Cooking For Two

I have discovered that  cooking for two can be a challenge. I love to cook and especially enjoy the big meals that center around the holidays.  But my reality is that I do not have a huge family  to cook for on a daily basis.  It’s a shame because I have all of these great family recipes that are always a hit at big social and family functions. So the question is how do I modify these recipes to fit our lifestyle and family?  I don’t have all of the answers but am trying to my hand at modifying some of the recipes and the serving sizes. I will share that journey here with all of you.

So far I have learned there are some rules that are helpful to keep in mind. I’ve already mentioned Portion Size.  As obvious as that seems it isn’t that easy figuring out the proper amount to cook for just two people.

It has been helpful for me to break the meal down to its individual components when deciding how much to cook.  6-8 ozs of protein, meat, poultry, or fish, per person seems to be a good rule of thumb.

Generally between one and two cups of carbohydrates and a cup of vegetables complete the balanced meal.  This isn’t always the case but simply  what I try to use as a starting point.  Depending on the dish I make adjustments and most times everything turns out right.  I guess that practice makes perfect….I have a lot of practicing still to do. I am by no means an expert.

Storing Leftovers Cooking too much is not necessarily bad. With proper storage and a little creativity, leftovers can be turned into brand-new and delicious meals. I find it helpful to take the time at the beginning of the week to plan out some of our meals. I try to choose a few with the same main ingredient-roasted chicken, for example. If I roast chicken once at the beginning of the week, I just reuse anything left over and save myself time and energy at the end of the day when I need it the most.

Enjoy Your Food Just because I am not cooking for a crowd doesn’t mean I shouldn’t put effort into making a meal that me and my husband  will enjoy. This has been a hard habit to overcome and something I struggle with.  It requires planning. I have found that it is  easy to get in a rut and convince myself I have more important things to do than worry about dinner, but a nice meal every night is often time exactly what we need to get ourselves ready for the next day and give us an opportunity to focus on each other’s day and connect.  Intentional living and intentional relationships…part of my 2012 plan.

In addition to cooking meals that I enjoy, I’m incorporating some tips that I’m trying out here that helps with the relationship and quality communication.  Rather than trying to kill two or three birds with one shot….you know, eating dinner, working on the laptop, talking to your partner, and watching TV all at the same time, I’ve made some changes and I must admit, I like it.  We actually USE our dining room.  We leave the work out the dining room, and we turn the t.v. off.

My pointers that I will pass on and things that we are trying are:

Create a pleasant place to eat. Set a table with flowers, place mat and napkin, even candles. Listen to music. No T.V. allowed.

Now for a family recipe that I am trying out on my husband this evening…..

Veal Loin Stuffed with Roasted Bell Peppers, Goat Cheese, and Basil

Ingredients

2 large yellow bell peppers, roasted

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese with chives, at room temperature

1 (5.3-ounce) package basil and roasted garlic goat cheese, or 6 ounces soft fresh herb-flavored goat cheese, at room temperature

1 bunch arugula, stems trimmed 16 large fresh basil leaves

1(3-pound) boneless veal loin

14 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained 8 bacon slices 2 tablespoons butter Olive oil Salt and pepper

Sauce:

2 3/4 cups chicken broth

3 medium shallots, finely chopped

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons capers

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

Reserved cheese mixture

Salt and pepper

Directions

Char the peppers over a gas flame or in the broiler, turning until blackened on all sides. Place peppers in a paper bag for 10 minutes to loosen the skins. Peel, seed, and stem the peppers. Cut lengthwise into strips. Set aside.

Stir the cream cheese and goat cheese in a small bowl until blended. Set aside.

Plunge the arugula and basil into hot water with tongs. Remove immediately, drain, and place into a bowl of ice water to blanch and shock.

Slice the veal open like a book and cover with plastic wrap. With a meat pounder or rolling-pin gently pound the veal to approximately a 10 by 12-inch rectangle of even thickness. Season with House Seasoning, as desired.

Overlap the arugula leaves down the center of the veal forming a 2-inch wide strip. Cover with half of the pepper strips, skinned side up. Arrange the sun-dried tomatoes in 2 rows on top of the peppers.

Set aside 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture for the sauce. Spoon the remaining cheese mixture in an even log over the tomatoes. Arrange the remaining pepper strips, skinned side up, over the cheese. Arrange the basil leaves over the peppers.

Fold 1 long side of the veal over the filling. Roll up the veal jelly roll style and secure by tying with string. Wrap the string lengthwise around the veal to secure ends. Cover the ends of the veal with aluminum foil to enclose the filling completely. Cover the veal and the reserved cheese separately and chill for at least 6 hours. Can be prepared 1 day ahead.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy large shallow roasting pan over medium-high heat. Season the veal with salt and pepper. Brown the veal on all sides, turning frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Drape the bacon over the veal and tuck in the ends.

Place the veal in the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the center of the meat (not the filling) registers 140 degrees F, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let stand for 15 minutes.

Sauce

Combine the broth and shallots in a heavy medium saucepan. Boil over high heat until the mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 20 minutes

Whisk in the lemon juice, capers, and parsley. Reduce the heat to low; gradually whisk in the butter and reserved cheese mixture. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve, remove the tinfoil from the ends of the roast, the bacon and the string. Cut the veal roast crosswise into even slices. Spoon a few tablespoons of sauce onto each plate. Top with 2 veal slices.

There you have it, our meal for the evening with maybe a small side salad.  I will save the leftovers for lunch over the weekend. 

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Work, Work, and More Work

As expected, the holiday vacation is over. I am back with my crazy life trying to work, maintain my home, diet, have a social life, find time for my children (our dogs), find time to effectively communicate with my husband, and live out this intentional plan of mine for 2012. Just writing this and thinking of all the things I should be doing and have yet to do while effectively balancing it all makes my head spin.

How do you shut your mind off and listen to what the person in front of you is saying? It’s tough. Or at least for me it is.  I need some pointers here.

This is a crazy busy year for me with the Presidential campaign going on.  I am preparing for a meeting that I have tomorrow night and quite frankly behind the 8 ball. I have an entire university to reach out to in order to find students interested in a fellowship with the Obama campaign.  And might I add, it’s still Q1.  This campaign isn’t even going full steam yet.  I need to get control of this and fast!

I have meetings with local union halls and have to develop my thoughts on how to come across as semi-intelligent when I spend time with them. I have tons of field contacts that I need to get out to job sites and have conversation with in order to  organize.

I have four dogs who I refer to as my children who need their mom.  One of which weighs in at a whopping 2 pounds soaking wet and currently has a hurt leg.  Her father, my husband is not referring to her as Tripod.  They are all laying at my feet hoping that I acknowledge them in some small way here pretty soon.  That reminds me, I should feed them at some point today.

I have my husband who bless his heart is the most patient, understanding, helpful man on the face of the earth (don’t tell him that I said that). He is so supportive and understanding with my crazy schedule.  I literally saw him yesterday for a total of 1 hour. And that was not one hour straight mind you.  It was about 10 minutes as he was starting his day. 20 minutes over lunch. And 30 minutes over dinner.

Oh dinner…..let’s talk about that.  Let’s just talk about my diet in general here for a second.  So I did great the first day.  I did okay Monday as well.  Yesterday I am not so sure about.  My food diary looks like this:

Breakfast- Coffee with lots of cream and sugar (x4 cups)

Mid morning snack- a handful of Lay’s ruffled potato chips

Lunch- More coffee

Dinner- Vegetable stir fry with steamed rice and apple crumble (with lots of sugar and butter) So much butter in fact that Paula Deen would be very proud. Worth mentioning, I unlike my husband, did not have ice cream with my crumble.  That must be worth some brownie points (no pun intended).

Take note that there was NO water, none at all in my diet.  I’ve got to do better.

So far today I’ve had 1 serving of apple crumble and 3 cups of coffee…..HELP! I already see this not going well.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Maybe It’s Time for No More Red and Black

Way back in the 60’s, shortly after I learned to speak, I learned to love the Georgia Bulldogs. Growing up I always knew that one day UGA would be where I went to college. I have spent my entire life being a Bulldog.  For a girl, I know a lot about SEC football and especially my DAWGS. I have tailgating down to an art. I know all of the songs, the cheers, the players, and coaches. You get the idea, I am a fan!

For that reason, I am in mourning today.  Why? Because my Bulldogs got KILLED yesterday in Tampa. I will spare you all my thoughts on why Mike Bobo needs to log on to www.craigslist.com and look for a job.  I won’t go in to why Blair Walsh had better have a good major and be employable because professional football is out for him. 

Here are some pictures from yesterday that I will leave you with.  It’s a sad day for UGA fans.

 

And the final score…..after three, I repeat THREE overtimes……after the DAWGS were leading at half time and still looking good when they came back on the field……the final score????  33-30 Michigan State.  To say I was upset by the loss is an understatement.  I was brought to tears.  I was stunned.  I am still in shock.

 

If you are interested and can stomach it, you can go here and read all about it.  All I can say is RIP Georgia, RIP.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New Year Begins

Welcome to 01/01/2012. If you are anything like me, you see this as  a clean slate and a fresh start on some level.  Maybe this is your year to “get things right” or perhaps this is the year that you want to try something you’ve never done before, perhaps improve some aspect of your life, or whatever the case may be.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am  attempting to lose 60 pounds this year as part of my intentional living plan.  With that comes my food diary. To be honest with you, I’ve been very mindful that what I have eaten today and going forward. I think that is because I know that I  have to write it down. Accountability. It’s still VERY early in this new year but so far, it is working. I find myself thinking before I put anything in my mouth because I know that if I am gonna play by my rules I have to write it down.  I’m motivated. I’m optimistic. I’m on a roll….

Funny that writing it down is what makes me stop and think.  You would hope that simply wanting to eat healthy, improve my health, be able to wear smaller clothes,  just feel better about myself and how I appear to others would be enough to make me stop and think before I shove it in my mouth.  But that isn’t the case.  None of that seems to get my attention…..but that food diary does.

IF I begin to slack off with my self-control and have the need to eat without writing things down in the diary I have a back up plan.  That plan includes YOU.  I am going to post my food diary here and I want you to kick my butt and ask me what the heck I am doing eating junk.  What I’m saying is, I at some point, may need your help losing the weight.

I’ve not figured out how to put the food diary on-line.  Do I just add another page to this site and add everything there?  Not sure how to make it work.  If you have any ideas please let me know.

Other than my clean slate for the new year and doing okay with the diet thus far.  I’ve not left my house so I’ve not had any interactions with others.  No road rage, no long lines anywhere, no smart-mouth comments that I wish I’d kept to myself.  Just a quiet day at home.  That has to count for something.  Right?

I’m being nice to my husband.  As you may recall, one of my intentional living goals included improving relationships. I am intentionally thinking before I say anything to him.  So far, so good.

It’s early. We’ve established that already. But how are YOU doing with your goals for 2012? Whatever they are, I wish you well.  Happy 2012.

 

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ready, Set, Organize!

With Christmas behind us and a New Year fast approaching, I find it necessary to get organized. I work from home so it can be hard at times to get everything done from a housewife and work standpoint. If I’m not careful I can get caught up in one activity and before I know it the day has passed me by. It is for that reason I find myself need to get organized a bit better than I am currently.

I begin with storing away my holiday decorations.  While I love Christmas, I hate opening my storage totes to a ball of lights that I didn’t take time to put away properly the year before. This year I took my time and did it right.

I took the time to sort and de-clutter the decorations before I stored them away for the year. I removed all of the non working, the tattered, and the just plain worn out stuff from the mix as I filled my totes.

With the holiday decor stacked away in the basement, I move on to my bookshelf.  WOW! If only it were that easy….I have books everywhere. My solution is sifting out the ones I no longer need or want. There are a lot of great online options to get rid of the unwanted books: e-bay, paperbackswap.com, or bookmooch.com. Great! The bookshelves are clutter free.

Now for the tasks that are a bit more difficult……clutter!  If you look around your house on your counter-tops, tables, perhaps on the floor by your favorite chair, you just may see what I’m talking about. For the most part, the clutter that you see is a result of decisions waiting to be made.

Done using something? Most people will put it down somewhere nearby, with the intention of putting it away later. But messy places are full of these intentions. Instead of letting things pile up, put them away immediately.  This principle applies, whether you’re organizing computer files or your office files. Have a place for everything and when you’re finished using it, put it back.

If you come across something that doesn’t have a home, make a place for it before you move on to your next item.  Then simply put things back where they belong when you’ve finished using them. It’s simple and effective, but hard at first to do consistently until you form the habit.

One of the best ways to keep your life organized is to create routines — you probably have a morning routine on working days. What about lunchtime, evenings and weekends? Routines mean you don’t have to constantly make decisions about what to do and when to do it. For example, you could routinely check your personal emails at lunchtime.

With all of the organizational tools,I think that it is important to schedule some “Me Time” in the calendar to do something special for myself  I have found that I need a quiet place away from everything where I can just relax and get away for a few moments each week. I have a corner in my bedroom with a comfortable chair by the window, a small side table with a couple of favorite photos, a candle, and a CD player with my favorite CD ready to go.  I’ve learned that if I don’t schedule time for myself I will never take it on my own in the midst of all that I have going on during the week.  Without that “Me” time I end up not being very much fun to live with or be around. An hour a week just for me makes me better able to focus on all that I have going on. It helps me refocus and prioritize my week and tasks at hand.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Is Your Intentional Plan For The New Year?

 As 2011 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the year and looking forward to 2012. There was a time in my life when I would compose my new years resolutions and after the first week or so of the new year would be disappointed that I didn’t even know what my resolutions were or even worse sink into a depression because I had failed at the end of the year to reach any of the things I’d set out to accomplish earlier in the  year.

So I’ve adopted a new way to reach my goals and live my life.  It is something that I learned in church and am slowly but surely implementing into my life. It is called intentional living.  With that comes making intentional decisions. In order to accomplish something I have to be intentional about it.  I have to set a goal and have a plan of action along with some discipline. If I am intentional about my life, my thoughts, my actions, the way I conduct myself, etc., I am more likely to have the desired outcome.

So let’s begin by setting some goals for our lives that we hope to accomplish in 2012.

I wil begin by listing five goals- just five.  Otherwise I have found that I get overwhelmed and either give up or burnout trying to reach them.  Less than five isn’t enough of a challenge to keep me motivated and engaged in the process.

I think of areas in my life where I need or would like to see improvement.  Some examples could be: Spiritual, Personal, Marriage, Friendships, Relationships in general, Physical, Emotional. Professional, Educational, etc.

Next you expand on the area or goal.  For example if I chose Physical, I might choose to have the end result be that I am able to run a marathon. If I chose Professional, it could be that the end result is I start my own business.

The idea is that you are going forward in some areas of your life. You are seeking to improve something.

My five for 2012 are:

Lose 60 pounds by the end of the year.

Improve my communication with others.

Be more organized in my home

Build my neighborhood team for OBAMA for AMERICA

Strengthen my marriage

Now that we have our five goals, it is time to drill down and be more specific.  To develop a plan.The idea is to create measurable goals so we can see where we are going and stay on track. So for each goal listed, ask yourself  What does success look like for this goal? How will I know when I have completed this goal?

So for my first goal I listed above the process looks something like this:

Lose 60 pounds by the end of 2012. I want to do this by changing my diet to a total vegetarian diet, controlling my portion sizes, and exercising at least 3-4 days per week regardless of the weather or my schedule.

Once you complete the “road map” for the first goal, move on and do the same thing with the next one until you have a plan for each goal clearly written down.  There are no right or wrong answers when writing your specific goals.  This is your life plan and yours alone.

The goal is to do this in steps and make it simple so that you can measure your milestones.

The next step is really thinking each goal through and putting it in writing.  It is time to include some action steps. The action items for my stated goal is outlined as changin my diet to vegetarian diet, watching my portion sizes, and having a schedule to exercise. Ask yourself, What specific action steps do I need to take to make sure I reach my goals? The more specific you can be the better chance you have of reaching your goal.

To expand even further on my goal, I will eliminate all soda from my diet.  I will eat something other than fast food when I eat out.  I will keep a food diary for the first month to track my eating habits. I will weigh myself once a week and share that weight loss or gain with another person.

Okay, I have one goal down and four more to write out before New Year’s Eve.  Time to plan out my life goals for the New Year!  Happy planning!  I’d love to hear what your specific goals are and how you plan on measuring them so feel free to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Do You Celebrate the New Year?

Traditions are an important part of what makes me who I am. As we prepare to welcome in another year I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of those traditions.

I think that throughout the Southern United States, black-eyed peas are a staple which you eat just after midnight or at the very least on New Year’s Day. I was raised having black-eyed peas to welcome in the New Year. It was the first food that we ate for luck, prosperity and financial success throughout the new year.

The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. At first planted as food for livestock, and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Sherman’s troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby giving the humble, but nourishing, black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.

The tradition is still around today and has actually evolved into quite the meal.

When served with collard or turnip greens the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. The more you eat, the more money you will have.

You can’t have black-eyed peas and greens without cornbread. The cornbread represents gold, which in today’s economy is something we should all eat a lot of.

My mother told me growing up that I had to eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day in order to have money throughout the year. So I did.

Black-eyed peas are actually not peas at all, but rather a variety of bean related to the cowpea and categorized as legumes, having both edible seeds and pods. According to the Library of Congress, they have been cultivated in China and India since pre-historic times and were eaten by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Early records from 1674 indicate that black-eyed peas were transported from West Africa to the West Indies by slaves. Subsequently, they reached the Low country coastal regions of the Carolinas and Georgia, also via the slave trade, more than 300 years ago.

Here is my recipe that was passed down from my Grandmother.

Ingredients:

1 pound dried black-eyed peas

1 large onion

1 large ham hock

2 to 4 slices cooked bacon (I used thick sliced peppered bacon)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or use 1 fresh clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Prep:

In a large saucepan, cover peas with water to 3 inches over the peas. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Place ham hock, sliced onion, bacon, pepper, garlic and salt in the Crock Pot. Pour in 3 cups water. Cover and cook on HIGH until peas are tender and ready to go in. When peas are tender, transfer to the Crock Pot. Reduce heat to LOW; cover and cook for 7 to 9 hours. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with more freshly chopped onion and pepper vinegar and hot cornbread and butter.
Black-eyed pea recipe serves 6 to 8.
Now for the corn bread:
1/2 cup butter

2/3 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 inch square pan (I use Crisco spray).

Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy!  And from our home to yours, much prosperity in 2012!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment