The Pantry’s Year in Review

It’s been a big year for both of us. Moving, new jobs, new schooling, new music, new friends and finally, a new book in print. We are so very pleased and proud to have completed the print version of Baby Steps to Better Health: A Guided Journey in Healthier Eating. What a long and wild ride it has been and even though we now live 18 minutes apart (wahoo!) rather than 12 hours, we still really enjoy sharing with each other and with you. We hope your year has been satisfying, fulfilling, and challenging in all the right ways.

Here’s what you’ve told us, by the sheer virtue of repeated clickery, you just couldn’t get enough of in 2015.

The Top 10 of 2015

Well-Being#10. 2015: A Year of Well Being

A series of thoughts about self-care, at which I am still a sub par performer, but I am working at it. This piece lays out 3 goals, and I’ve actually made at least modest progress on 2. I feel pretty good about that. Need to give your own self-care some thought? Take a look.

#9. We Did It! Our Book is Finally Ready!

Here is the post introducing said book. We are so proud and relieved to have completed it and are so very honored that you are interested. Thank you.

#8. Weekly Meal Plan 2/16-2/22/2015

The real fun of looking back at old meal plans is remembering what was going on and seeing how clearly the food reflects that. This week is full of warming comfort food, so if you’re somewhere where it is NOT 70 degrees like it is here right now, this meal plan is a good one for you.

#7. Weekly Meal Plan 4/27-5/2

This meal plan is full of quick and easy dishes. This post also reveals the early days of my kitchen cabinet refinishing project. Guess what I just finished TODAY, eight months later. HOW, how, how, you may ask did I take that long? Folks in other areas may not be familiar with the armpit that is summer in the mid-Atlantic. Hot and humid do not good finish drying make. So I did the tops in Spring, took a break for summer, and did the bottoms this fall. If you’ve got a kitchen project going, this plan will help you get the food done quickly and easily even amongst disarray.

#6. Three Sisters Savory Cobbler

Just made this dish last week and loved it loved it loved it again. Apparently you all enjoyed it too. Warm and hearty, full of vegetable-y goodness and there’s breading on top. Really, what’s not to love? Mr. Little Sis and I have a long standing love affair with pot pies and this dish really scratches that itch in such a wonderful way. Give it a try. I bet you’ll love it too.

 

#5. (OMG) GF Fudgy Mocha Pudding Cake

Bigg Sis gives a really enticing review of the fabulous Angela Liddon’s Mocha Pudding Cake recipe. This one is a true winner, regardless of whether or not you eat gluten, milk, or any of the other things that are NOT in this cake. Bigg Sis and I really do like our sweets, and we like them best just about like this. Thank you Angela Liddon. Chocolate cake fans, look no further.

#4. Weekly Meal Plan 3/16-3/22

A meal plan from a glorious time when Bigg Sis was visiting, which she can do a WHOLE lot more now!! This is a standard meal plan in the sense that it mixes things that adults like with foods approved by Miss Picky Pants. A St. Patrick’s Day nod and moving on.

#3 Broccoli Meatballs. Really? Yes, Really.

I admit that it takes a special kind of person to be intrigued by the words “broccoli meatballs.” Can I just tell you that I am delighted that I am not the only person who is special in this particular way? I have always been a broccoli fan, which I suspect is indicative of everything that is strange about me. These particular brassicas are the under appreciated hero of the vegetable world. Give them a try, especially if you’re a broccoli fan.

#2. Weekly Meal Plan 1/19-1/25

This post has a lot to say about why meal planning is a great idea – and the reasons are the ONLY reasons I, an extremely poor planner, continue to do it. Meal planning saves me 1) money (I am seriously cheap at times), 2) trips to the store (while cheap I am terrible at staying on list so any trip will be more expensive than it should be), and 3) concerns and effort during the part of the day when I am often needed for other tasks like nagging the crap out of my children. That’s good enough for me. Plan follows…

And our #1 post of last year… yet another meal plan. Seems you guys like that I’m compelled to continue doing this. 😉

#1. Weekly Meal Plan 1/5-1/11

Maybe it was the favorite because it was early in the year, New Year’s Resolutions and all. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a nice plan. Truthfully, they’re all nice plans, especially when you get to 5 pm and you realize you already sorted all that crap out and now all you have to do is cook it. I am ever so grateful to your attention to these posts so that I can continue to have this moment.

So there it is, the big wrap up. It’s hard to believe yet another new year will soon be upon us. If you’re a resolutions person, here’s hoping at least one of those is to eat well and be well friends.

 

Whole for the Holidays Part 3

WholeHolidaysHere we are. The final countdown. If you’re still checking in on this series, you are one of a special crew. You may not even admit it, but at least a little Bah Humbug is in there. And you know what? It’s okay. You can have that. Just grab it. Claim that Bah Humbug and love it. You are allowed to be whoever you are, even when the rest of the world is telling you to be different. Eh, maybe you’re not a Bah Humbugger, but one of those folks who have one of us Bah Humbuggers in your life (bless you) and want to know if anything will actually make us tick in December…

We’ve been having a little chat about the dark side of the holidays (yes, blatant and completely unsponsored Star Wars reference) and have covered a WHOLE lot of territory – expectations, history, but there is one last bit. One last eensy, teensy bit.

What’s left? Fear. Ugh. Fear. Fear of being judged. Fear of being inadequate. Fear of having changed too much or not having changed enough. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of not being appreciated or wanted. Fear that the whole day won’t be good. I have a couple of thoughts about this whole fear thing, specifically in relation to the holiday gathering scene. Most of those thoughts can be summed up with a very just pre-adolescent retort: “So what?” So what if someone judges us? So what? It doesn’t matter if they’re right or wrong. It’s theirs. That judgment is theirs. Let them stew in it, right there with those stewed tomatoes (no I’m not serving them as they are a part of the food nostalgia that I did not care for).

FearSO many of the rest of these fears are all about paying a lot more attention to what’s going on in someone else’s head and heart than what’s in your own. So what if they think that? So what? Let them think whatever they want and you go back to thinking what you think – you remember all that jazz about setting realistic expectations and trusting others to do the same. Think that thought. Think the thought that you WOULD be thinking if you weren’t so afraid of messing it all up. How about this thought: what if it turned out that being you was absolutely perfectly enough? Sit with that for just a minute. You are enough. How would the day be different if you believed you are enough? How much easier would it be to let go of the expectations, let go of the history, and let go of your fear if you just thought you are enough.

What kind of holiday are you ready to have now? Is it possible to redefine it? To reshape it? To potentially even experience it as a holiday – a break – a respite. A nice deep breath in the middle of the dark part of the year. No expectations, no history, no fear. Just a respite. For you too, because yes you do deserve it you amazing thing. Go be you. Go rock that holiday.

But wait, Little Sis, you didn’t talk about food, like how to not completely blow it out at the holiday table… You’re right I didn’t. If you need to blow it out at the holiday table, be my guest (well, not literally, at least not without calling). If you want some help to not blow it out, please check out our holiday eating tips designed to help you maintain any recently gained momentum or just to not roll away in a food induced coma at the end of the whole thing. And if you do roll away in a food induced coma, I promise we won’t judge you even if you’d say so what if we did. 😉

 

Weekly Meal Plan 12/21-12/26

Just a few days left before chaos erupts… or not. I was reminded today by a very dear truth teller that the level of chaos and the degree to which it has anything to do with me is at the very least partially within my own control. Breathing deep, rolling along. Kids have one more day of school. My studies are on hold for two weeks. I’m going to start seeing this whole thing as one big breath. Rolling along. With chocolate… And maybe wine.

In the meantime we have to eat some scraped together meals that can be made and consumed between baking and choral practices.

Monday: whole wheat pasta with raw spinach and the Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever, cut veggies

Tuesday: Leftover Pot Pie  – taco pie style with Slow Cooker Burrito filling from last week (frozen double batch, oh yeah), green salad

Wednesday: Lentil, Mushroom, and Sweet Potato Soup, green salad, wheat bread

Thursday: Dinner at Bigg Sis’ house

Friday: Dinner with Super Stepmom and Sweetie Dad

Saturday: Dinner with Mr. Little Sis’ family

Sunday: Homemade pizza, cut veggies

  

That’s it for me this week, friends. Got presents to wrap. I’ll chime in sometime tomorrow or Wednesday with the last installment of Whole for the Holidays. I hope your preparations are going at your pace and your holiday season honors your heart.

Whole for the Holidays Part 2

WholeHolidaysWe’ve been taking a look at the darker side of holidays, those pesky feelings that sometimes get in the way of the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

In our last installment, we took a long look at the role expectations play in setting us up for Humbuggery. Expectations are part of a nasty trifecta that make our holiday a lot of emotional work.

The second of that crew is history.

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Kinder Exercise – Feel the Nice Burn

NiceBurnSo there’s a nice burn as opposed to a mean burn?  Campfires can be a nice burn, a sip of Irish coffee is a nice burn but muscles burning mid-workout is kind of a mixed bag.  It hurts, but the burn is an indicator that you are working hard and building some new muscle.  Lately, however the burn associated with exercising has been cerebral rather than muscular.  More precisely I have been recognizing some negative vibes in my life that are a result of my workout activities.  And I am guessing that this negativity affects some of you, even if you do not exercise regularly.

Yikes!  What is all this about negativity?  Working out is supposed to be good for you.

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Weekly Meal Plan 12/14-12/20

Things sure are heating up around here… and not just the temperature which was a balmy 70 degrees in Mid-Maryland today. Yep, 70 degrees in December. While it freaks me out in the grand scheme of things, I have to confess to having enjoyed the opportunity to be outside without a big coat and tending to some yard/garden tasks I neglected at their proper time. Strawberries now covered for the winter with leaves from the front yard. Vine that was eating the locust tree is gone. Gardening detritus left on the patio put away. Nice to finish once in a while. Some day I’ll finish the tasks when I actually do them. Maybe. 😉

As for the rapidly approaching holidays, I don’t really want to talk about it because I am totally unprepared. That is all. I meant it; I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not hostile or grumpy (which is new for me at this time of year), but I refuse to dwell on what I haven’t done yet. I’ve penciled in some time tomorrow to do some of it. That’s the new approach. Don’t dwell; just do. While I’m doing, we will be eating, at least between gatherings. So, I guess I’d better get down to planning this thing.

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Balsamic-Honeyed Pecans

I love the idea of giving homemade food gifts to friends and family at the holidays, but most of my old choices seem like ‘too much’ these days.  Who really needs more cookies, fudge or homemade candy?  Of course it is not nice to deprive people of these things entirely but I feel very confident that none of the people upon whom I usually bestow gifts will go without.  Ideally the gift is nourishing and satisfying… special but not unhealthy.

I have made spicy roasted nuts in the past (Roasted Chili Lime Nuts), and these will be the gift for some folks, but I couldn’t shake the notion that I should make something on the sweet side.  The solution was to try roasting pecans with balsamic vinegar and honey.  The balsamic gave a little depth of flavor without having to use a lot of sugar.

I made some to put on the salad at Thanksgiving and ate all of the extra very quickly….. so I should probably plan on making theses babies very close to gift giving time so that I actually leave some for the giftee.

Bonus!  They are also not hard to make.  But don’t tell anyone!

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Whole for the Holidays, Part I

WholeHolidaysI’ve been sniffing around and it seems that I’m not the only one who finds the holiday season to be a little more complex than carving a turkey. Facebook memes, jokes, comedy routines, meal planning, decor rearranging, gift buying, house guest preparing are all just the surface aren’t they? Well, maybe not for everybody, but I really do feel safe in saying that there’s a lot there.

Why? Why do the holidays present us with such a wide range of growth opportunities (I would have gladly inserted some profanity here) and how can we best really enjoy them? How do we stay whole for the holidays? There. Simple question. Simple answer coming in the next sentence, post, done. Right? Right…. I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers, but I have done some thinking about it. And in the interest of wellness and an enjoyable rest of the year, I thought I’d share those thoughts with you.

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Weekly Meal Plan 12/7-12/13

So I was thinking of skipping this bit this week. I’ve got a LOT to do, and then it occurred to me. We still need to eat. So really, the five extra minutes spent sharing a meal plan with you isn’t that big of a time thang after all. If I skip it, I won’t make a plan, and then I’ll be scrambling all week, which definitely won’t help me get these things done… Yeah. So I am here, joyfully… really. Okay, maybe just as a demonstration that there are, in fact, habits that are worth the time in terms of the amount of stress they save us in the long run. I am your living example… on that point only… seriously, that’s a lot of pressure.

And, a few words of prefacing here. I am blessed with a large pantry. It’s a closet basically, with shelves and such. The ONLY bad thing about a big pantry is that sometimes it’s hard to see everything you have and as a result some items may sit around for quite some time. It is my belief that even shelf stable food items really aren’t at their best after some time, so I’m making an effort in these last few weeks of the year to dig to the back of the pantry and use up those items that seem to have been sitting the longest. While I’m doing that I’ll take a look at my spice jars and see if there are any still there from the cretaceous period and give them the boot.

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We Did It! Our Book Is Finally Ready!

You do it…..
No you do it…..
Mom!!!!

You may have heard our Mom jokes before, and of course now that we are ‘all grown up’ we try to leave our long suffering Carni-Mom out of such things, but our book, Baby Steps to Better Health: A Guided Journey in Healthier Eating and this blog, really started out just like that.

I, Bigg Sis, was living in TN, Little Sis was (is) living in MD, and thank goodness for digital communication and one fee phone systems because we talked almost every day on whatever medium was available.  We frequently discussed food and trying to get our kids to eat healthy foods, and our own journeys of slowly changing our diets to try to handle health, energy, weight and vitality issues.

One day, Little Sis said, “Somebody should write a book about this stuff.”
“You should write it,” I replied.
“No you should write it,” she countered…..

After discussing whether or not we were qualified to write such a book we realized that our own experience was valuable and as a nurse and a teacher, maybe we even had some other skills and knowledge to throw into the mix.  So the banter ended with, “We should write it.”

We started with the blog to flesh things out and get our writing joints limbered up, and now, almost 3 years later, some of what is in the blog, plus much more information, organization, coordination, and recipes, we have our book.  If you are a fan of the blog, don’t worry, this is not the end of My Sister’s Pantry.  (We are kind of hooked as well, and now that the book is done, we might even post more frequently.)

At any rate, the book is available on Amazon, complete with lovely art work by Little Sis’ wonderful daughter who is known as “Ms. Picky Pants” or MPP on the blog.  So, yes, we have actually lived the difficulties of getting children to eat more healthfully and have seen wonderful results from the endeavor that go far beyond physical health to include more knowledge, better choices when not monitored and lots of family time in and around the kitchen.  Our lives are forever changed.

We thank you for helping mold this journey and hope that you will consider taking a deeper journey with us through our book (also available as an e-book), or that you will consider sharing the book with someone you love who is seeking change in how they fuel their life.

January 1 is right around the corner and although many heartfelt efforts to engage a healthier lifestyle are born and die every January, perhaps a guide built on experience that encourages and introduces change a baby step at a time will be the tool causing this January’s efforts to endure!

Be well.  Eat well.
The Sis Sisters / Bigg Sis & Little Sis
Lisa & Julia