20 Easy Slow Cooker Recipes

20 Easy Slow Cooker RecipesI’m a meal planner; have been for quite some time. As a working mom with a working husband with kids in a couple of activities each, I find that meal planning is necessary for our lives to run semi-smoothly. On those occasions when I’ve let the meal-planning slide, meal times become chaos, and we end up having unhealthier, less tasty meals, spend more time at the grocery store, and waste time looking through the freezer and pantry trying to come up with something to make.

The way things work in our household is that I usually plan a week’s worth of suppers (planning is not my husband’s strength in any way), make a shopping list for the week (including items we need for lunches), and do the grocery shopping. My husband will frequently do the cooking, since he’s often home before I am, and I’m usually the one to put together the slow-cooker and weekend meals.

I used to plan lunches but found that a lot of food went to waste. Now, we eat leftovers, sandwiches, soups, and salads for lunches during the week and will often eat eggs and leftovers for lunches on the weekend. Occasionally, we find ourselves rummaging through the pantry and fridge, trying to figure out what to have, but we just wing it.

During the winter months, when we’re busier with activities and our evenings feel so rushed due to the short days, I tend to avoid trying out new recipes, preferring to make what’s familiar because it’s most efficient. I also love to use my slow cooker, but have struggled to find tasty recipes that require minimal prep. I want recipes that let me dump a bunch of stuff into the slow cooker, without chopping ten different things and browning stuff first. I understand that the pre-slow cooker prep often is meant to add more flavour, but I am looking for easy-peasy, not gourmet.

Yesterday, I spent some time looking up new slow cooker recipes on Pinterest, focusing on finding dump-and-cook style meals. I wasn’t really assessing the recipes in terms of how healthy they are: this was all about spending less time on meal prep. I  thought I’d share the links to the recipes I found, because everyone I know loves their slow cookers.

Super Simple Peachy Barbecue Chicken from Midwest Living

Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Bowls from Budget Bytes

Slow Cooker Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken from Six Sisters’ Stuff

Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Chicken from Sweet Treats & More

Crockpot Lasagna (No Precooking Needed) from BentoLunch.net

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken and Ranch Potatoes from The Magical Slow Cooker

Honey Garlic Crockpot Meatballs from Family Fresh Meals

Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken from Family Fresh Meals

Slow Cooker Quinoa Tex Mex from Chelsea’s Messy Apron

The Best Crockpot BBQ Chicken from Family Fresh Meals

5 Chicken Dump Recipes from The Chaos and the Clutter

5 More Chicken Dump Recipes from The Chaos and the Clutter

Do you love your slow cooker?

Me, Me, Me, Me: 6 Ways to Practice Workout Consistency

View from Diamond Head, Oahu

View from Diamond Head, Oahu

It seems lately that I plan workouts and then blow them off, typically coming up with a fancy excuse for not working out. “I’ve had a hard day and resting would be better for me than working out.” “The plantar fasciitis in my right foot is acting up, so best to rest it.” “I have been so productive doing x, y, z instead of working out, so it was worth it to skip my exercise time.” You see where I’m going here. I am quite good at coming up with perfectly reasonable excuses not to work out, and sure, everyone makes the choice to not workout from time to time, but my workout avoidance has been more consistent than my workouts have been lately, and that’s just crazy.

In my last post, I talked about how I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, and, if I recall correctly, the stats show that women in particular will start to dump their workouts out of their schedules when they’re busy, prioritizing their kids, homes, work, before their workouts. Totally understandable: that’s the life I live, too. It’s not easy to put your fitness first, even when logically you know that you will have more energy, a healthier (and likely longer) life, and are setting a good example for your kids. Maybe, for me, it’s like yoga: workout consistency is a practice.

I’m not going to make some sort of delayed New Year’s Resolution and vow to nail my workouts from this day forward. That would be adding to the overwhelmed feeling I’m been dealing with. My strategy instead is this:

  1. Continue with my daily yoga practice. Since January 1st, I have practiced yoga daily, varying my practice to fit my schedule and needs. I’ve gone to hot yoga classes, yoga’d along to Yoga with Adriene You Tube videos, and sometimes simply spent time in a couple of poses in my bed when that’s all I felt would fit into my day. I have listened to my body and mind and I’ve done what felt good to me.
  2. Set aside time in my schedule for my workouts. Easy enough to do. The execution is what I’ve had trouble with. Still, just because I’ve had trouble following my schedule doesn’t mean that I should give up trying to make time for exercise. This is part of workout consistency as a practice.
  3. Prepare alternatives. The daily yoga has been working for me because I’ve been listening to my mind and body and going ahead with what feels right to me. It’s January in Saskatchewan, and while it’s been absolutely lovely lately (above freezing, even, which is a far cry from the usual -30 with the wind chill), mornings are dark, evenings are dark, and the sidewalks alternate between icy and sloppy. Going out for a walk/run has been less than appealing. Still, I have been professing that I want to run, and for me, running doesn’t happen easily. It requires a walk/run approach and slow progression. And, yes, consistency. Having said that, I am officially giving myself permission to stray from the schedule I set out, listen to my mind and body, and do what feels good, whether that means fitting in a 15 minute run/walk instead of a 50 minute workout, or jumping on the stationary bike in front of Netflix instead of going outside. Part of the deal, though, is that I still have to do something, and yes, my daily yoga practice counts.
  4. Be curious. What excuses am I making for not working out? Why did the time I scheduled for my workout not work? What workouts am I choosing to do? What’s working and what’s not? Take the opportunity to listen to what’s going on in my mind and body.
  5. Mix it up and make it fun. Sure, routine can be good, but my same-ol’-same-ol’ playlist is getting old and my running route is getting boring. It’s time to shake up my iPod, find a different direction to run, and maybe download that zombie running app that I’ve heard about. I will watch The Walking Dead yet again while I stationary bike, because I love it and for no other reason, and I’ll keep trying different yoga classes. I will remember to smile at the sunset or whenever I feel joy rise in my heart during a workout, and I will sing along to my playlists if I feel like it.
  6. Be prepared for workouts. Sometimes the hardest part of starting a workout is getting the gear together. I will do my best to pick out my gear and lay it out or pack it up the day before, especially if the time I’ve set aside for my workout is in the morning or right after work.

Practicing workout consistency is going to take planning, a willingness to be curious about what’s going on in my mind, and a commitment to listening to my body. Basically, it’s all about me.

Weekend Prep: 6 Ways I’m Taking Care of Myself for More Weekend Energy

I have been wanting to escape.

That feeling is a sign that I’m actually feeling overwhelmed. I’ve been trying to “get organized” to deal with the overwhelment but it’s not working so far. Probably because my running to-do list has about 60 items on it. Not good. I don’t mean that having 60 to-do items is a bad thing, but getting hung up on having 60 things to do is, well, not getting me anywhere, beyond feeling overwhelmed.

Tonight, in order to get myself into a better headspace, I’m going to a few easy things to get me mentally ready for the weekend. First, I’m going to do a quick and dirty list of all of the items running through my mind so that they’re down on paper and I can quit reminding myself about them. Second, I’m going to practice some yoga to help me wind down and get ready for bed. I found a list of 5 asanas that I can do in bed, which is perfect, here. Next, I will get into bed and think of the things that I am grateful for from today. I’ll also think about what I want to accomplish in my sleep (restore my body, recover after a stressful week, etc.) and “pre-pave” (as my life coach says), or set my intentions for, tomorrow. Finally, I will sleep all through the night and wake all refreshed and ready for the weekend.

Hot Yoga for Me

I didn’t run yesterday. It was cold and I didn’t go out. My right foot and left hip have been nagging at me since my last run, and yoga seemed the better choice. Not the consistency I wanted to start the year off with, but it was the right choice. I did more yoga today and my foot and hip both are feeling better, so I’m planning a run tomorrow. I am considering jumping on the treadmill, though, even though I hate it, because I think the cold is making my gait funny and contributing to my issues. We’ll see. The forecasted high for tomorrow is -15 degrees, with the wind chill making it feel like -23. Not so cold, but cold enough.

To counteract the wicked cold, I tried hot yoga – really hot yoga – for the first time this weekend. I tried out a yin class, which I can’t say I enjoyed much, yesterday, and then a “Moksha” class today, which I did like. I wouldn’t say I’m in love with hot yoga, but it was good to try something different.

Girl Crushing and 30 Days of Yoga

When I had bronchitis for a month last year, I fell in love with Adriene from Yoga with Adriene. I was sick for so long, and my body felt so terrible, so I turned to the internet for yoga I could do while I was sick, and ta-da, I found Yoga for When You Are Sick. Exactly what I was looking for.

I don’t know Adriene, but I wish that I did and, somehow, feel that I kind of do. She is charming, relaxed, and swears the perfect amount. Girl crush! Naturally, when she announced 30 Days of Yoga videos starting January 1st, 2015, I was in and signed up.

Since January 1st, I have practiced yoga daily. Amazingly, my back is starting to feel uncrumpled, I can lift my hands off my butt when I clasp them behind me, and I am cultivating the awareness of my body that I’ve been neglecting so long. I am learning to make each practice my own and to listen to what my body is telling me – I’ve been ignoring it for awhile now.

Are there any changes you’ve made in 2015? How are you feeling about the results?

Running Cold

Things I learned on yesterday’s run:

1. When the wind chill takes temperatures into the minus 30s (Celcius), pants that block the wind are a must. Unfortunately, I don’t own wind pants, so around the halfway mark, I deemed it necessary to add a layer and popped into my house and grabbed a third layer of bottoms (my favourite pair of yoga capris), adding that on top of my two pairs of running tights. Definitely need to do some shopping for wind-blocking bottoms. Capris are not a great look.

2. It’s really difficult to de-ice your lashes when you’re outside in such cold temperatures. I basically had to wait until I came inside and the ice melted enough for me to pull the frosty chunks off my lashes.

3. I love to be outside when the sun is setting, even when it is bitterly cold. The gorgeous colours of the sky as the sun goes down are always a great reminder to be in the moment and focus on the here and now, rather than on the million things that like to pop into my brain.

4. When it’s cold enough, like yesterday, my legs go numb and I really have to focus on my gait and how I place my feet on the ground. I think new outer gear for my legs has potential to help me out here so that I can still feel my butt by the end of a workout. Otherwise, I have to consider whether or not I should be on the treadmill (yuck) instead in order to ensure I’m not moving in such a way as to cause myself injury.

Do you run in the cold? Any favourite gear?

My Running Affirmation: I Love to Run in the Cold

I got back from a week and a half in Arizona yesterday, took today off rather than jumping into work so that I could get settled into my week, and now I’m busy avoiding going out for a walk/run. Why, you might ask? Well, getting back into running is what I’ve been saying I want to do, and I have a plan all laid out, but it’s currently -20 and feels like -31. Yuck. Not Arizona weather, that’s for damn sure, and it’s wasn’t even that warm in AZ while we were there. Running was a lot more…palatable when it involved heading out into the balmy winter temperatures of the Sonoran desert.

Sadly, I know that in order for me to be a runner once again, I have to actually run and not simply talk about it. I say sadly because who wants to face sub-30 degree wind chills? Gross.

The reality is that it is f*cking cold out there – not to put too fine a point on it – and if I run, I will have to be all bundled up and my feet will get cold and my lashes will frost up and stick together and I’ll have to go slowly so that I don’t wipe out or twist an ankle or something. And once I’m done, I feel feel great about being a bad ass, running outside in this weather and doing something about running, other than just talking about running. So that’s the upside.

Now that I’ve sorted that all out on paper (er, you know what I mean), I’ve nothing left to do but dig out a couple of pairs of running tights and gear up for an afternoon workout. I will blast a playlist, cover up everything but my eyes, smile, and repeat to myself, “I love to run in the cold.”

Getting Organized for Halloween

Today is Halloween, one of my favourite days of the year. I am a horror movie, scary book, spooky story lover from way back, so for me, Halloween ranks right up there with Christmas. I wish I could tell you that I’m making witch finger cookies and am already decked out in my costume, but I’m actually waiting for a webinar to start and killing some time by doing what I love to do when my life is in a state of overwhelment: I’m going to write and make some lists in an effort to bring some sense of order to my life.

Update: I finished my webinar and am moving on with my day.

I took the day off from work today because as of last week I didn’t have any patients who wanted to book in on Halloween. (And they say Halloween is for kids…) Since two of my employees have kids, they were up for taking the day off, because we all know that getting ready for trick-or-treating takes time and can get crazy, what with the kids so excited to gather up all of that candy. What complicates things in my climate (Saskatoon) is that any trick-or-treating must be done in winter gear: boots, gloves/mitts, toque. Getting all of the extras over and under the costume tends to be quite a challenge and surprisingly time-consuming. Even though we’ve managed to make it to the end of October without snow, I want my kids to be warm, but I also want people to be able to see their costumes. I am not always successful in meeting those particular goals. Usually, they look like Canadian kids in winter gear with funny headwear (ninja masks, crowns, etc.) and smeared makeup.

I also try to get a family picture before the kids head out the door with their pillowcases in hand, and then there’s making my kids eat supper before they head out the door to race from house to house for goodies. Our tradition has become having mummy hot dogs for supper on Halloween (easy, kid-friendly, definitely not healthy), raw veggies on the side. My kids consider mummy hot dogs fun and junk food-y enough that they usually power through their meal pretty quickly.

In addition to preparing the kids for their evening of candy collecting, I will be dressing up, as is my tradition. This year, I grabbed “Day of the Dead” accessories from Target and plan to do my makeup something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhfKJCYTcJs. It’s going to be fantastic!

The rest of today’s checklist:

  • 20 min walk, yoga, lift weights
  • shower
  • cut up veggies (carrots and celery)
  • prepare mummy dogs
  • do some work on notes for work
  • get out containers for the kids’ candy so they’re ready to go
  • pick up the kids from school
  • cook supper
  • take a family picture
  • have hot chocolate ready for the kids after they’re done trick-or-treating

My pie-in-the-sky, would love to do today list:

  • a couple of loads of laundry (one’s just about to get tossed into the dryer)
  • clean up the kitchen (it has been taken over by Halloween gear and random papers)
  • take a picture of the mantel I put together for Halloween
  • watch a scary movie
  • writing (I’m working on the synopsis of a zombie novel, my first attempt at writing fiction since English class in high school)

My weekend list:

  • buy myself some new skates, a helmet, and hockey gloves so I can help out with my daughter’s hockey team
  • take the kids to a couple of hockey practices
  • attend a couple of parties tomorrow night (well, I’m thinking I’ll be going to just the one, because I’m not fully recovered from my cold/bronchitis and I don’t want to end up sick again)
  • take down Halloween decorations and store
  • set up a dedicated space for Christmas planning, wrapping, etc.
  • clean off 1 shelf in the pantry

I’m mostly recovered from my bout of bronchitis. Wednesday was probably the first day I felt like myself in two and a half weeks. I still have a nasty-sounding cough, but it is slowly improving. I’m hacking up some nasty stuff from my lungs, though. I can not imagine what it would be like to be a smoker, because I’m sure it would be even worse than the gunk I’m coughing up.

Do you have any favourite scary movies or books that you enjoy at this time of year?

Caring, Respect, and Balance: Treating Myself Like a Friend

It’s Saturday, noon-ish, and I have several free hours ahead of me. My son has ball hockey and my daughter has hockey practice, but I’m otherwise available to do…stuff. My mind is awhirl with the many projects I’d like to tackle, from organizing the pantry to baking to practicing some yoga, and I know from experience that if I don’t make a plan for my day, I will fritter it away and be overcome with guilt and regret for my missed opportunity right around 7pm.

The Projects

  1. clean out and organize the pantry
  2. go for a walk
  3. practice yoga
  4. bake brownies with ghost Peeps on top
  5. spend half an hour working on my writing
  6. buy new skates, hockey gloves, and a helmet
  7. make a meal plan and shopping list for the next two weeks
  8. gather documents I need for the meeting I have at the bank on Monday
  9. watch a Halloween movie with the kids
  10. clean off 2 shelves in my closet
  11. prepare cards for our Halloween countdown activities for the next week
  12. work on the items I need to prepare for my life coaching session on Monday
  13. wash the living room throws
  14. bake some cookies – try a new recipe

Can I accomplish all of these today? Not a chance. I’m an unrealistic overachiever, but even I know that plowing through this list would be a herculean feat, so let’s break it down.

My Top 3 (start with these, and move on from there)

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Practice yoga
  3. Prepare cards for our Halloween countdown activities for the next week

My Top 10 (if I power through all of this, I’d be damned shocked)

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Practice yoga
  3. Prepare cards for our Halloween countdown activities for the next week
  4. Bake brownies with ghost Peeps on top
  5. Watch a Halloween movie with the kids
  6. Clean out and organize the panty
  7. Gather documents I need for the meeting I have at the bank on Monday
  8. Clean off 2 shelves in my closet
  9. Wash the living room throws
  10. Spend half an hour working on my writing

Though I love the feeling of accomplishment, I must, at the same time, balance it with my recovery from a nasty cold/flu that knocked me down about 2 weeks ago and continues to affect me. The satisfaction of a tidier house and personal progress certainly won’t be enough to counterbalance my chagrin at suffering a relapse and making myself sick(er) again. Caring for myself and respect for my body must come before everything else. “They,” whoever “they” are, say to treat yourself the way you would treat a friend, and that’s what I’m trying to do: treating myself with kindness and recognizing that my inner drive to feel productive is not going to do my body good. If I can manage to be kind to myself, then I will truly have accomplished something.

Insomniatic Drivel

Couldn’t sleep last night. Have been up since 3:30am, and have been watching Mad Men (though not since 3:30am – more like 5am). I’m in Season 4, in case you’re wondering. And, yes, I also know that you’re not supposed to watch TV when you have insomnia.

I used to be a great sleeper, but now I’m not. Too many things on my mind, I suppose. This balance stuff is bogus. Also, we need a new mattress, since the one we have dates back to when I moved out on my own in the fall of 1993. Jeez, when you put that in black and white, it sounds like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

It’s 7:30am and it’s time to get ready for work. Luckily, it’s a light day patient-wise. Maybe I can get a light nap in this morning. Or a walk. A walk would probably pay off more in terms of my sleep quality tonight. Must pack my runners and take them to work with me.

There’s something about a lack of sleep that puts me on edge. I’m talking beyond simply being tired. There’s that weird, tight, winding feeling that you get in your stomach – or I do, anyway. Maybe that’s not the lack of sleep; maybe that’s what’s keeping me up.

Must get going. Kids need to be dropped off at school and I have to find my runners…