Thursday, December 8, 2016

New York, New York!

I am so lucky to have people that have been in my life forever, and even luckier that same said people invited me to tag along on a trip to New York City at Christmas time.  In my quest to absorb and radiate more Holiday spirit, I knew that this trip was right up my alley.
The tree at Rockefeller Center is a sight to behold.  It is huge!
Make time for the light show at Saks.
The 911 memorial is a breathtaking tribute.
Such a beautiful building, and tall...very tall.
You just have to see a show while you are in the city. We thoroughly enjoyed Paramour, and quite honestly, I wish there had been time to see another play.
Victory Theatre
These boxes are the "pick up" area for your meal from an all cereal {yes, you read that right} restaurant, Kellogg's NYC, that I didn't get to eat at...but I wanted to 👍
My friends...
Their crazy kid.....
And me!

Christmas Spirit Reboot

This is absolutely, positively not the post I intended to write today.  In fact, I have debated with myself whether or not to get this honest about my life when this blog is primarily for storing my recipes and posting meal plans.
The post I wanted to write detailed all the things my son and I got done in a short two hour freezer cooking session, and instead, this one jumped out of my subconscious.  
**Deep breath**

During my childhood, Christmas was always a magical time of year, and became even more magical once I had children. I was, like, seriously over the top.....scavenger hunts, Santa footprints, story reading, cookie baking, carol singing, party going, loads and loads of present buying {each wrapped individually}, stocking stuffing on steroids... anything and everything you can imagine.  My most favoritest activity of all was to get the kids in their jammies on a weeknight {even more special} and ride around town to look at decorations and lights.  Oohing and Aahing is what we lovingly renamed those drives.
   A few years ago, real life problems got in the way and dampened my Christmas spirit leaving me with no desire to participate in the festivities. The most celebrated holiday of all felt like something to "get through"and even though I tried to spark some sort of joy within myself, I failed.  To be brutally honest, I lost the spirit of Christmas....I lost any desire to care about the fluff stuff.  I separated from my spouse, moved, and had serious surgery in the months of November and December.  Smiling and nodding became my go to "look like you are having a good time" move.  When confronted with all the trappings of the season, I only felt more lonely and anxious.  Avoidance was my only clear coping mechanism and might I add, I am quite the expert in that particular area. I did not put up my tree until Christmas Eve {Charlie Brown rejects, and only $5 at Lowe's} and I threw it out the day after the holiday.  I shopped last minute and mostly purchased gift cards due to my lack of creativity and loss of imagination.  I just could not think of anything anyone would even care to have.  I looked forward to January with the fervor of a starving person looking at a juicy cheeseburger {well that is if they eat meat, lol}
This year I am truly trying...I am showing up, making plans, binge watching Hallmark...even if I don't feel like doing anything festive....I am doin' it anyways.  
I decided to trim the tree the day after Thanksgiving for inspiration {while I watched the Gilmore Girls new episodes} and I successfully convinced my family to exchange names for gift giving....SO much easier and less stressful. I find myself thinking of some pretty good ideas and inspiration for all of the members of my family, regardless of who I get in the exchange. {told you I'm trying}   
  I am a pretty private person in general, but... I decided to use this post as a sort of diary or Christmas accountability log this year to keep me on track and to bring myself a little joy.  I am not certain that the holiday season will ever be restored to the level of what was before....but that is okay.  
Life changes us and for myself, I have to be open to what will be....not what has been. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Menu Plan Monday 11/14/16

I need these!
Back at it, I say.

After not posting my menu plan for the last  couple of weeks or so, I am ready to prep, cook, and eat. Even though I only picked up one meal from the deli at my local grocery store, I still feel the need for more vegetables and home cooked foods.....and my freezer is bare.

Here's how we made it through.

Picture of Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup Recipe
I made Split Pea Soup over last weekend, {actually only half of the recipe,} that we ate for lunches, dinners, snacks and everything in between.  I can officially say I am ready for a little variety.

Grilled Cheese in my waffle maker is fantastic....but yet again, I am so ready for variety.

Quesadillas in my waffle maker.  Do you notice a recurring sandwich/cheese theme?

Eggplant Parmesan Stacks are always tasty.  We ate them with a side of MorningStar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burgers for protein.

Everything was vegetarian this week since all of my proteins are frozen and would have taken more energy than I could expend after the busy work week I had.  I am so going to use Sunday to cook up a storm and refill my freezer with a few items.  I find these recipes are perfect for freezing so while it may look that I am filling my freezer with junk food, at least I am controlling the ingredients and preparing these at home which makes them 1000 times better than restaurant food. {at least that's what I'm telling myself}

Here is my plan: All meals to be accompanied by a green salad or vegetable.

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos--We will be having this once for dinner and I will be stashing a freezer meal too.
Tastiest Turkey Meatloaf {new}{freezer}
Grilled Chicken Salad
Homemade Pizza {freezer}
Korean Beef/Chicken/Turkey with Rice
Dijon Basil Marinated Grilled Chicken {freezer}
Lentil Tacos {maybe as nachos}
Peanutty Chicken Pasta  {using PB2}
Crispy Southwest Wraps

Our family celebrates Thanksgiving the Sunday before the actual holiday so my plan for that will be separate this week...I have lots and lots of big ideas but I know that I am short on time {our event is this upcoming Sunday}.  I will be making a ham for the event but I would like to try a recipe for make ahead mashed potatoes, and homemade rolls that can be frozen...or potato salad...or green bean casserole.....or berry pretzel salad....or corn casserole.   The list in my brain is endless it seems.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween Monday Dinner Review

Skillet Braised Pork Chops with a dab of garlic butter {my contribution to the recipe} on top was good..not terrific, but good.
I would probably make them again...but this pork chop is still my number one.  

At least for this year, I decided to be a Halloween Scrooge, so I cooked in the house last night instead of using my grill.  I thought that Molly {my little dachshund}  would be a little quieter if I stayed in the house...yep...nope.

When I realized I was in for an entire evening of nervous barking regardless of my seating choice I decided to read and eat out back on my porch.  I know I've said this so many times recently, but I love this time of year.
Any excuse to be outside is a good excuse....I plan on using them all :)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Menu Plan Monday 10/31/16

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Happy Halloween
In my neighborhood {a small to medium subdivision}, Halloween night is absolutely, over the top, ridiculous in my opinion.  People come from all over town to trick or treat in this self contained area.  They park up and down the main road for a good half mile...yes exaggeration.  As a matter of fact, last year I was on my way back home after dinner and waited for over twenty minutes in traffic inside of the neighborhood to get to my door.  Honestly, I am not a "Scrooge", but I decided this year I am not participating in the madness.  The amount of children {dressed in costumes, sweet and excited} that trick or treat is absurdly low, and the number of teenage girls wearing skimpy outfits and teenage boys with no costume at all, is absurdly high.  Seldom do these older kids even speak when I open the door...they just put their bag/pillowcase/hand out.  This year, I think they should buy their own candy.  True Story.
*Rant Over*

Turkey Mignon
I love my little grill.

Roasted vegetable fried rice with a fried egg on top...not too pretty to look at, but tasty.

I did not get around to posting any meal reviews last week or my upcoming menu this weekend because...guess what?  I have been busy every day since last, last Sunday.  Shopping, appointments, social events...they all seem to come in clusters.  I will have nothing of consequence to do for two weeks straight and then bam....I am out every night. A nice change for me :) 
I ate out only once, so I smushed some quick easy meals in between all of the stuff and managed to use up most of the vegetables on hand.  I ate a waffle sandwich one night, eggs and toast another,  vegetable fried rice, and leftovers from my Mom's house.  We surely did not go hungry but no superstar inspiration either.  My menu ideas for this week are pretty slim though, everything has to be cooked as I do not have any freezer convenience items prepared.  While this means I have a lot of kitchen work to do, it also means that everything I make during my kitchen day will be fresh frozen and last for several months making work night dinner simple.
The weather is lovely right now and I plan to use my grill like a boss over the next few days:

Baked Eggplant Stacks--brought forward...again.
Grilled Chicken {new recipe}
Grilled Pizza with this dough
Out to dinner for a meeting

Have a great week!
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Menu Plan Monday 10/24/16

I love Fall in Florida...festivals happen, sweating ceases {for the most part}, electric bills go down, windows go up and people venture out of their houses to socialize a bit.
**Aaaah..truly my favorite season**

On a different note, it has been necessary for me to have some medical procedures recently and initially I was told to add a few pounds to help with post surgical "give" in the skin.  Never, have I ever, heard a physician tell me to gain weight.  Yep, I complied happily :)
I apparently decided to excel in this venture and went just a little overboard {gaining about eight to ten pounds, depending on the day, instead of the five I had intended}  Now my physician thinks losing what I have gained will help with increasing the surface area that the "give" in my skin created, making it easier to cover a larger area during subsequent procedures{which is a good thing}.  I'll plan my lunches more carefully and instead of eating leftovers, I will eat protein, fruit, nuts etc. I will consume enough food to keep me full, but keep things lighter to compensate for dinners that might be on the high end of acceptable calorie range meals.  Simple ingredients, regardless of how much effort is required the night before will be packed for lunch.  Conveniently, I bought an enormous amount of vegetables from Aldi to have for weeknight I have to prep them. 

Somehow, my Monday menu post keeps turning in to Tuesday posts....I am promising myself to do better next week.

Grilled /Rotisserie Chicken Salad-Loading up on the vegetables
Creamy Basil Chicken Pasta-I will definitely eat a lighter lunch this day.
Eating at Mom's
Roasted Butternut Squash with Grilled Chicken or Split Pea Soup with Homemade Bread

Weekday lunches will need enough protein to keep me running until dinner I'm going to need to get creative.  I'm planning to eat before 6pm each day.  I find that it helps me tremendously to not make 'poor choices' at dinner time.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Grilled Pork Chops Review

The only negative I have found is that brined pork doesn't brown as well on the grill.
Any thoughts as to why?

Finally, I made these chops.  I just didn't give my boy an option.
I am fully blaming him that it took three menu plan postings before 'Grilled Pork Chops' made an appearance on my dinner plate.  Every time I told him that I was making these for dinner it was "Ah Mom, I'm not hungry.  I ate lunch really late." {aka I'm going to run through a drive through} 
He ate two.
Something about the brining makes the pork so much more flavorful and less dried out and chewy...even using thinly cut pieces.  Non brined pork chops are delicious immediately after grilling but do not seem to hold up well, in flavor or texture, when cooled.
I was astonished to find that my lunch leftovers retained the character of last night's meal...the next day.