Prepare Post: Just how messy can I make my kitchen..?

Dinners, Recipes

Last week I posted my shopping list for my crockpot challenge, you can view it as well as the list of meals I’m making. So I went to Giant and bought all those ingredients, brought them home set to work… I put everything out on my table and added all the stuff I already had in my kitchen.

Crockpot 1

That’s a lot of food..

I started with the veggies first.. I cut up all the veggies and set them aside on plates.. the onions, peppers, potatoes and celery.

Although I wanted to make recipes that had as little cooking as possible I did precook the ground meat. You don’t have to, but you will have to add some time to the recipe if you don’t. So that’s what I did next, I browned all the ground meat, except for the meat I used for the meatball stew; that I set aside to make meatballs with.

Next I labeled all the bags, I wrote the meal name on it and also wrote the amount of broth that needed to be added. Some of these recipes call for 2-4 cups of chicken/beef broth, it didn’t make sense to me to add that to the bag that I froze because there was hardly room in the bag for it. I figured it would be just easier to add the broth into the crockpot when I cooked the meal.

One thing to note, however; is that broth only keeps in the fridge for about 7 days after you open it. What you can do though, is freeze it; and the easiest way I’ve found to freeze broth is in ice cube trays. Use the trays and then collect them all in a baggie that stays in the freezer. Measure each cube and you can figure out how many cubes equal a cup, etc, then label the bag with it so you don’t forget.

I took each recipe one at a time. I added the meats to the bags first, then the veggies, the starches (quinoa, rice, potatoes..) and the sauce and seasonings.

One thing you should not do… is assume that the bags will sit up on their own.. It’s not very easy to add all those ingredients to the bags with one hand.. So at one point I noticed with enough ingredients in the bag it kind of sat up itself.. so naturally I walked across the kitchen to check the recipe or something… and when I looked back, I had tomato sauce dripping down my dishwasher.. very close to loosing the entire contents of the bag to the floor.. uhh whoops..

I bagged all the recipes, except for one which I actually just made that day but can easily be frozen as well, and stuck them in the freezer. I probably should have checked my freezer ahead of time because all 5 bags, just about fit in my freezer. I had to do a lot of reorganizing to make everything fit.. good thing I didn’t add that broth…

Stayed tuned for my next posts about how each recipe turned out.


Plan Post: That’s a heck of a grocery list…

Dinners, Recipes

A few weeks ago I posted about my crockpot challenge adventure. I must admit I’m a little behind on posting, but I have actually been completing the challenge, so I’m finally getting to posting about it.

I narrowed my long list of choices down to 4. Then I thought, oh hell… why not 6? Here are the ones I chose (some aren’t from the original list):

  • Beef Stew (not as healthy as I would like but I’ve been dying to make this)
  • Tex Mex Shredded Chicken
  • Turkey Chili
  • Stuffed Pepper Soup
  • Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
  • Chicken, Potato, Quinoa Soup

From there I had to create my shopping list, which is not a easy feat, I might add. What I found easiest, was to copy each recipe into a Word doc and start a new doc for my list. I started with the first recipe and added each ingredient to my blank doc and the amount. Then I went through each recipe and added on the amount if the item was already on my list and added the ingredient if it wasn’t. I know, I know, there’s probably an app out there for that, right? Actually, I have it. But the app also requires you to add each recipe to it’s database and then also specify the amount for each ingredient. Sometimes technology isn’t as easy as copy and paste… No, but seriously it’s a great app for normal grocery shopping.

Originally I was going to go to BJ’s because I thought wholesale would be better but I didn’t actually end up needing an excessive amount of anything in particular so I just went to Giant. I had to use one of those actual sized carts, instead of my usual halfy. You would also think that I would have taken a picture waiting in line too, since I used an actual checkout line instead of my usual self-checkout but I forgot, whoops. You’ll just have to see all the food in my kitchen in my next post.

Here is my shopping list (it’s quite impressive):


  • Onions 5
  • Peppers 3
  • Jalapenos 2
  • Baby Carrots 2lb
  • Sweet Potatoes 2
  • Potatoes 1lb + 4-5 singles
  • Frozen corn 3 c


  • Chicken 6lbs
  • Ground Turkey 4.5lb
  • Beef 2lb roast


  • Quinoa 2 c
  • Rice 1 c


  • Eggs


  • Tomato can diced 75 oz + spicy one
  • Spicy diced tomato
  • Tomato Sauce 23 oz
  • Beef Broth 6 c
  • Chicken Broth 11 c
  • Worcestershire 1tbsp
  • Can Mushrooms 4oz
  • Red wine ¾ c


  • Salt 2tsp
  • Pepper ½ tsp
  • Thyme ½ tsp
  • Garlic 4 tsp
  • Chili powder 7 tsp
  • Parsley ¼ c
  • Basil ½ tsp
  • Oregano ½ tsp
  • Garlic Powder 2 ½ tsp
  • Onion Powder 2 tsp
  • Cumin 2 tsp
  • Red Pepper Flakes ½ tsp
  • Paprika 1 tsp
  • Flour 3/4 c
  • Brown Sugar 1 tbsp
  • Oil

Everything that’s bold are the ingredients I knew I already had in my house (yes, I had 75 oz of diced tomatoes in my kitchen.. don’t ask).

Stay tuned for the actual trip and the mess I made in the kitchen.. No, surprisingly I didn’t make much of a mess at all. Except for when I almost dumped an entire meal on the floor… Hmm, story to follow..

But everyones doing it…

Dinners, Life, Recipes, Uncategorized

Didn’t your momma always ask you, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too”?

You’re supposed to answer no, by the way…

Well you know what, sometimes following the lead is good. I’m jumping on the crock pot bandwagon.. well, to be clear, I’ve always been on the crockpot bandwagon but I’m going to do the crockpot frozen meal challenge. Actually I think I just made that up, but that’s how all great things start, isn’t it?


I’m going to do a series of posts over the next month or so, starting with this one, which we’ll dub the “Proposal Post” and over the next month I’m going to plan, buy, prepare, cook and (the best part) taste 4 different prepared ahead frozen crockpot meals. Pinterest is my go-to and I’ve found a few recipes I want to try, but if any of my followers want to throw out some suggestions or take votes on the ones I listed below, I’m up for it. Who knows, if I get enough recipes maybe I’ll make more. I’m trying to stick to the healthy side so don’t give me any creamy, cheesy goodness to make, because I might just cave.

Some recipes I’ve found so far that are on my maybe list are;

  • Lemon Chicken
  • Chicken and Spinach
  • Chicken and Sweet Potato stew
  • Pineapple Salsa Chicken
  • Beef and Broccoli
  • BBQ Chicken
  • Chicken Fajitas
  • Tex Mex Shredded Chicken
  • Teriyaki Chicken
  • Meatball stew
  • Sticky BBQ Meatballs
  • Chicken and Rice
  • Italian Chicken
  • Veggie and Beef stew
  • Beef Chili
  • Pulled Pork

So I guess that was more than I was initially going for but I’ll narrow it down and once I figure out all the logistics maybe I’ll bump it up to 6 meals, we’ll see… I’m only cooking for one so I’m hoping one pot will be leftovers for a week. So in the coming weeks you can expect the following posts from me, its a promise;

  • The Proposal Post (that’s this one)
  • The Plan Post (where I tell you all the meals I’m going to make and my shopping list)
  • The Prepare Post (this will be the crazy part where I share my shopping trip, all the food that I know have in my house and the preparing and separating)
  • The Pot 1-? Posts (Recipe and evaluation of meal 1-?)
  • The Post-Pots Posts (the final eval)

Like all my P’s? Let the crockpot challenge begin! Make sure you leave me some suggestions or votes! And maybe I’ll pass on this challenge and make it an actual thing!

Creamy Tortellini Spinach Soup


Tortellini is one of my all time favorite pastas. This dish is so good! Delicious good not healthy good 😉

What you need:

  • 1 bag Barilla 3 cheese tortellini
  • 7 oz spinach
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 Tbsp flour

Creamy Tortelini Spinach Soup via Design with Influence

What you do:

  1. Cook the tortellini according to the package. Cook to al dente.
  2. While the tortellini is cooking, chop the spinach.
  3. In a large skillet, saute the garlic for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes, spinach, S&P, basil and onion powder. Cook and stir over medium until just boil.
  5. Separately, whisk to combine flour and half-and-half until smooth.
  6. Add the creamy mixture to the skillet along with the Parmesan cheese.
  7. Heat through, reduce the heat and cook until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the drained tortellini and mix.
  9. Enjoy!

Buffalo Turkey Chili

Dinners, Recipes

To warm you up during this cold, cold, snowy winter, there’s nothing better then some chili..

Buffalo Turkey Chili via Design with Influence

What you need

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • I large carrot peeling and chopped
  • I medium onion
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • S&P
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 hot sauce
  • 7 oz can tomato sauce
  • 7 oz zesty chili style can diced tomatoes (Del Monte)
  • Shredded cheese and scallions for garnish
  • (add beans  if you’d like but I’m not a bean person..)

What to do

  1. Start by adding a little bit of olive oil to a medium pot, over medium to high heat. Add the ground turkey and a little bit of S&P and brown.
  2. Add the carrots, onion, garlic, chili powder and paprika. Cook until the veggies are a little softer, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken broth, hot sauce, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.
  4. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for at least 15 minutes. The longer it simmers the thicker it will get, so simmer until desired (up to an hour.)
  5. Add more seasonings if desired.
  6. Serve with cheese and scallions or however you’d like. Enjoy!


Pineapple Curry Chicken Salad

Dinners, Humor, Life

A few years ago I took some time off from college and moved up to New York (not NYC, for some reason when you tell people you live in NY they assume you live in NYC, like that’s the whole state or something..) to be a live in nanny. It was probably one of the best journeys I’ve ever had. My main goal in taking a year off from school was to “find myself”, so cliche- I know.

But I learned a lot in that year and fell in love with two of the cutest boys I’ll ever know.

Lucas making pizza via Design with InfluenceChristian making a pizza via Design with Influence

It was hard to get them to cook with me without shoving something in their mouth.. but hey isn’t that every little kid. Plus they loved cheese.. again- who doesn’t..

I did the cooking for the family and sometimes had a little help =) Unfortunately I didn’t realize then, how much I really did like to cook. They had a few “family favorites” that I cooked pretty often and a few of them became my favorites as well. When I was preparing to leave after a year I wrote down some of the recipes I liked and then, of course, I lost the piece of paper I wrote them on. But at least some of my favorites I made pretty often so I’m pretty sure when I tried writing them down eventually that I was pretty close. I made one of these recipes a few days ago and, well it was just as good as I remembered.

Pineapple Curry Chicken Salad

what you need:

3 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2c mayo and greek yogurt mixture (see directions)
1 can pineapple chucks
1 can water chestnuts
1c halved green grapes
1/3c crushed almonds
1Tbsp curry powder
1Tbsp lemon juice

Chicken Salad Ingredients via Design with Influence

Forget to include the almonds in the picture.. whoops.

what you need to do:

1. I crock potted my chicken but feel free to boil it or whatever you like for chicken salad. Crock pot the chicken for 4-6 hours on low or 6-8 on high. Once the chicken is done, shred it and let it cool

2. The rest is pretty easy, its mostly just throwing everything in together.

The mayo and greek yogurt is up to you. The original recipe I made this with had no greek yogurt but I’m trying to be healthy remember.. I added more mayo than greek yogurt this time because I wasn’t sure how it would taste. I’ve made chicken salad with just greek yogurt before but added hummas too so I was afraid to go all greek this time. Next time however, I think I’ll change the portions up a bit and add more greek yogurt than mayo but in total I would stick to around 1/2 cup.

To this mixture add the lemon juice and curry powder. Throw the chicken in and give it a mix. Drain your pineapple, cut your grapes in half and give your water chestnuts a chop so they aren’t full slices and add them to the mix.

3. The final step is to add the almonds. I buy sliced almonds and throw them in the blender for a bit. These are what makes the whole dish. It gives it the crunch factor. You can add them all at once or you can add them per serving when its eaten.. up to you. Also feel free to add as much of these as you want- it really is the best part.

Mix it all together and enjoy. This is so good you can just eat it by itself, no bread or anything. But be careful. Its addicting!

Pineapple Curry Chicken Salad via Design with Influence

Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers

Dinners, Recipes

In Philly, we stuff our peppers with cheesesteak.

What you need:

  • 1 lb. strip steak (I just bought the kind at the store that’s already sliced for this very reason)
  • 4-6 peppers, the bigger the better
  • A slice of provolone cheese for every pepper you have
  • 1-1 1/2 yellow onions
  • 6 oz. mushrooms
  • S&P to taste
  • Tomato sauce (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400. slice your peppers in half and gut them. Place in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 20-25 mins.

2. Slice up your onions and mushrooms and saute together until just cooked through. Cook your steak in separate pan and season with S&P. Combine the onions mushrooms and steak together and leave on simmer if finished before your peppers.

3. When your peppers are done, line the inside of each with half a slice of cheese. Fill each pepper with the steak and veggies and add a little tomato sauce if desired. Top each pepper with another half slice of cheese and pop back in the oven for 15 mins.

4. Enjoy your philly stuffed peppers =)

photo 1

Isn’t it sad that I can’t even take the picture before I dig in. Whoops…

photo 2

They were yummy. And the best part.. there’s no bread- so you can allow yourself maybe one more….

Spaghetti Squash Chicken Pad Thai

Dinners, Graphic Design, Recipes

As an artist, I would say the worst and most frustrating thing is hitting a creative block. I’ve had my fair share, as any artist will agree they have as well. But the other day, I had the worst one I’ve had yet. I blanked on everything. Lots of people say just to stop what you’re doing and move onto something else- but that didn’t help because I was stuck on everything.

So I pulled out all my art books, my design magazines, my random inspiration collections I had with me in my office and just spend some time flipping through them to jog some inspiration. That still didn’t help much. So I went online and ordered this book– I don’t even know how I stumbled upon it. They say its good for creative blocks, so I’ll let you know how it is and if it helps when I get it in. Since then though, I’ve been slowly dragging myself out of this damn creative block.

Something I didn’t have a creative block on was the dinner I made last week…

I’m the kind of person that when I go out to eat, if the place has Pad Thai, I get it. I love Pad Thai. Of course some places just don’t do it right but it’s one of my favorite things so I give it a try almost anywhere. So when I came across a recipe for it, well I jumped right on it. I actually tried to make this a few weeks ago but I had a little misunderstanding with a certain squash (more on that in a little bit) so I didn’t get to make it until this week.

So I made this dish the other night and really, words just can’t describe. It was awesome! Like I said, I attempted to make this a few weeks ago so I already knew the Chicken Pad Thai part of it was awesome but the whole thing put together with the squash was seriously good. And yes, I mean seriously good. If you like Pad Thai at all you have to try this. I almost think my version of it was better than any Pad Thai I’ve had out anywhere and this didn’t have pasta noodles, which is much better for you =)

What you need:

  • 1 large Spaghetti Squash (it’s literally called a Spaghetti Squash so make sure you get the right one)
  • 2-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp soy sause
  • Red pepper flakes
  • S & P

Garnishes (optional)

  • Dry roasted peanuts, chopped (I highly recommend)
  • Scallions, chopped (I highly recommend)
  • Cilantro

1. Preheat oven 350 and line a baking sheet with foil. Cut your SPAGHETTI SQUASH in half lengthwise and scrape away the seeds. Sprinkle with S & P and roast for about 40-60 minutes depending on how big your SPAGHETTI SQAUSH is.

Okay, so here’s my SPAGHETTI SQUASH story. I may blog about a lot of different recipes and talk about food like I know what I’m saying but really, I don’t. I found that out the other week when I attempted this recipe for the first time. Now, I’d heard of spaghetti squash but I thought it was only “known” by that because of how it looks like spaghetti when its forked out, and it is but I didn’t know it was literally called spaghetti squash, like that’s what the sign reads in the store. Well, long story short, I ended up with Chicken Pad Thai, no noodles and a cooked squash I had no intention of consuming as a side dish. Second time around I was more successful…

2. Give yourself about 15-20 minutes before the squash is done then start to cook your chicken breasts however you’d like. You can bake or saute. I chose to saute with a little bit of S & P and garlic (if you use garlic in this step refrain from the garlic in the sauce). Set chicken aside.

3. In another pan while the chicken is cooking, saute some garlic (if you haven’t used it already) for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar and red pepper flakes. Heat until it becomes a smooth sauce, stirring occasionally.

4. Wait 5 minutes after the squash comes out of the oven, then you can use a fork to scoop out the guts. It should be tender and very easy and come out in little spaghetti-like strands. Once all the guts are out add the squash to your sauce. Add your chicken to the sauce and mix together until its all coated.

5. Plate your portions and sprinkle with garnishes. And enjoy a freaking awesome meal.

Spaghetti Squash Chicken Pad Thai

Roasted Veggie and Chicken Mac & Cheese

Dinners, Recipes

Who doesn’t love cheese?! For the longest time when I first started my ‘healthier lifestyle’ adventure I tried to avoid cheese, among other things, yes- but cheese was my kryptonite. I did pretty well, avoiding cheese and butter and salt and all those yummy things that just make everything taste better. Well I’ve given up avoiding those things and now I’m choosing to consume them in moderation.

And along with cheese comes America’s all time favorite-  the “Mac and Cheese”. Everyone is a kid at heart when it comes to macaroni and gooey, cheesy goodness- well I am at least. So I set our to find the ultimate healthy mac and cheese and I think I rather succeeded.

For you cheesy taste palette- the “Roasted Mac & Cheese”.

Roasted Mac & Cheese: Sara Pomykacz's Blog


  • Broccoli (cut into small florets)
  • Yellow Squash (diced)
  • Red Pepper (diced)
  • Baby Carrots (diced)
  • Whole Wheat Pasta
  • Chicken Breasts cubed
  • 1/4 c Olive Oil
  • Minced Garlic
  • 3 Tbsp Flour
  • 1 1/2 c Milk
  • 2 c Shredded Chedder
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt and Papper
  • Bread Crumbs

You’ll notice I didn’t give measurements for the veggies. Hey, I’m trying to be healthy here. Throw as much or as little veggies in there as you want. I went with about 2 c broccoli florets, 1 yellow squash, 1 red pepper and a half of those little bags of baby carrots, but do whatever you want. I also added chicken to the mix, I put in 3 breasts but add whatever you like. If you’re not sure how much sauce to make for the amount you’re adding it really just depends on how cheesy you want it to be. I was going for a less cheesy Mac & Cheese because I’m trying to be healthier. I used a box and a half of pasta with all those veggies and the chicken and it made a pretty decent sauce with the measurements in the ingredients.

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400. Set up a pot of water for the pasta and a large baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with a little olive oil.

Step 2: Toss broccoli, red pepper, squash and carrots onto the baking sheet and coat with the olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven and set aside.

Roasted Mac & Cheese: Sara Pomykacz's Blog

Step 3: Once water is boiling add pasta, cooking according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Step 4: Sautee Chicken and set aside.

Step 5: Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk gradually, stirring until mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until well distributed and melted. Add red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.

Step 6: Mix the pasta, veggies and chicken in a big pot and add the cheese mixture a little at a time making sure you coat all of it. Add to a casserole dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake at 500 for 5-10 minutes until the bread crumbs are crispy and brown.

Step 7: Grab a spoon and dig in.

Roasted Mac & Cheese: Sara Pomykacz's Blog