Thursday, February 19, 2015

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

For the past four years I have had an issue with insomnia, primarily during the winter months and if I am going to be honest, it is mostly self-induced...brain overload, hot flashes, quiet "me" name it, I can rationalize why I wake up to use the bathroom & end up staying awake for an hour or two, four out seven nights per week.

I never thought it was a real problem...until this past holiday break when my insomnia had reached an all-time peak...I'd stay up late, at least until 11pm, and then wake up an hour or two later, only to force myself back to sleep around 4am.  While this was okay during a break, it was not going to work once we went back to school and I needed a solution.  So, without over analyzing or searching the internet, I came up with my own solution.  

Nighttime Routine's Aren't Just for Kids

It was apparent that I needed a positive, mind clearing, body relaxing routine, so I created these four steps that I attempt to follow, Sunday thru Thursday.

1.  Take a hot, relaxing shower approximately 45 minutes before my proposed bed time - sometimes sooner, depending upon the day I have had (example: craptastic day = 6pm, good day = 8:30pm).  I use this absolutely delicious shower gel made by Bath & Body Works Sleepy Time Tea, followed up by the matching lotion when I get out and towel off.   I smell yummy & feel like I have washed away the day - good or bad, it's like a fresh start for a great night's sleep. 

2.*  Brew a yummy mug of **Celestial Seasonings brand of "Sleepy Time Tea" and drink about 30 minutes before I actually want to fall asleep - I usually drink it while I am reading a book.

3. All electronics are turned off approximately 30 minutes prior to be going to the bedroom.  My cell phone now charges in the kitchen because I do not have enough self-control to NOT check FB when I wake up in the middle of the night.  Plus I read somewhere that it is bad feng shui to have electronic devices in your bedroom - thus the reason we no longer have a TV in our bedroom.

4. Read a good book for a 15-30 minutes.  This and saying my prayers before bed has always been a part of my nightly routine - the difference is that now I am physically relaxed & ready to let my mind relax too, making the process all the more enjoyable.

Results: Holy Wah, It Works!

The crazy thing is that the results were almost instantaneous - the first night I did all three steps I slept through the night, not even waking up to use the bathroom (that is dependent upon how much water I've drank during the day).  When I follow this routine I get a good 7-8 hours of sleep and I awake well-rested.  

*Note:  If I skip a step it is the tea - but not for more than one day because the next night I end up have restless leg issues and can't relax.  

**Celestial Seasoning's "Sleepy Time Tea" can be found in just about any grocery store or drug store - I bought  mine at a local Walgreens, less than $4 a box.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Soup it Is!

Being the devoted wife & mother that I am (stop laughing, it sounds good), I decided to start the week off right with a tasty new soup recipe I had found on Pinterest.  Recipes have to have a few specific criteria in order for me to be interested in pursuing them in my kitchen:

1.  Minimal ingredients that can be found in any local supermarket

2.  Spices that are (normally) found in my cabinet (again, nothing that would force me to shop at a specialty store - I'm too lazy for that nonsense)

3. At least 3 out of 4 of my family members will consider it edible and delicious...I do not have to be one of them, but it helps.

My family & I love Olive Garden but we don't go often --- too expensive for four people & we always over indulge, feeling like we need to be rolled out, rather than walk out on our own.  So when I found this recipe, originally titled "Knockin' Off the OG - Pasta Figioli, I was intrigued.  Even better was when I realized that it was a crockpot the dump & go recipes that don't taste like a hodge podge of nonsense and I LOVE OG's soup.

Here it is: Nicole's Version of Pasta Fagioli (because I broke rule number two and did not have all of the spices in my cupboard for the recipe found below)


1 cup of diced onion
1 cup of chopped carrots
1 cup of chopped celery 
2 cloves of garlic, (sliced in small pieces because I haven't replaced my mincer)
1 lb. of lean ground beef
2 1/2 cups of V-8 (I used the low sodium version)
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes (I used the Italian seasoned blend)
1 can of light red kidney beans 
1 can of northern beans
Salt & pepper (to season)
1/2 box of ditalini noodles


First, I placed two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan, heating to a medium heat.  Once warm I added the chopped veggies & garlic, sauteing until soft; adding diced tomato & ground beef to this mixture; turn up the heat and brown the burger.

Note:  After the meat mixture is brown I put it into a strainer and rinse with warm water to get the grease off.  Not sure how much this helps but it makes me feel like I'm doing something good and helps with that unappetizing oil sheen found on meals with meat.

Now the fun part:  dump the meat mixture and ALL of the other ingredients into the crockpot and cook on low for 4 hours. Cook the pasta according to directions, add to the crockpot mixture and cook for another 30 minutes.  Make sure that you leave the pasta a bit firm otherwise it will get mushy & we all know that would be gross, right?

Dish up in cute bowls, sprinkle parmesan  cheese on top & serve with your favorite tasty bread - we chose to have toasted garlic bread and it was delicious...with plenty left over for lunches.

Here is the link to the original recipe:
Knockin' Off the OG - Original Recipe

Monday, February 9, 2015

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Determined to start the week off on the right foot, I forced myself to get a crockpot meal going this I quick grabbed my phone & found a recently pinned recipe: Not-Chicken-Pot-Pie Slow Cooker Meal (original link at the bottom of this post).  Basically this would be a chicken pot pie, without the pie crust.  

Is it easy?  Oh yes - all of this was prepped and tossed into the crockpot in less than 15 minutes; peeling & dicing the potatoes was the most time consuming part of the process.

Ingredients Needed

4 - boneless, skinless breasts
1 can low-fat cream of chicken soup 
1 can low-fact cream of celery soup 
1 bag of frozen peas & carrots
4 medium potatoes, peeled & diced into bite size pieces
2 cups vegetable broth
Salt & pepper to taste

2 cans of biscuits (or make them from scratch, if you prefer)
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (to add after you put it on the plate)


Pour your vegetable broth into the crockpot; place the potatoes in the broth, laying the chicken breasts on top of the potatoes; pour soup & veggies on top, add the cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Take the chicken out of the crockpot and cut into bite size pieces or shred - my family likes it shredded so that's what we did.

Bake your biscuits as directed; I put two baked biscuits on each plate, poured the chicken mixture over the biscuits and topped with a handful of cheddar cheese - not necessary but my family loves cheese and we loved it.

Note: When I got  home from work the crock pot had turned itself off - thankfully the chicken was cooked but the potatoes were a bit firm.  I poured everything into a large pan & heated it to boiling, adding 2 tbsp. of flour to thicken up the sauce.

Here is the link to the original recipe - note how orangy/cheesy it looks and how pale/beige ours turned out.  I was a bit nervous but once we started eating it we were sold and forgot all about the color issues.  

Yay - another new meal that was quick, easy & super tasty...and we had plenty for leftovers!