Slowcooker Cheesy Ranch Chicken

I’ve been going through a salad phase lately and was recently looking to make a big batch of protein to top my salads.  At the same time, I wanted to find a family friendly recipe that could be used in versatile ways.  My three year old loves salads and my one and a half year old has yet to meet a food she doesn’t like.  I started looking at chicken with ranch recipes, hoping to appease our Midwestern tastebuds.

I found a few recipes that I liked and decided to switch things around and make one that I thought my family would enjoy most.  The result was that we ate one batch for three days straight and then made another double batch by request of everyone in our house.  The picture below doesn’t do it justice.  It’s not the prettiest shredded chicken.  Let me promise you, this is a crowd pleaser!


My husband commented that the chicken tasted really decadent, and while it does have a lovely combo of cheese going on, it isn’t as decadent as it tastes.  It is delicious topped on salads, in wraps or burritos, or simply for dinner with some veggies and rice on the side.

This recipe takes less than 10 minutes to prep and then does it’s thing in the slow cooker while you are doing your own thing.

I threw down a bed of romaine and added diced tomatoes, red onion, a variety of beans, and corn.  When I make salads I chop up a variety of veggies and keep them in the fridge so I have quick options for dinners or lunches during the week.  You can also grab a microwaveable pack of rice and add a bit to your salads or wraps too.

The fun thing about salads is that you can change the fixings and feel like you are having a different meal every night.

Slowcooker Creamy Ranch Chicken:


2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (or water)

2 packets ranch dressing mix

1- 8 ounce package cream cheese

1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)


Spray the inside of your slow cooker and then place chicken breasts in the bottom.  Pour broth or water on top of chicken and sprinkle one packet of ranch on top.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Remove lid and discard most of the liquid, leaving a few tablespoons inside.  Shred the chicken and then add cream cheese and another packet of ranch to the slow cooker.  Let cook for 30 minutes and then remove lid and stir ingredients.  Add the cheese and stir again.  Put lid back on and keep on warm until everything is well mixed and you are ready to eat.

Note:  I added the second packet of ranch because when you discard the juices, much of the mix is also removed.  Since most of the liquid is removed before the rest of the ingredients are added, it might not be necessary to use broth, as it doesn’t add a lot of flavor.  The liquid simply keeps the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If you are concerned about sodium intake, it might be helpful for you to skip the broth.

We also served this at a party as a dip.  Try it with crackers, pieces of tortilla, bread, or veggies.  A few people even made mini quesadillas.

Oh Fudge! And Let’s Spread Some Kindness

Happy Friday.  You made it to the end of the work week and the madness of our holiday weekend is just beginning.  I’m excited and just a tad frazzled!

I wanted to do a quick and delicious dessert recipe for you.  But first I wanted to share a fun idea to make the holiday a little brighter for everyone.

We usually don’t eat fast food unless we are in a major bind on road trips.  However, after Lucy was born and Mary took her first ballet class, she was very hesitant to go into the class alone.  I promised her a “special dinner” afterward and it is now our Tuesday tradition on the way home.  Mary gets a Happy Meal and everyone is happy.

A few weeks ago we were in the drive through and I was in a major hurry to get home, though not for any particular reason.  I just wanted to get home and get things in order for the evening.  When I pulled up to pay for the food, the girl be behind the counter informed me that our bill had been paid for by the car ahead of me.  I was in total shock!  I had tears in my eyes at the thoughtful gesture.  I was in such shock as I pulled away that I told Mary what I should have done was pay for the car behind us.  We decided to do it the next time we stopped for her special dinner.


Anna recently posted about this idea as well.  We all know how stressful it can be to take little ones out to dinner.  But her sweet kiddos were impressionably adorable to a gentleman and he returned the kindness.  Then they went ahead and returned the kindness to another stranger.  It’s contagious!

This week we were able to repay the favor at the drive-thru.  When we went to pay for Mary’s meal, I asked to take care of the bill for the car behind us.  The girl at the counter asked if we knew the other car and we told her no.  She said she loved when these things happen because it causes a 20 minute parade of every car taking care of each other.

It was a wonderful lesson for my children.  It was heartwarming for me.  I hope that the car behind us needed a little extra love or kindness and that it was as fun for them as it was for us.  Maybe it even was a helpful reminder for them of what the holiday season is about.  I encourage you to find a way to do a random act of kindness this holiday season.  Buy someone’s coffee.  Pick up a meal.  Or just give a stranger a friendly smile.  Kindness doesn’t have to be monetary.  Maybe you simply open a door for someone or carry a bag to a car for a person who looks like they could use a little help.  The holiday season can be a difficult time for some people.  Shine a little light where you can!


Now let me share a quick and awesome recipe that you can share with friends and family.  It is bound to brighten their day too!  This S’mores fudge comes together in minutes.  It is creamy and has some fun little flavors going on.

S’mores Fudge: Prep and cooking time 10 minutes total



1 can condensed milk

1 bag milk chocolate chips

4 graham crackers

1 cup marshmallows


Line a square baking dish with tinfoil and then spray.  Crumble the graham crackers and set aside.  In a microwave safe bowl, pour the chocolate chips and condensed milk in and microwave in 30 second intervals.  Stir in between and continue until mixture is thoroughly melted.  Dump in the graham crackers and marshmallows and mix well.  Pour into baking dish and cool in the fridge until set.

Note:  I double this recipe, otherwise there isn’t nearly enough to share!

Have a wonderful weekend!



Veggie Based Dessert Dip

Happy Monday!  I hope you had a great weekend!  I spent a long week working at the gym and playing in the snow with Mary.  A fellow trainer mentioned that she was at Sam’s Club earlier in the week and found dessert hummus.  I asked her about it and she couldn’t stop raving.  It might sound odd but she said she was in love and her so were her kids.  In fact, she had to ask her husband to hide this new version of dessert.  We discussed what went into this and both agreed that it could be made at home.

This was perfect because Mary has recently taken to dipping everything.  She loves to dip her pancakes in syrup (as well as her cereal).  She always asks for ketchup with anything we are eating.  And if we want her to eat something, we add dip on the side.  This girl loves chips and salsa!

I have recently made it my goal to find healthy dips for her to try.  So why not dessert dip?  I made 2 versions; peanut butter and chocolate peanut butter.  Both of these took less than 5 minutes to whip up.  I then pulled out pear and apple slices, celery sticks, and animal crackers for her to test out.  She ended up eating it with a spoon.  I can’t say that I blame her.


These recipes are deliciously sweet, high in fiber, full of healthy ingredients, but also low in calories.


Check out the two recipes below!

Peanut Butter Hummus


1 can garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)

2 tablespoons peanut butter powder (such as PB2 or Jif Peanut Powder)

1-2 tablespoons syrup

Optional tablespoon coconut oil

Chocolately Peanut Butter Black Bean Hummus


1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)

2 tablespoons Jif Chocolate Peanut Powder

1-2 tablespoons syrup


Combine ingredients in food processor.  Blend until well combined.  Enjoy!

The black beans have a little bit more of a wet consistency and do not require any extra oils or liquids.  I ended up adding a little extra peanut butter to the black bean concoction for a creamier peanut butter flavor.

What would you add to your dessert dip?

Gingerbread Granola

I’m not walking away from the holidays without a fight.  We finally took our tree and decorations down last weekend.  I always love decorating for the holidays but it flies by and then its a little disappointing once it is over.

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is gingerbread.  I love gingerbread cookies.  I love the spicy flavor.  It evokes all of the aromas of the season for me.


I could seriously eat this guy up!

I also love granola, but if you have ever looked at a nutrition label for most granolas you will find that they are loaded with fat and sugar.  Don’t get me wrong, fat isn’t the culprit we once accused it of being.  However, I don’t like starting the morning off with a cereal that is full of unnecessary fat and calories.  I like to eat mindfully.

So I set about to make a granola that tastes like gingerbread but is also full of healthy fats and far less sugar.  This recipe is full of fiber and antioxidant rich dried fruits.




3 cups oatmeal

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup dried apricots (chopped)

1/2 cup dried cherries (chopped)

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon dark molasses

I tablespoon ginger

1 teaspoon clove

1 teaspoon nutmeg


Preheat oven to 250ºF.  Combine butter, syrup, and molasses in a small bowl.  Add oats to a large bowl and stir in the butter and syrup mixture.  Add in fruit and nuts.  Thoroughly stir in spices until well covered.

Place granola mix on a large baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to dry for at least one hour.

What is your favorite holiday flavor?  Do you like granola?

Body Reboost Salad

I don’t know about you but I had a wonderful holiday week.  Actually, it is going to continue a bit this weekend with a little New Year’s celebration.

Admittedly, I overindulged.  I knew what I was doing and I was okay with it at the time.  Generally speaking, I eat very well.  I enjoy eating healthy but also enjoy a little sweetness in my daily routine.  However, I ate a lot and I ate a lot of some not so healthy foods last week.  It was fun.  But now I feel a bit puffy and sluggish.

Nothing feels better after a little overindulging, than to get back on the healthy bandwagon.  One thing that is great for your body and belly is beans.  Beans are a powerhouse of nutritional goodness.

When we walked in the door from a week away, we had very few things in the refrigerator or cupboard.  However, anytime I got to the grocery store and they have a sale on canned goods, I stock up.  Mary loves chili and I love that she is a fan of beans.

I quickly went to town making this “salad.”  I knew she would gobble it up. I also knew that it would fill the rest of us up and leave our bellies feeling a little better.  One thing that happens when I eat a bit differently than normal is that I get horrible heart burn.  Giving your belly a little “reboost” can help to reset your body.


This recipe is super simple and likely already in your kitchen.  Here are a few benefits of this fun “salad.”

Black beans: are packed full of fiber, potassium, Vitamin B6 and folate.  They are low in cholesterol and heart healthy.

Garbanzo beans:  are high in fiber, protein, magnesium, potassium, and iron.  They are low in fat and calories and again are really great for your heart healthy lifestyle.

Kidney beans: are high in protein, fiber, iron, potassium, maganese, Vitamin B1, and folate.

Corn: is also high in fiber, and a wonderful antioxidant.  Antioxidants help repair damage from cancer causing agents in our bodies.  Chemicals in this vegetable also help improve vision.

Red onions: continue on our healthy eating plan by packing in calcium, folate, thiamine, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamins C, K  and B6.

Our bodies rely on a variety of these minerals and vitamins.  Getting an abundance helps to ensure that we keep our bodies functioning and healthy.

So how do we make this super simple salad?  


1 can black beans, drained

1 can garbanzo beans, drained

1 can red kidney beans, drained

1 can sweet corn, drained

1 small red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon EVOO

Salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic vinegar (optional)


Drain all of the canned vegetables and rinse in a colander.  Chop the red onion and add all ingredients to a bowl.  Toss with EVOO.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  You can also add a little balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar to give a little kick.

I love adding this on top of my green salads.  It also tastes delicious with a little salsa and a dash of cheese.  This is a great one to make a big batch and add to other dishes throughout the week.

Super Easy Turkey Chili

Fall has me craving warm, simple meals.  I love something that I can pull together while Mary naps and then let simmer on the stove all day.  Soups are one of my favorite fall treats, especially on a chilly afternoon.

Last Sunday Mary and I got up nice and early and took a crisp run together with the jogging stroller.  Mary was going as candy corn the next day for Halloween and she kept trying to put her costume on.  So we popped her costume on her and she spent the day amusing everyone on our run and then later at the grocery store.


I had just arrived back from NYC the night before and our fridge was bare.  So we took a quick swing through the store to load up.  I wasn’t sure what to do for dinner but as we moseyed around, I decided to wing it with a nice warm turkey chili.

In a means to make this chili both healthy and filling, I opted for a variety of beans.  High in fiber and protein, they are the perfect choice.  Next I opted for lean ground turkey over beef (mind you, I am still a fan of beef).

Everything came together in less than 20 minutes and then I covered it up and let it simmer all afternoon.  It was the perfect fall dinner and we had several days worth of delicious leftovers.


I prefer to do a double recipe when I make soup so that I have plenty of leftovers for both the fridge and the freezer.  Nothing is better than not knowing what to make for dinner and pulling one of these out and warming it up on a busy night.


2 pounds lean ground turkey

1 white onion (diced)

1 can red kidney beans

1 can light kidney beans

1 can black beans

1 can garbanzo beans

2 cans minced tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon oregano


In a large pot, begin browning your ground turkey (about 10 minutes).  It should be lean enough that you likely won’t need to drain it.  Add in the diced onion and simmer (about 5 minutes).  Add in spices and stir.  Drain all of the cans of beans and add to pot.  Add tomatoes and sauce.  Cover and turn to low.  Simmer until ready to eat.  I recommend at least 1 hour before serving.

If you are looking for a meatless option, this would be delicious with quinoa or rice too!


How do you like your chili?

Eating Seasonally

Happy Monday and hello from Northern Michigan where we are enjoying some crisp fall weather and even a few dustings of snow last week.  I’m not sure I am ready for this, but we are embracing it.

Despite the cooler weather, fall is one of my favorite seasons.  I love the crisp air for running.  We pull out the cinnamon scented candles and brooms.  And we start cooking a bit more for the season.



Soups show up on the stove.  Breads and cookies are baking.  The slow cooker is put to more use.  We also start to switch up some of the foods we typically eat.

Our little girl is a lover of all fruits.  While she gobbles up strawberries and blueberries, we have had to opt for more seasonal options like pears and honey crisp apples (our favorites).   Fruit that isn’t in season is either hard to find or comes at a hefty price because it must be shipped in from other parts of the world or country.  Beyond not being very pocketbook friendly, it also loses a lot of the delicious flavor that fresh picked, local and in season produce offers.  

I love asparagus, but in the winter a small bunch can set you back $7.00.  Ouch!  Again, it just doesn’t have that delicious flavor that you find direct from the farm in the summer. 

Eating seasonally is great in so many ways.  Produce is cheaper when it is ripe, and has more color and flavor.  By eating with the seasons we also switch up our diets and add a bit of variety.  


While in New York with Rock he took me to one of his new found favorite restaurants called Create.  They offer acai bowls, salads, sandwiches, soups and rice/quinoa bowls.  We were looking for something to fill us up after a hard day at work and he brought me over to the rice and quinoa bowl section.  After looking at the menu, I opted for their Natural Bowl.  I chose brown rice and steak to top mine off.  Inside was roasted butternut squash, roasted sweet potato, baby kale, roasted tomato, chick peas, and avocado.


My bowl was delicious and a great reminder that we can easily switch things up.  While I love salads in the summer, the rice or quinoa bowl is a wonderful option in the winter when we are looking for something to warm and fill us up.  

Roasted vegetables are a great way to add flavor to your meals.  It is simple and adds totally different tastes and aromas to your veggies.  All you need to do is chop vegetables evenly and toss with olive oil.  Pour onto a baking sheet and bake at 425° for 15-30 minutes.  Start checking after 15 minutes, as some vegetables go faster than others.

You can roast veggies ahead of time on the weekend and then pop them into the refrigerator for later in the week.  Throw some rice in a bowl, add your toppings of choice and toss in the microwave for a minute.  You could do this several nights during the week and never have the same meal twice.  

Great veggies for fall:  Squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, kale, mushrooms, beets, cauliflower, celery, broccoli, carrots, fennel, cabbage, brussels sprouts, parsnips, garlic, and radishes.  All of these can easily be chopped and roasted. You can also add herbs to season as you roast.  I am a huge fan of rosemary, thyme, basil, and sage.

Great fruits for fall:  Grapes, apples, pears, persimmons, cranberries, and pomegranate.

Other great things to have on hand: Canned black beans, frozen corn, chickpeas, hummus, avocado, cilantro, and salad greens. These can all be added on top of your seasonal bowls.

Switch up your base:  You can easily switch the base of a bowl up to completely change things around too.  Try adding greens, couscous, freekeh, or grits.  The possibilities and combinations are endless.

Quinoa is an excellent source of protein!  Quinoa and soy are the only two plant based complete proteins; meaning they contain all of the amino acids our bodies need.  For anyone who is a vegetarian or vegan, quinoa is an excellent source of protein to add into your diet.  It is also a great low calorie option for meals.  For those of us who do eat meat, it is a great choice for Meatless Monday meals.

How do you like to eat seasonally?  What would you put in a rice or quinoa bowl?

Leftover Salads & Recipe

Well this week definitely got away from me!  I have several posts ready to go, but I was having such a fun fall week with my family that I opted to put them on hold.

However, over the past few days I have been cooking a bit more and this left me inspired.  The crisp, cool weather that has rolled in has me wanting to spend more time in our new kitchen.  I don’t know about you, but we had a dark and wet mid-week that called for cooler weather meals.

Almost all Americans do not eat enough vegetables and fruit each day.  This is no exaggeration.  All of us are missing the mark when it comes to our daily requirements!

I’m a salad girl.  I love salads and typically order a salad (or at least look at the salad menu first) when we go out to eat.  Beyond believing they are delicious, they are a wonderful way to feel full and enjoy a decent sized meal without the guilt.  One thing I love about salads is that you can load up on just about as much greens and other veggies as you want and still consume far fewer calories of other meal options.  As a runner, I am always hungry.  If I feel like I ate a tiny meal, odds are I will be back in the kitchen searching for snacks to compensate.


I hear from a lot of clients who believe salads are boring or they all taste the same.  I want to change your opinion about that belief.

The other thing I often hear is that meal prep is difficult and time consuming.  When we feel like we are pressed for time, we tend to reach for what is readily available.  Salads can easily be made ahead of time.  I like to buy my groceries on the weekend.  I buy a box or bag of my favorite greens and a carton of grape/Roma tomatoes.  I also buy a red onion, radishes, and a cucumber.   I might also grab an avocado, can of black beans, and a can of garbanzo beans.

When I get home I clean the tomatoes and then chop the onions, radishes, and cucumber.  You can then put the veggies in separate ziplock bags, or you can divvy out 5 lunch containers with all of your salad fixings.

I like a little protein on my salads.  I usually sprinkle some parmesan and Romano cheese or feta on top.  I am also in love with the Starkist Ready To Eat Deli Style Tuna packages.  At only 100 calories, it tastes sinful but is great option for a lean protein packed with Omega-3’s.


Here’s where I like to make every salad a little different.  Most nights we tend to make a protein with a few vegetables for sides.  Once we are done with the meal, I like to take the remaining vegetables and add them to the next day’s salad.  This changes up the flavors because I prefer to season my vegetables with herbs instead of salt.  It also cuts down on the boredom of having the same salad each day.  You can also mix it up by adding the leftover protein to your salad.


I also tried a few orders from Blue Apron recently (my review will be coming soon).  One of those meals was pretty good but the side, in my opinion, stole the show.  There was even some leftover and I couldn’t wait to reuse it.


These sweet potatoes are a new favorite in our house.  

A delicious recipe to add to your dinner and leftover salad:  I wanted to share that delicious side I had from Blue Apron.  This is super fast and adds a delicious twist to your average sweet potato.  I like to make a big serving of this because it also tastes delicious, cold on top of your salad the next day.

Tangy Diced Sweet Potatoes


2 large sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon mayonaise

1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard

1 sprig parsley (chopped)


Dice your sweet potatoes.  Boil a large pot of water and add potatoes.  Boil potatoes for 10 minutes or until softened.  Drain and then return to pot.  Add in the mayo and mustard and stir to mix.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

What is your favorite topping for a salad?  I would love to address healthier ways to dress your salad.  How do you like to dress yours?  Share your favorites and I might give you a shout out in an upcoming post!

Accidentally Delicious Asparagus

I love asparagus.  It’s delicious when prepared properly and so incredibly good for you.  Needless to say, we eat it at many meals.  I am so glad my husband and daughter like it too.

This past Saturday we were getting ready to head out to the lake and Mary and I took off for a quick trip to the grocery store.  The plan was to keep it simple.  The idea was to do easy dinners on the grill and not buy a ton of ingredients or spend a lot of money.

I came across beautiful pork chops that were pre-seasoned and quickly gave my mom a call to see if my parents would like to join us.  The chops were on sale, seven for around $7.00.  All we needed to do was add a few quick sides.  I grabbed a salad kit (I love the chopped kale and brussels sprouts with pepitas and dried cranberries), and some asparagus.  Perfectly simple dinner.

While Rock was grilling the pork chops, I pulled out the asparagus, washed, and then chopped it.  You need to cut the stems off because they are hard and inedible.  Miss that step and you have a huge asparagus fail on your hands!

I looked in the cupboard and realized we didn’t have any spices at the house.  I typically love to throw a few spices with garlic and finish with some shaved parmesan.  But we were out of luck.  I once tried a recipe that called for maple syrup, but we both agreed that we didn’t like the finish of the flavors.


So I threw something new in the pan and gave it a go.  My mom later told me that when she saw me making this, she was afraid she wouldn’t like it.  But everyone agreed that this was a winner.  This is such a simple and easy side that you can add to any meal.  The best part is that we had a little bit left over to throw on top of salads the next day for lunch.  The combination of vinegar and honey gives a tart and sweet finish all at once and the honey gives a nice caramelized finish to the veggies.


1 bunch asparagus (rinsed and stems cut off)

Olive oil

1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 tablespoon Honey

Salt (to taste)


In a pan, add the asparagus and a small amount of olive oil.  Begin to cook on medium high.  After 2-3 minutes, add in 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon of honey.  Toss to coat and allow to simmer.  The vinegar and honey will begin to caramelize, creating a beautifully sticky coating on the veggies.  Simmer until done (3-5 minutes).  Don’t let it go too long or it will go quickly from caramelized to charred.  Add a touch of salt to taste if you prefer.

Do you like asparagus?  What is your favorite way to prepare it?

A Perfectly Light Margarita

Last week I left you with a burrito bowl for the weekend.  This time I am leaving you with a perfect cocktail to round out that meal.  This drink has been requested by my husband, myself, and a few family members lately.  It is so easy, simple, and about as light as you can get with a margarita.  I just know you are going to love it!



2 ounces Tequila

1 ounce Triple Sec

Minute Maid 15 calorie lemonade

Lemon or Lime LaCroix (or other sparkling water)


I’m a lazy bartender and that makes things easier for me.  I usually just fill a stemless wineglass with 4-5 cubes of ice.  Then count to four as you pour tequila in (I am a fan of a heavy pour when it comes to any drink).  Add two counts of triple sec.  Or you can simply do 2 parts tequila to 1 part triple sec.  Fill most of the remainder of your glass with lemonade and then add a splash of sparkling water.

The thing I like about this is that you can be your own bartender.  Do you like your margarita with a bit more kick in it?  Add a touch more tequila and go easy on the lemonade.  Prefer a lighter drink?  Go easy on the tequila and add more lemonade and sparkling water.

The sparkling water gives this a crisp and fresh finish.  And the best part is that you are skipping the margarita mix and tossing out all of those extra and unnecessary sugary additives.  You’ll never even notice!

Make it a mock-tail!  I loved this when I was pregnant because I still felt like I was joining in the summer cocktail fun.  In a stemless wine glass add 4-5 ice cubes.  Pour 2/3 lemon or lime sparkling water and then 1/3 lemonade.  It is almost as good as the real thing!



Make it a Michigan Margarita!  Up here in Northwest Michigan we are known for cherries.  You may recall that we ran a race at the National Cherry Festival earlier this summer.  A few years ago we went to the most incredible food and wine pairing at the local culinary school.  Local vineyards brought their wines to be paired with various cuisines with cherry products (our favorite ended up being brats topped with cherry sauerkraut).  One vendor did a Michigan Margarita by adding a splash of Cherry liquer.  It was fantastic and a perfect twist.

What is your favorite drink to play bartender with?

Have a wonderful and safe Labor Day holiday in the U.S. and a great weekend wherever you are!