Favorite Thing Friday: Easy Crock Pot Recipes

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I am not a cook, but recent recipe finds on Pinterest have allowed me to serve hot and yummy meals. The best part is all of them require very little effort.

For years, my crock pot sat useless on my counter. This is mainly because everything that came out of it sucked. I had pretty much given up on the thing, until Pinterest came to the rescue. After finding a number of crock pot recipes in the Food & Drink section, I followed the image links and read what people had to say about each recipe. Thanks to blogs and comment sections, I learned what was worth trying and what to leave alone. Plus, I learned a lot about how to cook in a crock pot.

As someone with a stressful, full-time job, the ability to toss a few things in a pot and come home to a warm meal is pure gold. Having tested almost a dozen recipes, these are my Top 5 favorite crock pot recipes (so far).

1. Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

Four ingredients are all you need for this recipe. It’s so simple, it’s almost unbelievable how good it tastes!

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Click on the image for the recipe!

I highly recommend using Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce.

2. Crock Pot Italian Chicken

Follow the recipe on the pin description, rather than the link. I’ve made this a few times and it’s fantastic every single time. The only tricky part is making sure the cream cheese is soft enough to blend into the other ingredients, (microwaving it is okay!).

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Click on the image to see the pin.

Rich and creamy, this simple meal is tasty over pasta or rice.

3. Slow Cooker Red Beans and Sausage

I was intrigued by using sausage in a chili-esque dish instead of beef or chicken. Sausage offers a new take on an old dish and I really like it!

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Click on the image for the recipe.

I made a few adjustments to this recipe in that I cut down the amount of beans and added chili flavored tomatoes instead of garlic roasted. The recipe calls to serve it over rice, but I decided to serve it with soft tortillas instead.  This chili wraps up nicely into a little burrito.

4. Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

I will never go back to boxed Mac ‘n Cheese after trying this recipe. What’s not to love about creamy, tasty, and easy?!

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Click on the image for the recipe.

The only modification I made was adding chunks of cooked kielbasa sausage. The result is a hearty, home-cooked meal.

5. Crock Pot Chicken and Potatoes

Simple, simple, simple! Three ingredients and some water pulls together a filling and flavorful meal.

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Click on the image for the recipe.

I used baby red potatoes as they are my favorite. I also adjusted the layering suggested in the recipe. To keep the chicken moist, I added a bit more water and buried the chicken within the potatoes instead of on top.

Happy eating!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

Are You Sure?

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There are days where I question the choices I’ve made. Truth be told, days like this are becoming more frequent. It’s like every element of my life is playing a little game with me called, “Are you sure?”

Honestly, I don’t know.

Perhaps, its a mid-life crisis attacking a bit early. Or maybe, I am just ready for a change. Admittedly, I am a creature of habit. My very organized self likes a schedule and gets a little thrill when everything works out as planned. This aspect of my personality was a mild quirk when I was younger, but after 14 years of teaching, it’s become a full-blown neurosis. I’m starting to realize this is making life a lot less fun.

Although, this feeling of “life doubt” could also be tied to what I consider a noticeably missing piece of my existence. Travel. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I traveled extensively overseas. I saved and planned for it, because it was such an important part of my life. However, the last three years have been tough. Between budgets constraints and family concerns, I haven’t really gone anywhere. The fact that my bucket list has largely gone ignored is starting to bug me.

Then, there’s the undeniable fact that I’m tired. Exhausted, actually. Working 10-12 hours a day at a job that is getting increasingly more stressful and frustrating is starting to wear me down. As much as I love the art of teaching, it’s getting difficult to love where I work. I don’t know if it’s just one of those challenging years or if I’m reaching a point of total burn out. Thankfully, my students aren’t picking up my general feeling of frustration (I know this because they constantly tell me they like how positive it is in my classroom). At the same time, I am perusing job postings for possibilities that lie beyond my current station.

With all of this going on in my head, it’s surprising to me that I remain a total optimist. A little funk never wiped the smile off my face and it probably never will.

My family and my writing keep my fire burning. As my novel reaches the final stages of becoming a polished piece of work, I find myself excited to take the next steps. When it comes to the game of “Are you sure?,” this is the one thing where I know the answer is a definite “Yes!”

After a crappy day at work, I love escaping into my dreamworld where my novel finds its way into print. I can wander into lines of poetry and fuss over plot holes while drinking my Muse Juice (Cafe Mocha). When all else fails, there is the beautiful dream of being able to write (and maybe knit a little) all day long. Lucky for me, my husband and furkids are cool with joining me on this journey.

Of course, the game of “Are you sure?” has the added bonus of motivating real change. Besides reconsidering my job situation, there have also been a number of discussions regarding a change of location. We’re thinking the Pacific Northwest might be a nice change of scenery within the next few years. A road trip to scope it out is in the planning stages. Am I sure about moving? Not really, but I’m excited to explore the possibility of something new.

Aside from considering major life changes, I’ve started stuffing money aside for a trip to Amsterdam. My bucket list is in dire need of a check mark and my soul craves the touch of a new experience.

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c.b.w. 2014

Philosophy

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Philosopher’s stone,
heavy with wisdom
No magic answers,
or fountain of youth
Rather a witness
to all that’s been lost

Sit and contemplate
the path to the truth
A breath lights the way,
one choice sets the course
Wait not a moment,
to start the journey

 

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Photo:  Great Mosque, Xi’an, China, c.b.w. 2005
Words: c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Ichabod Crane

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Oh, the things I find on Hulu. After catching up on Arrow, The Goldbergs, and Grimm, I found myself in the predicament of having nothing to watch while I grade papers. I’d heard good things about Sleepy Hollow, so I decided to give it  a shot. Within five minutes, I was completely hooked.

While the premise is intriguing (the show is a loose interpretation of Washington Irving’s classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), the character of Ichabod Crane and the brilliant actor who plays him (Tom Mison) are what truly captured my TV heart.

I’m only six episodes into the first season, so I know I may be claiming him as a TV boyfriend a bit early in the game, but I can’t help myself. And here are 10 reasons why:

1. He is literally a piece of living history. In the first episode, he “died” during the Revolutionary War and then woke up in 2014. The man rattles off Colonial and Revolutionary War history like an encyclopedia, but with the sensibility of someone who lived through it. The history teacher in me is swooning, (as the rest of me is fact-checking).

2. While he is a man stuck far away from his own time, he is surprisingly objective in dealing with his surroundings. Rather than panic, he explores the modern era with the mind of an academic or scientist. It’s fascinating to watch him mesh his knowledge of life in the past with his existence in the present.

3. He has a proper British accent. Need I say more?

4. Perhaps, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s pretty easy on the eyes.

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5. He says stuff like this … (in reference to what eventually becomes a Headless Horseman)

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6. And this …

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7.  Despite everything, he doesn’t forget who he is. Modern life doesn’t rob him of his manners, personality, or morals. Even when those things don’t jive with modern civilization, he refuses to let them go. I’m still wondering if he’s going to change out of those 18th century clothes!

8. At the same time, he’s not afraid to try new things. Like doughnut holes.

9. According to him, he instigated the Boston Tea Party (as a means for a diversion for a secret mission).

10. He can speak German and Middle English. Beautifully.

I’m sure I’ll have more to add to this list after the next six episodes. :-)

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014