Saturday Night Cooking Extravaganza

Last week I talked about how thinking about your upcoming week is a good way to get an idea of what’s realistic for you and your family when it comes to the eternal question of “what’s for dinner.” Let’s say you have gathered your recipes, the calendar is under control, you know what you are doing. You got this. But WHEN will you have time to make x, y or z. Here is another secret: you don’t have to cook every single night.  I often make Wednesday night’s dinner on Tuesday night. It just works better for me. Sometimes spending a couple of hours cooking over the weekend is the key to success. Find the time that works for you.

Let’s talk about weekends. The dream of “two days of free time.” I don’t know about you, but I start thinking about the weekend the moment Monday morning hits and I am sitting at my desk at work sipping coffee and being grumpy. As the week goes on and I find recipes I like I think,“hey I have all day Saturday and Sunday to test recipes and make meals that take longer than 30 minutes start to finish.” Next thing you know plans are stacking up and we end up eating out more because there is not time to make anything. Somehow we eat out (and worst) over the weekend than we do during the week.

This past weekend was a three day weekend. I made sure to scheduled a couple of hikes, basketball game, a visit to the zoo and watching football. So no time for lots of cooking – AND I am out of frozen leftovers! so I had to figure out a way to make some yummy food. Solution: I spent Saturday evening cooking. Saturday night plans are not hot and heavy when two single parents come together…This is what I decided I would make to prepare for the week:

  1. Breakfast muffins:  I enjoy my morning smoothies but let’s face it, it has been 20-some degrees in the mornings and a cold refreshing smoothie is the last thing in my mind. I often crave something “meatier” and healthy that I can freeze and eat on the go. I looked for few breakfast muffins recipes (the savory type, not the sweet type) and found some good potentials. I decided to make this ones and they were pretty good. I froze them and pop them in the microwave for less than a minute when I get to. A winner in my book!
  2. And finally, THIS zucchini pie : cause I had made it before and it is delicious – so I HAD to make it again.

SaturdayCooking

  1. Chicken tortilla soup! Cause it’s been cold as heck and need something warm in our bodies. Both Adri and I like this soup topped with cheese and avocado. So good.

chickentortillasoup

The week turned out pretty good. Saturday cooking was really successful! Besides making a side salad to go along with the zucchini pie for lunch and making THIS avocado-grilled cheese sandwich (y-u-m) to accompany the soup,  I did not have to cook AT ALL during the week. I did have this sweet potato chili on the rotation but I didn’t need to. How to spend my free time hmmmm… One lesson here? Cooking ahead can free up your week to do other things, or just sit in the couch. Your choice.

Advertisements
Posted in Breakfast, Planning Tips | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s going on next week?

Let’s pretend “planning your meals” is tip zero, because it should be obvious. When you are busy and want to be organized and to bring a homemade meal to the table most days, you should probably think about what you are eating before 5 pm that day. There are not a lot of shortcuts to this. How do you get to this point though?

Tip number one I can share with you: think about your week. What’s on the calendar that week? Some weeks are busier than others. Are you going to be out the house a lot during the evenings at meetings, sport events, parties, etc? How much time do you have to cook? That will help you figure out what’s realistic for you. Sometimes picking up a pizza on the way home is the only way to go. IT IS OKAY. We love pizza around here. Please share a slice.

Last week I DID NOT feel like cooking. I also had few things going on during the week-nights: Monday night meeting with fellow bloggers, date night, basketball practice, and general laziness. But I still gotta eat right? There probably wasn’t going to be a lot of cooking happening however.

My biggest “worry”  is always lunch time because my office is secluded from the real world and the cafeteria food is not so great, and not so cheap. So if I don’t bring lunch I find myself with less than ideal choices and regret. Always regret. Last week work lunches consisted on a leftover extravaganza:

  • Monday: Sunday night’s remnants of this delicious spaghetti-bolognese from Food52. Sometimes when it is cold outside during the weekend and you don’t want to leave the house, you find an hour and a half to slow-cook meat sauce to go with your favorite pasta, toss a Caesar salad and have a couple of friends over for a casual dinner. Last Sunday was one of those nights. Monday’s lunch reaped the benefits of that dinner.
  • Tuesday: I found myself without “fresh” left overs for lunch so I took advantage of some meals I had made before and froze in a Tupperware. I have to admit I don’t always think of freezing food (that’s another tip for you: freeze food) and I also am not sure if it is going to be good or not when I defrost it. This day I had some chicken with carrots and potatoes. VEREDICT: the fresh, just-made version of this is pretty delicious. The frozen version is not! Oh well.
  • Wednesday/Thursday: More frozen leftovers! This time, a sure thing: vegetable lasagna courtesy of Pinch of Yum What happens when you make lasagna and you live alone or it is just two of you at home and the other person is a tiny eight-year old boy? A) you eat lasagna every day for a week until it is gone and swear to never make it again, b) you eat lasagna for a couple of days, get sick of it and throw away the rest OR c) you freeze half of it. Lasagna that has been cooked, frozen and defrosted tastes pretty good. Try it.
  • Friday: I actually managed to cook Thursday night! Quick cooking: chicken breasts simply seasoned in salt and pepper and pan-fried, snap peas and red beans and rice (from a bag; sorry. I am not perfect). No secrets here. 

Overall it was a good week. I managed to bring lunch to work everyday. Bad thing, I am out of leftovers which means I gotta get cooking  my friends!

Posted in Meat, Pasta | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Finding Time for Cooking

Here is a quick glimpse into my work days (weekends don’t count in my book): I wake up anytime between 5:45-7 am depending on whether I am on “mom duty” or not (I am a part-time single mom).I am out of the house anytime between 7- 8 am. I have a full time job at an office where I (mostly) sit until 5-5:30 pm. Three to four times a week I head to a 6 pm bootcamp class, other days I have kid-sport commitments. EVERYDAY I get home close to 7:30 pm. I am gone about 12 hours of my day. This is probably what most people’s days look like. Now here is what I am sure most people don’t do: five out of five nights there is a homemade dinner at home and I bring leftovers for lunch to work. Where do I find the time to cook when I am gone so much?

I wished I could outline in a simple bulleted list what goes on in my head to make it all happen. I am sure there is some magazine out there that has a list titled “Ways to Find Time to Cook” or something along those lines. I find sometimes those lists are not “real.” Everyone is super busy these days. It is not easy. I am lucky organization comes natural to me. My hope is to share my mental process with you, share my weekly-life and also of course share some recipes I think are yummy.

Posted in Welcome Page | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stop Eating Before is Too Late!

Did you eat ten times your weight during Thanksgiving? Will you continue to stuff your face the entire month of December cause ‘hey! it’s the Holidays!’? Will your numero uno New Year’s resolution be to lose weight in time for summer? If you answered yes to all the above then join my team…and everyone else’s for that matter.

This year I decided that why wait for January 1st to start dieting, let’s start December 1st and get a head start! My concept of “diet” is a loose one. I don’t diet. I just can’t do it. I use other strategies like increasing my servings of fruits and vegetables and lowering carbs during the evening. It helps me not go crazy thinking about cheese and chocolate all day long.

If you are a Pinterest-craze person you will start seeing a lot of pins for juices and smoothies and cleanses and stuff along those lines to help you detox after the holidays. I not a big juice person but I do like smoothies. Replacing one meal with a good smoothie is something I have done in the past and enjoyed. There are TONS of recipes for smoothies. I’ve wanted to try some green ones and I recently saw a link for some tips on how to make green smoothies from 100 Days of Real Food. I plan on trying some of these combos this week. I will share my thoughts!

IMG_20140702_084403

Posted in Drinks | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Rainy Sunday

Winter is here! It is gloomy and rainy and it is Sunday, which basically means R and I will be doing some major cuddling while watching a movie and engulfing in this lovely vegetables that are getting ready to being roasted along with some Slow Cooked Chicken.  There is a mixture of butternut squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic salt, pepper and some olive oil. Love it! What are some of your cold weather comfort foods?

RoasteVegetables

Posted in Vegetarian Dishes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Turkey Pot Pie

I hear the Holidays are around the corner. What happened to 2014? I am SO NOT READY. It’s happening people; let’s embrace it.

Before Santa gets here, we have Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It involves lots of food, more food, and some post-food food coma. And no pressure of presents! Thanksgiving is truly about chilling with your friends and family and enjoying some quality time. Then Black Friday comes around, and every household is faced with the unknown of what to do with all the leftovers!!! Well my friends, here is an idea – make turkey pot pie!

Let me tell you a crazy story. Last weekend Slow Food Tennessee Valley hosted their 4th Annual Pie Contest to benefit the Davis Family YMCA Community Garden. Entries could be either sweet or savory. I of course wanted to go – pie tasting. Hello!! But what to make??My friend suggested turkey pot pie. Sureeeeeeee. Why not? Something different I don’t usually make. So I did. And guess what. I WON! SOMEHOW the judges decided that my food tasted good enough to win this lovely book I am holding.

When my name was announced, my face looked like an actor who just won the Oscar. I immediately pull out my speech out of my cleavage…no I didn’t. There wasn’t a speech. But I was happy a group of people outside my little circle of men and the occasional friend who is brave enough to eat with me sometimes actually enjoyed my food.

Look how Adrian enjoyed eating! And look at some samples on my plate! So good. So full. Do I have to wait another year for this event? Should I hold my own pie tasting contest where I am the only judge and only I get to taste the pies?

I didn’t come up with my own recipe of course. I relied on the professionals for this task: Martha Stewart and the Pioneer Woman. I used Martha’s recipe for pie crust and Ree’s recipe for the filling. I had to add more flour than suggested to get the gravy to get thick so adjust your recipe as necessary. Next time I may add some peas or mushrooms if I have some at hand. You should try this classic meal for your post-Thanksgiving-feast. Enjoy!

Posted in Meat | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Music in Me

#Our assignment for today is to write about the three most important songs in my life and what they mean to us.

I have picked two songs and one genre that maybe are not THE most important songs in my life but are all that mean something to mean and bring good memories or thoughts.

  1. The first “song” is actually a genre, not a specific song and it is any Sevillana. Sevillana is a traditional dance from southern Spain named after the town of Seville (excuse the following Spain geography notes that most people are not familiar with). Every time I hear one of these songs it reminds me of our road trips from Madrid to Malaga. We would cross the boundary between Castilla La Mancha and Andalucia my dad would switch whatever music was on the radio was to a tape (yes cassette tape) of Sevillanas and say “we are in Andalucia” now. And I would immediately think of myself as a 9 year old learning how to dance Sevillanas while wearing a Flamenco dress. Of course my sisters and I would complain about the choice of music, but I would dance in my head for few minutes.
  2. Song numero dos is also related to my life in Spain and it is the song “Mar Antiguo” by El Ultimo de la Fila. I highly recommend you listen to ANY of their songs. This duo had the best, best poetic, complicated lyrics and was just really good. This specific song talks about the Mediterranean Sea which is where I grew up. I think a lot of people that grow up by the ocean have some sort of connection to the water and the smell of the salt and it is a very calming effect. This song has a very calming, peaceful effect on me. The guitar is also pretty incredible.

  1. My last song is You and I Both by Jason Mraz. I am going to ramble a bit on this one because I don’t want to go on for pages here and I could. I have loved this song for a long time. I think Jason Mraz is a great lyricist and overall musician, though some of his most famous songs may be on the cheesy side. I can’t ever get tired of listening to this song. I don’t really know what the original meaning was to Mr. Mraz (I’ve heard something about a guy sleeping with a girl the girl getting up the next day to make eggs…but there is love in there somewhere too). To me this song is about having loved someone with all your heart and then losing that person but then reflecting back on how great that love was and having great memories about the relationship and the person even though the relationship ended. Also it is about hoping happiness finds that person in the future and making peace with that and being happy for them. As he says in the song, it is about “balancing the whole thing” after it is over. I think anyone with a pulse has been broken hearted at some point in their lives and has felt lost and thought the world may end and they’ll never love again. But the world doesn’t end, and I think this feeling is something everyone can relate to. This song means a lot to me because, to quote someone else (I won’t say who because it’s way too embarrassing), “love is the only thing that matters” and I truly think love is the most important thing in our lives and it is what people will remember about us when we die – so stop working so hard and love someone with all your heart! This song represents hopefulness and to me is uplifting and it always makes me smile when I listen to it. Like I said, a little rambling.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Room with a View

#Today’s assignment for Writing101 is to write about a space, a place that has an influence on us. Read if you’d like. Sometimes is hard to write from the heart even if for few sentences.

It’s 6 am and the alarm starts buzzing. I quickly turn it off for I can’t take the sound for very long. As I open my eyes I think about the day, I think about the past and everything I miss and I tell myself to stop, to think about the present, of everything I have and that today is a new day. Mornings are always hard. As I walk down the hallway everything is dark but I know where to go. I end up in the kitchen, start my morning fuel. Sometimes I look out the window and just stare at the trees, hear the birds chirping, the sky is changing, the sun is coming up. I walk back and stop at the entrance of his room.

My son’s room. This room is happiness. Even when he is not there I walk in and think of him as I smile. Sometimes I just stand in the doorway and look inside thinking about the time I’ll see him next. There are toys everywhere. Toys he never plays with but won’t give away. Books he won’t read anymore. Books he likes to read all the time. There are trophies from all his attempts at different sports; some pictures of us, clothes on the floor, dirty socks from the day before, an empty fish tank. We’ve killed many goldfish. Today he is here. In the darkness I watch him while he is sleeping. I can hear him breathing and I smile. I often just stare and watch him; his hair is all over the place. I notice he drank all his water in the middle of the night, I wonder how he made such a mess of his bed in a few hours. There is a distinct smell. I walk up to him and watch his peaceful face and then I walk away. I will be back soon to wake him up and start the day.

This room is happiness. He is happiness.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cranberry Apple Cider Cocktail

It’s not always about food around here. Sometimes cocktails are involved…oh yeah baby. I have been saying for a while I need to work on my bar and cocktail making skills. In the mean time, I am trying other people’s mixers like this Cranberry Apple Cider Cocktail. Apples are the Fall fruit right? Can we drink our apples instead of eating them? Sure why not…

AppleCocktail

Posted in Drinks | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

UNLOCK THE MIND

Excuse me while I set aside 20 minutes of my lunch time today to write about something that is not about food, how busy I get sometimes or GIS (you know, my job that pays the bills). Why am I doing this? Today is the first day of Writing 101 and my first tasks is to spend the next 20 minutes writing about whatever is on my mind, which has so much lately and so scattered all over the place. Feel free to stop reading right now.

During the last month, I have been planning some fun trips for the rest of 2014. I like traveling, I like visiting new places but I haven’t done nearly enough of it in the last few years. “Life”, responsibilities and guilt have gotten in the way. Recently I was lucky enough to have a dear friend of mine give me the opportunity to travel as much or little as I want until March 2015 using some fun traveling benefits (I may not let her take this away from me then – I hope she is not reading this). My first trip was visiting her in Atlanta. Not as exciting as it sounds considering Atlanta is three hours away from where I live and I can easily drive, but it was fun to hop on a place for 45 minutes not knowing if I would actually make it on the plane OR back home the next day because I was traveling on stand-by. But I made it there. And I made it back home. And it was a nice break. Where am I going next? Here is the list: Dallas, Washington, DC, Tampa, and California. This will take me to the end of 2014.Next year is still in the works.There may be time for something else in between those trips who knows.

I have never ever gone anywhere alone, and granted not all of these trips are solo trips, but still, the idea of going places alone is scary to me but kinda liberating at the same time. I am looking forward to every one of these trips. I am afraid I may become addicted.

Why am I doing this anyways? It occurred to me recently I have never in my life done something selfish and just done it for me and only for me. It’s not part of my nature and doing things like spending Christmas in California by myself instead of spending it with family seems to be slightly selfish just because it has never happened! In my entire life! But it’s happening this year unless something terrible happens between now and then. Anyways! There is much more I could say about this and also more selfish things I have been doing and planning but my 20 minutes are up and I must go continue work. Enjoy the rest of your day!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment