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

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Gifts for an Aspiring Home Cook

Top10CookGiftsEven though I have done very little about my own holiday preparations, I have been fielding questions from people who are actually tending their holiday business. What they want to know from me is what they should get as a useful but satisfying gift for someone who is really getting interested in cooking at home, or maybe even for that person who’s not so interested, but who is really going to be doing some home cooking. I have nieces and nephews who are in that early adult bit of their lives and I often gift them with kitchen bits that I wish I’d had earlier and that will make their lives and caring for themselves (for less money) easier. So with all that said… My favorite recommendations for aspiring home cooks.

#1 Cast Iron Skillet

When I was younger I did not have or use cast iron. I had some inherited teflon nonstick skillets that I used until they were peeling. This, incidentally, did not take very long. While nonstick technology has come a long way since I was in that phase, I can, with years of experience, comfortably suggest that cast iron is both more durable and more healthful. It is also really quite affordable. I have a couple of different sizes of this pre-Seasoned cast-iron skillet from Lodge and have been very happy with them over the years.

#2 Stainless Steel Cooking Utensils

Can I count the number of plastic and/or silicone cooking utensils that have been used/abused and completely demolished through the years? No, and I don’t want to think about it. This is an area where that old sentence “penny wise pound foolish” really holds true. The plastic jobs really are fine for cooking, don’t get me wrong, but you will need to buy another, and another, and another, that is unless you take much better care than I ever have. One set of stainless will go a lot longer and will work great in that cast iron skillet. Why not give a whole set like this one?

#3 Stainless Steel Sauce Pot

We have this stainless steel pot. We got it years ago and we use it for EVERYTHING. It’s a medium size and will handle most jobs that aren’t REALLY big or REALLY small. It’s been in the washer; it’s been dropped. It’s had stuff burned in it. It’s been used for science experiments and I suspect has even had a dog drink from it a time or two. Incredibly useful, incredibly durable. This one is a nice size.

#4 Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

Having a non-reactive mixing bowl is really critical. Non-reactive just means that the material that the bowl is made of will not react with the food that you put in it, potentially changing the flavor of the food or just leaching stuff into it… yuck. Yeah. yuck. We use both stainless and glass. I prefer the metal ones simply because the glass are SO heavy. This super cool set also comes with lids, so if you need to let something sit, you can slap that lid on it.

#5 Stainless Steel Measuring Cups and Spoons

Again, nice to have non-reactive and these last forever. No more limping along because one part of the set got chewed up in the dishwasher. This set is intriguing because it has a narrower opening, so may be easier to use in containers and such. These spoons have the same advantage.

#6 Nesting Glass Liquid Measures

Yep, those Pyrex babies. We use ours ALL the time. Durable, useful, and if you nest them reasonably easy to store.

#7 Instant Read Thermometer

These are really useful for safe cooking. Temperature is a really great way to tell if things are done. We use ours for bread, baked goods, and when we have big holiday dos. This one seems to fit the bill.

#8 Solid Chef Knife

I absolutely love my Mac santoku chef knife. It’s a little smaller than most, therefore a little lighter, and more manageable. I’ve had it for years and it is absolutely my go to knife for most every knife job.

#9 Durable Paring Knife

We have this Victorinox set. I am shameless and put them in the dishwasher with no apparent ill effects. Takes care of all the little jobs my chef knife won’t handle.

#10 A Great Cookbook

While they include many ingredients I now tend to limit or avoid, I have nothing but great things to say about America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks. I still use mine all the time, making ingredient swaps as I need to in order to suit my own preferences. If you want to help someone learn about ingredients and how to make them work together, The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook is a great place to start.

 

Well, there it is. some piece of your holiday shopping all sorted out. Hope you are taking it all in stride. Be well, friends.

 

Weekly Meal Plan 11/30-12/6

Whew! What a holiday week! We ate and visited and visited and ate. We played games and slept in and reminisced with old friends and family. It was time well spent. And the good news is we haven’t long to wait for another nice long break. Something has shifted and I may even enjoy these holidays after all… but that is another post altogether.

Now that we’ve done with the feasting and fete-ing, we need to get back into a routine at least for a little while, but we’ve got a VERY full fridge and some weird bits to use up this week, so my meal plan will be tailored with that in mind.

1e8cce6c-26ad-4a43-abab-5178a944dc3fMonday: turkey soup (planning to put the bones in the crock pot all day and then add the usual soup-y suspects in the early evening), green salad

Tuesday: Cheezy Noodles (similar to this but made with whole wheat penne and our friend Annie’s cashew cream that I made a LOT of for use in holiday cooking), peas, steamed broccoli

Wednesday: Spinach Chickpea Burgers with Cumin Aioli, pickled celery (from November’s Vegetarian Times), cut veggies

Thursday: mashed potato pancakes, roasted brussels sprouts, green salad

Friday: homemade pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Dinner Out! (Little Man has a birthday party to go to and a friend has an art opening.)

Sunday: homemade pasta, sautéed green beans, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: amazing leftover GF brownies from Angela Liddon’s The Oh She Glows Cookbook.

Adult Lunches: Cold Kickin’ Soup (Mama Bear here is still struggling. Cough, hack, sputter)

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Here’s hoping none of your crew needs Cold Kickin’ Soup and that you find yourself coasting through the beginning of winter. Eat well, be well friends