Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Google and Go Cooking Day Three: . . . YIKES!

An unexpected twist to my week - we had company for dinner!  The members of my family are not big fans of leftovers, so I usually only make enough to feed four and have one plate leftover for me to take for lunch.  I definitely did not have enough food for any of my remaining meals to feed six adults.  When I learned late last night that we would be having guests for dinner, I knew I had two options . . . make a midnight run for the grocery store or order pizza.  Pizza won! 

The combination of the special evening (my daughter's final elementary orchestra concert) and the fact that my family LOVES pizza made this change in plans the perfect night.

Celebrating Our Beautiful Violinist!

Back to the crockpot tomorrow!  AND - I already have one meal planned for next week!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Google and Go Cooking Day Two: Slow Cooker Pork Chops

Success!  That describes my second day of following a menu that I put together simply by Googling "Top 5 crockpot meals."  Today's pork chops were fork tender and didn't have a "porky" taste.  They were simply just plain yummy!

Slow Cooker Pork Chops

3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp seasoned salt
4 boneless pork loin chops
2 T canola oil
1 can (14-1/2 oz) chicken broth

* In a large resealable bag, combine 1/2 cup flour, mustard, garlic powder and seasoned salt.  Add pork chops one at a time, and shake to coat.  Transfer to the crock pot.

* Place remaining flour in a small bowl; whisk in broth until smooth.  Pour over chops.  Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until meat is tender.  (My chops cooked for 9 hours.)

* Remove pork to a serving plate.  Whisk cooking liquid until smooth; serve with pork.

I served the pork chops with Herb & Butter Rice and steamed corn.  A side salad would have been great, but time did not allow.  I actually ate mine in the High School auditorium listening to the Elementary Strings practice for their Spring concert.  Regardless of the setting, the meal was delicious.  I'll definitely be making this one again!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Google and Go Cooking Day One: White Bean Chicken Chili

This past weekend was a crazy one so my normal meal planning and grocery shopping routines went out the window.  Looking ahead, the craziness of the weekend was not ending.  In order to avoid five nights of fast food, pizza or lunch meat sandwiches, I turned my attention to my crockpot.  My mind instantly filled with a list of meal ideas, but nothing sounded too exciting.  It was time for some new recipes!

Being short on time, I decided that I would Google "Top 5 Crockpot Recipes" and simply go with whatever came on the screen regardless of what it was.  Let's be crazy and see what happens (I know - pretty sad that this defines excitement in my life.)!  The top search result was "Top 10 Slow Cooker Recipes from Taste of Home."  I took the first five and created my dinner menu for the week. 

Monday Night: White Bean Chicken Chili 

3/4 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 onion, medium, diced
2 tsp oregano, dried
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
1 tsp cumin, ground
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
fresh cilantro, minced

* Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  In large skillet over medium heat, brown chicken in oil.

* Stir in the onion and garlic; cook two minutes.  Sprinkle with oregano and cumin; cook one minute or until chicken is brown and vegetables tender.  Transfer to slow cooker.

* In a small bowl, mash 1 cup of beans; add 1/2 cup of broth and stir until blended.  Add to the slow cooker with the remaining beans and broth.

* Cover and cook on low for 3 to 3-1/2 hours or until chicken is tender (Mine was in the crockpot on low for 9 hours.).  Stir before serving.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.

Jenkins Family Reactions
This dish went together very quickly early this morning - a definite plus in my book!  Before I even left for work, the house was filled with the savory soup scent.  When I returned home this evening, I could smell the soup outside of the front door - YUMMY!! 

This dish did not go over very well with my kids.  However, it is extremely important to note that I recognize I am a push over when it comes to making my kids eat the full meal that I have prepared.  My excuse is that my exhaustion from a day of work makes me weak - not a good excuse at all.  Both JJ and Ellie prepared themselves something else to eat when they discovered that they did not like the Chili.

My husband's food schedule for the day did not match the rest of the family.  He had eaten lunch at 4PM - just one hour before we sat down for dinner.  This is a common problem in our house.  Due to his chronic pain his sleeping schedule is constantly out of whack which puts his eating schedule out of whack.  All of that un-needed info to tell you that he still hasn't tried it and most likely never will.

That leaves me . . . I really liked it!  It was a simple dish with simple taste.  The fact that today was a rainy dreary Spring day made this warm chili taste even better.  I've set aside two servings for my lunch this week.  I'm eager to see how it tastes after sitting for a day.

Since I'm the only one in my family who liked it, I most likely will not make it again.  But if you have a family of chili lovers, I would recommend you give it a try.  For today it fit my purpose - easy and healthy!

Google and Go Cooking Day One was not too successful.  Wonder how Google and Go Cooking Day Two will go?  Get ready for Slow Cooker Pork Chops!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stopping to Smell the Roses . . . or in this case the Teenage Boy Smell

This afternoon I was leaning against a rusty fence standing in the wet grass wearing my dress pants and dress shoes as a heavy wind whipped my hair across my face sending chills through my bones while I watched my son throw shot put for his junior high track team.  Suddenly it hit me . . . I'm standing here watching my son throw shot put for his junior high track team!!!!
Pre-Throw Pep Talk from the Coach.
My son is the kid in the purple sweatshirt.

One of my biggest insecurities in life is that I will not be a good parent.  I want my kids to grow up to love the Lord, have a happy family, enjoy being physically active more than they enjoy laying on the couch and maintain a little bit of silliness.  My prayer is that they work hard while constantly setting goals for themselves and that they are willing to try new things every once in a while.  I worry constantly that they won't see the example I am trying so hard to be for them with my own life.  I am so afraid that my mistakes and wrong choices will out-weigh my good ones in their minds.
JJ making his first throw of the Meet.

I realized today as I stood by that fence that JJ is seeing me.  Up until a few weeks ago he had never thrown shot put.  I don't even know if he had ever thought about the shot put.  He was coming off an incredible basketball season that had lasted over five months.  In the past, he's looked forward to being able to come straight home after school, dive on the couch and pick-up his video game controller.  This year was different.  JJ wanted to continue the daily workouts he was getting with basketball practice.  He wanted to continue to develop the newly visible muscles popping out on his legs and arms.  He wanted to continue hanging out with his friends and not coming home to hang out in his room.  Who cares if he had no idea exactly what he's doing on that field?  JJ wanted to have fun and keep active.  That's what I've been trying to drill into his brain for the past several years.  Somehow . . . even when I didn't realize it or think it was possible . . . he heard me! 

Life moves fast.  I go from work to home to activity to cooking to budgeting to driving to organizing to cleaning to . . . my mind is either buried in my To Do List or clouded with worry about the future. Today I realized that while I am constantly encouraging my children and telling them how proud I am of them, I need to stop and truly be in the moment.  I need to give myself the gift of celebrating the reality that I am a good parent.  My children are seeing the example that I am working so hard to be for them.  As the classic saying goes - I need to stop and smell the roses.  Or in this case the wet grass and teenage boy smell . . . two of the sweetest scents I know!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Leftovers From the Bottom of the Blender

Yesterday I had an Ah-Ha! moment.  It was one that has been staring me in the face for the past several weeks just waiting to be discovered.  It's something so obvious that I'm sure most people figured it out right away.  Or it could be that it is so obvious others have overlooked it just like me.

About a month ago I started making myself a smoothie for breakfast nearly every morning.  I don't measure anything - I just throw the fruit and other ingredients (normally vanilla almond milk, vanilla Greek yogurt, honey and oats) into the blender and let it crush away.

Every morning after I pour the yummy concoction into my cup there is always some left in the blender.  I never knew what to do with it so I have just been pouring it down the drain.

Yesterday I made my absolute favorite smoothie - peanut butter banana.  The bananas were at the absolute perfection of ripeness.  I knew this would be an exceptional smoothie so the thought of pouring the leftovers from the bottom of the blender down the drain was very sad.  Then I had a thought - What would happen if I poured the leftovers into a container and put it in the freezer? 

This morning I was wrapped up in the news and completely forgot to make my smoothie (I forgot to pack my daughter's lunch, too, but that's a different story.).  I opened the cupboard and spent a few seconds trying to decide if I should grab a pop tart or pour some dry cereal into a Ziploc before heading out the door.  And then I remembered . . . the leftover peanut butter banana smoothie!

It wasn't until I sat down in my company's daily morning meeting that I was able to take a bite of my breakfast treat.  Oh . . . My . . . Goodness!!!  You know those times that something tastes so good you can't help but close your eyes and let out a slow "Mmmmmmmmmm!"?  This was one of those times.  So YUMMY!

Ah-Ha!  There will be no more pouring of leftovers from the bottom of the blender down the drain in my house!  What a great way to make two breakfasts at one time, have a treat for dessert or a cold snack.  No more wasted food plus a little bit of saved time.  Sounds like an all around good thing to me!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Declaring My Recommitment . . . AGAIN!

FORGIVE - to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone)

For me, living a healthy life is hard.  My gut response to stress is to eat.  My automatic choice to sitting on the couch versus exercising is to sit on the couch.  Take the time and energy to plan and prepare a healthy meal or order a pizza?  I'll take the pizza.  After four years I guess I expected it to be easier.  But I'm still needing to think about every choice before I make it.  I'm still making poor choices more often than I would like.  I'm still not getting this lifestyle right.

A week ago I ran in my first 5k in almost two months.  Life with a teenager and pre-teen combined with various life situations being highly stressful and a rough winter had pushed my resolve to be healthy to the back burner.  With the arrival of Spring, I was determined to get myself back on track.  This was my kick-off!

As I ran, my "negative self-talk" tape was on playing on high volume over and over in my mind.  "You need to get yourself together.  You can't let this keep happening.  You can't have your garbage can filled with pizza boxes and fast food bags.  You can't keep going to bed without going for a run.  What have you been thinking?  Your children are going to grow up and become lazy and fat because of you.  Your blood pressure is going to go back through the roof and you're going to die way too young."

But then my self-talk was replaced by another voice:
"Repent, then, and turn toward God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord."  Acts 3:19
"The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him."  Daniel 9:9
"Then He adds, 'Their sin and lawless acts I will remember no more.'" Hebrews 10:17

It's that simple.  When I ask God for forgiveness, He does three things for me - He forgives me, He forgets what I did and He offers me relief from my guilt.   That got me thinking . . . If God can forgive me, why is it so hard for me to forgive me?

It shouldn't be.  I know in my head that I am not perfect and my journey is not going to be perfect.  My heart needs to understand that. 

Over the past week I've continued to wrestle with this idea of self-forgiveness.  While I haven't completely answered all my questions, simply identifying the need to understand this has helped me to feel better.  My high energy level returned.  My desire to exercise returned.  My sleep has improved. (Is this my time of refreshment?!?!)

The easy decision when a person hits a slump is to throw in the towel and walk away.  The hard decision is to pick-up that towel, wipe yourself off and jump back onto the road. 

So I'm picking up the towel and getting myself back on the road . . . back on the right path of doing my best to make healthy choices . . . I am recommitting myself to this journey . . . AGAIN!

My sister Megan and I at the St.John's 5k
on Saturday, April 5, 2014
Boyce Park