The Sweetest Thing.

" I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people" ~Van Gogh

January CookBooks. January 28, 2015

Filed under: Cookbooks,random,Review — Jessica @ 6:00 am
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I have a bit of a cookbook problem. “A bit” is an understatement. I have well over 100 cookbooks and the collection keeps growing. I do weed them out from time to time, but it is still out of control. I read cookbooks like novels… I bring a pile into bed to look at while I drink my coffee on a lazy Sunday morning. I find so much inspiration in cookbooks~ in both the recipe sense and in the best of cookbooks, the life sense. I love the stories people tell about the recipes, the beautiful photographs, the kitchens etc.

Needless to say, going through all of them for my monthly menu planning session would be too much. In order to make sure I use as many of them as possible, I choose 3 or 4 each month and pick out some recipes for our meal plan. I never use the same book two months in a row. I leave a lot of room in the meal plan for improvisation, my own recipes and recipes from online sources and magazines, but I like to choose a few from each cookbook I pick out that month. Sometimes I will make the same favorites over and over again, but I try to choose at least one new recipe from each one. I thought I would start sharing the cookbooks I use each month. I love hearing about others favorite cookbooks and the reasons why they like them. I just decided to start sharing, so this post is coming a little late in the month but I will be putting these up the first week of each month in the future.

I was lucky enough to get two cookbooks from my two of my favorite bloggers this Christmas so I just had to use them immediately.

1.Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food

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I have loved her blog for years and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her cookbook! There is a nice variety of snacks, meals and beverages. Her recipes range from easy and healthy to a little more involved and indulgent. Everything I have tried has been phenomenal. Our favorites so far have been the Lemon Almond Tilapia with Coconut Rice, the Turkey and White Bean Enchiladas and the Crispy Salt & Pepper Brussels Sprouts. There are so many more things I want to try in here.

2. Homemade Decadence

DSC02074Joy is just the best blogger. I love everything about her. I bought her first cookbook and could not wait for this one to come out. (She is working on a Brunch cookbook now and I could not be more excited). There are a lot of baked good recipes in here since she is Joy The Baker, but I still managed to fit a few things into the meal plan (and a treat or two). My favorite recipe so far has been the Dirty Chai Lattes and I am pretty much just obsessed with drinking them everyday. The Roasted Potato Breakfast Nachos are pretty much heaven and the Dark Chocolate, Pistachio and Smoked Sea Salt Cookies I made for Christmas were a HUGE hit!

3. Now Eat This!DSC02073This is a cookbook I randomly came across in the Library Book Sale (I work at the library, so you will see this statement often). I had never heard of these cookbooks, but apparently there is a series. I thought a healthier twist on classic American comfort food was worth checking out and I have not been disappointed yet. I have made Mac and Cheese, Chicken Piccata, Portabella and Ground Beef Meatloaf, and Chicken with Mango Salsa. All have been delicious and fit my partners need for some classic comfort food while staying pretty healthy.

So, those were my choices for January. Please let me know what your favorite cookbook is in the comments!

 

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Garlic Butter Zucchini Noodles with Tomatoes and Parmesan. January 27, 2015

Filed under: Side Dish,Vegetables — Jessica @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

This is not a seasonally approprite recipe, but sometimes I just need summery vegetables in the dead of winter. That and I got a really cool vegetable spiralizer toy for Christmas that I was dying to use. It took a couple of weeks to find some good zucchini this time of year, but it was totally worth it. This recipe comes together easily. It is made from a few kitchen staples and packed with flavor. I highly recommend trying it as soon as you can get your hands on some decent zucchini. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you could shred the zucchini with a cheese grater or even dice it. The flavor will be the same regardless.

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Ingredients~

(serves 2)

4 cups spiral cut zucchini

1 cup cherry tomatoes~ halved

2 Tbls butter

3 cloves garlic~ minced

salt and pepper to taste

Fresh Parmesan

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1. Spiralize/grate/dice zucchini and halve tomatoes

2. Heat butter over medium heat until melted, add minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds

3. Stir in zucchini and tomatoes

4. Cook until tomatoes start to break down (about 7 or 8 minutes)

5. Once plated, top with freshly shaved Parmesan cheese.

6. Enjoy!

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Meal Plan 1/26/15.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jessica @ 12:00 am

Last week was one of those weeks that didn’t go quite as planned. We got to a few of the meals on the plan and we did some improvising on the other nights. Leftovers, previously frozen meals and snacks at book club filled in the other days. Some of the meals we did not get to last week were just moved over to this week, we are not (and pretty much never) eat the same things two weeks in a row.

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Monday~ Sage Brined Pork Chops with Brown Sugar Glaze, Acorn Squash, Leftover Brussels Sprouts

Tuesday~ Crock Pot Chilli, Gluten Free Corn Bread

Wednesday~ Grilled Ham & Brie Sandwiches, Cucumber Salad (I have a lot of Brie to use up and we both work late, so this is a nice simple dinner)

Thursday~ Honey Mustard Baked Chicken, Rosemary Roasted Root Vegetables (sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, red potatoes)

Friday~ Order Out

Saturday~ Leftovers

Sunday~ Chicken Parmesan, Salad, Fresh Bread

* I just decided to look at my stats and saw that my Friday post and this post scheduled for this morning did not go up. Sorry about the delay. I will be sure to check daily when I have things scheduled. Fridays recipe will be up in the morning!

 

Mid Month Grocery Haul~ January 2015 January 21, 2015

We have been awesome with meal planning and sticking to our grocery budget this month. We have only ordered food unplanned once and most of our meals have been at home. I ran to the store late last week to pick up some produce and a few other things. We have been eating well from our first grocery haul of the month. I still have about $35 left in the monthly budget. We are going to need some milk, eggs and peppers and I will probably use the rest to buy meat for the freezer or roll it over to next month.

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Produce~

~ Lemons/Limes

~ Avacadoe

~ Rainbow Chard

~ Brussels Sprouts

~ Spinach

~ Celery

~ Bananas

~ Parsnips

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Other~

~ Marinara Sauce (2)

~ Tortilla Chips (for my birthday party)

~ Olive Oil Mayonnaise

~ Eggs

~ Cheddar Cheese (3)

As you can see, I didn’t need much. Good planning before shopping and sticking to the meal plan makes it pretty easy to do the majority of my grocery shopping once a month with just a mini trip like this about half way through.

How often do you go to the grocery store? Do you find you spend more money if you go more often?

 

35 While 35. January 20, 2015

Filed under: Adventures — Jessica @ 6:00 am
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I like to make these lists every birthday. They are mostly just small tasks/adventures that don’t really make the cut as far as my quarterly goal lists go, but they are things I want to incorporate in my life just the same. Some of these goals are steps in the bigger picture plans, but most are not. I think it’s fun to have a yearly “bucket list” to keep life fun and interesting.

Cheers to another year of good living!

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1. Master a gluten-free bread recipe

2. Learn how to debone a whole chicken

3. Go on a long kayaking adventure

4. Reach 1,500 likes on the blog Facebook page

5. Get my driver’s license

6. Take a weekend trip with Tiffany

7. Get my bike fixed and ride it everywhere!

8. Have a backyard dinner party

9. Get the basement organized/get rid of things

10. Read 52 books

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11. Write gratitude letters to the people I love

12. Outdoor yoga

13. Switch over to all homemade/natural cleaning products

14. Get a puppy.

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15. Play more games.

16. Make my own almond butter

17. Volunteer work

18. Have a romantic blanket picnic by the water

19. Wrap really fancy presents

20. Up my gardening game

21. Learn how to can on my own

22. Get out and enjoy community events more.

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23. Go camping for a weekend

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24. Research my genealogy

25. Go an entire week without watching TV

26. Work up to posting on the blog every week day.

27. Explore new music

28. Go to NYC (it’s been far too long)

29. Pay off Credit Card

30. Reduce the amount of garbage we produce at home

31. Fly a kite

32. Make my own pasta

33. Save Coffee for Sundays/outings with friends and drink tea the rest of the time.

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34. Get involved at church beyond the Sunday service.

35. Save $500

 

Menu Plan & Weekly Intentions 1/19/15. January 19, 2015

Filed under: Meal Plan — Jessica @ 1:42 pm
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Hello! I am a little behind this morning, but I figured better late than never. I slacked off a bit last week and enjoyed several celebrations for my 35th birthday. I planned on doing a recap post for all of that, but I didn’t actually take many pictures. I usually don’t take many pictures when I am hanging out with others, I like to just enjoy the moment, but I may have to get a little better about that for blogging purposes. Luckily, I have several other posts planned for this week and hope to post every weekday. Tomorrow is my “35 While 35” list, Wednesday will be the mid month grocery haul, Thursday will be about how I plan for breakfast and Friday is Recipe Day.

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Without further ado, here is our menu plan for this week~

Monday~ Lasagna, Salad (We had dinner at my mom’s yesterday and I did not get to make this, so I moved it to today)

Tuesday~ Chicken Piccata, Roasted Green Beans

Wednesday~ Green Chili Turkey and White Bean Enchiladas with Lettuce, Tomato & Avacado

Thursday~ Baked Honey Mustard Chicken, Crispy Salt & Pepper Brussels Sprouts, Baked Sweet Potato

Friday~ Hockey Game Date Night (will eat there)

Saturday~ Pork Chops (not sure how I will prepare them just yet), Maple Dijon Roasted Root Vegetables, Broccoli

Sunday~ Crock pot Chilli, Cornbread

* I just got really excited when I looked at the menu plan as a whole…. so much good food this week 🙂

goals

As far as goals go, I am keeping it pretty simple this week. I have been doing really well at keeping my “resolutions” in mind and making small steps toward those each day. I also did well on the specific goals I set last week. I watched much less TV, I had friends over without a panic attack and I really really relaxed and enjoyed my birthday festivities. I made some progress on my closet and paperwork projects and I read some great posts about blogging and learned a few really useful things. I could have done better in the workout department.

This week is about getting back into my routine and back to a fuller work schedule. I have been pretty relaxed since the holidays (I often carry the holiday feeling through my birthday) and it’s time to get refocused.

1. Use Sunday afternoon for food prep for the week. Get everything possible done so cooking and eating healthy during the week is easy.

2. Exercise at least 3 times (does not include walks to and from work etc that I normally do anyways) and do yoga on Sunday.

3. Get all of my blog papers, ideas, plans and projects organized into one place.

4. Go through 2 sections of my closet ( I divide it by clothing types)

5. Go to church.

6. Begin studying for my Driver’s Permit.

7. Sit down with my partner and go over the budget/make sure we are on the same page.

That’s it!

What is on your menu plan this week? What steps are you taking towards your goals?

 

Exercising Without a Gym. January 16, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jessica @ 5:00 am

Winter is always a struggle for me when it comes to getting in some exercise~ especially since I quit the gym a year or so ago. Summer is easy, I enjoy walks after dinner, kayaking on the weekend and early morning hikes with friends. I am also just generally more active in the summer~ working on projects, gardening, playing outside with the pup or the children in my life, walking to do my errands etc.

Winter is an entirely different story. I would be quite content to sit on my couch and watch all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls over the winter months. I live in Western NY and it is pretty COLD out there from November until March. This winter has been a little different, but I think the cold may have finally come to stay. It is about 3º out there as I write this. Since outdoor activities are not an enjoyable option, I have to rely on exercises I can do in my house. Luckily, there are a lot of possibilities.

I made a list of workouts that do not require the gym and posted them on the giant bulletin board above my desk (aka- Command Central). These are not all winter appropriate, but still full of usable ideas.

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1. Yoga (videos, podcasts, online videos, practice on my own)

2.  Exercise video (My own collection, rental, internet)

3.  Go for walk/hike

4. Pinterest workouts

5. Kayak (obviously not seasonally appropriate, but a good option otherwise)

6. Dance!

7. Combination of exercises (I have since added boxing, biking and stair running/climbing to this list for more cardio)

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A few tips for exercising at home~

1. Plan for it. Write it into your schedule or make it part of your routine just like you would a trip to the gym.

2. Figure out what part of the day you are most likely to exercise in. I like to pretend I will exercise after work, but once the day gets started, it easily falls off the priority list. I need to exercise first thing in the morning before I have time to get distracted.

3. Have your exercise clothes/shoes ready to go. Sleep in your workout clothes or at least keep them by the bed or in the bathroom so you can easily throw them on in the morning.

4. Keep any exercise equipment together and easy to access. I have a basket behind the couch. I keep all of my videos, weights, ball, yoga mat etc in it. If equipment is hard to get to or hard to find, you are much less likely to use it.

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5. If you are exercising first thing in the morning or right after work, a little snack helps. I like a piece of fruit, a cheesestick or almonds to fuel my workout.

6. Make sure you have everything you need before you get started and minimize distractions. I leave my cell phone in the other room and I make sure I have the following before I get started~ water bottle, towel for sweat, any equipment I plan to use and my i pod with a kick ass playlist.

7. Have a kick ass playlist. Most likely more than one so you have something appropriate for a variety of workouts.

What are your favorite at home workouts? How do you stick to an exercise routine?