Working Smart, not Hard with Simplot Good Grains!

I may or may not have mentioned that my husband and I cook the Fellowship Meal for a large church every Wednesday night. We have a lot of diners who are watching their weight and/or trying to eat more healthfully. Because of this, we try to offer things that they can eat and not feel guilty about.

LAST week, we made the tortellini dish that destroyed everyone’s Weight Watcher’s points!  Naturally last night, I wanted to make up for that. Ordinarily this would have involved buying fresh vegetables and a lot of preparation chopping, cooking, serving, etc. However, for the past six weeks, I have been working full time filling in for one of my office mates and catering a number of events, so I opted for a healthy and easy side dish! Operative word: easy.

Enter this stuff:

Ancient Grains & Kale blend

Charlie and I bought a bag of Simplot Good Grains Ancient Grains & Kale Blend a couple of weeks ago thinking we’d see how we like it before introducing it to the church. One of the dishes we make at least one a week are tuna bowls. Usually that starts with a base of either quinoa or couscous. I am not a huge fan of plain quinoa, so if I’m going to eat it, it usually involves my having to saute a lot of things to add into it. Some nights I just don’t feel like doing all of that so these grains were worth trying. We like them very much and find them very versatile! There are only two of us, so one bag of this stuff keeps perfectly in the freezer and we can get about 5 meals for two out of it.

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This is one of our tuna bowl suppers.  Now we sub the couscous base for the Ancient Grains & Kale Blend.  YUMMY!

Which brings me to last night at church. We bought two cases of the Exotic Grains and Fire Roasted Vegetables Blend and then added freshly sauteed chopped onions, red and yellow peppers and a very  large bag of spinach. There are so many roasted vegetables already present in this mixture, that it’s not really necessary to add anything. I just wanted to add my own flair to it. I also happened to have a huge bag of spinach and another bag of chopped onions to get rid of! (Truth) After this, I added soy sauce, one of my favorite seasonings; Lawry’s Seasoned Salt; fresh cracked pepper and a lot of garlic Italian seasoning to taste.

Simplot Good Grains

As I was making this dish last night, my mind was conjuring up all sorts of other dishes that could be made utilizing these wonderful grains. I think they would be awesome to add to salads, wraps, burritos, quesadilla’s and even soups. If you like stuffing vegetables like mushrooms, acorn squash, zucchini or even tomatoes (yes, I know tomatoes are fruits), this brand makes other grain mixtures that would lend well this!

Just the word, “Stuffing” makes me think of Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving makes me think of sage and sage makes me think of sage dressing and that makes me think that roasted butternut squash, cranberries and/or apples could be added to any one of the Good Grains Blends for a delicious Thanksgiving side dish! The possibilities are endless!

In fact, I just thought of another way to make this, Asian fried rice style! Follow all of the directions for making fried rice but sub in whatever Good Grains Blend you like the best! Happy experimenting!


Since last night I was cooking for a huge crowd and seasoning as I go, and since I highly doubt you want a recipe for 100+ people, I will simply tell you to go out and get yourself a bag or two. Heat it up, taste it plain (it’s great) and then start adding whatever it is that makes your palate happy!

PS-some more images:

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Oh You’re SUCH a TART! Tomato Tarts!

A little while back I catered a Birthday party and was asked to be sure and include a vegetarian option. My mind immediately went to these tarts because they are so beautiful (and fun to prepare!). I started researching recipes which resulted in a LOT of tarts being made and sampled! In the end, I made up my own recipe, which I will share with you!

Keep these things in mind as the Holidays approach us. They are show-stoppers at any party and the best part is they can be eaten warm, cold or even at room temperature! (Did I mention they are insanely delicious?) I didn’t really  photograph the entire process, so you will have to rely on the recipe and the instructions at the bottom of the page.

I think there are two stand-out, must-do things when you are making tarts.

  1. Slice your vegetables very thinly, sprinkle them with salt and allow them to hang out on a rack for at least 30 minutes before you assemble. Then pat them with paper towels. You want them as dry as possible.
  2. Pre-bake your crusts. I used pre-made roll out pie crust and also puff pastry. I pre-baked both to avoid soggy tarts. (More instructions on this below.)

 

See what I mean about how pretty they are? Since I was making these for a large party, I also worked on making them full sheet tray sized and they turned out beautifully as well.

 

You will probably wonder why I took the trouble to cut my fresh Mozzarella into hearts when it would melt anyway? My favorite shape is the heart and I just wanted all of the Mozzarella to be uniform. PLUS, it’s pretty, right? I like everything I make to start out from my heart and this certainly did!

 

I wasn’t kidding around when I said I made a TON of these things. Everything you see here are samples that my husband and I either ate ourselves or we gave away to the neighbors until we settled on the tastes we liked best!

 

These that were done with puffed pastry were the winners! The one on the right wasn’t intended to look like this. I was going to make the entire thing covered in veggie roses (you can see a few of them made it) but at the last minute I realized I’d sliced my vegetables too thick. Rather than flip out over it, I made it into an abstract design. I loved it and my clients did, too.  The one of the left was also just delightful; simple zucchini and tomatoes.


Ingredients:

  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 whole Large Onions, Halved And Sliced Thin
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 2 whole prepared Pie Crusts (or 1 Good Sized Homemade Crust) **
  • 1-1/2 cup Grated Fontina Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Grated Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup full fat ricotta cheese (I didn’t say this was low cal!)
  • 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes (I always look for the ones that come in all colors), Washed And Dried (more If Needed) I keep most of them whole but slice some in half if you want to have fun with your design.
  • 6 Roma Tomatoes sliced as thin as possible.(more if needed)
  • 4 Zucchini sliced as thin as possible.
  • 20 whole Basil Leaves, Chiffonade (more if needed)
  • Zest of one or two lemons.
  • a teeny tiny couple of pinches of nutmeg

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the butter, onions, salt, and pepper and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and deep golden brown. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.
After you’ve sliced your veggies, lay them out on paper towel and sprinkle them with salt. Let them sit there at LEAST 30 minutes. After that, blot them dry with paper towels and set aside.

Put both pie crusts together and squish into a ball, knead it to combine them, then roll into one large, thin crust. (Trust me. I tried to use both crusts separate and then pinch them together and it just doesn’t work as well.) Lay onto a shallow quarter sheet pan, a tart pan, or cut in half and use 2 standard pie pans. Add the lemon zest and tiny bit of nutmeg to the cheeses and then sprinkle on in a single layer, then lay on the caramelized onions, then arrange your vegetables in whatever design you like over the cheese.

Bake the tart for 15 to 18 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the crust doesn’t burn. (The tomatoes should be starting to burst apart, with some dark/roasted areas on the skin, and the crust should be deep golden brown.) If the crust is getting brown too fast, reduce the heat to 425 F. Or cover it with foil.

Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the basil all over the top. Cut into squares and serve!

** You can use puffed pastry in place of the pie crust; just be sure to pre-bake it. You will need to use a piece of parchment paper cut to leave about an inch of crust. Then use some dried beans or pie weights so the pastry will not puff up where you want to build the tart.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Onions.

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I first saw these things on Facebook in one of those short instructional videos. I thought they looked delicious and easy.  NOT! While they do score high on the deliciousness scale, and I might try to make them again, stuffing these onions was anything but easy!

First, it took almost an entire bag of onions to get what you see here. Trying to separate the onion skins proved an exasperating task. I found out I am not skilled at this at all and ended up breaking pretty much all of my onion skins. Then once I did have enough, I broke a couple more while stuffing them. Of course, I  now realize they didn’t have to be perfect and I could have just pieced them together in two parts since they were held together by the bacon, but that’s not my style. (The curse I bear in this lifetime is perfectionism.)

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Ingredients:

You can actually stuff these with whatever your favorite meat or meatless mixture happens to be. If you have a favorite meatloaf recipe, use that. If you have a favorite recipe for stuffed mushrooms, use that. You can even sub the meat out and use mushrooms instead if you like. Ground turkey or chicken would be delightful as well. Make it your own!

2 yellow onions
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 Tbsps. cottage cheese
1 Tbsp. spicy ketchup
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 pack of bacon
1 bottle of BBQ sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, crumbs, egg, ½ cup BBQ, parsley, diced onions, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix together with your hands until thoroughly combined.
  3. Cut top and bottom off onion, cut in half and peel off skin. Then separate the onion into “layers”. Use the larger outside layers.
  4. Stuff your Meatloaf mix between two Onion Layers (essentially making an onion seal around a large meatball)
  5. Wrap each “bomb” with 3 slices bacon and secure with toothpicks.
  6. Bake on a sheet pan with a wire rack (see above) at 425 for approx 40 minutes or until internal temp 165.
  7. Add BBQ sauce all over and bake an additional 5 minutes!
  8. Enjoy!

 

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

One of my favorite recipes for feeding a crowd is enchiladas. They are simple, inexpensive, easy to make and they’re delicious. I have made them so many times I don’t even follow a recipe any more. These things are so forgiving, you can put anything in them. They are great to make when you want to make space in the fridge, which is how these happened. I had some onions and peppers I needed to use, so poof: enchiladas!

One of my favorite gifts to give are gifts of food. So we make a bunch of pans of these at least once per month and deliver them to friends and neighbors door-to-door. So fun and ALWAYS appreciated!

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These started by sauteing some onion & red pepper. I always season with  S&P, cumin, and that mexican spice mix we all have!

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Next I season my chicken tenders with S&P, cumin, smoky paprika, garlic, and chili powder, then cook it in my cast iron pan.

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Shred the cooked chicken with two forks.

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Add the chicken to the onions, pour in a can or two of prepared enchilada sauce & a can of drained black beans (because black beans are high in fiber and we love them!) Sometimes I sneak in some fresh spinach or kale. It’s still delicious!

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Don’t forget the shredded cheddar cheese and some adobo sauce for some heat.

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Now the fun part. Start rolling.

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Coat the bottom of the pan with sauce and then fill it up!

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Fill up the pan!

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Top with some more sauce!

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Add some more cheese and cilantro!

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Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

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Serve with fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado slices and whatever else your heart desires!

 

Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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Okay I have had a day to feel better about all of the hatred I observed on my Facebook feed Sunday, so I will go back to my original idea of posting about one of my favorite fall soup recipes: Roasted Butternut Squash soup. I can’t think of anything that is easier, more delicious, festive and comforting than this soup.

I was inspired to make it after having spent the weekend reflecting on my favorite things about Fall for another blog I participate in.

 

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 Veggie’s all cut up, drizzled in Olive oil and tossed in salt & pepper. Easy Peezy.

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After sauteing the onion, I added my stock and other seasonings.

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When the vegetable are ready, I add them to the stock and simmer for about 5 minutes.

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Add the cream, stir and taste. Here is where you might add additional seasoning.

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Puree using an immersion blender, a regular blender or a food processor. Return to pot, I topped with smoky paprika for color, but you could use anything you like-even chopped herbs.


Bobbe’s Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

1 largish butternut squash peeled and cut into chunks

4-5 medium carrots peeled and cut into chunks

1 medium onion chopped

(1) 32oz box of vegetable stock

(1) 15 oz can of chicken stock

¾ c. cream (you can sub Half & Half or leave it out if you don’t do dairy)

3-4 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP Smoked Paprika

1 TBSP cumin

1 TBSP hot sauce (optional) We like Sriracha.

S & P to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400

Assemble carrots and squash on a sheet tray, drizzle with olive oil, S&P

Roast 30-40 minutes or until you see they are browning just a bit.

Meanwhile saute your onions until translucent in a Dutch oven (I use 1-2 TBSP real butter but you can do it in olive oil too) Remember to salt & pepper your onions.

Add stocks and seasonings to onions. Simmer on low while waiting for veggies to roast.

Add Roasted vegetables to the pot

Add cream & stir.

Lastly, puree the soup using an immersion blender. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree using a blender or your food processor.

We like to serve this topped with sour cream, chives, bacon, hot sauce, even shavings of Parmesan cheese; whatever you really like will work, even garlic croutons!

 

 

 

 

 

Low & Slow Scrambled Eggs & a Breakfast Burrito!

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Growing up I was most certainly NEVER an egg fan. The only way my mother could get me to choke even half of one down was to scramble them with more cheddar cheese than egg, which resulted in a greasy pile of orange stuff. (Bring on the cheesy grease pile!) I would then slather it on toast and gobble it up.

Fast forward to adulthood. Eggs are supposed to be the perfect food, especially if like me, you are on a weight loss program. Thought I have tried them every conceivable way -and I have tried with all that I am- I still haven’t been able to really like them. I can force down a deviled egg, eat a fried or poached egg on toast and once I even baked eggs inside of avocados; but I still won’t say I am a fan…UNTIL now.

Recently I was watching the Food Channel, (because as I’ve told you, I am obsessed with food and learning about food). I watched a Master Chef talk about the proper method of scrambling eggs. The way he did it resulted in the creamiest looking eggs, I’d ever seen. The very next morning I tried his method and I haven’t looked back since. I can now say with certainty, that I simply ADORE scrambled eggs!

His method involved using a regular pot instead of a frying pan. You crack your eggs into a bowl and add 1 Tbsp sour cream and whisk until frothy. Placing the pot on low heat, add 1-2 Tbsps butter (depending on how many eggs you are making). Once the butter has melted, add the eggs and wait a few minutes for the first sign of curds forming. Once this happens, you whisk continuously until the eggs set up. (My mouth is actually watering while typing this. Seriously. Who would have thought! )

Here is what the whole shebang looks like:

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Once you have your delicious eggs made, you can gobble them up OR go the extra mile and make a breakfast burrito! This is fast becoming a Sunday tradition for Charlie and me. We love these things!

Assemble the ingredients:

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We like flour tortillas (burrito sized) but you can certainly use corn or whole wheat or even the gluten free variety. I usually microwave each one about 15 seconds before trying to roll them. It makes them more pliable. Then just pile up what you like. I put the eggs on the bottom of mine, but you don’t have to. Here we have eggs, sauteed peppers, onions and corn with raw chopped onion, fresh cilantro, avocado and a dash of pico de gallo. (I think the raw onion and pico add a great texture. (I love a little bit of bite to things.) Then you just roll them up.

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Once rolled, I put ours into a medium-high cast iron skillet coated with coconut oil spray seam-side down. Not only does this seal them up, the little bit of crust adds great flavor and it helps the burrito to stand up to being cut in half.

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All that remains is to remember that you eat with your eyes first, so make a pretty plate!

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¡Comiendo feliz! Delicioso!

(Happy Eating! Delicious!)


Breakfast Burritos Recipe (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • Flour tortillas (4) 8″ or large
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1.5 Tbsp sour cream (or Mexican crema)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 avocado sliced
  • 1 c sauteed vegetables (whatever you like – we used onion, green pepper, red pepper & jalapeno here-sometimes we include spinach or kale)
  • 1/2 c. chopped raw onion
  • 1/2 c. fresh pico de gallo
  • 1/2 c. fresh chopped cilantro
  • 4 Tbsp Sriracha (optional)

Directions:

  • Read above!
  • Scramble eggs
  • Saute vegetables (whatever you like)
  • Warm tortillas in the microwave 20-30 seconds)
  • Spoon 1/4 eggs onto the bottom third of tortilla (see above)
  • Spoon 1/4 sauteed vegetables over the eggs
  • Add cilantro, avocado, onion and pico (plus Sriracha if you are so inclined)
  • Fold the two sides in and roll the burrito
  • Spray a cast iron skillet or frying pan with coconut or vegetable oil
  • Heat to medium high
  • Sear burritos on all sides (1-2 minutes)
  • Assemble a pretty plate! (That’s an order!)

These can be wrapped in plastic, then wrapped in foil and placed in a zip lock freezer bag for later. To re-heat, just unwrap one, place on a microwave safe plate, cover with a paper towel and microwave 30 seconds, then turn over, 30 seconds more, etc…until heated through.

Viva!

 

Cleanse Update, Day 3

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Extra. Extra. Read all about it! I made it through Wednesday and Thursday, the hardest two days of the work week for me! I am so pleased and happy to report that it wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined it might be. Steady as she goes!

The absolute key for me is being prepared. Thursday’s are sometimes really draining for me; which can trigger hard emotions; which in turn trigger me to want to run home and unwind with alcohol. Knowing this, yesterday morning I made a mental note of what steps I would take in order to NOT come home and pour myself a drink.

Let’s just be brutally honest here. I have no problem giving up two meals per day and replacing them with protein shakes. I don’t miss the food one bit. The Usana plant-based protein shakes are fun and easy for me. I like crafting different flavors each day. (This morning I added a tiny bit of almond butter and coconut water to the cappuccino flavor package and the result was delicious.) What I don’t like is not being able to enjoy my wine with dinner. I do not like it at all. So far though, with careful planning, it hasn’t been the huge issue I thought it would be.

Yesterday’s visit with the Parental Units was fun. We talked mostly about all of the dogs in the family and I shared a lot of photos and videos of the animals with them. We also shared a lot of silly stories from years past and the conversation stayed upbeat. (Thank you, Lord.)

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That’s not ketchup, it’s Sriracha. Overdid that a little bit!

On the way home I stopped at the market and picked up some more yogurt and some bath salts and even a little hard candy, just in case I needed it. I admit to feeling pretty crabby by the time I got home. Vodka crossed my mind a time or two or fifty, but I powered through and went to the kitchen to prepared dinner. (Last night we had Mahi Mahi and it was delicious.) Once I’ve eaten dinner and am satisfied, the crazy, wanton thoughts usually subside.

 

We played with the dogs and watched movies until bedtime and it was lovely.

This morning I was rudely awakened with the fact that today is Friday. Friday is always homemade pizza and wine night in our household. I love Friday evenings at home. While I was in the kitchen making my shakes for the day, I was feeling high anxiety thinking about what tonight might bring. One side of my brain kept telling me how much I need to stay the course and the other argued that it’s just one night a week. Yeah, right. It’s NOT just one night a week. If I were to allow myself one cheat night, what’s to stop me from two? I can’t do that.

What helped tremendously was when my beloved hubs came into the kitchen and told me how proud he is that I am sticking to my guns on this cleanse. We decided dinner tonight will be the two filet mignon he brought home a day ago and we’ll make some organic fingerlings and steamed broccoli to go with them. Although it’s not the fish we’d talked about doing, somehow, his encouraging words and the fact that we are switching up our menu brought me comfort. I don’t know why my brain thinks I need to have wine to celebrate the end of the work week. I don’t. There are plenty of other things to do.

You know what else helps? Being able to write this out, publish it and not care who might see it or what he/she may think. Many people I don’t even know have sent me private notes of support and encouragement. I appreciate it so much. Even if no one said a word, having a place to journal thoughts and feelings and ideas is a positive thing.

For a long time I covered myself, guarded my personal thoughts and generally hid anything important to me because people in my immediate circle frowned on my sharing. In retrospect I know it’s the conforming to other people’s ideas of how I should live and what I should share that has held me back and down and covered up in evening cocktails. Not any more.

I took my Day 4 selfie. I still look really tired and despite the fact that my sleep is getting increasingly better, I still feel really tired. I imagine it will take many more nights of uninterrupted sleep to actually feel and look rested, so I refuse to be discouraged.

I remain encouraged. I will stay the course! (And I might even find my way to the gym tomorrow. We shall see!) ♥


Lime-Marinated Mahi Mahimahi-mahi

Ingredients:

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 pinch salt

2 tablespoons lime juice

Zest of 2 limes

2 (4 ounce) Mahi Mahi fillets

Directions:

Preheat a grill pan at medium heat, coat with olive oil (I also use real butter)

Whisk the extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, lime juice, and grated lime zest together in a bowl to make the marinade.

Place the Mahi Mahi fillets in a zip lock bag, add the marinade; allow to marinate at least 15 minutes.

Cook on the preheated grill pan until the fish flakes easily with a fork and is lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Garnish with the twists of lime zest to serve.

 

 

 

 

Cleanse Day 2, Update

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The magic number is six. Six times last night my sleep was interrupted because I had to get up to use the rest room. You would think I would be upset about this. Instead, it’s the exact opposite. It makes me happy.

This is of course, the by-product of the first day of the two-week cleanse. It means to me that my liver is working on cleansing the rest of the body and it’s a nice sign that things are on the right track.

Even though my sleep was interrupted quite a bit, this morning I am feeling more rested than yesterday morning. Better than this, I feel more determined than ever to carry on. I know it’s just the second day, but I choose to take the good feelings as they come. BTW,  I took my “Day 2 selfie” and I can all ready see a very slight difference. (I’ll post those in two weeks.) Joy, Joy, Joy!

Yesterday I planned what to make for dinner well before I got home. I planned what I would do to reward myself for not having a cocktail and for eating a sensible dinner. On the way home from work we stopped at an organic market and I bought myself some bath salts. Last night when dinner was finished, I excused myself to go and take a well-deserved, relaxing, glorious soak. I have always been a bath girl, so treating myself to something special was just the little treat I needed. Once I had my PJ’s on, the feeling that I was missing out on a glass of wine just wasn’t there.

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I told Charlie this morning that I wished I’d bought more than one variety of bath salts, so I would have them tonight when I get home. Tonight will be one of the hardest nights to get through.

Why?

On Wednesday nights, my husband and I work together to produce a Fellowship meal for about 100-150 people who are members of the church where I work part-time. Every week we plan the menu, shop for the food, prepare the meal and drinks, help to serve it and help to clear it away when it’s over. It is an arduous task but I love it, which is why we do it.

Each week I get to work shortly after nine am and do my regular work. (I do the finances of the church.) At 1:15, I change clothes and head into the kitchen where we have until 5:00 to prepare the meal and set up for dinner service. We start serving at promptly 5:15. Like I said, it is NOT an easy job by any means. The pay-off for me is seeing people enjoy something I’ve made. It’s in knowing I worked very hard in the service of others and knowing I’ve given it all of me…and I do. My husband and I joke that, “It is ALWAYS Wednesday!” in our lives. Some weeks it seems to be so.

At some point every single Wednesday between the hours of 5:00 and 6:30 my brain starts to tell me I’ve earned the right to go home, put my feet up and have a few cocktails and usually, this is exactly what I do. (The last thing in the world I want to do is go home and eat dinner after I’ve just spent hours in the kitchen.)

Tonight will be a challenge and I admit to feeling a wee tinge of anxiety. The plan, however, is to force myself to eat dinner before leaving church so I will be full and will not want anything else. Writing this blog helps me to stay accountable too, because I hate to fail and I hate to lie. I don’t want to have to come back here and report that I cheated. I refuse!

Back to last night: For dinner this week, we decided to try to consume mostly fish and fresh vegetables. Last night’s fare was salmon that we picked up on the way home, coconut rice, mango salsa and freshly steamed broccoli.

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My plate last night.

 

I was shocked that I enjoyed the rice because I am not a fan of coconut, but it was lovely. (Recipe is below).

I will check back tomorrow to report on how I did this evening. Pray for me.

 

 

 


Coconut Rice

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This was Charlie’s plate last night. Mine is above. I’m not that fancy.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups Jasmine Rice

1 1/2 cups Coconut Water

1 cup unsweetened Coconut Milk

1/2 Teaspoon Salt (I used a little more)

3/4 Teaspoon White pepper

Directions:

Rinse and drain the rice in cold water. Place in a saucepan with the coconut water, coconut milk, and salt & pepper. Place the pot over high heat and, bring the liquid to a boil. Stir and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pot tightly with the lid. Continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Ideas:

When I make this again, I will tweak it and add herbs and zest depending on what I am making. Last night I was wishing I’d put some lime zest in it, but it was still really light and delicious!

 

 

 

Day 5 Progress Report. God Sees.

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Amazing grace, I made it to Friday! Wednesday and Thursday were really hard days for me, but I had armed myself with my “plan-ahead” weapons, so I made it!

To recap: Monday I began a two-week jump-start project which I am calling, “return-to-me”. For two weeks I am working on rehabbing my tired body, mind and spirit. For me this means more prayer, replacing breakfast and lunch with protein shakes, eating a healthy dinner, limiting alcohol and writing (because it feeds my spirit.)

I knew Wednesday and Thursday would be  trigger days for me because they are the most stressful of each week. Wednesdays my hubs and I work until 1:00 PM and then we head into the kitchen of a local church, where we create, serve and clean up after their Fellowship Meal. Usually this meal serves about 100 people, but sometimes it can rise to 150. This week we served pork tenderloin.

So you get the idea, it’s laborious, but glorious. I always go home smiling when the people are full and they’ve loved the meal. (In case you are curious, the sides were wild rice and a veggie medley of carrots, broccoli and cauliflower with a three bean salad or coleslaw plus cake and brownies for dessert.) We aren’t playin’!

My Thursday afternoons from 1 until 4:30 are spent with my aging parents. While I am so grateful both of my parents are still here on earth for me to visit, it can be hard at times. (This is a story for another blog, though.) I usually arrive home emotionally drained in some form or fashion.

The problem for me on both of these days is that we have fallen into the habit of evening cocktails on these nights. Everything is so stressful, it’s a nice feeling to get home, change clothes, flop in our favorite chairs and sip on whatever it is that we’ve decided upon for that night-sometimes it’s wine; sometimes it’s vodka; sometimes other things. The bottom line is, this is what we’ve done for years, so it’s a habit that we equate with “reward”.

I knew this would be an issue at the beginning of the week so I intentionally prepared for it. Wednesday morning I woke to my usual prayers for strength and perseverance, then I wrote in my prayer journal. I planned to eat a meal at church just before going home so I would be full. Even with all of this, the drive home a battle raged inside my mind.

“Just one won’t hurt.”, said my ego.

“You made a commitment! And you’ve prayed to God, too! If you do this, it’s like you are quitting on God, ya know. You have to give Him a chance to work.”, said my heart.

“Drat! Blasted Heart! But still, you don’t have to do this all at once, ya know.”, said Ego.

“If not now, when? I’ve prayed over this and over it. God will help me fight you when I get home, now shut up.”, said Heart.

“Still”, Heart thought silently, “What if I fail yet again? Why can’t I just do this?”.

When we arrived home, I went straight upstairs opting for a long, hot bath, which has always been a source of comfort. While I was in there I prayed again for strength and I thought about just what I was asking for and why. (Aren’t I worthy of having the life I was intended to have? I am. It’s up to me to do the work in order to get back there. I’ve let things go for TOO long-taking care of everyone else. It’s time for ME. If not now, WHEN?)

So I went downstairs, had a banana, flopped on the couch and turned on a comedy show. Later, I went to bed happily thanking God for seeing me through the day.

Last night, having battled through Wednesday night, I knew what to expect out of that darned ego-talk. Even though I was prepared the same as the night before and EVEN though I knew Friday was slated to be “cheat night”, as far as dinner and cocktails are concerned, it was still THE hardest time I’ve had. I went to my parents per usual, then stopped at the grocery on the way home (my happy place) in order to select something I’d like to cook for dinner. (This is my way of tweaking the usual routine.) I even went so far as to go to a market I do not frequent. I selected some nice filets, fresh asparagus and I planned on serving the last of the fresh squash I’d made nights before. I even bought two tiny cheesecakes as a treat. Then, I stopped at Redbox and rented a funny movie as a non-food, non-alcoholic activity.

Still, when I arrived home the temptation to throw it all out the window, met me right at the front door. Blasted demon ego!

“Look, you made it past Wednesday! Isn’t THAT enough? You are stressed and sad. You can make up for this later. Next week you can tackle Thursday over! Have a drink. If it makes you feel better, you can skip dinner!”, Ego quipped as if it were nothing.

This time my heart was silent. Instead, I thought of what I’d written in my journals to God. I thought about what I really want. I thought about why I started this in the first place. I thought of starting over and over and over again, never making it over the hump.

“Darn it. This is ridiculous. I am worth MORE than sitting on the stupid couch with a stupid cocktail.”, said Heart.

Just then, I remembered I’d ordered a special herbal bath potion to soak in. Walking to the mailbox I told myself if it was there, I’d use that as my reward. It was.

Determined, I went back into the house, made a nice salad, and sat down and ate it so I would not be hungry while I prepared dinner. After dinner, I headed up the stairs and took a glorious, “I DID IT” soak!

And so here I am today. It’s Friday. (Tonight, I get to have wine and homemade pizza and it doesn’t even feel important any more.)

As I reflect back on the work-week, I am reminded of what I have always known: when I suit up and show up and do the work with God in front, miracles happen. God isn’t just for the big stuff, He’s here for us for all things and He responds in all sorts of wonderful ways. There is something to be said for journaling thoughts, hopes, dreams, prayers etc. to God. (I think it cements things in the heart more securely.) Is it necessary to do so in order to communicate with God? Absolutely not. (In fact, I’m sure there are some people out there who will be offended that this is one of the ways I choose to be connected. Oh well.)

Having said all of this, I am fully aware that after tonight, I still have to go through Saturday and Sunday in order to truly say I had a successful week. (This is a Holiday weekend so I know it will be a little harder.) These days I really am trying to keep focused on the day at hand. While I do plan ahead,the object is to keep my emotions and my determination centered on “one-day-at-a-time”.

So color me grateful. I know God sees me and I like to think He’s happy with my tiny bit of progress. I am feeling joyful beyond measure! The bonus factor that I knew when I began this is that I’m feeling closer to God than before. Lest you think all I do is pray about getting through these two weeks, among other things, I also pray that my relationship with all things spiritual, especially God, continue to strengthen. It’s working.

NOTE: Although I missed a couple of days blogging, I am still here, and I am not going anywhere. Admittedly, this is a lot of harder to do than my blogs of days-gone-by where I had a set routine and outline to follow each day. I WILL persist!

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So you have a visual, here is a photo of the tiny journal I keep in my purse. I pull it out and write in it whenever and  I have something on my heart. (The first page I always use for my favorite verses.) When I get home later, I’ll photograph the book I use there. It’s similar but large. The one below is about five 1/2 inches by 3 and 3/4″. It fits perfectly inside my purse.

FullSizeRender (1)                    FullSizeRender (2)

BTW, if I talk about food, I will always leave the recipe here:


Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:

  • (2) 1/2 lb Tenderloins (1 package of tenderloin has two 1/2 lb tenderloins inside)
  • 4 tablespoons
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Any seasoning blend you like. I used a prepared one that had garlic, lemon, oregano, chili pepper etc.) You can even use prepared rubs OR just make your own with whatever you like–you want enough to coat the Tenderloin all over.
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • Kosher salt (to taste)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • On a baking sheet, sprinkle each tenderloin with the balsamic vinegar. Rub it into all sides.
  • Drizzle olive oil and rub into all sides.
  • Coat with your seasonings (or prepared rub)
  • Let the pork sit for up to 20 minutes prior to cooking.
  • Roast in hot oven for 20 minutes. If it still gives a lot to the touch, flip it and let it go for 6-8 minutes.

Meanwhile:

While the pork is cooking, to a sauce pan add the following:

  • 1 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. honey

Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Let the sauce reduce by half until it will coat a spoon. When your pork comes out, drizzle it over the top prior to serving.

Grateful Heart stays the course.

happy-heart

Good grief, it takes so little these days to truly MAKE my day. Yesterday I posted the second little blog I’ve done in years. It was with a bit of trepidation, because I am such a perfectionist! (I have a hard time showing anything that I do not deem to be my personal best.) I did it though, because I am attempting to challenge myself in new ways; ONE of which is to relax my standards a bit. (Who am I kidding, that’s really never going to happen the way it sounds! ha ha) It’s probably better to say I am currently challenging myself in all sorts of new, uncomfortable ways.

Anyway, before I hit that “publish” button, I held a silent pep-rally for myself.

“It doesn’t matter-no one is going to see this anyway. It’s just practice. You can share the links later when you are back in the saddle, etc.”.

Soon after I hit that button, I left my home office determined not to think about it again; just happy I could cross, “write something” off my list.

Then last night something happened. I started getting email notifications that people were subscribing to and liking this blog. I nearly cried. It’s such a small thing, but truly, I am so grateful. It’s the little things that count, right? ♥

So with this tiny boost to my heart, I was able to get through last night without veering from my current eating plan. (Protein shake for breakfast; chalky protein shake for lunch; sensible dinner.) Instead of my planned menu, I made perhaps the best meatloaf I’ve ever made in my life (recipe below), steamed broccoli and regular baked potatoes. The plan had been to make naked burgers and sweet potatoes, but I wasn’t feeling it. (Also, long about four PM, I was starting to have food fantasies, so I made a salad of romaine, tomato, artichoke, onion and light Caesar dressing. It hit the spot.)

(Did I fail to mention I’m a foodie? I probably should have said something. Soon you’ll be seeing photos of my creations!

Tonight is the biggest challenge of the week. Wednesdays are always hard as my hubs and I cook the Fellowship meal for a hundred church people each week.  (Of course today, I FORGOT to pack my lunchtime caulk – I mean shake- but that’s not the real challenge.) Wednesday’s we get into the kitchen around 1PM. Dinner is served promptly at 5:15, so it’s a lot of running around in between. (Did I mention it’s four thousand degrees in the kitchen right now?) The challenge comes when we hit the door at home and it’s almost 7PM and we’re tired. The last thing I want to do is eat, but we’re so wired from working, we don’t want to just lie down either. So what do we do? Usually Wednesday night we have a well-deserved, delicious celebratory cocktail. Not tonight.  I made a vow to stick to this program for 2 weeks, so no imbibing for me this evening.

How will I manage? Determination, dedication and prayer and lots of it. This morning before I got out of bed, I had my morning convo with Jesus. Later, when I went downstairs, I got out my prayer journal and wrote for a while. It’s making a huge difference. There is something to be said about keeping prayer in the forefront of your heart. There is something to be said about keeping a journal just for prayers and intentions. For me it feels as though it’s written on my heart as well as in that journal and it helps me STICK to the PLAN!

Tomorrow I will start to include photos of the things I’m talking about in the hopes that you are currently in the midst of a challenge, you might think about the things that are working for me and give them a try! (I even keep the cutest mini journal in my purse for times when I feel I need a boost. Yes, I do jot down notes and prayers to God there. You’d be surprised at how often the answers come in all sorts of ways.)

OH and…ALSO tomorrow, I have to share the coolest thing EVER…one of my new favorite things…a piece of art that someone rescued from a dumpster for me! (perks of working part-time for a church!) Stay tuned!!

If you are following me, THANK YOU! You make my heart smile! If you have a blog, I will be visiting soon!


Best little Meatloaf Ever 

meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef (we had a grass-fed 80/20 on hand so that’s what I used)
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (I had organic pizza sauce on hand so I used that)
  • 1/2 minced onion
  • 1/4 grated Parmesan
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 3/4 c. steel cut oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Dash or two organic ketchup for the top (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine all ingredients (except the optional ketchup).
  • Press into a 8″ x 4″ loaf pan, top with a slathering of organic ketchup if you so desire.
  • Bake 45 minutes.

This recipe will serve 4 – 6 people depending on how large you like your slices. Since it’s just my hubs and I, he will have leftovers for a couple of lunches!

PS-I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Internet.