What I ate last week (and why you should care)

“If you cooked for me, I’d definitely be plant-based!”

“Do you spend hours in the kitchen!?”

“What the hell is that? And can I get the recipe?”

These are a few of the questions and comments I’ve heard recently from friends of mine who follow my overly food-saturated instagram stories feed.  These are extremely flattering comments and I take pride in people taking notice of something I’m passionate about. The not-so-sexy truth of the matter is the way I cook doesn’t take me long in the moment, but does take practice, planning, and patience. And a husband who will eat just about anything.

To tackle all of these questions, I thought I’d write about what I ate this past week, how I come up with the ideas, and the process I use to make healthy, interesting, yet simple recipes that fit into the work week. Why should you care about what I eat or how I get the ingredients to turn into the instagram worthy photos? Because the meals I make are chock-full of vegetables (which you need to be eating more of, don’t you?) don’t use crazy ingredients, so you can find them in a regular grocery store, and they are cost effective, so you aren’t going to break the bank. I believe weeknight meals should be delicious, exciting, and help you spend more time with your loved ones. I use the time in the kitchen to get creative, decompress from my day, and put effort into something I know is good for me. So, if you want to do the same, then read on. And that’s why you should care.

Last Week’s Meals: The Thought-Process

When planning out my meals for the week, I typically take into consideration the extra-curricular activities (on top of work) I have. Will I need to meal-plan on nights I don’t have much going on to compensate for the nights I have hike club, dinner with friends or a jam session with the chuggers (a rad musical trio I’m in with my buddies Ryan & Mark. We rock)? If there are nights that will require a quick dinner, I choose tried-and-true meals I have made before, so there’s no guess work in the kitchen. Everyone has a meal or two that they can put together without batting an eye or opening a recipe on their browser. An example of a meal like that for me? Chick pea tacos, all day. Sliced onions & peppers in a skillet. Can of chickpeas tossed with cumin in the toaster oven. Put that in a spinach wrap, with a side of beans and voila!

For the nights I know I have some extra time, I’ll choose a newer dish that I can get creative with or perhaps a dish that has a sauce (which adds time/extra dirty dishes). How do I choose these meals? By scrolling through Pinterest choosing something that looks delicious, then altering the recipes in my head based on ingredients I know I have or can get at the store easily. Simple is the name of the game here, so picking those exotic dishes don’t work and the ones that take 45 steps to complete aren’t for me either.  For example, I knew I had a jam session last Tuesday, a hike scheduled for Wednesday, and an outdoor movie night scheduled on Thursday. Plus, Mike and I are home for lunch everyday, as he’s in-between projects (we just sold our 5th Happy Homes investment property!) and I work from home. So planning meals that will leave left-overs or buying ingredients that will work for multiple meals, is key. Below are the meals I planned last week – and we ate 18 meals in from Monday to Sunday, two meals were at friends houses and we’re going out tonight!)

Meals

  • Korean BBQ cauliflower wings with spring rolls and veggie wontons
  • Grilled Zucchini Pitas with a vegan dill sauce & sliced Cucumbers
  • Veggie Tacos with peppers and onions and a side of spicy navy beans
  • Lentil Meatballs (I used them for Mediterranean pitas & a spicy peanut ramen dish)
  • Tofu Broccoli wraps with garlic sweet & sour sauce
  • Black bean crumble (from Morning Star) tacos with a chipotle mayo & brown rice
  • Homemade pasta with basil pesto & sun-dried tomatoes

The Plan

I like to pick a day to meal-plan, batch-cook for the week (meaning cook a few of  the more time-consuming recipes) and possibly even grocery shop. Often, I can’t do all of this in one day, especially if it’s nice out. As much as I love to cook, I do like to prioritize my outdoor-time, especially on the weekends.  Last Sunday was Easter and we headed to my sisters in the early evening, giving me all morning/afternoon to prep food for the week. I ended up making the lentil meatballs, as they were a bit more involved, and were something I could heat up all week, in a pinch. Below are some of the sauces, tips and ways I prepared the above. If you take anything away from this post, know that simple ingredients make the best meals and you can save so much money by planning your meals before grocery shopping and sticking to the list.

Homemade pasta with basil & sun-dried tomatoes 

I use the simple recipe from The Ultimate Pasta and Noodle Cookbook. Three ingredients, plus the actual pasta maker. This takes some time, but Mike and I love making it together. And it makes a ton, so we had it for our outdoor movie night and everyone loved it! I purchased the basil sauce & sun-dried tomatoes at the Dollar Store. Yup, both of those items were a total of $2.14. Anyone who typically buys sauces in a groccery store should know that is a KILLER deal.

Vegan Dill sauce

Vegan Mayo

1-2 tablespoons of water

Dried DIll

  1. Mix all together until you have a saucey consistency.

Chipotle Mayo

Vegan Mayo

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1-2 tablespoons of water

  1. Mix it all together until you have a saucey consistency.

Korean BBQ Sauce 

1/2 cup of water

3 tablespoons of sugar free ketchup

1 tablespoon of sriracha

1 tablespoon of soy sauce or amino acids

1 teaspoon of chopped garlic

1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water

1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil

  1. Heat oil & garlic for a minute (until melted)
  2. Add ketchup, soy sauce, and water and stir till mixed well.
  3. Add cornstarch mixture and stir till thick. Keep on low heat.

What are you eating this week? Happy cooking!

5 Time Saving Tips to Eat Healthy during the work week

Let’s be honest, during the week it can be hard to fit everything in; work, laundry, walking dogs, cleaning, working out, seeing friends and or family takes up a lot of time and planning. So who the hell has time to meal plan and cook! And cooking delicious, healthy meals? What am I, Betty Crocker!?

I’ve had a few friends lately ask me if I am cooking constantly….follow me on Instagram and you’ll understand where they could get that idea. I post yummy food pics almost days a week, insta stories that show ingredients turned into what many have called gourmet meals. And while I am extremely fortunate to have a remote working situation, cutting out the commute and providing lots of flexibility to cook hot meals for lunch, I don’t in fact cook for hours on end. I wish I did!

The meals I’m making typically consist of whole-foods, very few things I’m using are packaged or bottled. Most sauces are homemade, seasoning is usually limited to dried herbs or fresh citrus and packaged or pre-made foods are rarely used. On an average week, Mike and I eat in 4 or 5 nights out of the week, including lunches due to the fact that I work from home and he usually heads home from a job at lunch. Depending on the day, I have anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes for lunch, as my work schedule is on east coast time and we are a meetings heavy organization, so I am on the phone a lot!

So, how in the heck do I find the time to eat in 90% of my meals, using fresh, plant-based, whole ingredients without spending hours prepping? Here’s a few things I do to ensure success on these fronts:

  1. Plan meals, as in what I will be making, before I go to the grocery store. I typically pick 3 or 4 meals I want to make so I know at least 4 or five meals will be covered (we usually have leftovers from at least two meals). When I know what I want the end result to be, I take the guess work out of weeknight meals, saving me time when I go to cook because all I have to do is pick one of the pre-selected meals.
  2. Prioritize what you already have first, veggies second. If you look around your kitchen and realize you have a lot of brown rice, make sure you’re incorporating that into at least one of your meals. If you’re starting from scratch, make the veggies the main focus of your meals.
  3. Stick to the grocery list. Once I have the meals I want to cook, I peek in my cupboards to see what I have, then make a list of the ingredients I don’t. When at the grocery store I try to stick to the exact list, so I don’t throw a bunch of junk impulsively into the cart. Just by sticking to the list alone, you will be amazed at the cost savings, plus you won’t have food spoilage!
  4. Pick a day to prep. Whether you have time on your weekend to set aside time to grocery shop and meal prep, or have to split the two up, I find it extremely helpful to find one night early in the week to cook two meals or at the very least, to prep a few things for the following night’s dinner.
  5. Use your time in the kitchen wisely. If I know I’m cooking something that may take a bit longer (sweet potato fries or baked cauliflower take some time) I’ll use the baking time to throw in or fold a load of laundry, vacuum or clean a bathroom, do some yoga or perhaps finish up some work. I’ll typically prep all veggies at the same time or use time while that nights’ dinner is cooking or sautéing to prepare the next nights meal. Time is precious, so use it wisely!

Here are a few sample meals I plan pre-grocery shopping, keeping all the above in mind.

These meals are made for two people, with many of them making enough for 3 meals, so I’ll have lunch a few days a week already made.

I love to cook and usually rotate a few tried and true meals every two or three weeks, as they are easy, delicious and really inexpensive. Once you start cooking more, you’ll get more and more comfortable with meal planning, knowing what goes well with what, using fresh ingredients to pack a punch (without the added preservatives, sugar, salt) and knowing your way around the kitchen, so cooking won’t seem like such a chore.

If you truly don’t like to cook, make sure you’re picking simple recipes, with only a few fresh ingredients, so preparing them will be easy.

Hope these tips help you during the week – Happy Monday!

Re-Think, Re-Build & Re-Align – Reflections of 2018

This year has flown by so fast it’s been hard to recall what has happened, so much so that I found myself scrolling through pictures to jog my memory. And holy cow it’s been  marathon of a year! Personally, professionally, financially, socially, internationally…..every realm of life got majorly massaged by the events of 2018.

I’m writing this with a few precious days left in the year, having recalled most of the events on a plane ride in early December & am wrapping it up on the eve of my dad vising for the annual Nutcracker ballet my niece is in. This year has been much like this piece meal of a blog post – taking things as they come, sometimes with patience, often day by day, handling things with what I like to think as a practical mindset. I’ve had to rethink a lot of things, readjusting how I react and take things in. It was a year of rebuilding and realigning (or trying to!)  A few key phrases come to mind when recalling the year:

Do not stress about things you can not control.

If you make smart decisions and are willing to work your ass off, you will most likely, eventually, figure it out.

Healthy is the most important thing and having a healthy mind is as important as a healthy body.

Work life balance is essential and if you don’t have it, seek it out.

You must put in the work to get the desired outcome.

And so, I look back on 2018….in preparation for 2019….

January started with a whirlwind – three work trips (to PA for a Market Manager regroup, then to Atlanta for a Care Coordination Summit, then to Irvine for a messaging workshop). Our ski condo was in full force as well (after a slow start to the winter, thinking we wouldn’t get a condo cause there weren’t any reasonably priced we could find, then the property management company letting us know they were holding it for us….whhhhaaaa??), so weekends were spent with the gang.

We even had a January girls’ ski weekend while the dirty boys went to Jackson Hole.

February opened with an amazing trip down to Telluride with the Downingtown crew – the first time Mike and I had visited the amazing town. Unfortunately, the snow wasn’t cooperative and the mountain wasn’t as lush with snow as we would have liked (although I was only 9 months post ACL surgery, so it was definitely a recovery year)…

…but we did get to witness an Eagles Superbowl, so pretty amazing trip!

March came in like a lion, with work trips to Vegas for the HIMSS tradeshow, a work trip to Philadelphia at the end of March for an all hands Marketing meeting (that landed us in a blizzard!). I also put for an #eatplants challenge – where I posted recipes, tips on living the plant-based lifestyle. Our investment property, Chase St, finally started to move, with foundation work, reinforcement for the second story (we were adding 1,000 square feet to the existing footprint!) and demo city.

Dad came to visit, visiting the investment property carnage, and we went to Hops & Handrails, a craft beer/heady snowboarding/skiing event in Longmont – very Coloradical.

St. Patty’s Day came and to Aspen we went! Green mimosas, shot skis and Apres was enjoyed by all! Climbing up to the Highland Bowl was a highlight for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April arrived with new birth, literally, and we headed to Charleston to visit our beautiful niece Charlotte Michael in Charleston. I ended up cooking lots of plant-based goodness for the family to enjoy during our stay and beyond.

Chase St really started coming together – and we saw the second story, stairs, a roof, siding, and windows went up and on our investment property. The progress was amazing, with Mike working his beard off.

 

Our ski gang headed to the Skinner hut for a backcountry ski weekend extravaganza – that ended up being a weekend we all won’t ever forget. We all experienced sweat, tears, fear, joy, laughter and breathtaking beauty. An amazing adventure.

Mid-April carried me to Nashville for some more work travel, to Nashville, and I was able to spend some time with my team and actually see my fabulous cousin and her baby Max.

May brought more work travel, with a trip to palm beach for our National Sales Meeting. A trip to Canon City kicked off summer – with mountain biking, fireside chats, friends and sunsets. The best way to kick off summer, really.

Sideing, stucco, installation, electric and yard work happened at Chase and the house was really coming along!

And then it was summer! June was full of concerts (Beet Box & Mottet and Avette Brothers at Red Rocks) LCUG (our Large Client User Group meeting in Chicago) and Telluride Bluegrass Festival – the most amazing Colorado weekend I’ve had to date!

Our professional gig was moving right along as well…The interior of our investment property came together with drywall going up, tile going down, and floors being laid. It was really amazing to see the progress once things were rockin’ & rollin!

 

 

 

 

 

Our garden was also in full swing and summer evenings were often spent on our beautiful patio, al fresco, with friends, good food and beautiful Colorado sunsets.

In July, we headed to our beloved Maine with the family – eating lobster, enjoying sunsets, swimming in Castco Bay and enjoying the way life should be…..simple and beautiful. It made us realize how much this beloved island, that had been in my blood, in my family for almost 100 years, meant to us and we vowed to make it up every year.

We spent many nights and weekends plugging along at the investment property, laying tile, picking out granite, putting together the kitchen, cleaning out basements, wood scraps, and being Mike’s helper.

Biking in Breckenridge was a July highlight – where the Peak Trail carried us flowingly through the mountains and we finished the weekend on the Green Mountain Reservoir.

A huge group of us hunkered down, floated in tubes, and enjoyed the Colorado beauty we were lucky enough to experience every weekend. And finally our Conshy house got a new tenant – so we had to go through the process of signing eases, coordinating credit checks, and managing house tours. Thank goodness for Mike’s Mom – who before moving to Charleston was able to help with all logistics!

In August, we put the final touches on our investment property, staged it, and put it on the market! This project, this amazing creation Mike had orchestrated, that we both had poured our hearts, souls, blood, sweat, tears, money (and money, and money) into…..had turned out to be the most pivotal experience, both professionally, emotionally, and personally, of my life. Never has a project taught me so much, thrown so much at me, tested us in so many ways. As I reflect on the accomplishment, the sheer beauty of the past year of work that went into making this what it is today, I am overwhelmed with emotion. It is hard to put the experience into words, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  A work trip brought me to Atlanta, and I was lucky enough to have the chance to bring my mom! My uncle, her brother, lives in Atlanta so we were able to see cousins and spend some quality time with our southern family.

The end of August was filled with mountain biking and celebration. Our gang flooded Poudre Canyon, of which we had visited last summer, to celebrate a 40th birthday.

The Mishawaka held a Nahko & the Medicine People concert, we soaked our feet in the beautiful river, and biked a wicked hard trail (that was absolutely gorgeous!). A wonderful way to officially close out summer.

September we celebrated! Celebrating our two year wedding anniversary in true Colorado fashion, we hiked and drank good beer, enjoying the life we had made together, the simplicity and beauty of where we are and how we got here. Mike also turned 40 – and after a quick work trip to Sand Diego (a marketing leadership meeting) we celebrated in true Colorado fashion…..good beer, a Chuggers show (a band of myself and two buddies….we are three Colorado misfits, who rock hard, and chug harder), and lots of Mike Smith stories.

 

His mom and sister even came out with the babies – and we got to enjoy some time in the mountains, zoo, and local flavor.

More biking (Alderfer/Three sisters), hiking & a trip to Steamboat, where our bike gang kicked ass and took names while peeping’ the Aspens’ fall beauty.

One of the major highlights of the year happened in October: Our trip to Portugal! I won’t go into much detail (because I did blog almost daily) but the trip was amazing and truly was one of the best trips we have been on! 10 days of amazing food, hiking, history, culture, weather, beaches, kayaking, relaxing.

We came back refreshed and ready to make some hard decisions on our investment property. August & September hadn’t brought much activity, so we decided to pull the listing, outfit the home with bought furniture, and short term rent it on Airbnb to cover our costs. Wanting to get the most bang for our buck (and cover the overhead costs that we had!) we decided to rent our house for short term rental at the same time. A stressful few weeks of preparing both homes for rent…..but another decision that moved our business, Happy Homes, Ltd, forward. We spent our first night at the investment property, living there as our home had rented for the weekend, and we were off to the short-term-rental races!

A few girlfriends of mine also started a hiking club, where we’d go out once a week and hike a local trail, in addition to a Money Minded Mavens group – where we discussed the path to Financial Freedom, opened up the floor to what we want to achieve in life, and share resources, podcasts and articles on how to get there. A whole new crew to share my extraordinarily frugal mindset and opinions with!

And holy cow, there’s only two more months in 2018! November arrived and so did my 38th birthday. I decided I wanted a bike gang birthday…..of which friends would hop on their bikes, go from bar to bar together drinking craft beer, and end the night with a Beetles cover band. On my actual birthday, I also hiked with my girls’ hiking club (a once a week hike all over the front range) and ended at one of my favorite breweries, New Terrain. Both events were amazing – full of some of the best friends’, doing my favorite things – truly one of the best birthdays ever. Mid-November brought me back to Nashville, where our annual User Group Meeting was held. A few events at the conference set off a domino effect that has ultimately added multitudes of stress, change, and has forced hard decisions to be considered. Thank goodness I live in a place with a beautiful escape….and the early snow allowed for a pre-thanksgiving weekend skiing in the mountains.

Thanksgiving came at the exact perfect time – a reset in gratitude, family gatherings, a remembrance of what is truly important in life….health, family, nature, giving, love and being present.  A pre-gathering hike, gender reveal party, and a plant-based feast allowed for a wonderful holiday.The enormous amount of anxiety, change, and re-alignment that my professional life has undergone has caused restless nights, a kidney infection (partially my own fault for ignoring and pushing off the symptoms due to the amount of work I felt I needed to prioritize over making an appointment to check-in on my health) and a few breakdowns. A month of lessons for sure – it’s truly made me re-evaluate things.

The last month of the year is almost over….and there is no slowing down in sight. My 4th annual Plant-Based Soup Swap finally happened – a bit later in the year then normal, but still the most successful yet! There were 10 beautiful souls gathered with homemade soup to share….a hit for sure! I headed to PA for a Market Manager – Solution team meeting, where more changes, workload shifts, and priorities have surfaced. Dusty had an ugly sweater Christmas Party, which put us in the holiday mood, and we skied and skinned our hearts out in Mary Jane and Dry Gulch (I’ve already hit the slopes 7 times!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later this month we head to South Carolina to celebrate Christmas with Mike’s family and I’m truly looking forward to spending time with family, re-charging, and setting intentions for the coming year.  I have a list of items I hope to accomplish during this time that will propel me forward, into the new I am thankful for all the beautiful friends, events, travel, new experiences, hardships, struggles, lessons and love that 2018 has had. I’ve traditionally looked forward in past blogs (here is my 2017 post and 2016 post ) but I’m not exactly ready to do so yet. I need to be intentional about what I want in 2019, realistic. Set SMART goals that I have thought through, have check-points in place to hold myself accountable to. Set up a plan, and a timetable on where I want to be and when. I have this on my Christmas list.

Cheers to the end of the year – a good one indeed – and let 2019 be absolutely amazing…..more to come on my intentions!

And DANG I Traveled A Lot!

Telluride (twice actually, in February and June!)
Vegas (March)
Philadelphia (4 trips!)
Aspen
Charleston
April
Palm Beach FLA
Chicago
Maine
San Diego
Steamboat (for MTB)
Portugal