Tag Archives: meal planning

What I Learned from #100HappyDays

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As of May 1st, I decided to participate in the #100HappyDays Challenge

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71% of people who sign up and commit to the challenge don’t complete it, citing the reason is that they are too busy.

Are you really too busy being unhappy that you can’t come up with one thing each day that made you happy?

That statistic made me determined to complete the challenge. I was already writing in a gratitude journal. For this challenge, all I had to do is photograph one moment each day that made me happy and post it to either Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

What I was really excited to do was fill up my Gratitude App with photos since it was looking a little light in March and April.

But there are a few interesting things I did not expect with #100Happy Days.

On the Photo Aspect:

  • Sometimes, even if you had a great day, when getting ready for bed, you realize that you forgot to take any photos. Does that mean you fail? I’d often take photos of my pooches and post them the next morning. They always make me smile anyway. Is that a cop out for not looking deeper?
  • Some wonderful things in life can’t be captured in a photo – like the way the breeze feels on your skin, or the high you got from a run. So then I’d share a photo of something outdoorsy or a sweaty selfie – which isn’t really interpretive of the real sentiment.
  • This exercise reinforces the power of visualization.
  • You realize that you now have a little piece of each day of your life for 100 consecutive days. That’s kind of cool.

 

On the Public Aspect:

  • Making your #100HappyDays public is difficult. People may start to think you are narcissistic or are image crafting. That’s not the point of the challenge.
  • People will make fun of you.
  • The one who makes fun of you the most may even be your spouse.
  • I now see that you can do this challenge privately instead of publicly. I didn’t think doing it publicly would be an issue; but I’ve learned that this kind of thing is more personal to me.
  • For this reason, I’ll stick to my gratitude journal; but Imay continue to collect a photo a day as a collage for the year!

 The Happiness Aspect:

  • I went through a period of summertime blues during #100HappyDays. I think I would have been worse off without the challenge.
  • On those days, I really had to dig deep to find something that I wanted to capture on photo.
  • This is a great practice for anyone who doesn’t already practice gratitude or who needs to get out of a slump.
  • Some may have found my #100HappyDays posts annoying, but what I find more annoying are complaining posts on FB. You know, those people who never have anything good to say and are just fishing for something.
  • If you tend to be a Debbie Downer or find yourself posting negativity, force to edit yourself and deliberately post something positive. You find that it’ll help you feel more positive.

I’m glad I participated in #100HappyDays. Yes, I’d recommend it or some other way, whether public or private to document your gratitude. Here are some resources for you:

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Food

There’s not much cookin’ going on this week!

Dinners:

  • Monday – Golf League – perhaps dinner afterward at The Happy Gnome
  • Tuesday – Dinner at my friend Kim’s place
  • Wednesday Andouille Sausage with Red Beans and Rice and a side salad
  • Thursday – Leftovers
  • FridayShrimp with Zucchini & Tomatoes
  • Saturday – My friend Stacy will be in town. I haven’t decided how we’ll dine quite yet!
  • Sunday – TBD

Lunch:

Breakfasts:

Fitness

  • Monday – Golf
  • Tuesday Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Wednesday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Thursday – Run 1 mile in the am
  • Friday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Saturday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Sunday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile

Do you keep a gratitude journal or take photos to chronicle your daily life?

How do you do it?

Do you post publicly or keep things private?

Cheers~
Carrie

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The Tale of Three San Marzano Sauces – Part I

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Once upon a time, a newlywed couple took their honeymoon vacation to Italy, on the the Amalfi Coast. When out to dinner one night, he ordered The Manicotti.

“Manicotti?” She asked in disbelief. “We come all the way to Italy and you order manicotti?!”

But it was the best manicotti they ever had.

She ate her words. And more bites of his manicotti than he would have liked.

One reason?

The Tomatoes.

She always had a fondness for tomatoes. In fact, it was her favorite vegetable. He, however, thought they were, well, “Ewwwww….” He could handle cooked tomatoes, and sometimes, sauces.

While they were exploring the Amalfi coast, menus listed tomatoes as just tomatoes, not as a specific variety. It wasn’t until they returned from their honeymoon that they learned that the local tomatoes they were eating were of the San Marzano variety and grown in the rich, volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius.

She started to cook with San Marzano tomatoes. {The Italian-grown kind can be found canned. The variety can be grown elsewhere, but they don’t taste the same when they are not grown in volcanic soil. You can read more about that here.} He loved them so much that he’d even eat a San Marzano Pasta without meat!

You see, one of their easy go-to meals was a Spaghetti with Meat Sauce. She liked to make this on a busy weeknight because she didn’t have to think. All it took was a little olive oil, half of a diced onion (optional, if available), a pound of ground beef, a jar of marinara and a half of a box of spaghetti {or angel hair pasta, as he likes}. Dinner. DONE.

Until he found…

Jarred San Marzano Pasta Sauces

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I’ve kind of been stuck on my same jar of marinara sauce for ages: Ragu Parmesan and Romano. Now we all know that jarred marinara sauces contain waayyyyyy too much sugar and sodium. My jar has 10 grams of sugar and 590 mg of sodium per serving. Ouch.

I’ve tried to switch. I’ve tried other no-sugar added, low-sodium sauces and even “natural” or “organic” ones. I’ve always reverted back to my same old favorite sauce. When it’s something I like better and I can get it on sale for only a dollar or two per jar, the decision is easy! But not necessarily better.

I’ve even tried making a labor-intensive, all-day sauce that smelled so good. But when all was said and done, I was highly disappointed.

Then, Rob found some San Marzano sauces online! I started to watch for them in the store. One day, I found three different brands – JACKPOT! I bought them all.

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Stay tuned tomorrow for the reviews!

Now? I’m trying to get better about making my own. I know fresh, homemade marinara sauce is healthier when I can control the ingredients. I’m in search for the best tasting one. Here are a few I will be making in the next coming weeks:

Six Minute Marinara Sauce by Lisa at Snack-Girl
Roasted Vegetable Marinara by Biz at My Bizzy Kitchen
Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce by Kath at In the Kitchen with Kath

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This week:

 planning

Food

Dinners:

Lunch:

Breakfasts:

Fitness

So I’ve changed up our Run Streak. I’ve found that my back feels much better when I get a nice walk in during the day. To keep active, my Active Streak will include an hour walk every day up until we leave for Oz this fall. On the days when I feel like I don’t have time to walk or workout, that is when I must run a mile because a mile takes minimal time. There’s no way we can’t fit a mile in! So this is a pretty easily written schedule!

  • Monday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Tuesday Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Wednesday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Thursday – Run 1 mile in the am
  • Friday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Saturday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Sunday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile

What is your favorite homemade marinara recipe?

I’m looking to try some new ones out in the coming weeks!

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

Confession…

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Excuse me readers, for I have not penned.

It’s been almost a month since my last Impression…

Restaurant Impression that is…

There are several restaurants we’ve tried over the past few months; but I haven’t written a single word. I’d like to say that’s because I’m busy enjoying summer. But, truthfully, I think I’ve had a case of the summertime blues. And because I was feeling that way, I was angry because I wasn’t appreciating summer like I told myself to this past winter. Being angry about being sad was a vicious cycle!

But I think I’ve discovered the root roots from which these feelings have stemmed. And I have plans in place to turn them around… Because I have nothing really serious to be sad about when I’ve got beautiful summer weather, day lilies smiling back and me…

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… not to mention a trip to Australia to look forward to this fall!

The #100HappyDays Challenge has helped me with this, too.

Part of the downer, is my running progress. I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating it is to have so much trouble getting back to the point where I was pre-back surgery a year and a half ago. I was slow then. I’m even slower now. Urgh.

Rob and I did the Bacon Chase 5k this weekend.

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It was a cool theme, but far too many people for Rob (2200). And while it was a fun, casual event and the course was pretty easy and flat, I couldn’t run the entire thing. I know most of it was in my head. Because the crowd was so huge, Rob stayed back to run it with me. He could have injured himself running so much more slowly than his ability. And while I appreciated his gesture, I just felt guilty holding him back. And there were times I felt he was crowding me. It wasn’t his fault. It was all inside my own head.

This was an untimed race and we left our iPhones behind. I learned that part of the reward of finishing a race is learning your time.

Then there’s the re-occuring back pain. I’m in the process of taking my doctor’s 3x3x3 approach.

Get over it, Carrie. Better days are ahead!

And now it’s time for…

planning

Food

Dinners:

  • MondayGrilled Pork Chops with Mushrooms and side salad
  • Tuesday – Cooking for the girls. I think I’m going to make this Ground Turkey Zucchini Skillet, based on what I have on hand. But it sounds a little boring. Any other ideas out there?
  • Wednesday Angel Hair Pasta with San Marzano Meat Sauce
  • Thursday – leftovers
  • Friday – TBD
  • Saturday – Dinner out with the Girls
  • Sunday – TBD

Lunch:

Breakfasts:

Fitness

Rob and I are starting a Run Streak! Starting Wednesday, we are going to run 1-mile per day, no matter what,every day up until we leave for Australia this fall. It’s how we decided to make ourselves accountable to continue to run when we don’t have a race scheduled! We may increase the amount on some days or add other cardio or strength training, but we have to do at least one mile and keep improving on our individual times. There’s no way we can’t fit a mile in!

  • Monday – REST
  • Tuesday REST
  • Wednesday – 1-mile run
  • Thursday – 1-mile run
  • Friday – 1-mile run
  • Saturday – 1-mile run
  • Sunday – 1-mile run

Cheers to moving forward!
Carrie

 

Chicken Thighs – What’s Your Best Recipe?

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It’s always difficult coming back from a week long summer getaway. Especially when you are busy at work catching up, you didn’t exactly follow do any of the the running program you had planned, and your dining options and choices weren’t very healthy.

On second thought, maybe it doesmake it easier. I feel gross. I want fresh vegetables. I am sick of sugar. I want to get moving again. I don’t want to feel so sluggish.

When we got back to Minnesota, I knew that I had to formulate a plan for the week quickly. I had to pick some easy dishes that I could put together quickly to make that first hectic week back go smoothly. It’s time to take a look at that Recipe Arsenal!  Rob and I have also decided to try our own thing this week and only eat together once this week. This gives me the opportunity to make myself some fish and chicken. I’m so out of practice and may need your help…

planning

Food

Dinners:

  • MondayGrilled Kielbasa with Sauerkraut and side salad
  • Tuesday – Shrimp with Zucchini & Tomatoes
  • Wednesday Angel Hair Pasta with San Marzano Meat Sauce
  • Thursday – Chicken Thighs with Grilled Asparagus – What’s your favorite easy recipe using chicken thighs? I have about 2 lbs. I could make 1 lb, or cook them all up for leftovers for salads, etc.
  • Friday – TBD
  • Saturday – St. Paul Farmer’s Market & Unplug Day!
  • Sunday – TBD

Lunch:

  • Poorman’s Caprese
  • Leftovers
  • Snacks – fruit, nuts or string cheese and dark chocolate

Breakfasts:

Fitness

  • Monday – 2-mile run
  • Tuesday walk/yoga
  • Wednesday – 2.5-mile run
  • Thursday – REST
  • Friday – 1.5-mile race-pace run
  • Saturday – Unplug Day and Long Walk!
  • Sunday – 3-mile run

What is your favorite way to make chicken thighs?

Looking for an easy, no fail tasty recipe!

I am hoping to round up a bunch of favorites into one simple post.

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Grapefruit + Tequila = Summer

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I’ve just discovered one of the most refreshing cocktail combinations that I’m going to declare as my Summer 2014 cocktail of choice!

Grapefruit + Tequila

Why have I never thought of this before?

After I earned an all-expense-paid trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico through The Traveling Vineyard, I came back swearing I’d never drink a margarita again. But I still love tequila. And after a tequila tasting there, I found what my true preferences are. So occasionally, I’ll have an Añejo on the rocks with a splash of cointreau and squeeze of lime.

That was until we visited Boneyard Kitchen and Bar {Restaurant Impression to come!}, a newer restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis which is housed in the old Old Chicago space. I don’t know why, but my eyes were immediately drawn to this drink:

PALOMA – cabrito tequila, grapefruit soda, fresh lime
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I failed to take a photo; but it was one of the most refreshing drinks of my life. They used Cabrito Tequila, which I hadn’t had before. I’m sure it’s a good value one; but what is more important is that it is 100% de agave. It was excellent in this mix. And I was soooo thankful that they did not use Jose Cuervo Gold!

Tequila Tip: When buying a tequila, look for 100% de agave on the label. Jose Cuervo Gold is 51% agave, 49% carmelized sugar. What a rip off!

The other great thing about this recipe is that it is sooooo quick and easy!

Paloma

Ingredients:

  • ice
  • 2 oz tequila (reposado)
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • pinch salt
  • grapefruit soda (approx 6 oz) – {We prefer San Pe, but you can also use Jarritos, Squirt or a some grapefruit juice mixed with lemon-lime soda}

Method:

  • Combine tequila, lime juice and a pinch of salt in a glass.
  • Add ice.
  • Top with grapefruit soda.
  • Stir.
  • Garnish with lime or grapefruit wedge if desired.

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Then, a week or two later, I discovered this beauty at Vivo Kitchen:

Pomelo Margarita - sauza blanco tequla, fresh grapefruit, st. germain, agave

Pomelo Margarita – sauza blanco tequila, fresh grapefruit, st. germain, agave

Okay, so I didn’t think to share it with you until it was half gone. Sorry. Because of the addition of St. Germain and fresh grapefruit, it tasted different than the Paloma. But it was just as refreshing. I loved it.

You can do a search online for Pomelo Margarita recipe. Note: A pomelo is similar to a grapefruit – maybe a bit sweeter. But as Vivo did, you can substitute grapefruit if you don’t have access to a pomelo or pomelo juice.

How did I not discover grapefruit and tequila until now?!

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Now it’s time for:

planning

Food

Dinners:

  • MondayGrilled Kielbasa with Sauerkraut  – Do you have any good ways to season sauerkraut? I am not making mine from scratch. My cousin canned some and gave some to me!
  • Tuesday – Painting Night! I have been going through withdrawal. It’s been a while! We will be dining at the Med Cruise Cafe before pulling out our brushes.
  • Wednesday Pork Chops with Roasted Vegetables and Best Oven Fries
  • Thursday – Leftovers
  • Friday – TBD
  • Saturday – Happy Fun Day Saturday! We are joining some friends at the NE Social and Dangerous Man Brewing (Beard, optional.)
  • Sunday – Brunch in the am, dinner TBD.

Lunch:

Breakfasts:

Fitness

  • Monday – 2-mile run
  • Tuesday cross train/yoga
  • Wednesday – 1.5-mile race-pace run
  • Thursday – cross train/yoga
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday –2.5-mile run
  • Sunday – Walk

What is your favorite cocktail this summer?

What is your favorite grapefruit cocktail?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

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Mexican Power Bowl

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I’m no where sick of the Mediterranean Power Bowls I’ve been eating three times a week. But I’m out of goat cheese medallions. So it’s time to start using other items in my pantry and fridge. This week, I’ll be making some of these instead:

Quick Mexican Power Bowl

(makes 3 bowls)

Ingredients:

  • 3 handfuls spinach
  • 1 cup precooked rice
  • 1 – 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bell pepper (any color), julienned or chopped.
  • 1 – 15 oz can seasoned diced tomatoes, including juices (You can substitute fresh tomatoes, of course. But for my quick-and-easy-pulling-from-the-pantry purposes here, the canned ones are quick, readily available and already seasoned!)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican-blend cheese
  • My favorite Salsa-Ranch Dressing a la Biz

Method:

Divide ingredients among three containers and refrigerate. If you’d rather use the salsa-ranch as a cold dressing, rather than a sauce, be sure to put the dressing in a separate container. At lunchtime, heat your bowl (slightly covered) in the microwave for 1 and 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir. Add dressing if you didn’t include it. Optional, but not required for a tasy bowl: Add a dollop of sour cream or guacamole.

Easy Alternative: Convert this into an easy cold taco salad by substituting the spinach for iceberg, romaine or other lettuce and disregard the heating instructions.

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Now it’s time for:

planning

Food

Dinners:

  • MondayMediterranean Pork Chops with Garlic Green Beans and Best Oven Fries
  • Tuesday – Beef Stir-Fry with carrots, asparagus, onion and mushrooms
  • Wednesday Grilled Kielbasa with Sauerkraut and Best Oven Fries
  • Thursday – Leftovers
  • Friday – Dinner out at Peninsula Malaysian. What would you order here?
  • Saturday – Three-Course Dinner with Wine Pairings at Basil’s.
  • Sunday – Treating my Pupper Dawgs’ daddy {bna Rob} to a walk of his choice in Minneapolis with food truck eats and Izzy’s Ice Cream.

Lunch:

  • Mexican Power Bowls (see above!)
  • Leftovers
  • Snacks – fruit, nuts or string cheese and dark chocolate

Breakfasts:

Fitness

  • Monday – Walk, yoga or recumbent bike
  • Tuesday 2-mile run
  • Wednesday – cross trainYoga
  • Thursday – 1.5 mile race pace run
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday – 3-mile run
  • Sunday – walk

What are you eating this week?

Cheers~
Carrie

This Week: Cooking with What’s on Hand

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So, I didn’t get my usual Monday Food & Fitness post up that I link to Running with Racheal.

planning

I guess that weekend out of town ended with a lack of planning for the week. Now it’s time get creative and use up what we have in fridge and  pantry!

What do I know?

Meals

  • I have bread in the freezer and peanut butter in the fridge. Looks like it’s going to be a week of PB Toast breakfasts!
  • I put together some Quick and Easy Bowls for lunch this week based on what I had on hand. The rest will be leftovers
  • I have three days to cook dinner this week.
  • One of those days is just for me – I was considering this Strawberry Caprese Pasta Salad. Then I realized, we don’t have strawberries. So I may just make some Tilapia Topped with Tomatoes with this Zucchini and Onion Saute that always reminds me of Provence.
  • I have pork chops, green beans and ground beef in the freezer.
  • Worst case scenario, if I don’t get to the grocery store, we’ll be eating pork chops and green beans one night and Chocolate Chili another. Although, Rob has given me the go ahead on this One Pot Cheeseburger Skillet {I can’t call it a casserole or he won’t eat it!}

How’s that for last-minute planning?!

Fitness

I had some trouble with my back this weekend. Sleeping and getting out of bed has not been easy. So I’ve decided to take the doc’s advice for the next couple of days.

  • Tuesday – PT Exercises & Walk
  • Wednesday – PT Exercises & Walk
  • Thursday – PT Exercises & Run (if feeling okay, otherwise, walk)
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday – PT Exercises & Run
  • Sunday – PT Exercises & Walk

What are your favorite go-to meals when you don’t get to the store and can only use what you have on hand?

What’s the best and most creative dish you’ve come up with doing that?

Cheers~
Carrie