Finding what works

As one of my gym buddies mentioned on facebook, a new months means a new opportunity to set new goals and/or revisit the ones you’ve already created for yourself.

Already I have slightly higher hopes for this month. We’re celebrating three birthdays (including my milestone — dun dun dun!) and I’ll take a trip up to see my parents for a three-day weekend. I also don’t anticipate having large work projects like I did last month, which should hopefully help with my balance. Somehow February always seems less daunting than January.

It was also nice to start the month off on a good note, though I suppose technically it was January. The weather was gorgeous (quite the contrast to today’s snow day) which allowed me to take Hurley to the dog park (and subsequently to get a bath) and get a long walk in the next day. Somehow the weather and increased activity helped give me a natural boost in energy to tackle things that had been looming on my personal to-do list.

Oh, and I officially have one month under my belt with the Day One app! I’ll have to decide if this is going to be a daily thing throughout the full year (I’m leaning toward it just so I’m in the habit of reflecting on the silver linings of the day, much like a gratitude journal).

Day One

I’m still limiting the number of new recipes I try. I’ve been surprised at how easy it’s been and how content I’ve been with having the same lunch (granted with variations) each week day. Although I enjoy cooking, cutting it in half has been fantastic.

Last week I made shepherd’s pie, which is a new recipe for me in that I haven’t made it myself (I’ve had it a few times with others, though). Who knew you could create semi-mashed potatoes without having an electric beater or masher?! That was the perk to this recipe. As always, I threw in more vegetables than the original recipe called for, but it always pays off.

Shepherds pie

I’m still torn on shepherd’s pie. I think because it reminds me a cross between pot roast and tator tot casserole, and I prefer both of those to shepherd’s pie. But it was nice to mix things up a bit.

pie2

Last night, in preparation for the snow day, I decided to try a stromboli recipe. My downfall with this (similar to burritos) is that I try to include too much so wrapping it is a bit difficult. In addition to the italian sausage and turkey pepperoni, I also included mushrooms and black olives. I wanted to add in pineapple but I knew I’d be pushing it.

The dough ripped a bit but surprisingly it came out in one piece.

Stromboli

I’ve decided it may not pay to be fancy. In other words, I’m probably better off sticking with a regular pizza or the pizza casserole I tried the other week. But either way it’s another easy recipe I wouldn’t have to look up in a pinch to make dinner.

Here’s to a new month, accomplishing goals and finding opportunities to hit the reset button (like today’s snow day)!

Creating checkpoints

For being a short week it felt incredibly long. As predicted, the newness of the year has worn off and I was reminded of why I selected “create” as my word in the first place.

Thankfully I think the four changes I’ve talked about thus far have made a small difference. I’ll admit that what’s been frustrating is that I think the tool that would help me the most (passion planner) is the one that’s been the most difficult to fully incorporate, though I recognize that’s primarily on me.

I’ve made a concerted effort to sit down on Sunday nights and look at my work week. I like picking out what I want the focus of at least three days to be, somewhat based on meetings and deadlines. Unfortunately it’s been hard to hold true to that. My weeks often end up being more reactive than proactive, and that’s where the tension starts.

To say I get pulled in a lot of directions in a given week is an understatement. My position is responsible for evaluating eight interventions, partnerships and team structure for two grants. How do I better prioritize and balance those areas? What committees and workgroups best align with our work? Which meetings are truly essential for me to attend?

One of my goals this year is creating opportunities for better focus and natural energy. Typically at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. One day this week I had six hours worth of meetings. In a row. On any given day I could have to focus on school health, self-management programs, medicaid data matching and health disparities. How do I minimize the mental drain and more effectively tackle my work?

It’s something I know I have to continue working on, which is why I think the passion planner could really help. I might need to take some time this weekend to figure out how to better utilize the planner to approach my weeks (a true evaluator!).

On the plus side, the passion planner is responsible for one great change. One of my personal goals for the month was to try BodyFlow at the gym. Part of creating the life I’d like is diversifying some of my workouts. Not only did I get to BodyPump this week, but the middle and I gave BodyFlow a shot (it helped that my regular spin instructor had a sub…).

I’ve fallen in love with BodyFlow. It’s a mix of yoga, pilates and meditation. My body is really stiff and tight with all my cardio efforts, so this should be just what I need. Plus I walked out of there feeling like a million bucks. Definitely a way to have more natural energy and better focus.

I’ll also mention that it’s helped quite a bit to scale back on my cooking. It’s really simplified things to plan on a soup, salad and/or sandwich for lunch each day, and surprisingly I haven’t grown tired of it yet. Plus I don’t have the dreaded task each weekend of trying to find new recipes to try. My meal planning time has essentially been cut in half.

Although I did try a new recipe this week — deep dish pizza casserole. It was a quick process and reheating it the oven for leftovers made it fantastic. Next time I might make my own crust, though it was nice that I could roll it out and it fit the casserole dish perfectly. And I’d likely get more creative with my toppings. I added in black olives, mushrooms and turkey pepperoni. I really wish I would have though to pick up pineapples as well, but there’s always next time.

deep dish pizza

I was also proud of myself for sending a new recipe to the middle that I knew I shouldn’t make just for myself. Half of it would get thrown out because I’m not great at eating leftovers, especially when it comes to soup (at least when it’s a new recipe and I’m not sure how much I’ll like it).

Thankfully on Tuesday night while I was at a board meeting (hopefully an exciting update on that next month!), the middle made chicken gnocchi soup. Particularly with the cold temps and snow, it really hit the spot.

Chicken gnocchi

I’ve only tried a bite or two of the gnocchi soup at Olive Garden, but other than being a bit creamier than this recipe, the middle and her boyfriend said it’s pretty comparable. It almost reminded me of a chicken and dumpling soup. Definitely something to have on my radar for a good winter dish.

Although this week was a bit trying for me, I’m also proud that I’ve been taking time to check in with myself so I can readjust (which I think is where the Day One app really comes in handy — and I’ve officially journaled for 22 days now!). I’m getting better at recognizing the triggers that formed the habits and patterns I’m trying to break so that I can have better balance and energy in life. Even though it’ll take work, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on my new year’s goals and perspectives. As we say on our team, onward and upward!

But first I’m going to hit up a BodyCombat and BodyFlow class to get me in the right headspace. 😉 When all else fails, there’s always a good workout and cuddle time with the pup.

Creating the first week

I think I’m in the honeymoon phase, if you will, of the new year (and not just because I finally have a functional laptop!). I actually think Brene Brown described it perfectly on facebook the other day:

brene

This week I’ve been slowly getting back into the routine while incorporating my new habits. I love using the Day One app each evening and I think my nightly routine may pay off over time. Thinking back, there was only one evening where the alarm had to prompt me to start gearing down for bed (and I was so proud for wrapping up what I was doing and actually getting ready for bed).

I’ve become more conscious of the time and have found myself starting the process much earlier. Monday night right after dinner, for example, I curled up on the couch with Hurley and Brene Brown’s book while a fireplace Netflix video played on my television. Way more enjoyable than trying to be productive!

Tuesday night

Even better is that I’ve been in bed by 10:15 every night this week. That’s huge for me.

I’ve also made another change in the new year in an attempt to simplify my life a bit. For lunches, instead of bringing leftovers, I’m aiming to stick to salads, soups and/or sandwiches. I’ll admit I’ve resisted this kind of approach for quite some time. I worried (and to some degree still do) that I’ll tire of it quickly. How am I going to stick with the same types of food day in and day out?

By having variety, that’s hopefully how. I decided to start off with a bang this week, which may or may not work in my favor with this new habit.

On Sunday evening I got everything ready — hoagie buns and avocados along with Tupperware for cracked pepper turkey, spicy mustard, cabbage and black olives for sandwiches. I prepped the salad as much as I could with lettuce, mandarin oranges and a hardboiled egg, then used Tupperware for my homemade dressing (purchased a blueberry vinegar and it’s fan-freakin’-tastic) and sunflower seeds.

It took some time, but I had everything ready for nearly the whole week’s worth of lunches. And what I really love is that everything seems so fresh when it comes time for lunch. It only takes a couple minutes to get everything put together, and I’m way more excited about this lunch than I ever was for a majority of my leftovers.

lunches

What’s also nice is that it’s cut down on how much I’m cooking, which certainly adds to my evenings. Last night, for example, I made a turkey taco casserole. It took probably 20 minutes to throw together before it baked (I added in the kidney beans).

Taco casserole

Taco casserole dinner

Even though I started cooking right when I got home from spin class, I didn’t sit down to eat dinner until shortly after 8. By the time I’ve eaten and cleaned up, I barely have any evening left to enjoy. That’s partially how I end up burning the midnight oil, since it’s not until nearly 8:30 or 9 that I can start cramming in my non-cooking tasks for the evening.

That also brings up an affiliated goal. For each new recipe I try, I want to make something (or ideal a few things to have a better ratio) I already know. I’ve already created a list of 10 meals that don’t require me to look at any recipe — pasta dishes, tacos, homemade pizza, etc.  This week, for example, I made the spaghetti and turkey meatballs recipe I tried a couple weeks ago. Made it on Sunday and used the leftovers for dinner this week.

I really went back and forth on whether this was something I wanted to do. As much as I love cooking and trying new recipes, it’s not necessarily conducive to my lifestyle anymore. I got into the habit of trying two new recipes a week when I lived in Columbia. At that time, though, I didn’t have a dog and the only gym classes I went to were on Sundays, Tuesday mornings and Wednesday evenings.

Life now is very different, particularly in terms of my schedule. I want time in the evenings to be with Hurley and there’s a specific class at the gym I could, if I wanted to, attend each day of the week (and I make a point to get to the classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings). That puts more restrictions on how much time I have to actually cook. And quite frankly, I’m tired of eating at 8 or 8:30 in the evenings. With leftovers for dinner instead of lunch, I’m eating by 7:15. It adds almost a whole hour to my evening (which I think Hurley already appreciates given he’s not thrilled mama is back to work).

Like I said, I could just be in the honeymoon phase of the new year. Regardless, though, I’m already enjoying the new habits that are freeing up my time and helping me feel a bit more balanced. I’d consider that a success for week one!

Great recipes, terrible technology

This will have to be relatively short and sweet given my technology malfunctions. I’d been wanting to blog about this since Wednesday, but my personal laptop has been on the fritz for a week (right now it won’t even fully boot up…) and my work laptop was with our IT department up until about noon yesterday.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been wanting to make a concerted effort to be intentional about the meals I’m making. (In other words, it’s time to ditch the reliance on crockpots and get back to cooking given I actually enjoy it.) Although I got the baseline recipe, if you will, from Pinterest, the other two meals I tried this week came directly from the author who inspired me to make the change.

I have to admit that I’m really proud of Sunday’s meal — one pan chicken with white wine and olives. In part it’s because I’d had an offer to go to HuHot and I turned it down in lieu of cooking a homecooked meal (primarily so I could have leftovers at lunch the next day). I’d been a bit nervous about this since I’m not a fan of dry white wines and chicken thighs tend to be hit or miss for me. But it was a lot of fun to pull together.

chicken bake

What I did love was having the lemons bake on top of the chicken! I’ve seen that a handful of times but just never did it. I probably shouldn’t have added the kalamata olives, but the carrots were a nice addition to the recipe.

chicken bake (2)

The leftovers weren’t quite as good, though it could be that it just lost some of it’s appeal in my Tupperware container and using a plastic knife. But I have to say, going back to cooking was a much-needed shift. And I hardly used a can of food this week!

Tuesday  night is when I started with my baseline recipe of mini buffalo chicken tacos. For some reason I have trouble buying frozen foods like chicken tenders or pizza. Instead, I did a quick google search and found a decent recipe for homemade chicken tenders. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I could whip those up — and adding buffalo sauce to the egg mixture seemed to help give it even more flavor.

chicken tenders

I also found a quick recipe for coleslaw dressing. I’d picked up broccoli coleslaw mix at the grocery store instead of buying a pre-made option.

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Oh baby. This was delicious. The one downside is that the leftovers aren’t quite as good. My coleslaw ended up a bit soggy (especially by yesterday’s lunch) and the chicken tenders (not surprisingly) don’t stay crispy. But the flavor was still there and it was such a nice twist on tacos. I actually think this might make for a good salad so I may have to experiment with it a bit more.

I’m glad I held out on my final recipe until later in the week. Wednesday was an incredibly long day at work and I was so looking forward to spin class that evening. I knew it would recharge my batteries — plus I hadn’t been in two weeks. Sadly a traffic jam meant that, despite leaving 40 minutes before the class started, I was barely at the halfway point of getting to the gym when it was time for class to start.

I made my way back home feeling angry (livid is probably a better word…) and defeated. And what better way to set the world right than with a one pot cheesy spaghetti and meatballs.

You guys, I had no idea meatballs could cook in the sauce like that! Game changer. I’d also never considered adding ricotta cheese to my typical spaghetti dish. I have to say that I’m a fan. Although I didn’t find the noodles used in the actual recipe (I wanted to but my attempts at the grocery store were in vain). Instead if was my typical whole wheat angel hair pasta.

spaghetti

Although it took a little bit more time post-gym, it was nice to be back to cooking. We’ll see what the recipes for next week hold. Given my faulty and intermittent computer opportunities, meal planning may be particularly challenging. (Not good given it’s a task I dread each weekend anyway but I do it because the benefits are ten-fold during the week!)

And on a completely unrelated note, Hurley met his new cousin last week. Swoooooon! This was one of the only few non-blurry photos of them since they kept rough housing. It gets a little overwhelming (and I would not be surprised if they knock over the middle’s tree at some point…) but it wears him out, which makes me a happy mama.

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Lap dogs

Apparently I’ve started a new tradition for myself. Last year I did the exact same thing on a Sunday evening — put bacon cheeseburger soup in the crockpot, officially switched my pandora station to Christmas music and decorated my tree. (I should also mention that this was last Sunday evening. I’m apparently a bit behind…)

I also took it as an opportunity to trial-run some Christmas photos with Hurley. He’s not super impressed, but my goodness does he look handsome!

Hurley Xmas

This is probably my third attempt at bacon cheeseburger soup (and heaven forbid I use the same recipe). Hands down, this was definitely my favorite rendition of it. It’s cheating a little since I technical combined two recipes. I started with this recipe as the base and incorporated parts of this one to avoid using half-and-half. It could also be because I used italian sausage instead of ground turkey since it was on sale, and I also used a block of cheese as opposed to shredded cheese. I’ve also decided the sliced carrots are the way to go, and celery was a great addition, too.

Regardless of what made this the winning dish, it was delicious!

Cheeseburger soup

The rest of the week was a blur between work and also trying to learn more about a board of directors. As part of my 30 Before 30 list, I went to a board matching event on Veterans Day. It’s more or less a speed dating approach to meeting nonprofits in the area. I really connected with one director who runs a programs for women experiencing homelessness (double win!), so this past week I not only attended a board meeting but also their big fundraising event. It seems to be a promising match, so stay tuned!

Then more excitement came — I’m a doggie aunt again! Meet Millie Vanillie Bean (to match her older sister Mocha Jo).

Millie

I seriously can’t get over how small and light-weight she is! It’s also strange to have to watch where you’re walking. Hurley’s pretty present (especially in the kitchen), but this 5-month old girl is so small that I’m afraid I’m going to step on her. You can barely feel her resting her head on you or standing on your lap. That will change as she grows (and I know all too well that goes with my little bear) so I’m taking advantage of it while I can. I think it goes without saying that Miss Millie will grow up surrounded by lots of love and cuddles, not to mention some fun-loving labrador mentors. ❤

Hurley hasn’t met her yet, so we’ll see how he reacts to the news. In the meantime, I’ve kept him busy with holiday photos. He was surprisingly better this year than he was last. It only took about 30 minutes tonight, which may as well be a record for us. When he sat on my lap and gave his aunt this look, though, I knew he was done.

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I also confirmed he’s not a fan of his jingle bell collar… At least it’s just a once-a-year event, right? And it pretty much secures his place on the nice list (though I’m probably a bit really biased when it comes to this guy).

Needless to say, we’ve officially kicked off the holiday season in our household!

Crockpot season

With all that was going on last week I had a delay in posting the recipes I tried. Coincidentally enough, this week’s recipes were relatively similar so I was able to merge both. I love when things work out like that.

I’m not sure what prompted me to try the healthy buffalo chicken bowl, but that’s how I started last week — mostly because I had chicken on hand and was able to get that going in the crockpot before I even hit the grocery store for the other ingredients. To hopefully make it a bit more filling, I also added quinoa to the chicken bowls, which I think helped.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised how well avocado goes with buffalo chicken. I don’t know that I’d ever intentionally paired the two, but it was delicious! I may attempt to make a wrap out of this for lunches at work. It’s filling with lots of flavor.

Buffalo chicken bowl

On Tuesday I decided to make crockpot mojo pork with cuban style black beans. I figured it was a perfect day to have it cook all day, since donating blood that afternoon meant no gym for me that evening (aka: much earlier dinner time so I wouldn’t have to worry about overcooking or drying it out). Sadly when I got home, I realized I didn’t have the lid all the way on so there were still raw spots…

I put the crockpot on high and used the extra time to take Hurley for a long walk (and to work up an appetite). I’d been really excited about the recipe since I love carnitas and this seemed to be a new twist on it. The little assured me it was delicious when we talked on the phone that night…and I realized as I was about to hang up the phone that I never made the cuban style beans. Fail on my part.

Regardless, it was delicious. And I loved having a different flavor on the pork. Surprisingly the lemon and orange juice didn’t come out quite as strongly as I thought, but that could also be because I had quite a bit of lime with my cilantro lime rice. I can’t seem to help myself!

Mojo pork

Flash forward to this week, and I’m once again using the crockpot. Last night I made crockpot Italian beef sandwiches. This time I didn’t have the roast cook all day, partially because I knew I didn’t want it to reach a point of shredding too easily.

Since I’m not a huge fan of peppers, I didn’t incorporate those into the dish. And as with last week (where has my head been?!), I realized as I was about to dish up that I forgot an ingredient — banana peppers. Instead I put them on the side. Just to try something new, I use havarti cheese instead of provolone (though I love that as well) and both proved to be a great addition.

The salad proved to be a nice contrast with feta cheese, pomegranate and green olives with a balsamic dressing. Full on flavor explosion! I probably would have been better off using a hoagie just from a juice/mess perspective. I also chose the wrong meal to be lazy about using my old placemats. Naturally I’ve got beef broth on the white strip of my placemat. What can you do?

Italian beef

Hurley certainly approved of the meal. I poured a little bit of the beef broth into his dog food for dinner and he licked kept going back to lick it the rest of the night.

Tonight he wasn’t quite as impressed with dinner (not that he got to sample it since it packed some heat). I made a variation of buffalo chicken meatballs recipe that caught my eye over the weekend. By that I mean I made the meatballs almost as directed and then paired it with spaghetti squash so it made for a relatively complete meal. The one modification I did make to the meatball recipe is that I used kale instead of celery (and used my nutribullet since it seemed like too much work to pull out my food processor).

This time I attempted making spaghetti squash differently — in the crockpot, of course. It was actually really nice to throw the squash in there before going to the gym and having it be ready when I got home. After putting the meatballs in the oven to bake, I scooped out the spaghetti squash and added in some cream cheese and the remaining 1/4 cup of buffalo sauce that was supposed to be drizzled over the meatballs.

The timing worked out really well, and I ended up putting the meatballs in the crockpot (in part to get it out of what I assume was the butter from the recipe) to heat it all together.

Crockpot

I wish I wouldn’t have used quite as much cream cheese, but that was my attempt to use up stuff in my fridge before it went bad. Same held true for the sharp cheddar cheese I threw on top. Although it was a bit overkill on the creamy factor, I loved the combination! The meatball recipe would actually make for a really great buffalo turkey burger recipe.

Dinner

There was also an unintended consequence in that I’ve been drinking a ton of water since dinner. Perhaps I should try this recipe again the night before I need to donate blood again. Good way to increase my water intake for sure! Plus it’s the first time I feel like I created my own recipe of sorts. I’d say I’m progressing in my culinary efforts, but this would be coming from a girl who made crockpot recipes for two weeks straight… Tis the season!

Fall favorite

With most foods I try, I’m indifferent about whether I’d make them again. I can probably count on both hands how many recipes I’ve made more than once. Last night, however, I made a recipe I will undoubtedly make again. I was actually tempted to send the photo to the family and tell them to try it ASAP and/or that I found our post-holiday meal using leftover turkey.

Although I love chicken and dumplings, I tend to have an on-again, off-again relationship with soups. Thankfully I spotted this chicken dumpling casserole. Perfect solution.

I should mention I doubled the dumpling portion of the recipe, in part since I put a little too much seasoning in it and I was nervous it would be too much. It turned out to be in my favor since it fully covered the chicken layer (plus I love dumplings). The other addition is that I added in corn as a way to incorporate vegetables. A little different but worth it.

Casserole Steps

Forty minutes later, I had this comforting goodness. Legit food love right here.

Dumpling Casserole

This is such a great substitute for chicken and dumpling soup. I’ve already vowed to learn this recipe by heart and whip it up all fall and winter.

The day before I also attempted a new recipe: sweet potato sloppy joes. It was certainly a different take, and surprisingly delicious. As always, I used ground turkey instead of ground beef. I added in quite a bit of seasonings to the sloppy joe mix and saved the leftovers for pasta later in the week since I’m not a huge fan of leftover sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato sloppy joe

That’s all I’ll say on the sloppy joe recipe since I’m still hung up on the chicken dumpling casserole. Seriously, try it.

Going and going and going

Sunday I was kicking ass and taking names. Not literally, mind you, but I felt like the Energizer bunny. It started off with a fantastic spin class followed by our Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which I’m still in awe about two days later.

The Walk reminded me of why I’m so connected to the cause. One woman who spoke at our opening ceremony was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 52. Can you even imagine?! I was so inspired by the people who showed up for the Walk, and particularly those who were brave enough to share their stories with me. It’s amazing how a Walk like that can bring so many together.

In a more logistical manner, the Walk was also a success in my book. The weather was gorgeous, the booth I helped manage ran pretty seamlessly and we got to unveil our Why I Walk board! My committee saw an example of what another Walk did, and it so happens I know a fantastic craftsman. Uncle Buck has this whipped up in a matter of hours, and the Walk chair and I painted it in about an hour a couple days later. Even more exciting is that Uncle Buck showed up at the Walk to see the finished product and show his support. ❤

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Although I was ready to an afternoon siesta after the Walk, duties called (primarily since I’m big on using Sundays to prep for the week). I decided to go somewhat rogue in the kitchen for dinner, making the pizza pasta I blogged about a couple weeks ago merged with ideas from the cheesy pesto chicken lasagna spaghetti squash recipe I’d also made recently. Essentially I took the sauce/toppings from the pizza pasta, mixed it with spaghetti squash and threw in ricotta cheese and a bit of mozzarella cheese on top. It was delicious!

spaghetti squash

While the squash was baking, I also started whipping up a batch of chocolate chip pumpkin bread. In part I did it as a thank you for the middle since she’s watching Hurley this evening while I’m at a conference…but it’s also because I was really craving it, too. Like I told the middle, though, the only thing healthy about it is perhaps the greek yogurt and whole wheat flour. So worth it, though. I’m all about all things pumpkin this time of year.

pumpkin bread

Once the baking was done, things finally settled down for the weekend. And not a moment too soon, according to Hurley (although he was down for the count before I started cooking since we’d gone on a long walk around the lake).

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It’s safe to say I put off doing the dishes and putting laundry away once he crawled up next to me. I swear I could stare at this guy all day! Maybe one of these days, though, I won’t be so obsessive with taking photos and sharing it with my blog followers… I just can’t help myself!

Quite the ordeal

Let me tell you, making this tamale pie recipe over the weekend was quite the ordeal — and not because of anything I did.

Given I’m on a salsa kick, I was excited to try this new recipe since it includes another one of my favorites: cornbread. Plus this was the first time I’d made it from scratch. Even when I was getting groceries earlier in the day I was tempted to just get a box of cornbread mix, but I figured since I had the time, I should give it a shot.

The cornbread was baking as I finished with the ground turkey. I’d also decided to add black beans and a bit of enchilada sauce to that as well for more flavor. Five minutes before the cornbread was done with the first round of baking, my power went out.

What are the odds?

The oven was warm enough to where it baked the cornbread as well as it could have. The edges were starting to brown and it had a good consistency to it (so thank goodness I went with the 9×13 pan or it might have been too thick). I added on the enchilada toppings and waited. And waited some more.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I weren’t already hungry, smelling how fantastic it already smelled and smothering a dog during the hail portion of the storm. Have I mentioned how much poor Hurley hates storms? He wasn’t quite as intrigued by the size of the hail as his mama was…

Thankfully an hour later, the power came back on and Hurley could relax (at least a little). My first order of business was preheating the oven to get my tamale pie going again. Twenty minutes later, I finally had dinner.

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Not that I was expecting it to, but I’m happy to report it didn’t effect the flavor of the dish. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the pairing. Certainly I’ve had corn tortillas with tacos/enchiladas/etc. so I figured it would have a similar taste. The cornbread was much more prominent but still incredibly delicious. I may actually add this to the lineup of staple dishes I make (not that I tend to have many of those, though. I guess I’m just a sucker for trying something new each week).

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Although it was somewhat of an ordeal, I will say I was lucky in that the power was only out for an hour and while it was still (relatively) light outside. Other people in my spin class the next morning had it much worse…

Speaking of ordeals (since you all know how much I love to take and post photos of my little bear), Hurley also had a big to-do of his own this weekend. A trip to the dog park on Saturday morning kicked his allergies into high gear. An oatmeal bath and benadryl didn’t do the trick, so back to the vet we went (at their insistence).

Selfie at the vet? Why not. At this point I’ve lost count of how many trips we’ve had in the last year and a half. Although the silver lining to this is I’m slowly getting over my fear of going to the vet. Hurley, on the other hand, is less typically less than impressed (he hams it up quite a bit in the waiting room, though).

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There was also one more big development this weekend (after overcoming several, several ordeals), but you’ll have to wait another day or two for that reveal. 🙂 I can’t wait to show it off!

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.

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