring soccer is cold. I have done this cold soccer season for 15 years. When does it end?! Good thing my kids are worth it. Good thing I have a really great coat, and hat, and gloves, and fuzzy blanket. Good thing I can come home to warm comfort food at the end of my wind-blown, drizzly soccer cheering experience.)

Look how effortless this is —>

Simple Crock Pot Pizza Casserole

Simple Crock Pot Pizza Casserole
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 16-ounces UNCOOKED whole grain pasta
  • 50-ounces pizza or spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 6-ounces pepperoni
  • Optional: additional cooked meat, sliced olives, chopped sweet pepper, and/or sliced mushrooms
Instructions
  1. Stir uncooked pasta and pizza sauce in a crock pot.
  2. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.
  3. Stir.
  4. Top with shredded cheese and pepperoni.
  5. Cook for an additional 10 minutes on low to melt cheese.

Simple Crock Pot Pizza Casserole

Will your family love this, or what? But trust me: no one will love it as much as you. Because this recipes allows you to cook without cooking. It provides you a great meal without working for it.

And now, if we could all find ourselves such a thing as a Self-Cleaning Crock Pot. (Tip, I soak my crock overnight and everything comes clean easily in the morning. No need to scrub when soaking does the hard work for us, am I right?)

Want to enjoy more Simple Recipes? We’ve got a bunch!

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Make the Simple Recipes even easier!

Join everyone who is LOVING Simple Meals! Your meal plan, recipes, and grocery list will be sent to you every single week. All you have to do is execute to super simple plan. Win back your family time! Eat well. Love the simplicity! Read about it here and join us!

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Why I Don’t Make Broth in the Crock Pot

I’ll get right to the point.

I think it’s a fabulous idea to make homemade bone broth in the crock pot. But that doesn’t work for me and here’s why:

My crock pot only makes 3 quarts of broth at one time.

(It’s a 6-quart crock pot, but after the bones are strained out, the amount of broth only ends up being about 3 quarts.)

Instead of a crock pot, I make broth in my big stock pot, which makes almost 2 gallons at one time! (The same is true for applesauce. It absolutely doesn’t save me time to make a crock pot full of applesauce when I can make many quarts in my stock pot in much less time.)

broth in stock pot

My food prep mantra: Go big or go home.
Except that the food prep happens when I already am home. So…
Go big or go bigger.

Indeed, my stock pot makes almost three times the amount of broth (or applesauce) at one time compared to my crock pot. Since broth simmers slowly for several hours no matter what I cook it in, efficiency tells me to always use my stock pot.

In addition to this, I typically make two huge batches of broth in one day to make the most of my chicken or beef bones. I make one batch of broth when I’m cooking a couple of chickens. Then I strain the broth to put into jars, pull the chicken off the bones, and throw the bones back into the pot to make a second batch. In both batches, I throw several pounds of onions, carrots, and leeks. I get almost four gallons of broth in a day when I do this! (Read the following links for specifics on  how I make Chicken Broth and Beef Broth.)

This process gives us enough broth for soups and other recipes for about two weeks. It is awesome.

A Side Note: I Make Orange Chicken or Beef Broth

Let’s talk for a moment about all those veggies I cook into the broth. They get ridiculously mushy after cooking for so many hours, so I just blend them up and stir them back into the broth for added nourishment. You know what this means, don’t you? This means that my broth always turns a beautiful orange color.

How to Make Chicken Broth

A word to the wise:

If you follow this example of cooking and blending carrots/onions/leeks/celery/spinach into your broth, turning it a beautiful orange color – I suggest that you inform your family about the contents of the pretty orange liquid you’ve placed in jars in the fridge. Otherwise they might say, “Can I have some orange juice?” and you might absentmindedly say, “Sure” before you realize you don’t actually have any orange juice. And then your kid will take a big swig of chicken broth and almost puke.

Hypothetically.

It could happen I think.

I have no idea why my youngest won’t touch orange juice anymore.

Back to talking about the Stock Pot Broth Making Method

Now in a few years when all these strapping teenage sons of mine have left the nest (sniff) and I no longer need pounds and gallons and cases of food like I do now, might I go back to using my crock pot to make broth again?

I haven’t decided. I like efficiency. Broth freezes just fine, so I may always use the stock pot for broth-making to avoid having to make the mess as frequently.

And the truth is, I’m not even sure I remember how to make less than 16 quarts of something at once. We may enjoy a lot of leftovers (or company) until I can figure that out.

In the meantime,

This is why I don’t make broth in the crock pot.

Why I Don't Make Broth in my Crock Pot

How do you make your broth?

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Pssst…a note from Lilla Rose

Look at the GORGEOUS new Flexi-of-the-Month for April…Felicite!!! It is so beautiful for spring! Also, get a free hairband with any $80 purchase!

Felicite purple (1)

Better Than Costco? I Think So. Get $15 Off Boxed!

************UPDATE************

Unfortunately, my good feelings toward Boxed lasted about one day. Their website promised that you would get $15 when you signed up through my referral link. However, only five of you were allowed to use that code, even though there is no place on their site that says there is a 5 referral limit.

This turned into a big hassle. I emailed and emailed and emailed them. Some of you emailed them. I asked them to please make this right for you. They did not respond.

I am so very sorry, readers. I know you trust me to only share great options. I thought this was one but I no longer feel that way. They didn’t follow through on what their site promised. I no longer recommend that we support this company.

Thank you all for your patience as we tried to get this figured out. You are all dear to me.

************UPDATE************

Last night I came across Boxed – ever heard of it?

boxed

Boxed bragged that it was “better than Costco.” Seeing as the nearest Costco is about 100 miles from me, I clicked over to check it out.

If I had a Costco in my back yard, I’m sure I would love it. But I don’t, and even so, I really love the convenience of shopping online at home. Anything that is a good price and delivered (for free) to my porch? That’s pretty hard to beat.

So…Boxed.

  • There’s no membership fee.
  • Your first order ships free (plus you get $15 if you click through my referral link). Shipping on subsequent orders are $5.99 or FREE with an order of $49 or more.
  • Orders ship within 1 business day.
  • They carry items from grocery to office to babies to household cleaners – all at great prices!

I did some checking before I jumped on board, and certainly before I shared this with you. I found almost all of the prices to be very, very good – less than I pay locally. Free shipping makes shopping with Boxed more than worth it because it saves time and gas money.

There are plenty of processed foods to avoid, but quite a few healthy choices too. And don’t forget to look beyond the food. My favorite grab in my first order was batteries!! They were a very good price and they’ll get dropped on my porch. I got some Mrs. Meyers soaps and some La Croix Sparkling Water. Their office supply choices was impressive.

I decided that Boxed is definitely worth being a part of (since there’s no membership fee!) and worth telling you about. I’ll be using them from now on to save money on food and other items I don’t want to mess with picking up at the store!

Then get your own referral link to share with your friends and family! They’ll get $15, you’ll get $15! (Boxed did not follow through on this beyond 5 referrals. Please be aware of this if you do choose to refer friends.)

What do you think? Had you heard of Boxed before?

Sometimes I Sit Around While My Kids Cook for Me

Last week, my three younger kids (17, 15, 12) arrived home from events of the day at 7:45 pm and a weird thing happened. We realized that we were all home and that the rest of the evening was free.

family-sillysm

This happens so rarely these days that we all just stared at each other for a moment, trying to remember what we were supposed to do at a time like this. I thought going to bed early sounded like a good idea. But for some reason, no one agreed with me. Spoil sports.

We chose a movie to watch together but then everyone realized how hungry they were (as in, popcorn just wouldn’t cut it). As is the norm, they all looked at me. Unfortunately for them, I had clocked out of the kitchen, and most definitely forgotten which way was upright. From my comfortable position in my recliner, I offered hearty snack suggestions and said, “Go for it!”

Typically, my kids (who are awesome, but also normal) will choose the easiest options (like opening a bag of chips and a jar of salsa). But somehow, all three of them kicked it into high gear and decided to go all out and make a big snack buffet. Within fifteen minutes:

Matt and I made them get out the baby carrots and eat at least six each (because we care about them enough to be cruel like this). Malachi went all out and set up a table with juices and individual bowls of dipping sauce.

boys cooking 1

While all this was happening, I just sat in my chair and watched. After all, I’d put in my time that day. It was my turn to eat their food.

We fixed our plates, then the movie night began WHICH I STAYED AWAKE FOR – please be amazed and proud.

The next morning, we decided to make Super Mama Waffles (which means instead of just waffles and syrup, we have waffles with sliced berries and whipped cream). I loved the idea, but said, “If that’s what you want, I’ll make the waffles while you guys do everything else.”

Man, having kids that can cook is awesome.

  • Justus washed and sliced berries.
  • Elias made whipped cream, then scrambled cheesy eggs.
  • Malachi warmed up his Homemade Fudge Sauce from the night before, deciding that would taste awesome with strawberries and whipped cream on a waffle. No one argued with this plan.

boys cooking 2

I promised if I took a picture of our team-made breakfast, I would not include their bed-heads.

Well, I say all this to once again encourage you to teach your kids to cook. Nothing they made here was difficult, but for me, the best part is that they are all at a point now that I didn’t have to walk them through how to make any of it.

Oh the years of taking them through all the cooking steps, reminding them to crack the eggs carefully over the bowl (instead of down the front of their brother’s shirt), and helping them understand the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. I no longer cringe when they use a knife or the stovetop.

Young moms, you too can enjoy this some day. Eventually, they won’t just make messes. They’ll make dinner. (And messes, but let’s just focus on the dinner.)

For everyone with kids, no matter their age, I encourage that you work with your kids to help them get around confidently in the kitchen. The extra work it takes has a huge pay off in the end (so says the mom who sat in her chair while her kids made her favorite dips).

Pull your kids into the kitchen with you, as much as possible.

Help them learn. Help them appreciate the work you do to get food on the table for them every day.

If you’re intimidated about the whole idea, have no idea where to start, or just need a kick start – I highly recommend the Kids Cook Real Food course. We used it for Malachi, our youngest, because I really did need a kick start by the time this task came around to the baby of the family. He knew some basics, but he definitely needed to know more. However, I was in the middle of graduating our oldest and I was dealing with some personal health issues, so the KCRF course was just what I needed to help Malachi finally become confident in the kitchen and actually like cooking.

You can check it out here. It is incredibly well done.

Here’s some extra good news: I got my hands on a free All-Access Membership to Kids Cook Real Food that I’m giving away to one of you this week. Who wants to win? Sign up in the Rafflecopter below. I’ll draw a random winner on Tuesday, April 11. Watch for an email telling who the winner is!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pssst! I just found out about this!

The creator of Kids Cook Real Food just came out with a brand new free download: 10 Snacks Your Kids Can Make! I just downloaded it for my boys. Go get yours!

Some of the links in this post are my affiliate links.

Why I Felt Like Giving Up on Healthy Eating

I have written this post four times and deleted all four drafts. Nothing like wasting an entire day. Let’s try for a fifth time, shall we?

Here’s the deal:

I’ve been seeing a natural doctor for four and a half years. She specializes in detoxification (getting to the root of our health isues). I originally went to see her because my migraines were getting worse (twice a month for three days each) and because every winter since 1992 I have landed in bed with pneumonia because of weak lungs.

I needed help beyond “eat right, drink water, and exercise.”

Detoxing my physical self ultimately led to detoxing my emotional self. Phew. I had no idea that the physical and emotional are so connected. I had no idea how difficult this journey would be. But I’ve gratefully learned incredible truths about God’s power and my need to surrender, so as tough as the past four years have been, I am so thankful for all he has revealed and what he continues to teach me.

Well, somewhere through all of this detoxing, as many of you know, my body started to hate sugary desserts. Then it started to hate grains and carbs. Then it stopped being able to tolerate fruit.

Why I wanted to give up

Most of this is a good problem to have. I didn’t have to muster up the will power to quit my sugar addition. I simply didn’t want to keep feeling the miserable brain fog and migraines the sugar caused. I felt horrible when I ate sugar and carbs, so I quit.

The problem for me came when, after cutting out all the foods that made me not feel well (I was down to meat, vegetables, and fat), I still wasn’t feeling well. (At this point, my digestive system was healthy and healed. The problem had something to do with a bad bacteria in my blood stream not playing nice with anything resembling sugar/carbs. I was sugar crashing after eating almost everything. It was so, so awful.)

I did have some good days here and there. But overall, after so many years of eating so many healthy foods, drinking a good amount of water, going to a natural doctor, and trying to exercise – and still not feeling great – this is what I said more than once:

What even is the point?! I may as well go back to my Pepsi and Poptart days. I’m working so hard, cutting out all these foods, spending money on a good doctor, all so I can feel worse than ever.

The only thing that kept me from giving in to that despair was knowing that if I actually caved in and started eating junk again, I would feel worse than worse. I’d come too far in my journey to go back. But still. I was so, so discouraged.

Now, everyone is different so what has worked for me is in no way a prescription for anyone else. But here’s what I will tell you about the latest venture on my health-seeking journey:

While continuing to see my detox doctor, in January I reached out to a therapist for help with my emotional health. Both my doctor and my therapist are Christians, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, seeing as I was dealing with quite a few delicate issues. My Christian therapist has helped identify many of my struggles and the lies I was believing from the Enemy. She has helped me get rid of the lies and replace them with God’s truth. I have so much good to say about this, because my friends, I was really, really struggling in every way – and GOD IS SETTING ME FREE.

I believe I was being attacked spiritually during the past several months, causing terrible physical ailments, depression, and major feelings of defeat. Do with that what you will. But the truth is that as the chains that were holding me in bondage are falling off, my physical symptoms and my emotional state are clearing too.

This makes me weep with joy. It’s been a rough four and a half years. I don’t want to be the girl I was before this journey began, but neither would I ever want to re-live the struggles of this season in my life.

I thank God continually for how he is setting me free! I thank him for leading me to my natural doctor and to the therapist who is helping to finish what was started four and a half years ago. (Not that our journey will ever be finished on this earth. But there is hope, and I am finding it. Praise Him!)

So where am I now? And more importantly, can I eat cookies again? (That was my boys’ question after I came home from my last detox doc appointment and she’d pronounced me healthy and strong!)

I’ve really gotten quite used to eating such a clean diet of meat, veggies, and fat, so I don’t even want cookies. But my body no longer hates grains and fruit, so I can eat them in moderation, which is all I really want. I have no intention of going overboard, but it’s nice not to have so many restrictions so if I want a piece of pizza sometime, I will eat one.

As for now, I plan to take everything a day at a time.

I’ve learned during this journey how much I desperately need time with Jesus, praying and reading the Word every day if possible. (Remembering Truth to dis-spell the lies is difficult if I’m not frequently reading the Truth.)

I’ve learned that reaching out for help is absolutely necessary and really quite beautiful. Yes, God alone is all we need. But we also need our Christian family and friends to love us through struggles. And if He is making it clear that He has provided help from trustworthy professionals, then we should not hold back from utilizing those resources too.

My friends: What would have happened if I would have gone back to Pepsi and Poptarts as I’d been tempted to do? I don’t even want to thing about it. I think if I had not been nourishing my body as well as I was during this dark time I would have sunk deeper into the pit and had an even harder time pulling out.

Phew, what a great God we serve!

My journey isn’t over, and neither is yours. Our journey doesn’t end until life ends. Our job is to seek Him and trust His promises to always provide for us.

If you ever feel discouraged about “trying so hard” and “eating so well” and still you don’t achieve the results you’re hoping for, don’t give up. Don’t cave in and go back to a lifestyle of junk food or whatever temporary “fix” that might sound appealing. Seek help prayerfully and confidently. Keep taking care of yourself with wisdom.

Thank you for being my faithful friends. Thank you for allowing me to share this journey with you. I am blessed because of each of you.

This leads me to an invitation, because I can’t think of a more fitting way to enjoy this fresh, new start…

Join me for another April Health Challenge?

Many of us did this together last year and found it to be a fantastic way to connect and encourage one another. Let’s do it again and get even more people on board!

You might be at a great point in your life, or you might be at a point of struggle, or you might be somewhere in between. Wherever you are, we can all use a boost to take another baby step toward doing something good for our health.

Me? Well, after so many months of feeling awful and finally regaining (mostly) consistent energy, I’m ready to start a more regular (though, gentle) exercise routine.

You might be ready to start drinking more water. Or maybe you want to challenge yourself to eat more veggies each day. Maybe you want to spend more time in the Word or in prayer. Or maybe you need something more and it’s time to prayerfully consider reaching out for extra help to get your health on track.

This is for every aspect of our health – physical, emotional, spiritual. It all goes together and it’s all ridiculously important.

Sign up to join our April Health Challenge here.

It’s free. It’s low maintenance. It’s just a bunch of friends giving high fives and you can do its and I understands and hows it goings.

Over 500 people did this with me last year, and it was seriously so much fun and so encouraging! Everyone who joins gets this free mini-workbook to give you a jump start as we get the challenge started.

April Challenge Worksheet

You get to make this what YOU need it to be. Feeling whole and healthy feels…really whole and healthy. I like it here. I want you to be a part of this with me!

Join the April Health Challenge here.

Once you sign up, you’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Then you’ll get your free worksheets and a message from me. Can’t wait to get this started with you!

If you care to share in the comments: How’s your health journey? Where do you feel you could use the most encouragement right now?

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Psssst!

Need a little extra encouragement right now? —> I knew you’d like hearing that the 2017 Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is available through May 1, and it is super! I know you’ll love it! Get it here.

Get it here.

These great resources are super helpful for every homemaker. :)
Read about my top pick here!

Check out the FREEBIE we’re offering with every purchase —>

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How to Make Fun and Easy Sparkling 100% Juice

I’m in it for the bubbles. Easy Sparkling 100% Juice is so very perfect.

sparkling juice 2

I shared all kinds of thoughts (that didn’t necessarily make sense) about “how much I love drinks” in this post. I guess with warmer weather coming, I’ve been thinking more about fun drinks (not that warm drinks aren’t fun in the colder months too, of course).

One of my boys’ favorite things to splurge on is Martenelli’s (and by boys’ splurge, I should clarify that they prefer it if we parents do the splurging, because it is much easier to enjoy something if someone else has paid for it).

Have you tried Martinelli’s? It’s a very tasty sparkling cider that is 100% juice, made especially fun because it comes in a cool bottle and pours out nice and bubbly. I find it in the juice aisle at Wal-mart.

Martinelli’s is great for a special occasion, like New Year’s Eve, when I might not mind spending close a few extra dollars for each of us to have a sip of sparkly bubbles. But for a random Tuesday, I’m a little more selective about where I put my grocery money.

Soooo, we’ve found a way to have our sparkling juice and drink it too. We call it “Mom-inelle’s” because I invented it and we are all quite proud. The boys are especially happy because this invention means they can enjoy this fizzy drink more often than every December 31.

This has become the drink we enjoy when friends come over, and it always receives rave reviews. Note that you can add any 100% juice that you choose. We’ve discovered that our favorite is 100% Cranberry. Who knew? 100% Grape is a close second.

You may also find it fun to make this with combo-juices like 100% Cran-Raspberry or 100% Cran-Grape or 100% Apple-Raspberry.

It may just be us, but we have also found that this Sparkling 100% Juice tastes best with Mexican food or Pizza. There’s just something about fizzy drinks with food that has a bit of a spice. Try this!

Easy Sparkling 100% Juice

How to Make Fun and Easy Sparkling 100% Juice
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 11.5 ounces of frozen juice concentrate (thawed, butnot diluted)
  • 33.8 ounces Seltzer water (carbonated water)
Instructions
  1. Pour the juice concentrate into a ½ gallon jar or pitcher.
  2. Slowly pour in the seltzer water (if you pour it too quickly, it could bubble over).
  3. Stir slightly so as to mix the two liquids but not release too much fizz.

How to make Sparkling Juice

Do you love bubbles like I do? Ever tried making Sparkling Juice like this?

P.S. If you’re having a hard time giving up soda (pop/coke/whatever you call it where you live) – I recommend this fizzy juice as a great alternative. :)

Simple Crock Pot Shredded Ranch Chicken (for Tacos or Salad)

Once again, feel free to make this new recipe even if you failed to thaw chicken ahead of time. (See also: Simple Crock Pot Chicken Soup with a KickSimple Overnight Saucy Crock Pot ChickenSimple Overnight Melt-in-Your-Mouth Beef Roast, and Simple Garlic Butter Shrimp – all recipes that do not require thawing meat ahead of time.)

You might be thinking, “Do you ever plan ahead? Don’t you ever thaw your meat? This is what lists are for, Laura. Get yourself a planner!”

ranch chicken salad1

I do have a planner. And a calendar. And several phone reminder alarms that go off all week to remind me of important things to do and places to be.

But my planner, calendar, and phone can’t walk to the freezer to get out the chicken, now can they? So basically, frozen meat is what I have learned to deal with in this life, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. My crock pot gently says, “I’m here for you. I’ll thaw and cook your meat – all at the same time. So you just quickly throw it in here and go about your day.”

Hmm. I think I like my crock pot better than my planner. My crock pot saves my neck, makes my house smell amazing so as to make people think I’m actually working at today’s food, then kindly provides my family with dinner. Meanwhile my planner just bosses me around and tells me what to do all day. Rude.

Planner? You could learn a thing or two from Crock Pot. And Phone Alarms? You need to just sssshhhhhhhhhussshhh once in a while. I heard you the first four times you went off. I know I have a deadline. Can you not see that I’m down on the floor trying to sort through these tax forms? Seeing as you are way over there in the other room, one cannot expect me to just bounce off the floor and spring into the kitchen to swipe your sound off. I can’t afford to be inflicted with a strained muscle if I want to try and keep up with everything Planner is making me do.

And Calendar? I’d much appreciate it if you stop staring at me, mocking me with all your words and appointments. Why don’t you just say, “Stay home. Relax.” once in a while? But no. You’re all, “Take your kid to this, head over to that, so-and-so and such-and-such, be sure to, and don’t forget.”

It’s possible that I may need anger management classes as I learn to deal with the organizational tools that help me handle all my responsibilities. In the meantime, I will happily forget to thaw my meat and let my BFF, the Crock Pot, save me once again with another Simple Recipe.

Simple Shredded Ranch Chicken (for tacos or salad)

5.0 from 1 reviews
Simple Shredded Ranch Chicken (for tacos or salad)
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2-3 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Taco Seasoning*
  • 3 Tablespoons dry Ranch Seasoning**
Instructions
  1. Place chicken in the bottom of a crock pot.
  2. Drizzle on olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle on seasoning mixes.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  5. Shred chicken and serve with favorite taco toppings on hard or soft shells.

*Here’s my Homemade Taco Seasoning recipe.
**Here’s my Homemade Ranch Seasoning recipe.

Simple Crock Pot Shredded Ranch Chicken (for Tacos or Salad)

I now invite you to enjoy more Simple Recipes (which you can get in eBook form if you like):

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Save even more time and energy when you join Simple Meals!! It’s getting rave reviews!

What to do if you love coffee but need to watch the caffeine. (Have you tried Teeccino?)

Sometimes a person says something she means but doesn’t really mean. You know what I mean?

Take, for instance, when I say, “I love to drink. Drinking is so fun! Drinks make me happy.” You might think I have a drinking problem. It’s definitely not a problem, though, because I can stop any time I want to.

Now, what I’m talking about, isn’t drinking. No, no. I’m talking about drinking. Understand now? I actually stay away from drinking because my system can’t handle it, I’ve seen too many dear friends struggle with it, and anyway, I have way more fun when I’m drinking instead.

I drink at home and I drink with my family and it’s great to invite friends over and say, “Do you want to come over for drinks?”

Well now. I think after reading that we can all use a drink. What can I get you?

  • Coffee? (Iced or hot? Decaf or regular? With cream and a spoonful of my homemade chocolate sauce?)
  • Tea? (Hot or cold? Sweet or unsweet? Mango or peach? Raspberry perhaps?)
  • Water? (Ice or no ice? With lemon or lime?)
  • Sparkling Juice? (Cranberry is our favorite. Recipe is coming soon.)

Now that we’re all clear (as mud) on where I’m coming from, allow me to explain further.

I always drink a nice amount of water during the day so I stay hydrated and healthy. I actually like water, even if it is just…water. But I also really like to enjoy another fun drink or two throughout the day.

pumpkin_custard_drink

Desserts? I’m over them. Junk food? I really don’t want it. But a variety of drinks? Yes, please. I think they are a ridiculously fun treat even though I don’t even add sugar or stevia to them.

I realize this puts me over the edge into the complete nerd category, but you guys, sipping an iced coffee in the afternoon is as much a treat to me as brownies used to be back in my “I can eat anything” days. Tossing a slice of lemon in my water makes me feel like I’m indulging in something special when in reality, I’m still in my pajamas and I’m about to embark on a science lesson with my kids.

Having a cup of hot tea mid-morning (let’s call it a “spot of tea,” shall we?) in a special mug really hits the spot while I’m answering emails. Enjoying a flavored sparkling water (lime is my fav) with my lunch makes me feel like I’m splurging at a restaurant. And setting out an assortment of hot drink choices for my family before we begin a game night is way, way more fun than one would think.

Coffee Milkshake

This leads me to share about a fun drink many of you already know about (because several of you have mentioned it through the years). A sample of Teeccino came in my last Azure Standard order.

I made a BIG DEAL of trying it. As in, I made it, put on my pj’s and slippers while it was brewing, added cream, and snuggled under a fuzzy blanket in the living room so I could sip it slowing and savor it. I only had one kid at home with me at the time, so naturally I made him try it with me. He was a good sport, skipped the slippers, and added sugar to his.

We both came back with a thumbs up. So now I have yet another great drink to add to my drinking repertoire. Can life get any more fun than this?! I think not.

teeccino

What is Teeccino?

It’s an herbal tea, completely decaf, which tastes similar to coffee. But don’t expect it to taste exactly like coffee because it doesn’t.  I think it has a unique taste – kind of a mixture of coffee, tea, and chocolate.

It is delicious, though, and I love that it’s decaf so I can enjoy it in the evenings!

All of my family has tried it and enjoys it too. Therefore, I ordered a case which is a variety pack, because of ALL THE FUN this will provide for us.

Now that you’ve heard my drinking confessions, it time for you to share what your favorite drinks are. Also, have you tried Teeccino and do you like it?

Simple Crunchy Ranch Chicken Strips

Did you get your free Simple Recipes, Volume 1 eBook yet? You will LOVE how easy it is to put real food meals on the table. As you can tell with the Simple Garlic Shrimp recipe and now this Simple Crunchy Ranch Chicken Strips recipe – we are now well on our way to Simple Recipes, Volume 2.

Simple Recipes excitement

Let’s keep the Simple Recipes coming!

ranch chicken12

Today I’m excited to share a recipe that has been a family favorite for several years at our house. Of course, seeing as I like everything to be simple now, I’ve pared down the steps it used to take to prepare this chicken. (Pick up one little piece of chicken. Dip the piece of chicken. Dip it again. No thank you.) C’mon. We have more important things to do with our lives…like attempting to have a Family Movie Night.

Attempting? Yes. Allow me to share a little issue I have as of late.

I can’t stay awake for a movie. Ever. It goes something like this:

  1. I get excited that our family has an actual free evening.
  2. We decide to have a movie night and discuss which movie to watch together.
  3. We make snacks and special hot drinks to enjoy while we’re watching the movie together.
  4. Everyone takes forever to actually get their food and drinks and get themselves into the living room to start the movie. (I’m always the picture of loving patience during this time.)
  5. I begin to get nervous, knowing my eyes struggle to stay open if it gets too late. HURRY EVERYONE!!! Thankfully, we’ve started the “get the movie set up and snacks on your plates” ritual at 8:00. Surely I can handle staying awake for a movie with it being so early, right? Well, one would think.
  6. We finally get situated and start the movie at 8:32.
  7. I finish my snack and fall asleep promptly at 8:47.
  8. I wake up just as the credits roll at the end.

Every. Single. Time.

It doesn’t matter what movie. It doesn’t matter what time we begin. (I know this because we tested to see if I could stay awake during an afternoon movie while drinking a cup of caffeinated coffee. I still got sleepy. You may as well ruin every movie for me by telling me who gets married and who dies and who the hero is because I may never watch an entire movie again.)

Well, anyway. The Simple Recipes and Simple Meals resources do everything they can to keep you out of the kitchen and offer you more family time. As far as staying awake during a Family Movie Night goes – you’re on your own. There’s obviously nothing I can do to help any of us with this need.

Simple Crunchy Ranch Chicken Strips

Simple Crunchy Ranch Chicken Strips
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup whole grain flour (rice, wheat, corn, etc) or crushed corn flakes
  • 3 Tablespoons Ranch Dressing Mix*
  • 1 cup melted butter, divided
Instructions
  1. Cut chicken into strips about 1 inch wide.
  2. Drizzle ½ cup melted butter into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  3. In a bowl, stir together parmesan cheese, flour, and ranch dressing mix.
  4. Stir in the chicken pieces until they are coated.
  5. Spread the prepared chicken pieces into the butter in the pan.
  6. Drizzle the remaining butter over the chicken.
  7. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.
  8. If desired, broil chicken for about 2 minutes to crisp it up before serving.

*Here’s my Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix recipe.

Simple Crunchy Ranch Chicken

Notice the recipe offers you a “cheater” method to get these chicken pieces into a pan in a short amount of time! You can dip each piece one at a time if you want, but I simply melt the butter into the pan, stir the chicken all together in a bowl with the flour mixture, then dump it into the buttery pan. It’s so simple!

Typically I prefer chicken thighs over breasts because they are juicier and more flavorful. For this recipe though, I like chicken breasts. I also keep my eye out for mark-downs at the store on chicken breasts pre-cut into strips. It’s a time saver and the mark-down keeps the price reasonable!

‘Fess up! Can you stay awake during movies?

Here are more Simple Recipes you’ll love!

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Truly, all of these recipes are ridiculously easy, good, and nourishing.

If you haven’t joined Simple Meals yet, you are missing out on SIMPLE becoming even MORE SIMPLE! (It’s actually possible. I do the work for you.) Check it out here (and get $10 off!). Get an full Simple Meals Planning Packet in your inbox every single week!

I’ve Been Taking Clean Water for Granted

If ever my kids are whiny, achy, arguing, or restless, I give them this admonition, “Go take a drink of water.”

It’s become a joke around here, as if water is my answer for everything. (Kid: “I can’t find my math book.” Me: “Go take some sips of water.” Perhaps I’ve taken the water thing just a little too far?)

watersm

Hey. I’m right you know. Drinking water really does help many an ailment. Cranky kids really might simply be thirsty, you know? Any time we’re struggling to focus, we take a water break and it almost always helps.  (Unfortunately, drinking water has yet to help us find motivation to clean the house. I find that coffee works better for this. But I digress.)

I heart water. I drink water all day long. I encourage everyone to be sure they are drinking enough water. And I’ve recently come to realize that I take the gift of water for granted.

It’s just right there at my sink, all day long, you know? It’s the easiest thing in the world for me to fill my glass full of clean water and drink it as needed.

I’ve known that other countries don’t have it as easy as I do, but I haven’t learned much about this problem until recently. How about you? Here’s something I just found out:

6 kilometers (approximately 3.7 miles) is the average distance that people in the developing world – often women and young girls – walk for water each day. This walk can be dangerous, and the water is often contaminated with life-threatening diseases.

OVER THREE MILES!! That’s how far little girls walk every day just to collect (contaminated) water for their families. This news causes me anxiety, which at my house means I need to pause, re-group, and take a sip of water. Oh, the irony.

Many, thankfully, are doing what they can to help with this global drinking water problem. I’ve started by doing this:

Each time I take a sip of water throughout the day, I pray for God to provide clean access to water to those for whom it is a struggle.

It’s a simple thing to do, letting my water drinking habit become a prayer trigger. And what else? Well, what are you doing Saturday, May 6?

This is something we can all do to help!

On Saturday, May 6, 2017, people from around the globe will walk or run 6 kilometers to support World Vision’s water initiatives through the World Vision Global 6K for Water.

The Global 6K for Water is organized by Team World Vision, a group of passionate people who run, walk, and race to help children get clean water. Team World Vision’s water projects run in harmony with World Vision’s work in other key areas of development: health, education, food, and economic development. This approach tackles the root causes of poverty, enabling children to experience fullness of life.

Team World Vision was founded in 2006, and since then, they have helped more than 30,000 people cross finish lines to raise $30 million for World Vision’s work around the world.

Did you read that? $30 million! When each person does a little, a LOT of help can be offered!

How you and I can help

World Vision is on site in different parts of the world to make clean water accessible for many. We can partner with them to help – no matter where we live and what we do! Here are some options to consider:

  • Become a host site: Work together with your church, school, community center or run club to register as a host site (it’s free!) and spread the word about how fun and easy it is to support clean water programs around the world! Whether your goal is 10 people or 100 people, World Vision will equip you with all the marketing materials, race day signage and staff support for a successful race day.
  • Join a local host site: Walk or run with other Global 6K for Water participants at a host site near you.
  • Start a virtual team: Invite your friends and family all around the country to join your “team” even though you will each be walking or running from your own neighborhoods on race day. <—- This is what I’ll be doing. Stay tuned!
  • Individual race: Walk or run the Global 6K for Water from your own front door – whether on a treadmill or around the neighborhood with your kids, you’ll be taking part in a global effort to support clean water! (Note: Thanks to our generous donors, the registration fee for kids (15 and under) is only $25 – a discount of 50%!)

Each participant’s registration fee of $50 supports World Vision’s water programs. After registration, you will receive a World Vision Global 6K for Water t-shirt, a race bib with a photo of a child you can sponsor, and a race medal in the mail.

Who wants to walk with me?!

I’d love it if we all took a virtual walk together! Even better, promote this to all your friends so the word will spread and more can become involved in helping!

Register here and mark May 6 on your calendar. Watch for more details coming soon as we plan this fun and beneficial event!

Now, everyone go take some sips of water. And while you do, pray for those for whom drinking clean water is a challenge. How exciting that, together, we can be a part of making healthy opportunities around the world!

I was compensated by World Vision for my time in writing this post. All opinions are my own.