Preparation

January 6

I’ve fallen in love with my planner. As much as I try to go to an electronic system, as much sense as it makes in this world of waste and STUFF, I find I need the reinforcement of pen to paper (and yes, I am very particular about the kind of pen I like. Pilot G-2 gel pen, in blue ink. Fine point or medium point is less critical, though I prefer the fine point. And do people in your house take your pens too? I digress.)

This is my planner, which you can find at savorthesuccess.com IMG_8256

What do I like about it?

  • I can tell what day to start the week on.
  • Each day has a complete page, plus a spillover page to doodle or make notes.
  • I get to create my schedule. No 15 minute blocks. Just a blank spot called “water cup.”
  • There is a place at the start of every week to BRAIN DUMP, with a reminder that some of this can be delegated and a space to write down that delegation. IMG_8268
  • There is a spot for FROGS (things that HAVE to be done each day, or at least if you get them done you will feel accomplished and victorious.) Three of these.
  • There is a spot for SHIPS, things that you send out into the world not quite knowing whether they will come back, and if they do what they will bring. I can directly attribute my TedX Open Mic talk last October to this section of this planner.
  • There is a reminder on every day to SAVOR something. Talk about a reminder to be grateful! In my planner!!!

planner pic

I’ve been using this for about 4 months now, and I’d say my success rate is close to 90% in terms of using it. That’s a whole lot more consistent than I’ve been with any planner before.

So what’s new? This year, all 6 days of it, I’ve gone to writing down the next day’s Brain Dump, Frogs, Ships, and Water Cup (that would be To Do list, “GOTTA GET DONEs”, “Oooh reach for the moons”, and schedule) at night, before I go to bed. This helps in so many ways, not the least of which it means I have only to look at my list when I get myself going in the morning, instead of working to gear up to think about it all.

Plus it means I have dumped all the “Man, you better remember THAT” onto paper before I go to bed, which means (so far) fewer sit-bolt-upright-in-bed moments. (and if those come? I’ve got my planner next to me, with a pen, to write them down!)

Preparation. Those few minutes the night before mean less hassle and worry in the morning and more peace of mind in the evening.

I’d love to help you with preparation, planning, and execution. Leave a comment below, get in touch with me on Facebook (Badass Chronicles), or subscribe to my YouTube channel!

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Starting Over

January 5

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Not sure what it is about this time of year, but it feels like it’s time to start over. Like a mega Monday of sorts, if that makes any sense, but without any of the dread. I’m so jazzed about all the possibilities I can hardly stand it.

I don’t make resolutions, but I do set goals. Goals like “workout 6 days a week” and “drink 2 glasses of water for every cup of coffee.” Goals like “clean the garage” and “redo the floors upstairs.” These are pretty big, overarching goals. Elephant goals. I need something smaller to bite off to make those doable.

We’ve been decluttering like mad. If the house were a boat, we’d be floating a whole lot higher on our lines right now. The attic is organized. Whole car loads have gone to Goodwill and the SPCA. Jeremy is discovering the eye-opening potential of Craigslist. There’s more to do, of course – the garage is deep in the throes of declutter, the stage where it looks tornadoed and hopeless. We are having to pace the garbage thing (maybe we need to look into a dumpster, seriously) and even the kids are getting into the act.

The thing is with any of this stuff, with starting over and decluttering and working out and eating right, though? The reason it is so easy to be excited on January 1 and poop out by January 10?

If you think of this as a whole huge “gotta do it forever” thing, it gets overwhelming. Saying you’re going to clean the entire garage is daunting. Doing one shelf at a time? Less daunting. Working out for an entire year? Holy mackerel that’s 365 days. But can you work out TODAY? Can you do 5 minutes? Can you drink a glass of water RIGHT NOW?

I am all about starting over in January. I’m also all about starting with what you can do RIGHT NOW, and celebrating.

The attic is done. Some garage shelves are done. I’m on glass #4 of water for the day (and have had only one cup of coffee). I got in my workouts today.

Badass. It’s about the small things. Small decisions, small choices. Small celebrations.

Attic after (attic after. And those chairs are being recaned this week.)

I’d love to help you with your choices, decisions, and celebrations. Email me, leave a comment, find me on Facebook (Badass Chronicles). Together we can do anything in the world.

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Menu planning

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January 4, 2015

Last day of lazy no-real-schedule vacation. Why does this feel so different than a regular weekend? Dunno, but I know for sure it does. We all stayed up too late last night and are dragging a little today, which is kind of normal for the days since New Year’s. Tomorrow morning will be exciting and amazing and YAY we are back to a routine. (Can you tell I’m trying to convince me? You’re right.)

Today is Sunday. I generally meal plan on Sundays, though the shopping does not happen until Monday, when the stores are less busy and my kitchen not filled with gangly bodies working on art projects or refurbishing old typewriters. Lucky me, I know, to have that luxury.

How do I meal plan? I look at the weather (really.) I check out the schedule, for me and Jeremy and the kids. I ask them all what they’d like to eat this week. (Julian’s response is predictable – “Chocolate mousse,” he says. “Yes, for dinner.” Nice try, son.) I think about what grocery store I need to go to this week – if I need things like garbage bags and laundry detergent, I’m not hitting Whole Foods. Then I try to balance. Soup vs “dinner”. Mexican flavors vs Asian flavors vs American vs not sure what else to toss in there. Meat-based vs vegetable-based. Starches. Dessert, maybe? And I come up with something that approximates a decent menu plan for the week, make my list for groceries, and set to work!

This week the weather is predictably weird for Central Virginia in January. Yesterday was 30 degrees and rainy/icy. Today is 60 and rainy/sunny. Rest of the week sunny, though temps dropping from 40 tomorrow to low 20s by Thursday and back up. Scratch the idea of grilling. We ate crazy amounts of heavy food so I wanted salad and lighter things, but had to balance with the winter-time need for more comfort-food stuff. I work Tuesdays and Wednesdays so want crockpot meals on those days. No nighttime stuff this week for any of us, other than usual after-school activities that are done by 7. It’s not a date night week, and we’re saving the month’s eating out budget for our New York blowout in 2 weeks.

menu plan This week’s plan.

Do you menu plan? What tricks do you use?

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An invitation

Crow. FInally.Happy 2015!

Kicking off the year a couple of days late, in a haze of sleeping in and snuggling with warm covers and warm bodies. Kicking off the year a couple of days late, in a haze of friendship and special foods and “yes, please, another glass of wine because why not.”

Kicking off the year a couple of days late in the satisfaction of enjoyment.

But now it’s here.

2015 is HERE! It’s invitation time – and this post is an invitation to you.

An invitation to connect. To cheer. To support and motivate and kick in the butt. An invitation to health. To fitness, to nutrition. To making small changes and choices TODAY. An invitation to believe that you can do it. Because I believe you can.

Here is your invitation. It’s up to you to decide how to RSVP. Will you say YES and join me?

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French toast. Or what to do with leftover bread.

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Using up leftovers in a creative way is always challenging, at least in my house. My kids are deeply suspicious of anything they have seen before, even if they wanted to throw a party in celebration the first time it appeared. Being a constantly on-the-go individual, I love ready-made food at my fingertips. Makes me look like a bit of a genius, whipping up dinner in about 10 minutes. What about all the little bits that wind up hanging around in the pantry or the fridge? One can only make casseroles so often . . .

Bread is one of those things that winds up neglected. Not that it happens all the time; my family goes through bread spurts where I can hardly keep up. It’s the in between times when I face a half a loaf in the bread drawer, wanting to use it up before it goes off.

Three options, and there are likely more.

1)   Make bread crumbs. Slice that bread, cut it into quarters (roughly anyway), drop it in the food processor, and whir away. The resulting crumbs can be frozen to use whenever. I freeze mine in the fresh crumb state, but you could also oven-crisp them and freeze them that way.

2)   Make croutons. Best done with leftover baguette or other crusty bread. Cut into bite-size pieces. Toss with garlicked oil (or leave the garlic out of it) and sprinkle with a little salt, then bake at about 325 until browned and crisp. Cool completely, put in an airtight container, and freeze (or not) until you want to use it. My son is on a Caesar salad kick right now and these are essential.

3)   Make French toast (which the French call “pain perdu”, or lost bread.) Needless to say, this one is a favorite in my house. Hmm. I wonder if they purposefully leave leftover bread so I’ll make this?

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ tsp (or more) cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1+ TBS sugar (I like brown sugar in this)
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 4 slices of leftover bread
  • 1 TBS butter or coconut oil for the pan

TECHNQUE:

  • Mix all ingredients except the bread and butter together. I mix these directly in a 9×13 pan, since that’s the perfect soaking spot.
  • Lay the bread slices in a single layer in the egg mixture. Let soak for 2 minutes a side.  The egg mixture will be mostly soaked up.
  • Preheat the pan on medium-medium low heat for about 4 minutes. Add the butter or coconut oil and melt it until it bubbles a bit.
  • Add the bread to the pan, in a single layer. Cook for maybe 3 minutes a side, or until the bread is browned and crisped. You might have to adjust the heat a little.
  • Serve with bacon. Warm maple syrup. Fresh strawberries. Whipped cream. Chocolate chips. Go wild!

Having homemade bread crumbs or croutons ready to pull out of the freezer makes me feel accomplished. Using up leftovers makes me feel like a virtuous, frugal person. Small things – that make me feel badass. You?

 

 

 

 

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Balance. Or kitchen organization. You decide.

Funny that the video this week is about kitchen organization, because much of my humming-away-in-the-background mental energy has been working on balance. And to me, kitchen organization is very much about balance.

Do you store items close to the dishwasher, making it easy to put away? Or do you store things close to where you use them? What do you do with cherished but seldom-used items?

Only you can decide, of course. It is your kitchen, after all!

A few things to consider:

1)   Store items close to where you will use them. A cabinet close to the stove is a great place for pots and pans. I have all my dishes in the cabinet closest to the dining room.

2)   Store like items with like items. Having all the baking items (bowls, mixer, spices, flour) in one general area means you can easily find everything without opening endless cabinets. I keep all my coffee stuff, mugs and all, in one corner cabinet close to the stove.

3)   Every kitchen has a cabinet or two that is less convenient or practical than the rest. This might be the back corner or the tallest shelf. Use these areas for seldom-used items (the turkey v-rack, for example) so you’re not getting frustrated on a regular basis.

4)   Store items so other people can help you easily, without getting in the way. This might be more critical if you have small children who want to help, or if you entertain family and friends a lot. I keep general dinnerware (silverware, plates, cups, napkins) in an end cabinet that is closest to the dining room – people can set the table while I am working in the main kitchen space.

You might not have the cabinet space to do all of these, and you might not want to anyway. But an organized kitchen, even if you are the only one for whom that organization makes sense, is one that will help you feel balanced as a cook.

It’s the small things that make you feel balanced. And badass. Always badass.

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PANCAKES!

Pancakes!

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A favorite anytime food in my household, particularly for the kids, pancakes are one of those simple foods that are pretty easy to make taste okay – but not so easy to make taste GREAT. For me, the one important piece? Texture!

The trick to turning out perfectly fluffy pancakes every time is not beating the batter to within an inch of its life.  You don’t want a perfectly smooth, lump-free batter. This trick works if you’re making pancakes from a mix (please try from scratch sometime!) or from scratch. And who doesn’t love a cooking tip that involves less work? Check out this video for a fun tutorial!

PERFECTLY BADASS PANCAKES (recipe can be doubled)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c all purpose flour (can use ½ c ww flour if you want)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBS brown sugar (can use white sugar, or maple sugar if you have it)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 c buttermilk (or soured milk, or ¼ c plain yogurt and ¾ c milk)
  • 3 TBS melted butter
  • 1 egg

TECHNIQUE

  • Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  • Whisk wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl
  • Make a well in the dry ingredients, then pour the wet ingredients in.
  • Mix gently (I almost fold the parts together) with a spatula (NO WHISK!) until the flour is incorporated but some lumps remain.
  • Preheat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium –medium/low heat for about 4-5 minutes. Yes, use the lower setting and let it heat through that way! Brush with oil. Ideally you’ll test the heat by making a dollar-size pancake – should cook through in about 2 minutes on the first side.
  • Spoon ¼ c or so size scoops onto the griddle, spreading the batter out. It WILL be thick!
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side, then flip over and cook for another minute or 2 on the second side. You can play with the heat setting on your cooktop but you don’t want it to cook a whole lot faster than this – you’ll wind up with uncooked batter inside.
  • Serve with your favorite breakfast meat (if you eat meat), some gorgeous fruit, and warm Vermont maple syrup (from April’s Maple, of course!)IMG_6094
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How to poach eggs

poached eggs on toast

I love poached eggs. For a long time the only time I’d get them was as a special treat at a brunch restaurant (full disclosure – with hollandaise sauce as part of Eggs Benedict!) – frankly, I was scared of trying to make them at home. Something about the boiling water and getting the eggs just right (cooked whites, yolks runny) had me thinking this was harder than quantum physics.

Then a friend posted a picture of her poached egg breakfast. And I thought about the health benefits of eggs (too numerous to count) and the fact that if I figured out how to poach them, I could eat them with no added fat for the pan.

So I figured it out. There might be more niceties – people tell me adding vinegar to the pan will help with the setting of the white, or swirling the water into a whirlpool will make the egg a pretty shape – but the basics are pretty basic. Get a hold of fresh-from-the-farm eggs, find a good skillet, and experiment with the timing so you get it perfect for you! Check out this Tasty Thursday video for a tutorial . . . 

POACHED EGGS – technique. (ingredients? Eggs and water. Or salsa or spaghetti sauce. But we’ll stick with water here.)

  • Fill a small non-stick skillet about an inch deep with water and bring to a good simmer.
  • Carefully crack eggs into a bowl, working to not break the yolk.
  • Slip the eggs into the simmering water.
    Cook until the white is just set and the yolk is still runny, maybe about 3 minutes (? I have never timed it.) The yolk will have a thin film over it, and the whites will white through, not opaque – you can also slip a spatula underneath and lift the egg up as a unit.
  • CAREFULLY pour the water out of the pan. I use a slotted spoon to hold the eggs in place, then to kind of slip the eggs (one at a time) out of the pan – this way most of the excess water drains away.
  • Amazing served on fresh homemade ww toast – no butter needed at all. Yum.

 

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CONCH SALAD

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In the US, more people know these shells as the ones you hold up to your ear to listen to the ocean. Yes, they are a beautiful reminder of a fabulous vacation (or a wistful dream to hold onto) – but they once were home to an animal. And this animal makes for a very tasty treat.

Bahamas cruisers can relate to the lore of the conch. The shells are everywhere. Menus explode with conch this and conch that – most fried. The casual flinging around of terms like conch fritters and cracked conch belies the difficulty many of us find in getting the darn things prepped for cooking . . .

Ted very graciously showed me how to get the animal out of its shell and then how to clean it. Makes me almost want to try again. Or maybe it makes me want to go find Ted and have him do it for me!

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CONCH SALAD. This ceviche-like dish is a refreshing way to showcase the texture and flavor of the conch. There is no heat involved, making it a perfect choice for a steamy evening aboard. Serve as is, or with crackers – but serve it fresh. The flavors and textures are unbelievable.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-3 conch, cleaned and chopped into a small dice
  • 1+ small onion, chopped fine
  • ½+ goat pepper, chopped extra fine (watch your eyes!)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped fine
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped into a small dice
  • salt to taste (optional but yummy)
  • sour orange (not optional!)

TECHNIQUE:

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Best eaten the day it’s made.
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How to cook rice!

Rice is pretty simple, really. It’s a staple all around the world, though for some cultures it’s sticky rice and others prefer more separate grains. The sheer variety of rice can be overwhelming. Brown, white, jasmine, black, purple, red, basmati, wild. Instant. Long grain, short grain, Par-cooked.  Organic, non-organic. . . . my head is spinning just writing this.

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But for most people reading this, you’re probably wondering about how to cook brown or white rice. Basic, simple. You’re probably cooking for 2-4 people. So here you go! (and the video is here!)

A little background:

  • Brown rice is rice that still has the bran and germ attached. It’s got more flavor (to me) and more nutrients (because the bran and germ have a bunch of nutrients in them), but it takes longer to cook and is chewier (which I like.) Any rice can be found in the brown “variety”.
  • White rice has had the bran and germ removed. It’s generally more refined-looking than brown rice. It’s got a more delicate flavor and texture.

Basic cooking technique:

  • 1 cup rice to 2 cups water (can use stock or some juice or wine to flavor it!)
  • Bring water to a boil in a saucepan (as opposed to a skillet)
  • Stir in rice, cover and turn down to a simmer. (I turn the stovetop all the way down) You can stir once or twice during cooking, but you don’t have to.
  • For white rice, cook 20 minutes.
  • For brown rice, cook 45 minutes.

1 cup rice will make enough for 4 people with some leftovers. You can double this recipe safely, but when you start really scaling it up the water to rice ratio changes a bit. If you like your brown rice less chewy, use an extra 2 TBS of water.

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