Catching Up – Thoughts on January 2013

Glenwood Avenue Raleigh Traffic Light | KaileenElise.com

Cherish your visions & your dreams
as they are the children of your soul,
the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.
(Napolean Hill)

When I decided to get back into blogging, I got sad about all the time that had passed. Things got busy and I had my reasons for stepping away, but I just don’t like how there’s a big chunk of time missing. Especially since this particular chunk of time has been eventful and amazing.

January marked the beginning of my yoga teacher training at Franklin Street Yoga Center in Chapel Hill, NC. My teacher Lori Burgwyn is the founder and owner of the studio. She’s a true leader in the Chapel Hill community and an example of living with passion. Lori has trained with a lot of great leaders in the yoga world, and the program we followed was heavily inspired by Baron Baptiste’s Power Vinyasa style.

Franklin Street Yoga Center - Yoga Teacher Training | KaileenElise.com

I originally planned to complete my training in the second half of 2012, but that went by the wayside when I hurt my back. Re-joining YTT in January was the right choice, but it was scary at the same time. It had been less than 6 months since my back surgery, and I was nowhere near the physical shape I intended to be in when I signed up the year before. (I shared some of my thoughts about all this here.) Those first few weekends of YTT were quite an experience. I was proud of myself for showing up, but I was constantly afraid I might hurt myself or even worse, chicken out. I was in my head, and also exactly where I needed to be.

Ladybird Lake from Four Seasons Austin, TX | KaileenElise.com

One more big thing happened this past January. My Mister and I took our first trip to Austin, TX together. He was wrapping up business school and trying to line up a job. Austin was really never on our radar — we wanted to stay in NC, but were open to the idea of big city living in NYC or Boston. That visit was short, but a total blast. I went to The Spa at The Four Seasons (total splurge!) while my Mister went to his business meetings. We ate well, drank well, and started a journey that would eventually lead to us living in downtown Austin.

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Weeknight Recipes

Weeknight Recipes Kaileen Elise

The quality of life is in proportion to the capacity for delight.
(Julia Cameron)

Hello, lovelies! We are in Ohio for my Mister’s little sister’s wedding tonight. This will be the first wedding we’ve attended since getting engaged. It’s great to be here with family to celebrate such an exciting occasion!

As a follow-up to my posts on food and meal planning, I thought it’d be nice to share a handful of recipes that are great for weeknights. I highly recommend incorporating one, two, or a few in your meal plan for next week!

Spicy Black Bean Enchiladas - The Realistic Nutritionist

This is a great vegetarian dish, especially if you like spicy food. We love it! I used canned black beans the first time I made it, which is of course a very convenient option.

The second time, I planned ahead and made a batch of Spicy Black Beans & Tomatoes in my slow cooker. Another tasty variation is to toss some shredded chicken inside the tortillas, I recommend this recipe.

Fried Quinoa – Annie’s Hungry

My Mister would be happy if I made this every day. It’s a good “fridge clean out” recipe because I typically use whatever veggies we have on hand.

Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells – Eat, Live, Run

This is definitely comfort food, and I find it’s best on Sunday nights when calories don’t count. (Oh I wish such a thing existed!) I like to make a big batch, then freeze the shells using a technique I found in the comments of this post from The Pioneer Woman. That turns a somewhat messy and labor-intensive cooking session into 3 easy meals. If you’re looking for a way to kick things up a notch, this marinara sauce is simple to make and way tastier than jarred pasta sauce.

Crock Pot Honey Ginger Chicken – The Skinny Fork

This chicken is tasty when served over rice with spicy garlic broccoli on the side. It’s easy to put together and great for those nights when you’re craving something healthy (broccoli) and something savory (chicken and rice).

Multi-Purpose Shredded Beef - Budget Bytes

I recently discovered the Budget Bytes blog and have incorporated a lot of her recipes into our weekly routine. They are both delicious and cost effective, which is a winning combo in my book! I’ve made this shredded beef twice now – it’s great to prepare a big batch and freeze some for later.

These BBQ Beef Stuffed Potatoes are an easy, tasty meal. So are a weeknight favorite, burrito bowls. Another great use for the shredded beef, chicken, or grilled veggies, is to make freezer burritos. Stock your freezer with a batch of those beauties, and you’ll be ready for a great alternative to ordering out.

For all things of burrito variety, I like to make this Just like Chipotle’s Corn Salsa and the Spicy Black Beans & Tomatoes. To further replicate Chipotle’s genius, I’ll make some quinoa or rice with a squeeze of lime and chopped cilantro mixed in. Being a copy cat never tasted so good!

Chicken & Lime Soup – Budget Bytes

This soup is warm and comforting without being too heavy. The recipe makes more than 1 meal for us, so I freeze half for nights when I don’t feel like cooking. It’s good served over rice or quinoa, and goes great with corn, avocado, cheese, and/or greek yogurt served on top.

Rosemary & Garlic Roasted Salmon – In Sock Monkey Slippers

I love eating fish, but my Mister is less of a fan. I’m slowly bringing him around with tasty dishes like this one. Rosemary and garlic are a winning combo. That spicy garlic broccoli mentioned earlier is a slam dunk side dish.

I hope this list inspires you to get cooking! If you have any old favorites or new recipes you think I should try, please share in the comments below.

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My Approach to Weekly Meal Planning

Meal Planning Kaileen Elise

A year from now you’ll wish you’d started today.
(Karen Lamb)

A perfect Saturday morning begins on the couch, dressed in cozy clothes, with a hot cup of coffee. Armed with my iPad + MacBook, good tunes or a show on TV for background noise, I’m ready to put together a new meal plan for the coming week. Pinterest is a great place to hunt for new ideas and gather inspiration. I enjoy scrolling through the endless photographs, and I also pin recipes to my Delish Delights board for future use.

Once I have some recipes in mind, I open Evernote on my laptop and start with an outline of the week. Then I check our calendars for any post-work activities that might overlap with dinnertime, and add those in. Next I build out the remainder of the week with tasty dinners. I try to keep a good mix of cuisines, with a balance of new recipes and all-time favorites. Chicken is a default protein in our house, but I prefer to keep our tastebuds guessing. For example, I try to avoid two “noodle nights” in a row. We could eat my modified version of Chipotle’s burrito bowls every night, but I’d prefer not to for the sake of my hips!

Here’s how a typical week might look -

Monday: Spicy Jambalaya
Tuesday: Thai Beef Tacos
Wednesday: Apartment Building Happy Hour
Thursday: Leftover Spicy Jambalaya
Friday: Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
Saturday: Date Night
Sunday: Dragon Noodles

Once I’m satisfied with the week’s plan, I get busy making a grocery list. I open a new Evernote and add items to the categories which correlate with where we’ll find them in the store:

Fresh
[X] bunch of cilantro
[X] mini carrots
[X] 1 lemon
[X] 5 limes
[X] 3 jalapeños

Pantry
[X] 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
[X] 4 oz can tomato sauce
[X] 1 lb (2 cups) dry black beans
[X] 6 cups chicken broth
[X] cereal

Meat & Dairy
[X] 12 eggs
[X] 3 yogurts
[X] large carton of almond milk
[X] cottage cheese

Frozen
[X] 1 bag rice
[X] frozen peas
[X] frozen corn

There are some weekly standbys for breakfast and lunch, so I often use the past week’s grocery list as a template. Once I get everything down, I do one last check through our freezer, fridge, and pantry to make sure I haven’t added something we already have. Then I make sure to sync the list to my iPhone, grab some grocery bags, and head out the door.

Because of our work schedules, my Mister and I are happiest when we grocery shop on Saturday or Sunday mornings. It’s quieter and easier to get around, plus I find the weekends are more enjoyable when I have time to prep food and really cook. We’re competitive folk, so we sometimes set a timer to see how quickly we can make it through our list. I’m not always in the mood for racing (a girl’s gotta examine every basket of strawberries to pick the right one!) but it’s a fun to way keep us from wasting time amongst the endless aisles of Whole Foods.

This approach to meal planning has been working for me, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are there  holes in my strategy? Do you think you would give this a try? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

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