Friday, December 27, 2013

My New Year's Goals

I'm really not one to make resolutions.  I just strive to do my best every day.  But right now, I'm thinking I need a goal.  You see, I got two cute sweaters for Christmas as gifts.  And...they are a size too small.  Now, because they are sweaters I think I can still wear them.  But it doesn't help that I have a really cute shirt I got last year for Christmas that I have yet to wear, because it's too small.

So in that vein, I have some health goals for the year.  But they are health goals, not weight goals.  So, here goes:

1.  Eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day.  You'd think this would be a no brainer. And there were times when I easily put down 8-10 servings a day.  But man, that's a lot of prep work and it's hard to do that with toddlers.  One way I can do better with this is to eat fruit for breakfast.  So, here's my fruit goal for breakfast.  Alternate:

- yogurt with bananas and berries and granola
- smoothie with Amazing Grass
- banana whipped oatmeal
- fruit (2 pieces) and a handful of nuts

Eat at least two servings each for lunch and dinner.

2.  Cut back on the sugar.  The holiday sweets.  They were bad.  And I got the whole family into the bad habit.  So, no more sweets unless I bake them.

3.  Eat more greens, beans, nuts, and mushrooms.

4.  Get more regular exercise.  Let's face it - with my sleep issues and work schedule, I'm not going to be running any half marathons.  Nor am I going to look like Maria Kang.  But I can work exercise into my day.  Here's my goal: 6 days a week.  The requirements on any given day are minimal.  They can include:

- Walk at least two miles
- Run a mile (this is soooo unlikely with my ankle, but you never know!)
- Do 15 mins of strength training, whether with weights or body weight
- Do 15 mins of intervals at home
- Do any 15+ minutes of any workout DVD.
- Do any class at the gym (spinning, yoga, etc.)
- Do any 20 minutes of cardio at the gym - swim, bike, elliptical

You see that the requirements here are rather small on any given day.  On Christmas morning I went for a 2.3 mile walk - it was slow, only 2 miles per hour (pushing the baby in his new car).  But - it was walking.  Really I want to incorporate exercise into my day so that it is "incidental".

5.  Chill out.  I kind of started with the "Sabbath".  I also continued it with using my PTO liberally.  I earn a certain number of days per year to be used for sick,  holiday, and vacations.  In September, I just decided to use it when I needed it.  So unlike earlier, when I would work >40 hours per week - these days - well I haven't worked a full 80 hours in two weeks since September.  So I've been using PTO every single pay period (for sick time, appointments, etc.)  It means that I may never have enough time off to go on an actual vacation.  But I'm finding that by taking time off as I need it - I don't feel the need for a vacation like I used to.  So win-win really.

6.  Continue the lunch dates with my hubby, at least 2x a month.

7.  Play with my kids more.  As they grow, figure out what they like to do. This means building blocks and playing with stickers with the toddler and learning more about chess with the big boy.

8.  Drink more tea.  I have been chilling out at night with herbal tea, and it's very nice.  I also haven't been drinking much wine.  I have a LOT of wine right now (1.5 cases).

9.  Don't freak out as much when the kids get sick (I can't help it!  I keep thinking about the work that I'm not getting done!)

10.  Have friends over for dinner at least once a month.  I don't do this enough's a lot of work.  But you know, it doesn't HAVE to be so much work!  I can throw a roast in the crockpot.

11.  Knit, crochet, sew, make jewelry.  I have so many craft items lying dormant.  For the last month, I have been working on little holiday projects.  I find it so relaxing!!  It really is good for me.

12.  Read 10 minutes before bed.  I have been doing a pretty good job at this.

13.  SLEEP!  I have sleep issues. I have been trying to sleep as much as possible.  If I've had a couple of bad days, then I happily take a Unisom.

Wow, that's a really long list.  I guess I'm a dabbler, what can I say?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The One Pot Christmas

So, it's Christmas Eve!  I know that a lot of people have great holiday traditions.  In my husband's house growing up, they were elaborate.  Put up the tree on the 23rd (little Christmas Eve) and decorate.  Eat Aebleskiver.  Christmas dinner was actually on the 24th and included roast pork, cooked red cabbage, two kinds of potatoes, and a lot of other delicious vegetable side dishes.  There is dancing and singing around the Christmas tree.  Rice pudding.  A marzipan pig.  Lots of fun.

In my family as years went on, our holiday tradition became just eating snacks on Christmas eve - cheese and crackers, venison bologna (as long as someone got a deer that year), veggies and dip, etc.  The big meal was Christmas day - sometimes ham, sometimes turkey.

When we moved to California and stopped traveling home, we adopted our own traditions.  For years we cooked on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and had our friends over.  Then we had kids and every single holiday, one of the family was traveling.  (When you are on the school schedule, that's when you travel!)  Well this year, as luck would have it, both my husband and the wife of the other family have to work.  So, we are having them and their 2 kids over tonight for dinner.

But my husband is working.  Normally, we would do some kind of roast (turkey, beef, pork, ham) and my husband's famous mashed potatoes (with butter, sour cream, and cream cheese).  That was originally the plan for today, but we didn't get the potatoes done last night (I went to bed at 8:30 and slept till 7:30.  I feel a little guilty at skipping the gym.  But I'll take the kiddos for a walk today.  That will be good enough, right?)

So I surfed the land of google and found a couple of roast recipes.  This one and this one.  Our roast beef tonight was cooked on a bed of vegetables - potatoes, onions, mushrooms, garlic, and carrots.  A simple one pot meal with crescent rolls on the side (our friend is bringing green beans).  I didn't make any dessert but I had some cookies.

The problem with this plan is that the boys wanted dessert.  The roast was probably perfect when it came out of the oven.  Then the boys left to get dessert.  I put it back in the warm and off oven...and, it overcooked.  About 75% of the time, we overcook our roasts.  Ah well, it will make decent roast beef sandwiches.  The veggies were delicious. 

I leave you with a photo of the tree...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sometimes it helps to do the math (again)

This was one of those not-so-frugal weeks that pop up every once in awhile.  My husband was on jury duty (as well as trying to get work done, kids, Christmas cards and shopping, holiday party).  I had a really bad couple of nights of sleep where the 17 month old woke up and was awake for 2-3 hours.  (He was gassy.  I'm thinking it's the hummus.)

So Monday was one of those days where I had no lunches packed and nothing ready in the freezer.  Because of the lack of sleep (I crawled back into bed at 4:52 am after being up with the toddler for a few hours), I missed the gym and ended up waking up about 15 minutes before I needed to get to work.  I grabbed a couple of muffins and headed off.  As I walked out the door I yelled "There's no lunches packed, you are all on your own!"  So the big boy got school lunch, Daddy ate out, and I went to the cafeteria at the company down the street and got myself a wrap and a drink.

$9.  For a wrap and a drink.  That night after dinner, I went into the kitchen and made 12 bean and cheese burritos (I had at least made the crockpot refried beans over the weekend).  I packed up the last little bit of beans and threw them into a container with some leftover rice from the weekend, salsa, and leftover vegetables.

Total cost for my leftover rice and beans and vegetable lunch?  $1.06.  And $0.82 of that is the salsa and vegetables).  It's good for me to do that math once in awhile as a reminder of why I don't just "pick food up while I'm out" (though I still do that, and did so a few more times this week).  I spent $9 on lunch out on Friday meeting friends for lunch, one of whom was passing through, and $21 on lunch while out shopping yesterday).

On Wednesday, I was sorely tempted to pick something up at the store for dinner, but resisted yet again (it's easy to resist when you have to shop with a toddler).  Instead of spending $30 on takeout or $15 on a pre-made meal at the store, I went home and made 1-pot spaghetti with pasta, meatballs, jarred marinara, and some vegetables.  Served with a simple salad with homemade dressing (I made a big batch a couple of weeks ago).

The cost of the one pot of pasta was $10.95, which is about $3.65 per meal - one 12 oz box of pasta makes about 3 meals for us.  When you add the vegetable servings, the cost per meal goes up to about $4.32.  That's for 3.5 people and is a far cry from $30 or even $15.

**cute toddler alert** He's right now spinning in a circle until he gets dizzy and falls down, and then says "uh oh".

So let's summarize:
1.  Monday: $9 for lunch instead of $1.06 - wasted $8
2.  Friday: $9 for lunch instead of $1.06 - wasted $8 (I even only drank water that day)
3.  Saturday: $21 for lunch instead of $4.32 - wasted about $17
4.  W-Th-Sat dinner: $12.96 instead of $60, saved $47.

I sort of came out ahead, but since the norm is to NOT eat out, really, I didn't come out ahead.  I wasted about $33 on eating out this week.

I am on vacation this week, so here is the rough dinner plan for the week:

Sunday: Turkey and rice casserole with vegetables (leftover turkey from Thanksgiving), carrot/turnip/ginger soup
Monday: Leftover casserole and leftover soup
Tuesday: Beef roast, mashed potatoes, rolls, vegetable (having friends over for Christmas Eve)
Wednesday: Chicken fingers and broccoli
Thursday: Leftover beef and broccoli
Friday: Pizza

Friday, December 6, 2013

Orange Balsamic Pomegranate Salad Dressing

I love homemade dressings.  First, I have this great bottle (it was a gift) that I got from, that was recommended by the folks over at 100 Days of Real Food.  There are dressing recipes right on the bottle!

I also like to find other recipes and make my own.  I have really enjoyed the Balsamic Orange Vinaigrette from The Prudent Homemaker.  I have been tweaking the recipe a bit (I tweak everything every time), and today found a different recipe here to tweak even more.

The result was quite good and I thought I'd share.  Don't be afraid to make your own dressings!

Orange Balsamic Pomegranate Dressing
Zest of one orange
Juice of one orange (approx. 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup oil (I used canola because I'm almost out of olive oil!  Yikes!)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1/2 pomegranate, about 2-3 Tbsp (I just get tired of deseeding the darned things, so I seed half and squeeze the life out of the other half using the citrus juicer)
2 tsp Dijon mustard (I used 1.5 tsp Dijon and 1 tsp of orange zinfandel mustard from a local winery)
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried onion flakes

Mix all together in your bottle, and shake shake shake!

Our salad tonight had candied pecans, feta, radishes, mixed lettuce, and pomegranate seeds. And this dressing of course!