Sunday, October 31, 2010

Meal-Planning: Week of 10/31/10

Does anyone else have a helluva time with planning meals on the WEEKEND? I never know what we're going to do! Half the time we don't know our weekend plans until Thursday, so I don't necessarily want to waste money buying the supplies for a meal we're not going to eat... but at the same time, I can always add that meal to next week's menu. Usually Sundays are pretty mellow, so Slow-Cooker Sunday works out nicely, but today we ended up taking a day trip to Oakland to see our friends' 1-month-old baby and had to leave around 9:30 to make it there by 11 (UGH, up so early on a Sunday!), which also meant I couldn't go grocery shopping, either (ok, I could've, but sleep won out). So we grabbed a frozen meal from my secret lover, Trader Joe, and called it a night. It bums me out a little, though, to not do SCS because that means I don't have leftovers for tomorrow night's meal and have to cook from scratch. BOO. So I planned an easy meal for Monday night. Anyway.

This week's menu is Monday-Saturday. I know, weird. It'll resume Sunday-Saturday next week.

Lame-ass Pasta Primavera & Italian Sausage
I have a thing of alfredo sauce to use up, so I'm going to steam some frozen broccoli and cauliflower, add it to the warmed-up sauce, and pour it over some pasta. DONE. The Hubs refuses to eat without meat, so I'll grill up some turkey italian sausage for the side. 

Chicken Soup Florentine
We received a "Cooking for Two" cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens that has this recipe. It looks like a cross between chicken noodle soup and italian wedding soup. Either way, if it's good, I'll post the recipe.

Carnitas tacos and refried beans
Technically, due to us being gone about 10+ hours a day and having an obnoxiously fast "slow-cooker", I'm going to cook the carnitas while we sleep Tuesday night. We'll make soft tacos with them. The recipe is delicious, highly recommend. For the refried beans, I usually add some spicy tomato sauce (look in the Mexican food section, it's a yellow can), garlic powder, and shredded cheddar cheese. NOM. I'm also considering using leftover carnitas to make some enchiladas for the freezer so we can just grab n' heat next time we're hungry.

"Oriental"-Glazed Chicken
I would just like to state for the record that I did NOT come up with that awful name. ANYWAY, it looks easy and like something new and different. So there ya go.

Papa Murphy's pizza (cheap and easy!)

Grilled Chicken Thighs, Potluck Beans, and "snugglers"
We're tailgating on Saturday at the local college's football game! I've never seen a football game live, so I'm hoping that it's marginally more interesting than how it is on tv. Heh. I'm more interested in the tailgating anyway. I'm using Guy Fieri's recipe for chicken wing sauces for the thighs, and the Potluck Beans are from a 30-minute Recipes cookbook I got from my mom. We've tried them before, they're very tasty! "Snugglers" is basically hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps. Mmmm. So we'll either eat any leftovers for dinner tonight (or lunch tomorrow), or Pizza for dinner. 

For breakfast, I'm sucking it up and buying a plug-in kettle to use at work for Instant oatmeal during my morning before school or early prep periods (and for Cup O' Noodles, which I keep in my desk as a back-up for those busy mornings where I don't bring a lunch. Lunch Monday is leftover Asian noodle salad from Sunday, and bologna/cheese sandwiches the rest of the week (I'm having a bologna sandwich craving, so I'm going to indulge it). The goal this week is to not buy fast food, barring our agreed-upon Friday pizza night. If I had more time and desire, I'd plan a different lunch every day or get back into making bentos, but at this moment in my life, it's easier to just keep breakfast and lunch fairly rote.

OH, so last week's meals! The tomato soup recipe was not great. Not BAD, just not as creamy as I hoped for. TBH, while I like the help Menus4Moms offers (esp. since they offer a variation of the service for free), the majority of the time I try a recipe from them it's on the bland side. So I'm looking at them from now on as good base recipes to add my own pizazz too. On the plus side, the soup was cheap to make and made a TON, we froze the remnants. The tater-tot casserole was great, totally hit the spot for warm, filling, and comforting.

I do realize that these are probably some of the most boring entries EVER; I just know that meal planning is something I'm trying to master, so it helps to write out my plan and reasoning so I can see it for myself. I figure other no0bs might appreciate it as well.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Foodie Friday: RAMEN!

One of the "joys" of being broke lately is that we've bought Ramen as our go-to emergency meal for when we're too tired to cook anything, or we just want some noodles. Aside from feeling like we're back in college, it's kind of fun to see how we can use them.

I'm one of those people for whom food isn't created in shades of gray; Asian foodstuffs stay Asian, Italian food stays Italian, etc. Ramen is clearly in the "Asian" category for me, so when I make it, I have plans surrounding it that are Asian-influenced at least. The neat thing is, though, I've seen posts of people who mix all sorts of different things in it.

My go-to Ramen meal is usually created like so:
  • Boil the noodles for about 4 minutes (just long enough to lose toughness, but not back to doughy texture)
  • Pull the noodles out of the boiling water and into my bowl
  • Sprinkle the seasoning on the damp-but-not-soupy noodles, mix up the noodles.
  • Play Picasso with soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and whatever Asian-style condiments I have. I've found I can't go wrong with a good forkful of hoisin, a couple splashes of soy, and sometimes a splash of teriyaki sauce. Maybe a little garlic powder or red pepper flakes, depends. 
  • I'll throw in some de-frosted cooked shrimp, also, for protein.
Then it's more like Asian noodles than ramen SOUP... I've never been a fan of making it a soup, don't know why, although now that I'm thinking about it I could always make a Pho-like soup, huh? Heh. 

I learned the take-the-noodles-out-of-the-water trick from a guy friend in college, who made them for me like that; I haven't gone back since. I converted The Hubs to it, too; the downside is that since I'm a cook-by-taste rather than by measuring, I can't ever exactly recreate the same mix or specify what it is I did, so when The Hubs wants Ramen, guess who's stuck making it. Meh.

Anyway, I'm always looking for more ways to mix it up with Ramen, so please feel free to share your favorite ways to make Ramen (or how you used to make it, if you're out of the college mindset unlike myself and The Hubs xD).

Monday, October 25, 2010

A big to-do over To Do (lists)

If you were to know me in person, it would probably surprise you that I love lists. LOVE them. Oh, the promise of organization and order is just delicious. I love making them, I love ranking the items IN the list... I'm list happy!

The other shocking thing: When I make a list, I actually use them. They really do work for me, to have a step-by-step process of some sort, a checklist of things to do.

The problem: I don't make lists that often! I know, right? I'm a nutbag.

At this point in my life, the list of to-do's is overwhelming. There is so much crap I need to do, and my lack of list-making is doing me a disservice, esp. considering how well the strategy works for me.

So my task today (a.k.a. way to avoid working on actual work) is to make a MASSIVE to-do list - every thing I've been meaning to accomplish as of late is being written in a WORD document, and printed out first thing Monday at work. Then it's being posted somewhere obvious; I'm thinking the linen closet, since it's right across from my bedroom door.

Then the next part of this whole Massive To-Do list: DO IT. I'm setting a small goal: Knock 1 thing off the list every day. Just one. Most of the tasks are small, and big ones (like "Clean the damn living room/ bathroom/ bedroom/ other room that is disgusting and I need to clean, dammit") are being broken into the small steps that conclude with the room being clean. I'm also throwing in a couple of things that I've been wanting to do for myself, and yet keep putting off (like painting my nails, giving myself a facial mask, y'know, the little pampering bits). Those have been spread out amongst the list at random, also, so if I'm going straight down, there will be nights where I'm doing something that improves ME, if not necessarily the house. I'm just going to go down the list, one by one, and (hopefully!) knock 'em out. If I miss a day, no doubling up or beating myself up; just get back on the wagon the next day and knock one out.

I've been toying with this idea for a while; if I do it first thing when I get home, it shouldn't be so arduous; usually sitting down is the danger that gets me in "ahhhh, I'm not gonna do SH**" mode when I come home. So that's the goal, and hopefully having it in a highly visual place will make it tougher for me to ignore. Despite the fact that I ignore my dusty coffee table and various piles of clutter... and the dishes in the sink... hrm.

Anyway, I'm trying it. Here's to new starts!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meal-Planning: Back on the wagon...

All the hullabaloo of my birthday, then the trip, then our budget figuring-out (IT IS SO HARD, OMG), and all the extra work a teacher has when he/she attempts to take a day off when it's not already scheduled... yeah, meal-planning fell away in all the madness, as did The Non-Processed Project. I did do some cooking at home, but the rest of the time was mostly freezer meals from TJ's. Nice side-effect of not being able to afford to eat out as much: I think I've lost a few pounds! WHOOOO!

Well, in one of my earlier entries, I reminded myself to try, try again. And honestly, when we're strapped for cash (as we are towards the end of the month - a side effect of one person being paid monthly and one bi-monthly), the best course of action is to PLAN!

So I did! Honestly, it's so much easier when I just use the recipes I know by heart mostly, with one or two new ones thrown in for interest/ audition to see if they should be added to the repertoire.

FYI, if you're looking for meal planning ideas:
The triumphant return of Slow-Cooker Sundays! This week is Pot Roast. I'm perfectly happy with the dry-onion-soup-mix method. Baby potatoes and baby carrots sprinkled on the bottom, the pot roast on top of those, sprinkle on the soup packet, and no more than 1/2 cup of water over the roast. (And yes, this totally goes against the whole "Non-Processed" dealie, but until I find a better spice blend, it is what it is.) I'm considering it my "welcome back, Fall weather!" celebration. *That reminds me, I need to wash my crockpot out...*

Leftover Pot Roast (Mondays are so crazy, it's just easier to eat leftovers. Luckily, there is always a TON of leftovers from Pot Roast since there's only two of us.)

 Creamy Tomato Basil Soup/ Grilled Cheese Sammiches

    * 2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
    * 1 can chicken broth
    * 1 Tbsp fresh or tube basil (or 1 tsp dried)
    * 3 tsp. sugar
    * 1 cup half and half or milk
    * ¼ cup butter, cut into sections

Heat tomatoes and broth to a simmer. Stir in basil and sugar and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and stir in half and half and butter sections. Cook, stirring regularly, until butter is melted. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese on top.

(This is a new recipe, I haven't tried it, but I am TOTALLY excited for it! I hate the condensed stuff. As for the sammiches, I keep it old school - KRAFT American cheese slices 'cuz they're the meltiest, mmm. I also add about a 1/2 tsp garlic powder on top of the softened butter before I spread it on the bread - it adds a GREAT touch!)

Tater Tot Casserole (I'm going to 1/2 this recipe)
    * 2 lbs. ground beef
    * kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
    * 1 10 oz. can low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
    * 1 cup sour cream (low fat is okay) (I'm using plain yogurt instead)
    * 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
    * 1 32 oz. package frozen tater tots

   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.
   2. Brown ground beef. Season with salt and pepper, while browning. Drain.
   3. Spread ground beef in the prepared baking dish. Whisk together soup and sour cream. Spread over ground beef in an even layer.
   4. Sprinkle one cup of cheddar cheese over the soup layer.
   5. Top with tater tots.
   6. Bake 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake another 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.
(I'll also steam some broccoli to go with this to make myself feel less like a fatty.)

Soyaki Chicken and Rice/Noodles
This is another one of the "I know it already" recipes, and it's ridiculously easy. Take a couple of boneless chicken breasts (I usually do 1 breast per person eating), cut them into bite-size pieces, spray some cooking spray in a skillet and cook the chicken pieces all the way through (cut a bigger chunk in half to make sure when you think they're done). Pour out any juice, pour in enough Trader Joe's Soyaki sauce to cover the chicken, and let the sauce heat through. Pour chicken over cooked rice or noodles (I'll usually boil Ramen noodles for this w/o the seasoning packets, I like the texture).

Frozen meal or meal on the run! We've been good all week at this point, dammit.

Breakfasts will be instant oatmeal (now that the weather is perfect for it!); Lunch is PBJ due to the brokeness, with bananas and nut mixes I still have from TJ's to round out, or leftovers if we have enough from the night before!

Aside from my own cooking brilliance, the sites I like to use for recipe ideas are Menus 4 Moms, I'm an Organizing Junkie's Recipe index, and the food blogs I follow (check my profile!). I also have subscriptions to Women's Day and Family Circle, and will occasionally indulge in a Real Simple (who I also follow on Twitter, and will bookmark a good recipe when they tweet them). The hilarious thing is, for all my recipe collecting, I really don't cook nearly as much as I should! One of my goals with meal planning is to try at least one new-to-me recipe a week, and if I don't like it, DELETE IT/ toss it out! Hahaha.

Now, as for the Non-Processed project... well, I still plan to pursue it again, but not this week. Unfortunately, since I haven't gotten the pre-made mixes ready for situations like this, I have to rely on the processed stuff temporarily. However, I HAVE found recipes for cream soup replacements in meals, and even DIY instant oatmeal that I still totally plan to use once I have a spare weekend. But this week, considering how stressful life has been lately, I'm giving myself a breather from my impossibly high standards. =)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On turning 29


The 14th was my 29th birthday.

It wasn't a BAD birthday, but it wasn't a great one, either. (The days that followed were great, though! We were in Southern CA for vacation, and it was lovely.) The actual day was a little depressing - because we were traveling, we didn't really have time to do much, and since I didn't really tell people it was my birthday, I didn't get a ton of birthday wishes, either. I feel like a dork for being sad about it, but I'm also going to be honest that I was, in fact, sad about it. My favorite people wished me a happy birthday, though, and that made me feel special.

The other thing that kind of dragged the actual day down was just thinking about how this is the year before the birthday all women are supposed to be afraid of - the one before the big 3-0. It bugs me more than it should, because I've found out some things recently that affect how I need to pursue certain goals, and I've also made some choices about who's in my life and who isn't... and the ramifications of those choices are still working their way through and I'm not sure how I feel about how they're working out yet. Add in some financial woes and the stress of preparing for the trip (arranging for a substitute teacher is more work than just BEING there, swear to god), and just realizing that this isn't where I thought I'd be so close to a monumental age. The timing of my birthday was surrounded by sorrow rather than joy.

What can I say, my birthdays of late have brought around a lot of self-introspection. I thought I'd be different at this point, but a lot of my issues are still the same; hell, I think I'm actually REGRESSING in a lot of areas! UGH. I feel less mature and farther behind rather than the other way around. Isn't it SUPPOSED to be the other way around?

Anyway, I'm not actually trying to be a sad sap, I swear!  I mean, yeah, I'm bemoaning it a bit, but we're (HOPEFULLY) at the tail end of a rough couple of years, and as we try to get our goals back on track, I'm wondering if I'm going to hit the markers that I wanted to hit by the big 3-0.

What, exactly, do I want to have accomplished by the time I turn 30?
  1. Visit Europe
  2. Pay down most of our debt
  3. Move into a bigger place, preferably a house (rental is fine, I just want a bigger place that feels more like a home, dammit!)
  4. Get pregnant
The likelihood of these 4 things actually happening:
  1. Probably not in the next year
  2. a good chunk, very possible with some sacrificing; all will take a little longer (and kind of makes #1 hard to accomplish! =P)
  3. Very likely, as we're either moving closer to my current job (if I'm not pink-slipped - thanks budget cuts!) or moving for a new job.
  4. Possible, but depends on health issues that need resolving first.
So what's the point of all this navel-gazing? I dunno, actually. Just want to get stuff out, try to find the brighter side of things. I don't want to be 30 and still hating myself. So either I need to accept myself as I am, or make the changes that drive me nuts.

First step: Some god-damn therapy! I sound like a crazy person. GRAR. Seriously, though, I think some counseling could really help me through my issues.Trying on my own results in me basically getting overwhelmed and, well, NOT TRYING. Ha.

So I'm at 356 days from my 30th birthday. Hopefully I'll be measurably closer to where I want to be by then.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The status of this blog/ The Non-Processed Project - Update? Meh...

Ok, so one reason I don't update so much is that I've been convinced that this blog can ONLY relate to home-making stuff... you know, a "niche" blog. While I can still share my experiences (and failures, of which there are pa-lenty), it doesn't HAVE to be all about the art of housewifery. I'm not technically a housewife, anyway (hence the "hot mess" part of the moniker), and my life doesn't revolve around it, at least not yet.

So you might see some non-homemaking posts on here occasionally. I'd apologize, but that would imply that I'm sorry. It's my blog, dammit! Instead, I'll aim for at least a weekly homemaking/lifestyle post, but I am giving myself permission to just post about stuff that's in my mind, too. If I can tie it back to homemaking, awesome. If not, meh. I'll still stay fairly uninformative (sorry, I am a public school teacher and need to keep specific details on the DL), but I'll share a little bit more of my thoughts, too.

Starting with... The Non-Processed Project! I'll admit, I'm slacking. Still shopping a lot at Trader Joe's and checking labels, but I'm also giving in to products I know are FULL of chemicals, too. For example, mint Oreo's. Those things are the DEVIL. The delicious, chemically devil. Also back to drinking soda more than I'd like, but I'm trying to work in water, too.

However, there might be an alteration to my plans soon. I mean, staying non-processed will still be in the plan, but my diet might need to be more strict very soon.

Here's the deal: I have girl issues. Without getting into too much details, I was pretty sure I have PCOS. I recently got a job again, with those lovely things called "benefits", so as soon as my insurance kicked in, I made an appointment with my lady doctor. She sent me for some blood tests, to confirm the PCOS suspicion...

Well, lo and behold, I have a whole MESS of things wrong with me. No official diagnosis yet, but the tests showed that my thyroid is way wonky, and my blood sugar levels are WAY too high. The next step is to find a primary care physician to deal with these issues (I skipped to an OB/GYN because I wanted to find out what's wrong with my girl issues, thinking that was the ONLY issue; turns out the thyroid/blood sugars are also big contributors - as well as symptoms of PCOS, go fig), and go from there. The blood sugars issues indicate a likely chance that I'm diabetic. Considering my weight, not a shock, but I was a little shook up about it. I'm mad at myself, obviously. I could've avoided this a LOOONG time ago, but nope, I resisted change as much as I could. Hilariously, I have actually lost a little weight by eating out less and trying to cook healthier food at home. Not always successfully, but apparently it's paid off a little without trying. GO FIG. BUT a few weeks of good behavior isn't going to undo years of self-abuse.  What kills me about all this is that I'm in total "clucky" mode, and the thing that's preventing me from procreating is my own fault. *sigh*

Anyway, the point of this is that I not only need to find a doctor to help me, but I need to change my eating lifestyle PRONTO. I've been considering South Beach Diet (the plan, not the products), and I'm open to it, but I know I'm going to miss my carbs like WHOA. Luckily, most of the other stuff I like is ok for South Beach, so... we'll see. For now, I'm just trying to continue eating better, and after our little vacation this week, The Hubs has offered to jump on the health bandwagon with me as a show of support. Also, I need to schedule that doctor appointment!

This isn't turning into a diet blog; I will share any tasty recipes I stumble upon, though. =)


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