Archive | October, 2013

Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie

14 Oct

Crockpot season is officially upon us!  As soon as the weather starts to turn colder and grey, I love to pull out the crockpot (or slowcooker depending on where you’re from), throw everything in the night before, have it cook all day and have dinner ready when we get home from work the next day. (Yes I know you can use them year round, but something feels wrong about using the crock pot in the middle of the summer to me.) It’s so easy and really nice to not always have to cook every night! I do feel bad for Maggie sometimes though since she has to smell the food cooking all day long, then never gets to have any.

We both love chicken pot pie, it just feels like a comfort food to me. I remember eating Marie Callender’s mini pot pies when I was growing up on cold fall and winter days, so it brings back memories of growing up in upstate New York and all the snow we got.  After searching for the perfect crock pot chicken pot pie recipe, we ended up combining elements of a few different ones. Instead of pouring the filling into a pie, we decided to make some refrigerated biscuits and serve the pot pie filling over the biscuits. I’m sure it would have been just as easy to make the pie but the biscuits were a fun twist.

Now, I get skeptical with any crock pot chicken recipe.  I have a horrible track record with the chicken turning out dry, so naturally I was nervous, but it turned out great! The chicken was not dry at all and it was the perfect warm and hearty dinner for a grey and rainy day.

Crock Pot Chicken Pot Pie
3-4 chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces
4-5 red potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups frozen veggies (I used 1 c of corn and 1 c of peas)
1 large (family size) can cream of chicken soup
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans refrigerated biscuits

1. Chop and dice the chicken, potatoes and onion. Place into the crock pot.

2. Add in the frozen veggies, cream of chicken soup and salt and pepper. Stir all the ingredients together so the soup evenly coats all the  ingredients.

The chicken pot pie mixture, all stirred up and ready to go!

The chicken pot pie mixture, all stirred up and ready to go!

3. Cook on low 6-8 hours, until chicken and potatoes are cooked. We cooked it on low for 8 hours and everything was done when we got home from work.

My mom bought me this crock pot as a Christmas gift last year…I have never been more excited to get kitchen gadgets as a present! It has a fantastic feature that allows you to set your cook time, and after the cook time is up, it automatically switches the heat to warm so you dish doesn’t get cold, or keep cooking.

4. When it’s time to eat, bake the biscuits according to the package directions.

5. When the biscuits are done, open them up and serve the pot pie mixture over the biscuits.

Chicken Pot Pie over Biscuits

Chicken Pot Pie over Biscuits

It tasted delicious! I loved having the flavor from the onion in there, plus the heartiness of the potatoes. The chicken was not dry at all, and it fell apart easily. There was enough pot pie filling for us to have dinner that night,  plus leftovers for at least 2 more meals.  The one thing  I would do different though is season the chicken before putting it into the crock pot. We thought the flavor was good but it could have used a little more pepper. Seasoning the chicken as well as the entire mixture might help kick up the flavor just a little bit. This recipe is definitely being saved and made again sometime this winter! Anyone have any variations on chicken pot pie that they have tried before?

Pasta with Basil Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

11 Oct

The weather is slowly turning to fall, which means our garden is just about done for the year. I really enjoyed all the fresh herbs, cucumbers and tomatoes all summer long. For some reason though, our basil and cherry tomato plants  are still growing! I was pulling plants the other day and I think I picked at least 2 cups worth of cherry tomatoes! I needed to figure out something to do with all the tomatoes and basil, quickly before they spoiled sitting around our house. It was perfect timing too, we ran the Twin Cities 10k last Saturday as our race for October and I was still searching for a good pre-race meal. Well with all the basil and tomatoes, what better than homemade pesto with oven roasted tomatoes and chicken over pasta!

Pesto
I’ve always loved Giada’s peso recipe. It’s fairly easy to make and really hard to mess up.
1 garlic clove
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. Add garlic, basil, pine nuts, salt and pepper into a food processor. Pulse until everything is finely chopped.
2. While the blender is still running, slowly pour in 1/2 c of the olive oil. You want the pesto to have a thick but smooth consistency. You can always add more oil if necessary.
3. Add the Parmesan and blend until the cheese is mixed in.

I know pine nuts are expensive, so I’ve substituted walnuts and even almonds in a pinch. I couldn’t really tell any difference in taste between pesto with pine nuts and pesto with walnuts. I know the recipe calls for toasting or roasting the pine nuts, but I always forget this step! I’m sure the flavors would be different, so someday I’ll have to remember to roast whatever nuts I’m using.

Roasted Tomatoes
This could not have been easier to do, and you could use any seasoning you feel like.
As many tomatoes as you want
Olive Oil
Balsalmic Vinear
Salt and Pepper or other seasoning to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Chop all the tomatoes in half or bite size pieces depending on what type of tomatoes you are using. I also cut up some of the extra roma tomatoes we had sitting around.
2. Place into a large mixing bowl. Toss with olive oil, vinegar and seasonings.

Seasoning the yummy tomatoes from the garden

Seasoning the yummy tomatoes from the garden

3. Lay out onto a greased roasting pan or cookie sheet. Roast in oven for 8-12 minutes, or until the skins on the tomatoes begin to shrivel and brown.

Finished tomatoes

Finished tomatoes

While I was roasting the tomatoes and making the pesto, I boiled half a box of rotini (it was all we had left in the house for pasta choices) seasoned some chicken breast with Italian seasoning and baked it in the oven. When the pasta was done, I mixed in the pesto and topped it with the roasted tomatoes, chicken and some more parmesan cheese.

Finished dish

Finished dish

The pasta tasted amazing. All the flavors came together really well with the fresh basil, tomatoes, rosemary and oregano in the Italian seasoning. The flavors were pretty light but it was a filling dish! The whole combination must have been perfect pre-race fuel too. Both Jason and I beat our goal times and set new PRs for a 10k! It was a beautiful course, starting by the capitol building in St. Paul, past the Cathedral, down Summit Ave with all the old houses and back. The best part was finishing on a downhill, running toward the capitol building, what a beautiful view. It might have been the course that helped us PR, but the dinner couldn’t have hurt either! I think we’ll be making this again the night before a race.

After the race with our medals and the capitol building

After the race with our medals and the capitol building

FOCUS T25 Success Story – How I lost 23 pounds in 10 weeks

3 Oct

When I started FOCUS T25, I weighed in right at 250 pounds. I’ve easily weighed that much since my first year in college sometimes ballooning up a few pounds and sometimes a little less. The lowest weight I remember seeing was roughly 245 pounds even though I was “actively” running. I give actively the quotes because I would run about a mile or so once or twice a week and then give up before really getting any distance going.

Here is what I looked like prior to T25:

This is what I looked like before starting T25.

This is what I looked like before starting T25.

During T25:
FOCUS T25 is a high intensity full body workout that leaves you sweating like crazy. Here is what the T25 website says about the program, “It’s a 25-minute, full-out attack on your body, without any rest.” It’s not easy, but it is well worth it!

The one huge benefit for me was that the workouts were just 25 minutes! I found it was easy to fit the workout in during the day, after all it was only 25 minutes, I had no excuse not to workout. There are two phases to T25, Alpha and Beta. Each phase lasts 5 weeks, you workout 6 days a week, and there are different videos that you rotate through out each week. The videos all have a specific focus too, cardio, lower body or speed for example. There is even a stretching/yoga video for the off day.

Worried you can’t handle the high intensity nature of the workout? That’s ok, in the beginning I had to do the modified moves that are provided to you in the video until I had the strength to do the full moves. You will still get an amazing workout even doing the modified moves, just keep the goal for you to progress to the full moves before long.

After T25:
Through T25 I lost 23 pounds, so about 2 pounds a week for the 10 weeks I did the program. Upon finishing, I weighed less than I have in the 12 years since I left high school. Not only that, but I built muscle in my chest and my arms where I’ve previously been lacking. I feel like I have more energy, and going out for runs is much easier now. If you’re curious about how my stats changed, I’d be happy to let you know, but I won’t post them here. I’ll just leave you with the end result of T25. Here is what I look like 23 pounds later:

This is what I look like after T25.

This is what I look like after T25.

I have plans to do T25 again in the beginning of next year, after the Holidays and hope to get in even better shape. That’s right, I liked it so much that I want to do the 10 weeks AGAIN!

If you’re interested in trying FOCUS T25 yourself, I recommend my Beachbody Coach Chris. He can help you with any questions you might have and even help you get the program. Contact him here: Summers.CW@gmail.com