Goals, Planning, and Endings

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planning goals endings

Why Write This?

This post is very different from my others. I felt the need to share some thoughts, musings, and to be vulnerable about where I am. Recently, the word “prepare” has been showing up for me a lot lately. I’ve always loved Benjamin Franklin’s quote: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” To me, preparations is planning for our goals, but along the way we are going to have endings. For those that know me well, know that I’m a planner. And that I like to stick to and act on that plan as much as life will allow me.

Goals Planning Endings

Contrarily, if a change does occur that I did not anticipate, it can throw me into a spiral. Maybe the goal I set won’t come to fruition? Maybe there is something coming to an end that I would like to continue? What ifs and fear will flood my mind. Usually within a day or so I can bounce back, but if it’s not as soon as I would like, it tends to create a crazy spin of self disappointment that I’m not. Can anyone relate? From this, I’m learning plans are good, and actions on those plans are even better. But, being able to adapt to change is critical.

The Journey

As 2019 and this decade draw to an end, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection. This year alone has been quite the journey, mostly due to my divorce. I’ve read several books (of which I will link to at the end of this post), I’ve written many pages in my journal, pondered and discussed with others how people will approach life differently, and how personal experiences shape perceptions and create schemas. What continues to be a common thread for me are my goals, the planning to accomplish them, and endings that may come along the way, either unexpectedly or purposefully.

So Why Endings?

Dr. Henry Cloud in his book “Necessary Endings” uses the analogy of a rose bush. A rose bush produces many more buds that it can truly sustain or even bloom beautifully. In order to have beautiful blooms it is required to prune the rosebush. You remove the dying or sick, but also the ones that aren’t the best. I’ve learned that if I want to achieve my goals I must make endings that will bring me closer to that goal. With that includes ending relationships, habits, or activities that would not lead me in that direction.

If I want to ensure that I am the best version of myself, I need to be intentional with the things that take my time and thoughts. I will say most people are astounded that I don’t have cable, a Netflix, Hulu, Starz/Showtime/HBO subscription, or really watch much tv at all. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a movie or show now and again. It just doesn’t put me on a path to achieving my goals.

Life Goals

So what are the goals I have for my life in 2020 and beyond? There are three categories for me: career, personal, and spiritual. And these are the places where I create my goals, am constantly planning, and execute endings.

Career:

I want to accomplish more in my career, and be in a place of mentorship in order to pay it forward to people in ways that people did that for me. There are steps in particular this year that I’ve made to show my abilities, and quite honestly fulfill a role prior to receiving a promotion or new title. I’ve always found this to be important. To prove you’re worthy of a new role, it helps to act as if you already have that role wherever possible and seek the opportunities that would allow you to do so in your current position. I still have much more I want to accomplish in my career, but I’ve made quite a few strides recently that put my desires on the horizon.

2020 goal: Achieve the promotion I’ve been working toward. Foster at least two critical relationships that will help to advance my career .

Personal:

I’m working to build my network of my closest friends. Who are the people I want or should be spending time with on a regular basis? Again, this applies at work as well. I’ve been much more intentional about scheduling time with those I want to invest in on a regular basis, at least once a month! And here’s where planning REALLY comes into play. I don’t know about you, but many of us truly live such busy lives, so if you don’t plan it, then it likely won’t happen! Specifically for those friends where their schedule is a little more hectic, I make sure we have a date for the next time to meet prior to leaving the current time together. This helps me accomplish my goals, but also gives me something to look forward to!

2020 goal: Continue to foster and grow the four closest relationships I have. Look for a mentor to guide me as I navigate being a single, divorced parent.

Spiritual:

My faith is truly the cornerstone of who I am. I would not be any part of the person I was today if it were not for my faith and my belief in the Bible. My childhood is likely not what you would expect. And while I do love my parents, years of divorce, addiction, emotionally stunted interactions and general home turmoil would have been the “hot bed” for anyone to hold anger and resentment, give up on any potentially healthy relationships, and harbor extremely low self-esteem. Thankfully, even more so today than a year ago, I can say this is not the case for me. This is thanks to fostering a life of prayer, community with my church, and Biblical study. And while I certainly do not judge or diminish anyone else’s beliefs, or shove mine on anyone else, this is the faith that I hold on to and will continue to nurture.

2020 goal: Prioritize church events for me and my girls. Spend 20 minutes in prayer, reading, and/or meditation each day.

What’s Next?

It’s my goal to build a life of independence for me and my girls. Show them that they are strong enough to do life on their “own”. This is done by fostering the right relationships with friends and family and God. What I will say too, if you see me, don’t think I think I’ve got it all figured out. I still struggle on many days. I’m still learning how to navigate this life of ups and downs. I do hope this post will offer you some encouragement, guidance, or open the gateway for you to share anything you’ve learned through your life journey.

2019 Book List

If you’re interested in where I pulled my thoughts on goals, planning, and endings, I’ve included links to the books that I read this year. I hope you enjoy and learn as much as I did, if not more!

Instant Pot Chicken Taco Bowl

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Instant Pot Chicken Bowl

I Love my Instant Pot

And how easy it makes my life. This Chicken Taco Bowl recipe is one example: it requires very little preparation, the kids are bound to love it (mine do at least), it’s easy to customize, and then it’s done in 15-20 minutes with very little effort on your part. The fact that I don’t have to precook rice or chicken to make this meal is still mind-blowing to me! I don’t know if any of you are like me, but the number of times I’m in the middle of making a meal and realize I forgot to get the rice going. DOH! And it takes a solid 20 minutes to cook too. Big bummer when that happens. So when I came across this all in one recipe, I’ve been hooked.

The “Preparation” and Ingredients

Which there is SO little to do prior to setting your Instant Pot. The biggest time consuming thing may be cutting your chicken into bite size pieces. The rest is just measuring out the other components. Combine and tap the rice in. While it’s cooking you can shred your own cheese, slice some avocado, set the table, do a little dance 😉

But really the ingredients are simple: chicken breast or thigh, broth, salsa, taco seasoning, frozen corn, black beans, and rice. You can serve on tortilla shells, or with chips, or just fork out of a bowl.

Taco Bowl Prep

I highly recommend this meal for large quantities of people and it travels well to bring for friends and family. And this taco bowl is versatile enough that you can quickly and easily customize it for whoever you’re making it for. What to add more of a kick? Dice up a jalapeno and add it in. Want more veggies? Add in a cup of frozen chopped bell peppers as well.

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as me and my family do!

Instant Pot Taco Bowl
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, Chicken, Rice, Salsa, Taco
Servings: 8 people
Ingredients
  • 1 cup White Rice uncooked
  • 1 cup Salsa
  • 1 lb Chicken Thighs or Breasts diced
  • 2 cups Broth
  • 2 tbsp Taco Seasoning
  • 1 cup Corn frozen
  • 2 Avocados optional
  • 2 cup Cheese optional
  • 3 cup Lettuce optional
  • 1 Jalapeno optional
  • 1 bag Tortilla Chips optional
Instructions
  1. Dice chicken into bite size pieces.

  2. Add all ingredients to Instant Pot and stir. Ensure rice is submerged.

  3. Set Instant Pot on manual high pressure for 10 minutes.

  4. Prepare any additional ingredients: slice avocado, shred cheese, dice jalapeno, chop lettuce.

  5. Use quick release method when time is complete (10 minutes plus about 5 minutes for pressure to build).

  6. Stir and spoon out to serve!

Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto

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Mushroom Risotto

I personally love mushroom risotto, and used to make it on the stove on a regular basis when I had the time to commit to it. Now, with my Instant Pot, I had found a recipe for risotto in one of my cookbooks and have fallen in love with the method. I make all sorts of varieties and will typically use any leftover vegetable I have in my refrigerator. Weeknight meal saving

This particular week I was really craving mushrooms. I had some rosemary growing on my deck and I knew I had frozen corn in my freezer. The night I planned to make my mushroom risotto, I was knew I would be getting home a little later and that I would be hungry; so a quick dinner would be necessary to stay on track with my diet. I always have Arborio rice and homemade bouillon cubes on hand for nights like these! Queue, the Instant Pot for heating.

Precooked Risotto

The Recipe

Because this recipe is so quick, the prep is truly getting everything measured out and ready prior to cooking (see Mise en Place). Once I have everything out on the counter, I start heating up my Instant Pot with the “Saute” function and get the oil melted. I then add the mushroom and spices and saute till the mushrooms have browned. Stir in the rice and broth making sure to scrape the bottom. Cover and time to pressure cook! For only 5 minutes. And if that broth is somewhat warm, you’ll be counting down faster than you can set the table. At the end of the 5 minutes, do the quick release. Stir in the semi-thawed corn, cheese, and fresh rosemary. Serve and enjoy!

Cooked Risotto

Make it Your Own

The key components of this recipe are the rice, stock, and seasonings. Feel free to substitute other vegetables based on what you have on hand in your freezer or refrigerator. I personally love to use frozen peas as well. Zucchini is good too, but I would not recommend pressure cooking it for 5 minutes. Instead, I would saute it before adding it to the mix (translation, extra dishes to clean). This dish is also great heated up for lunch the next day so I recommend doubling the recipe to make sure you have enough to do that!

What variations will you try? Do you have any questions on what would work or not? Leave a comment and I’ll give you my input 🙂

Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
8 mins
Total Time
9 mins
 

This quick and easy meal will have dinner on the table in less than 10 minutes!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Corn, Mushrooms, Rice, Risotto, Rosemary
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 308 kcal
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 4 oz Mushrooms, Shiitake, Crimini, Oyster
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 3/4 cup Arborio Rice
  • 1 1/2 cups Stock
  • 1 stem Rosemary, Divided
  • 1/2 cup Corn, Frozen
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated
Instructions
  1. Set Instant Pot to "Saute" and add coconut oil. Rough chop mushrooms as preferred. Measure out frozen corn and set aside to begin to thaw.

  2. Once oil is melted, add mushrooms, onion powder, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Saute for 1-2 minutes until mushrooms have browned.

  3. Add in rice and stir to incorporate. Turn off Saute, add stock, and stir well to ensure no bits are stuck to the bottom of the pot.

  4. Remove top inch of rosemary stem to use later. Chop remaining leaves and add to rice, mushroom and stock mixture. Seal Instant Pot and set on manual high pressure for 5 minutes.

  5. Do the quick release once Instant Pot chimes. Stir rice, then add in corn and Parmesan cheese and remaining rosemary leaves. Serve!

From Scratch Waffles

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Easy to Make From Scratch Waffles

These from scratch waffles are perfect for your home waffle maker. The ingredients are simple and wholesome too so you don’t need to feel guilty when you indulge 😉

The key “special” ingredients include applesauce, coconut oil, and whole wheat pastry flour. Applesauce is a great way to keep the waffles light and moist on the inside, coconut oil instead of butter helps them to crisp up, and the whole wheat pastry flour keeps them wholesome without turning them into a dense brick. All of these elements together are what, to me, makes the absolute perfect waffle.

From Scratch Waffles

The Process

This recipe is really easy to pull together. Most waffle recipes require you to whip egg whites. Cut out all of that (and a few extra dishes) by using a blender to mix your ingredients. DISCLAIMER: Just be sure to add them in the order stated in the recipe! Don’t worry, I’ll remind you there too 🙂

Scratch Waffle Mix

After that, it’s simply pour and cook according to your waffle maker’s instructions. For me this means four minutes (slightly longer for the first batch). The waffles come out super crisp on the outside and light and airy on the inside.

Prep and Enjoy Later!

These waffles are JUST as good from frozen. This recipe makes enough for a family of four with maybe a couple of waffles left over depending on what else you’re serving them with. Once the waffles have cooled, wrap them in plastic wrap in single layers. Wrap a set in foil if you like, and then place in a freezer safe bag. I highly recommend going straight to the freezer and skipping the fridge altogether. When you want to make your frozen waffles, preheat your oven to 350. Place the FROZEN waffles (please don’t thaw first!!) in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5-10 minutes, you’ll likely smell them when they’re ready to eat again. 🙂

I’m confident these will become a new staple in your home like they have mine.

Waffles
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 

These waffles are super easy to prep, yet also wholesome!

Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Waffles
Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
  • 1 cup Apple Sauce, Unsweetened
  • 1 cup Milk, Skim or 2%
  • 4 Tbsp Coconut Oil, Melted and cooled
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 Tbsp Pure Maple Syrup
  • 2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1.5 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat your waffle maker.  Set oven to warm to keep waffles warm as you make them if serving all at once instead of in batches.

  2. Place wet ingredients into blender in the order they are listed.  Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl then sprinkle on top of wet ingredients.

  3. Blend just until combined, scraping sides as needed.

  4. Bake batter according to waffle maker instructions.  Place on a baking sheet in preheated oven until ready to serve.

  5. Enjoy warm with your favorite toppings and sides!  We love fresh fruit and bacon with ours 🙂

How to Freeze and Eat Later
  1. Allow waffles to cool.  Wrap each waffle in plastic wrap and then place into freezer safe plastic bag. 

  2. To eat, preheat oven to 350.  Place waffles in single layer on baking sheet.  Bake 5-10 minutes until heated through or you smell waffles 🙂

Avocado Tuna Salad

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Avocado Tuna Salad

A Healthy Twist on a Favorite

This quick avocado tuna salad was conceived during our summer vacation at the beach on the last day.  We were running out of some ingredients, yet still had some other items we wanted to use up.   The plan had been for tuna straight out of the can as a lunch option, but I was in the mood to get creative.  The end result had just the right balance.  This is an easy, quick meal to prepare!

The Ingredients and Preparation

You will need a lemon, a little onion, garlic cloves, some tomato, one large avocado, seafood seasoning and a can of tuna.  An avocado tool makes things extra quick and easy.

Food Prep

The only ingredients I used in total for this avocado tuna salad was the avocado and tuna.  And after reading that, I hope you chuckle like I did at the irony of that statement! 🙂  The point is that this recipe has simple ingredients and requires little preparation before you get to enjoy.

Once you dice some tomato and onion, then mince garlic and juice the lemon.  Mix all ingredients with a tsp of seafood seasoning.  I recommend refrigerating for about a half hour to let the flavors meld, but not required.

How to Eat Avocado Tuna Salad

You can eat this just as prepared if you like.  I also recommend with tortilla chips or crackers.  But, today, I had done a spin ride and needed the extra calories and protein.  I decided to make this an avocado tuna salad toast.  With the whole wheat bread the avocado tuna salad has TONS of protein, about 10 grams, so it is also great as a recovery meal.

I really hope you enjoy this quick meal!

 

Avocado Tuna Salad
Prep Time
5 mins
Refrigeration
30 mins
Total Time
5 mins
 

Great with tortilla chips, crackers, or served on toast.

Course: Salad
Cuisine: Any
Keyword: Avocado, Lunch, Salad, Tuna
Servings: 2 people
Ingredients
  • 1 large Avocado
  • 1 5 oz Tuna
  • 1 tbsp Onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Tomato, diced
  • 2 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Seafood Seasoning, like Old Bay
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients.  Place in refrigerator to allow flavors to meld.

  2. While refrigerating, toast bread or have a drink 🙂 Use within 24 hours.

Polenta Casserole with Eggs

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Polenta Casserole with Eggs

The Polenta Casserole Recipe

I first found a recipe called “Rustic Polenta Casserole” in this wonderful cookbook/resource The Make-Ahead Cook.  I highly recommend it for storing and freezing tips and techniques.  This recipe in particular came into the fold of our “regulars” in our house.  It’s a dish full of vegetables that my girls don’t seem to need any coaxing to finish eating.  WIN!

In typical fashion, I had yet to make this recipe the same way twice.  Medleys of different vegetables, meats, and cheeses have all been used.  But, tonight, I made the absolute winning combination.  Thus, I have something worthy to post for you all!

Some Preparations

The base of this recipe is polenta and primavera sauce (vegetable sauce). Polenta is an Italian dish of boiled ground cornmeal and similar to grits you’d find in the south.  Primavera is a great way to use those fresh summer garden vegetables in a different way. Sauté some root vegetables, heat up tomatoes, add some wine (always!) and herbs and you just made tomato sauce.

You can make the polenta and primavera ahead of time (2-3 days) and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the casserole for dinner.

Polenta Casserole

Polenta Casserole with Eggs

If you made everything prior to, you’ll need to bake for about 30 minutes covered to reheat.  Otherwise, make indentations in the sauce to crack six eggs.  Sprinkle each egg with salt and pepper.  Bake 25 minutes or until egg whites are no longer transparent.  The runny yolks add such a creamy texture to this recipe, it really took it to the next level.  I hope your family enjoys as much as mine does!

Polenta Casserole with Eggs
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
 

This easy to prep ahead dish is great for any weeknight meal!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Casserole, Eggs, Polenta
Servings: 6 people
Ingredients
  • 1.5 cup Polenta, cooked according to directions with broth
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil, extra virgin
  • 1 bulb Fennel, sliced
  • 2 Carrots, diced
  • 1 tbsp Dried Basil
  • 1 tsp Salt, plus a pinch
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper, plus a pinch
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 28 oz Canned Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup White Wine, preferably dry
  • 3 cups Greens, spinach, kale, Swiss chard all work well
  • 1 can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 6 medium Eggs
Instructions
  1. Cook polenta in broth according to package directions.  Spread into 9x13 oven safe dish.

  2. Heat oil in a pan on medium heat until shimmering.  Sauté fennel and carrots for about 5 minutes until softened.  Season with salt and pepper and basil.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.

  3. Pour in tomatoes and wine.  Bring to a simmer.  Add greens and cook just until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Add beans and stir to combine.  Primavera is made.

  4. Pour primavera over polenta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  If serving another day, cover and store in the fridge 2-3 days.  If refrigerated, cook casserole 30 minutes (until begins to bubble) at 350F prior to adding eggs.

  5. Make 6 divots into primavera. Crack one egg into each egg and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook in oven at 350F for 25 minutes. Serve!

Sunday Cioppino

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Sunday Cioppino

When I Make Cioppino, It’s Usually for Sunday Dinner

We love to eat seafood in my house.  And cioppino is one of our favorite seafood dishes.  The reason I usually make it on a Sunday is because of time.  I will make the broth a day ahead of time so it can really have time to absorb all the wonderful flavors I want to incorporate.  Sunday is just the day all the seafood is added in.  And usually it involves guests of some sort to enjoy the two day cooking I’ve just done.  Now, before you you tune me out, I have PLENTY of suggestions to not make it an all weekend thing for you as well!

The Stock

Every good stew or soup starts with the stock.  Now you can purchase a seafood stock (which I recommend for the non two-day excursion and you can skip to next step), or you can get creative and make your own.  For this particular recipe I went all out and did stock with a red snapper fish head!

Seafood Stock

My Instant Pot is my favorite for making stock. I use a cheesecloth (makes straining quick and easy) to wrap up all the yummy things into one ball.  Set at 30 min on stew, and forget.  For fish stock, I definitely recommend thyme, dill, and a bay leaf as your herbs of choice to pair with lemon rinds, carrots, celery, fennel or onion, and PLENTY of garlic 🙂

Stock Prep

The Stew

The first half of this I like to make the day before.  I’ll even let it sit on the stove for nearly the entire day (it’s just veggies).  After I get the seafood stock going in the Instant Pot, I chop the vegetables and get cooking on the stove.  Sauté the fennel, add the garlic, add the rest of the veggies, tomato paste and seasonings and blend.  Add potatoes, white wine, diced tomatoes with their juices, and water if needed to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes. At this point you can leave your veggie mix on the stove to cool.  Once the seafood stock is finished you can add to the veggie mix and store in the fridge once cooled.

Cooking Cioppino

Adding Seafood

When you’re ready to add all the seafood goodness, heat up you vegetable stock and fish stock to a boil.  Add in your chopped haddock and cook for 15 minutes.  If using uncooked shrimp, put into the soup just before the mussels and cook 1-2 minutes, and another 3-5 more minutes once the mussels are added.  If the shrimp is already cooked, discard unopened mussels and add to soup to warm through.  And, that’s it!  You have cioppino, maybe even on a Sunday 😉

Cioppino
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Stock
45 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

An Italian seafood stew that is hearty yet light.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Cioppino, Seafood, Stew
Servings: 6 people
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil, extra virgin
  • 1 bulb Fennel, diced
  • 6 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3 Carrots, diced
  • 3 Celery stalks, diced
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 4 medium Potatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup Tomato Paste
  • 1 tbsp Dried Thyme, or 3 fresh sprigs
  • 2 tsp Dried Dill, or 2 fresh springs
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 28 oz can Diced Tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 cup White Wine, preferably dry
  • 2 cup Water, if needed to cover potatoes
  • 6 cup Fish Stock
  • 1.5 lbs Haddock, or other firm fish diced
  • 1.5 lbs Shrimp, diced
  • 1 tbsp Fish Seasoning, like Old Bay
  • 1.5 lbs Mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • Grated Parmesan, for garnish
  • Fresh Parsley, chopped for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil on medium high heat until shimmering.  Add fennel and sauté for 5 minutes until softened.  Stir occasionally. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

  2. Next, add diced carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and continue to stir and sauté for 6-8 minutes more.

  3. Now incorporate tomato paste and other dried seasonings until tomato paste has coated vegetables.  

  4. Then add potatoes, tomatoes, wine, fresh seasoning, and enough water to amply cover potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. 

  5. **Vegetable soup can be set aside for up to 3 days refrigerated prior to adding seafood.

  6. Add fish stock (homemade or store bought) and bring back to a boil.  Meanwhile, season haddock and shrimp with seafood seasoning.  Add haddock to soup and cook 15 minutes.

  7. If shrimp is pre cooked, add with mussels.  Otherwise, add at about 1-2 minutes prior to.  Once you add mussels, recover and let cook 3-5 minutes (until most open).  Discard any unopened shells.

  8. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan and fresh chopped parsley!

Why Simply Larissa?

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SimplyLarissa

Why Simply Larissa

Why “Simply Larissa” came to be was to share my recipes that hopefully introduce you to new foods and inspire you to cook!  But for a better understanding of how it all came to be, keep reading. 🙂

Where I Learned to Cook

I grew up around family that cooked.  My mom and step dad made all sorts of dishes that ranged from Italian to Polish to Pittsburgh (think Ham BBQ, and if you don’t know just click the link 😉 ).  I was also fortunate enough to learn some traditional Italian dishes from a real life Nonna.  From there, I just have a natural curiosity about cooking: I watch tons of cooking shows, YouTube videos, and read soo many recipes.  If I want to make a certain dish, I read or watch videos of at least 5 different recipes for that dish.  What usually ends up happening is a blend of some bits of each of those recipes as my final dish.

Because of this kind of “wing it” approach, I found I didn’t always recreate certain dishes the way I wanted to.  So the next phase began with writing things down, making notes on at least a print out or a cookbook.  Now, I have a notebook that I jot down amounts and steps. It is usually a sloppy mess as I adjust while I go!  But, now, I have my true versions of my family’s favorites.

Why Simply Larissa

What are the Goals for Simply Larissa

While I love to cook (and am more than willing to put in the extra time to do some “fancy” cooking) I need to balance it with being a full-time working mom outside of the home.  On this blog, anything marked as “Weeknight” is something that can be done within a half hour or so (maybe less with a little meal-prep).  The other major goal to the blog though is cooking with real, whole foods.  With that said , I do think we live in an incredibly busy world with jam packed schedules.  It’s all about balance and more the 80/20 rule I like to try to live by.  You can’t cook every meal or even every dinner.  It’s just not going to happen.  But, when you can, I think it’s important to try to cook something wholesome that will nourish the body and the soul.

My hope is that you’ll find recipes on my blog that are accessible, healthy, and quick!

How Simply Larissa Got Started

When I started sharing my food on Instagram I also started receiving requests for recipes.  I decided I wanted a blog that enabled me to share those recipes that are favorites.

You’ll see that I try to add recipes every so often.  And that it generally happens in spurts.  But, in time, my goal is to have a collection that my girls can also utilize as they begin their cooking journeys.

Feel free to share your thoughts, ask questions, or make recipe requests below in the comment field!

Chuck Roast (Pot Roast) – Instant Pot

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chuck roast - instant pot

Chuck Roast – Instant Pot Recipe

I love to find recipes that fit in my Instant Pot for a weeknight meal.  And this particular recipe is a great option, super easy to make, but with high end tastes.  This chuck roast was part of a cow purchase we made this year.  All of which was automatically thrown in the freezer.  We were super excited about the opportunity as it was a grass fed, Waygu beef that was raised not too far from our home.  If you know beef, this is about as close to a triple play in quality!  You can tell the quality by the marbling of the meat – I may be weird here, but this picture gets me hungry!

chuck roast

The Preparation

If the meat is frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for 36 hours (single layer, bottom shelf).  I did cut the one piece to fit in the Instant Pot.  You want the meat to be lower to middle of the pot for even cooking purposes.  The vegetable choices can be up to you, but I chose a little less traditional pot roast mix.  Pictured below there is 5 carrots (peeled and cut in large pieces), 2 peppers (1 red and 1 green and in large pieces), 1 fennel bulb (large slices), and 3 garlic cloves (2 sliced, 1 whole), and plenty of Italian seasoning.  Unlike some recipes, I did not add any oil due to the fat content of this cut of beef.

chuck roast - instant pot

The Sauce

This is where the secret ingredient comes in.  Well, it’s actually my mother’s secret ingredient, so kudos mom!  My biggest gripe with pot roast is that the vegetables turn to mush.  Unidentifiable lumps that all taste the same.  Not with this recipe.  After you layer your seasoned veggies and meat, combine 1 cup of red wine and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.  Blend and pour over everything.  Set for 8 hours on low using the slow cook function, and you have dinner!

Finishing Touches and Substitutions

If you view my recipes, you will find the trend of fennel in a large majority of them.  Our family simply enjoys the added complex flavor of this root vegetable, but you are always more than welcome to substitute for an onion instead.  As for the traditional combination, you can also chop up celery instead of peppers.  Serve over mashed potatoes and you have dinner!  I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Chuck Roast (Pot Roast)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
8 hrs
Total Time
8 hrs 10 mins
 

A great weeknight Instant Pot recipe with still crisp veggies!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Any
Keyword: Roast
Servings: 6 people
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs Chuck Roast, thawed
  • 5 Carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Bell Peppers, chopped
  • 1 large bulb Fennel, sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, sliced
  • 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 cup Red Wine, can substitute beef broth
  • 2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
Instructions
  1. First, chop/slice all vegetables.  Season with most of the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper reserving some for the meat.

  2. Next, season the meat with remaining Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Place a small layer of vegetables in bottom of pot, then meat, then remaining vegetables.

  3. Combine red wine and red wine vinegar then pour over everything in the Instant Pot.

  4. Set the Instant Pot to "vent" and on "slow cook" for 8 hours.  Serve with mashed potatoes, polenta, or other favorite side.  Enjoy!

Sous Vide Tzatziki Chicken

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Chicken Sear

Sous Vide Tzatziki Chicken Dinner

My husband loves to fuel my cooking excursions.  The purchase of this Sous Vide from Amazon was one such fueling moment.  I literally got a call that went something like, “I just bought you something.  I heard it’s amazing. Look at the Amazon cart.”  If you know my husband, that is right in line with his personality and hilarious all at the same time.

Because this wasn’t something I even had on my radar at the time, it took some time for me to even figure out what I wanted to cook with the thing.  Now, it’s one of my favorite tools to cook meat (chicken and beef mostly) if I have a little extra time.  The meat comes out so moist, it’s really worth it.

Let’s Actually Talk Dinner Now

For this dinner, I prepped some chicken legs with dill, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper.  They were then placed in a sealed freezer gallon bag and clipped to the side of the pot that the sous vide was already prepped at 165 degrees.  My favorite part is that it can stay at that temperature (as long as it’s over 140 for food safety!) for hours. It won’t overcook!  And because you’re placing it in hot water to cook, you can even start with frozen meat, just add at least 30 minutes.  I think that’s been my biggest value add – don’t have to think about thawing meat.  If you need help with the prepping of bag, I highly recommend this video.

While the chicken is cooking, you can prep the tzatziki sauce by zesting then juicing a lemon, mincing a cucumber, mincing some garlic, and finally combine with plain Greek yogurt, dill, salt and pepper.  It was a perfect amount of time to let the sauce sit and meld.

The Specifics

You can prep this meal a day or two ahead of time by making the sous vide chicken and the sauce.  When ready to serve, sear the chicken in a hot skillet for about 5 minutes.  Voila – Tzatziki Chicken for dinner in less than 10 minutes thanks to a little meal planning 🙂

Sous Vide Tzatziki Chicken
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
2 hrs 10 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 25 mins
 

If prepped the day before, you can have dinner the next night in less than 10 minutes!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: Tzatziki Chicken
Servings: 6 people
Ingredients
Cooking instruments
  • Sous Vide Cooker
  • 2 gallon Freezer Bags or Sous Vide Bags
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs Chicken, legs, thighs, or breasts- your choice!
  • 2 Lemons, small
  • 2 tbsp Dill, dried, divided
  • 1.5 tsp Salt, divided
  • 1 tsp Pepper, divided
  • 6 cloves Garlic, minced and divided
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil, extra virgin
  • 1 Cucumber, seeded and minced
  • 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt, low or full fat
Instructions
Sous Vide Chicken
  1. First, fill a large container with water and start sous vide preheating to 165 degrees F. 

  2. While preheating, slice one of the lemons.  Prep your seasoning by mixing 1 tbsp of dill, 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.  Lay chicken onto a cutting board or other surface and then rub dry seasoning mix onto chicken.  Mince 3 cloves of garlic and rub onto chicken as well.

  3. Place half of chicken into freezer bag or other sous vide bag in even, single layer.  Lay sliced lemons onto chicken and drizzle with olive oil.  Repeat with the other half of chicken.

  4. Use self sealing method to ensure no air in bags (see link in blog!) and pin to side of water bath.  Allow to cook for at least 2 hours (2.5 hours if frozen chicken).  Prep tzatziki sauce once chicken is in water bath.

  5. When chicken has cooked at least 2 hours, preheat cast iron or other skillet to medium-high. Then, remove chicken from bags and pat dry.  Finally, sear in hot skillet about 2 minutes on all sides.  Serve with tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce
  1. Wash and peel cucumber.  Then, with a spoon, scoop out middle to remove seeds and mince.  Next, using a clean dish towel, squeeze excess moisture from cucumber.

  2. Zest and juice remaining lemon and mince 3 final cloves of garlic. Combine with Greek yogurt, prepared cucumber, remaining dill, salt and pepper.  Cover and let sit for about 2 hours or overnight.