New Cookbooks Are Being Delivered Which Meals New Meals Are Being Enjoyed

I’ve added yet another new cookbook to my collection. Right after Christmas I cleaned out my cookbook cabinet and found that there were not many I used anymore since going artificial sweetener free in my meal planning for my husbands health reasons. Even now, with the three new books that I recently bought, I typically get ideas from them and add my own twist to the meal I prepare. I know what will pass the test of my family and what won’t…and sometimes I wing it and hope for the best. I will say, and give a lot of credit to both my husband and my son, they have been really adjusting much better than I thought they would to a more plant based diet. Why plant based you may ask? To simply put it, fruits and veggies don’t have labels that I have to scan for things that are not good for us to consume. They are straight forward and don’t need any help being tasty.

In other news, has anyone else noticed more daylight hours? I sure have. I have also noticed that our snow here is melting and temps are slowing becoming tolerable. Mud season(Spring) is right around the corner and I for one am so ready to dive right in. My upcoming meal plans have grilled food on them, I have charcoal on the grocery list, and all this means life for me is finally turning a corner. We even went for a walk on the neighborhood streets the other night….I have not done this in months. WhooHoo!!!

So, moving on with some meal inspiration for everyone….here is what dinner time looked like at our house this past week. I accomplished five new recipes this week…wow this was amazing.

Saturday: Moroccan stew and homemade spring rolls with dipping sauce (meatless) (both new recipes and both so yummy)

***This was a mother/son meal combo. I made the stew and he made the spring rolls with dipping sauce. As for dad….he simply enjoyed the meal;-)

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Sunday: ham, peas, and pasta with garlic cream sauce and crusty bread

Monday: slow cooker beef lo mein (new recipe and oh so tasty)

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Tuesday: cheese stuffed manicotti with veggie marinara and cheese topping (meatless)

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Wednesday: Mediterranean pasta skillet casserole (new recipe that came from my own thoughts….maybe I aught to write a cookbook since this also turned out spectacular)

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Thursday: honey mustard crunch salads (honey mustard was another new recipe-fabulous!!!)

Friday: out

I am a bit afraid of what will come once the weather is really nice and I have so much less time to spend in the kitchen to prepare quality meals. Although, I know here in the midwest  summer is so short that I can surely come up with some fast, tasty meals that can be thrown together super quick after a long hot day of playing outside. The plan is to cross that bridge when I get there.

As for food prep for the upcoming week….none at all happened. I know I am going to pay the price for not doing any on Sunday but after waking up and making a trip to urgent care for an unforseen issue, I did not have the energy to do anything but sleep.

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2 Newborns, One Almost 2 Year Old, Dinner 4 Nights This Week, 5 Early Morning Workouts=Exhausted But Accomplished!!

Alright, I am not going to lie and say life has not been difficult these past two weeks because they really have been challenging. Although, I will be the first to admit that it sure feels good to be back to my happy stress level of children (which in my case is work), daily workouts and happily dozing off on the couch while my husband rubs my shoulders before bed. Yes, life is good…..exhausting but really, really good!!!

Add all this plus a few things behind the scenes and I still managed to get dinner on the table four nights this week which is a success in my eyes. Here take a look.

Saturday: make your own personal pizzas IMG_8224

Sunday: pasta and veggie marinara sauce with crusty bread IMG_6954

Monday: honey bourbon chicken thighs, roasted broccoli and carrots over bulgar

Tuesday: one pot shrimp and garlic cream sauce

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Wednesday: pork tenderloin with apples and cabbage (another new recipe which turned out pretty good) IMG_0255

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Thursday: stuffed zucchini boats with crusty bread on the side IMG_8311

Friday: out

Do you start the week with a goal? Mine is always to get through dinner. I can do my job pretty well with little to no stress since I have been doing it for so long now. Yes, at times we have moments of stress but they pass fairly quickly. For me, getting dinner on the table is usually the end point of my night. I care for myself early at the gym, my daycare children all day, and last but not least my family in the evening(and sometimes during the day in between children), and then this mom/wife/caregiver signs off for the night.

Meal prep for the upcoming week included:

Clean eating brownies and honey scones…one turned out fantastic(brownies) and the other was horrible(scones).Whomp whomp!

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I also made veggie burgers from my new plant based cookbook which turned out amazing!!!!

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The rest of my meal prep included chopping veggies, cooking chicken to make wraps with for lunches, and preparing a batch of quinoa sweet potato chili for my lunches this week. IMG_0297

There you have it, another week on the books and another week closer to retirement…..yes, I am dreaming big today.

 

Reader Question Answered: How Do I Manage To Cook Every Night? Meal Prepping-It’s A Time Saver

Over Christmas break I had a few requests from some readers for some specific blog topics. Meal prepping and daily exercise were the two most asked about. Today I am touching on meal prep since, for me, it’s takes very little thought and is priceless.

Many of you are parents and are very busy but still want to prepare healthy meals for your family. I too am a parent but my son is much older now, although, I am a childcare provider and care for very small children 10+ hours per day 5 days a week which is exhausting some days. IMG_8059

However, I still manage to prepare meals nightly for my family which I share with you weekly (like here, and here)  to inspire you all to get in the kitchen and cook. Today I am touching on meal prepping and why it is such a time saver for me.

First, let me give you a bit of insight into my life. Monday- Friday I religiously work on routine….a tight routine. Wake up at 4a.m., pack two lunches and make two breakfasts, eat breakfast with my husband, and leave the house to workout by 4:50a.m. every single morning. Trust me this takes planning. I then return home by 6:15a.m., shower, and begin to prepare for my daycare children to arrive from 6:30a.m. on for breakfast and the day. We have a normal day, they all get picked up at 4:30 or there about and I immediately go into dinner mode and begin preparing dinner for my family. Dinner is served at 5:30 when our son arrives home from work and dinner is then cleaned up and either I do yoga or go back to the gym for a second time with my husband depending on what day it is. We then return home at 7:30p.m, I shower again, and I am usually in bed by 8/8:15p.m.. Yes, routine for me is crucial!!!

OK, with that being said, this is why meal prepping can pay off for everyone. Spending an hour…maybe a bit more can allow you to pre chop any veggies for weekly meals.

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It can allow you to prepare healthier lunches for yourself, children or spouse instead of some processed wrapper covered convenience food, and can allow you a bit of breathing time if your day is thrown into a tailspin and you have to readjust on the fly.

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Now, don’t think that even with this tight routine things still dont go wrong because they do. And sometimes they do often. Especially being a parent…if kids are involved things can go wrong very quickly. However, having options like pre cut veggies and easy to grab healthy options that are ready to go makes it much easier to pick up the pieces of a failed plan and not call the takeout restaurant for delivery. Dinners for us during the week are far from gourmet…but they are healthy and fresh.

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And believe me, having a major food allergy in our home as of the last few months makes calling for takeout almost impossible, so I do know how hard it is to think fast and come up with something instead of takeout.

The easiest way for me to meal prep is to plan a weekly menu and stick to it. Do this on the weekend, then grocery shop, then prep anything you can on Sunday before the beginning of the week. For me, Sunday works best, first thing in the morning so nothing else becomes more important. I usually will also make some go to foods for me for during the week also. Boiled eggs are a favorite….you can grab and go, smash them in seconds and make egg salad or stuff them with hummus and avocado with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and have a healthy fast lunch. I am never without hard boiled eggs in the frig. IMG_0170

Also if you have a sweet tooth make sure you plan for this. Having something sweet but healthy in sight is always better than grabbing that bag of candy and forgetting to stop eating them until you find the bag is empty. I keep a well stocked fruit bowl in sight at all times.

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I also was amazed when our son started his new job a few months ago to hear him ask me how he could make a healthier lunch but not buy expensive processed lunch meat. I suggested cooking up some chicken and making sandwiches or wraps with this instead. So he has been taking my idea and making this ever since starting his job. It easy, filling, and does not need heating up since he does not have this option like his dad does who takes leftovers every day. Plus, he can easily change it up with different meats or add ins.

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Another great help when it comes to spicing life up a bit in the kitchen or adding flavor to dishes is to utilize your freezer. I will blend sundried tomatoes in olive oil and freeze in small containers. When you are ready to use in a dish simply take it out and toss it in. It unthaws in seconds and adds so much flavor.

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You can also do this with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Simply toss the entire can into a food processor and blend until smooth. Spoon tablespoons onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and toss it in the freezer. Wait until its frozen (2 hrs or so) and easily remove them and put them into baggies, containers or wrap each in plastic wrap. Place them back in the freezer and take one out when you need to add a bit of spice and get a deep smokey flavor in any dish. We love this in chili at our house.

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For upcoming weekly meals posts I will also include what I prep for the upcoming week according to the menu I have in place. Some things will be for meals and some things will be for work lunches. Maybe this will help and maybe it will not. Although, I do believe if you all give it a try and a bit of dedication you can really make your life a bit easier and find that making a meal after a long day is not always as hard as it seems. It’s kinda like going to the gym…..getting there is often times the hardest part. Just like starting meal preparation after a long day…once you start you might as well finish.

 

Happy New Year

First, let me wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! This morning I loved hearing my alarm go off, grabbing a half cup of coffee, and hitting the gym early. Routine…it is a wonderful thing! Tomorrow we are all back to work, a meal plan is made for the first time in over two weeks, and our shelves and refrigerator are stocked with healthy options to begin the year. I have made no great new years resolutions since I already feel I do my best physically when my body allows, I do my best financially when the funds are there, and well, I guess the only thing I can hope for in the new year is good health. Which I really have no control over above and beyond what I already do to stay healthy, so I will let it be what it shall be.

Let’s see, Christmas for us was wonderful. Family…as small as our is, is a wonderful thing. We ate, drank and were merry as many of you were also I would imagine.

We celebrated one birthday during the holiday…our son’s falls the day after Christmas.

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And since he is an adult now, many of his gifts revolved around getting out on his own and having the basics he will need when this happens. Yes, I did buy my son a laundry hamper as a gift. He told me to buy practical gifts which I did….and I LOVED every minute of it;-)

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We also had a milestone happen in our family. Our son bought his first car which we picked up the day before Christmas Eve. These moments make me proud as a mom….slowly he is making a life for himself and spreading his wings. Next, he tells me, is apartment hunting. Oh boy, this brings me back many years. Can I seriously be this old already that my son is ready to move out….wow, where do the years go?

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Lets see, back to Christmas, we ate tons of food….some healthy and some not so healthy…..but all artificial sweetener free. We host here at our home every year and we also pick a theme to celebrate the holiday. This year we decided on a home cooked meal and pajama Christmas. So meatloaf, glazed carrots, and mashed potatoes were on the menu. Birthday cake and ice cream was dessert. Along with some appetizers to share before dinner like this pickled shrimp recipe we tried for the first time which ended up being a big hit.

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I even snuck in a new treat….and I assure you it was well deserved some days.

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With the week off between holidays, I had ample time to restock the freezer with freezer meals. Soup is a favorite for me to freeze and eat later.

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I am killing the early morning workouts….which I am proud to say I missed not a single day through the holidays. However, this is more for my mental health than my physical health during this time of year. It’s a great holiday stress reliever.

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I also have been experimenting with some new recipes from a new cookbook I received from Christmas. I know most people get new recipes online now a days but I don’t have a whole lot of time to search and find recipes. So books are still my favorite way to find new recipes. And my slow cooker is going to be my best friend with two newborn babies starting with in a week of each other here. Oh boy, time will be limited for sure.

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Also over the holiday break I enjoyed an afternoon snow hike with my son and a few feathered friends we saw along the way.

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And let me tell ya, snow adds a whole different spin on hiking….wow, were we tired after about 3 miles of snow hiking an area trail.

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We did this hike while dad ventured out for the first time to ice fish an area lake. I, like always, thought it was too early, our son also thought it was too early, but arguing with a fisherman is pointless so we made ourselves busy while he took his chances with the ice thickness. He came home a few hours later with not a great ice report but enough to be able to limit out on his catch of the day. IMG_0099

That sums up my last two weeks. As I adjust to new children to care for and we all adjust to going back to work, let’s savor the reality that routine is really a nice thing to have. I loved the holiday break but for me personally, normal life is not a bad thing either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November=58 degrees…In Wisconsin…..Seriously??? Time To Trade In My Whisk For My Hiking Boots Once Again

As you can probably assume from the title, I am one VERY happy person. When I awoke Thanksgiving morning and saw the forecast prediction for the day after Thanksgiving was going to be in the mid 50’s I immediately put things into high gear. I simply looked across the room at my husband and he knew exactly what I was thinking……..he said calmly, “let’s get it all done today so we can hit the trail tomorrow.” I love how he understands me without me even saying a word.

As you can imagine I had a load of things on the to do list to accomplish with four days off for the holiday. We literally packed all our chores into one day, we got in our annual family hike for Thanksgiving morning, plus I made Thanksgiving dinner that same evening. Oh, I was so tired by evening but so happy to be free of the long list and just had a few things that needed tending to before we hit the long trail on Friday afternoon.

Thanksgiving family hike

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Then Friday arrived and I was excited to get in some warm mileage on a dirt trail once again before the snow arrives full blast. We arrived at our chosen trail head to find just us. I did not mind this at all, I parked our lone vehicle and it awaited our return.

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The temp on my vehicle upon arrival was a balmy 58 degrees. Amazing!!!!

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And a few steps into our hike and I had to chuckle. Clearly, this lone dandelion was not ready to give up quite yet on summer either.

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The trail was wonderful. Leaves crunched beneath our feet,

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signs of deer were everywhere,

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nature could be heard and saw along the way. It was so good for my soul…to just walk, listen, and breathe the air around us.

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The only thing that could have caused me any worry was that we were hiking during the gun deer hunt season here in WI. We did see many different deer stands, thankfully no active hunters during our time on the trail . And yes, in case you are wondering, we did also wear blaze orange for our own protection on this hike.

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With 3.3 miles Thanksgiving day and just over 4 miles Friday, we could all agree that summer is going to missed.

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Hiking, along with numerous other things we were able to pack into four days, left us all with a feeling of happiness. Add that to a fabulous Thanksgiving meal……along with my first ever homemade whipped cream (which turned out wonderful I may add) so my husband could enjoy whipped cream on his pumpkin pie along with everyone else…and I could not have been more thankful for anything else in the  world.

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Now, we all have to return to normal life once again and hopefully be ready for Christmas in a few short weeks. Sadly, I have a feeling I will not be hiking anywhere where that snow is not covering the trail come this time but who knows, maybe just maybe, wishes will come true.

How To Plan A Hiking Vacation

Vacation can mean different things to different people. Some individuals like to plan beach vacations where there main goal is to find a beach chair and bake in the sun while reading, sleeping or listening to the waves crash into the shoreline. Some, on the other hand, would rather feel as if they need a vacation from their vacation since often times doing something active when they are at home simply is not feasible and it’s what they yearn to do. For us….its the second scenario. And that is what I am going to discuss here today. I receive so many email questions on how I plan our vacations that I decided instead of answering each and every one I would make a few suggestions and pointers here.

#1 You must look at your group size and the ages of your vacationers. This for us is easy since our son has become and adult. He is able to do anything we can do which is nice. However, that being said, he is often not willing to do everything we want to do. What I do is gather everyone going and discuss things we all would like to do in the area we chose to vacation and then look at every ones ability levels.

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#2 Pick a place you can all agree on. This is often times that hardest thing. Take for instance my family. Our son wants, in the worst way, to go to Washington or Alaska. Mom(me) however, will NEVER go to Alaska….I already live in the frozen tundra of Green Bay. And Washington is beautiful, it has mountains(snowy mountains) but it is often rainy and I love sunshine. Which means that is a no go also! So we agree to disagree and someday he can go and send me pictures from those states. Then we have my husband, whom usually agrees to go on any vacation. He is not too fussy. Although, this last vacation in Virginia showed him that mountain hiking may require some extra knee support next time. And then you have my destinations…..the list is LONG!!!! I like it HOT! And I like ELEVATION!

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#3 Decide on how may days active and inactive you will be vacationing for. I made a big mistake our first trip to Utah for our 20th anniversary. We were there on our first guided trip ever and it happen to be our first ever mountain hiking adventure also. It was four days of long, hot, very steep switchback hiking in the most gorgeous place I have ever seen in my life. When the guides dropped us back off at our hotel for the night after hiking four days and traveling three hours from Utah back to Nevada we could hardly walk. We were hungry and the hotel offered a buffet right on the premises where we stayed and neither of us even wanted to walk down the hall to eat. We were so exhausted, sore, and oh so very sore. So I vowed from then on to plan one day of relaxation…..shopping, driving scenic roads, or just pool time. And no more than 3 hiking days in a row. This is what we did the first time we brought our son back to Utah with us and it worked so well. Yes, it was still exhausting but we could at least still function after a short rest. This goes back to knowing your activity levels of your group.

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#4 Now pick your activities, gather your maps, talk with professionals, and get to know your surroundings. I always pick our trails after researching online, hiking forums, and park websites. Once I have the trails we plan to hike chosen, I then make sure none of them need permits to do. If they do make sure you have time to apply and get the proper permits. Research parking, trail heads, animals/bugs/snakes to beware of, and GPS coordinates. Park rangers, if you are visiting a park or even near a park, are useful individuals. They often will know things you cant find online. Also, all national park websites have alert pages you can check up until the day you plan to hike. Flash floods, trail closures if there has been an accident, warnings regarding wildlife problems and so on can all be found here. I also love forums….they offer priceless information about many things you would lever think of… from what to eat on the trail to where you can find basic water while in the backwoods.

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#5 Plan for the climate you are headed to. We have a completely different packing list for Utah/Sedona than we do for Tennessee/Virginia. Desert hiking and forest hiking are two different animals completely. Again, research sample packing lists for different climates. Know that if bugs are an issue head nets will be your friend. Or if bears are active in the area make sure whatever you bring to protect yourself is legal in the state you happen to be hiking in. Find out when hunting seasons are in the area you plan to vacation. Hikers and hunters are typically not the best of friends….at least not here in WI. And know that bear spray canisters are not allowed on airplanes. Whomp….whomp!!

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#6 Pick a place to stay. Whether its a hotel, campsite, or resort with all the amenities, pick this out and make sure everyone is on board with the choice. I know after a long day on the trails there is nothing better than a warm shower. We almost always vacation while on our hiking trips in a hotel. We sleep in beds and have flushing toilets. Ice machines are always a bonus to fill ziplocks with for sore muscles too…..just being honest!!!! Pools are simply a bonus after a long day.

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#7 Means of travel there and while there. Ahhh, the big question of fly or drive? We have done both. We have had issues with both. No one way is perfect. Logically speaking, this is a crap shoot so good luck.

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As for traveling when you are there….if you flew you will more than likely need a rental vehicle. Know your trails and if they are on fire roads to reach the trail head. Some trail heads will require a high clearance vehicle to reach the trail head. Sedona, AZ was a place where we needed a high clearance rental…so research, research, research….you will not be sorry you did.

#8 Research the area your staying in and make a packing list from this research. Are there grocery stores? Are there outfitters if you forget something important…like your boots? Where is the closest medical building if you get bit by a snake? ( I would be dead of a heart attach for sure before reaching the ER but its still good to know where it is) Is there cell service typically in this area or will you need a SPOT global locator? I am sure there are more but all these are super important. First, when we traveled to Utah there was one grocery store in the small town we stayed in and Clif Bars were 2 for $5……here I can purchase and entire box for $5. We have learned to pack as much trail food from home as possible. Its just easier, cheaper, and saves you a trip to a store before you begin your adventure when you arrive. Animal/ plant encounters happen often, so pack first aid but also know where your nearest emergency room is. And just know that there really are still places where cell phones will not work in this world.

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#9 Have a backup plan. Life happens and if it can go wrong it often will. Prepare to change up the plan at any moment. We did this a few times thanks to flash floods in Utah, hurricanes hitting close to a trail head, broken vehicles the day before leaving for an 8 day road trip, wild fires in Tennessee, search and rescue closing down that days planned hike etc…..just have a backup plan.

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#10 Remember your on vacation….Dream big, not impossible!!! Don’t pack yourself so full that it causes worry and stress to get it all done. See what you can and leave the rest for next time. List the most important things and do them first and follow the order until it’s time to leave. Take us for instance, in Sedona we all wanted to climb Cathedral Rock so we made sure this was first. Then in Virginia my dream was to hike up McAfee Knob so we did this first. Make a plan and stick to it. However, even though we did both of these wants first, we still have not finished our list of things to hike in either Arizona or Utah so we know eventually we will return.

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I am sure there are many more pointers by people that plan many more active vacation trips that I do. Although, these are the ones I follow the most. I am a planner and have found my planning abilities make our trips pretty flawless. It does take time but trip planning for me is fun. And, as a bonus, when it all goes as planned it’s even more fun.

If you are thinking about planning an active vacation and want to ask specific questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to help make your vacation as wonderful as ours have been. So whether your headed to somewhere warm, tropical or to the good old state where I live….Wisconsin….enjoy the journey.

 

Big Spring/Kitch-iti kipi at Palms Book State Park- Michigan

Palms Book State Park in Michigans U.P. offers something everyone should see at least once. With a small fee to enter the park you get to walk a short distance down to a raft that takes you across Michigans largest spring.

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Open year round, this raft will offer you viewing of bubbling springs in crystal blue water with trout swimming around right below.

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Then when you finish riding the raft you can make your way up to the gift store and bring home something to remember from the adventure.

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Kids love this place as much as adults. The raft itself is free to ride as many times as you wish after you pay the small fee to enter the park. Bathrooms are on site and picnic tables are available for you to use.

If your in the area of Michigans U.P. don’t pass this one up…..you won’t be sorry you made the trip.