Baked Ziti (Freezer Meal!)

Let’s discuss baked ziti. Well, really, when I make it, it’s baked rigatoni. Because ziti pasta isn’t my favorite. And I love how the sauce can easily get inside the big rigatoni noodles. :) But if I say that I’m making “Baked Rigatoni” no one knows what I’m talking about. So I just go ahead and call this “Baked Ziti” even though it’s not made with actual ziti pasta. Over explaining much? Yeah probably. Let’s move on…

baked ziti (4)

Baked “Ziti”


8 oz rigatoni pasta
1 jar pasta sauce (Aldi has our current favorite)
15 large fresh basil leaves, chopped or hand torn
2 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Freshly cracked salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cook rigatoni to al dente. Be sure you don’t over cook it since it will cook more in the oven. In fact, you can even under cook the pasta by a minute if you are concerned about overcooking the pasta.

3. Put cooked rigatoni into 13 x 9″ pan and top with pasta sauce. Mix in fresh basil and half of the Parmesan.

4. Dollop the ricotta cheese on top of the pasta and then place slices of fresh mozzarella on the pasta as well. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. And add some freshly cracked pepper & salt on top as well.

5. Bake 5-7 minutes (unless you made this as a freezer meal, in which case bake for 15) and then turn on the broiler and let broil for 1 minute or until cheese is bubbling.

Recipe based on Rocco DiSpirito’s 

So I actually made this as a freezer meal this past Monday because it’s SUCH an easy one to double and cook one that night and freeze the other for later. Or to freeze both (like I did with these). Either way, it’s awesome.

baked ziti (1)

Prepped and ready to either go directly in the oven or to be covered with foil and to go in the freezer.

baked ziti (2)

I always write the name of the meal and the day I prepped it (I try not to keep meals in the freezer more than 3 months because I think they taste best in those first 3 months). If I’m taking this to someone else then I write the freezing & cooking directions on the foil as well. When you’re ready to eat your freezer meal, just pull it out of the freezer the night before you plan to eat it so it can dethaw entirely. Spritz with a little water on top to keep the noodles from drying out. Then cook as per directions.

baked ziti (3)

We use fresh mozzarella and fresh basil because we think it really amps up the flavor. You definitely don’t have to do this. If you like your cheese to be a little more evenly distributed then you might try regular shredded mozzarella. :)

Happy Friday, friends!

Love Rach

Pumpkin Carving… and Drilling!

Last night Brodie & Lyndal came over to carve pumpkins! Well, the boys carved pumpkins while Lyndal and I drilled our pumpkins! Yup! We broke out the power tools!

lyndal and rach

I saw this on Pinterest a couple of years ago and it’s such a neat idea! You empty the pumpkin by cutting a hole into the bottom of it so the top looks untouched. And then you use a drill to put holes in the pumpkin! I used a 5/16th bit in the drill and it made a big ol’ mess, but it was worth it because I love the way it looks! Lyndal used a 3/8th bit because her pumpkin was bigger than mine and if I had to do it over again – I’d probably use the bigger bit next time even on a small pumpkin. It just lets out more light. But I still love how both pumpkins turned out! Plus I love how easy this is. I mean, really… no carving or planning. You just drilled a bunch of random holes until it looked sufficiently “hole-y.” ;)

christopher's pumpkin

Christopher went old school classic and did Frankenstein!

polka dot pumpkin

Mine and Christopher’s pumpkins!


All four of our pumpkins! Brodie’s pumpkin was by far the most detailed and it turned out really amazing! He free-handed the Mississippi State design. I was super impressed!

fire pit

We had s’mores around the fire pit and sat under the stars and watched the dying embers glow. It was such a good night. :)

Have you carved pumpkins yet this year?

Have you ever used power tools on a pumpkin?

Love Rach

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

So this past week it finally dipped into the cooler fall-like temperatures. I say “finally” like I’ve been waiting impatiently for it to happen. That is definitely not the case. You guys know I love summer. I mean, yes, I love to wear my skinny jeans with boots and to pull out all my cute scarves, but if I had the choice… it’d be summer year round. I’m more than happy to celebrate Christmas on a sunshiney day at the beach. ;) But I digress.

So, it’s officially fall here. Both on the calendar as well as in the brisk morning air. Which means it’s officially soup season. I do love soups. I make them year round, but I find myself making them most in the colder months. And this is definitely the kind of soup that is perfect for a chilly day. I found this recipe on Gimmie Some Oven and it’s a huge winner! Christopher, in particular, loves this soup. If you’ve never had Chicken Enchilada Soup, then you really should give it a try. It’s healthy, quick to make, and delicious!

Chicken Enchilada Soup (1)

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 cup (or 1 10 oz can) red enchilada sauce, homemade or store-bought (we used her homemade sauce recipe and it was delicious! A little spicy, but very good. Next time I think we will only use 3 tbsp of chili powder instead of 4. But I still highly recommend it!)
2 (14 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (15 oz) can whole-kernel corn, drained
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt, or more/less to taste
optional garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado, diced red onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips/chips


1. Add all ingredients to a slow cooker and stir to combine. It’s okay if your chicken is frozen or dethawed as long as it’s still raw and not yet cooked. Cook for 3-4 hours on high heat or 6-8 hours on low heat, until the chicken is cooked through and shreds easily. Use two forks to shred the chicken.

2. Serve warm, with optional garnishes.

Note: You can also refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Or freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.

Note: To make it a FREEZER MEAL: you can freeze this recipe before cooking by putting all ingredients (including the raw chicken) into a Ziplock bag and freezing until you’re read to cook it.

Chicken Enchilada Soup (3)


Is it soup making season for you?

Have you had chicken enchilada soup? Gimme Some Oven knows what’s up with this recipe! So good!

Love Rach

That one time we accidentally ended up backstage at a concert

Last night we went to a TobyMac concert. We went because Colton Dixon (from American Idol) was one of his openers and I love Colton Dixon’s music. My favorites are “Through All Of It” and “You Are” but really I love most of his stuff. And I love TobyMac’s “Steal My Show” (not to mention the fact that I still heart DC Talk all these years later). And I heard Britt Nicole was going to be there and I knew I liked her sound too. So this concert was a winner!

colton dixon

And it was. Hearing a few of my favorite songs sung live was awesome! Colton rocked it. I love, love, love his lyrics. Read this:

And this is Who You are.
More constant than the stars up in the sky!
All these years of my life I look back and I see You.
And right now I still do
And I’m always going to…

I could write a whole blog post about how this song has really touched my heart this year. I just love the reminder of God’s faithfulness. :)

And Britt Nicole… she rocks. She never stopped moving the whole time – she danced and ran out into the crowd and was just overall really a cool performer to watch. If you listen to mainstream radio, you’ve probably heard her song “Gold” and if you are more of a Christian station kinda person then you’ve probably heard “All This Time.”


Then it was TobyMac. Unfortunately around this time I started to not feel very well. But I wanted to hear “Steal My Show” since we were so close to it! So we stayed through the first half of his performance until he performed that song (which was AWESOME!) and then we headed out. Sorry, Toby! No hard feelings. It’s not you, it’s me. Really. You are a great performer. We hated to leave early.

And here’s where things got interesting…

You guys, I have the best sense of direction. Well, maybe not the best of anyone ever. But a really, really good one. I rarely get turned around. And I always know how to get back to the place I came from. Christopher, on the other hand, has a notoriously bad sense of direction. So he always just follows me because we both know that I don’t get lost.

Except apparently when I’m not feeling well. The concert venue was huge and we managed to come out the wrong door. Which meant we started walking around the building (THE WRONG WAY, I might add… we were so close to our car and didn’t even realize it). So we start walking around the building which would have been a really pleasant experience because the weather was gorgeous and we like to walk together except that I felt like I might throw up at any minute. So I gritted my teeth together and we forged on. Then we realized that we were walking admist a bunch of tour buses. We faltered for a minute, but then decided that we must be close to our car by this point (we weren’t – we were now on the complete opposite side of the building) so we kept walking.

It was the most awkward thing. As we walk up we notice that there are groups of people wearing all black (probably sound guys, back up dancers, band members, etc) standing around chatting and as we approach they all stop talking and stare at us. At this point we realize that we are somewhere we’re not supposed to be, but figure if we just keep walking, we’ll get where we need to be.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, a group of people walks up and Britt Nicole is right in the middle of them. She smiles kindly when in reality I’m pretty sure she was thinking “Oh my goodness, did these two people really sneak back here just to get an autograph? Oh well, be nice to the fans…” ha! She was really nice and said an energetic “Hi!” to us as we passed by to which we both automatically responded “hi!” So you know, now we’re naturally BFFs with Britt Nicole. ;)

At this point we realize that we are definitely in a place we shouldn’t be so we see open doors to the building and try to go back inside since we figure we might be able to cut back through. No joke, every time we walked close to any group of people everyone just stopped talking and stared at us. We really should’ve just asked someone for directions but instead we kept thinking that we’d figure it out. Christopher at this point says, “Hey look at that door over there… I bet it leads where we need to go…” Thankfully we only made it a few steps before we saw a sign announcing that it was a stage door. Like, we would have walked right out there as TobyMac was performing. Um… yeah… so back outside we went. And again all the people stared at us as we walked by pretending like we knew where we were going.

We kept walking around the building and as soon as we were far enough away that they couldn’t hear us, I burst into giggles. And Christopher goes “That was Britt Nicole!” And I’m like “Yes! And we almost ended up on stage!” Which I mean, we wouldn’t have. Because surely at some point someone would’ve stopped us. Or who knows, maybe we would’ve been perfect back up dancers for TobyMac. ;)

We finally made it to the car (20 minutes after we left our seats attempting to leave the venue) and I was so relieved to be heading home. But my, oh my, what a night.

Have you ever gotten turned around and ended up somewhere you weren’t supposed to be?

Love Rach

In honor of 11 years together

As I’m sure many of you saw on Facebook and Instagram, yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the day Christopher and I first started dating. It has been a while since I last posted a video of my ramblings so I thought I’d do one in honor of our anniversary. The first take was 12 minutes long. So I attempted it again. And it was 10 minutes long. So I just edited out some of the excessive rambling. It’s now right around 6 minutes so hopefully that is a little more of a manageable length of time to listen to me being super cheesy. ;)

As always forgive the excessive use of “like” and “um”. I’m not normally quite this bad about it, but I hadn’t taken time to think out what I wanted to say (other than that I wanted to share the pictures). So it’s just a lot of rambling. Thanks for hanging with me. ;)

Do you celebrate small things? 

Have you ever looked back on a conversation from years ago (via chat or text or FB, etc) and found yourself cringing a little bit at how awkward it was? This is a huge reason I am so glad that Facebook wasn’t a thing when I was growing up. Social media is #forever. o.o

Love Rach

Our family took a walk

Last year, to support my father-in-law who has early onset vascular dementia, Christopher and I decided to do the Walk to End Alzheimer’s here in Memphis. We loved that his parents were able to join us and that some of our precious friends who also know and love his parents were able to walk with us. That support has meant the world to us. His parents also traveled to the Dallas area last year in order to do the walk with their other son & daughter-in-law who have been part of the walk for several years. In an effort to make it easier on his parents this year, Christopher and I told them that if they were planning to go to Dallas again, we’d join them there so they wouldn’t have to worry about two trips so close together (trips are difficult for my father-in-law). So that’s what this weekend was all about.

family2Our family at the Walk this year: Jerzee (Michael & Katy’s dog), Katy, Michael, me, Christopher, Marty, and Tony!

I’ll be honest with you guys, this weekend was one of very mixed emotions. Christopher and I arrived a little after midnight on Friday night (well, Saturday morning technically) and were struck with several different things all at once. None of which were easy. But one huge thing was seeing how much my father-in-law had declined since the last time we saw him. I found myself unable to sleep, so I spent the night in prayer instead. But His mercies are new every morning, my friends. Difficult as parts of this weekend were, there were some wonderful highlights. And those are what I want to share with you guys today. :)

familyOur family at the finish line (plus a photobomb)


The Walk itself was fun. From my mother-in-law’s awesome warm-up dance (which I am too kind to post here ;) ), to Michael laughing at Christopher dancing with the flowers (see pic above), to getting to catch up with my sister-in-law, Katy. She and I chatted through most of the walk and I got to hear all about her new job and her volunteer work with the SPCA. I love hearing people talk about things they’re passionate about. :)

rach and marty

Time with my mother-in-law is a blessing. She and I had some great conversations this weekend that reminded me of just what an incredible lady she is. She is the primary care giver for my father-in-law right now and her strength just truly amazes me. I have learned so much about faithfulness, support, and how to love big from her. She is one of the best people to have in your corner and I’m so thankful to have her in my life.

brothers2Christopher and Michael walking together

Christopher and his brother are only 18 months apart and they were super close growing up. They even went to university at the same time and roomed together all four years. Since growing up and moving to different states, they talk frequently, but don’t get to see each other in person very often. So Christopher loves any chance he gets to hang out with his brother. Sometimes I could close my eyes and listen to the two of them talk and feel like we are back in the cafeteria at university as they talk about their shared interests. So much has changed in the years since we graduated, but a lot has stayed the same. :)

I mentioned earlier that my father-in-law has continued to decline, but there were still plenty of happy moments with him as well. My absolute favorite was when we went to Oktoberfest and he danced with my mother-in-law. This video brings tears to my eyes to see the two of them so happy and playful. Speaking of Oktoberfest… my sister-in-law, Katy, is planning to share more about it on her blog (Katy’s Life Story) if you’re interested in more details. :)

Have you been part of a walk or run that means a lot to you?

Love Rach

The smoothie you need to try

When it comes to breakfast I tend to eat the same thing for months. Oatmeal, cereal, bagels, eggs, waffles, smoothies… whatever it is… I eat it and pretty much only it for months. And then suddenly I wake up one morning and I absolutely do not want it anymore. So I just switch to the next thing in my rotation. For the past two months, I have been on a smoothie kick. Specifically a chocolate, peanut butter smoothie kick. YUM!

chocolate peanut butter smoothie

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie


-1 frozen banana
-3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
-1 carton Oikos Triple Zero Greek Vanilla Yogurt (not a sponsored post – this is just my favorite yogurt! 15 grams of protein, no added sugar or artificial sweeteners!)
-1 tbsp peanut butter
-2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
-drizzle of honey (maybe a teaspoon’s worth? probably less)


Put all ingredients in blender and then blend until smooth.

Pro Tip: You can make this with a regular banana, but it is even better with a frozen banana! And the more ripe the banana, the more sweet. So since I make this every morning, I currently keep a Ziplock in the freezer just for my daily frozen banana (broken into chunks before freezing). I put it in the blender and then replace it with the next ripest banana on the bunch so I’ll have a frozen one for the next day.

You guys, this packs 23 grams of protein into one shake. Which is an awesome start to my morning. It definitely keeps me full longer than some of my other favorite breakfasts have so I’m glad that this has become a favorite of mine. At least for now, until a month or two from now when I wake up one day and I’m suddenly over it. I stay on breakfast kicks for approximately 3-6 months so we’ll see how long this one lasts. I’m crossing my fingers for it to stick around! :)

Do you eat the same thing for breakfast every day? 

Are you a smoothie person?

Love Rach