Friday, April 8, 2016

Eat Well, Love Often

I'm pulling the plug.

I've thought about it. A lot. I mean almost daily for nearly a year. I have really enjoyed my time here, but I feel now is the time to stop, since I just can't seem to start again.

Here are a few things that have gone into my decision making:

My family won't even read my blog. It's true. "I don't click on links" was one half hearted excuse. Once when I have attempted to share a recipe and mentioned it's also on my blog I have been actually scoffed at. I know its because they have some sort of weird opinion about what a blog is, but I would assume they don't have a weird opinion about what I am. Evidently they do.

A good friend of mine actually tried to interest me in her monthly meal planning endeavors. I thought I was being "punked". I wanted to say, "Don't you remember I have been meal planning since before we started being close friends?"

Even my husband stopped reading my blog. Yep. I can't even keep him interested and he's the one eating the food.

My kids don't eat the meals I interrupt my work to prepare and pack for them before heading out to some event, like baseball games or practice. My son last night ate pistachios and an ice cream sandwich for dinner. His Thai Zoodle bowl sits in the cooler untouched.

I can't honestly say I have the same zest I once had for writing about meal planning. I use to do research and share about why eating well is important. Now I'm literally a big fat hypocrite. My weight is out of control, I don't sleep restfully and I look like hammered shit 99% of the time. We still eat healthy meals, that hasn't changed. But, it seems my body has. I am not projecting the healthy lifestyle portrait I feel the writer of this blog should have.

I have stopped prioritizing writing. You are as busy as you allow yourself to be. I understand that. The pressures of life have made me feel that my new fabulous job should get all my creative inspirations and that I need to use my allotted 24 hours more wisely.

So, here is where I say goodbye.

Thank you to anyone who has read my blog in the past. Continue your meal planning endeavors. You have the tools.

Monday, February 8, 2016

I Made Spring Rolls

The husband decided we should pack the kid’s lunches. He was really unhappy with the offerings from the school districts nutrition plan not to mention the kids weren’t eating the majority of it. The kids got new lunch pails for Christmas so it was really a good time to try out “cold” lunch. I begged off because I did not feel I could do lunch and dinner and keep sane. The husband took the reins.

The kids and I looked at some different ideas for lunches. Without getting Bento box crazy it was important to try to give them a little variation. So we decided to make Spring Rolls one day. And guess what!? It was easy! Like ridiculously easy. Like, why do I pay five times this much for this at a restaurant – crazy easy.

We found the rice paper wraps in the ethic food isle at our local grocery store. You can make Spring rolls using any variation of ingredients you want. Here is a NOT all inclusive list of options:
Cooked Shrimp
Rice noodles
White rice
matchstick Carrots
Bamboo shoots/ mushrooms
Bell peppers
Roasted red peppers
Bean sprouts
Water chestnuts
Black olives wedges
I used the ingredients listed on the column on the left to make my spring rolls. The most labor intensive part is cutting all the veggies. The packaging didn’t come with any sort of directions for the rice paper sheets. I guess they assume everyone knows what you are supposed to do. However, because I live in the day and ae of the internet directions were not hard to come by.
All you have to do is cover it in water for about 20 seconds and ta-da! The gal who learned me up via her blog told me I should also probably use two sheets. And! To use a wet towel. So I did. Soak 2 sheets in water for 20 seconds, add the ingredients and roll!!
They were so good! I made several because I had chopped so many veggies. I sent the kids with one each and some sweet and sour sauce. I enjoyed mine with a slightly spicy ginger sesame sauce. YUM!
Next week the daughters Girl Scout troop is coming over for a meal planning session and we are going to make them with the girls. It should be fun!
Now for this week’s menu:

Beef short ribs
Bay leaf
Cremini mushrooms
Beef broth
3 cloves Garlic
Onion , parmesan
Salt, pepper anise
1 sprig Rosemary
Butter, red wine
Served with Polenta and Green beans
My Two cents: I do not understand the allure of beef short ribs. They were expensive, they didn’t have very much meat, and you had to work through grizzle to get to the meat that was there. Not something I would choose to make again. The sauce was good, and I’m sure it would make for some delicious flank steaks.

Sliced ham
Honey, flour
Biscuit dough
Swiss Cheese
Chicken stock
Half & half
Cheddar cheese
nutmeg, salt & pepper
My Two cents: This was fun. Soup and a stuffed biscuit for dinner. This allowed the soup to be the star of the show and still provide a meat protein option in my “side”. The soup was good, the kids too left overs for lunch the next day.
I'm sorry! It looks like I don't have a photo to share!
Bay leaves
Garlic, onion
Beef stock
Brown sugar, flour
salt & Pepper
Served with: Mashed potatoes and creamed spinach
My Two Cents: I messed up. I could not find a roast in the freezer. God as my witness there were no roasts! The husband found one upon his inspection. I guess there is a first time for everything. I used a package of what I guess was venison cuttings. No real cuts of meat, just hunks. So depending on the hunk you got it was either tender and flavorful or chewy and not worth the effort. This simple marinade packed more flavor than the short ribs sauce.

Dijon Mustard
Serve with Rice and Carrots
My Two Cents: I love curry! And it takes a very good recipe to make a curry dish come out just right. With this one, there is a bit more flexibility. The curry isn’t the star, it shares the spot light evenly with the Dijon and the honey, so it still packs the curry flavor without bordering on over whelming.

Soy sauce
Vegetable oil
Worcestershire Sauce
Lemon juice
Brown sugar
Served with edemame and Outback molasses rolls
My Two Cents: Simple marinade that makes for some delicious chops! This is definitely a must try recipe. In other news I screwed the pooch on the Molasses rolls. I decided to use my bread maker so I could do the 10 million other things on my to-do list. It did not rise, it came out very dense. So sad! I love that bread at Outback!
Eat Well, Love Often!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Making Time

Every seven weeks or so I go to the hair dresser for some reblonding and to cut my style back in. This is 2 1/2 hours of me time. Downtime. Time away from responsibilities.  
It was during this time this last weekend that I read an article in the November issue of MORE magazine on Making Time for Yourself.  
Source: MORE November 2015

It had some very good points that reminded me of a few things as well as some stats. It will come as no surprise that we spend too much time on social media, however could you guess that 35 million people update their status daily and the average person posts around 90 things in a month?
First off, thank you for spending your precious few minutes here with me. Secondly, and slightly less important, we make the choice to do so.
We work more now than they did 50 years ago, and with modern conveniences that are supposed to give us back our precious time. It's there, we just choose to spend it on some other busy task.
I lay in bed at night and think about everything I need to get done instead of what I have done. Work, kids, house, food, bills, ....wait? Is tonight garbage night? 
Time is money, honey and therefore you'd better not squander it. Raise your hand if you responded to an email while on the toliet? The 'Be Here Now' mantra takes on a different meaning then.
I use to take one Friday each month as a Jen Zen day. No obligations, just what I wanted to do. I miss that rtitual.  Have you ever wondered how you made time to read that novel last month but don't have time to call and ask how your BFFs life is going?
The article speaks about the minds need to be idle and how we should let it out to wander now and then. I always thought the premises of meditation was to clear your mind of all thoughts. But now I believe I can reflect, day dream and allow it to persue it's own path. 
From this a raises inspiration!  This must be why showers are a secret muse. No notifications or alerts or agendas. Just you, hot water and a clear mind. I feel like I could solve the world's problems if the hot water would hold out.
Now that I have THAT written and off my mental To Do list, I can share this week's menu!

Turkey Lasagna

My Two Cents: Turkey meat can be a little flavorless, so its best to season it while cooking. This is a leaner version of lasagna for when you are craving the heartiness of this meal without all the fat. The spinach and mushrooms add another layer of flavor. The family enjoyed it. You do need to carve out a bit of time however, as the prep work takes about 30 minutes. And left overs are always better than the origional!

Egg Drop Soup

My Two Cents: I had so much fun making this! It came together so fast, and it really hit the spot since I was in the throws of a head cold. Makin the ribbons of egg was fun and super easy. The kids liked this and I had enough left over for lunch the next day.

Orange Beef Stir Fry

My Two Cents: I used some venison steaks for this and mandarin oranges. The venison was very tender and the sauce was very good. Could have been a little thicker in my opinion. The daughter said she didn't care for this. The son said he enjoyed it. 

Forgotten Chicken

My Two Cents: I wasn't feeling well, so I tossed this all together and threw it in the oven. The family loved it. I had some later and it was very flavorful. They sauce the sauce with this was very yummy. One of those one pan wonders.

Shrimp Enchiladas

My Two Cents: These were so good! But very rich. They had a wonderful flavor but with all that heavy cream and sour cream, our tummy's just aren't use to that. We topped the enchiladas with black olives. The daughter said she wasn't a fan but the rest of us all loved it. The big shrimp were delightful.

Broccoli and Ranch Chicken Skillet

My Two Cents: This is one of my favorite meals this week. It has everything I love. This is a fast and easy meal. I used couscous instead of rice since we had had rice twice already. The smoky flavor of the bacon complimented the ranch flavors in this low fat dish.

Do yourself a favor, write up a menu for the week then fold some laundry away from the TV and leave your phone on the table. See where your mind takes you.
Eat Well, Love Often!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Budget Envy

Ahhh January. The crisp cold air. A grey dark hue covers the land puncuated by sheets of rain and a wet socks. The dismsal state can even be seen in the worn torn vast emptiness of our wallets. Debit and credit cards that once gleamed like bright beacon of retail hope lay dull and lifeless in their leather clad slot. Now weeks after the gift giving has rendered them nearly useless.

We resolve to be budget wise and save our pennies for a trip to a far off land where vitamin D hangs in the air like plump heavy peaches ready to be plucked and soaked up by our pale puffy bodies. After so much over indulging we vow to 'eat right' but baulk at the cost of the natural and organic food prices.

I know. I know how it feels. But better than downing a box of year old Girl Scout cookies, there is a way to pad your budget AND eat better.

Meal Planning.

It's true! Think about it a second. How much time do you spend at the gorcery store looking for something to make before throwing in the towel and picking up a rotissorie chicken and Hawiian rolls? (Wow, that's oddly specific. -I told you, I know. I've been there.)

There are several different ways to meal plan. There are websites (blogs!), boards, subscriptions, calendars, spinners and spreadsheets available for anyone with a search engine. Try something out, see what works best for you.

The basic formula is: Plan ahead = less $$ out of pocket + better meal choices

And as a extra added bonus, you get a little more time! The most precious of all things. Who couldn't use a little more time?

Below I shared with you my meal plan from last week which includes photos and our review. If it sounds good, add it to your meal plan for next week. Pin it, bookmark it, print it - whatever you need to do. Then, fill in theblanks with some of your favorites. Better yet, see what's already in your freezer and pantry and make a menu from there first!

Now, for this weeks menu:

French Onion Chicken Noodle Casserole

My Two Cents: Easy, tasty and liked by all. Perhaps not the best for you. I would not say this is low fat by any means. But it is a nice tummy filling home cooked meal, and I call that a win. The kids loved the cheese crust. I served this with a side of peas on pearl onions.

Beef Chow Fun

My Two Cents:  Woo Hoo! Fun time. LOL, not any more fun than a normal beef stir fry, but maybe that's my fault. I used venison for the meat which made for some very tender meat strips. I always love an opportunity to get out the wok!

Citrus Shrimp with Rice

My Two Cents: This is a light and low fat meal, high in protein. This was good, and good for us. We have been so use to feeding ourselves to stuffed, it was nice to have a lighter meal. It was not overly citrus-y, even with the lemon, lime and orange juices.

Mustard Balsamic Pork

My Two Cents: I used thick cut boneless pork chops and I loved this meal. So much great flavor and sautéed veggies.Make sure to cut your Brussels sprouts thin because they take a lot of time to cook to soft, and you risk over cooking your meat.

Venison Goulash

My Two Cents: This was a hearty and filling meal. Using lean venison made this good for you along with the veggies. I added a few of my own to the pot. The venison was very tender and the flavors were very complimentary of each other.
Smokey Ham and Potato Corn Chowder

My Two Cents: OMG, this was soooooo good! Definitely the most Rockin' meal of the week. I was sick with a head cold so I totally needed a yummy soup to smooth me. But I also forgot to post it on Instragram! Insta-No!No! Try this, you will thank me!

Eat Well, Love Often!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sir Wellington of the House of Yams‏

Our first Christmas in the new house was delightful. I was able to hang stockings on my fireplace mantel, which was a treat since my old fireplace had no mantel. And we hosted Christmas Dinner.
Since this was our first formal gathering at the new place I was very excited to see how well everything flowed in the new kitchen. I put it to the capacity test for Cookie Palooza 2015, now came the functionality test. I am happy to report things went very well.
In the planning stages of dinner I was brainstorming with my family on the menu. The husband offered up tri tip from the grill and baked yams. Whereas that sounds tasty, I really didn’t “feel it”. At the risk of sounding snooty, I really felt like a Christmas dinner should be a culinary display of a specialty that you wouldn’t generally get on any given Sunday supper. I expressed this wrong in the moment and everyone ended up irritated.
Luckily a day or so later, the husband had found his way through the weeds to my true meaning and relinquished the menu to me. Baked yams being his special request. With no real inspiration to guide me I went in search of Christmas dinner traditional meals on my favorite websites and found my muse. Individually wrapped Beef Wellington. “Oh, yes. I will make this”, I thought to myself. After that the rest of the menu flowed and with my meal plan complete I packed up the kids and headed for the bulk food store.
I had found a couple of inspiring recipes which I merged to make my own. I was not really willing to subject my guests to liver pate so I opted to make a mushroom and onion version for the layer between the beef and the puff pastry. One recipe called for filet mignon and the other stated they used a large tenderloin.  Which is where filet mignon comes from, so it’s is really one in the same.
I found a nice looking tenderloin and asked the internet how many pounds I would need to feed 10 people. Got a wide array of responses and finally hefted a big ‘ol 8 pounder into my cart. Went and loaded up on three boxes of puff pastry and almost died when my total came out to be just under $100.00. It seems shocking until you do the math and realize I am feeding 10 people.
Christmas day arrived and after all the unfurling of gifts and packaging we set to work. The recipes stated we could sear the cuts of meat, wrap them and refrigerate them prior to baking and serving, so I opted for the prior preparation. The husband got to work trimming fat and silver skin and what came from that huge tenderloin was a gorgeous, lean cut of meat. He sang the praises of this buy and stated that this was definitely something to remember for future parties. I think he wound up cutting 12 nice thick filets from the tenderloin.

He then seared both sides of the filets on high heat on the grill keeping the cuts very rare. I prepared the mushroom and onion pate in the food processor and cooked the water out of it in a skillet of butter. I placed each plump filet on a sheet of puff pastry and cut a radius around them. Placing some pate under each filet I think wrapped them in the puff pastry and glazed them in an egg wash. My daughter cut shapes from the excess pastry to make designs on the top, then applied more egg wash. We covered and refrigerated them until it was time to bake them.
Wrapping the filet in puff pastry
Cutting shapes
The end result was beautiful and delicious. Great Grandma stated she hadn’t had Beef Wellington in many moons and no one left hungry.
Below I share with you our Christmas Dinner Menu. But, please do not wait until next December to try this. It would make a wonderful birthday, Valentine’s or Sunday Supper meal plan as well.
Doz eggs
4 oz cream cheese
Can of salmon drained
10 grape tomatoes
2 tbsp mayo
2 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 ½ tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp relish
¼ tsp lemon grated peel
Salt & pepper
My Two Cents: Everyone was a big fan of the Hot Artichoke dip. I also put out some goodie treats from Cookie Palooza. The eggs were good, but I would not recommend keeping the leftovers. 
Main Course:
I combined two recipes to get what I ended up with...
fillet steaks (about 6ozs each)
Thyme leaves
Garlic oil
Red wine
Puff pastry dough
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons milk
My Two Cents: Everyone had nice things to say about the main course. They looked beautiful as well as tasted delicious. I felt mine was a little over cooked. The recipe states to bake at 425 degrees which made me nervous, so I lowered the temp. That was my mistake. It took longer for the puff pastry to turn golden brown and therefore the meat cooked more. It was still very tender and I loved the pate surprise inside! It added a layer of flavor. 
Side Dishes:
2 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ tsp black pepper
8 cups Green beans
2 2/3 cup French Fried Onions
Cool whip
Cottage cheese
Mandarin oranges
Pineapple tid bits
1 tsp olive oil
2 shallots finely chopped
½ cup fat free ricotta
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp ginger
1 tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup grated Parmesan
1 ½ tbsp. sage
My Two Cents: I tasked the mom in law with the fluff and the green bean casserole. And asked my BFF Matt to bring the Slow Cooker Cream Corn, because he does it so well! For the yams I set out the toppings for the individuals choice. I was the only one who chose the ricotta, I think. And I really don't think I would do that again. Brown sugar and butter are the way to go.  It wasn't bad but it wasn't great. Everything turned out well and I definitely felt the pains of overeating that night.
Eat Well, Love Often!