Small Kitchen Meal Prep

Finding space to make a week’s worth of meals in a kitchen that is more like a closet can prove to be challenging. Not only do I lack storage space, there is a lack of work space as well. This is my biggest barrier and what usually stops me from creating in the kitchen as I’ve done in the past.

I decided in this new year I would break down that barrier and find a way to work better with the space I have. When I move to nomad living my kitchen space will be even smaller than what I’ve got now. It’s time to take on this challenge and make it work for me so that when I go even smaller I’ll know better how to make a successful transition. The first hurdle to overcome was my attitude toward my small kitchen space. I’ve spent too much time being irritated by it instead of finding workable solutions for myself, though I will say the layout of my kitchen supplies is quite efficient.

I certainly utilize my kitchen and cook food for myself daily, but I don’t get into a day of preparing make-ahead meals like I used to do when I had more of a kitchen room. Playing in the kitchen and making healthful food is where I find my happy place. I really need to be in my happy place more often. It just feels good. With some motivating self talk, a little planning and a fresh attitude adjustment, I went at a menu for the week recently and the results were quite delicious. I considered the time and tools that would go into each recipe, being mindful of using minimal supplies. Check out what I enjoyed below in the slideshow. I ate well and felt great!

I made blueberry almond flour scones, ground turkey patties and crock pot coconut chicken curry with veggies. The scones and turkey patties each paired well with nutritious green smoothies and the coconut chicken curry made lunches a breeze and dinner super easy after my long work days. I added rice or green salad as a side to make my meals well-rounded.

I’ll be repeating this menu via a YouTube video in the near future so you can have access to the recipes.

Speaking of YouTube videos–my second video will be ready soon. I’d anticipated a shorter time frame between my first and second video, but alas! Life…..it sometimes has other plans. Thanks for sticking around friends. I’ll be back soon!

Until then, happy cooking and stay positive!

 

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Hoppin’ John and YouTube in the New Year 

Happy New Year, friends! I have spent most of 2017 quiet in the Word Press world. I have wanted to take my blog in a different direction for some time now. Being more passive than active with my creative process, ideas have been slow to blossom into what I would like this blog to become. 2018 will be the change I want to see and I do hope you’ll follow along.

I’m venturing into YouTube videos! You can find me here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZjX2ZitoUdObYjMcrcXcOw

This is an exciting challenge for me. My blogs have been about gluten free and dairy free eating and recipe sharing. I still adhere to this way of eating and my YouTube videos will reflect that. However, the spin will be focused on the direction I feel I am headed in my life which is nomadic and minimalist living. I find my current small kitchen space to be similar to what I would be using while living in a camper van or RV. In my research I have found that many people who choose this way of living eat a lot of prepackaged foods that are high in lots of things not so good for your body and low in nutritional value. Using simple, healthful ideas and easy one pot meals I’d like to show you simple, scratch cooking meals that are affordable and good for your body.

I’ll start with a New Year’s day tradition in my family–Hoppin’ John! Customary in the South, this dish is eaten on New Year’s day for maximum good luck in the coming year. I made a pot of it today and wow, it is delicious!

I wish you all things good in this 2018 year.  As I enjoy a hearty bowl of Hoppin’ John I have my own wishes for growth and prosperity in my new ventures.

Check out my Hoppin’ John recipe then take a peek at my introductory video. Enjoy!

Hoppin’ John

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 celery stalk, finely diced

1/2 red pepper, diced

4 cups collard greens

1 package of smoked beef kielbasa (or meat of choice) *optional

1 1/2 cups black eyed peas

3 cups vegetable broth

Saute’ garlic and onions for 2 minutes. Add celery and sauté another minute. Add peppers, mix until all combined and sauté until veggies are soft. Add kielbasa, stir to combine then add peas and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until peas are soft. Serve over rice. Garnish with cilantro.

Comfort Cookies

For those days that leave you frazzled, comfort cookies hit the spot. One delicious cookie bite and you’ll find yourself in a blissful sweet moment where your woeful, tired thoughts simply fade away.

Using a classic Betty Crocker recipe, I adapted it to my lifestyle choices which made these gluten free and dairy free using quality, organic ingredients whenever possible.

Here’s the original version from Betty herself–If you don’t adhere to a gluten free dairy free lifestyle, just go at this recipe as is and enjoy! http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/soft-molasses-cookies/4e20528d-5cb1-45fb-b9eb-8e6cca62afac

Below is my adapted version and I have to say they were pretty scrumptious to me. I nearly hurt myself eating so many! I needed to pass them along for sharing to save my poor belly!

Give them a try. Get wrapped up in these sweet delights and let your worries be free, if only for a few moments.  Bet you can’t eat just one.

Ginger Molasses Cookies

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup earth balance spread (organic soy free version)

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 egg

2 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp sea salt

3 Tbsp raw sugar (for dipping dough balls in)

Heat oven to 325°F. Using the large bowl of your mixer add brown sugar, earth balance, molasses and mix on medium speed. Add in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar and mix until completely incorporated.

Shape dough by rounded tablespoonfuls into 1 1/2-inch balls. Dip tops into raw sugar. Using an ungreased cookie sheet, place balls, sugared sides up, about 2 inches apart.

Bake 13 to 16 minutes or just until set and cookies appear dry. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Try and wait until they cool before eating!  

 

Be Bold. Eat Buddha Bowls. 

I ate well last week. Buddha Bowls were my meals for the week, portioned into single serving containers for quick grab and go. The inspiration for these Buudha Bowls came from my son. During a conversation he mentioned that he makes them, stores them in the refrigerator and eats them throughout the week. I asked him a few questions about how he prepared them, checked a few online ideas and I was inspired to create my own.

Buddha Bowls are my new favorite lunch. I plan on making more today to get me through this coming week. The most common way to create a Buddha Bowl starts with a base, which is generally a dark green vegetable. Next there’s a grain, a protein, a complex carbohydrate, something sweet, some crunch and some fluff (this would be toppings like chives, cilantro, sesame seeds, etc). All this goodness is topped with a fantastic sauce which is key for a superb bowl.

I adapted my Buddha Bowls to what I had on hand. I am definitely making it with chicken instead of beef when I make more today. Beef is delicious but I think a different sauce would compliment the meat more. The nutty asian-inpired sauce I made will be more ideal with chicken.

I also used some frozen and some fresh veggies. I very rarely buy frozen vegetables. My local grocer had 50% off on a brand I favor and their frozen vegetables were so inexpensive I bought several packages. I’ve found it difficult to get enough raw, fresh veggies in me lately so I decided to take a temporary different direction. It certainly worked!  In addition to the vegetables in my Buddha Bowls, I’ve enjoyed a couple fresh made juices and delicious fresh green salads. I’m planning more of the same for this week, too.

I encourage you to check out some ideas online and come up with your own unique version of these delicious, healthful meals. Here’s how I prepared my Buddha Bowls:

My base was spinach, then I added brown jasmine rice. My frozen veggie combo consisted of green beans, multiple colors and cuts of carrots, sweet peas, corn, broccoli and cauliflower. I tossed them together on a baking sheet, sprinkled a bit of granulated garlic and roasted them in the oven. My protein was thinly sliced grass fed sirloin steak, browned to medium rare in my cast iron skillet. I added roasted yams, cut into bite sized chunks, skipped the sweet and used chopped romaine as my crunch. I topped it with grated ginger, chives and black sesame seeds. Now, the best part-the sauce!  I looked up a few versions and then made up my own. My measurements are rough and I adjusted to taste, but here’s a good base recipe to start:

3 Tbsp creamy sunbutter

1 Tbsp low-sodium tamari

Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed

1 tsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp honey

1.5 Tbsp sesame oil

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp ground ginger (I also added ginger juice)

1/2 tsp granulated garlic

I added all ingredients, gave it a quick zap in the microwave to thin the sunbutter then whisked it until everything was evenly combined. I divided the sauce between my containers then topped some with chopped chives & black sesame seeds.

Although Buddha Bowls were the highlight of my week, I did make a two other cassoulets I ate for dinner. These were made with grass fed ground beef, more of the same vegetable combination I used for the Buddha Bowls, spiced with garlic, parsley, cumin, salt and pepper then topped with leftover biscuit dough. Lastly, I managed to get in more fresh produce by making mason jar juice!

I certainly ate healthful food that made my body feel good. Taking a few hours to prepare meals for the week keeps me from wanting to grab unhealthy foods like the little bag of fritos in the convenience market near work that becomes lunch or spending money on the many food carts that line the downtown streets. Homemade meals are always best. My body feels better, my mind is positively focused and my spirit is calm. Eating well makes me happy. I encourage you to try make ahead meals. It’s a great way to be assured you’ll get proper balanced nutrition. I guarantee that will motivate you to be your best every day. Now, who doesn’t want that? 

Two Years Of Good

This day brings significance I must acknowledge. Two years ago today I moved into my sweet little space I now call home. I believed it to be the worst day of my life. I was grateful for a place to call my own, thinking I was headed toward homelessness, but I longed for my old life. This change was abrupt. It was forced. It was not my choice. The day I walked out the door of my old house my relationship was officially over. It ended a month previously, really. I moved myself into the basement guest room while I frantically tried to find other living arrangements. When I wasn’t doing that I was trying to wrap my mind around what the hell happened.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ve read the story of my abrupt life change. In this past blog Dip. Dip. Depression. I share the story of what happened that led me to walk through the door of my new place two years ago. Re-reading it myself I can say the most significant realization is the same. I can also say that two years later I still have no idea what happened to “M” for her to behave so horribly. I also still have no idea why she ended our relationship or why she chose to completely cut me out. I feel pretty confident now I know what happened in “M” that caused her mental break, but she will never tell me so I’ve come to my own conclusions and closure. I had to and I am still no less appalled by what she did, by the way. I accept that it is what it is. I can conjure up compassion for her occasionally, though it’s brief and far between. I know she struggles and suffers emotionally and that’s really an awful way to be. It’s unfortunate.

I don’t often give “M” my mental energy these days. I like much more to focus on my awesomely positive experiences and the goals I am working toward. Life fell magically back into place looking completely different than the old life I was longing. Soon enough I was done looking back, feeling happy and making plans for my future. I have a job I call my dream job even though much like my life it is very different than I imagined.

Life is good. Most days I’m pretty content. I honestly can only see misery when I think of the what if. That being if we had stayed together. Interesting how two short years can change my view of “the good life”. I like where I’m at now. I like where I’m going. While there have been plenty of struggles, I persevere. I really try to be positive. Soon enough things will change again, this time by my own determination. I will always be deeply grateful for this place that became my home. It’s where I came back to myself. Happy two years of good to me!

Gorgeous view from my kitchen window on a recent snowy day

2017. New Year. Radical Change.

Where has the time gone? Do you ask yourself that question as often as I do? It has been seven months since my last blog post! That’s a long time! The break was needed, though I did not intend this length. I continue to be active in other areas on WordPress. I notice I still get activity and new followers to my blog. I do appreciate all of you with your continued support and interest.

It’s hard remembering back to summer as our city sits snow covered after a series of winter storms that paralyzed Portland. I did have an amazing summer though, and I was out exploring my lovely Oregon state as often as I could. My truck got it’s camper conversion and with each trip out I played a little more with the organization and set up. I really like it a lot.

Thanks to my son for gifting me a trip to North Carolina over my birthday so I could see him and spend time in Raleigh, a city I am interested in knowing. Two visits with my boy in one year puts a smile on my face! My plans for radical change continue to move steadily along. There is something both unsettling and comforting for me as I fiercely focus my energies on this change. This being my move across the country from Portland Oregon to Raleigh North Carolina. I am on the path. I’m making it happen. It’s scary exciting!

These past several months have brought change to my family. Our little triad increased three fold when my daughter married a man with two young girls. The joy of little girls to dote on makes this “grandma” very happy. I look forward to being on the east side of the country where I will be closer to my little family.

I haven’t spent much time in my kitchen these past months. I do what I need to sustain myself, however I’ve been lacking the inspiration to be creative with my food. While I am deeply grateful for the space I have including my tiny kitchen, I long for a “real” kitchen with counter space in a room of it’s own. My little studio is overall pretty awesome even with its “rv”style kitchen. I do not know where I would be without this place. It has been a blessing and my saving grace. What originally began as a two month temporary stay is now creeping up on two years of comfortable living.

One thing I do not find so awesome about my area is being housebound for days when Portland gets snow and ice storms, which has been the case recently. It used to be rare for this city, but both winters have dumped the white stuff in my hills. I have learned when it snows and freezes I will be stuck on my hill long after the rest of the city is back to its hustle. My elevation is high nestled among the trees of Forest Park, so weather is more extreme than the valley below me. I am less than two miles from work yet on snow filled days it feels like I’m in a mountainous winter wonderland. I may whine about the size of my kitchen space hindering my desire to be creative, but it came through for me and saved my sanity while I was stuck inside. Thankfully I’ve been well stocked with groceries each time I’ve been stuck!  I now own all the tools I will need to traverse my snowy and icy hills if my truck can’t get out. Ice cleats, hiking poles and an ice crunching shovel will be my winter companions. I find it a funny thought that I now own these things to move around my Portland city!  This is just one of the many things that has made living in the West Hills a unique experience!

I wanted to provide you all with some pictures of my food creations over the past several months but my laptop died before I could save all my pictures to my “cloud”.  For now I’ve replaced it with my tablet which puts me on a new learning curve, especially with blogging!

This post serves as my reintroduction sans the food pictures. I do have a few photos of the incredible beauty I have witnessed recently up here in the hills. I certainly cannot complain about that!

Stunning beauty

Portland like we rarely see it. Enjoy! More to come soon. I promise. Sabbatical over. Thanks again for sticking around.

Happy New year!

Tea and Treats

I have had such a sweet tooth recently!  Sugar is not something I generally have an affinity toward, but there are some hormonal shifts happening in my body and the sugar cravings have been kicking in with a vengeance.

While sifting through my bulging folder of recipes not long ago, I found a couple of recipes that are grain free, sweetened with agave and along the lines of “dessert”, both relatively healthy options for satisfying my sugar craving.  When it comes to gluten free baked goods I proceed with caution.  I cross my fingers hoping that the recipe is well tested, that my process is correct and that my hard work will not be in vain.  Food waste is disgraceful, with greater disgrace when the waste is so expensive.

I had an upcoming tea date with my best friend so this I must say, this was the perfect opportunity (excuse!) to try out these lovely recipes.  Both would be perfect partners with tea.  The first recipe is a walnut date bar using almond flour.  The second recipe is a lemon almond biscotti recipe also using almond flour in addition to being vegan.  I have looked at this biscotti recipe so many times and most recently it has been laying on my kitchen counter for me to scan each time I happen by that area of the kitchen.  It has been such an enticement, but not enough for me to be inspired enough to make them.  I have never made gluten free biscotti and for some reason felt intimidated by its very specific technique.

I am feeling excited for time with my best friend, who has not been to our house in I don’t know how long!  We rarely stray from our sushi dinner dates which either begin or end with tea at her house.  This is a rare treat for sure!  My bestie loves rituals.   She also loves our Zen Room, which provides a peaceful environment where we can escape into the present moment and just slow down.  Slow is good and rituals slow us down allowing us to connect with the here and now.

With an emerging vision of a tea ritual, I found the inspiration to take on this seemingly daunting conquest of biscotti making.  Well, I find it rather silly now that I was so worried about how this recipe would turn out and that somehow the preparation might be hard.  These were so easy to make and they turned out beautifully with such a fantastic flavor.  The lemon flavor grandstands these soft crisp treats.  They certainly got rave reviews from my bestie and my sweetie.  Ok, I really do have to rave, too.  These are fabulous and delicious!  I highly recommend giving these a go!

The walnut date bars were a breeze to prepare as well and smelled magnificent while baking.  Seriously.  Intoxicating.  These bars are lightly sweet, chewy from the dates and cake like in texture.  The date and walnut combination is outstanding.  My mom would have loved these bars.  Dates and walnuts together were one of her favorites in cookies and desserts.  It was such a delightful addition to tea.

My bestie and I spent the afternoon chatting about life and our individual journeys as we march (and flail!) through each day.  We offered each other support and acknowledged that life sometimes isn’t very fun so it is important to stop and connect with others, but more importantly, connect with ourselves and find our place in the present moment.

In the midst of savoring our snacks and sipping our tea, we also found plenty to laugh about as we rejuvenated and refreshed our spirits surrounded by the peaceful environment of the Zen Room.

The afternoon not only satisfied my sweet tooth, it satisfied my desire to spend time with my bestie; a friendship I deeply appreciate.

I encourage you to find your quiet moment and savor the present.  It could be made even more delicious with the inclusion of these treats.  Here are the recipes:

http://www.elanaspantry.com/lemon-almond-biscotti/

Date Walnut Bars

Zen Room

Zen Room

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Walnut Bars and Lemon Almond Biscotti

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Tea!

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Tea & Treats!!