July Reflections

As part of my 2015 resolutions, I post my status each month to keep myself accountable for the goals I set for myself!

1. Design 2015 budget goals with husband to reflect past spending and current saving goals.

My goal for July was to reset our budget given the fact that my sweet hubby is now officially a resident! There is something to be said for earning a paycheck ;). I want to change our budget limitations and figures to reflect this change! I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on our spending habits this month and what we could do differently. When I take an average of what we spent on food the first six months of the year and compare it to this month- we cut our overall spending on food by almost 25%! It took a lot of hard work, but I imagine we’ll be able to cut it down even further as I learn new recipes that are more budget conscious. If you want to know more, look at an upcoming post on how we are making this work!

My goal for August is to evaluate our car situation. We are a two car family and most likely need to stay that way for the time being. We own one of our cars (mine!) and lease the other. Luckily, the lease is ending this month. So, we will be in the market for a new-to-us car for my husband. I would like us to figure out what we can afford at this point in time and find a reasonable option for us.
2. Go to the gym (or workout at home) a minimum of four days a week.

Since we moved, I no longer have my gym membership and was finding it very difficult to keep up with this goal. I decided to make my July goal a step back and try to workout at least two days a week. I was able to achieve this on two of the weeks! I found that if I went first thing in the morning, I was able to complete my goal. If I tried to wait until the afternoon, it was either insanely hot or we had afternoon thunderstorms.

For August, my goal will be to work out a total of 12 times (or an average of three times a week). I think making a monthly goal will allow me more flexibility to plan around weather or illness.

3. Reduce my PR of a 9 min mile pace to an 8 minute mile.

I completed a 7:57 mile in April. This goal is complete!
4. Try one new recipe a week and blog about it.

SO MANY NEW RECIPES!

Easy Kale Chips

Homemade French Bread

The Best Split Pea and Black Bean Soup

Homemade Rolls

Homemade Hummus

Hot Cocoa Brownie in a Mug 

Sausage and Peppers Pasta

5. I want to continue nursing Cupcake through 2015, unless she chooses to wean earlier.

Check! I notice that she is definitely nursing less than she used to! I think we are still a big step away from weaning, but there have been changes. She still loves to nurse to sleep for bed and nap, often wakes once per night to feed, and LOVES nursing when she first gets up. During the daytime, however, she will go hours between nursing and might only nurse for a minute or two. She’s becoming such a big girl!

6. Visit my grandma every week before our move. Call her every week after we move.

I missed two phone calls, but I get to see her in TWO DAYS!!!!! I am SO SO excited!

7. Text/call/email a different friend every day to keep communication open.

Check!

8. I will cut my monthly consumption of soda.

My goal for July was to have no more than nine 8-ounce servings. I had….ZERO servings! For the entire first half of the month, I did not even have an interest in soda. Toward the end of the month I had a craving that I may indulge when we take our road trip to CT this weekend.

My goal for August is to have no more than eight 8-ounce servings.

9. Subscribe to FlyLady Emails. Complete tasks to maintain clean and decluttered home.

My goal for July was to reorganize our storage in the basement. When we moved we put all of Cupcake’s old clothes in bins. I also received a ton of hand me downs from my niece. When we moved, it got all put in a closet. On July 1st, I pulled out every bin and started over. Everything is perfectly in order now!

My goal for August is to organize our pantry so that I can ensure we are using the oldest food items first. This will doubly help, because it will encourage me to find ways to use what we currently have in the pantry to create new recipes.

10. Reduce time spent watching TV

My goal for July was to limit my TV to the following items:

  • News (no more than 30 minutes a day)
  • Sesame Street or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (an episode if its a rainy day for Cupcake)
  • No more than two movies

I did quite well overall, but we hit a rough patch when Cupcake came down with Lyme and Hand, Foot & Mouth in the same week. At that point, my TV limits went out the window as I tried to survive! I have also found that it rains most days here lately, so I will want to define better how much TV I am allowing.

We do not have any TVs upstairs in our house and I found a new problem area for myself. Since I have started working out again to accomplish goal # 2, I’ve had to shower many mornings while Cupcake is awake. I have tried bringing toys and books into our bedroom to distract her while I shower, but she ends up crying the whole time. The one thing that does work? Putting on a youtube video I found that sings nursery rhymes. I believe I will continue to allow this a potentially daily additional “TV” time for Cupcake so that I can shower!

My goal for August is to continue with my July goals and only allow Cupcake a maximum of three TV shows (not counting the shower-time screen time) a week. This excludes TV if we get into a major illness situation like we had in July. Fingers crossed for a healthy baby!

11. Post progress each month on the above goals.

Check!

Sausage and Peppers Pasta

My sweet husband loves sausage and peppers. It is one of his favorite meals. Since it is his intern year of residency, he has been working an insane amount of hours and we rarely get to eat dinner together. Most of the time, he gets home well after Cupcake is asleep. I always leave him a plate in the refrigerator, but it definitely is not the same. So when I realized that he would be home tonight for dinner with us there was only one option!

As I was starting to pull out the ingredients, I found a half filled container of kale from my most recent kale chip adventure. If I knew it didn’t have much time left so I threw that in. The small amount of kale looked silly so I added in some spinach, too. When Chris walked in, he was so excited despite having just come off of a 30 hour shift. Success!

Ingredients

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 medium onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1/2 c kale

1 c spinach

2 T olive oil

1 t minced garlic

1 lb pasta, cooked according to package

Directions

1. Add sausage links to pan and cook over medium-heat until cooked thoroughly.

2.  In a seperate pan, add olive oil, garlic and salt over medium heat. Add onion, peppers, kale and spinach and saute until greens are wilted and onions/peppers are tender.

3. Slice sausage into bite sized pieces. Add to vegetable mixture.

4. Serve over pasta .


Domesticated Momster

Hot Cocoa Brownie in a Mug

One of my favorite features of our new place is our pantry in the kitchen. I like being able to stock up on items we need ahead of time. It brings me comfort to know we have most of the essentials on hand. Every month I go through the pantry to make sure I am not letting anything go to waste. Foods that are nearing expiration are quickly put into the line-up.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered an unopened box of Swiss Miss, set to expire in just a few short days! Now, I usually like to eat pretty cleanly and quite honestly, this does not fit the bill. I typically prefer to make my hot cocoa from scratch. We received this as a gift and Swiss Miss always reminds me of my childhood. I was so excited to use it!

Except, I had less than a week to use it. During a heat wave. In July. Not ideal hot cocoa time. So, I started wracking my brain for different ways to use it when a huge brownie craving hit. It was also late and I didn’t have the time or patience to sit around for the oven to preheat. I had made cake in a mug before, so I decided to attempt brownie in a mug. The first time I made it, I sort of just threw ingredients in the mug without any measuring and stirred until it looked right. I also ate it all without abandon and didn’t take a single picture.

So, because I know you all need them, I had to suffer through a second night of brownie in a mug to get the measurements and take pictures. The things I do for you all.


  
  
  
 Hot Cocoa Brownie in a Mug

Ingredients

1 package instant hot cocoa (1 oz.)

3 T flour

1 T canola oil or butter

2 T water

Directions

1. Mix all ingredients in a microwave-safe mug. Stir until hot cocoa powder is dissolved.

2. Microwave on high for 60 seconds. Continue cooking for 10 seconds until brownie is complete. It is ready when the edges are cooked, but the center will still be gooey.

3. Let cool for 2 minutes.

I still have quite a bit of hot cocoa to use up. Do you have any fun recipes I should try? Leave them in the comments section below!

Domesticated Momster

How to Eat Healthy 100% of the Time

Growing up, my dad always would say the quote, “Everything in moderation.” As a child, I pretty much surmised that this loosely translated to, “I don’t know what else to say, so I am going to say this quote.”

It wasn’t until I was much older that this quote started to really make an impression. During college, I was pretty active. I tracked all of my calories and serving sizes. I monitored each calorie in and out as much as possible. It was in the summer of 2007 that I started to realize I might have a problem. I was working as a summer camp counselor teaching sports to young children. Each week I was assigned a different camp in a different area of the state.

During one particular week, I was assigned to teach a soccer camp to four-year-olds in the morning and a tennis camp to third, fourth and fifth graders in the afternoon. I had exactly 30 minutes to make a 30 minute commute during my “lunch break.” I planned my meals carefully, so after I got home and took a shower, I logged in my calories burned during work and my calories consumed during the day. I figured this would help me plan what my dinner should be. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that according to the online software I was using, I still needed to consume 1500 calories.

1500.

I usually only allowed myself 1200 for the whole day.

I had no idea what to do. How would I even consume enough healthy foods to make 1500 calories. How much salad is that?!?

I quickly realized that I was not living in a healthy way. Food had become an enemy and that was not okay. I promptly announced to my family that it was taco night (my favorite food) and that I was baking them all a cake to eat with me. I’m sure you can only imagine my dad’s remark! Thankfully, I have come a long way since that time.

I still live by the idea that I need to eat healthy 100% of the time. Just now I realize that healthy can take many forms. And yes, that includes a sweet treat or high calorie meal now and then. Sometimes I just want some General Tsao’s Chicken and an orange soda! And brownies!

Which leads me to today…

I ate so healthy all day long! (Healthy by the standard definition of all of my fruits and veggies and proper amounts of protein and carbs). Even though the temperatures were over 100 today and very humid, I still put Cupcake in the jogging stroller and completed my 1.5 mile route.  But then, a strong chocolate craving hit. This was coupled with a discovery of an unopened box of hot cocoa that was set to expire in just a few days. So, my momming brain went to work and I created a recipe for a brownie in a mug that helped me to use up some of the mix. (I will post the recipe tomorrow! I loved it so much I ate the whole thing without thinking once about snagging a picture for you all! Sorry. I’m not sorry).

That brownie filled me with so much joy. It tasted amazing; it was warm and gooey and magical. Seriously. And I do not feel one ounce of regret because it was healthy for me! It was good for my mental health.

Now, I’m not going to start eating a brownie a day just for my mental health. That wouldn’t even be good. It would take away the allure. The brownie would just be regular. Not special. But, sometimes people get so caught up with eating “healthy” that they lose the fun in food. There is a time and a place for brownies made from beans and a time and a place for the real thing. I’ve heard people suggest eating healthy 80% of the time and not worrying about the rest. I prefer to think of it as focusing on different aspects of my health, but to each their own.

I guess my dad had it right. Everything in moderation…

What are your favorite comfort foods to feed your mental and emotional well-being? Share them in the comments below!

Easy Crockpot Clean-Eating Thai Chicken

You know what seems really terrible? Teething.

My poor Cupcake is currently working on adding eight more teeth to her little mouth. She is in a ton of pain. She is drooling all over the place, not sleeping well, and barely eating. As a result, I have a very clingy little girl who just needs her mama!

You all know that I try to cook in a “clean” way.I try to not drive myself too crazy about it (I’m looking at you delicious Oreos), but overall I do attempt to make clean recipes. Often when I am looking online for some momming inspiration in the kitchen, I find what looks like a great recipe. That is, until I realize it is either labor or ingredient intensive. Mama ain’t got no time for that, especially with a sad Cupcake on my hands.

After searching for a little, I kept coming across a few recipes for Thai-inspired chicken. I noticed a theme and started pulling bits and pieces from different recipes. I decided I wanted something I could literally just dump in the crockpot without doing anything extra. That is the type of easy I wanted. Plus, with the crockpot doing all of the work for me, I had more time to hang out with my favorite little lady and cheer her up!

I was surprised with how simple prep was (approximately 5 minutes), how good this was! I have made it using chicken breast, thighs or drumsticks. Pick whichever is your favorite or on sale this week, depending on your needs!

This recipe can also be made as “clean” as you want. It does have soy sauce, which in my house we use, but it’s up to you if you’d prefer a substitute! All of our ingredients are from clean brands, but you’ll have to read the labels carefully if that’s your thing.

Little side note, store brand natural peanut butters tend to be made of only peanuts and salt. Brand name ones include sugar and added oils. So, I save money and get my clean pb? Works for us!

Onto the deliciousness…

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken
1/2 c salsa
1/4 c peanut butter
3 T soy sauce
3 T lime juice
3 T water
1 T ground ginger
1 T ground garlic

(Using freshly chopped ginger and minced garlic would probably be super yummy, but again, no time).

Directions:
1. Put all ingredients into ziplock bag. Shake, massage, etc. to spread ingredients all over chicken.
2. Dump bag and all contents into crockpot.
3. Cook on low 6-8 hours

I serve ours with rice and cooked veggies for a delightfully awesome dinner.

I apologize for the lack of pictures! Once my hubby got home last night, it was time to eat and then put Cupcake (and this Mama) to bed! I will try to get some for the next time we make this and update!

Homemade Hummus without Tahini 

After my husband and I really sat down to evaluate our budget, we realized that we could be doing better in terms of our spending on food.

Although I have benefitted in the past from couponing, that can become a full-time job in itself. I mostly want to find ways to cut back in terms of the types of food we purchase and prepare.

Cupcake is a tad bit obsessed with hummus.

 We go through A LOT of this stuff. I realized that making my own could be one way to try and save.

This recipe is super simple. You basically just dump all the ingredients in the food processor and press start. Voila!

I have found that the most important part is to peel the skins off the chickpeas. Some people skip this step, and the hummus will be fine- I promise. However, by peeling the skins, you get a much smoother texture. I prefer the flavor, too!

Ingredients

1 15 oz can chickpeas, reserve liquid

1 T minced garlic

2 T cumin

1/4 – 1/2t salt, depending on preference

1 T olive oil

Directions

1. Drain chickpeas. Reserve liquid.

2. Remove shells from chickpeas

3. Add chickpeas, 3 T of reserved liquid, garlic, cumin, salt and oil to food processor (or in my case, the Baby Bullet since I don’t have a grown up one haha)

4. Add more liquid as needed to reach desired consistency.

I can’t wait to try adding other spice combinations! So good and SO simple!
Disclaimer: this may or may not actually save you money because it’s so yummy you will want to eat it all. 🙂

Homemade Rolls 

I do not know what has gotten into me! I have been obsessed with homemade bread lately. You’d think that the weather outside would have been damp and chilly, but no. I just really LOVE homemade bread!

After trying out this awesome recipe for Homemade French Bread, I was really excited. It tasted amazing and was much easier than I thought. It was much more cost affordable and definitely much healthier!

The only downside was that the recipe took a bit longer than I preferred to spend when I have this cutie pie hanging around.


So I was super excited when I found out that the lovely Ms. Andrea at Pennies and Pancakes had a recipe for hamburger buns that took less than an hour from start to finish! I wish I could take credit for the delicious recipe, but she so deserves it!

Ingredients
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or just over 4 cups whole wheat flour)
2 1/2 tsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 beaten egg

Directions 
Warm the milk, water, and butter in the microwave. Stir until butter is melted and let cool until warm, but not hot.

Mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add in milk mixture and then add the egg. Your dough should be only slightly sticky. Knead for 8-10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Divide the dough into 12 balls, and place them on a large, greased baking sheet. Lightly press down on the top of each ball of dough, so that the top is more flat than rounded. They will puff up more during rising and baking. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

Cover with a dishtowel, and let rise 30-40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serve as desired, and store for 3-5 days on the counter, or 4-6 months in the freezer.

Before

After!

I am telling you, this was the easiest thing to make! My father-in-law had one and proclaimed that he was officially handing over the reigns and that I was now in charge of making buns for the holidays. This is the same man who drove six hours to our house with coolers filled with food so he could prep it himself for us. He loves to cook, so to pass any of it on to me, I’d say we have a winner!

When these came out of the oven, Cupcake was napping. I split one open and may have let out a little squeal. I grabbed a bit of olive oil and sea salt and I was in HEAVEN. Anyone who is nervous about making homemade bread should definitely start here. My only regret is that I did not find this recipe sooner!