Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cottage Pie Recipe

What the heck is cottage pie?

I have to tell you, I called it Shepherd's Pie for years and years!

When delving into the matter with Professor Google, I discovered that in the UK, Shepherd's Pie is what it's called when it's made with lamb...
When they use beef, they call it Cottage Pie!

I mentioned this in passing to my husband - who responded by looking right at me and saying "We should call it Cottage Pie from now on!"
...I just love it when he's fun and silly like that...
I eagerly agreed!!

I usually prefer to do casserole-type dishes that only require one step to put it all in the dish and stick it in the oven...
However, I make an exception for this one!!  It's that yummy!!

Many traditional meat pie recipes use some sort of gravy and/or sauce.
I started experimenting with ways to add flavor without the heaviness of those sauces and gravies.

This is what I ended up with!

I start by seasoning my ground beef and browning it!
I love the Mrs Dash line of seasoning because they are all about flavor and NOT about all the salt!!

If you're a real vegetable person and prefer to use real, chopped onion, I say go for it!
I'm a weanie and don't like the texture, so I go for minced onions, instead.

While my beef is browning and simmering, I get started on the potato mix that tops the pie!
I love this mashed cauliflower-potato recipe because it pulls in an additional vegetable - and one I don't normally care for on it's own!  It really contributes to my protein-vegetable-carb balance!!

I know I'm going to make 8 servings, so I use my 12" skillet to hold it all, and I use my color-coded containers to determine how much of each ingredient I need!

I know I want the end result to have 8 servings of beef.  Now, I'm not going to send my raw beef through my red containers, so I start with an accepted serving as 3-4 oz.  That means I want 24-32 oz of beef.  I'll look for a package of lean ground beef that weighs in between 1.5 and 2 pounds.  As long as it's in that range, I'm set! 

Pretty much everything else gets counted with the containers, though!

I want my mashed cauliflower-potatoes to be 50/50, so I use 8 yellows of diced potatoes and 4 greens of chopped cauliflower.

I toss the potatoes in the steamer first, add some water, and steam for 5 minutes in the microwave.

Then, I add the cauliflower in and steam that for 10 more minutes.
I love my Large Micro-Cooker by Pampered Chef for this...

I have my stand mixer ready to go for when the steaming is done...
I like to indulge in 1/4 to 1/2 stick of butter in that potato mixture, so I just drop it in the bowl of my stand mixer to wait for the warm veggies to come!

Back to my skillet, the beef is browned and it's time to add in some additional vegetables!  You can obviously add whatever you like, but this time, I added green beans, carrots, and peas.  Frozen vegetables work great for this!!

I used 4 greens of green beans and 2 greens of my peas and carrots.
I know that, technically, peas should be measured in the yellow, but I was using the frozen mix and didn't want to do hard math.  So, I fudged my evaluation a little...

Mix all those vegetables into the beef and let them get warm all the way through.

Meanwhile, the potato mixture should be ready to drop into the stand mixer!
I add a couple twists of Himalayan sea salt to it, and set the mixer to mashing!

You preheated the oven, right?
I set mine at 350, and I try to remember to do that before I get sidetracked into all that other fun stuff...

When everything in the skillet is heated through and the potato mix is well mashed, just spread that loveliness over the top of the skillet contents like frosting a cake!

I don't worry too much about a perfectly smooth surface, because I like the browning effect that happens to the potato peaks!

Bake the whole mess into the oven (I'm assuming you can put your skillet in the oven like I can - Pampered Chef again!!) and bake for about 15 minutes.

Once the potatoes have that little bit of crunch on the pointy spots, I pull it out and divvy it up into 8 servings!

I must apologize for not having specific measurements for some things...
I've been eyeballing this entire operation and just dash seasonings "until it looks good"...

I'll try to update this post with actual measurements and directions that look like a real recipe!

In the meantime, consider experimenting with your own favorite dishes and see if you can't improve on what you've always done!!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Color Coding for Efficency and Organization

Have you ever struggled to keep things organized or to keep a large amount of information straight?

I've struggled with exactly that for years.  My entire life, in fact.
I've always been drawn to color-coding, but it wasn't until college that I found myself deliberately implementing it!

You see, I was taking physics, and my professor was VERY process oriented.
If you asked for help, the first thing he would ask you is, "Did you draw a picture?"
If you didn't draw a picture, you had better not try to get anything more out of him.  If you *did* draw a picture, he'd take a look at it and ask you, "Well, what about this force or that force?"

I failed my first physics test with a 46%...
I was devastated..
That's actually about the time I got my official ADHD diagnosis.  It was taking me a really long time to process the problems because so much was going on and there was so much information to keep track of!

I was starting with images like this, and as I set up my equations, things were getting lost!  So, of course, I would end up with the wrong answer!!

how many arrows in this picture?
It took a while, but I finally started doing things like this!
I ran into much fewer errors because I wasn't losing important forces when I set up my equations!  The different colors helped me keep them straight!

Have you ever had to work one of these problems??
Once I had the problem set up, I would use my red pen to circle the thing I was supposed to figure out so that it ended up on one side of the equal sign and everything else ended up on the other.

Yay for colors!!
I can assure you, I got many odd looks in class... However, I ended the semester with an A in the class!  Clearly, it helped me!

I've continued to apply color coding in other areas of my life, too.  All it does is help break up the huge amount of information that I'm trying to sort into manageable chunks!!

When I started the 21 Day Fix program, I was introduced to the "Portion Containers".  The nutrition plan breaks it down pretty simply.  Foods that coordinate with the different colored containers are listed in the nutrition guide.  If it fits in the container, it's a serving!

I can ensure that I'm getting well-rounded nutrition by making sure I get all of my prescribed containers in for the day!  No guess work! No calorie counting!  This approach to nutrition was MADE for me!!

My husband also ribs me for labeling things...  LOL
Then, I just have to get my daily workout completed.  I have those daily workouts listed in living room - where I do them. The clipboard hangs on the wall with a pen attached, and I just check it off once it's done!

Someone else has done the hard stuff.  They sorted through the information and created a well-rounded workout program and a thorough nutrition plan.  All I have to do is follow the color coding and check off the boxes!

What do you think?
Does a color-coded approach work for you?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

On the Menu - June 2016

Café Latte month...
I'm all about my chocolate Shakeology...
If you've followed any of my other menu posts you'd notice that Shakeology is the absolute first thing on every single one...

Well, I decided to take the plunge and try the newest flavor (the only one I had yet to try): Café Latte

I'm NOT a coffee drinker.  I don't like coffee.  In order to make coffee the least bit palatable to me, you have to add so much milk and sugar that it is no longer coffee...
In fact, it's more like Sugar Milk...

I thought my husband would like it, even if I didn't, so I picked up the Barista Pack... That includes 8 servings of Café Latte, 8 servings of Vanilla, and 8 servings of Chocolate.
Yay for mixing it up!!

I ***LOVE*** the Café Latte flavor!!
I'm pretty sure I'm going to set myself up for a monthly rotation between Café Latte and Chocolate...
Yes.  I like it THAT much!

Anyway, the breakfast burritos were actually my husband's idea.  I've only made them for special occasions.  Why didn't I think of these before for a daily meal???
So fast and easy to prep and travel friendly if I take my tortillas to work on Monday!

I keep mine pretty simple: scrambled eggs and turkey sausage, a sprinkling of cheddar cheese...
I load a single serving into easily transportable storage containers and eat it at work!
I prefer to heat my filling, then roll it into a room-temperature tortilla.  Hence the added inconvenience of bringing 5 shells to work with me on Monday...

John, on the other hand, prefers to spice things up a bit with cubed steak in his scrambled eggs, add in some onions and peppers, a touch of tobasco or sriracha, and he wraps them ahead of time.
He also sticks one into each transportable storage container, and he heats up the entire thing before consuming.
Have I mentioned that my husband likes spicy things??
Yeah, he's been working on a marinade for making his own "nuclear chicken wings"....
I can't even stand the smell of the stuff!!

Recently, he surprised himself by discovering extra breakfast burritos in the freezer!
He had made more than a week's worth and stuck all of his extras in the freezer and forgot about them.  What a treat!

We make the chicken and wild rice soup in the crock pot and portion that into single servings as well.

Instead of buying roasted almonds, I love to roast them myself in a ceramic mug!  I just toss a small handful in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time until they are roasted!  It usually takes a total of 40 seconds...
I love the texture once they're roasted, and eating them warm is a bonus!

It takes a little extra planning each week, but I feel a sense of freedom on the weeknights when I don't have to get ANYTHING ready for the next day - because I did it all on Sunday!

This approach can be done with 2 menus that alternate days easily.
With a bit more work and freezer friendly meals, you could easily eat something different each day and have your food set for the next month or 2!!

Is your mind as blown as mine is??

Friday, June 3, 2016

When Movement Works as Medicine

Managing my ADHD symptoms with exercise...

I figured out pretty early in my college career that trying to sit at a desk or in a library all day to get work done was not going to work for me...

I hadn't really paid much attention before that. I needed a physical education credit for my associates degree, so I dropped a soccer class into my schedule right off the bat.  I discovered quickly that I looked forward all day to that class!
After that semester, I didn't *need* any more credits, but I stuck a ballet class on my schedule, anyway.

Not only did my physical class give me a much needed break from my studies, I began to notice it was a little easier to focus and organize information when I worked on my homework afterward.
It turns out, I'm not the only person to make this observation, and science backs it up!

I left the community college for the university and continued toward my undergraduate degree. I studied civil engineering and spent quite a bit ALL of time in the books. However, I kept a page from my previous experiences and signed up for ballet class that first semester.

It turned out, there was an option for me to minor in dance, but it would take a little longer to finish my degree program. I didn't think twice about it, and I started incorporating the dance classes into my schedule.  They weren't all technique classes, but the change of pace and venue still did quite a bit to help keep my head in the game and my mind on course.
I enjoyed topics like: "Musculoskeletal Concepts for Dancers", "Movement Efficiency for Athletes", and "Laban Movement Analysis".

I graduated with honors (unheard of in my prior schooling experiences), and I can assure you that incorporating all that regular exercise into my schedule contributed in a huge way to my scholastic success.

Now, I'm adulting (yes, I insist that it's a real word) and continue to manage my symptoms with regular exercise.  If I have a huge to-do list that feels overwhelming, I can start with a solid 30-minute workout.  It serves to help clear my brain of the minutia clamoring around and helps me focus on one task at a time.

Obviously, the benefits are relatively short lived (the focus will begin to wander again within several hours), but it gives me an accessible tool that I can use as-needed to help bring some order to the chaos that inevitable accompanies my condition.

Now, when I say "as-needed", I mean every. single. day.
Even my husband notices when I've missed a workout!!

I've found exercise and movement to be so beneficial, I share the idea with EVERYONE!!
It isn't *only* the ADHD mind that benefits from working out!  EVERY mind benefits from it!

Are you ready to give it a shot?
Ask me about how you can join one of my monthly groups where we have an entire community doing it with us!!
Just send me a message on Facebook!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rice Bowls - Boring Staple or Exciting Change of Pace?

I stumbled upon this concoction by accident, but it has become a staple in my menu planning!

I was standing in the kitchen on a Monday night.
Meals for the week had been prepared, but I had never finished planning my menu.
I was looking at the first week of a new workout program, and I wanted to make sure I was bringing my best to the table.

...and according to my meal plan, I was missing a serving of protein and a serving of carbs...

I looked around my kitchen, feeling defeated.
Then I saw the bag of rice.  I thought, "Rice!  Rice is a carb!  Can I think of a protein to serve with rice?"
I went to my fridge and discovered a package of ground beef that my husband had stashed away...

"Hey, honey!  Do you have any plans for this ground beef?"
...Not, yet.  Why?
"Can I use it?"
...yeah, go for it.

I threw some rice in the rice cooker (have you tried one?  Where has this been all my life?  Why didn't I have one of these before??), turned it on, and proceeded to cook some beef while I waited for the "done" light to come on.

When it all came together, I used my handy portion containers to dole it out into bowls.
I knew I would eat it regardless of it's level of deliciousness, but I was really hoping it wasn't going to get old too fast...

By this time, my husband had wandered into the kitchen dying to know what I was making that smelled so amazing....
So, I handed him a bowl and a spoon.
He had intended to only try a bite, but the next thing I knew, he was asking me if he could have the rest of it!

I figured that was a good start, anyway.
It turned out that I enjoyed it just as much on day 5 as I did on day 1!
I filed it away in my stack of go-to recipes.

I've played with it over the months and come up with several variations.
Hubby also has variations of his own!
However, there are some techniques that just *really* add to the basic dish.

Of course, for me, steaming the rice is pretty easy and straight forward.  Just drop rice and water in the cooker (2:1 ratio) and let the cooker tell you when it's done!
Oh, how well that works for my ADD mind!!

My favorite is to mix 50/50 brown rice with tri-color quinoa.  YUM!!
The whole thing freezes and reheats well, so I can make 2 weeks worth in one go!
...I might need a bigger freezer, soon...

freshly cooked - ready to portion!

I portion out the rice for however many servings I made and let the steam dissipate for a few minutes...
However, while I wait for the rice to cook, I get to work on my perfect ground beef!

Easy peasy - and oh so consistent

You can certainly purchase ground beef at the store (and we do when time is short), but we've been experimenting with buying a chunk of lean round roast and grinding our own!

You can season the beef however you like, but my go-to is Mrs. Dash Table Blend seasoning.
I also enjoy Lawry's for something different...
Or Cavender's Greek seasoning when I'm in the mood for a kick...
The possibilities are only limited by your imagination!!

While you *can* just brown your beef in the skillet on the stove, I much prefer the touch of the grill.
So, I form up patties (after the seasoning is well mixed), and send them out with Hubby.
If, for some reason he isn't grilling (like, if it's just too cold to be outside), I'll stick my patties under the broiler.  I'll broil them for about 5 minutes, flip them, then stick them back in for another 5 minutes.
They come out browned and juicy!
The next best thing to grilling!!

Making due when we aren't grilling...

Now, my husband will just drop a patty in with his rice, but I'm really big on texture.  A chunck of beef with my rice just doesn't match, to me.
I do some extra work and plop those patties in a bowl and take my Pampered Chef Mix and Chop to those suckers!  I turn them back into ground beef!

I really love my Pampered Chef tools!

Yes, it takes extra time and a bit of persistence...
But the texture with the rice is just perfect!!

getting there...

It's the little things that make me happy...

portioned out and ready to go!

Of course, once that's done, the meat is easily portioned into the bowls with the rice.
This serves as an emergency meal or an excellent base for something more interesting!

I ***LOVE*** to add a cup of steamed broccoli florets!
Can you ever go wrong with beef and broccoli??

John will add Pav Baji Vegetable Curry to his and spice things up a bit.

As simple as this dish is, I've found it incredibly satisfying and an indispensable staple in my rotation of recipes!

What would you add to your rice bowls??

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Getting Naked - The ingredients to a perfect storm

While talking with some friends, I finally put into words why I wasn't as "put together" or "owning it" the way that they thought I was.  The way things look from outside can be quite deceiving.
The following is what I composed (and later elaborated a little) to try to fully explain the extent of the craziness in my brain that no one else can see.

My anxiety has been through the roof, lately.  Along with a few other things...
Here's the domino effect that I see in action in my life:

1) ADD makes everything just a little harder. Every failure feels personal, even if it isn't. Self doubt gets planted by the mind spin of negative self talk. (I'm pretty sure I made up that term "mind spin").

Feels like there are ALWAYS too many tabs open in my mental browser...

2) Negative self talk and self doubt lead to more self esteem issues and open the door to depression - making everything THAT MUCH HARDER and using MORE ENERGY for EVERY FREAKING TASK!
(Have you heard of the spoon theory?)

3) Things get forgotten or there just isn't enough time. This triggers anxiety over:
- the stuff not done
- the stuff forgotten
- the stuff that obviously will never get done
- planning, double and triple booking yourself, figuring out what to cancel, calling people and actually canceling....
- being tired
- what other people think of you for flaking out
- what other people think of you for being so unproductive
- what other people think of you for forgetting to call them back
- when people get frustrated with you for interrupting
- the disheveled state of your living space
- the disheveled state of your work space
- what you might be forgetting RIGHT NOW
- all that other stuff that hasn't even come through my mind yet...

anxiety winds around tighter and tighter...

4) Exacerbated chronic pain from the emotional stress of the other 3 states.
I have 2 bulged discs that flare up in the cold.  Or when I sit for too long.  Or when I've twisted wrong.  Or, apparently, when emotions are spiraling and feeding into my insecurities...

You never know when the nerve pain is going to rear it's ugly head...
5) Each of the previous 4 conditions sucks more energy alone than a normal person would need to do any given task. As they stack and combine, it takes a monumental effort just to get out of bed, let alone get through the day, so even if you sleep for 8 or 9 hours, you'll never feel rested because it takes 12 hours of solid rem sleep cycles to recover all the energy used the previous day just to function at a basic level....

How can I possibly get out of this spiraling mess??

And that's all BEFORE any major life stressors!!
(Like the truck breaking... 3 times in 2 months... The house breaking...  First the kitchen faucet, now the dishwasher... Medical bills... Taxes....)

When you're stuck inside of this perfect storm, it feels like you're never going to be able to get out.  It all just spins together into a vortex of chaos, emotion, and hopelessness.
If you are stuck in this "swirling vortex of terror", I need you to know that you are not alone.

Let me repeat that.


I'm sharing my journey with the world.  If it helps even ONE person find a small moment of peace, it is all worth it.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

On the Menu - May 2016

I'm getting better about actually keeping track of those meals that work well with my lifestyle.
I'm aiming to try one new recipe a month.
Sometimes, it's a hit.  Sometimes it's a flop.  And sometimes, it just needs some tweaking to optimize it just for me!!

I've started to annotate what containers I'm meeting with each meal - according to 21 Day Fix!

The hearts at the bottom are listed in 2 columns.  The column on the left is what I "should" be eating each day, and the column on the right is how my menu stacks up.

I love the visual color coding here!!

As usual, I'm still drinking the exact same Shakeology recipe every day. 
However, I did pick up the "Barista Pack" to change it up a little!  It includes Chocolate, Vanilla, and Café Latte!  Is that exciting, or what??

Hard Cooked Eggs are so travel friendly and easy to prepare!  They make a perfect go-to protein.  Remember that 1 serving of protein is 2 Hard Cooked eggs!

I serve my Honey Sesame Chicken over rice and with a side of veggies - the veggies vary according to what I have on hand...  I'm not 100% happy with this recipe yet, but I'll keep tweaking it until I get it right!  I used to get a honey sesame seasoning mix, but I haven't found it in stores for at least 5 years....  So, I just keep experimenting!

Carrots provide an easy snack with a satisfying crunch.  Talk about an easy green container!

Bananas are also easy and travel well, but 1 purple container is only half of a banana...  I don't know how to retrain myself and only eat half of the banana...  I should have gone with berries, but I wasn't that organized...  ADD strikes again...  That could be the story of my life!!  LOL

The Mac and Cheese with chicken and broccoli comes from the FIXATE cookbook and just ROCKS!!  I decided the recipe needs twice as much broccoli!  LOL
I give it 2 thumbs up for sure!

How do you keep track of your nutrition?  How do you plan?
Where do you get stuck??

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