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Archive for the ‘Goal of the week’ Category

I don’t do New Years Resolutions. By now, from reading my blog, you can tell that I’m all about resolving to do new things and setting goals for myself. However, the stigma attached to goals that have to start on January 1 and typically are failed by January 10 makes me unexcited to jump on that bandwagon.

Who doesn’t want to eat better, or get in shape, or get organized, or finally accomplish this thing or that? Those are all great, but most resolutions are begun in haste when January creeps up quickly after Christmas; with little or no planning or preparation before starting these goals, they are bound to fail when they hit the first snag. I prefer to be thoughtful and make a plan with a high chance of success.

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Now that we’re fully moved in and partially settled, Bart and I are trying to return to some semblance of normalcy in our daily routine. One thing that has been unusual and pervasive for us over the last half a year or more is eating out multiple times a week. We enjoy going out for a meal as a fun activity now and again, but we were relying on restaurants for food more than we typically do.

One reason for this increase in eating out was house-hunting; we would be out almost all day on Saturdays and Sundays and need to eat between showings. Another reason was my periodic lack of motivation and inspiration in the kitchen, which happens to us all at some time or another. Then, during the final weeks of packing one kitchen, moving, and unpacking into another one, we were forced to eat out with abandon as we had limited resources to cook our own meals.

Needless to say, this dining schedule begins to add up considerably in cost as well as health. It’s easy to toss a few twenties or your credit card at the check when you finish a meal without thinking, but when I stop to really look at the dollar amount of some meals, I can hardly believe I’m willing to spend that much on one meal, especially when I would balk on spending that much on an item I would use every day at home. Now, obviously we have to eat, and that does cost money, but I can cook so much cheaper at home, and most of the time it’s just as tasty. Also, we are used to eating pretty well when we cook, but when I go out for a meal, I’m definitely not ordering a salad with a side veggies. So, it seemed like November would be the perfect time to get back to our normal routine, but with a kick. To keep us motivated, Bart and I have instituted an Eat-Out Challenge for the month of November.

Here’s how it works for us. We set a budget for eating out the entire month, and we do not exceed that dollar amount by November 30 (with some flexibility for unexpected things, like guests or travel). When we did this previously in Colorado, we were able to meet or beat a goal of $100 most months, which for us translated in about one restaurant or casual dining meal per week. Here, things are pricier, and we think $125 is a good goal to shoot for. If I were brave enough to calculate an estimate of our eating out expenditures for October, I think I might faint over the difference in those two numbers, but it’s totally doable. Plus, all that money saved could be used for something else fun, like fixing up the house.

To kick start our challenge, we are instituting a mini-challenge of not eating out for an entire week. That will be more challenging if we have plans to be out on Saturday, but we can work around it. That will also make our next restaurant outing more special.

I also decided to incorporate one more challenge for myself this month. As we’ll be eating at home more, I’ll need some extra motivation for cooking interesting meals. So I’ve decided to try four new recipes this month, approximately once a week, to keep it interesting in the kitchen. Bonus points if my new recipes put my fancy Wolf oven and gas cooktop through their paces. If I come across a real winner of a recipe, I’ll be sure to share. We’ll also be in Raleigh with friends for Thanksgiving, so that would be a great opportunity to try a new holiday dish.

I’m actually looking forward to this challenge. We’ve been so scattered lately that doing something like a challenge means we’re settled enough to focus on a project other than unpacking. It’s also a nice twist that it naturally involves spending more quality time in our new home.

Do you have any goals for the new month? There’s never a better time to try something new!

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A couple of months ago, I lost a very dear, sweet friend. Patricia Rains was a friend of mine, a friend of my family, and a friend to so many people in my hometown. It was astounding how many people I would meet in various ways who were also friends with Pat!

You’ll recall that Bart and I have been able to visit recently with her daughter and son-in-law, Kenda and Nathan, during their recent move and on our trip to New England. Our latest visit was bittersweet as we grieved together over her mother’s recent passing, but we shared some great memories together about her.

Known firstly for her love of God, Pat was secondarily known for being an amazing cook. You could never go over to her house without the kitchen being full of delicious goodies! Ever the writer, she maintained a cooking blog, A Pinch of This, A Smidgen of That, and even published a cookbook of the same name a few years ago. Not long after it came out, I was visiting back home for a few days, and she gifted a signed copy to me. As a tribute to her mom, Kenda is continuing on with the blog and sharing some of her mom’s favorite recipes.

While I was processing all of this after our trip, Bart came up with a wonderful idea last week. At his suggestion, I’ve decided to dedicate this week of blogging to Pat by featuring some of her recipes from her cookbook and sharing them with you. Today I’m going to start with her “Easy Pot Roast and Vegetables.” This was fitting because we had house guests this weekend, and it was an easy, flexible one-pot meal to share with them. Plus, Pat was all about using food to bring people together, so it was perfect to serve for a group.

Easy Pot Roast and Vegetables

From “A Pinch of This, A Smidgen of That” by Patricia Rains

Ingredients:

  • 1 beef chuck pot roast (2 1/2 to 3 lbs)
  • 3 to 5 medium baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 to 4 large carrots, cut in chunks (or use whole baby carrots)
  • 2 ribs (not stalks!) of celery, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Cavender’s Greek seasoning, to taste
  • 1 cup flour + 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth

First, gather your ingredients. I didn’t have Cavender’s Greek seasoning, so I looked up the ingredients and substituted basil, rosemary, parsley, and salt to get a rough approximation. I also opted for the baby carrots, since I had those around. For beef broth, you’ll note that I primarily use a beef bouillon base instead of cartons because I find the form factor much more convenient, and it lasts a while for me. But either way is just fine!

Gather your ingredients

Gather your ingredients

Wash and blot roast dry with paper towels. Sprinkle liberally with meat tenderizer (I didn’t have this, either, so I skipped it), garlic powder, then Cavender’s Greek seasoning (or my substitutions). Roll in flour/paprika mixture to coat all sides and place in slow cooker.

Season the roast

Season the roast

Then transfer to slow cooker

Then transfer to slow cooker

Then, Bart and I (okay, just Bart) chopped up the veggies. Note that we left the onion slices bigger so they would cover the top of the roast.

Chop those veggies

Chop those veggies

Place onion slices on top of the meat to cover and arrange other veggies evenly around or on top. Now, I have a huge slow cooker, and my poor roast was drowning in veggies! Yum yum.

All tucked in!

All tucked in!

Pour broth around the edge of the slow cooker crock so it drains to the bottom without washing seasonings off the beef. The recipe says to cover and cook on low 8 1/2 to 9 hours or until beef is fork-tender. I was running shorter on time, so I put it on high and cooked for 5 to 6 hours, and my roast was perfectly tender. Once it’s finished, remove beef to serving platter and arrange vegetables around beef. Remove and discard bay leaves.

Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the beautiful and tasty final product; I was too busy chatting with our visitors and stuffing my face to think about a photo op. But I promise it was delicious and certainly fulfilled my needs for a quick, hands-off, and satisfying meal for a group. Plus, slow cookers can be a great option for those hot days you don’t want to fire up the entire oven for a meal. I hope you’ll give it a try the next time you need a hearty meal to feed family or friends. EnJOY!

Easy Pot Roast and Vegetables

From “A Pinch of This, A Smidgen of That” by Patricia Rains

Ingredients:

  • 1 beef chuck pot roast (2 1/2 to 3 lbs)
  • 3 to 5 medium baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 to 4 large carrots, cut in chunks (or use whole baby carrots)
  • 2 ribs (not stalks!) of celery, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Cavender’s Greek seasoning, to taste
  • 1 cup flour + 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth

Wash and blot roast dry with paper towels. Sprinkle liberally with meat tenderizer, garlic powder, then Cavender’s Greek seasoning. Roll in flour/paprika mixture to coat all sides and place in slow cooker. Place onion slices on top of meat to cover and arrange other veggies evenly around or on top. Pour broth around the edge of the slow cooker crock so it drains to the bottom without washing seasonings off the beef. Cover and cook on low 8 1/2 to 9 hours or until beef is fork-tender. Remove beef to serving platter. Arrange vegetables around beef. Remove and discard bay leaves.

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Bombs…..poison….explosions….. last week was very eventful and tragic. This weekend was time to take a deep breath before trying to get back to normalcy as best we can this week.

Not that my week is totally ordinary. Bart and Murphy, our pup, drove back home this weekend, leaving me to fly solo for a few days before joining them later this week. Coming home with out a wiggly, waggy, whiny dog greeting me at the door or bouncing around every time I move even an inch, just in case I do something incredibly interesting, is a new experience, as he’s rarely ever not at home. Fortunately, he’s in the expert care of my parents while Bart visits with his family, so he’s actually getting a doggy vacay while I’m stuck at home working. That’s okay; I’ll get my vacay on in a few days.

I kept myself occupied this weekend, though. Saturday, after Bart had left, I thought I might venture out a bit and run some errands. However, when trying to locate my keys to no avail, I called Bart, who was then somewhere near the Virginia/Tennessee border. Sure enough, in some mysterious way we have yet to understand, my keys ended up along for the ride. Thank goodness I have duplicates of everything except my office key here. That took the wind out of my sails, however, so I opted for a quiet day at home working on some projects and watching movies on Netflix.

Sunday morning I went to church; visiting a place alone was a bit intimidating, but Bart, being the wise man he is, suggested just the right place for me to go alone. Afterward, I (finally) met up with a friend from high school who also lives in the area. We agreed many times on Facebook that we ought to get together sometime, so we finally made it happen! Look at me being all social and everything for two whole weekends in a row.

So now it’s Monday, and time for a goal of the week, at least for the few days before I head out. Right at this second, I can’t say I’m all that motivated to come up with anything, but there are multiple little things I have on my to-do list. At the very least, I need to return something to the mall and pick up a couple of items for Bart. Sounds like a task for today or tomorrow. And I’d like to paint my nails tonight. I think I’ll count my week as a success if I can manage those.

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I totally get March snow. In Colorado. I expect blizzards and blizzards of snow there. What on earth is it doing snowing in Washington, D.C.? At least it’s just a snow shower that has no hope of sticking to anything, but still. I guess it’s Monday morning, so what else would you expect? It is absolutely time for spring to make its entrance, which it shall formally do on Wednesday.

Bart and I had a pretty low-key weekend, probably because we’re saving up our awesome weekend-ness for the coming one. More details on that as it transpires! This weekend, we went to a seminar at a local church, ran a few errands, exercised, poked at our taxes some more, visited yet another new church, relaxed by the fire, and finished a DIY home project we’ve been working on the last few weeks (the details of which should also be forthcoming). All in all, a nice weekend.

Now it’s time for a new week, and likewise a new Goal of the Week. My first priority for this week is to finish said taxes. I think I finally have the federal part done, so now it’s time for the two state returns, and then I can be rid of this nastiness until next year. I realize many people have much more complicated returns than us, but I did work two jobs in two different states, moved across country, sold a home, and graduated from a degree program this year…I’m just glad it isn’t more complicated than that.

The second priority for the week is to keep exercising each day for 20-30 minutes. I feel good when I do, and getting stronger and fitter is surely a good thing. I also have it in my head that I’d like to start running again when the weather improves (I confess: I’m a wimp. I hate running in the cold), so indoor training is a great way to keep my endurance from flatlining while I wait to hit the trail. I really need a 5K to train for specifically this spring…

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