Easy One Pan Meals

With cooler mornings and a hint of fall in the air, I’ve been ready to cook some fall meals. I neglected my oven during the summer in favor of grilling and my slow cooker. And yes, I am totally obsessed with my slow cooker. I use it all the time for quick and easy meals. My recent discovery has me excited to cook indoors again because I can still cook everything in one pan…but in the oven. Easy cooking, easy cleanup, minimal time spent in the kitchen. What could be better?

I will share my recipe for the meal above and then give some general tips so you can experiment and create your own oven roasted meals.

1 head of broccoli

1-1 1/2# chicken breasts (I pounded mine a bit thinner for ease of cooking)

BBQ Sauce(I make my own that I got from Real Food Whole Life,  recipe below)*

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and washed

Olive oil

Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wash, peel and cube sweet potatoes and toss with a bit of olive oil and salt. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I use a Pampered Chef stoneware pan so I skip the parchment paper). Place chicken on the tray and spread barbecue sauce on both sides of the meat. Bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, break broccoli apart and toss with a bit of olive oil and salt. Place on top of the chicken and potatoes after 20 minutes and return to the oven to bake 10 minutes more. Remove and serve!

I have made this using a homemade honey mustard sauce, lemon pepper seasoning, etc. I have also used barbecue sauce chickpeas in place of meat and I know other people who use seasoned tofu, sliced steak, etc. Brussels sprouts are great veggies, as are carrots. You can also use russet potatoes. The choices are endless.

*Barbecue Sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1 6-oz can tomato paste

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

Do you like one pan meals? What are your quick and easy weeknight meal ideas?

September Musings

fallleaves.jpg

I am a goal maker and a thinker. It’s just hard-wired into me. So at the end of each month, I evaluate things and then choose a new focus or to-do list for the next month. Each new day, week, month and year are filled with possibility and that is exciting.

So here are a couple of lessons I learned in September.

It’s okay to be a beginner  I started a new job in August in retail. It’s part-time, about 20 hours a week. You would think retail would be easy, but it’s not. I’m back to dealing with people, both co-workers and customers, who also have to deal with me. 😉 Plus, learning new lingo, systems, and ways of doing things. So I have let myself be the new guy. Lowered my expectations and asked questions and tried hard not to beat myself up for being less than perfect. And you know what? It’s a nice way to live. I think I’ll let it spill over into other aspects of life as much as possible.

The unexpected can bring some great memories  We were caught up in Hurricane Irma’s path. We had lots of extra visitors from Florida, very little gas(and it was expensive), and days without school, power for some people, etc.  But that time spent off the normal routine, with my family, was precious. I have the best things in life in my family and in friends, and that’s something that no amount of gas or inconvenience can take away. Plus, I met some amazing Floridians at work and heard incredible stories of their lives. Definitely, it’s something I’ll always remember.

Even though I can make pumpkin spice everything, September in the south still feels like summer!  A little tongue in cheek, but man, it’s been hot here this month. And you know what? It makes anticipating the fall weather, changing leaves, and shorter days all that more magical. And yes, I still had my homemade pumpkin spiced coffee.

So here’s to October. And thank you, September, for memories, lessons, and the gift of life.

P.S. Drop me a line and tell me about your September. I love hearing from you.

Your Word for the Day is…Selah

Selah

 

I’m a grammar girl and word nerd. I love learning in general and specifically about words and history. So when I came across the word “Selah” in my Bible study the first time, I had to dig in!

This word is written in Hebrew in the Old Testament. What does it mean? Scholars aren’t really sure! It’s used over 70 times in the Bible…and all but three of them are in the Psalms. (The other three uses are in the book called Habakkuk, for inquiring minds). The most widely agreed upon interpretation is that it’s a call to praise, or stop and ponder what you have just read.

Pause. Think. Ponder. Praise. What if we lived our lives intentionally doing that?

I am angry and about to spout off to my child. Instead…Selah. Pause. Think. And see what the best thing to say is in this situation.

I’m about to spend money on something, or eat something, just because I’m feeling restless, sad, or frustrated. Instead…Selah. Pause. And think, what am I really feeling and what void am I trying to fill?

My day is busy and I don’t have time to breathe or think. How about…Selah. Pause, inwardly, and give thanks that I have the energy to make it through my day. That I am blessed with family, or friends, or good things to eat, the ability to face any challenge that comes my way, and on and on.

I’m exhausted at the end of the day or tempted to start my day by hitting the ground running. But instead…Selah. I pause for a moment or two, breathe deeply, whisper a prayer,  meditate a second, etc.

Let’s make a pact to build some “Selah Seconds” into our day. Pause, breathe, smile, think, and just be. Life is too precious to miss it by being “busy”.

Selah.

The Power of Routine

Full disclosure: I am a person who thrives with a routine and sticking to one comes easily…until it doesn’t. Then I change things up to a new routine for freshness. But even my husband, who likes spontaneity, swears routines are lifesavers. So today I am giving you a glimpse into my morning routine so you can get inspired to create one that works for you. It really will reduce stress for you.

  1. Drink water First thing I hydrate! I instantly feel better and more awake.
  2. Walk my dog This varies by whether I work in the morning or at night. Sometimes it’s five minutes and others fifteen to twenty. Getting out to move also wakes me up and allows me time to reflect.
  3. Pilates I usually exercise thirty minutes. Sometimes ten or fifteen, sometimes forty. That thirty minutes sets my day right and I don’t have to worry about fitting it in if my day gets crazy.

4. Shower or clean up I am low maintenance so this is fifteen minutes or so.

5. Breakfast Almost always a smoothie bowl.

6. Prayer, Bible Study, and Coffee Roughly thirty minutes but again, varies with my work schedule.

I set my wake up time according to when I need to have my routine accomplished. And I spend time menu planning and workout planning each weekend. It goes in my planner so I start the night before by reviewing my upcoming day and setting out food from the freezer, workout clothing, etc.

When I had young children, my routine was different, but I had one. I usually got up and exercised and then ate breakfast with them. I showered later on as I was a stay at home mom. Working moms often tell me their best exercise time is at lunch (walking), or as dinner is cooking. So everyone has a different lifestyle and rhythm.

Do you have a morning routine? Share your best tips with us here or on my Facebook page.

The Scale Does Not Define You

My daughter (a college sophomore) has been to the doctor twice in less than two weeks. She was rarely sick…until college. So she went once to get a refill for face medicine (she may kill me for telling you that, haha) and today because she had a sinus infection. A week and a half ago the doctor’s scale weighed her five pounds less than it did today. She had on heavier clothing and boots today (Hurricane Irma made it colder than usual here), which accounted for some of the difference, and we know she’s still the same size. But she admitted to me that it bugged her anyway. We had a great discussion about how the scale bothers most of us as women and can dictate our mood, etc. Even though we KNOW fluctuations occur due to what we’ve eaten, hormonal cycles, clothing we wear, etc.

So today, I want to remind you of what the scale tells you:  how much gravity is holding you to this earth. Period. Now, it may tell me that I need to lose a bit of “gravity” 😉 (and yes, it has done that before). It may tell me that I’ve been upset and avoiding dealing with things and my eating of cookies and drinking lots of iced coffee has caught up with me. That happened to me last fall when two of my kids moved out and on to work and college within two months of one another.  So, I looked reality in the face and did something about it.

But, in the end, what the scale DOESN’T tell you is so much more. It doesn’t tell you how uniquely made you are. How much of an impact you make in the lives of others. How strong you are. How gifted, talented, beautiful or handsome, and deeply loved by others you are. How you are on this earth to make a difference that only you can make.

So, when the negativity kicks in, step back, take a deep breath, and remember your worth. And if necessary, throw out your scale and find other ways to measure your health and well-being. And remember, what’s really holding you to earth isn’t gravity; it’s the truth that you are here for “such a time as this.” (Holy Bible, Esther 4:14).

Crock Pot Love…and a Weekly Go-to Recipe

It’s no secret that I think a slow cooker/crock pot is a gift from God. 😀 I am slowly learning to use my Instant Pot too, but that’s another post.

I love throwing ingredients in and having a meal just hours later. I love chilis and stews and soups, but Mexican Chicken is something I make almost every week. It’s quick, easy, versatile, and everyone in my house loves it. The recipe is below, and then I will share ways we use it.

1-2# chicken breast or thigh meat

Taco Seasoning (I make my own)

Hidden Valley Ranch Spicy Ranch packet

Salsa

Seriously, that’s it. I need to try making my own salsa but have an organic brand I use that’s low sodium. I spray the slow cooker with olive oil, place the chicken in the bottom, sprinkle with 1/2 ranch packet and taco seasoning, and add salsa to cover. I cook on low 6 hours or high 4. Then I shred the meat with two forks.

We use to top salads, over rice or quinoa, mixed with black beans, in tortillas, to top a baked potato, and lots of other ways. It’s versatile and makes a quick lunch.

Do you use a slow cooker? Share your recipes and let me know your go-to lunches.

My Best Smoothie Bowl Tips…and a Fall Bowl

I have spoken of my love for smoothies and smoothie bowls. You throw it all in a blender, blend and go, right?

Well, no. I have learned through trial and error some tips to get my best bowls in taste and texture. I am sharing them with you today.

  1. Use a mix of fresh and frozen fruits and veggies. I have the best luck with, say, an unfrozen zucchini and frozen bananas and berries. All frozen can make the blender need more time and stops and starts to scrape or tamp the ingredients down.
  2. When using lots of frozen foods, do a pre-chop step. I have never done this with a less expensive blender, but it works great with my Blendtech. I will put frozen zucchini, bananas, berries, etc. in and whirl for 10 seconds. Then I add other ingredients and end up with a very smooth bowl.
  3. Use the least amount of milk possible to keep from adding lots of ice. I stick with about 1/4-1/2 cup per bowl. Too much ice waters down the taste.
  4. Put greens like spinach or kale on top of other ingredients. This keeps protein powders or nut butter from going straight up and needing to be scraped off the side of the blender. I want my almond butter in my smoothie, not on the side of the bowl, right? 😉
  5. Pour the milk over everything last. This also wets things down so they don’t all fly on the sides of your blender.

A great fall smoothie bowl is The Carrot Cake Bowl pictured above. I tweaked a recipe from Simply Quinoa and just love it.

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla cashew milk (or milk of your choice)

1/2 cup chopped frozen zucchini

1 1/2 frozen bananas

2 carrots, chopped and peeled

1/2 scoop Designer Whey Vanilla Almond protein powder (optional) Otherwise add 2 T of hemp seeds, etc. for a protein kick

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t pumpkin spice seasoning

1/4 t ginger

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t allspice

ice as needed

I topped with some hemp seeds, a drizzle of almond butter (of course!), and granola. Bananas are good too.

What are your best Smoothie Bowl tips and tricks? Let me know in the comments. Also, tell me what you think about the carrot cake bowl.

The Beauty of What If

I mentioned in passing that I have struggled off and on with anxiety. I am a first-born, Type A perfectionist who is also a people pleaser. It has been a difficult road to get to the place of embracing doing things well versus perfectly (which doesn’t exist) and realizing what others think doesn’t really matter.

I am gifted with a vivid imagination and that has a dark side: what if. If you struggle like I do with worry, fear, or anxiety (and who doesn’t from time to time), you will immediately get this.

But along the way, I have learned a wonderful truth: in every negative quality we have lies a gift. The key that unlocks it is my attitude.

The quote below was written by a wonderful Bible teacher and author, Chuck Swindoll. It became a defining “ah-ha” moment for me when I first read it. Check it out:

So, how has attitude-the ability to approach a situation with a positive or negative mindset-helped me? I see my WHAT IF as a good thing. When my mind says, “what if this bad thing happens, ” I stop and think, “yes, but what if …” and list the good things that can occur. And my imagination suddenly becomes a positive asset to me.

So how can you adjust your attitude? Do you see physical limitations as a bad thing? I have flat feet, bunions, and slight scoliosis. I can’t run without getting shin splints. But I have discovered a world of fun walking my dog, or with friends, or learning to dance and try other forms of cardio. And I cheer on my runner friends and family and lend a sympathetic ear to those struggling with limitations, aches, and pains.

A positive attitude is not something a person is born with. You work at it. Some days my attitude stinks. But I get up, practice gratitude, and keep learning. What if… at the end of my life, I can look back and think I made my days count rather than worrying them away. Now that’s a WHAT IF I can get excited about.

Let me know your struggles, thoughts, tips, and tricks to develop a healthy mindset.

Why I Strength Train

 Women’s wars are a thing now, aren’t they? Mommy wars about how to feed children, co-sleeping, and working vs non-working moms abound. Vegan vs Paleo, cardio vs strength training, cross-fit vs yoga,  Republican vs Democrat, and so on. And I say enough!

You can find dozens of articles out there to support your side. I could give you scientific reasons why I favor Pilates and my weights over lots of cardio. But here’s the thing: I’m not a scientist or fitness pro. I’m just a woman in her 50s who has exercised since her late 20s who has tried it all on her self. A certified experiment of one. So today I’ll share with my beliefs about why I think building some muscle is great.

 

When I  first started to exercise in my late 20s, I wanted to lose some unwanted pounds. And life was all about cardio then. I joined a gym and we put on our spandex leotards and did step aerobics or floor cardio, jumping around like crazy. Other friends ran. And life was good. The pounds left and I felt better.

But fast forward to my mid-30s. Marriage and three babies later, I was tired and my weight had shifted. And cardio was a burden. I heard about strength training and tried some weight work at my gym. My weight went UP a few pounds and my clothing size went DOWN. And, cardio seemed easier. That was a total eye-opener for me.

In my late 40s, things changed again. I was still using weights, but my body ached. And I was about 20 pounds heavier. Clearly, something had to change. And a lot of that was what and how I ate…which is another post. But I realized all those years of high-impact jumping had taken a toll on me. So I changed how I exercised(switched to barre and Pilates) how and when I ate. And lost the weight and healed my body of the achiness.

Today I focus on Pilates and walking. And even though I am about 8  pounds “heavier” than my lowest cardio-craze weight, I wear a smaller size in clothing. My sleep is better. My anxiety has improved (I have struggled with anxiety off and on all my life). I am more relaxed and can sit on the floor and bend and squat at work with the 21-year-olds. And health markers actually improved over doing lots of intense weight and cardio work.

If you look at the studies, they will tell you the following about strength training:

  1. It increases muscle mass
  2. It increases bone density~adding more muscle to your skeleton increases its load so bones are stimulated to strengthen and grow
  3. It improves strength
  4. It improves cardiovascular endurance
  5. It improves your mood

 

All of which I personally experienced. And that’s why I love it so much.

Do you strength train? What type is your favorite? Let me hear your ideas and your stories about strength workouts. And tell me your favorite way to exercise. I love hearing from you.

To The Mom Whose Child is Off to College or Work…”

 

Dear Mom of a young adult,

You are not crazy. You are not alone. And whatever you feel is so normal.

Spending hours looking at pictures of your child/children as babies and toddlers? Me too. Thinking about the time they spilled the milk…again, and you were harsh with them? Been there too.

Every parenting mistake you ever made will be fresh in your mind. You will wish a million times for do-overs. To go back and relive that one perfect day or one normal day. To hold them, breathe in their fragrance, laugh and stay up late and let the chores go. To live stress-free, playing and laughing in the park with them. To recapture for a second those sweet days of yesterday.

You’ll probably go by their room and cry…or sigh. Perhaps sit in there. Maybe close the door because seeing the empty room hurts too much.

You will wonder if it ever gets easier. And the answer, of course., is yes..and no. You will still hurt, but you get better at living with the ache. Living with the tension between being so incredibly happy for your “baby” who is starting to live her life and so terribly sad for you as a mom. And for Christian moms like me, your prayer life will improve.

So let yourself grieve. You are letting go of a huge part of your life. Talk to someone who gets it. Find a new hobby, find a new time in your life for you to try new things. Sit in the bathtub full of bubbles with a glass of wine and let the tears run down your face. Just know you are so normal. And that someone out there gets it and is praying for you. Because I am.

And as always, reach out to me if you need someone to chat. And let me know how you deal with your children growing up!