Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ms. Child and the stress free cook

Cooking can really be an art form, I think Julia Child taught us that.

But cooking can also be a lovely release - after a day of doing things you don't wanna do, and biting your tongue, and dealing with life - you can step into your kitchen and be the creator of your own little universe. And while we all know that the best meals come from "helping" the recipe, and letting your mood and tastes dictate the preparation - letting go so the food can do its thing - I always ride that little power high at first. It feels good.

And this week - Paul and I have every night home together. Which means we get to cook, and eat, and share together. (Three plus years in and I still relish this.)

This week is his in-between-opening-and-closing-nights of the show, and I haven't been feeling the bestest, so we need restorative meals, methinks. I was talking with some friends this week about food and the planning and preparation of it. There were some amazed opinions about my meal with two side dishes and desert .... and here's my secret. Are you ready?

...........(I make a plan.)............

That's it. :) I make a plan, usually on Saturday while I catch up on whatever must see television show is on. This week, it's on Sunday afternoon. And even as I type this, I remember how daunting a plan was at first. What if your schedule changes? Or you don't want what you have planned? How do you know what to put together?

I could write an essay on how I conquered the unknown world of menu making and got here (this place that my momma always seemed to magically inhabit even on the most stressy of days). But it's really a learn as you do type of thing. I do think about three things when I menu-make.

1) How easily/quickly does this meal need to come together so that eating dinner is an enjoyable part of the evening, not a hindrance?
2) Variation! In color, food type, seasoning.
3) What's in my freezer? And what cook book haven't I looked through in a while? (If the recipe isn't memorized, I make sure to include the page number.)

So here, as an example, is my meal plan for this week - which was just scribbled on my notebook.

Sunday: (watching Oscars at Moms--gotta have something quick!) Spaghetti, bread, and salad
Monday: (won't be home before 7) Crockpot roast beef, rice and green beans. Peaches (canned)
Tuesday: Italian bread crumb chicken, potato wedges, apple slices
Wednesday: (will be out most of the day) Fix chicken in crockpot to use in crescent roll ups, stove-top carrots with honey and parsley
Thursday: (work late) crock pot baked beans (need to find decent recipe), french fries, and pork - probably BBQ
Friday: most likely eat dinner at Mom's
Saturday: Chicken flat bread pizza's...or whatever sounds good.

Now, who knows if this will all actually happen...but I have a plan to work from! Which saves tons of time and stress when I get home from work!

What are some of your favorite ways to save on stress when it comes to fixing dinner?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Grace and gravy

Some days you need an easy meal.Especially on a Monday, when you wake up with the weight of the world sitting right between your shoulder blades and you have to go to work anyway. Enter what might be forever referred to as the best "Monday Night Dinner Ever".

I adapted two different recipies that could both simmer away all day in my double crockpot while I worked ever so hard at the office.

(Please note shiny, clean, red dishdrainer washed by Paul Morales. This is as he states, a husbandly, duty. I'm not gonna argue.)

Anyway, basic recipe for Roast Beef and Mashed Potatoes.

Roast beef:

Combine in crock pot, one pound angus skillet steak (the uber cheap kind), with approximately a half can of tomatoes (I used fire roasted ones, don't they sound fancy???), one cup beef broth, pepper and parsley. Cook all day long. (And all those yummy drippings make great gravy!)

Mashed potatoes:

Peal and dice 5 large potatoes. Combine in crock pot with 1/4 cup butter cubed and one and half cups chicken broth. Cook on low seven hours. Get out beaters, and mix in one half cup sour cream and some fresh parsley, beat until smooth.

Seriously - these are the creamiest potatoes and they have very little dairy (yay happy tummy!) and the beef just falls apart on your plate (yay happy jaw!). All in all, the perfect Monday night meal.

And some days, you don't just need an easy meal. You need to reach out to a friend that you haven't spoken to in far too long for all the wrong reasons. And you need to say, "I want to be friends again." And you need to let all the yuckiness between you simmer away until all that is left are two softened, changed people. 

And some days, at the end of the day, you realize that Monday wasn't quite as scary or daunting as you thought it might be. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lil Drops of Sunshine

Granted, this February has been unusually warm, and we've seen the sun on at least 6 separate occasions. But about this time of year my skin gets so thirsty for the sun, and I want something other than root veggies!

Enter lemon coconut cookies. I amended a pretty simple recipe to make these. I had a hankering for something lemon - and Oh. My. Goodness. These hit the spot!


And the best part is, they took all of 6 minutes to mix up!

Coconut Lemon Cookies:

Mix one box of white cake mix with 1/3 cup oil, 2 eggs, 1 cup coconut, and 1/4 cup lemon juice. The dough will be stiff. Drop onto cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes.

                      (FYI: this isn't a picture of my cookies, but they looked a lot like this!)

Then try to eat just one!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Every once in a while you need a magic, fall-in-love-all-over-again night. Like on Valentine's...when you put on fancy shoes, a little extra make up, and go out. Dinner and a movie, chocolate and wine, and flirting.

And I had mentioned, a few days previous, that it was time for a little romance. And I may have vaguely mapped out what "romance" looked like, just so there wouldn't be any confusion. And he did really well, because, well, as I pictured it, romance did look a lot like this:

But I was thinking back over the week - and I wonder how many times I want to trade displays of affection for love? Does it count as real love if I'm not dressed up? If it doesn't come in something shiny? Or look like a scene from a Nicholas Sparks book?

I have always been a big fan of Valentine's Day - single or not. It always meant steak and shrimp at my parents' house, and now it is just another day set aside to celebrate the fun aspects of love with the person I love the most. (And honestly, I'm really partial to lace, which is totally appropriate in all forms on V-day.) 

But I really wouldn't trade all of the in-and-out actions of our week that display our love for each other. Paul taking me to pick up a borrowed sewing machine in the middle of the night (right after he got off work) because I was going crazy not getting a project done. Explaining the new budget to me 7 times...until I entirely understand and am no longer worried about it. Giving up his morning off to help me clean the house. 

As important as those shiny moments are, these are the things that keep us together. This is the self sacrifice that makes a real, life lasting love. And even in those needy moments (when all I think I actually need is some grand display of affection), I wouldn't trade this for anything. This is the stuff that calls me to sacrifice myself for him, to be a better woman the stuff that makes me love him even more.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sizzling Sanity

I think Thursdays were some type-A personality's last ditch effort to cram a little more productivity into the week. I always come home Friday to stuff that really should have been taken care of Thursday (dishes, dog hair, the like) but couldn't be completed, because I was busy Thursday-ing.

Enter stir fry. It does happen to be my second favorite comfort food, but it is also the "I'm okay simmering over here, feel free to continue ________ over there for a bit" meal. It is good for you (to get rid of all those Friday many donuts did you have from the break room today just to get through this last day of work???), it's full of flavor, and makes you feel a whole lot better for staying in, cleaning your kitchen, on a Friday night. It's not a picky entre, and you can use up whatever is left in your fridge.

It's a tad unconventional, but here's my process:

Enter house - greet insanely hyper puppies - pour glass of wine. (Make mental note to buy more wine.)

                                                  (Thanks, Cyd for the picture!)

Wash a couple pots to have something to cook in.

Put chicken on to boil (I know, I know), start rice boiling. Soak chia seeds (yes, like a chia pet. More on those later.)


Leave stove to unpack lunch box, do dishes, make to do list.

Check on chicken.

Do more dishes.

Realize chicken and rice are done. Turn off burners. Put a little peanut oil in large skillet, saute frozen veggies (peppers, onions, carrots, etc). Add some pineapple and juice, and water chesnuts.Sprinkle copious amounts of ginger and parsley over skillet. (You can cook your rice in seasonings too!)

Mix up cake. Pop in oven.

Add chia seeds and water, a little Worschester sauce (out of soy). Mix in chicken and rice. Add 1/5 bottle Kraft Asian Seseme Dressing. Mix well.


Let sizzle.

Fold laundry.


Serve with any type of fruit and whole wheat bread (not sure why the bread, but we always have stir fry with bread!).

Start to finish about an hour....mostly because I kept turning the heat down to work on stuff. But now I'm enjoying my tasty dinner. What do you do to make Friday nights possible? Any easy standbys?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cheating cookies

I love cookies. This may be my biggest vice (my husband might disagree, my hips would not). After surgery, I desperately needed to put some weight back on my bones, and some color back in my cheeks. So I didn't really watch what I ate - if it stayed down, it went in!

Now, I'm not a bad food-good food type of girl. We have to fuel our bodies....we just need to take into account ALL of our body systems, not just our taste buds and digestive tract (but more of that for a different day). So, if I'm gonna eat cookies (and let's just face it, I am) they need to have good stuff in them, stuff my body can actually use.

I've been slowly substituting the ingredients I use on a weekly basis for whole food ingredients. My favorite, by far, is whole wheat flour. My friend, Cydney, and I bought a 50 pound bag of grain, and once a month or so, we (by we, I really mean Cydney's mom) grind (because she's cool like that and has a grinder) grind our grain into flour. It's about the color of sand, and a little stiffer than bleached flour. It probably wouldn't make good Angel Food cake, but it's good for almost everything else. Including biscuits Especially biscuits. If you want to read up on why whole wheat flour is SO much better for you check out Nourishing Traditions: 
 Think building your house with logs instead of styrofoam.

Anyway - I adore Lofthouse cookies. 
Probably not high on the list of "good fuel for you" foods. BUT, if I make them myself and substitute whole wheat flour for bleached flour .... Yeah, you're right, they probably aren't the same. They are cheater cookies disguised as nutritionally empty, but oh-so-delicious drops of heavenlike, carby goodness. But they are good, if a little denser - and you feel better eating them when you make them yourself!

I used this recipe from Two Peas and their Pod: Very simple. Very tasty.

So, it's your turn. What little changes do you make to keep your body healthy and happy?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I have officially kept my 2012 resolutions for 4 weeks. Which means it is now safe to tell people about them!

2011 ended on a pretty unhealthy note. About midyear I found out that I had gallbladder disease, but wasn't able to have surgery until August. I wasn't able to eat normally, or exercise at all. My husband changed jobs and started his last year of undergrad work. So between all the transitions and not being able to really take care of myself, I was pretty pooped by Christmas!

But starting a new year sans gallbladder and a few months into our "transition," it seemed like the perfect time to focus on getting healthy. All of my resolutions this year had to do with focusing on improving all areas of healthy living. Taking care of myself, and my husband and puppies - whether that be what we eat, how we care for our bodies, or our spirits and relationships. We've been so blessed, and I really want to learn to carry these blessings well, to thrive under them.

This blog is going to be my little corner to document these new changes and habits. To process through what works and what doesn't. To have something to look back on and remember where I came from and see where I'm going. If anyone wants to follow along, to comment and document whatever journey you might be on, I'd be glad for the company!