Add Some Spice to Your Life

I’ve never been a fan of spicy or hot foods. I never was big on Thai or Mexican cuisine simply because I always feared the food would be too spicy for me to handle. I remember growing up thinking my dad was a total weirdo for going to Kansas City and trying the hottest barbecue sauce that he could find, to the point where there would be tears coming from his eyes. Now that I’ve had time for my pallet to grow and I’ve expanded my cooking skills beyond the basic American diet, I’m starting to really enjoy a good kick in a lot of my foods. I know I’m not breaking any new ground by sharing my favorite ways to add some spice to my meals, but this is a new experience for me! I actually crave something hot and spicy to the point where that’s what I’ll tell Jake that’s what I want for dinner. Yes, my hormones are totally normal so please don’t jump to any conclusions.

Jake always makes fun of me and my “sauce collection” going on in the fridge, but I’ve finally discover sriracha and I need it in my life. Also, it’s cousin sriracha mayo – so good on tacos! I had some tofu tacos a few months back when we had a food truck at work and my coworker highly encouraged me to add sriracha mayo on for a little something, something. I’m blaming this new found addition on her. After that I made tacos at home just so I could buy sriracha mayo for my “sauce collection”. It’s great on top of normal tacos, fish tacos, tofu tacos, or these sweet potato and black bean slow cooker tacos. We made this recipe two weeks in a row at home and it’s a perfect dinner dish for fall! And it’s a slow cooker recipe, so it can’t get much easier – I highly recommend trying it. Adding a little sriracha or taco sauce on scrambled eggs or a breakfast sandwich will also fulfill my cravings as they come along.

Another great recipe for a little spice, and also so easy to make, is this easy lo mein dish from Damn Delicious. I added in a tablespoon of sriracha and omitted the sugar, and it turns out perfect. Like I said, this recipe is super easy to make and takes nearly no time to cook it. Jake and I are pretty busy and also work opposite schedules, so I don’t like taking a lot of time to make the meals we get to eat together. Another sriracha inspired meal is this 20-minute spicy ramen. I even did the poached eggs and ate it with chop sticks. I’d love to try out some more homemade ramen recipes for the winter months, so please leave suggestions if you have them!

I’m finally figuring out what I’ve been missing out on all this time. I want to go out and try some authentic Thai or Indian cuisine, play around with their spice levels. Maybe some good, authentic Mexican food too. I’ve already been trying out some new salsas to see how much I can handle; I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew – for now.

Major Budgeting

Well unfortunately, I was in a car accident this past week.  I am a-OK, minor sores from the seat belt and jolt, but I am alive and well.  The car on the other hand, is not doing too great.  The car went into the ditch and is well totaled, but what can you do.  I saw the accident happening before I could do anything so I relaxed, grabbed the wheel, and closed my eyes.  I was the most worried about what my mom would think as it was her car.  Sadly, she passed away about a year and half ago and I know she would be happy I’m in one piece, but I did feel bad for a minute.  These things happen and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  I’m thankful to be alive, unharmed, and have the means to purchase a new car so I can continue to work and make up for what has been lost.

So now that I’ve purchased a new car and I’m back to a major budget, what do I do with my healthy eating habits?  I’m currently on Pinterest looking for some healthy, vegetarian friendly meals.  I purchased a new programmable Crock Pot a few weekends ago and I’d love to use it more for weekly evening meals since it turns over to warm after a set time.  And with slower cooker meals, there’s always left overs for lunch.  Lunch meals are always my main point of concern because I’m the most hungry then.  My dinners tend to be lighter and packed with smaller portions of healthy options, such as cottage cheese, frozen veggies on the side, pretzels, and small leftover.  Often, I run after work and I’m not home until about 6:30 p.m., eating around 7:00 p.m.  I know that doesn’t sound very late, but I’m usually settled around 9:00 p.m. and in bed by 10:25 p.m., right after the weather reports.  Now I want to budget all my meals and say goodbye to any social life for a few weeks.

I have shopped at Aldi’s many times in the past two years, and I honestly enjoy it quite a bit.  I’ve read reviews online that talk pretty poorly of the store, but if you go in with a level head and keep your eye on the good stuff, you can come out with a lower grocery bill.  I will admit, that if you purchase the more processed, sugar, or carb foods your bill will be lower than what I generally pay, but don’t get pulled in by it.  You can get healthy food options at a fair price at Aldi’s.  For me it’s worth it to go and get the basics: eggs, almond milk (unsweetened even!), cottage cheese, quick oats, salad, brown rice, frozen veggies, and fresh fruits and veggies when they’re in season.  You’ll have to “splurge” a bit on frozen salmon, shrimp, or chicken breast (for Jake), but it’s a few dollars cheaper than the big box grocery stores; still worth it!  I can’t speak for the fresh meats as I don’t buy them, but do check it out and see if the price is worth buying.  It can be difficult to purchase the more specifics foods, like certain vegetables, quinoa, healthy dips, vegetable broth at time, and canned soups.  A lot of stock at Aldi is dependent on their weekly shipments and often, popular food sell fast.  The best time to go is right away when the store opens, even if it’s a weekend.  Because the store is smaller than most, you’ll be through within a half an hour for week of groceries.

Learning the skill of basic cooking will go far when you’re on a budget.  I couldn’t do more than scrambled eggs when I moved out, but my ability to look at a recipe and feel confident in making the recipe and have it turn out tasty has gone through the roof.  Even Jake has taken a notice to my cooking skills, and he worked in a restaurant kitchen year ago.  I’d like give my cooking skills a go with hosting a small gathering in the coming year, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For now, I’m budgeting, meal planning, and keeping my neck and hip relaxed with a heating pad.  Please don’t be fooled by all of this talk of healthy eating and gym time, I do indulge in chocolate or sweets if I crave them, but I do try very hard to eat as healthy as possible.  I’ll be sure to update in a few weeks on my budget and meals.  Remember cutting season is nearly upon us!  And with it, spring which brings safer driving conditions.  Everyone be safe!

Weekly Planning

I am the type of person that needs to write things down on to-do lists to  remember that I have appointments and things planned.  I’ve never gotten into using the calendar app on my phone and every time I’ve tried I just hate it.  For 2015, I decided I wanted to be even more organized than I have been in the past.  This includes meal planning dinner for the week for two people and make all my lunches in advance.  I also plan my workouts for the week so I know what days I’ll rest and when to make plans outside of work.

I invested in a planner for the year, which I haven’t used since I was in college.  When I was in college I used this as a way to plan my homework for the weekend using color coordinated pens.  I’m not quite that far yet, but I’m not opposed to using multiple colors just for the heck of it.  I make to-do lists in my planner while I’m at work as opposed to sending reminder emails to my personal email or making lists in my phone.  Being able to cross items off the list make me feel more accomplished.

In addition to the planner, I purchased a weekly whiteboard that I mounted next to the door of my apartment along with a pen holder with whiteboard markers so that I always know what the plan is for the day.  I’ve been putting the workout for the day on the bottom of the whiteboard, including rest days, and the meal for dinner on the top, while all other appointments and activities go in between. Sunday is generally reserved for meal planning and errands since I work my part time job on Saturday mornings.  I’ve made sure to write down when to blog, whether the blog post gets published or not that day, to ensure I’m always working on my New Year’s Resolution.

I work full time, sometimes more depending on my part time job schedule, and go to the gym around five times per week.  A couple of months ago, I found that preparing lunches and making meals in advance is the way to go. Cooking meals in the slow cooker or Crock Pot will save your life.  I have a smaller sized one since it’s just me and it rations about five to six servings, depending on the recipe.  The goal right now is start planning meals for two people and make sure that the meal accommodates both Jake and I.  I eat a mostly vegetarian diet with a few fish dishes here and there.  Years ago, I would have hated to read that, but then I decided that if I wanted to eat something, I was going to.  I always enjoyed salmon when I was growing up and it reminds me of my mom since she always made it so well.  I also enjoyed shrimp, mostly on salads or in a pasta dish early in high school.  These are the only two non-vegetarian foods that I incorporate into my diet.  Jake on the other hand is not a vegetarian at all so making dinner for two can be a challenge.  When I move in to Jake’s house in a few months, I’m planning on using our two slow cookers to prepare similar dishes, except mine won’t have meat.

The past few months I’ve really turned to Pinterest to find easy-to-prepare, healthy lunches and dinners.  Having a good amount of containers at home to pack lunches is important.  A few years ago I purchased EasyLunches containers* which are my favorite at the moment.  I’d really like to invest is some glass containers because I know heating up food in plastic isn’t the best decision, but I really enjoy the sections in these containers for keeping food fresh and portion control.  Having healthy snacks prepared to go with lunch makes mornings go even faster.  I peel and chop carrots in advance, but only by a day or two; this applies to broccoli as well.  Too many days in the fridge will cause the flavor of the vegetables to change or even go bad before getting to eat them.  Other snacks I enjoy are almonds and pretzels mixed together, yogurt, cottage cheese, and hard boiled eggs.  I also keep a lot of tea at my work desk to keep hydrated and to get away from plan water all the time.

Working full time, going to the gym regularly, eating healthy, and having a social life is possible.  It’s taken me a while to figure out how to make it all work, but I know that anyone can do it.  Planning meals and activities in advance may seem like a killer, but it’s taken a lot of stress off of my shoulders on weeknights when I want to relax or go out with friends.  Having lunches made in advance also allows me to sleep in a bit longer, which I know everyone enjoys!

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