Focus vs distraction

What you focus on expands. What you focus on grows. – Author unknown.

That’s probably paraphrased, because Google was no help. I’ve seen this on vision boards and Pinterest, and it has stuck with me.

So how do you keep yourself from feeling perpetually distracted? Feeling pulled in many directions? How do you pick what to give your focus, and after you decide, how do you stick to it? I hope some of you have some answers to share. My solution for the time being is to start running outside again vs the dreaded treadmill, try to be present and thankful, and keep up this whole meal plan routine.

  • Monday Faux Chicken Parmesan-sautéed chicken, pasta, and red sauce combined & topped with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Served with asparagus.
  • Tuesday Personal sized meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans.
  • Wednesday Coconut milk curry chicken & veg (onions, garlic, celery, carrots, snow peas) over rice, garnished with fresh cilantro.
  • Thursday Brats. I’m going to try my hand at homemade brat buns, but I’m a bit skeptical about getting it to be the right size. Sides of buttered corn on the cob, and broccoli slaw with shredded cheddar cheese, apples cut into match sticks, balsamic dressing.
  • Friday Smoked beef sausage (sliced & seared) with peppers/onions/garlic (pan deglazed with beef stock, add butter and stir/reduce to make a sauce), toss in penne pasta & season with salt & pepper. Sauteed broccoli on the side.
  • Saturday Greek Chicken Salad! This is finally happening again, and I am so very excited. Sauteed chicken thigh with lemon pepper seasoning/garlic, rice with lemon/dill/feta, roma tomatoes, cukes, quick picked thin sliced red onion, and pre-fab greek dressing. Topped with more feta & pita chips for croutons. Prep for Easter dinner.
  • Sunday Easter feasting. Brunch with all the fixns. Dinner with extended family.

 

Advertisements

Building a routine

When I first started posting my menu plan, I wasn’t sure it was actually helping anything at all. The first week, I just kind of made myself do it. The second week, I had fun adding variety. The third week, I was amazed that I was *actually* sticking to it and decided that this would be a regular “thing” in my life.

This whole menu planning routine I’ve created is awesome. And I love it. Since starting to plan out my weekly menu, here are the benefits:

  1. I’ve barely spent any time staring at the fridge with that blank I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-to-make look on my face.
  2. We’ve had more variety, without me even learning that much “new” stuff. I had kind of felt like I was in a boring cooking/eating rut, but now that it’s all laid out I can easily make sure I’m not repeating stuff too much
  3. I have all the ingredients in advance- no more say OOOOOO I should make that! Only to find out I don’t have that and can’t make it.
  4. I have seriously cut down food waste- no more veggies spoiling in the drawer when I don’t get to them in time. My pantry is stocked, but not filled with excess stuff that’s not getting used.

Now, here it is again. Monday. Which means I get to play! By play, I mean review my pantry supplies, research a few techniques I haven’t tried out yet, and plan. The result will be my week’s menu. Let the lists continue.

  • Monday Taco bowls.
    • The bottom is a layer of Spanish rice
    • Next is ground beef: browned, drained, then add Pace picante medium salsa, a hefty amount of cumin, and a splash of water, cook it down, then season to taste with Lawry’s seasoned salt. I actually already have this made up from a batch of “breakfast quesadillas” I made on Sunday.
    • Black beans: from a can- rinsed and drained, then add a bit of water, salsa, cumin, salt and pepper while heating gently on the stove top
    • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese: The stuff from the bag. I like that it holds up against the heat here, in any situation where I wanted it to melt, I would grate some fresh off the block. Here, I don’t want it to melt, so I use the bagged stuff.
    • Quick salad: chopped romaine lettuce, roma tomato, cilantro, green onions, dressed with lime juice, salt and pepper (skip this for the kid who doesn’t like tomatoes- his salad leaves, carrots and green peppers will be on the side to dip in ranch dressing)
    • Cheater guac: dice up a ripe avocado, add fresh lime, salsa, seasoned salt and pepper
    • Top with sour cream, pieces of corn tortilla chips, and more chesse and cilantro. It’s so simple, and yet I used a ton of words. Sorry folks!
  • Tuesday Fish dinner- pre-fab breaded fish baked in the oven, fresh lemon for squeezing on top, homemade tartar (mayo, dill pickle relish, pepper & lemon juice), this garlic bubble bread again but I’m using whole wheat challah dough (because I’m a rebel, and it’s the dough I have), sauteed broccoli
  • Wednesday Sushi! My rolling technique could really use work, but I make veggie sushi with Kokuho Rose rice and this recipe. Served with a soy sauce, pickled ginger & wasabi. Sides are salted edamame, and some broiled soy/sesame/honey/sriracha chicken skewers.
  • Thursday Faux chicken parmesan. Kind of.
    • Preheat oven to 450. Season and brown boneless chicken thighs in a 4 qt. saute pan, set aside. Start microwaving potatoes for mashed potatoes.
    • Add sliced onions, sweet peppers, minced garlic and olive oil to pan and cook til soft. Get a separate pan started with butter and garlic for the mashed potatoes.
    • Add marinara and a bit of extra water to the pan or peppers and onions & stir to “deglaze” and get the tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
    • Add a dollop of pesto, slice chicken and return to pan, taste for seasoning. Add grated parmesean if not salty enough
    • In a bowl, microwave melt a bit of butter, then toss in italian bread crumbs and parmesean. Top chicken/marinara/peppers/onion with the bread crumb mix, and put in the oven til golden brown.
    • Make mashed potatoes with garlic butter & whole milk. Cover to keep warm til ready to plate. Then potatoes go on the bottom, chicken-mixture-thing goes on top.
    • Serve with a side romaine salad- plus carrots, craisins, cheddar cheese, tossed with balsamic dressing.
  • Friday Baked garlic/lemon/pepper chicken drums, green beans, and rice with lemon, garlic, dill & feta. This week is a bit chicken filled, but that’s what happens when chicken is on sale.
  • Saturday/Sunday: Update!
    • Maple syrup boiling has been postponed. The sap just plain isn’t flowing in Lutsen yet, so we’ll see what the weather is like the week after easter.
    • I’ll still be making fresh bread  and banana muffins for weekend snacks. I’m making it up to them with the following foodstravaganza
      • Saturday brunch: Buttermilk waffles, fresh strawberries, cheesy potatoes, turkey sausage, grapefruit supremes
      • Insert video games with Dad here
      • Saturday lunch: Home made lunchables. Not as gross as it sounds! Pre-fab crackers, sauteed chicken strips, dip-able veggies, and apple slices
      • Insert hike from Minnehaha Falls to the Mississippi River here
      • Saturday dinner: Partttty night! Home made pizza, nachos, and freshly baked cookies a la mode.
      • Sunday- quick oatmeal and fruit for breakfast before church, brats for lunch with broccoli slaw salad, archery and soccer outside if it’s nice, apples and peanut butter for a snack, more playing and stirfry for dinner. Laundry somewhere in here too!
      • Re-update: There’s enough sap flowing for a mini-boiling extravaganza, plus there’s still snow on the ground so the boys can get in their usual sled-a-thon. If we waited til the weekend after Easter, all the snow would be gone.

So this is what dinner will be this week. It’s nothing earth shattering, but it sure does make me happy. Almost as happy as all the snow melting here in Minnesota.

Making menu planning part of my routine has been great, and now I’m ready for more. What routines do you have that bring you joy?

For Christine

You know what’s the best? Little babies. They take over your world, and the only thing you want to do, the only thing you should do, is snuggle them and do the laundry necessary to keep them in (temporarily) clean clothes. A friend of mine from college, Christine, now lives in Florida and has a beautiful little boy. Even though I’ve never met the little man in person, I know he’s beautiful because she does the right thing and shares pictures and videos galore. Thanks Christine!

Back to business. Little humans don’t stay little for very long, so here are some strategies and recipes to spend less time cooking and more time snuggling.

  1. Get a rotisserie chicken
    1. First night: Bring it home, but keep it in the bag. Microwave potatoes or reheat some cooked ones, heat up some broccoli and cheese. Split your potato, add some salt and pepper, top with the veg, then open up the still warm chicken and carve off a few pieces. Put the lid back on the leftover chicken & leave it on the counter while you eat. When you’re done with dinner, it should be cool enough to put in the fridge without making your other food warm.
    2. Skip having chicken two meals in a row. Brown some ground beef, add a jar of sloppy joe (less work than packets- I like this one, but others work), then slop it on pre-made buns have have some pre cut veggies and dip on the side. Give yourself some potato chips too if you’re feeling it.
    3. Second night: Make an entree salad with shredded leftover chicken! Get a bagged salad, add dressing, croutons or other crunchies, whatever veg you like and some kind of cheese or get a salad kit.
      1. I like making ‘greek salad’ by adding feta cheese, greek dressing, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives if you like them. Pita chips and humus on the side!
      2. Add balsamic dressing, cheddar cheese, and craisins some time. It’s so so good! If you’re feeling fancy, have the hubby pick up a crunchy baguette that some store made fresh that day, slather some butter on it and call it a side dish.
  2. Make a beef chuck roast, about three pounds, in your slow cooker overnight.
    1. Get a steak seasoning blend, put more than you would think is ever necessary all over the meat, then sear it in a hot non stick pan till dark brown on both sides.
    2. Pick up the pan and plop the meat directly into the slow cooker, then set the still hot pan back on the stove. Pour in two cups of water, and stir it around to get all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Dump in more steak seasoning, stir it around, then pour into the crock pot.
    3. If you have a bigger ceramic mixing bowl, put it in the fridge (so you make sure there’s room for the cooked meat, and get it cold).
    4. Cook the roast on low for 8-10 hours (overnight).
    5. In the morning, put the now tender roast in the cold mixing bowl, shred it with two forks, and dump the liquid in too. If it seems dry, add a bit more water. It should look about like the picture that says “Use two forks to gently pull the meat apart. It should be very tender and easily shredable. (Yes, I know shredable is not a word.)” (that’s a great website by the way), but a bit drier is ok too. Add a few ice cubes, then cover it in plastic wrap, and stash it in the fridge until that night.
      1. First night: there will be a lot of fat that has risen to the top of the meat. Scrape off a bunch of it, but not all. That stuff is tasty! the liquid will now look kind goopy if you can see it at all- that’s ok! And good! First night, I say have a taco night. Get soft of hard shells, sour cream, or a few other fixins. To taco-ize this meat, put it in a pan with pre-made salsa, add cumin, then heat through and taste for seasoning. If it doesn’t seem right add extra salt and cumin til it does.
      2. Second night: Take the night off! Order a pizza! Or get one of those “take and bake” ones!
      3. Third night: You could serve this on buns, but I like to use microwaved potatoes to make mashed potatoes. If you’re doing potatoes, get them started now. Heat a good amount of the beef. Make a small cornstarch slurry, but putting a few tablespoons of cold water in a cup, and adding about a teaspoon of cornstarch. Mix til it looks milky in the cup and there are no chunks, then add it into the meat to thicken up the juices. It will thicken as it cooks, so just stir it around a bit and let the cornstarch do it’s magic. Taste to see if it’s salty/flavorful enough. If not, add more steak seasoning Serve with salad or other veggies.
      4. You’re sick of shredded beef now! Put any leftovers in quart sized freezer bags, and freeze em (lying down flat at first makes them easier to handle, I sometimes put em on a cookie sheet if there’s room). Then when you want to use them, put em in the fridge the night before to thaw.
  3. Get another rotisserie chicken!
    1. First night: treat yourself to some pre-made biscuits, and serve it with a salad or veggies and dip
    2. Second night: Preheat your oven for garlic bread, and get water boiling. Cook cheese tortellini from the refrigerated section, cook it according to package directions. Get the garlic bread in the oven at some point- timers are your friend so you don’t forget about it! Heat and add tomato sauce, then top with Parmesan cheese. Serve with garlic bread.
    3. Third night: Shred up leftover chicken, add BBQ sauce (taste for seasoning after it’s heated, then add more salt if needed- or hot sauce!). Serve on buns. If you like coleslaw then go for it- but! If you have it available and like broccoli, I really recommend trying broccoli slaw. I mix in some shredded cheddar cheese and ranch dressing. Yum!
  4. Sausage with peppers and onions.
    1. You can either mix this in buttered pasta when you’re done, or serve it over a baked potato. Both are good, get em started now cause this takes no time at all. Season that part of the meal with salt and pepper to taste when it’s done, which should be after your sausage is started.
    2. Using one of those smoked sausage rope thingies, slice and sear it. After it’s brown on both sides, put the sausage on a plate.
    3. Slice and cook onions and sliced bell peppers in that same pan. Season with your steak seasoning and cook til they’re almost tender. Add about a half cup of water to the pan and stir it around to get the bits off the bottom of the pan and create your “sauce”.
    4. Blast the heat to reduce down the liquid (leave it a little soupy if you’re adding it to noodles, cook it down a bit more if you’re putting it on a potato), then add back the sausage. If it seems like there’s no sauce now, add a splash or two of water.
    5. If you’re doing noodles, add em directly to the pan and stir. If you’re doing potatoes, top em with this. Serve with other veggies if you feel the need, if not it already has some in there!
  5. French bread pizzas. I love The Pioneer Woman. Thanks Ree! I sometimes do this on the soft (not crusty) “baguette” they have at the big grocery store’s bakery section. It’s really not at all authentic but the softer crust really works for these!
  6. Spring for fancy burgers once in a while. Most meat counters have pre-made burgers with all sorts of cheese and/or other goodness in them. They’re already in patties, so all you have to do is put em on buns, and put some veggies or salad on the side.
  7. We usually have some kind of frozen/baked fish weekly. It’s not a lot of hands on time, and if you put parchment paper on tray you bake it on, clean up goes really quickly. Add some of those “steam in bag” veggies from the produce aisle, seasoned with butter salt, and pepper. Serve with a wedge of fresh lemon to squeeze over the fish, and that’s dinner!

I hope this helps. I like cooking, so if this is too much work let me know and I’ll think of other less stuff that takes less effort. It also helps if you take a few minutes to plan out your week’s menu so you can get most of it in one trip to the grocery store, even if you don’t end up sticking to it.

Enjoy that baby Christine, and keep the pictures coming!

Monday Motivation

This morning, after a horrible night’s sleep, I find myself lacking motivation. Everything is… Fine. However, waking up no less than 15 times last night has left me more than a bit underwhelmed. My solution? Insert quotes, and add a few extra cups of tea.

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love” – Mother Teresa

“Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it by use.” – Ruth Gordon

“Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.” – Khalil Gibran

Last week, I went off of my menu plan. My son caught a stomach bug, then I ended up fighting it off, but not without some serious sleeping. Thankfully I had help, and was able to take the rest I needed. The result is at least one, if not more, of these meals are fairly similar to last week’s menu, because I still have all the ingredients and I refuse to let them go to waste.

  • Monday Lemon/Garlic Chicken, topped with sweet peppers, onions and melted cheese. Served with mashed potatoes and green beans.
  • Tuesday Spinach Lasagna with broccoli and garlic bubble bread
  • Wednesday Last week’s salad that didn’t happen- Romaine with a variety of veggies, craisins, cheddar cheese, chicken, balsamic dressing, and croutons. Served over pesto rice because that’s how I make it an entree I’m genuinely satisfied with.
  • Thursday Sloppy Joes on home made buns. Broccoli slaw with apples, green onion, and Italian dressing.
  • Friday Peanut Teriayki Chicken, fried rice, prefab potstickers, and soy glazed green beans.
  • Saturday/Sunday Mostly leftovers- I’m headed to Menomonie, WI for a friend’s birthday on Saturday night. If we run out of leftovers by Sunday night, I’ll make baked fish and a salad.

I think I’ll blame feeling a bit off today on last night’s sleep, and last week’s sickness. I feel better about the world now that I’ve laid out the week’s meals. What do you do to improve your mood?

Monday Marketing, with a side of Menu Planning

The internet is a-buzz. And this pollinator is not happy.

Many of you may have heard of this thing called Facebook. I suppose it’s a bit popular. If you’re like me, you have carefully adjusted your news feed, going to individuals and pages that you don’t care to see, and marking that special “don’t show in my news feed” option. Then, like magic, your news feed is filled with delightful things that you care about.

That is, until the Facebook Grand Sorcerers cast a nullifying incantation and mess up your whole cauldron. My particular blend was lovely! Family, close friends, local business, and food craft. It was everything I wanted to keep up on regularly. Two of my favorites were Seward Coop, and Bossy Acres, who just happened to bring this nonsense to my attention.

These fine folks post regularly about community events, provide some gorgeous pics, a funny meme or two, and always have great folks commenting on their posts. This is not a paid or requested advertisement. This is honest love and devotion, inspired by great social media use, and backed up by stellar in person interactions. Luckily Seward already told me how to sneak them back into my regular rotation. Consider yourself thwarted, Facebook Overlords.

Wasn’t that fun for you?

No?

Just me?

Here is this week’s dinner menu! It’s new! Yes slightly similar to every other menu plan I’ve made!

  • Monday Baked lemon-pepper chicken drums, greens with smoked turkey, cornbread, dirty rice. Leftovers for lunches!
  • Tuesday Lasagna rolls (similar to this, but of course I mess with it), green beans, this garlic bubble bread because I just can’t get enough.
  • Wednesday Entree salad! Base of lemony, garlicy, parmesan-ed up rice. Middle heap of romaine lettuce, Craisins, mozzarella cheese, other assorted veg tossed in balsamic dressing. Topped with shredded chicken and croutons. Delicious, delicious layers.
  • Thursday Breakfast for dinner- buttermilk waffles, turkey sausage, cheesy hash brown potatoes, and the all-powerful grapefruit supremes.
  • Friday Terikayi beef & broccoli stir fry over white rice. A dash of sesame oil stirred in after cooking makes this so bad, yet so good.
  • Saturday Dinner out for my lovely friend’s golden birthday! Followed by dessert potluck and games! I’m making chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and definitely bringing Outburst.
  • Sunday Some kind of soup, that reheats for lunches, fresh bread, and some kind of simple baked chicken.

Spring is in the air here in Minnesota (I’m ignoring the fact that it’s currently snowing), and I hope it is wherever you are as well. I’m not above cooking hot things in any weather, but it helps that our spring is still a bit frigid and I can cool leftovers rather quickly just by placing the pot of soup in a snow bank. What are your favorite soups? Inspire me please!

Monday Menu Planning

Yes, this is happening again.

First of all, Happy St. Patricks Day! I have had a lot of coffee so this will be pretty quick.

  • Monday Corned beef with cabbage, carrots, potatoes etc. Mmmmmmm. I intended to do a fancy lamb stew, but that will have to wait for another time because my grocery budget won’t allow for three pounds of lamb shoulder this month. Maybe next?
  • Tuesday Burgers for the boys. On buns. With broccoli slaw. And Buttery Bcorn (that’s just corn on the cob with butter & seasonings, but I like to force alliteration some times)
  • Wednesday Salad! With coconut curry rice noodles, fresh peppers, cabbage, cilantro, lettuce, etc, tossed with Newman’s Own Asian sesame vinaigrette and topped with crispy chicken
  • Thursday Meatloaf muffins with mashed potatoes and broccoli
  • Friday Fish dinner with rolls & dippable veggies
  • Saturday Chicken pot pie casserole, served over rice. With whatever veggie I feel like at the time.

Second of all, I have a serious case of spring fever. The good news is that it’s the happy variety, where I feel filled with energy and don’t even mind the fact that here in Minnesota we’re going to get more snow. Either that, or I’ve had the perfect amount of coffee. Either way I feel great!

Third, I realize that this is very late in terms of the internet, but really Stephen Hawking? That’s all you’re giving us?  Thankfully for me, my beloved PBS elaborated and linked to a bit more. 

 

Business Master Maybe – Or – Sure I can fly, I’ll jump off this cliff to prove it!

I am a crazy person. Having a home, raising a 5 year old, working full time, and 6/7 nights a week I’d really rather stay in with my cats and watch Netflix. So it makes sense to look at getting a Graduate degree, right? Right. I’m glad we had this talk.

Lately I’ve had the itch. The itch to do more, do something new, change the world. You know, basic stuff. I’ve looked at dogs. Because dogs are great. I’ve looked at how to clean and organize everything in your life. Because I could really do a better job of that. I’ve taken to Twitter like a mad woman. But I keep coming back to this need to learn and do more.

Adding school at this point may not be wise. Or it may be the perfect time, and all I have to do is jump in with two feet. The degree program I’ve fallen in love with is at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. I graduated from St. Kate’s in 2007 with my Bachelor’s in Business Admin. The focus of the MBA is Integrated Marketing Communications, and the topics shown in the description on the MBA website get me jazzed beyond belief.  I’m downright giddy as I look forward to finding out more at the info session St. Kate’s is hosting in April. What do you think? Is there ever a right time?