Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It Feels Good to Follow Through

Well, the clock has turned to another year.  For some reason I am not thrilled about turning another year older, but I have good intentions that this next year of life will hold big changes for me and my family.  I am being vague, I know, but if and when my goal comes to fruition, I will share the news.  Until then, just bear with my hints at something big to come.

Over the weekend I completed my first 5K.  To some that may not seem like any big feat, but to me it was.  I am not a self-declared runner.  In fact, I used to be intimidated by running for five minutes!  A mile seems easy now, two is manageable, and three continues to be difficult.  Doable, but difficult.  I struggle mentally when I get out there and out of my comfort zone.  For some reason I initially try to convince myself that I won't be able to do it, but I keep moving forward...slowly.

My goal was to run the entire race.  It wasn't timed, so there was no race against the clock.  It really was just a simple goal:  run.  It was hot on the course, as there was little shade or breeze, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and moved forward.  When I signed up for the race a few of my friends did, too, but in the end it was just me and the pavement, as other things came up.  It was up to me to keep myself motivated and it took a lot of internal cheering to keep running, but I did it and seeing my family near the finish line gave me the last little nudge I needed to complete the race.

I am proud to say that a few months ago I set a goal that I was able to achieve.  Life can throw a lot of things at you and following through on goals you set can be difficult.  There were many mornings I didn't want to get out of bed to run, especially after being woken up by the baby (and at least one other kiddo most nights) and getting little sleep.  Some days the weather was too hot or too chilly during those early morning runs, but I did it.  Sometimes it just feels good to accomplish what you set out to do.

Today I'll leave you with a little quote I found this morning that I like.  I'm ready to come alive!  Are you?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Time is Now!

For some reason this week has been fairly emotional for me.  Perhaps it's my impending birthday, but I've found myself thinking about the past and focusing on my future an awful lot lately.  Maybe it is the milestones that have been or soon will be reached:  15 years have passed since I began college, the Queen Bee turned four months old last week, my little guy is about to turn three, the Princess just began her last year of preschool, and my oldest entered first grade.  Whether we like it or not, time just keeps on ticking away and I find myself searching within trying to figure out if I'm making the best of it.  

For the past six-and-a-half years my life has primarily revolved around my kids.  I quit teaching to stay home and have devoted nearly every hour of every day since then to raise my children to the best of my ability.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have it any other way.  My babies are my priority, but for the most part I feel like I've lost who I am outside of "Mom."  While I recognize that this has happened, it can still be a challenge to rectify the problem.  I have been focusing on this a lot over the past year and doing some soul-searching to try to come up with some answers.  Now that I have a little one again who is dependent on me to eat (no bottle for her, it's against her wishes) I feel that I have been given a little extra time to contemplate what my goals are in life and to further explore the "who am I" question.

Last night I found this quote from one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown:

"Midlife: when the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you “I’m not f-ing around, use the gifts you were given.”

I realize that I am not in the "midlife" category yet, but to me I am looking at my mid-thirties as my time to to figure out what gifts I've been given and put them to good use.  I truly believe that doing this will bring me back a little closer to "me" instead of "mom."  Here are a few things that make my soul happy (other than my family):  bringing people together, helping those in need (especially children), spending time with friends, exercise, and music.    

I enjoy a good project and understand that this journey will take awhile.  My philosophy has always been "dream big" and I am more than ready to start taking the necessary steps to reach those dreams.  It's time to get off of the sidelines and get in the game.  No more excuses.

To all of you out there who feel like maybe you've lost yourself a bit, it's time to start searching inside and figure out where your passions lie.  What is your motivation?  What makes you feel alive and ready to tackle the world?  What impact do you want to make and how can you do it?  There's no better time to start than now.  Dream big!  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Crocking Monday (a little late!): Crockpot Sloppy Joes

I am back to making a Crockpot meal on Mondays.  I'm trying new recipes as of late, so it's taking me an extra day to share those with you.  We love Sloppy Joes, but not all of the junk that is added in the canned mix. so yesterday I took a stab at them from scratch and they were delicious!  They could easily just be made in a skillet, but I browned my meat, put it in the Crockpot, and dumped in the rest of the ingredients so I could forget about it until dinnertime.  If you're family is larger and you like leftovers, I would highly recommend doubling the recipe.  I would say it makes 6-7 larger sandwiches.

Crockpot Sloppy Joes
Source:  The Happy Housewife

1 lb. ground beef
1/4 c. chopped onion (I omitted)
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. prepared yellow mustard
3/4 c. ketchup
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. salt
ground black pepper, to taste

Brown beef.  Put in crockpot and add all other ingredients.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  Turn to warm until ready to serve.

Served with a side of Tator Tots...I LOVE Tator Tots!  :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Teriyaki Beef Stir Fry

We are back to school and so far, so good.  I have been doing my best to be organized in the kitchen:  planning meals a few weeks in advance, grocery shopping for those two weeks (except for produce and dairy), and also planning lunches for my little guy to take each day a few weeks in advance.  I am not letting him take jelly sandwiches every day.  In fact, we are on day #4 of school and he just took his first one!  I hope to be able to do a back-to-school post on lunches to send soon.  I'm still a work in progress in that department.

Last night we tried a new teriyaki marinade for our beef to make beef stir fry.  It was great and is definitely a keeper!  In keeping with our eating healthier plan and avoiding GMO products, we used organic canola oil and soy sauce.  As with any stir fry, you can throw whatever vegetables in there you'd like.  This time we added mushrooms, pea pods, bean sprouts, and carrots to go with the beef. Enjoy!

Beef Teriyaki
Source:  Pretty as a Peach (adapted)

1/4 c. canola oil
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/8 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. garlic (add more if you like)
1/4 t. ginger
1/3 c. pineapple juice
1 lb. flank steak

Mix together.  Cut up flank steak and place in a Ziploc bag.  Pour in marinade and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  In a wok, heat oil.  Add carrots and cook about ten minutes.  Add mushrooms and beef.  Cook until meat is light pink.  Add pea pods and bean sprouts.  Cook a few minutes longer until they are to desired tenderness.  Serve over rice.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Crockpot Monday (a day late!) Dairy-free BBQ Meatballs

Yesterday was the most productive day I've had in the kitchen in a long time.  It's amazing what I can get done when the Queen Bee takes a three hour nap and Grandma takes the little guy for the day.  I think I need one of those days at least once a month!  I was able to make some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin muffins to store in the freezer for lunches and I tried a new recipe for homemade BBQ sauce and meatballs.  

Today I thought I'd share the delicious dairy-free BBQ meatballs we had for dinner.  It takes some time to prep, but it is worth it!  If you find yourself with some time on the weekend, you can make these meatballs and freeze them for later use.  Making the BBQ sauce ahead of time and keeping that in the refrigerator will also reduce your time the day you'd like to make the meal.


1 lb. lean ground beef
1 egg
2 T. water
1/2 c. bread crumbs (I used Panko)
1/4 c. minced onion (I omitted)
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

Mix together all ingredients put the ground beef until bound together.  Add ground beef in chunks and mash with hands until all mixed up.  Roll into balls 1 inch in diameter.  Place on a jelly roll pan prepared with parchment paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minute or no longer pink in the center.  Cool and place in crockpot or freeze.

BBQ Sauce
Source:  Food Network (adapted)

2 cups ketchup (I used Annie's homegrown organic)
1 c. water
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
5 T. light brown sugar
5 T. sugar
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. ground mustard
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. Worcestershire sauce

In a medium sauce pan, combine all ingredients and cover.  Bring to a boil.  Turn town and simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes uncovered stirring frequently.

Crockpot Meatballs and BBQ Sauce

Place meatballs in crockpot.  Using a large spoon, scoop in BBQ sauce until meatballs are covered.  I used about half of the sauce that I made.  Cook on low for 2 hours if using freshly made meatballs.  If using frozen, cook on low for 4 hours.

24 Meatballs Ready to Bake

BBQ Sauce

Friday, August 9, 2013

Back to School Prep #1: Breakfast

Back to school is right around the corner!  I'm not feeling quite as apprehensive as I was last year, but the Mama Bear in me still likes it when all of my kids are at home under my roof and supervision.  I know they need to grow their wings, but it still makes a mama sad that her kiddos are growing up!  I thought I'd share a few series of posts entitled Back to School Prep.  I'd like to tackle breakfast, lunch, and of course, some sweet treats!

With school comes hectic mornings, especially in those first few weeks.  Getting everyone ready and out the door can be a challenge, so why not make breakfast a little easier?  Since we are working on cleaning up our eating, I wanted to make some homemade goodies to put in the freezer to supplement our usual oatmeal or cereal breakfasts (organic cereal is expensive and not an option every day if we're going to stay on budget!).  

Today I thought I'd share some make-ahead recipes that you can freeze and either pull out the night before you need them or throw it in the toaster in the morning.  Pair them with fresh fruit or a smoothie and your kiddo will be ready to tackle the day and learn (we hope!).  As always, the recipes I share are free of peanuts and tree nuts.     

Bottom left to right:  Cinnamon Zucchini, Banana Chocolate Chip, and Fresh Blueberry Muffins

All of the recipes can be found by clicking the name except the Cinnamon Zucchini...they're new (and a huge hit!).  I'll share the recipe with you today.  Included in the waffle post is also another recipe for a lighter zucchini muffin.  I hope you enjoy and save some time during the morning rush!

Cinnamon Zucchini Muffins
Source: (adapted)

2/3 c. canola oil (I found a great organic canola oil on Amazon)
2 large eggs
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 c. finely shredded zucchini
*sugar/cinnamon mix for topping

In a mixing bowl, beat together oil, eggs, sugars, and vanilla until smooth.  Add in remaining dry ingredients and stir until blended.  Fold in zucchini.  Place in a muffin tin lined with papers.  Top with cinnamon and sugar mix.  Bake at 375 degrees for 16-20 minutes.