HOW TO GET DINNER ON THE TABLE

PHOTO CREDIT: SERENA & LILY

It’s currently 4 o’clock as I sit down to write this blog post and in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I’ve got to bust this out so I can get dinner on the table!” I’m sure you can relate. It’s the burning 4 o’clock question you get from either your spouse or your kiddos, “What’s for dinner?” and the reason that exact question made it into the planner everyday . . . so we wouldn’t cringe when they asked, but rather had an answer. But how does one make it happen at least 5 out of 7 days? Below are a few pointers and a few yummy recipes to help you pull it off each week.

The obvious-meal plan. Try to make it a habit to sit down at the same time each week and plan your meals. I even take it one step further and grocery shop at the same time each week. I love Trader Joe’s on a Monday morning at 8am . . . right after school drop off and when they open and are fully stocked, it helps get me in and out, ready to conquer the week!

Prep. Ok, the obvious time to prep before your week starts is Sunday. But let’s keep it real here. While Sunday is the Sabbath, it’s also the year 2018 and (unfortunately!) other things are happening on Sundays . . . like sports! (Ugh! It’s a big hot button with me when I get our volleyball schedule and half of the tournaments land on Sunday . . . I often wonder if that’s why God has us at a church where Saturday evening is an option! No excuses for us!). Ok, back to prep. If you’d rather be hanging with your family on Sunday and not in the kitchen, make it happen another day. Maybe it’s your Monday morning or evening thing. Who says it has to happen on Sunday? Just do the prep so you take the guesswork out of weekday cooking.

Look at your schedule and plan accordingly. For example, our daughter has volleyball practice 3 nights a week, which means she needs to eat right at 5 (God forbid she gets a side-ache! :-). Seeing that our afternoons are packed with work and other activities, we need easy meals those nights. There is always a Crockpot meal one night a week as well as meals that take little to no prep (I gave you a few of those recipes below!).

Leftovers. Incorporating at least one night of leftovers can help you get dinner on the table each night. This doesn’t mean you are having the same meal two nights in a row. You are just re-creating an ingredient. An example of this is when I make chicken taco meat in the Crockpot one night (that is a bag of Organic frozen chicken breasts and a jar of salsa verde from Trader Joe’s, on low for 8 hours. Easy). The first night we will make tacos, but then the second night the chicken might complete a taco salad, taco soup or an easy chicken enchilada recipe (recipes below). Or maybe you are grilling steak. Grill extra and make a yummy steak salad or steak fajitas the next night.

*These yummy enchiladas are great with leftover Crockpot Chicken Tacos (recipe above). We unfortunately can’t have them anymore since we aren't doing gluten or dairy, but they used to be a leftover staple in our house. Instead we like to use our chicken in this amazing Taco Soup from SkinnyTaste.

Accountability! Another way to insure you are getting dinner on your table is by joining an online Facebook group or challenge. This is so easy to do through social media. There are thousands of choices but my very favorite is through the Cara Clark Nutrition community. Her challenges are super doable (yet challenging! As she says, if it’s not challenging, it’s not going to be effective!). But what I love most about her challenges are they keep our family’s eating on track. Right when I’m about to get bored of our go-to meals, it’s time for the next challenge and new recipes. Her “Spring into Summer” Challenge started on April 7th . . . but it’s never to late to join! And she even shared one of her favorite recipes with all of you below. 

One Pan Wonder Taco Bowls
Serves 2

2 teaspoons avocado oil
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
8 ounces shrimp or chopped chicken *vegetarian: omit meat
½ cup black beans
1 cup sliced bell peppers (red, yellow, orange and green)
¼ cup sliced onion (or more if you prefer)
2 Tablespoons taco seasoning (be sure you’re choosing a clean version)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup rice (brown, wild or jasmine)
Handful of chopped spinach
¼ avocado sliced
Optional toppings: clean salsa, cilantro, chopped tomatoes

In a pan, sauté oil and garlic for 2 minutes.  Add chicken/shrimp, beans, peppers, onion, seasonings, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Check to see that meat is cooked thoroughly. Serve over prepared rice, handful of spinach, avocado and your choice of optional toppings.

I made these bowls and they were so good. We did make ours vegetarian so we added kidney beans to the recipe and more avocado and I used my favorite clean seasoning (2T cumin, 1t paprika, 1/2t cayenne pepper, 1/2t onion powder, 1/2t garlic powder, 1/4t black pepper).

We hope that these tips allow you to create more margin in your life so you have time for what really matters; like getting dinner on the table more often and reaping the reward of extra family time each week. We'd love to know some of your favorite mid-week recipes . . . just leave them below!

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God.
1 CORINTHIANS 10:31

 

YOUR ORGANIZED & HEALTHY PANTRY

Many of you journeyed through our kitchen remodel in the fall via Instagram stories and I FINALLY got to organizing it! After 13 years in our house, we decided it was time to remodel our kitchen for two reasons: more pantry space and more light (it was so dark!). We didn't have the option to add more cabinets or space so we had to get creative. We moved appliances around, bailed on the microwave (those take up so much space!) and focused on function along with all the ways to bring more light into our space (under cabinet lights and light countertops, cabinets and backsplash were key to this!). But back to the pantry . . . we decided to make it more of a "working pantry," meaning, we have all of our appliances in it behind closed doors and even added our countertops inside because we had extra from our slab (but just a tip, if this isn't an option for you, we were going to do butcher block which I think would have been just as pretty). See the closed pantry below. 

We kicked off 2018 with some other changes in our kitchen, specifically, what we are putting in our bodies. My daughter was diagnosed with a gluten and dairy sensitivity at the beginning of 2017, and I came to realize that this past year we have been eating the same ten things over and over again.The biggest problem with those ten meals was they had very little nutrients in them. This happened namely because our "go-to meals" were not an option for us anymore.  And many of our "go-to meals" were from Cara Clark's cookbooks and Dr. Furhman's Eat to Live cookbook, both focusing on high nutrient foods. I knew we had to get high nutrient foods back in our diet and one way we could do it was to have the healthy food visible and accessible.

My great friend, Stephanie, has a serious gift in organization so she helped me navigate this project. Knowing my end goal of healthy eating, she knew clear glass containers would be a good fit for our family. She said when you open the pantry and see the healthy stuff right at eye level (looking pretty!), you tend to reach for it! And I couldn't agree more! The glass containers are from Target and they come in a set of 4 (for $21.99). I didn't us the largest container in the kitchen, but put it to use in my office to organize our crafts. The labels were so easy to apply and are totally custom and available at this Etsy shop! The baskets contain many things I don't use on a day to day basis and those are also all from Target. And in case you are wondering, all of my spices and canned goods are on the other side of the kitchen, next to our stove.

As far as all of our snacks (we love our snacks over here!), they are in three out of the six drawers. The other drawers hold our glass containers, bowls, mixer, baking pans, etc. 

Our bigger bags of snacks go in the big drawers and I keep the unopened bags in one drawer, and the opened in another.

I do feel that we are eating so much healthier now that our pantry has some order in it. Our last pantry was so small that the healthy stuff would get pushed to the back and the not so healthy stuff always found its way to the front. Drawers help this as does shelving that isn't too deep. Another bonus to an organized pantry is I want to keep it clean and since everything has it's own place, it's so much easier to do so! And you know what less time in the kitchen gives you? More time with God! :-) 

A few more pics below . . .  

Making Time With God Doable when You’re In a Funk

Funks happen. Days we feel off, and no chocolate or Netflix binge can turn things around. The reason behind our funks could be as simple as not getting enough sleep, absorbing enough sunlight, or eating enough veggies. But oftentimes the root lies much deeper, where psychological, emotional, or relational issues are to blame.

And there’s nothing new under the “funk” sun; people have been getting into funks since forever. Jonah got super down when God didn’t destroy Nineveh. Jeremiah wished he was never born. David couldn’t even be pulled up off the ground at one point. And Jesus, He was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 KJV).

I once experienced a two-year period of funkdom (as my dad would call it). I was living on the other side of the country, far away from cultural familiarity, lifelong friends, and my large family. The decision to move was for our good, to give our kids a “country experience” and to perhaps set ourselves up financially so we could retire with ease one day. But the initial excitement soon turned sour, and whether I was grieving my old life or couldn’t handle the humidity (not sure the exact reason for my funk), I wasn’t having any of it. 

After repeated episodes of sobbing on the floor of my closet, cat in one hand and phone calling mom in the other, I came to the conclusion: who is there but God to turn to, who besides Him has the desire, patience, and ability to comfort me? So I redirected my tears and replaced (most) of my closet shenanigans with a daily quiet time—more like cry time—where I made a fool out of myself before God, desperately clinging to Him and His every Word. This was something I scheduled every morning out of necessity—same time, same place, same funk.

And you know what came out my quiet times with the Creator of the universe? A love for my new town? No. An instantaneous move back “home”? Not for two years. A less sassy attitude about my circumstances? I wish. Rather, God told me He loved me. Not just any ol’ declaration of love, but take the most romantic, heartfelt, time-stopping, nurturing, Charles Ingalls/Colin Firth “I love you” you’ve ever heard in a movie or read in a book—and multiply by 50 thousand. It was as though I felt God’s heart burst for me. And I discovered for the first time that His “unfailing love [really] is better than life” (Psalm 63:3).

Sweet friend, I sure hope you’re not in a funk today. But if something petty is bugging you or something too-complex-for-words is tormenting you, get alone with God and call to Him in your distress. And because of your funk, you’ll find yourself receptive to His I-love-yous in ways you’ve never been before. I promise (more importantly, He promises), when you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
PSALMS 63:7-8 ESV