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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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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?