The K.I.S.S. Life – Cooking

By: Lydia Scott

With all the people and critters coming in and out of our home throughout the week and two full-time employed adults, meals can be a big ol’ pain the patooty. I used to come home from work and stand my 300-pound frame in the kitchen for two hours to cook fancy meals five to six nights a week. I know, I know…the stove heat melted my brain and I wasn’t thinking straight. Or at all. Sheesh! But in my quest to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid – as my daddy used to say), and get healthy, I needed to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with family and exercise. Thus began the weekly menu routine.

Woohoo! Yes! Yay! Whee!!! I get to spend time EVERY STINKING WEEK creating a menu and then planning a grocery list from it. Can you sense my sarcasm there? Ha! While it’s not my favorite thing to do, it serves a very valuable purpose: it keeps me sane, thus making other people happy. Sane and happy are both good, right? I’m still on the fence about that.

Here’s the big challenge for me. First, we don’t do the pre-boxed dinner kind of meal, because it’s against whatever religion I need to say I am to make that a reality. We will go a little crazy sometimes with taco night and use canned Spanish rice and such, but I die a little inside when it happens. Second, a minimum of two dinners must be teenagers-who-don’t-love-cooking friendly. We don’t believe in kids who do nothing being waited on by adults who do it all. Sorry folks…everyone pulls their weight in this house! If you can reach the sink, you can cook something. Anyhow, this means the recipes must have not more than about five steps and five or six ingredients, and nothing that requires (much) concentration. Those dishes that require you to “stir constantly for twenty minutes?” Um…no. Not gonna happen, at least not with an edible result.

The more experienced teen (Rae-Rae) gets the more detailed recipes. Now, I have tried asking them come up with what they want to cook on their own, but we quickly tired of barbecue sauce chicken breasts and tacos. And keep in mind, we have both internet and a kitchen stocked with twenty or more cookbooks. They just aren’t into the chef-thing like I was as a teen. But, the kids will be popular in college because they will know how to make eggs, burgers, casseroles, and pancakes, while their friends struggle not to burn the ramen. They will also know how to make a grocery list based on what they’re going to eat and how much cash they have. Wooo! See? We try to make it sound exciting!

So, Saturday mornings are my quiet time to pull out the iPad, the notebook, the Tonka (okay, she kind of forces her way in), the grocery list from the fridge, my coffee, and a pen – preferably in a pretty color, because I’m silly that way. And then I open my email for links I’ve sent myself for recipes I stumble across that fall in our dietary range, go to great recipe sites, and check out my Kroger app to see what’s on sale. Then I mix it all together to come up with our menu, along with who’s cooking and who gets to clean the kitchen.

menu planning

menu planning

We also have a night or two devoted to my favorite: FFY – Fend For Yourself. Eat what you find and leave no mess behind. Good times!

Then using the list of items that need replenishing, the recipes, and a quick supply inventory, The List is created. And yeah, I could use phone apps and such, but I prefer not to have to haul my phone or tablet around in the store. So, I write out my list, organized by categories that make sense to me and the store layout, because it helps me forget fewer things. This way, I only leave off two items, instead of twenty.

menu planning

Sometimes I leave more room in the menu later in the week with the cop out of “T.B.D.” because I either can’t come up with something or I have a feeling I’ll prefer to play it by ear. Also, the menu is not written in stone. Stuff comes up (like laziness, for example) and sometimes we switch nights or just do something totally different. Also, Big D’s (my hubby) schedule is really iffy, since he is a security alarm technician with a lot of his work happening later in the day. I don’t usually write him in on the cooking schedule, because often he’s not home until after dinnertime. But he winds up cooking dinner about once a week, usually when I need a break the most, because he’s awesome that way!

That’s all for now, because it’s Saturday morning and as you saw, my grocery list sure ain’t done, so I gotta get to it! PLEASE feel more than free to leave me some comments to share ideas and tips for getting more K.I.S.S. in our lives!

Life After Cancer Treatment

By: Katie Austin

While battling the big “C” four years ago, I quit doing almost everything.  I put all that I loved to do aside so that I could focus my energy to rid myself of this demon.  After treatment was over and I was declared to be in full remission (applause!), the challenge for me was, what next?  What am I going to do now with my life?  Will I ever be normal again?

faith

What I discovered is that I was so focused on fighting my cancer that once the treatment was over, I wanted to jump right back into the pool of life and do EVERYTHING that I had stopped doing. I got back out onto the competitive volleyball court (physically wasn’t ready), worked long hours at the computer and went back to college (mentally wasn’t ready), and put aside all of the emotions that come with fighting cancer. I was able to keep things going for a few years, myself going all the time and everyone around me thinking that I am happy, doing well and on the road to a complete recovery.  What I didn’t see coming happened this year.

Sometimes it takes just one situation to bring everything to a complete stop. A good friend of mine at work recently passed away from cancer.  I was devastated.  Two years ago, when she returned to work after beating colon cancer the first time, we would spend time talking about diet, foods we found that helped to offset the side effects we were experiencing, and how excited we were to be in remission.  I hadn’t seen her for almost a year after her cancer came back.  When I heard of her passing, I collapsed at my desk, in shock, as I couldn’t believe she was gone. I wouldn’t be walking the first lap of next year’s Relay for Life with her.  Our talks were gone.  My friend was gone.

I went to her funeral the following Sunday to say good-bye and remember the beautiful spirit that had come into my life. This was the icing on the cake, the straw that broke the camel’s back, the card on the house of cards that would tumble everything downward.

I was depressed.  I wasn’t happy and I had to stop long enough to allow myself time to heal.  Plain and simple.  I hadn’t dealt with the emotions that come with fighting cancer and the fear that it could come back that will be with me forever. I needed to find out what my new normal was.

“If you are always trying to be normal,

you will never know how amazing you can be”

–Maya Angelou

I am making small changes to my diet, adding exercise to my routine, and staying active. When those emotions come out, I allow myself time to process them.  I am re-prioritizing things in my life so that my focus is where it needs to be.  My health was farther down on the list than I thought it was.  How can I do all the things I want to do if I am not healthy?  What was I thinking??

What I learned is that life after cancer is a process.  I am not where I want to be, but I have to be ok with where I am right now.  It’s about taking small steps to make small changes that will become lifetime changes.  More to come on this in my next blog post. 🙂

For those fighting cancer, I am praying for you and sending many well wishes your way!  Remember to stay in the moment and allow your body time to heal and rest. Remember that this is a process.  I wanted to share a link from the National Cancer Institute (below) that found to be helpful in my healing process.

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/life-after-treatment.pdf

Wishing each of you a great day and I look forward to seeing you back on the Every Woman Blog!

~ Katie Austin

Cauliflower Alfredo – How’s THAT for Change?

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

A few weeks ago, my boss and I were coming back from a lunch meeting when he chimed in about change.

“Nobody wants change. They all want to keep doing things the way they’ve always done them,” he said. “I give you credit for changing from an iPhone to an Android, but you don’t much like change either.”

Hold the phone! Granted, my boss only sees me at work, but I would say that I, especially over the past few years, have embraced change. I’ve changed my entire lifestyle to add early and regular exercise to my life. I’ve all but given up processed and fast food, and I’ve learned how to cook clean and healthy. And even now that I’ve “taken the leap,” I continue to experiment with new foods, recipes and healthy changes.

Caulfredo

Speaking of change, this weekend I tried a great new recipe from one of my favorite blogs Oh She Glows: Vegan Cauli-Power Fettuccine Alfredo. The base of the sauce is cauliflower, and it was delicious. I highly recommend it! Its a change you’ll love to try!

Please Pass the Magic Eight Ball

By: Lara Winburn

Recently, a friend said that she hated deciding what her family was going to eat for dinner. I concurred that when I win the lottery that is the first order of business- someone to make that decision every day. (Yes, I said when because, well you know, decision makingpower of positive thinking.) Anyway, I started thinking about why I hated this part my day so much. My family is not picky and they do not have high expectations…here’s to setting the bar low.

I hate this decision because it is the 9,742,303rd decision of the day.

I am exhausted by these decisions we are faced with from the time we get up to the time our decision-making, weary eyes finally shut. All of this decision-making is my least favorite part of being a grown-up…that and putting away laundry. (I mean, I am totally fine with washing and folding but why is there never room for it in my drawers?)

For me, decision number one starts with what my daughter is going to wear to school that pleases the fashion sense of a three-year-old and meets the weather predictions of the day. These decisions continue until those precious minutes at night when all is quiet and I must decide whether I should do a little joy reading or throw in a load of never ending laundry. This may sound small, but it is taxing all the same. I want to make the right decisions as an employee, wife, daughter, mom and heck, even a productive member of society. Should I work through lunch at work? Is it better to spend some time at the gym? Or should I just go ahead and make my way over to the grocery store to try to avoid that “hardest” decision at the end of the day? Is a chicken nugget bad for kids if it means we get more play time? Does the baby need to go to the doctor or is that rash going to go away before I make an appointment? Trying to make many decisions and all the while, just trying to cause the least damage to my family, my job and anything else in my decision wake.

So my husband suggested a way to deal with this “decision crisis,” to possibly avoid guilt, apprehension, and second guessing. Unfortunately, he did not suggest eliminating the decisions all together. Instead, he suggested trying to determine with each choice what is the worst thing that can happen? Now this may sound pessimistic, but truly it is not. For example, if I choose that book I have been wanting to read over laundry – will everyone have clean underwear or, worst case, will we be looking at bathing bottoms as under garments? If we wear rain boots to school and it never rains, worst case scenario – we have sweaty feet but not a complex. You would not believe how liberating I have found this to be. I mean, most of these decisions will not result in ruined childhoods or therapy sessions.

As some of you know, most of the time I am trying to embrace the chaos. So in that chaos comes these grown-up decisions, some trivial and some life-changing. As I weigh my options, I will continue to think through the worst thing that can happen. Guess what? Most of time that worst thing really isn’t that bad. Who knows – it might even be one of life’s happy accidents. Or if the decision making process and the worst case scenario doesn’t work, you may just hear me say “please pass the Magic Eight Ball.”

 

What’s Your Motivation?

By: Shannon Shull

Motivation is a key to success. What motivates a lion in the wild to chase down and devour a deer? Hunger! Like a lion in the wild, we all have a hunger of some sort. Hopefully in the case of us humans, we have a hunger to succeed in some way. Since we are human, we require motivation  to pursue something. As a lover of the Arts, I am motivated to teach so that I can share this passion and the fulfillment it can bring to one’s life. To me, motivation is desire. It’s what helps us take action.

Sunflowers

Whether a case of desiring a full, satisfied belly, or in my case, teaching others about the Arts, or in the case of a student, taking action simply because they want a good grade to get their parents off their back, motivation is a powerful thing.  If you’re a smart teacher, you will use positive motivational strategies that not only motivate your students to have a desire to do what you need them to, but allow them to see the rewards of their motivation and embrace it.  In the world of the dramatic arts, we are motivated to put on an incredible show. We want to entertain our audience and want to hear their applause. Fortunately for some, that is motivation enough. But in the real world, though most may be motivated to do things for the attention, it’s not always for the right reasons.

Think about what motivates you…is your motivational strategy in life positive?  Whether with career, family, health, education, etc, are you motivated for positive reasons to bring fulfillment to your life or is your motivation really not so positive when you really look at it? Is your motivation really to hurt someone else? Is your motivation to just survive and make money to pay the bills, though you’re miserable in your job?  Is your motivation ugly in nature at its base? Check yourself and re-evaluate. Please. Your life will be fuller and happier if your motivation is deep seeded in positivity.

Can we teach others motivational strategies? YES!! In my career, I am motivated by a desire to be the best teacher that I can be. Therefore, I feel that it is my responsibility to use motivational strategies in such a way that my students can recognize the benefits not only in the moment but down the road, as they grow into adults that must stay motivated to survive this harsh, competitive world.  I consistently show my students how the Arts can benefit them in life. Whether it’s utilizing the tools in the Actor’s Toolbox or understanding that a storyboard is a communication tool, I will always try my best to show my students the purpose of a lesson, and how they should take advantage of it and allow it to motivate them to become better, more successful people.

So as human beings who really want to strive to be outstanding and utilize motivation to achieve fulfillment in our lives, we can not only lead by example but share our own personal motivational strategies. We hear incredible success stories all the time about how someone has lost enormous amounts of weight. Their motivation was to live a healthier life. To be physically fit and feel good about how they look, as well as feel good on the inside. We hear stories of amazing strength in which someone defies death because of a motivation to see their loved ones again.  I think we’ve all heard about or maybe even experienced that level of motivation.

So in an effort to be a good example and provide some motivation, I challenge you to rethink your “real” goals in life and your motivation for reaching those goals. Do you have a strategy?  Is your motivation rooted in positivity? Is motivation even present?  As they say in the acting world, “What is your motivation??”  Be brave and share with us what you’ve discovered after doing a thorough check on what really motivates you!

Looking For A Mate

By: Chaunte McClure

I saw a photo of this really cute wall plaque in my Facebook feed recently that read “Clean. Single. Looking for a mate.”

Sounds like a personal ad on a dating site, right? Well, I chuckled when I read it because one, I could relate and two, it had nothing to do with a bachelor or bachelorette in search of a companion.

Most women should probably at least consider owning one of these plaques, or some variation of it, regardless of their marital status, because the sign is referring to socks. Yes, socks!

Laundry

It happens to most of us on laundry day. We sort, wash, dry, fold, and stuff. But one of the most frustrating parts of doing the laundry for me is when I pick up the same sock two or three times in hopes of finding a match for the one in my other hand.

Why is it that when we do laundry, we always end up with socks that don’t have a mate? Do they get trapped in the washer or dryer? Where do they go? Perhaps only one sock makes it to the hamper? I don’t know, maybe you can help me solve this mystery. I have a wad of single socks stuffed into a mateless sock, hoping, like a lot of single ladies, one day they’ll meet their match.

If you don’t have this issue with socks when you do laundry, please tell the rest of us how you keep them together.

Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Cookies

By: Brady Evans

I’ve got a cookie monster of a husband. For a while I gladly made him cookies. I made him chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, nut-filled cookies. He requested chocolate chip cookies most often, though. It didn’t take long before I was tired of using my precious cooking time to make the same boring recipe over and over again.

So I began purchasing him cookies at the grocery store and generally only bought whatever was on sale. One week shortbread cookies were on sale and he fell in love with the sweet, slightly salty, crumbly texture. I began to brainstorm about making these cookies here at home. I could add a variety of mix-ins and no eggs were required, making them really easy to whip up regardless of the grocery situation!

I added a total of 1 cup of mix-ins to Ina Garten’s shortbread recipe so I encourage you to either make my recipe adaptation or come up with a new concoction of your own!

Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Cookies (adapted from Ina Garten)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.  Add in nuts and dried cranberries and mix on low until thoroughly combined.
  3. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into 2 cookie logs, 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Cut 1/2 inch cookies with a sharp knife.
  6. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.