Monthly Archives: June 2015

Garden 2015: Favas!

I’m excited to say the favas are here! And while I know this large colander, when fully processed, will only amount to about a cup of edible beans, I’m still totally stoked. There are quite a few pods left to be picked so these will go into the freezer once they’re shelled and peeled until all the beans are harvested.

The lettuce is still going gangbusters, and the zucchini should be ready to start harvesting in just a few days. I’m looking forward to stocking my freezer full of zucchini bread to eat throughout the winter–lightly toasted with butter. Yum!

The beets are much further along than I was expecting for this point in the year. I may even have enough for my first batch of pickles, which is exciting, and a little annoying because it’s supposed to be above 90 degrees for the next 2 weeks and I’m not looking forward to standing over a huge pot of boiling water for hours on end.

June 26th: Weekly meal plan

If the weather forecast is true (and I’m praying it’s not) over the next 10 days Portland is going to get hot and stay hot. I’m already melting at the thought of all those 90+ degree days. Nothing sounds worse than turning on the oven, and Popsicles for dinner are sounding like a very real possibility.

The meal plan and subsequent grocery list is surprisingly protein heavy. I’m hoping to do some pre-cooking/grilling in the cool of one of the weekend mornings, and then just pull cooked meat out of the fridge for all those cool salads we’ll be eating.

Stay cool and hydrated, everyone!

– Taco salad
Chorizo rice bowl
– Grilled sausage and kohlslaw
– Grilled chicken salad
– Antipasti plates
– Caprese salad
– Hodge Podge!

The importance of looking out for #1

In a perfect marriage, you and your spouse would always walk side-by-side, hand-in-hand, tackling whatever life throws at you as a team. You’d always say (and mean) I love you before turning out the light, and the toilet seat would always be in the down position.

But let’s face it, there is no such thing as the perfect marriage. The toilet seat is up more often than not, one or both of you will be too tired or angry to utter those three special words, and sometimes one of you will need more holding hands.

There will be times when you will need to be your spouse’s support system (emotional, mental, and sometimes even physical), and you just can’t expect much support in return. And that’s okay. That’s one of the reasons marriage can be so awesome—they support you when you need it, and you support them.

But what happens, when your own strength begins to fail and they still need you to hold them up?

Andy’s Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis began a period of struggle within our marriage. He was dealing with anger, embarrassment, fear, frustration, and a myriad of other emotions. I was struggling with my own frustration and fear, but I knew it was important to be strong for him. I started making dinner more often. I encouraged him to exercise with me—all the while spending hours online trying to figure out a way to keep our current lifestyle from disappearing into a world of broccoli and kale.

I was exhausted trying to stay positive and uplifting when all I really wanted was to dive into a gallon of ice cream (it didn’t even need to be good ice cream) and drown my sorrows.

I can remember one day, I just needed to feel like everything was normal so I went to Taco Bell and got a soft taco and a 7-layer burrito. I stuffed both in my purse and sneakily ate them in the kitchen while Andy was watching TV. It wasn’t healthy—emotionally, or physically—but it was what I needed at the time.

It’s important to remember as you’re struggling with your spouse, or friend, or parent, or sibling as they go through the early stages of a Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis, that sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and do something for yourself. Go buy yourself some nail polish, get a massage, go for a walk, indulge in something you really love. And don’t feel guilty. You’ll feel renewed and stronger. Strong enough to keep being the strong one for a little while longer.

In the years that have passed, our lives have returned to a better form of normal. Our meals are healthier, we spend more time being active, and less time watching TV. We’re happier inside and out. We’ve gone back to walking side-by-side, hand-in-hand. And we’ve realized that all the struggle was worth it to see Andy come out on the other side stronger than before.

June 19th: Weekly meal plan

Hello, hello!

It’s been a gorgeous week hereabouts and according to the weather forecast next week looks to be the same. We’re having some friends over for dinner next week, and I wanted to do a slightly more elaborate meal in celebration (pulled pork tacos), but everything else is easy peasy. The garden is spitting out more lettuce than I know what to do with hence all the salads.

In case you’re wondering what “Fiesta” salad is, basically it’s whatever is left over from the tacos in salad form. Take a peek at the grocery list, and have a great one!

– BBQ pulled pork tacos with kohlslaw and fruit
Chorizo cabbage skillet casserole
– BLT salad
– Mediterranean rice bowl
– Chicken salad, salad
– “Fiesta” salad
– Hodge Podge

The night dinner went wrong

I’m not even going to pretend to be coy–I am not a flexible person. I am a list maker, a schedule planner, and if I have plans please don’t change them, I may freak out. Just ask Andy. I’ve gotten better since we’ve been married, but early on a simple unscheduled change to my plans would send me into a tail spin. It wasn’t pretty.

A while back I was all set to try out a new recipe–Pistachio Kebabs on rosemary skewers (from Yummy Supper) served with Middle Eastern cauli-rice pilaf. I had already made some slight changes to the initial recipe–it was the middle of February and I didn’t feel like standing outside to grill, so the “skewers” were going to become meatballs. Andy doesn’t like a lot of rosemary, so I was going to mince up just a few needles and mix it in. Everything else was the same.

I was going strong. I had plenty of time before Andy would be home and back again from his evening walk, and even though the recipe itself was new, I know how to make meatballs so I wasn’t stressed. I shelled the pistachios, chopped the herbs, cooked the onions and set them to chill, and went to grab the meat from the fridge. This is where something went horribly wrong. The meat that I had pulled out of the freezer 24+ hours ago was still frozen.

I took a deep breath. I hoped I was wrong and it was just the stiff butcher paper that wouldn’t give when I squeezed. I removed the wrapper, placed the meat in the bowl with the herbs and onions and took another deep breath. It wasn’t the paper. After the first 1/4 inch the meat was still frozen solid. I took a fork and tried to break it apart. It didn’t work. There was no way I was going to be able to make this frozen meat soft enough to make meatballs for dinner.

And this is where I should have freaked out. In the past, something like this would have been a disaster. At best, there would have been tears and anger. At worst I would have thrown the whole thing out and told Andy we were going for take out. With our current lifestyle and income, throwing out an entire meal’s worth of ingredients just isn’t an option.

I started thinking… I had already planned to make Middle Eastern cauli-rice pilaf, so what if instead of meatballs, I just sauteed the frozen ground beef with all the herbs and pistachios and mixed it into the pilaf? A Middle Eastern rice bowl if you will.

It wasn’t the meal I originally intended, but it was worth a try. Anything was better than throwing the food away. So I got to work. And you know what? It was a good meal and I discovered some things I would do differently next time, like make sure I add the pistachios after everything’s been cooked. They got a little soggy and disappeared. Also, it could have used a little extra parsley and a little more cumin.

Growing in patience is never an easy thing. I know that it’s been God’s work on my heart throughout this journey that got me to the place of acceptance and flexibility when a meal didn’t go as planned. His patience with me is abundant indeed!

I’ve only made this recipe the one time, so I know I should add it to an upcoming meal plan. If it’s as good as I remember, I’ll post it here so you can enjoy it as well.

 

Grocery shopping 101: Tips & tricks

After Andy’s Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, meal planning and (subsequently) grocery shopping were integral to getting us both back on the road to recovery and health. Nothing set us back faster than being really hungry with nothing planned and no food in the cupboard. Pizza Hut was just a phone call away!

I’ve already shared my process for attacking the grocery store and the importance of a grocery budget, but I wanted to end this mini-series with a few more tips and tricks I’ve picked up that will make your entire grocery experience that much easier.

• Make a plan/list. Nothing will frustrate you more than milling around a busy grocery store trying to figure out what you want to eat. You’ll find yourself randomly throwing things into the cart that you’ll kick yourself for later. I’m looking at you S’mores PopTarts!

• Set a budget. I know I’ve already covered this in a blog post, but I really can’t stress enough the importance of a grocery budget. Keeping track of where and how you spend your money is good for your health and your bank account.

• Go shopping consistently. Whether you go once a week, once a month, or every Wednesday and Saturday, make sure that your house has the healthy food you need when a case of the munchies hits.

• Go early/late in the day. Mid-day at a grocery store is my personal definition of hell. So many people with baskets going every which way. If you can get there early, you’ll have your pick of the best produce and won’t have to reach around 10 people to get it.

• Be nice. Nobody likes grocery shopping. Everyone wants to be done. Pushing your way past people isn’t nice. Be as courteous as you can to fellow shoppers and staff (especially the staff!) and if you have to, sing a happy song in your head. I promise it helps!

• Make friends with the staff. The staff knows their product and they can help you find exactly what you want. If I ever have a question about how to cook a certain cut of meat the guys behind the counter are a great resource.

• Try something new. Don’t be afraid to try that strange looking vegetable or a new cut of meat. You may find a new favorite to add to your meal cycle.

If you have any tried and true grocery shopping tips, I’d love to hear them!

June 12th: Weekly meal plan

Hello! Andy and I had a fabulous week away. The weather was perfect and we had a great time relaxing and playing outside in the sun.

This week is pretty much back to normal. The garden is still spitting out tons of lettuce and greens, so you’ll see quite a few salads on the menu. The grocery list is as straightforward as it can get, as well.

It’s nice to be home! Have a great week!!!

– Chicken mole with green cauli-rice
Chorizo rice bowl
– Grilled sausage with salad
– Spanish frittata with salad
Chorizo cabbage skillet casserole
– Brussels salad with eggs
– Hodge Podge!

June 5th: Weekly meal plan (and off next week)

This week’s meal plan is a little different than most. Between a wedding on the weekend and our anniversary vacation (8 years!!!), I don’t have a real meal plan to share.

Our vacation rental has a full kitchen so we’ll definitely be doing some cooking, but I want our meals to be really flexible.

We’ll be back in full force the week after next and hope you have a great week to enjoy the sun–I may or may not be laying by the pool when I’m not riding bikes.

Grocery shopping 101: The budget

When Andy and I first got married neither one of us had experience keeping a budget. We made decent (enough) money and while we both brought some debt into the marriage we managed our finances fairly well.

After a few years, I started wondering why our savings account wasn’t growing as quickly as I felt it should. I looked at the numbers and realized we had been nickel and diming ourselves with our debit cards. A dinner out here, a movie there, midnight donut runs, and snack trips to the store all added up and we were throwing hundreds of dollars out the window a month. When I brought this to Andy’s attention, he had the brilliant idea of moving to a weekly cash system for groceries and other food-related items. If we didn’t have the cash, we couldn’t treat ourselves and groceries came first.

When Andy was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, the grocery budget became even more important. Good food isn’t cheap, and to commit to healthy eating requires some financial sacrifices. Plus, we had the added cost of diabetes prescriptions that we weren’t expecting. We knew that we couldn’t eat out as often, so we were able to reallocate some of that money into buying better meat from New Seasons. We stopped buying Mt. Dew, and those funds went straight into our apple budget.

Over the years, our grocery budget has grown and shrunk several times. Some weeks we have a surprising amount of money left over to use for “fun things”. Other weeks, I have to modify our meal plan on the fly because I know we’re running out of money. It forces me to be flexible, creative, and accountable. By setting a grocery budget and sticking to it, our overall household budget has become much easier to manage.

(One thing I must note: Our grocery budget does include non-food-related items like toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, and cat litter. But these items make up a very small percentage of our total grocery expenditure. The majority goes to produce, meat, and eggs.)

How you determine your own grocery budget is entirely up to you. Do you eat more protein-heavy meals? Your weekly amount is going to be higher than if you prefer a more vegetarian fare. If you don’t know where to get started, keep track of your spending for a few weeks. See where you spend your money, and what you spend it on. Do you see areas that can be eliminated? You may need to cut out all restaurant food until you get the budget under control. Do you see areas where you’d like to increase your spending? More fresh produce for the win!

I personally use a Google Docs spreadsheet to keep track of our entire monthly budget, but there are other tools available online (both free and not) that are popular for tracking your funds.

It might take a few months to really get into the groove of your grocery budget, but I promise you that your bank account will thank you if you stick to it as much as possible.

How about you? Do you have (and stick to) a budget? I’d love to hear your grocery tips!