Dinner Surprise

The plan for dinner tonight: grilled mini meat loafs and spaghetti squash (told you I love it – we probably have it at least once a week now).

The meat loaf:

  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • onions, peppers and mushrooms (approx. 1/2 cup total; I decided to sauté them to make them a little more savory and take off some of the crunch
  • salt and pepper
  • few tbsp fresh herbs (basil and parsley from our backyard)
  • 1 egg

I left out the breadcrumbs/panko since we are working on the whole slow-carb eating. Of course, you could mix in whatever veggies you like, probably even some squash or carrots to help add a little flavor. I made 3 fat patties with all the ingredients and then Tony grilled them until cooked through. They were just a touch dry (probably due to the lean-ness), so I topped them with a little leftover marinara sauce we had in the fridge.

The spaghetti squash… well… another little mishap happened. I was trying to see what it took to make it a little less  crisp, so I roasted it in the oven a little longer. I had a fairly large-sized squash, so I thought the extra cooking time would be needed. I cut it in half, drizzled with olive oil and then baked it (cut side down) on a foiled pan on 400 degrees for 1.5 hours. It smelled good, looked good…. and was definitely soft. I used a sauté pan to sauté a few more onions and then added the squash (pulled out of the “shell” with a fork). It wasn’t quite in its normal stringy-ness… then I added a dash of white wine, salt and pepper and some roasted red pepper (approx. 1/4 cup). It was mushy. I had some of the Italian Herb and Cheese Reduced Fat Cooking Creme (leftover from homemade pizza) that I added (approx. 1/4 cup). It ended up being more the consistency of and a decent substitution for mashed potatoes… an even more appropriate side for meat loaf. I’d eat it again, but I think I prefer the more traditional “crisp” spaghetti squash recipes.

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Summer Break

I’ve just reached my summer break! I have some time off from school to relax and…. organize! My goal is to go room by room in the house and clean out and organize. I’ve already got the back of my car full of stuff to take to Goodwill and just as much has been thrown in the trash. I’ve only made it to two rooms, haha. But, they were the worst closets of the house, by far. One room is my office/guest room. My sister-in-law was staying with us for the first half of the summer, so I had moved my desk out to help give her more space and me space to work without us being on top of one another. So, since she has moved out and I have some free time, I went through everything in the closet and re-set up my desk/office space in that room. Especially since I have no real office space for either of my part-time jobs now… my house is my official work address. The difficult part is that I have a ton of books that I want to keep as resources for myself as a counselor or for future clients. So, they are all stored in boxes for the moment… piled up oh so nicely in my newly organized closet. It doesn’t quite match all the pretty pics online of organized closets with the perfect shelving and cubbies and baskets, but hey, I know everything that’s in there and was able to make-do with what I had. And, at least there is space now for a guest to hang up some clothes.

The blue room is where I had moved my desk, but it was cramping space for working out. And, what a great, calming color of a room to do what I dislike most (sweating), haha! It’s now re-arranged and looks better and the closet is a HUGE transformation. I’m one of those people who saves every box and gift bag and bow… just in case it’s needed in the future for something I want to give. Especially for Christmas! Why buy all that stuff when you can already have and re-use it? But, it does become quite bulky. So, I consolidated all the wrapping paper and made a box for tissue paper and a box for bows and a big bag of bags… and the boxes were all broken down to take up much less space. Sorry for no before  picture, but I was way to eager to get started cleaning to stop for a photo op. Just imagine all sizes of boxes and bags and junk thrown everywhere.

And yes, I’ve been so proud of my work that I have gone back and looked at the rooms/closets multiple times since completing the tasks. I just like to sit and enjoy all my hard work! Up for today: the hall closet and guest bathroom…

My brother-in-law is still living with us through early August sometime. I told him that this is the best time to be living with me! I did his laundry over the weekend and even made him an omelet for breakfast on Saturday after Tony and I had already finished breakfast. Maybe I’m weird, but this is the stuff I love to do – cook, clean and organize.

MyRecipes.com

There are a few dishes that Tony and I love that we make over and over. But for the most part, we are always trying something new. One of the things that makes it easy to keep fresh, new ideas in mind, is myrecipes.com – they have multiple newsletters that you can sign up for to have daily emails of recipes. Especially as it gets closer to the holidays, I love the cookie countdown emails! All the recipes come from Southern Living, Cooking Light, Real Simple… and they are all pretty great. There are reviews for all the recipes that are helpful to know if there are any tweaks that would be good. Today’s email on simple, 5-ingredient appetizers. I think I’ll keep these on hand for upcoming dinner parties…

 

 

 

For a light afternoon snack today, I was very excited to make some zucchini chips after we got home from the grocery. I sliced them so nicely, and seasoned them with my favorite italian spiced salt and pepper… just a dash of garlic… they were really going to be perfect! However, as I sat here writing this post, I got a whiff of something burning from the kitchen…

Yep, they were goners…. so disappointing… The problem? I have made them before and tried to do them again this time from memory… I mean, they aren’t that difficult, right? Well, I got the temp wrong – you are supposed to bake them at a LOW temp for a fairly long time (40-60 min)… NOT a HIGH temp… there were two salvageable pieces that I ate. I guess that will have to hold me over until dinner…

Cooked Carrots

On the menu for tonight: grilled salmon/tilapia, broccoli and sautéed carrots. Cooked carrots can be a hit or miss for me, but in an effort to create some more variety in healthy side dishes, I thought I’d give it another try tonight. With an hour drive home, I had plenty of time to concoct a recipe:

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves minced garlic (more or less depending on your love or disdain of garlic)
  • carrots, sliced at an angle (I used approximately 3/4 bag of mini carrots)
  • onion, thinly sliced (I had 3/4 of a small vidalia onion already in the fridge)
  • 2 Tbsp sage honey (one of our favorite treasures we brought back home from our last trip to Napa)
  • about 1/4 cup beer
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Melt the butter in a pan with garlic. Sauté onions and carrots until slightly browned. Add salt and pepper and then add in honey; cook for a couple of minutes. Add beer and reduce heat to low. Simmer until liquid is cooked off. Add pecans for the final 5 minutes or so, just before plating for your meal.

 

I think they turned out really well… just the right mix of sweet and savory. They were soft with just a touch of crunch. Tony’s 18-year-old brother who’s staying with us for the summer even said they were good. They have a bit of dairy and carbs (butter and beer) with some natural sugar (sage honey) and fat (pecans), but they have to be better for you than a loaded potato… And, with how light the rest of our dinner was, the small splurges were worth it.

Climate Change

North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA, recently did a series called Climate Change(I listen to podcasts during my drive to and from Nashville throughout the week.) Basically, the point is that “the most critical climate” may not be what you observe outside your window, but the one “created inside a room when you walk into it.” The climate is the condition that prevails in general, or over a long period of time. Every person has a unique “climate” that she/he carries, and that climate can impact… and even predict… relationships. So if someone’s climate is full of bitterness, frustration, pessimism and pride, relationships will probably be rocky. Other people will more than likely be on edge or overwhelmed around those individuals. Others may grow more frustrated themselves and pour on/reinforce negativity, or they may choose to distance themselves from the bitter pessimist altogether because of her/his innate knack for darkening the room. Know anyone like that? Know someone that instantly creates an emotional or even behavioral response within you as soon as they walk through the door… as soon as you hear their voice?

It’s easy to point out the flaws and frustrations in other people. But it’s vital from time to time that we take a moment to look inward. What if I am that person? What if my climate instantly causes other people to withdraw… to be overwhelmed and frustrated… to feel uncomfortable… to close up and not fully share or be themselves… The first sermon of the series challenged people to ask some honest, close friends, “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” The speaker challenged that if you would be willing to ask the question, be prepared for both positive and negative. If you give others room to offer constructive criticism, you better be open to receiving it. And if the point is to use it as an opportunity to grow and not argue, listen to feedback without defensiveness. I’ll be honest, it was a tough question to ask… it wasn’t necessarily anything that surprised me, but more of confirmed some weaknesses that I was afraid to face. I really only asked Tony, but I hope to ask a few more friends in the coming months (feedback from him was enough to last me a while, haha). So I’ll keep asking… keep working… keep striving to become a person who is seen as safe, loving, accepting, open, generous, hard working, gentle… it will require some pruning (John 15:2), but I believe it will be well worth it as I work toward a climate change of my own.

Week One of Slow Carb

Week one of an increase in protein and dramatic decrease in white carbs and dairy was quite positive. It took more preparation and work throughout the week to prepare breakfast and lunches, but I think the work was well worth it. I had a little more energy than normally each day and felt full after each meal. I did, however, crave for some sugary or cheesy goodness foods, but that made longing for my cheat day (yesterday – Saturday) all the more exciting. For dinner last night, Tony and I ate at Rumours East with some friends. It was delicious, and to be a cheat day, we definitely went all out. We started with the house bread basket while we waited on our friends to arrive and then had the goat cheese (wrapped in grape leaves) appetizer. They had a peach and basil salad that was unlike anything I had ever tasted before. For the entree, Tony got the NY Strip and I had the scallops with wheat bulgar salad on the side. All was wonderful, and I’d highly recommend the restaurant for anyone in the Nashville area!

So, we’ll keep going on our slow carb eating, hoping for a positive second week experience… Menu for this week:

  • Monday: Grilled ratatouille, adapted from the previous recipe I shared with spaghetti squash and no ricotta in the tomato sauce
  • Tuesday: Night out with Tony’s parents – we’re hoping for somewhere Mexican so we can order fajitas
  • Wednesday: Grilled chicken, grilled green beans, corn salsa
  • Thursday: Steak and portobello fajita lettuce wraps with guacamole
  • Friday: Salmon/tilapia, broccoli and carrots

I’ll let you know if we get creative with any of these recipes as we strive to keep them simple and as healthy as possible.

So whether you eat or dri…

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:30).

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23-24).

This is my motivation to try eating in new and healthier ways. This is my motivation to “not be lazy” (mine and Tony’s favorite new phrase). In my striving to become the best version of the self I have been created to be… as I become a cook, counselor, daughter, friend, growing follower of Jesus, social worker, traveler, wife and whatever else… my striving is that in whatever I do, I do it with all my heart, all for the glory of God. It’s a continual process. I celebrate milestones along the way, but I know it’s a lifelong journey. There are bound to be mistakes, letdowns and detours… but I will press on. I will not grow weary in doing what’s right because I trust God’s promise to reward my perseverance (Galatians 6:9) in all things, in all areas, in all decisions. God has blessed me with life and health, I will do what I can to care for myself.

Delicious Ground Turkey

I’ve never been a huge fan of ground turkey. But, since it’s a nice lean meat and a good substitution for some more unhealthy options, I’m willing to give it another chance. A few nights ago we made our own recipe of portobello turkey “burgers” and spaghetti squash with garlic. It was my first time to make and taste spaghetti squash, and let me say that I’m in love! It has a crispy texture, so if you’re looking for an exact exchange for pasta, you may be disappointed. But let’s just say that I liked it enough that I could probably exchange it for pasta for most italian dishes that call for thin noodles. Once topped with some marinara sauce, my mouth could hardly tell the difference.

For the “burgers”:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped bell peppers (whatever color you like – I used orange, yellow and roasted piquillo peppers)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs (basil and parsley from our backyard)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

It’s a little more like a meatball recipe, but like I said… I’ve never liked ground turkey. So, if I can mask the taste with other healthy goodies, it’s a win! We mixed all the ingredients and formed patties to put on the grill. We also grilled portobello mushrooms (lightly brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper). Top the grilled mushroom with the grilled patty and a little marinara sauce and voila… a great italian “burger” served with a side of spaghetti squash.

The eggs I’ve been making each morning have had onions, mushrooms (because almost everything should come with onions and mushrooms), whatever peppers are chopped in the fridge, one whole egg and 2-3 egg whites, turkey smoked sausage. Tony and I then share it. This particular morning, we added salsa and I had a small serving of cottage cheese to work on some calcium for the day. So far so good… I think I’ll make some mini fritatas (with veggies and turkey bacon) tonight to warm up in the microwave for my early morning commute to Nashville.

Above all else, guard you…

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23, NIV1984).

What is King Solomon urging us to do? Guard our hearts.

Why? Because our heart is a wellspring of life. Another version says that the heart determines the course of your life (NLT). Even another version states that everything you do flows from it (NIV). Our hearts are extremely valuable, worthy of protection as our most priceless treasure. Michael Hyatt says that it is the “essence of who you are. It is your authentic self- the core of your being. It is where all your dreams, your desires and your passions live. It is the part of you that connects with God and other people.”

And how important is it that we learn to guard our heart? Very! It should be considered above all else… it should be a top priority, demanding urgency and intentional action on our part.

If our heart is of ultimate value, then it can be very vulnerable to disappointment, disillusionment and deep discouragement. I have realized recently that when I don’t deliberately set up protective barriers around my heart, I set myself up for wounds of disappointment that can so easily turn into bitterness. I believe there is much to hope for through God’s loving and graceful purpose. So, the act of “guarding” doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a pessimist and always preparing for the worst. It does, however, mean that I need to learn how to appropriately balance my hope with acceptance that things will not always be perfect or work out just in the way I want them to. Learning to accept letdowns and relational grief is a part of protecting my heart. Learning to make wise choices in who I allow to be in my “inner circle” (those people who influence my thoughts, feelings, behavior) is a part of protecting my heart. Learning to rely on the God who crafted my inmost being from the very beginning and created me with intrinsic value is a part of protecting my heart. Learning to show grace, humility and wisdom in my daily life is a part of protecting my heart. Learning to release the circumstances and harbored hurts that I cannot control or heal on my own is a part of protecting my heart. Because if my heart determines the course of my life, I would much prefer for it to be guided by hope and peace as opposed to hurt and bitterness.

Reduce Worry and Stress

Tony is always sending me helpful articles about health and wellness. Part of his motivation is to get me on board with some new thing he’s wanting to try (like the slow-carb eating) and another motive is to help me learn new things as a future counselor, church staff member, etc. The article he sent today was confirming why he gets so upset with the infamous Tennessee heat… the past week or so has been in the triple digits with pretty high humidity. This morning was cloudy and rainy, and whereas most people might be sad about that, he was in pure joy. Oh, my wonderfully odd man… how I love him. Anyway… when I opened the link to the article he sent me, I found a link to this article about 11 Tips to Lower Stress. I thought they were good enough to pass along:

  1. Take a yoga class
  2. Get more sleep
  3. Try talk therapy
  4. Increase activity/exercise
  5. Meditate
  6. Laugh
  7. Get a massage
  8. Try journaling
  9. Get some hugs… there’s healing power in touch
  10. Plan “worry time”
  11. Don’t vent

For the most part, I wasn’t too surprised by the tips, but the two I listed last made me stop and read a little more. Planning “worry time” is a way to limit yourself, or place personal boundaries, on the amount of time you allow yourself to think about overwhelming, worrisome things. It’s almost impossible to completely eliminate worry, but you can plan some time (the article suggests 30 minutes) to allow yourself to think about what is currently bothering you. I would add that it would be important to end that time with some intentional thought and prayer on what you are thankful for, what’s positive in your life and even see if you can make a plan for those things that are upsetting. Make a plan for the things you know you can tackle, and then release everything else to God’s control – He can handle it. And remember, sometimes the “release” part is an ongoing thing. Maybe you won’t solve all the world’s problems in 30 minutes, but practicing how to take more control over your thoughts might be a helpful habit to build.

“Don’t vent” is also a good reminder. Social support is important when making a difficult journey through stressful, worrisome or overwhelming situations. However, too much can actually increase rather than decrease your stress. The more you talk about it, the more you’re thinking about it, the more you’re allowing that issue to be in control and live rent-free in your life. Find a few close friends who will offer support but will also be willing to be honest and hold you accountable to not focusing on the negative. Maybe they can be a part of your 30 minutes of worry and at the end work with you to formulate a positive plan of action. And, pray together. Lean on people you know will pray for you and with you – that helps you know that they will encourage you to seek God’s wisdom and perspective.

Lastly, keep a list of helpful tools like this handy. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed with stress, we magically forget that there are things that we can do to help. Maybe they won’t solve, but they can help. I can probably use some form all of these tips in decreasing my current levels of stress.

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