Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Thai Peanut Pasta

This was a delicious pinterest find! Plus I bought already prepped veggies in the produce section which made this meal super quick to pull together! My kiddos loved it and so did Alex and I.  I may have tricked them into trying it by telling them there was a secret ingredient (peanut butter) and whoever figured out what it was could have a popsicle for dessert.  I might have to start doing that with more dinners because they all cleaned their plates! I like to believe that also had something to do with the food being good ;)  Anyway, give it a try!

Thai Peanut Pasta
3 chicken breasts (grilled and thinly sliced)
1 lb. thin spaghetti
1/4 cup sesame oil (divided)
1 cup shredded carrots (I bought a bag of already shredded carrots)
2 cups shredded cabbage (I bought a bag of cole slaw mix)
1/2 bunch green onions (chopped)
3 tsp. minced garlic
1 T. fresh ginger (peeled and minced)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
3 T. rice vinegar
2 T. siracha
fresh cilantro (optional)
chopped peanuts  (optional)

Grill chicken until cooked through.  Remove from heat and let set for 5 min. before slicing thinly.

Meanwhile, in a large pot bring water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente (you don't want it mushy!). Drain pasta, toss with sesame oil, and set aside.

Add remaining oil to the bottom of the pot and saute green onion, carrots and cabbage until slightly softened (it doesn't take long). Then add chicken, garlic and ginger and continue cooking for 1 min.

Add remaining sauce ingredients to pot and stir to combine. Place noodles back in the pot and toss all ingredients together.

Top with fresh cilantro and/or chopped peanuts if desired. Enjoy!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Caprese Salad

I love summer! I love that you can just chop up fresh ingredients and call it a meal. Have this salad with some grilled chicken and maybe some watermelon and you're good to go. You'll look super fancy and you'll still have time to read a book or something after you make dinner!

It's so fast to make and you can change it to fit your tastes/needs.  You can make your own balsamic drizzle like I have below or make this recipe even easier by buying some pre-made at the store. I've found it in the oils and vinegars section.  You can marinate the tomatoes in balsamic vinegar for an extra punch or add a little ground pepper at the end.  Enjoy!

Caprese Salad
16 oz. fresh mozzarella (I get mine at the Murray cheese counter in Smith's)
4 larger roma tomatoes (you want them to be firm)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (more if you like!)
balsamic drizzle (recipe below or buy a pre-made drizzle)
salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic Drizzle:
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 T. corn starch

Combine all drizzle ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to med low and allow to thicken.  When sauce is reduced to desired thickness remove from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, slice mozzarella and roma tomatoes into 1/4 in. thick slices and arrange on plate alternating between cheese and tomato.  Sprinkle chopped basil on top.  Drizzle cooled balsamic glaze over salad.  Top with salt and pepper if desired.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Year's Goals Revisited and Some Thoughts on Setting Boundaries

As some may remember I posted earlier this year about my new year's goals being somewhat untraditional.  After dealing with postpartum issues, depression and anxiety this year I decided I needed to make some goals that would help me increase my happiness and peace.  The goals I proposed for myself were:

1) Care less what other people think about me
2) Care less about what other people are doing
3) Do less
4) Focus on the first three and stop making so many goals!

If you'd like to see those goals in context or understand what I mean by them you can view the previous post here: Perfect Goals and the Imperfect People That Make Them.

So what have I been doing to achieve these goals?

Goal #1- Standing up for myself more.  Giving my opinions.  Spending less time worrying about what others might be thinking.  Praying to know the things that I should and shouldn't be doing.   Working toward breaking my habit of saying "sorry" too much as a way to ease my guilt (or at least being cognizant of the fact that I'm doing that!). Trying to say sorry for those things that I'm genuinely sorry for and giving people time to forgive me or not. I've been working with a therapist to identify when and why I feel shame and how I can combat the negative feelings and actions that are produced by being caught up in that shame.

Goal # 2- I deleted the Facebook app from my phone.  Yes I can still check it through the web browser on my phone, and yes sometimes I still do that but I'm trying to do it less.  I limit my sessions on social media to twice a day and usually only spend about 10 min. per session.  Taking time to have real conversations with people about what is going on in their life so that I keep a better perspective about what real life looks like.

Goal #3- Setting priorities each week about where I spend my time.  I've started writing personal time on my calendars to make sure that breaks are built into my day.  I'm also trying to set up consistent times to exercise and pursue other hobbies.  I used to feel guilty if someone asked me to do something and I said no unless I had a for sure reason I couldn't do it.  Now, if someone asks me to babysit and it's during the time I was going to do something (exercise, read, clean the kitchen) I don't feel as guilty saying no.  Sometimes, if possible I change my schedule, but sometimes when it's the only time I have to get my personal items done then I just say "sorry, maybe next time".  I'm definitely not perfect at this one but I'm working toward it!

As I've read a few books on these subjects and started into counseling to understand some of these issues better I've realized that these goals are all about boundaries.  Each of these goals, in a way, is defining for myself what I am willing to put out there for others and what I'm willing to take from others.  And as I look at the parts of my life that cause frustration and worry, I realize a lot of those feeling come from not setting appropriate boundaries (boundaries for myself, boundaries in my relationships, boundaries at church, even boundaries on my goal setting efforts).

So what does it mean to set a boundary? The most concise definition I could find was on wikipedia where it said: "Personal boundaries are guidelines or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits." 

A video on the subject that I found helpful from lds.org can be found here: Tips to set boundaries in any relationship

I think that boundaries not only apply to how others treat us, but can also extend to how we treat ourselves.  I had reached a point in my life where I was no longer treating myself in a reasonable or safe way.  I had negative thoughts about being worthless, I beat myself up for failures, I even questioned why I was even here.  I needed to set some boundaries for myself.  I also felt frustrated with others frequently.  But as I begin to take responsibility for my own mental health and emotions I realize that my frustrations were not really anchored in the actions of other people, my frustration was with my own reaction.  I didn't stand up for myself.  I didn't state my opinions.  I didn't make course corrections over small things and thus let little things turn into big things.  I realized this when one friend got upset about something and another friend said "how can you be upset with Julia? that's like kicking a puppy?"  I knew she was right and it kind of made me reflect on how I was reacting to things.  I'm not a puppy.  I'm a strong opinionated person! So why have I been letting myself get kicked and why am I acting like a puppy?

At my core I'm a loving person, some people I'm sure would disagree with that, but I feel like I am usually motivated out of charity and love for others.  I am however, also a red personality, I like to get things done! It's sometimes hard to reconcile these two aspects of my personality.  I don't want to step on others toes, I don't want to make a fuss, but at the same time I don't want to be held down or become stagnate. In recent years, I've focused so much on "not making a fuss" I've started doing a lot of unhealthy things- Not stating my opinion, letting others talk for me, not saying things in the right moment so then I vent it passive-aggressively later, letting things build on themselves until they explode. I've been trying so hard to repress the "bad" parts of my red personality I've been letting some of the "good" parts go too.  I'd given up hobbies like debating, writing, and critical thinking.  That last one is more of a life skill than hobby...but you still see my point!

So I'm working on setting those boundaries.  And so far the results are mixed.  Also, it's hard to be brave. It's hard to speak up for what you need after so many years of not doing that.  It's hard to stand firm in what you believe when people are angry, or saddened, or confused by why you believe those things.  Some of these types of conversations have gone really well.  Others haven't. Some people have heard my boundaries and respected me for telling them while others have felt abandoned, called me selfish or insinuated that I'm not being very Christ-like.  But I have to fall back on my first goal of worrying less about what others think of me.  When I've made these boundaries out of love and after reflection and prayer then I have to be confident in taking care of myself. I've had people set boundaries with me and I find that as we are open about what we need in healthy relationships it makes the relationship stronger.  I would much rather someone tell me when I'm crossing a line then sit back and stew and get frustrated with me.  So I try and have faith that others will feel the same.

As a Christian it can be hard to find the balance between helping others and taking care of ourselves.  Others might interpret our need for boundaries as a selfish. We know that we are supposed to be selfless and we know that we need to focus on others' needs as much as our own.  But we also have to take care of ourselves to be able to have anything left to give to others.  We've all heard the analogy of the oxygen in the airplane.  First you put on your mask so you don't pass out, then you help your children put on theirs. Heavenly father expects us to take care of our bodies and our families and sometimes that means we have to disengage from other situations that take from our limited resources (emotional, time, financial) whatever the case may be.  Going back to that original definition about boundaries: if someone is unwilling to be safe or reasonable around you, then it may be time to give it some distance and walk away temporarily until that person is ready to interact with you in a healthier way.  We shouldn't judge what other people do but we can certainly be a wise judge in what we allow into our own lives and homes. Christ would not require us to be put in unsafe situations. He wouldn't want for us to be emotionally, verbally or physically neglected or abused. 

Christ was loving, kind and forgiving.  But he still gave people instruction and commandments.  He gave people the steps and practices that would improve our relationship with God.  I'm certainly not saying we should command people in how they should treat us but it seems probable to me that Christ wouldn't have any problem with us giving people guidelines about steps and practices that can make our relationships healthier too.  When the rich young man asks Christ what else he should do beyond believing on Christ, Christ tells him to sell all he has and follow him.  When the young man refuses to sell all of his great possessions he goes away sorrowful and Christ sorrowfully lets him go.  Christ doesn't say "okay never mind what I said before" or "I guess you don't really have to sell your possessions".  He stands firm in the instruction that he gave.  When we set a boundaries like- you need to listen to my feelings, or you can't be drunk around my kids, or you can't threaten me, or you can't yell profanities in my home, and the person refuses to do those things- then the Christlike thing to do is to step back.  It can be hard to remember but when you take a step back you have to realize that you didn't harm the relationship by making a boundary they harmed the relationship by not being willing to consider the boundary important.

I find that even though I've had more people temporarily upset with me in the last few months than I ever have before I also have more peace.  I feel sorrow that some of my relationships will change and some may even stay broken because others might not be willing to accept my boundaries.  But really, if someone can only be my friend if I'm the only one giving in the relationship, or because they don't know my real opinions about things, or I only tell them what they want to hear, or because I never stand up for myself...it probably wasn't a really quality relationship to begin with.  

I'm learning who I am and what I believe.  I know that I love and care about others.  I know that those who love and care about me will stay by me and support me as I make positive changes in my life and as I state my opinions. I'm learning sometimes being kind and loving requires me to do hard or difficult things. I'm learning that being a "red" personality isn't a bad thing like some would have you believe.  Each personality type has strengths and weaknesses. As I embrace my personality and focus on it's positives I know I can get stuff done! Like improving my relationships, improving my view of self, and improving my mental wellness and quality of life!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mexican Street Corn

So I've never actually had Mexican street corn before but it's all over pinterest these day and so I decided to give it a whirl.  I've seen tons of different recipes for mexican street corn salad, steak, kabobs, etc. etc. etc.  So I decided to just try a straight up corn on the cob recipe and boy did it pay off. Not only is it delicious it looks fantastic in pictures! No wonder the internet is obsessed.  It's a food bloggers favorite kind of recipe!

For as much as it was all over the internet, no two recipes were alike so I just borrowed what I like from each of them and made my own up. I liked that a lot of the spice comes from topping it with chile powder at the end so my kids were able to adjust the heat to their own preferences.  And it was a nice change from just drowning the corn in butter.  Test it out for yourself!

Mexican Street Corn
8 whole cobs of corn (husk and silk removed)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayo (I used bestfoods olive oil mayo)
1/2 cup grated cotija cheese (plus more for sprinkling on top)
1 tsp. chili powder (plus more for sprinkling on top)
1 T. minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 a lime

After removing husks from corn, place corn on a preheated grill and cook for about 8 min. over medium heat.  Then flip and cook another 9 minutes or until corn is soft but not dried out.  It's okay if some of the corn chars up a bit. 

Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

When corn is done- remove from grill and brush each piece all over with sour cream/cheese mixture. Sprinkle with extra cotija cheese and chili powder.  Eat warm!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Salmon Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Yogurt Sauce

I love cooking in the summer! You can pretty much just buy meat, veggies and fruit and you've got yourself a summer meal!  Plus I love that my husband likes to grill so I get to cook with him for a few months each year.  This was our first week in a while where I didn't have a million things going on at night so I finally planned out a whole weeks menu and have stuck to it (for the most part- nobody's perfect!).  We started off with some salmon tacos.  My girls and I love salmon but the boys are not that big of fans.  The taco is the only way my husband will eat salmon on account of it has so many others toppings he can drown out the salmon taste.  I love to pile it high in salmon and garnish it with the other toppings. So whether you love salmon or loathe it this recipe might by for you!

Salmon Tacos w/ Cilantro Lime Yogurt Sauce

2 lbs. salmon
2 T. chile powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 lime- slice in 1/4 in. slices

1 cup shredded cabbage (I used cole slaw mix-no sauce)
Sliced avocado
Fresh pico de gallo (or for a delicious sweet twist use a mango peach salsa!)
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
15-20 corn tortillas
1 recipe cilantro lime yogurt sauce (below)

Cilantro Lime Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1 avocado
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 T. minced garlic
Juice from 1/2 lime

For salmon- place skin side down on a large sheet of heavy duty foil.  Combine spices and rub on top of salmon evenly.  Place lime slices down the top of the salmon.  Wrap foil up and over any thinner parts of the salmon.  Place on preheated grill and cook over medium heat for about 45 min.  Open foil about 15 minutes before you are ready to remove it from the grill.  Salmon is done when pink and flaky.

While salmon is cooking prepare your other toppings including the cilantro yogurt sauce. For the sauce combine all sauce ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

To assemble taco- place salmon on a corn tortilla and top with yogurt sauce and whichever toppings you prefer.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Homemade Peanut Butter Bars

Well, this is my last queued post for the week so I thought I'd end on a sweet note! My ten year old actually found this recipe for us!  She was having a daddy daughter activity at church and they were supposed to bring a treat their dad loved.  For my husband that is Reeses peanut butter cups! So my daughter decided to try her hand at making homemade cups and ended up with a hit! With a little more effort you can make these look like actual cups but they are just as tasty in bar form. Give them a try!

Homemade Peanut Butter Bars
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (finely ground)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup plus 4 tablespoons peanut butter
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl place graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, melted butter and one cup of the peanut butter.  Mix well.  Press peanut butter mixture into bottom of a well greased 9x13 pan.  In a medium microwave safe bowl combine the remaining 4 T. of peanut butter with the chocolate chips.  Melt in microwave for about 1.5 minutes (stirring every 30 seconds).  Carefully spread chocolate mixture on top of peanut butter mixture.  Place tray in refrigerator and allow to cool for 1 hour. 

At this point cut the bars evenly into snack sized squares (this prevents the chocolate from breaking off when you cut them later).  Continue to refrigerate for another 1-2 hours or until set. Re-cut bars and serve!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Homemade Breakfast Sandwiches

When my kids start school again it's always a shock to their system.  A full day of school can be a lot for a kindergartner, or a second grader, or a 4th grader who weighs about 15 lbs.  So I wanted to start loading them up with more protein each morning!  For awhile I tried in vain to get up early enough to cook a nice meal each morning but it turned out my kids and my husband would really prefer cold cereal to a big breakfast that early.  And then I had a baby and making breakfast each morning slowly faded away.  So how can I pack some protein into their diet without having to make a big breakfast?

Enter: The breakfast sandwich!  For awhile I was using the Jimmy Dean delights but I could only get a good price on them at Sam's (which is an hour away) and so we didn't always have them.  So finally I decided to make some of my own and save a little $$.  And save $$ it did.  Plus in about an hour I made a huge freezer stockpile of these bad boys and I could customize them exactly to what my kids would eat.  No cheese for one, sausage for some, ham for some, etc.  It has been great!  I also do this with breakfast burritos and will have to post the recipe for that sometime.  Give it a try and save yourself some time in the morning!

Homemade Breakfast Sandwiches
12 eggs
12 English muffins, toasted
12 turkey sausage patties, cooked (pork sausage, ham or bacon work here too)
12 slices cheddar cheese (thin sliced)
salt and pepper to taste

Thoroughly grease a 12 slot muffin tin.  Crack one egg in each cup and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake eggs at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes.  (We like our yolks a little runny still so I do about 16 min., but keep an eye on them and bake until you get the texture you want!)

Meanwhile, toast English muffins and cook sausage patties.  When eggs are done cooking build sandwiches by placing one egg, sausage, and slice of cheese between two english muffin halves.

Double wrap sandwiches in plastic wrap and label with a permanent marker.  (If your planning on making these a lot it can be helpful to write a date made on them so that you use them in the right order). Place them in the freezer.

When ready to re-heat.  Unwrap the sandwich from the plastic wrap and wrap it in a paper towel. Microwave for 1.5 minutes on 50% power.  Unwrap completely and flip sandwich over.  Heat for an additional minute at regular power or until meat is heated through.  Enjoy!