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Soulful Sunday

My weekend started off rocky because I was coming down with something like a sinus infection on Friday. By the end of the work day, my right inner ear was sore, the right side of my face was burning, my throat was raw, and I was exhausted. I signed off my computer, threw on my PJs, and waited for my husband, Bryan, to return with my chicken tortilla soup from one of our favorite, local Tex-Mex restaurants. Although I could barely swallow by the time I ate, the soup HIT THE SPOT.

In addition to the pain I had, I was also irritated beyond my limits. It was like a cloud came over me mid day. Saturday, I felt better after sleeping in for hours, although I was still achy. It occurred to me that I was bursting at the seams with work stress. Could the stress have manifested into a physical reaction? Possibly. What I do know is that it’s Sunday and I feel much better. My inner ear doesn’t hurt anymore, but I’m not 100%.

I’ve been craving cooler weather and hoping that the delicious soul food I made on Sunday would cool the temps down. What I just typed probably doesn’t make much sense(how can food cool down temps???) but essentially, I want cooler weather. Growing up in Chicago, fall was my favorite season. I loved the falling leaves, crisp air, and indescribable feeling. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve been craving soul food while trying to recover from “something”. I’m very good at self-soothing myself with cooking. I decided it’s been way too long since I made fresh collard greens. Then, I thought about some delicious red beans and rice, mashed sweet potatoes, and corn bread. And guess WHAT??? Meat wasn’t even the star of the show, just a supporting member.

Big ole pot of nutritious collard greens simmering in chicken stock and other goodies -no meat. LPC
My roasted, mashed sweet potatoes. LPC
Corn Bread muffins. Jiffy mix is what I used but I know how to make them from scratch too. LPC
Collard greens, red beans and rice, and mashed sweet potatoes. LPC

This meal took a good amount of prep. I soaked the greens and beans overnight. I layed out the butter for the chocolate chip cookies (not pictured) and eggs for the corn bread mix and cookies. I started cooking early Sunday morning. I made 2 different pots of red beans: one with smoked ham hock and one without (my daughter doesn’t eat pork because she loved mini pigs). The meal could very easily be vegetarian with a few tweaks and vegan with even a few more tweaks. After our morning walk, we came back to the house smelling like Thanksgiving. This meal was so satisfying.

My light lesson from this weekend is really a reminder and not a lesson. I NEED MY DOWN TIME WITH MY FAMILY. When I’m feeling sick, no matter the reason, a SLOW down is within reach. I don’t need to panic. I just need to nuture myself and take in the nurturing love of my family.

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Labor day love

I ended my 3 day weekend laboring 😁 over this delicious beef brisket which turned out perfectly seasoned and moist. In case you don’t know, smoked brisket is a Texas delicacy. Since we don’t have a smoker or grill, all weekend I had planned to use the Ninja Foodie my husband bought me a couple of months ago. I watched some YouTube videos on making a brisket in the Ninja Foodie and I just wasn’t feeling it. I kept thinking the brisket would come out better in the oven.

Easy Brisket cooked by me. LPC

I’ve never been more right in my life! A couple of recipes I Googled recommend 6 hours at 300 degrees in the oven. I didn’t have that kind of time considering it was 1:00 pm when I finally decided to bake it. I turned the stove to 320 degrees and baked for just under 4 hours. I don’t think it would have this fabulous crisp crust had I used the Foodie unless perhaps I used the crisper at the end.

LPC’s easy brisket

This is only my second time making a brisket. The first time was about 15 years ago in my crockpot. Since it was on sale at my favorite grocery store recently, I thought “why not”? I seasoned it with a dry rub of a variety of my favorite spices and let it marinade for 24 hours. There was a nice layer of fat on top that I didn’t remove. My son, Caleb, specifically asked me to keep the fat on. I baked it with the fat side up so the fat could melt into the meat as it slow roasted. I let it roast covered for 3 hours, then continued to bake without the aluminum foil for the last hour.

Vegetarian baked beans. LPC

I didn’t decide on my sides until the last minute. As I was looking in my pantry, I saw there were 2 cans of Great Northern beans. Then, I remembered I had a great recipe I used previously. Potato salad or macaroni and cheese? I finally decided on BROCCOLI macaroni and cheese which was a first for me. I also made a beautiful mixed salad (not pictured).

I enjoyed the walk with my husband, Bryan, earlier. We’ve been taking advantage of the slightly cooler weather (90 degrees). I love walking outdoors because it’s relaxing and rejuvenating. It put me in the frame of mind to have a great day at work tomorrow.

Bryan and Lucrece

I hope you did something relaxing for yourself today. Depending on where you are in the world, you may still have time before the day ends.

Happy Labor Day!

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It’s over and he won…

Just kidding, I won too! Our Fresh Start 21 Day, green smoothie vegan cleanse ended on Saturday, 8/15/2020. Technically, it was 20 days since we ended the day before my daughter’s birthday. I’ve blogged about my smoothie cleanses from https://simplegreensmoothies.com/ before. You can peruse my site for all things having to do with green smoothies and vegan cleanses.

My husband, Bryan, definitely won in weight loss to the tune of almost 10 pounds. I lost about 3. In July, Bryan challenged me to a cleanse but we didn’t go as far as to wager how much weight we each would loose. And generally, he tends to lose more weight than me during cleanses probably because he is a male and has a different body composition. I won in the sense of the lessons I learned about myself. Of the many times I’ve done this cleanse, this was the most challenging for me. Let me tell you why.

The first thing is that because I’ve done this cleanse many times and have incorporated several of the cleanse recipes into my routine meal rotation, I thought I would have the upper hand since Bryan has NEVER had a vegan meal. I was wrong. Bryan’s strategy was to gradually eat less and less in attempts to avoid eating the foods he didn’t like. Picture a 7 or 8 year old’s face when encountering foods they don’t like. That’s how Bryan looked to me. That didn’t help my morale much because I was struggling with motivation at the onset. I initially wasn’t in the mindset to participate in a cleanse, but I thought I would just fake it until I got in the mood.

The amount of food prep for 3 weekends in a row, particularly in the first week, was exhausting. I made double batches of food thinking I was cooking for two. That didn’t do me any good because Bryan was only drinking the green smoothies and eating the dinners. I reminded him several times that this was not a starvation diet. All of the foods, including the snacks, were designed to provide nutrition and fuel. He insisted on doing it his way.

Asparagus, quinoa “salad” with dijon vinegrette. LPC

I was indeed excited about fueling my body with all the nutritious foods, but in the second week, I had a clear epiphany. Veganism wasn’t sustainable for me. I was disappointed because I had actually planned on going an extra week or two. I realized that I don’t want to do without meat. I craved eggs the second week and by the third week, I was craving meat. Also, all the prep was more work than I was willing to do long term.

I read a few times that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. I did not develop a habit to eat more vegan foods. This cleanse tends to have the opposite affect on me. For example, I’m now tired of cauliflower and fresh salads. Who gets tired of salads??? One year, I was so tired of nuts, I didn’t eat them for many months after the cleanse. However, it is my daily habit to drink one green smoothie. I love them so much and the recipes are endless.

Mixed greens salad with avocado, cucumber, grapes, sliced almonds, and dijon vinegrette. LPC
Citrus beet green smoothie. LPC

On a positive note, this cleanse was just long enough to cut my cravings for processed foods (chips, salty snacks, etc.) We’re going into our second week post cleanse and I can honestly say I don’t have a desire for those foods. WIN!!! Bryan is now trying out a Keto diet, but I declined although I’m adopting some of the principles such as reducing carbohydrates.

I’m glad I did the cleanse although I was getting weary towards the end. Overall, I’d like to adopt eating habits that are sustainable. I don’t like feeling like I’m depriving myself or am on a diet. I don’t want to have a love/hate relationship with food anymore. What I’m focused on now is monitoring the amount of calories (in the short term) I consume, ensuring I eat whole, minimally processed foods, and incorporating more weight training into my 6 day a week exercise regimen.

What fitness and exercise goals are you working on?

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It’s been 14 days

I wish I could say this whole cleanse up to this point has been a breeze, but I can’t. Exactly two weeks ago on July 26, I let the world know I was embarking on a 21 day Vegan cleanse through https://simplegreensmoothies.com/. I’ve done this cleanse once or twice a year for the last few years. I’ve written many blog posts about my experiences, which is different every time. What makes this one fun is that my husband, Bryan, decided to join me for a friendly challenge. This is his first time on the cleanse.

Week 1 was actually a breeze and it felt really great to be preparing and consuming these nutritious foods. Since I’m not new to the cleanse, I’ve gotten really familiar with the recipes and know which ones I like and don’t like. Of course, I stuck to the ones that I like, hoping Bryan would like them too. He’s a very finicky eater.

Week 2 is where we both leave much to be desired in how poised and committed we’ve been to the recipes. The most important thing about Week 2 is that it is the actual cleanse week. Not only are we consuming all vegan foods, but grains, lentils, and beans are omitted. Life certainly is less colorful without these foods. I also remembered that I did NOT like most of Week 2’s recipes.

Bryan has denied this, but I think his strategy was to simply not eat in order to avoid eating the food. There was no question we were mostly hungry this week. Have you ever been so hungry, yet didn’t want to eat the food before you? You usually hear that if you’re hungry enough, you’d eat anything. I was hungry most of Week 2, but didn’t want to eat. We did cheat a couple of times with onion rings. Onions rings are vegan. What can I say (palm bump on forehead)?

I’m hoping for greener (pun intended!) pastures in this last week. Grains, lentils, and beans are back. At least they’ve been back since day 13 because I couldn’t take another day without them. If this were an actual race, I’d be the one clawing and clinching to the finish line. I’m a little surprised by how I’m experiencing this cleanse. And to think, I was actually planning on going an extra week. No way!

All in all, it’s been a fun experience with Bryan. We’re both a little lighter too. We’re celebrating the last day of the cleanse by BREAKING the cleanse for our daughter’s birthday. She gave us the side eye a couple times as she watched us cheat. I type this in jest, but what example are we showing her? I know. Execution might not be perfect, but finish. Pick back up where you left off. Do your best, and even if you don’t, keep it moving.

I will lay this cleanse to rest for the remainder of 2020 once we complete this round. Here are some pictures of the beautiful food I made with my own hands. As an experienced cook, I tailored the recipes to my preferences and even combined some.

Citrus beet green smoothie
Swiss chard white bean skillet
Black bean zucchini tacos
roasted veggies served with basil pesto and brown rice (not pictured)
Baked hash cakes over a bed of mixed greens
Prep for lemon chia pudding; vanilla extract not pictured; chia seeds soaking in coconut milk
Herbalicious hummus with veggies
Filling for black bean zucchini tacos
Pineapple carrot green smoothie

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It starts tomorrow

Sometimes the thing you don’t want to do is the thing you should do. To my pleasant surprise, my husband, Bryan, offered to do a cleanse with me…any cleanse of my choosing. Hmmmm. I’ve done a few that I keep going back to and they all involve green smoothies. Then, he changed the tone of the offer to a CHALLENGE. Come again??? Let’s do Fresh Start, the 21 day vegan, green smoothie challenge, spring edition.

I’ve been prepping all weekend. I’ve posted before about setting yourself up for success whenever you can. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m going to show Bryan how it’s done. Anyway, this is a good time for an overall cleanse- mentally and physically. It’s something I can control in this messy state of the world right now. It’s also a nice distraction.

I was not that excited initially. I started thinking about all the meat products in the freezer and the chicken breasts I just bought at a great deal. I thought about the stash of food I’ve been accumulating for months just in case the state shuts down. I could feel myself holding onto something.

As we were shopping, which took the whole weekend, my excitement began to increase. I began letting go of “BUT this” and “BUT that”. I began visualizing how good I would feel during the process. I’ve been here before. It’s going to feel great and I will be so proud of myself. I’m going to feel good, look good, sleep good, and possibly lose a few pounds in the process.

So there you have it. I spent two whole days prepping my heart out. What I like about this cleanse is that there is plenty of plant powered, delicious food. Here are some pictures of my endeavors. I’ll post a couple of times during this process so you can read about my progress.

Woke up Sunday morning and made the roasted snacks. Tamari almonds are part of a different cleanse and that’s ok because they’re vegan. LPC
Herbalicious hummus in my Vitamix blender minus the cilantro because I didn’t have any.. LPC
Decadent cashew cream which is a versatile substitute for sour cream and whipped cream. LPC
Two cashew creams were frozen for weeks 2 and 3. I will eat this with a kale salad, zucchini black bean tacos, waldorf salad…to name a few. LPC
Almond butter sauce for the asparagus snow pea stir fry with brown rice later in the week. LPC
Strawberry herb dressing for Monday’s lunch salad with mixed greens, cucumbers, avocado, and sliced almonds. LPC
Strawberry herb dressing. I labeled everything to make it easier for Bryan. LPC
Warm spiced almond milk. The coconut whipped cream is not part of the cleanse recipe, but it’s so good. I drink this often. This will be our daily night cap. Yum!!! LPC

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Cooking new recipes during COVID-19

Starting in April and lasting through May, I reduced the amount of cooking I was doing for several reasons, none of which was planned. The reduction in cooking wasn’t due to a lack of groceries either. As I’ve indicated in previous posts, I’m grateful for a well stocked pantry, deep freezer, and refrigerator/freezer.

In April, I was still getting used to teleworking and initially was finding it difficult to make time to eat in my newfound virtual reality. I continued to drink my nutitious green smoothies daily, but I’d begun relying on convenience foods. Example: Trader Joe’s fish nuggets and orange chicken paired with salads or soups.

We were also in celebratory mode for a while because my husband, Bryan’s, disability was approved. This was such a relief for him because his life has been in limbo. He deservedly received compensation for back pay which has allowed us to live comfortably during a pandemic. We’ve paid off many debts in a matter of months. We also have the emergency fund that Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have been preaching about for years.

Also, May is a special month in that Mother’s Day and my birthday are one week apart. We celebrated with takeout from the same delicious Italian restaurant for both occasions. This was the first Mother’s Day since my mom passed three years ago that I didn’t cry.

No matter how good convenience foods and takeout foods are, I always return to craving my own cooking. Also, I didn’t like gaining a few pounds since teleworking. I know when I cook, I’m able to control how healthy the meal is and add my own flare. I’ve been tracking my calories on my Fitbit since the end of May, and thankfully, the scale is going back in the right direction.

I’ve been doing weekly meal planning…nothing fancy. There are so many YouTube videos of meal planning, shopping on a budget, and being frugal. Since shelter in place, I’ve increased my viewing of these videos exponentially. I enjoy them so much. Some youtubers have their own products to help people get organized, but I created a simple hybrid system which is tweaked here and there.

I created a master list of the foods my family enjoys. I asked them for ideas. When I get some time, I plan to type up the list, but for now, I keep track in my journal. Weekly, I write a menu I create on the dry erase board on the refrigerator. I also get inspiration for new ideas from the YouTube videos and sites I follow. Although I don’t recall what inspired me to make the vegetarian lasagna roll ups, it doesn’t matter because they were so good. My family loved them.

Spinach & ricotta lasagna roll ups with salad. LPC

On my birthday, I got to speak to one of my long time friends for a while. We were talking about everything and then the conversation inevitably landed on food. We both love to cook. I noted that I’ve never tasted mussels or oysters. A couple of days later, I began asking myself why I was limiting myself from trying these foods. Next thing you know, I was in Costco and bought a frozen bag of mixed seafood. Seafood soup popped in my head. Then, I learned something for the first time.

Seasoned seafood ready for the pot. LPC
Beautiful sauteed veggies for seafood soup. LPC
Seafood soup. LPC

Mussels are actually quite delicious. I don’t like that it’s taken me so long to learn this.

Sunny side up egg and mashed sweet potatoes. LPC

In January, while participating in the green smoothie challenge, I blogged about the importance of people setting themselves up for success. Prepping ingredients on the weekends sets me up for success during the work week. A couple of weeks ago, I roasted my last 5 or 6 sweet potatoes and mashed them with only cinnamon. There was no excuse to not have healthy options. I tried a new breakfast combination of a sunny side up egg with mashed sweet potatoes. It was delicious!

Peaches and biscuits. LPC

I caught a video of vegan, social media superstar Tabitha Brown (google her) making a vegan peaches and biscuit recipe. I’ve never heard of this combination, BUT I was inspired to try it. On Saturday, I found myself buying Fredericksburg peaches from a lady who was deaf on the corner by the park by our house. Ten dollars for a large bag.

Fresh peaches simmering in maple syrup, freshly squeezed lemon, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg. LPC
Nothing says summer like fresh peaches. LPC

What a delicious treat! I was careful about ensuring I had enough calories in my daily allotment. I’ve found tracking my calories to be helpful because occassionally I get too lax. I was able to eat this treat and not worry about exceeding my calories. WIN! WIN! WIN!

I’m so glad to be back into my cooking groove. I’m even more excited to be adding new recipes to my meal rotation. Homecooking is not only healthier depending on what you’re cooking, but it’s more cost effective for your budget. Even if I can afford it, I want to live below my means and save money where I can.

What inspires you to cook? What new foods or food combinations have you tried recently? What are you cooking up this week?

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Quarantine 5, 10, 15…

I’m trying to decide if I’m worried about the 3-5 pounds I’ve picked up since quaranteening. It’s been about 9 weeks since I’ve been teleworking and I’m not moving around as much as I used to working at an office.

I adjusted my Fitbit step goal weeks ago because I just couldn’t retain a high amount of steps when I’m moving around in this small space as opposed to a 3-story, government building with large parking lots and hallways.

Because I weigh myself a few times a week (used to be daily), it’s been one of my strategies to keep my weight in check. If the scale teeters upward for over a week, I adjust my food intake and exercise regimen. However, I’ve learned over the years, it’s much easier to control your food intake rather than trying to burn off the extra calories, especially as you get older. I also can’t overlook that I’m on a new steroid medication to help my lungs. This could be contributing to extra pounds.

It’s no wonder that I’ve become more lax in my food choices with all that’s going on in the world as COVID-19 is at the forefront of everything. I know I’m not the only one. We did celebrate a big take out, Italian feast for Mother’s Day. I’ve been generally eating more convenience type foods like fish nuggets from Trader Joe’s and Panko breaded shrimp from Costco.

My family can’t get enough of my homemade chocolate chip cookies. It’s comfort food and I think most everyone’s heart and soul needs comfort right now.

Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. LPC

So I got on the scale this morning and it was up a little. My weight tends to fluctuate daily, which is why I stopped weighing myself daily. However, I’ve noticed an upward trend. I decided to do some meal prep today and tend to focus on vegan and vegetarian foods if my weight increases in the slightest. Meal prep helps me set myself up for success because I still struggle with taking breaks during the day to eat since I’ve been teleworking. I’ll share a couple of meals I prepared this weekend.

Turkey chorizo egg muffins. LPC
Turkey chorizo egg muffins ready for the oven. LPC
Sauteed turkey chorizo…my 1st time trying. LPC

I was inspired to make the chorizo variety from the Pioneer Woman herself- Ree Drummond from the Food Network. I’ve made what I call “lil egg muffins” many times in the past using whatever ingredients I have. I knew I could remake this for way less money than the frozen item and I knew it would be delicious. I also chose to use turkey chorizo instead of pork which helps with the calories.

I tend to be low in protein and iron, so these egg muffins will be a great protein snack I can quickly warm up in between my back to back meetings.

Fennel Lentil soup. LPC

This soup is one of my ALL-TIME favorite soups to make and it’s VEGAN. I’ve posted pictures of it in previous posts. Soup is so comforting to me. This one will fill me up without lots of calories. I’m getting plenty of iron from the lentils and spinach.

Baked sweet potato, broccoli, sauteed onions and fried plaintain. LPC

Sunday’s brunch was a vegetarian play on the steak dinner I made last night. It would be vegan if it weren’t for the parmesan I sprinkled on the broccoli when I baked it earlier in the week.

Thin cut New York strip steak with sauteed onions, rice and peas with fried plaintain. LPC

I’ve restarted menu planning a couple of weeks ago mostly because we are well stocked on groceries and I want us to use them. I don’t cook Haitian foods often although it’s in my blood, so I decided to devote at least one day a week to Haitian cuisine. Rice and beans is a Haitian staple.

I made a special trip to the grocery store to purchase steak since I’ve been craving it. This could be a sign my body needs the iron so I listened. Saturday night’s steak dinner was delicious.

Marinade for two different types of steak.

A fresh marinade I tend to whip quickly in my mini food processor is fresh parsley, lots of garlic, lemon, green onion, a hot pepper of sort, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. You can use this marinade with any protein, but it’s especially good with chicken.

Sunday small portion dinner: steak, plaintains, and premade salad kit. LPC
Roasted garlic parmesan carrot fries. LPC

My husband misunderstood when I asked him to pick up carrots from Costco. He got me two large bags of baby carrots when I asked for just carrots. The expiration date was upon me, so I had to do something because I was tired of eating raw carrots. The carrot fries were good, but I think they would be better with a dip, which I haven’t found a recipe that peaks my interest yet. I’ll keep looking.

I think I have a solid plan for food this week. The only thing is my birthday is in a few days and I know what’s on the menu. I’d like to celebrate without worry. My plan is to stick to my healthy options the other days of the week and then splurge a little on my birthday. I’ll talk about exercise in a different post. I’ve been experimenting with various exercise platforms for a few weeks and it’s been fun!

Am I worried about the few extra pounds? I am a little, but in the big scheme of themes, my life is great because I’m healthy, happy, and loved by the people who matter. I’m being proactive and that’s what matters.

How are you coping? What’s one healthy habit you’re committed to doing every day?

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Foods that heal me

I might be awaiting the results from the COVID-19 test I took on Thursday, 4/9/2020, but I’m not going to lay down and let this respiratory illness kick my butt. My husband, Bryan, helped cook our delicious Easter dinner, but I also want to share the meals I made this past week that have been helping me heal.

Easter Meal small plate April 12, 2020. LPC

I haven’t had much of an appetite today, but I made sure my family had a delicious Easter dinner. With the exception of the turnip greens and cabbage medley, these aren’t necessarily the foods that heal me, but cooking does help me feel better. And dinner was simple because I couldn’t do too much. I’m grateful Bryan stepped in to complete what I started. Ham, potato salad, turnip greens and cabbage, Mexican corn, and corn bread rounded out a delicious meal.

Chicken noodle soup April 2020. LPC

Chicken noodle soup does wonders for respiratory illnesses. I made this soup on Friday and this one BLEW my mind it was so good. It consists of my homemade chicken broth, roasted chicken, egg noodles(bought at an Asian Market), mushrooms, onions, celery, garlic, fennel, red pepper, jalepeno pepper, and spices including turmeric and ginger. Do I really need to tell you why this soup is so nutritious? If you don’t know, look up the amazing wonders of each of the ingredients I listed. I have a big bowl of leftovers to carry me through a few more days.

When you need a spoon and a fork for your soup, then you’ve done good. LPC
Triple berry yogurt parfait April 2020. LPC

Gut health is so important because it impacts so many other areas of health that you wouldn’t think are connected to your gut. I’m no nutritionist, but I’ve learned there are many benefits to probiotics. And plain, organic greek yogurt is my favorite food for probiotics. I defrosted about 1/4 cup of frozen mixed berries, added a dab of maple syrup, a packet of stevia, and topped with organic granola. This parfait certainly gave my immune system a boost.

Sausage, squash, spinach, and peppers medley April 2020. LPC

The nutritional benefits of powerhouse greens and fresh produce in general is almost endless. I strive to eat mostly plant based foods. I was craving spinach and remembered I still had some beautiful organic yellow squash to add. This dish also has red peppers which contain more Vitamin C than an orange, and onions, garlic, tomato paste, chicken broth, and spices. This could be eaten with rice, quinoa, grits, or with no side at all. It could also easily become a vegan dish by omitting the sausage, adding extra greens and/or squash, and using vegetable broth or water.

Mango orange green smoothie April 2020. LPC

Of course, I drink a daily green smoothie, but when I’m particularly under the weather, I load up on produce with high concentrations of Vitamin C. In this batch, which produced 3 mason jars of smoothies, I added 2 cups of dethawed mangos, frozen bananas, an orange, chia seeds, flax seeds, collagen powder, ginger, almond milk, and organic spinach. My appetite was low today, but sipping on this green smoothie in the morning ensured I was hydrated and getting some nutrition. Drinking out of my cute owl jar also made me feel better.🦉

Cod sauteed with spinach April 2020. LPC

My main two choices for hearty fish are cod and salmon. I buy them fresh in large packs at Costo, then I portion and freeze in ziplock bags. We were done cooking and eating our Easter meal around lunch time. For dinner, I ate half of the portion of cod pictured above. I needed a good source of protein and Omega 3s and this cod is packed with both.

Hydration (water and teas) and sleep are a couple of other areas I’m also focusing on. I might be sick, but I’m doing all I can to get better. I’m looking forward to feeling better really soon.

What are you cooking this week? What are your favorite healing foods?

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Cooking in the midst of ‘shelter in place’

I was made for this pandemic. As a breast cancer survivor, I believe I’ve already faced the most horrific news anyone could bare. And I survived it along with treatment. As the bread winner in my household for a couple of years, I’ve been diligent about planning our grocery shopping and meals within a budget. We will survive this COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m not gonna lie: it is a little unnerving to see empty shelves at the grocery store. There’s certainly a new normal of buying what you can find. Grocery shopping is like a scavenger hunt now. The brand of flour I like is not on the shelf. In fact, there is no flour on the shelf, except at Costco. Items that you take for granted are gone. Lysol wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, hand sanitizer (I barely used the stuff) are the highest commodities right now. Of the items noted, last week I was only able to find paper towels.

Our Grocery Cart at Costco 3-31-2020. LPC

Our grocery shopping strategy was different for April. I decided to do most of my shopping at Costco having gotten a peak at the grocery store shelves in our neighborhood stores. Empty shelves is the theme. I have the storage capacity to stock up on freezer items and pantry staples, so I took advantage. We purchased extra food. I do this type of shopping every month, so it’s not new to me. I’m just thankful I can do it.

For those who follow my site, you know I mostly cook homemade meals. Our household budget doesn’t allow much room for eating out, so we’re not missing much with the restaurants being closed for dining. However, I’m sad for all of the people who have lost their jobs, especially those in the restaurant and hospitality industries. There are many people who have lost their jobs in other industries also.

Chicken salad on naan. LPC
Sunday dinner 4-5-2020: Chunky potato soup and chicken salad. LPC

In uncertain times like these, I hone into doing what brings me joy such as cooking. I love feeding my family. My son asked me last week to make chicken salad. He actually wanted me to buy canned chicken. I was like, “NOOOO!!! Are you kidding me! I don’t make my chicken salad with canned chicken.”

Since I was craving a version of my potato soup with my homemade chicken broth, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I put a whole chicken in a large pot with water and added aromatics such as garlic, onion, parsley, celery, and spices. I let that boil for almost 24 hours. Then I removed the chicken from the pot, shredded it, and added the shredded chicken to a dressing of mayonnaise, chipotle mustard, pickled jalepenos, yellow bell pepper, diced celery, a dab of relish, and spices.

For the soup, I roasted 2 russet potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. In a stock pot, I sauteed onions, celery, fennel, yellow bell pepper, garlic, in olive oil. I sauteed about 2 tablespoons of flour in the mixture with a pad of butter. Then, I added my fresh chicken broth. I diced up the roasted vegetables and added them to the pot along with fresh parsley. I let that simmer a bit then added about a half cup of cream. I let it all simmer while I did some step aerobics.

Codfish sandwich and homemade french fries. LPC

My daughter’s school was providing free lunches to families a couple of weeks ago because school was out and they didn’t know what to do with the food. At that time, the schools were planning to reopen on 4/6/2020…so they thought. Although my daughter didn’t want to go because she doesn’t like their food, we made her go with us anyway. We explained that there is no shame in getting free food, especially since the school didn’t know what to do with the extra. We went about 2 days. There were other families too.

If you have no other options for food, I can see how this would be a valuable resource. My family ate the food both times that we went. However, we opted to not return. Other families need it more than we do and I’m conscientious of feeding my family more healthy options. I did greatly appreciate the fruit. The bun pictured on my fish sandwich is from one of the school meals. It took a matter of minutes to saute a small portion of cod to make that fish sandwich. It was so good!

In uncertain times such as these, I’m safe, surrounded by the people I love, and have endless options for cooking delicious and filling meals for my family. And I’m full…in more ways than one.

What do you plan on cooking this week? How are you coping?

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Bowls of self-care

We are living in strange times indeed. The COVID-19 pandemic is one for the history books. The silver lining is we’re being forced as a human race to collectively slow down, which I hope allows for lots of self-care.

My type of self-care is nourishing myself with nutritious foods. Three of the four people in my household are high risk if we somehow catch this virus. I’m focusing on our health.

The epitome of comfort in my book is a bowl of soup.  As I’ve written many times, the activity of cooking is soothing to me. On Friday, while teleworking, I made two nutritious and delicious soups: chicken tortilla and black bean. I let my homemade bone broth simmer for hours. My pantry and freezer staples helped me rise to the occassion.

Black bean soup. LPC

In these coming months, I hope you make time for self-care and whatever that means for you. I’ll continue to cook and share, hoping you get inspired by my recipes and even share some of your self-care ideas with me.

What steps are you making to care for yourself?