Italian-Style Stuffed Zucchini

You know when you decide to experiment with a recipe for dinner, and right after you begin cooking you think, “Gee, I should probably take pictures and blog this?”  No?  I guess it’s just me then.  :-) I had a few zucchini sitting in my veggie crisper and I was craving lasagna, but I didn’t want to go through all the hassle of making low carb zucchini lasagna.  What’s a girl to do?  Well, obviously, make an easier stuffed zucchini version!  I forgot to take pictures until I got started, but I think I managed to get everything but the onion. The cast of characters:

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4 zucchini, sliced lenghtwise

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1 lbs ground beef (Italian sausage would be delish!)

1 cup ricotta cheese, 2 roma tomatoes (diced), 1 medium onion (chopped, not pictured), 1 cup of chopped spinach, 1 cup reduced sugar spaghetti sauce, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic powder (to taste), Italian four cheese blend

Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Pre-slice and dice all veggies before beginning.  Place sliced zucchini into a foil-lined pan (I strongly reccoment foil…learn from my sadness) and pre-bake for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, begin browning the ground meat and when nearly done, add the onion for flavor.

Beef and onion...Mmm!

Beef and onion…Mmm!

Cook meat completely, with no signs of pink.  Drain grease.  Take the zucchini out of the oven and scoop the middle, creating a zucchini “boat.”  Chop up the zucchini innards and add it to the meat, along with the diced tomato and spinach.

Meat and all veggies.

Meat and all veggies.

Cook the meat & veggie mixture for an additional 5 minutes, then add the spaghetti sauce, ricotta cheese, and spices.  Heat though.

Almost ready for stuffing!

Almost ready for stuffing!

Stuff the zucchini boats with a generous portion of the filling.  Top with a generous sprinkle of the four cheese blend and pop them into the oven.

OMG - cheesy goodness!

OMG – cheesy goodness!

Bake 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden brown, and the zucchini boats are softened.  Enjoy!

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Sooooooooo good!

And finally for the very first time, a printable recipe!!  I am really getting my blogging act together.  Go me!  Just click below for a printable pdf.  :-) Untitled

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Wordless Wednesday

photo (9)   5k PR training

Being Anna in an Elsa-obsessed World

Anna

Have you seen Disney’s latest smash hit, Frozen? Most everyone has by now, and even if you haven’t seen the film, you must have seen at least one version (or parody) of the Oscar-winning song, “Let it Go.” Am I right? I am pretty sick of that song now, so you will be spared having a video embedded in this post. You’re welcome.

It seems the world is completely enamored (borderline obsessed) with Elsa. I get it. Elsa is the queen, she’s beautiful, possesses an amazing gift, does everything with serious flare, and gets the musical number of the year. Her hair and gown are gorgeous, and she builds a castle out of snow and ice. Plus, she overcomes a lot of baggage from her childhood in order to really become who she is, and really embrace her gift. It’s a compelling story…kind of amazing, actually. Who doesn’t love, and want to be, Elsa? Everyone does.

And as wonderful as Elsa is, I can’t help but wonder why no one is as enamored with Anna. Ok, so she is kind of neurotic. She is needy (Hey, she has childhood baggage, too!) and she often says and does the wrong things when she is trying to make a human connection. She imperfect and lacking the sort of grace that Elsa effortlessly exudes.

But, she is also fearless. She is funny and quirky. Anna is hurt by her sister’s gift in so many ways (and nearly loses her life because of it, twice) and she is still determined to find Elsa and help her in any way she can, in the cold (and alone) because she loves her. Anna stops her ex-fiance from murdering her sister, even though it means she won’t be able to save herself.

There is a lot to love about Anna, so it bums me out that no one loves her like they love Elsa.

And I can’t help but identify with her a little bit. I have always felt like the sister who was a burden, an annoyance, and the one who can’t quite seem to get anything right (even with the best of intentions). I reach out, but somehow it goes all wrong, and I end up worse off than before. I know what it’s like to stand in the shadows and wonder just what it is I’ve done to be ignored so thoroughly.

Thankfully, like Anna, I found love and purpose in other relationships; my own little family, with my husband and kids, and some amazing friendships. I found an opportunity to shine as myself, while loving other people and having them love me back. Anna does, too, when she meets Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf. She is a lucky girl, after all. And while Elsa finally comes around and realizes she needs her sister, Anna was already making her own family, even as she held onto the hope that Elsa would eventually love her back. Go get ‘em, girl!

I don’t have any answers to solving family dysfunction, or understanding weird dynamics with siblings, but I do know this: Anna was worthy of real love, and so are we. We all have different gifts, and different ways to shine, but we all add our own kind of light and love to the world. Keep trying, keep reaching out, and keep offering your love. Be fearless, like Anna. Somewhere, someone will love you back, and that makes everything worth it. Love is all there is and it comes in so many surprising packages.

Wordless Wednesday

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The Zion Half Marathon, A.K.A. The Most EPIC Weekend Ever!

I did it.  

I ran a half marathon! 

Even as I type that, I can’t believe I did it, and I am smiling so big it splits my lip open…because I ran 13.1 miles, and I didn’t die, and I ticked another box off of my bucket list.

The entire weekend was completely wonderful. Zion National Park is too beautiful for words. We haven’t been camping in almost 5 years, so it was so exciting for us to be able to camp again for this trip. This was the view from my chair by the fire.  Don’t even get me started on the stars at night!  I haven’t seen a night sky like that since I was a child.

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In spite of a hectic start to the trip (and setting up camp that afternoon), by the time I took this picture, I was totally relaxed and blissed out just by the fresh air and the fact that my entire family was camping…on something like an actual vacation. It has been too long. :-D

I went to bed early because I had to wake up at 4:30 to eat some breakfast, get my gear together, and make my shuttle to the start line. Let me just say right now, my husband is a rock star when it comes to runner support. He was AMAZING. He woke up at 4:00, started the fire, made me coffee & a bagel with cream cheese, and had most of my stuff ready to go before even waking me up. I felt totally loved and and cared for, and that meant everything when I was feeling anxious.

I sort of missed the last official shuttle (in spite of our efforts to be early), but there was one last shuttle at the resort, and since it was paid for (and I had paid for a spot), the driver took me. I was the only passenger, so it felt a little like being a VIP. However, the ride was LONG, and for the first time, I was able to really appreciate the distance I was about to tackle. The driver didn’t help. He said at least THREE TIMES that it seemed farther than he remembered.  Um, thanks, pal!

The “warm up” tent was freezing, the line for the bathrooms was almost 20 minutes long, and I felt like the only person there not running with a friend, but I didn’t let it get me down. I stretched, tried to stay warm, and made sure I had what I needed.  I couldn’t wait to get started, so it was a relief when they finally asked us to line up at the start.  The gun went off at 7:00, and like usual, I was in the back so it was a few minutes to even cross the start line, and the beginning is always really slow until the crowd finds their pace and things thin out.  It was dark, with just a hint of pink starting to peek over the horizon.  I was PUMPED!

The first few miles literally flew by, and that was when I realized I was mentally prepared for how long this would take. I knew I had trained my body pretty well, but I wasn’t as confidant about the mental prep.  So, yeah!  That was a good thing.  The sun continued climbing and the views were spectacular.  I stopped to take a few photos and down a GU between miles 4 and 5.

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The beauty literally took my breath away, which I sort of needed, so I decided to focus on running after that.  Between mile 6 and mile 7, this happened:

Zion Half Elevation

The entire course was going uphill with various rolling hills in between, but do you see that monster in the middle? Yeah, that was a BEAST.  I felt like I was vertically climbing and my knee started really protesting, especially on the downhill, but I pushed on.  Mile 8 brought us to a small town called Rockville, and then it was really a matter of pushing past being tired, being in pain, and trying to finish this thing and see all the awesome people waiting for me at the finish line.

My husband and kids were there, but I also had four of my closest gal pals, and a whole gaggle of their kids (and I love them all) waiting for me. I still can’t really put into words how wonderful it was that they decided to come camping with us and support me for my first half. My feelings about it are big and overwhelming, in a really good way. It made my happiness cup overflow.

I got to mile 11 and I started to do a bunch of walk/run intervals because I was pretty beat, and that threw my planned finish time of 2:25.  I am ok with that.  It was a tough, tough course and my first time out. I did do my best to run (ok, shuffle) the entire last mile. Crossing that finish line was a sweet, wonderful moment. I came in with a finish time of 2:36:36.

After I finished, I got a hug and the most delicious chocolate milk of ALL TIME.  Mostly, I wanted to fall down.  After a little walking, a shower, and some lunch, I felt so much better!

FinishedBAM, BABY!

 

Gina and I at finishWith my friend, Gina, my daughter, Sydni, and my husband, Lonnie (the photo bomber).  

Family at the finishThe whole family, including the dogs.  No, my teen son is not pregnant, he has our puppy tucked into his jacket!  

The rest of our weekend was spent with friends.  Hiking, campfires, s’mores, and even a game of Balderdash and Spades.  It was a perfect, beautiful weekend and I will cherish the memories for the rest of my life. And as crazy as it sounds, I am already planning to run it again next year!

photo 5 (1)This photo is totally untouched.  How could you not want to visit a place like this again and again?

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