Finding Fulfillment in Eating Healthy

Why is it whenever I see a recipe for something “healthy,” I immediately think “tasteless, boring, yuk?” And it’s not that I don’t eat healthy and don’t enjoy most of it. It’s just this predisposed belief makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up whenever I hear things like “whole wheat,” “whole grain,” or how about “low-fat.” Ewwww, a chill just went down my spine.

Still, eating healthy isn’t a choice as you get older, it’s got to be a life style. The alternative would be a regiment of prescription medications, continual doctor visits, obesity, and probably a long list of ailments just waiting to put you 6 feet under. I have been painfully aware of this for years because I’ve watched as my parents have let themselves go and have become slaves to their ailiing bodies and forced into a sedentary life because they neither have the energy or ability to get around like they used to. I do not want this to happen to me or Hubby.

For these reasons I have been making life-style changes for years that have kept us fairly healthy, very active, and pretty fit. I cannot say I could run a marathon, or around the block for that matter, but I do exercise, walk regularly, and make sure I am not sitting on the couch eating bon bons more than is reasonable. Hubby is far more disciplined when it comes to the workout, so he might be able to run around the block, but then what would that really prove. What’s important here is that we are healthy and able to maintain the life we currently enjoy throughout the next 30 or so years.

One thing that works a bit in our disfavor is that I really love to cook. And when I say I love to cook, I’m not saying that I like making dinner every night. No, I like to get in the kitchen, try new recipes, work with unique ingredients, duplicate meals that intrigue us when we go out, and really go all out when I make anything. Not many people know this, but when I was contemplating what to study after high school and planning my college schedule, the one career that I truly wanted was in culinary arts. Well, choices I made and paths that I followed did not allow this to be. I moved out on my own and needed to work full-time which left no time for taking classes in culinary arts.

Looking back, however, I realize that I never gave up on this dream. Not that I took cooking classes or anything, but from the day I moved out on my own, one of my favorite things to do has been to cook and I taught myself as best I could. I had a cookbook collection of more than 100 books that I accumulated and studied over and now I can honestly say that one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life is cooking for my family. I cannot imagine that cooking in a restaurant for strangers would be more fulfilling. How could it? My family means more to me than anything and being able to share with them something that I truly love and have them appreciate it — well, it don’t get much better than that.

This aging thing though has been putting a bit of a damper on my cooking. So many recipes, so little time. Well not really. What the problem is, is there are so many recipes that threaten to make us fat, and I want to make them all. Yes, everything in moderation and yes, sometimes I even have to break down and make something — dare I say it — healthy. Ewwww, there goes that chill again. But in order to maintain a healthy life we need to live a healthy life and that includes eating healthy.

One healthy ingredient that I don’t mind using (especially in cookies) is oatmeal. So when I saw a recipe for a refrigerator oatmeal for quick breakfasts, I knew that one day it would end up in my arsenal. Just a few weeks ago I finally played around with the recipe a bit and found that I really liked it. It was easy to make, easy to eat, and very tasty. If you’d like to check out how to make this, I posted the recipe on Simply Grateful Cooking https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/overnight-refrigerator-oatmeal/.

I have noticed that in the past couple of years when I find a recipe I want to try, I look at alternatives to some of the not-so-healthy ingredients of some of them. This way, even if the recipe might not start out the healthiest, I can make it healthier by changing it up a little. Actually though, just by eliminating eating out, eating processed food, and keeping junk food to a minimum, our health levels have improved drastically, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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An Early Taste of Spring

Michigan weather has got to be the most fickle weather around. One day we can have three inches of snow on the ground and temperatures below 20 degrees and the next it’s sunny, not a sign of snow left on the ground other than the quickly drying melted puddles, and the temperatures exceed 60 degrees. This was the case this past weekend.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all beautiful and borderline warm. The highest temps were reached on Saturday when we hit a balmy 62 degrees late in the afternoon. Kids were outside playing, some even in shorts; dogs were being walked; joggers were tearing up the pavement; and I spent some time working on my garden plans for this coming spring.

Of course the weatherman has now predicted that between tomorrow and Thursday we are supposed to get somewhere between 8 and 12 inches of snow. Really!? But then again, why should I be so surprised, this is Michigan after all.

Oh well, at least when it’s cold and snowy I can try to play catch up on blog posts and laundry, that is if the family isn’t up for a family movie night or something like that. Either way, I can definitely whip up some https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/quick-easy-chocolate-lava-cakes/ to warm us all from the inside out. Check out my latest post at Simply Grateful Cooking.

Cold and snow once again on the way and spring is still a little ways off, that’s okay. Michigan weather is a lot like life — always changing — and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Too Many Choices

When I try a new recipe, quite often I will make several variations in the hopes that one will be the “clear winner” that the entire family can agree on. In a perfect world, this might happen, but I don’t live in a perfect world.

Every time I make more than one sauce, dip, flavor, or basically give the family a “choice,” the results are all over the spectrum. Hubby will like one, Grace will like another, Zeb will like them all, and I’ll either not like any of them or one that no one else does.

Is this one of Murphy’s Laws or something? I swear, for as often as this happens, there has got to be some rule in the cosmos that I’m not aware of, but a victim of each and every time.

Knowing that offering choices opens the door for someone, everyone, to shoot down one or all of my attempts, sounds pretty stupid when I think about it. Really now, how often does Hubby give me options when he heads out to mow the lawn.

It’s not like he asks, “Do you want me to cut it on the diagonal, straight up and down, across, or perhaps mow your name in it this time?” No, he just goes out and does it. Well, actually Zeb mows the lawn, but when Hubby did mow the lawn, he never offered me any options.

Seeing as no one else thinks to give me “choices,” why is it I feel compelled to do so?

Well, let me tell you why?  I want everyone to like what I make. Is this so wrong?

Maybe not, but at the same time I need to keep myself grounded and not get my feelings hurt every time someone gives me their honest opinion and tells me they don’t like what I’ve made. Most days I can handle a little constructive criticism. There are some days though…

The day I spent, or two days really, making roasted pork tamales I made three different sauces to serve with them. Check out my post https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/tamale-sauces-in-tillys-test-kitchen/ at Simply Grateful Cooking. Once again, true to form, the family could not agree on a clear winner. Still, this could actually work out in my favor in the long run, because although they could not agree on which one was the best, they liked all of them. This means I pretty much have three different meals in my arsenal to serve. I certainly won’t be serving them all in the same week or anything, but if I make tamales once every month or so using a different sauce each time, I doubt the family will get tired or bored of this meal,

So, I guess offering choices can work in my favor every once in a while too, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Catching Up Is Officially Out Of The Question

I want a secretary!

NO, I NEED A SECRETARY.

I am either the most incapable blogger out there or maybe I’m inept at everything I do and blogging is finally bringing to light the fact that I really don’t have any potential for success at anything.

Why is it I have more blog posts on my “Blogs To Do List” than I’ve got posted on my blog since I began nearly two years ago? There really doesn’t seem to be an end in sight here. No sooner do I finish a post, than there are at least two more I want to post from what I’ve done or what happened that day.

I literally have a file box filled with 3 x 5 index cards, each with an idea, recipe, or happening for a post. At the same time I started blogging, I started this box. I thought I would keep ideas in this box on the slim chance I ran out of current ideas to write about. Well, it turns out that I haven’t run out of things to write about. The only thing I’ve run out of is time to write my posts.

If I were to write one post every day I might catch up by say 2018, late November or early December, but then we’re going on the assumption here that nothing else happens or no new recipes are explored between now and then. Plus, I’d have to commit to write a post each and every day, come hell or high water. The chances of this happening…well, I’d put it right up there with the chances of me EVER catching up on my blog posts.

What’s worse is that many of the notes I’ve made, recipes I’ve tried, posts I decided just had to be done, are history. Yep, history. I can’t remember the gory details of what I was doing at that particular time. My scribbles might be illegible, my notes cryptic, or my recollection gone. I swear I’ve read a few of the note cards and if I didn’t recognize my handwriting, I’d swear someone just threw it in there to confuse me — like I need any help there.

This could be frustrating, if it wasn’t so scary. I mean, where in the world did all these ideas come from anyway. Some cards have just a word on them, while others have both the front and back completely filled with teeny, tiny writing, and still, I haven’t a clue as to what I was thinking. I suppose I must have jotted down a word in a rush, assuming it would spark a memory that at the moment seemed clever or useful, but a year or more later it’s just a word without any meaning attached to it.

Of course there are a lot of note cards that have great meaning, wonderful meaning, meaning that if I had the time — or that darn secretary — could become a great post. But here I am wallowing in self-pity over not having the time or at the moment inclination to play catch-up.

I’m not a complete loser though. I did make a post this evening on Simply Grateful Canning for Canning Fresh Enchilada Sauce that I put on my to do list back in August 2015. It is definitely a “catch-up” post, but also timely because it relates to the post I made yesterday for https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/roasted-pork-tamales-a-dish-not-to-be-taken-lightly/ on Simply Grateful Cooking. Perhaps that’s how this is going to have to go. When I have a current post related somehow to a post on my “to do list,” I can pull out my note card and finally do it. Otherwise, I fear I’ll be throwing out all these cards because sooner or later I’m going to forget what each and every one of them is about. Of course I’m working on the assumption here that I can actually remember that I have a post on my “to do list” that somehow relates to a current event. Yeah, like that’s going to happen on a regular basis.

Oh, and by the way, the file box I have for my note cards is only wide enough to hold about 300 cards, but I have a stack at least 300 cards thick sitting on top of it as well. Granted, some of the ideas take up more than one card, but honestly! Do I really have that many interesting recipes, stories, or epiphanies to share? I guess I must have thought so at the time, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have wasted the note cards on them. Looking at them now however I can’t imagine anyone being that full of useful information.

For now I’m going to take the file box and stack of file cards on top of it and stick them in a drawer. Having them sitting on the table staring at me, mocking me, reminding me of what now seems like an impossible task, is not doing anything for my mood. It has however inspired me to dream about putting an ad on Craig’s List for a secretary. Really now, how nice would that be?

Dreams are what keep us going and dreaming of my very own secretary that I could dictate my blog posts to as I meander through my day — wouldn’t that be wonderful, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Kitchen Burnout

I was nearing  the end of another long, tiring day on my feet in the kitchen. I’d started the prep work for this meal more than 24 hours earlier and with the kitchen a total disaster area, the end was not in sight. The aroma that filled the house that had once made my taste buds tingle, now made me want to hurl. I was exhausted, anxious, and regretting ever wanting to undertake such a labor-intensive endeavor. Yep, just another day in the life of this Simply Grateful Housewife.

Grace texted me from school, preparing to head out to dinner with friends, and casually asked how I was. Wrong question. She got a lot more than she wanted in response.

So, how are things going?

If this isn’t the best meal I’ve ever made, I am never cooking again. We can eat out every night from now until eternity!

I’m sure it will be, you worry too much.

So I sent her a picture.

Those look good.

Well it took me more than four hours to make them and I’m still working on sauces.

I’m sure it will be great.

It had better be or I’m NEVER cooking again! We can eat processed everything!

Ok, I understand.

I’m serious. I’ll quit.

Yes, my day had been a bit stressful. Making a new meal can be that way, especially when you’re unsure of how things are going to turn out and your main taste-tester (Grace) is out the house having a life.

Who said she was allowed to have a life anyway? Probably her father, he’s always undermining me in some way or other.

As much as I enjoy making new meals, typically I pick ones that I’ve tasted at one time or other. Not this particular day, not this particular meal. No one in our house had ever tasted it. No one had even considered ordering it off a menu. In fact, no one, besides myself, even had an idea of what this meal consisted of. I saw it on the Food Network (those darn heretics!). I really should smash every television in the house, or at the very least, cancel our cable.

So here I was, spending two days in the kitchen working on a meal that I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like, that no one who I was serving it to had any idea of what to expect, and now the mere smell of it was turning my stomach. Things were definitely not looking good.

I stood at the stove, mixing the ingredients for the final sauce I wanted to try, dreading the moment Hubby would be home and I’d have to start serving. The moment of truth was not something I looked forward to. If I hadn’t invested so much time and effort into this meal, I probably would have just scrapped it and heated up some leftovers. As it was, I pushed on.

When the last of the sauces were done and simmering on the stove, I took a moment and sought refuge on the couch in the great room. The aroma was everywhere so a reprieve from that was not to be found. I’d have snuck out for a walk but Hubby was expected at any moment. At least it would all be over soon.

I heard the groaning of the garage door as Hubby’s car turned into our driveway and he honked his horn so I could let Bell out to greet him. At the door I enjoyed a moment of fresh, cold air before following him into the kitchen where he exclaimed, “Something smells good.” That was a good sign. That was a start.

While Hubby changed from his work clothes and got comfortable, I put the pans of food on the table. I didn’t bother using serving dishes. I already had more than enough dishes to wash, dirtying more just for presentation purposes was not going to happen. I suppose there is some truth in the belief that “it’s all in the presentation” when it comes to how a meal is received, but at this point, I didn’t care. All I wanted was for this dinner to be over so I could clean the kitchen and hopefully rid the house of the aroma Hubby found so wonderful, and I found utterly unbearable.

Sitting in his spot Hubby asked, “So how do I eat this?” I served him, placing everything on his plate and explaining that I had three sauces for him to try. He decided to try the sauces one at a time. I then served Zeb and finally gave myself a very moderate portion. Then I waited.

Hubby ate heartily. He put bite after bite into his mouth, with no comment. I sat there, waiting.

Zeb dug in, lopping up the sauce I’d served him, without comment. I watched and waited.

Finally, it was too much. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I broke the silence, “Well???”

Hubby smiled. Yes, he was torturing me. He knew all too well that I was nervous about this meal. He knew I’d been working on it for nearly two days. He knew and yet he continued to drag it out, just to prolong this. Didn’t he realize that the fate of having a home cooked meal EVER again lay solely in his response? Didn’t he know that my very future as a housewife was at stake?

Of course he did. We’ve been married more than enough years for him to read me the moment I open the back door to let Bell out to greet him. He can tell by the way I stand, the position of my head, the look in my eyes, the tone in my voice — one look and he knows if he should come through the door or run for the hills. Today, as much as I thought the end of the world as I knew it was upon me, he knew everything was going to be fine and took full advantage of it.

Putting his fork down, Hubby covered my hand with his and said, “This is really good.”

Relief? I’m not sure that’s what I felt. At that point all feeling had left my body. I was numb and yet all I wanted to do was cry.

I turned to Zeb, who had not lifted his head from his plate, and asked him what he thought. He grunted a favorable response without missing a bite.

Hubby continued to assure me throughout the meal that it was “excellent” then “really good” and “you can definitely make this again.” That’s always a good indicator as to whether or not he truly likes something or not. Then he said it. The one thing that is the ultimate compliment Hubby will give, “This is definitely ‘company worthy.”

There it was. All my hard work was not for naught. I ate two bites, choking them down, and have to say it was pretty tasty. Hubby and Zeb definitely gave the meal their seal of approval. As for me, I don’t know that I’ll be able to eat a tamale or any Mexican food for that matter again. Just the thought is making my stomach churn.

Still, as much as the process might have been laborious and time-consuming, I do have enough tamales now frozen for two more meals. Three-for-one — not bad in the whole scheme of things. Should you want to give this fairly tedious meal a shot, check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking for https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/roasted-pork-tamales-a-dish-not-to-be-taken-lightly/. The results will definitely not disappoint. Just make sure you set aside enough time to get the job done.

Another Mexican dish to add to my arsenal (for special occasions ONLY), and for this I am —Simply Grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing — Tilly’s Test Kitchen (TTK)

Introducing a new page at Simply Grateful Cooking. Also, check out my post on Almond Boneless Chicken and some changes to my original post.

Simply Grateful Cooking

The other day when planning to make Almond Boneless Chicken for dinner, I decided it was time to try a few variations with the gravy and see if I could finally put this recipe to rest. Although I had posted what at the time was my “final” recipe for this dish back in January of 2015 on my blog Simply Grateful Housewife, I was not completely satisfied with the gravy. It was time to open “Tilly’s Test Kitchen.”

Tilly’s Test Kitchen or TTK  will be a category of recipes listed in my new page, found along the left hand side of this blog, where I have tried variations of recipes, ingredients and/or techniques in the hopes of determining the best possible combination for a specific dish. It will list links to all the posts associated with the dish being tested so you can follow my journey and share in the successes, failures, or continuing saga of my quests…

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