It’s the time of the season

In some ways, this week’s meals had a theme now that it’s one of my favorite times of the year: salsa season. Growing up my mom always made us homemade salsa in the late summer, and thankfully the middle took on that tradition (also thankfully aided with food processors). Pasta sauces for me are like salsa for her. Each time it’s a little different but every time it’s so damn delicious.

Salsa

I apologize for that poor photo quality. If I would have been thinking, I would have snapped photos after we made it on Saturday….but that wasn’t my priority. Taste testing very much was, though.

Since we started the day by purchasing 20 pounds of canning tomatoes at the farmer’s market, I knew my meals this week would need to have tomatoes involved.

The first meal was actually the one I’d intended to make last week — one pan balsamic chicken and veggies. Sadly asparagus wasn’t on sale, so I opted for green beans and threw in some tomatoes along with the carrots. I also paired it with chicken rice, though the chicken and veggies would have been just find on its own.

Balsamic chicken

I had to plan my remaining two dishes carefully based on leftovers (as you’ll see shortly), so last night I made cheesy pesto chicken lasagna spaghetti squash. It’s a mouthful but folks, I found a winner! Not that I really have staple dishes, but this would undoubtedly be one of them.

What I didn’t realize (though probably should have) is that you can pre-cook spaghetti squash. I almost did it Sunday night but instead baked it Monday between work and the gym. When I came home, it was a matter of making the chicken (I actually opted for ground turkey instead of chicken) and putting all the layers together.

Steps

About 40 minutes later and I had this deliciousness. While I was putting the mozzarella cheese on, I half wondered if I could have gotten away with shredded mozzarella cheese. This is definitely worth it. It melted to perfection. Plus I loved that I didn’t have to feel as guilty about spaghetti squash!

Final squash

In some ways it reminded me of swedish meatballs, though in part it’s because of the way I cooked it. Instead of buying pesto sauce, I purchased a packed and made it with the ground turkey. It added a ton of flavor, though next time I’ll likely mix some pesto sauce into the spaghetti squash.

The final dish is one I knew I likely wouldn’t get away with bringing to the office for lunch leftovers. I’ve never had fish tacos before, so given my access to delicious salsa, I decided to try blackened fish tacos with avocado cilantro sauce.

Instead of tilapia, I ended up going with mahi mahi since that tends to be my fish of choice. In addition to what was listed in the recipe, I also decided to make brown rice and also a corn, black beans and tomato blend to put on the tacos as well.

Taco fixings

The above photo isn’t great, but I love that there’s an add-on instagram app for photo collages!

Anywho, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the meal came together. I baked the fish according to the instructions (about 15 minutes), and that’s all the time it took to whip up all my taco fixings.

Fish tacos

I was pleasantly surprised by the avocado cilantro sauce. It was a really good pairing for the fish and I’m hoping it will stay relatively fresh for leftovers.

While it was good, I’ll likely stick with carnitas. Ever since I discovered how to make those (naturally with Chipotle’s copycat cilantro lime rice recipe), that’s been my meat of choice for tacos. I’d actually told the middle this past weekend that I’m not sure when I last made actual tacos with ground beef. Not that that’s a bad thing, though.

I’ll be honest that tonight’s dinner primarily ended up being chips and salsa, which didn’t come as a surprise to me. It’s a problem, quite honestly. Thank goodness salsa season isn’t too long or I’d really be in trouble! But for now I’ll just indulge and appreciate the good mix of recipes that came along with the purchasing of 20 pounds of tomatoes.

Happy campers

I admit this isn’t great photo quality (though props to the middle for being the photographer on Sunday night!), but I can’t help but share a photo of Hurley. Now that he’s gone two years in a row, it wouldn’t surprise me if he starts counting down to the Dog Splash at the end of each summer. He was on cloud nine the entire time he was in the pool! (And mama loves that it wears him out…).

dog splash

Seriously, be still my heart.

But now on to food, which was the real intent of this post. How easily that adorable labrador distracts me…

For whatever reason, last week I was craving something with black beans. I kid you not, I searched “healthy dinner recipes with black beans” on pinterest, leading me to a black bean and beef enchilada casserole.

I made three main modifications. The first is that I used ground turkey instead of ground beef (that modification should probably just be a given in my food posts by now I suppose). I also added corn since that’s generally a staple in my Mexican dishes (plus I live in Nebraska…). The third modification is one I wish I wouldn’t have made. At the store I noticed RoTel dip that had cilantro and lime. It sounded right up my alley, but for whatever reason it didn’t do the trick in this dish. And it felt like overkill with diced peppers/jalapeno.

It was still a great take on a Mexican dish, though. Rarely do I cook with or use corn tortillas, but I really enjoyed it in this recipe. What was also different about this casserole is that it was layered similar to lasagna. Other Mexican casserole dishes I’ve made have torn up tortillas mixed into everything, so this required a bit more prep work (though not much more). This shows the middle layer before I put on the final layer of corn tortillas.

Pre

I wish I would have spread the sour cream out a tad more. I thought it would spread out a bit more while it baked in the oven, though it could be a result of the casserole being refrigerated for so long. Trying to be efficient with time, I actually whipped up the casserole before going to spin class. Almost makes me feel like I should make similar dishes on Sunday so I can just pop them in the oven when I get home on a week night.

It’s probably not safe, but it baked long enough for me to get Hurley out on a walk. And the end result looked amazing.

Post

Like I said, I wish I wouldn’t have thrown in the Rol Tel, but otherwise I really enjoyed the casserole. Later in the week I made brown rice and added it into the dish just to mix up my leftovers a bit. Definitely a recipe I’d make again.

Last week I also intended to make a balsamic chicken and veggies dish. That didn’t quite pan out, but it led me to finding a crockpot honey ginger chicken recipe that I made last night.

The prep was a lot easier than I anticipated, though I will say I used ginger that you would put on sushi instead of ginger root. I bought it a few weeks ago for another recipe, and I forgot how much I love ginger. I’m also surprised by how much more subdued the flavor is once it’s been cooked.

I thought about pairing this with pasta, but given I had pizza pasta and garlic bread on Saturday night, I figured it was high time to get back to my brown rice. The tomatoes were a nice addition too. I mostly wanted to use those up since I didn’t use them in the balsamic chicken and veggies dish.

2015-08-24 20.40.54

This seemed similar to other chicken dishes I’ve tried, though in my mind you can’t really go wrong with adding a bit of honey and lime to chicken. The ginger added a unique flavor to it as well, which made it slightly different from previous dishes.

We’ll have to see what cravings and flavors strike for next week’s meals! What would we (okay, mostly me) do without Pinterest?!

Ladies night

This is probably a clear sign that I’m getting older, but given how energized I felt after a night of crafting, I’ll take it.

Last night a friend and I decided to have a girls night focused on making a canvas. It’s been something we’d talked about doing for months, and now we’re hoping to make it a monthly event (just in time for holiday crafts!). It was also nice to discover my canvasing skills weren’t too rusty. It’s been probably a year and a half since I’ve made any type of canvas.

We started with dinner — pizza in a crockpot. What was nice is I was able to whip everything up and throw it all in the crockpot before we ran to the craft store. As usual, I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, and I nixed the green peppers. I did throw in mushrooms and black olives, which are typically staples on my pizza. I toyed with the idea of throwing in pineapple but decided against it.

I also made a homemade sauce, using this recipe as a starting point. Of all the foods I’ve made, I’m fairly certain that pasta sauce is my favorite. There’s something magical about it (strange, I know). It’s different each and every time, but it always turns out delicious. And naturally we paired the pasta with some garlic bread.

Crockpot pizza

Next time I make it, I’d probably mix the noodles with the sauce prior to putting it into the crockpot. Although my leftovers may chance that approach. Having the sauce on top of the noodles instead of mixed in, I find, doesn’t dry the sauce out as much for leftovers. We’ll find out tomorrow!

After dinner it was time to get down to business. Before dinner we’d spent roughly an hour at Hobby Lobby trying to figure out what to make. Initially I was just going to mod podge a collection of calendar quotes that I had. Seemed like an easy way to get myself back into the canvasing game (plus I really need to do something with the stack of quotes on my desk…).

But then my brain went into over-drive, as it tends to do when I’m in Hobby Lobby. Plus I had Pinterest loading tons of sample DIY canvas projects. It took some time, but finally I settled on something for the dining room, using these as inspiration:

Inspiration

The color scheme came together a lot easier than I thought. I’d been wanting to incorporate more of an olive green into my house, and the blue helps tie into the living room rug. Plus these two colors offered such a nice contrast to each other.

Crafting

It was the writing part that worried me the most. I’ve used paint markers on a canvas with mixed results, and I didn’t trust myself to write it out with a paint brush. Thankfully in the aisle was an acrylic dimensional writer. It’s similar to paint you’d use on a shirt. After a few trial runs in pencil, I decided to just go for it.

Around that time, Hurley decided to join the party. The poor guy gets anxious during thunderstorms, so I had a sidekick for awhile.

Hurley

What I love about these projects is how quickly they can come together. The paint dries relatively quickly, so I was able to hot glue gun the letters on before going to bed (which these letters coincidentally spell out). I woke up this morning and fell in love with the canvases all over again.

Canvases

I may go back with the hot glue gun again or maybe even super glue to make sure the letters are really bound to the canvas. Once that’s done, though, I’ve got the perfect spot for it in my dining room. I’m itching to hang them up but know I need to be patient…

I’ll be sure to post more photos in a week or so. I may even have a photo of the canvases my friend was working on, too, since I loved her concept. More importantly, though, in a week I should be able to showcase the DIY project that middle and I have been working on (for what seems like forever now…). I literally am giddy about starting one of the last two tasks today!

Revisiting my intentions

I love fall. For some reason this time of year seems like a more appropriate time to make resolutions and goals, almost moreso than the first of the year (probably because by then I’m worn out from the holidays and ready for spring weather).

Two weeks ago I traveled for work. Although the training itself made for a long week, I lucked out in that I had the perfect travel companion. One of my co-workers is equally drawn to life chats and even life coaching, making for great conversations and opportunities for reflection.

During one of our dinners, we were talking about being intentional with our time, energy and tasks. I almost had a moment of panic when I realized that intention is my word for the year. Looking back, my life from late April to mid-September seems like such a blur that I feel like I’d failed in my intentions (nice play on words, huh?).

Now that I’ve had some down time, I’ve been making more of an effort to identify areas where I want to be more intentional, in part to reinvigorate my efforts for the remainder of the year. What’s interesting, though, is that I’ve shifted how I view my word, at least to some degree.

When I started the year, my efforts were more geared at myself and what results being intentional that would yield. How am I spending my time? In some ways I treated it like a quality improvement process for my life. How can I make it more efficient and effective? When I look back, I think it was more about creating another layer of accountability for myself. Unfortunately, that just seemed to create another layer of stress and internal pressure that, quite frankly, I don’t want weighing on me.

Thankfully, in part through the last few months, I think being intentional has become much bigger. It’s about making sure that I’m living out my values and being intentional with others.

feels good

Success is

There are two big areas where I have focused on being intentional these last few months, primarily due to all the deadlines and stress levels. The first is the notion that “well done is better than well said.” I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this before, but it truly is one of my core values that I strive to be intentional about.

I’m big on accountability. I don’t want to just talk a good game — I want to deliver. It could be about professional matters, like meeting deadlines or accomplishing tasks, or it can be more personal in nature, like saying I’m going to get out to the east coast to see the little or eat healthy. As I’ve talked about before, I want to show up when and where I can.

Particularly with the help of my leadership institute director, I’ve been more intentional about the professional aspects. I take more time to consider what projects I take on and how I can set realistic goals and deadlines for myself. A big part of that has been learning to say no to other tasks that sneak up (and believe it or not, this people pleaser has said no to a few things!). This has been key to keeping my work load somewhat manageable and trying to have better work/life balance, recognizing that flexes over time.

The second area is one that I learned from my co-worker. She made a comment a number of weeks ago that really stuck with me: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

For some reason this was a big game changer for me, though it may seem like common sense. That’s actually why I included the other graphic above. In addition to liking what I do (my actions, decisions, projects, etc.), I want to like how I do it. And that means being intentional with my words, tone and actions. When I know I have to say no, for example, it’s how I say it that makes me feel okay about it. That’s not an easy task for me, so framing how I want to turn down something has made it feel better for me personally.

In some ways it helps that I’m an introvert. My tendency is to process and consider what I want to say or how to respond anyway. Mostly I think this approach has helped more from a people-pleasing perspective. I don’t have to say yes to every request. I don’t have to consistently put other people’s desires, wishes or expectations above my own. Knowing it’s not what I say but how I say it prevents me from constantly going along just to get along, which is great progress for me.

The downside to some of this is that most of my intentional efforts pertained to the more professional areas of my life (work and volunteer). My hope is that in the coming months I can better incorporate that into my personal life. But it does help to know I’m creating a life that’s more in alignment with who I am and my mode of operation, if you will. And isn’t that truly what my year should be about?

Crock pot recipes to the rescue

I’m finally DONE!

May was rough, but I almost feel like that was a training program for the last few weeks. A series of deadlines and work travels had me burning the midnight oil and using up any ounce of brain capacity (not to mention free time) I had.

Thankfully on late Friday afternoon, I got to submit my huge evaluation report (48 single-spaced pages of pure text plus 27 attachments) and the evaluation plan for this next grant year (another 30 pages). It was exhausting, but the silver lining is that my love for evaluation runs deep. Even as I was submitting the report, I was thinking about how we could do it differently for next year. Quality improvement at it’s finest!

Needless to say, I took the weekend (and the first two days of the week) to celebrate and let my mind relax. As an aside, if you’re near a Cheesecake Factory, you should try the blueberry white chocolate cheesecake. It was delicious, and both of us were surprised when our server told us they were taking it off the menu. I may need to venture there again before that happens…

cheesecake

My efforts to stay somewhat healthy amidst the stress didn’t pan out quite like I’d hoped, though what can you do? At least I tried to get a few homemade meals in the mix. I started last week with a crockpot beef stew. Despite the heat, for some reason this sounded like it would really hit the spot.

Plus this was the first beef stew recipe (I think) where I’ve used mushrooms. I actually sautéed them first, but otherwise I followed the recipe as is (this is also one of the first beef stew recipes where I’ve used tomato soup). Paired with sourdough bread, I definitely had some home cooked comfort food to get me through the week.

beef stew

This weekend I made parmesan chicken in the crockpot. I meant to make it earlier in the week, but better late than never right? It was something I’d been craving the week before during my work travels, but it was never on the menu. Thankfully this was really easy to whip up, though normally I think I’d prefer making my own spaghetti sauce.

It probably doesn’t make a huge difference, but I used chicken tenderloin. It seemed to make it easier to coat the chicken to have a good chicken to breading ratio, and it made it a little easier to eat. I threw this into the crockpot before going to work on a DIY project (should hopefully have that post up in about two weeks – it’s been a long time coming!), which made the house smell fantastic by the time I got back with the dogs.

parmesan chicken

It’s also nice that you throw on the mozzarella cheese right around the time you start making the pasta (I went with whole wheat linguine), so the timing works out really well.

parmesan chicken2

The next item on the docket? Meal planning for the week. Now that I’ve let myself splurge and get off schedule for the last few weeks, it’s time to buckle down and get more intention about life (more on that soon!).

Learning to hit pause

It always surprises me that, at least for me, health is generally the first thing to fall to the wayside once stress hits. It generally means half-assed (or no) workouts, lack of sleep and, perhaps worst of all, resorting to quick and often unhealthy meals. And all of this only makes my stress/attitude worse.

I knew I was approaching a particularly stressful time with work. I’ve got two big evaluation deadlines on August 14, and unfortunately my schedule is also packed with trainings that take me out of the office — including 6-day one in California next week. You know it’s bad (though incredibly sweet and touching!) when co-workers start leaving you chocolate because they know all that’s on your plate… (Random side note: it was pure coincidence that they got me the same type of chocolate!)

chocolate

So like I said, my health tends to fall to the wayside (though dark chocolate is healthy, right?!). I’ve been trying to avoid these pitfalls with lots of planning, particularly when it comes to meals. Last week I kicked off my Monday with a one pan cheesy chicken broccoli rice recipe. It wasn’t overly time consuming and I had nearly everything on hand, which is always a bonus.

I swiped out the white rice for brown, and the extra sharp cheddar cheese is the way to go. It was a perfect blend, plus the broccoli cooked perfectly. It was so delicious that I ate all my leftovers throughout the week, serving it’s purpose quite nicely.

broccoli cheese skillet

Unfortunately I still managed to eat out almost every day last week, in part because I was at a two-day training where lunch was on your own. One dinner, however, was entirely worth it. I lucked out in that one of my college roommates was having a quick family getaway to Omaha, a mere 50 minutes away!

liz and kayla

I can’t even tell you what a kickstart that was to my week and attitude. Like she mentioned on her blog, we were laughing the second I got out of my car. It was amazing to me that despite how much has changed in the last seven years, we still had similar mannerisms, attitudes and depth to our conversation. Plus I got to meet her adorable baby boy!

What’s also been fantastic, so I’ll put in a plug for this, is that we write handwritten letters to each other. A few years back when I was doing the happiness project, I made it a goal one month to reach out to people I’d lost touch with over the years. Thankfully this fabulous lady was totally on board for exchanging letters. Not only is it a great way to stay connected, but it also gets me to slow down and reflect on my life. Certainly sending an email or facebook message would be much faster, as would just keeping up on one another’s blog. But I’m telling you, there’s so much value in writing a legit letter.

I’ll get off my soapbox now…

I used the weekend to regroup a bit, including more meal planning. Wanting to start the week off right again, last night I made a Korean beef quinoa bowl. I almost didn’t make it because my mind and body were shot after spin…but when I saw it only took about 20 minutes to make, I knew I could suck it up.

It probably isn’t technically Korean beef given I used ground turkey, but I think that’s the only modification I made. Throw in a side of veggies, and I was set within 25 minutes. I’m happy to say it was very much worth the effort — and now I’ve got relatively healthy leftovers for the week, too!

korean beef

I will say I added in a bit more soy sauce to better mix the quinoa and ground turkey, but otherwise the leftovers worked really well.

Although I can’t say I’m even close to creating a good work-life balance during stressful times, I’m definitely making more of an effort than I have in years past. Speaking of balance, though, I’ve got an adorable yellow laborador who’s ready to distract me with a walk and exciting game of tug. If nothing else, he’s a big proponent of striving for that work-life balance — and makes it easier for me, too!

(Turkey) sausage, chicken and ground turkey

It’s strange to me what a difference a year can make. I feel like last year around this time I was still getting my feet under me, slowly but surely adapting to my job and the community. Now I’m fully immersed in (what feels like) five dozen projects and assignments, whether they’re work or volunteer related. All I can say is thank goodness for coffee. And Hurley.

As a result, this blog post is primarily a snapshot of new recipes I’ve been whipping up in the kitchen… Meal planning has been essential for staying relatively sane (and hopefully healthy) throughout the week.

I’ll be honest that I can’t remember when I made the skillet beans and rice with sausage recipe, though I used a turkey sausage I already had in the freezer. I also swapped out white rice for brown rice…and topped it with a bit of cheese. It was a bit strange paired with green beans, but I wanted a bit more color and a vegetable.

The skillet was quite good. I feel like I’ve tried something similar, but I don’t think it had this type of bean incorporated into it. Definitely something I’d make again.

Skillet

The buffalo chicken taquitos recipe I vividly remember making. I spent a day working at home a few weeks ago because Hurley managed to injure himself (we’re still not entirely sure what or how, naturally). The morning started out with a frantic call and subsequent trip to the vet (and we got another one later in the week). I made this recipe for lunch while I was home but didn’t have much of an appetite for it, though not because it wasn’t tasty. It’s almost like the buffalo chicken chip dip I like to make for the Super Bowl in a tortilla shell and baked. Can’t really go wrong with that!

buffalo chicken

Later that week I decided to try a cheeseburger casserole. With this recipe I also subbed in turkey for the red meat, and I also picked up some brown rice penne pasta from Trader Joe’s. I’ve recently become obsessed with that store, in part because I’m on a sparkling water kick and they have fantastic liters of raspberry lime sparking water. At least I’m staying hydrated in this heat!

Although I was a bit hesitant to add sour cream to it (primarily because I don’t associated sour cream with cheeseburgers), it turned out really well. And in all honesty, I think it’s the onion soup mix that brings it all together. It’s absolutely a good fix for when I’m craving something like cheeseburger soup in a different fashion.

cheeseburger

My post comes full circle with my most recent recipe — cilantro-lime chicken with rice and black beans. It’s almost like a burrito bowl but has almost a casserole type consistency (at least for me). I’d been craving some type of lime chicken after my co-worker talked about tequila lime chicken tacos she made the night before. This seems like an easier and (hopefully) healthier alternative.

What was also excited about this dinner is I got to use my new plates! The middle, her boyfriend and I had a weekend getaway to Kansas City, complete with a stop at IKEA. Four hours (and thankfully not too much money) later, I had a few new items for the home, including a new set of dishes. I probably should have been more conscious of that when I took a photo of the skillet, but I’m sure they’ll be featured in plenty of future photos… Spoiler alert, they’re purple. Go figure.

cilantro lime

I’d like to say my schedule is freeing up a bit to allow for a bit more blogging, but unfortunately that won’t be the case until about mid-August. Although I am hoping to have my newest DIY project to talk about soon! It’s been the biggest undertaking the middle and I have done to date…but I’m hoping it will be worth all the effort. Fingers crossed!

Oh, and I’m also happy to report Hurley is doing much better. He’s back to walking on all four paws and without a limp. Naturally now that he’s able to resume his walks as normal (though still no runs or the dog park), it’s been insanely hot outside. But that just means we wait a bit later to take our strolls. It’s hard to say no to this handsome little guy.

Hurley

Beauty in Books 8 and the secret of life

I couldn’t entirely decide which direction to take this post, so I can’t promise it will be cohesive or flow well (and it definitely won’t be short). But it’s something that I’m slowly connecting the dots on in my own mind and wanted to share.

About a week ago the middle and I were watching Girl Meets World (you can laugh, but the show is surprisingly good and very reminiscent of our TGIF days). One of the episodes focused on discovering the secret of life, which Cory Matthews claims is simply that “People change people.”

In some ways that’s very true. I couldn’t even begin to count how many people have shaped and influenced me, whether they’re family members, teachers, colleagues or even dogs. Throughout my entire life, people have absolutely changed me.

I’d argue, though, that another big secret of life (and one I think we often forget) is that you can change yourself.

A few years ago, when I was probably 40 pounds heavier and hadn’t fallen in love with group fitness classes, I asked the middle if she could ever see me, honestly and realistically, running a 5K. After a few moments passed, she said no. I can’t remember her exact explanation, but it essentially boiled down to the fact that while I probably physically could someday, I didn’t seem to have the gumption to actually train and accomplish it. And she was right. At my size, I honestly didn’t believe I could.

Liz

(As a total side note, I sent this to the middle and the little about two years ago as part of our Woof Wednesday health motivation emails. The little replied with a “From what corner of hell are you dragging these out?” Reading it still cracks me up! And I should probably apologize for now making it public…)

Flash forward to yesterday, where the middle and I ran a 5K together. It’s my second one, though this one had far less training on my part but surprisingly a much faster time. That’s change, my friends.

Kolor Run

I firmly believe you can change yourself, but I think it’s important to know yourself first. A co-worker and fellow life chatter of mine has a quote on her desk that we often reflect on that, in some ways, applies here — to be a good leader, you have to know people. To know people, you have to know yourself.

In comes Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It essentially outlines a range of research about building and sustaining habits, in part based on your personality. This is a succinct version, but I was struck by the four tendencies she outlines at the beginning of the book. Not surprisingly, I’m an obliger. (The middle is likely a rebel, which is why she did a whopping two runs before showing up for the 5K yet still kicked butt.)

That’s when things started clicking for me. A little more than a year ago I posted about my weightloss journey and mentioned a big part of my success has been because of group fitness classes. Finding physical activity I love to do did make a big difference. But do you know what I think made a bigger difference? Having that external accountability from the instructor and others in the class.

“Because Obligers resist inner expectations, it’s difficult for them to self-motivate — to work on a PhD thesis, to attend networking events, to get their car serviced. Obligers depend on external accountability, with consequences such a deadlines, late fees, or the fear of letting other people down. … Obligers need external accountability even for activities that they want to do.” (pg. 22)

Even though I love kickboxing and spin, a huge motivator for me is knowing I’ve got instructors who will ask where I’ve been if I’ve missed one too many classes. Heck, I love that my old kickboxing instructor in Columbia “likes” all the activities I log on MyFitnessPal. It’s why I religiously track my workouts in Excel and love my FitBit. I need that external accountability. In the case of the 5K, it was having a specific date for the run and knowing the middle was counting on me.  That’s what works for me (though knowing this years ago likely would have saved me a lot of time and energy…).

There’s another concept within the book that really resonated with me as well. It’s this notion that often our habits and behavior are in line with what others think of us and what we think of ourselves.

“Research shows that we tend to believe what we hear ourselves say, and the way we describe ourselves influences our view of our identify, and from there, our habits. If I say, ‘I’m lazy,’ ‘I can’t resist a sale,’ ‘I’ll try anything once,’ ‘I never start work until the last minute,’ or ‘I’m lucky,’ those ideas become part of my identity, which in turn influences my actions.” (pg. 239)

Just a few sentences later I had another a-ha moment: “For years, I thought of myself as someone who ‘hates exercise,’ but at some point I realized that I hated sports. … Thinking of myself as someone who ‘enjoys exercise’ allowed me to change the way I viewed my nature, and that helped me to become a regular exerciser.” (pg. 240)

That’s exactly how I was. It required a mindset shift on my part. Just because I disliked sports and gym class growing up didn’t mean I had to dislike all exercise for the rest of my life. Hell, I’ve reached a point where I almost identify myself as a jogger (and I say jogger because running still seems a bit too intense and implies that I’m fast, which is again an identity thing). It almost reminds me of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Continually tell yourself you’re not able to do a 5K and, chances are, you’re not going to be able to.

It’s all incredibly fascinating to me, but the thing I always want to keep in mind is that it’s still up to me to make that change. I show up. I push myself. I make it part of my life. I’ve had and still have people supporting and motivating me, but ultimately it was me that had to change. And I think that’s why Rubin’s book resonated with me so much. It’s about recognizing your preferences, identifying potential pitfalls and barriers, then finding ways to work around it so that you can create an environment and lifestyle that’s consistent with your goals.

Perhaps knowing that you can change yourself isn’t such a big secret to life. Maybe it’s just that we need a few tricks up our sleeve and reminders of our amazing capability to do so. And I definitely had a good reminder of that yesterday.

Food oddities

A blog post on a Saturday night? Only because my hope is to crawl into bed early tonight so I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the 5K tomorrow… Woof.

Tonight I was trying to avoid eating out so that I could stick to my goal of eating out only once a week this month. In comes the slow cooker pulled pork recipe. I think I’ve tried a similar recipe, though this one included chicken broth.

I couldn’t find sugar-free BBQ sauce like the recipe mentioned, so I opted for a new mesquite flavored one. Definite win.

Pulled pork

To complement the pulled pork (though I was tempted to put it on my sandwich) I made an apple and poppy seed coleslaw. As a confession, I love coleslaw. Like I’ve been known to go to the grocery store just to pick up a container of coleslaw… I was a little nervous to try this tangy variation, but it turned out to be fantastic. I did cheat a bit, though, and got the coleslaw mix instead of getting the cabbage and carrots individually. Seemed a bit easier and more cost-effective.

Apple coleslaw

I also couldn’t resist fresh green beans and that really hit the spot. Another food oddity of mine? Putting lemon pepper on most vegetables. I kid you not, it’s delicious. Plus it was a really great contrast to the coleslaw.

Final meal

I’m not sure if that’s what you constitute as carb loading (or if that’s even a thing for just a 5K…), but the dinner was perfect for a Saturday night in this evening.

Cravings and favorites

Here it is, only the second week of June, and I’ve already made more new recipes than I did in all of May. Things are definitely starting to get back on track, and thank goodness for that!

For some reason I’d been craving Chinese food. With my goal of only eating out once each week, I thought it was safer (given it was only Monday…) to make my own dish. I decided to try skinny orange chicken with quinoa. I’m pretty sure I’ve made something similar to this, but the sauce on this was much thicker, which I appreciated.

Orange chicken

It didn’t quite get rid of my craving (I think because I wanted fried rice or lo mein noodles, but quinoa felt like the better choice) though I was really impressed with the leftovers. With such thick sauce, it was packed full of flavor up until the last serving of leftovers. At that point I’d also added some broccoli as well.

Later in the week I thought about making the black bean tacos I made about a year ago that I absolutely loved. As I scoured pinterest for the recipe or something similar, I found honey-lime sweet potato, black bean and corn tacos. Given I love all those things, I decided to give it a whirl.

What was really nice about the recipe is it literally took me 15 minutes. In part it was short prep time because I didn’t bake or broil the sweet potatoes. Instead I sautéed them on the stove along with the onions. I got back from a run with Hurley around 7, and I was eating by 7:20. That’s my kind of prep.

sweet potato taco

In part I mention the prep time on the tacos because, despite being a rock pot recipe, this recipe took a bit longer to pull together than I thought, though it’s entirely of my own doing.

 

Somewhat as a sidenote, I love Swedish meatballs. Love them. Growing up, one of my mom’s friends made fantastic Swedish meatballs and I always wondered what her secret was. My version was simply browning meat, adding in the sauce packet from the grocery store and milk, then mixing it with egg noodles. Good, but definitely not anything to write home about.

Monday evening I decided to try slow cooked Swedish meatballs. As I mentioned, I made the process a bit more complicated for myself. For starters, I decided to make own meatballs using ground turkey. It didn’t take long, but it’s usually a bit messy (at least for me) to blend in all the seasonings and bread crumbs so it’s thoroughly mixed.

I also made the decision to make my own gravy. They were the packets from HyVee, mind you, but it was half the price of the jars of gravy and seemed a bit more legit since I’d be “making” it. And making gravy demands my full attention. I’ve been accused of ruining Thanksgiving or Christmas gravy one too many times, count, so that’s one cooking task where I don’t dare multi-task.

Once it was all in the crockpot, it was smooth sailing. I got back from my 5K training with Hurley and the kitchen smelled heavenly.

Swedish meatballs

I’ll admit I wasn’t as over the moon with it as I thought I would be on Monday night. Then today for lunch I had leftovers. Holy Toledo. So delicious! The gravy/sauce thickened up and it was the perfect blend. Even in the photo from Monday night you can tell the sauce is a bit runny and didn’t really stick to the pasta. But today it did. I still can’t get over the difference between the two. If it increases the odds of me finishing off leftovers, though, I’ll take it!

Then came my favorite recipe — healthy blueberry banana bread. Blueberries were on sale at the grocery store, and berries are something I can rarely turn down. I’d already done my typical blueberries in oatmeal, cereal and salads. Why not bread too?

Blueberry banana bread

I think this was one of my first times using applesauce in bread, and it turned out surprisingly well. But then again, it’s got blueberries and oatmeal. What’s not to love (at least for me)? It’s proving to be the perfect snack at work, too (very needed today given I was in back-to-back meetings for seven hours today).

And given my long day, I’m off to curl up with Hurley, a mug of hot tea and a new book. Perfect soon-to-be-stormy evening.

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