The Week Made Easy

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Oh dear friends.  When it feels like winter is still going– cook.  Or bake.  Or shake.  Just get you’re a** moving, somehow, someway.  I swear, if we have one more gray/rainy/snowy day here in the North East, I just may scream… (And yes, I know that technically the calendar says that it’s spring, we just haven’t really felt it yet here in Massachusetts…).

So I took advantage of the motivation that the afternoon sun bestowed upon us last Sunday (the first sun in what felt like months!), and got my butt to the grocery store and then schlepped all 9 (yup, you read that right!) packages up the stairs, and put everything away.  I was afraid that’s all the energy that I’d have, but thankfully I still had the cooking bug (or maybe it was more of the “getting ready for the week” bug) and got to it.

My Mom has always suggested that I do a little bit of cooking on the weekends and freeze stuff, so that I can just come home and have dinner ready on the fly. But the truth is, most weekends these days I barely want to make a sandwich let alone make a meal plan and then spend all day in the kitchen cooking.  This weather has me just wanting to hibernate under the covers in my flannel pj’s, as if we were still in the middle of winter.

What’s been bugging me about this lack of sun is that, at least for me, it  = laziness the last couple of weeks, which means that SHL and I have been figuring dinner out at the last minute, and it usually results in something not so great.  It’s not like I’m eating burgers and fries for dinner every night, but even if I have a black bean burger, I haven’t prepped enough to have a veggie or salad on the side, so after dinner I’m rummaging around trying to figure out what else we have in the house to eat.   Amy’s frozen meals are great once in a while if you just need to grab something quick, but I don’t want to start relying on them.

So I made some notes and printed out some recipes of some things that I thought would be great to have on hand for the week, and then headed home from the store with a plan in mind.  While I then spent the next several hours in the kitchen, I think you could also easily just do 1-2 hours of prep work if you didn’t have all day, and still have it save you some time during the work week.

Here is what I made:

The old stand-by Taco Chili Mac ‘N Cheese.  You just can’t go wrong.  (And if you’re vegetarian then maybe tofu would be good in it?  I use very lean ground organic turkey). Put it in batches for the week; the good news is you can freeze it or it can last a little bit in the fridge, too.  Just pull it out for lunch or dinner and top with cheese (if you so desire) and scallions and warm it up.  I’ve shared it a million times but who says that I can’t share it a million and one times?  That’s just how good this is: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2014/12/one-pot-cheesy-turkey-taco-chili-mac.html.  I’m sure that there are other great meals also to be found on Skinny Taste’s website www.skinnytaste.com. 

Homemade cilantro-lime-ranch salad dressing.  People either love or hate cilantro (it’s actually a genetic thing.  To my Mom, it tastes like soap!).  We love it.  I made this with SHL in mind because he goes crazy for cilantro, but to make it a little bit healthier, you could add in some more Greek yogurt and cut down on the mayo. I found this one on Pinterest, courtesy of Family Fresh Meals (www.familyfreshmeals).  You can find the dressing recipe here: http://www.familyfreshmeals.com/2013/07/homemade-cilantro-lime-ranch-dressing.html.  I’m thinking that you could use it not just on regular old salads, but on tostados with beans and veggies too!  Or why not dip your carrots in it?  Or put it on a sandwich?  The options are endless!

Cowboy Caviar, also on www.familyfreshmeals.com:  Similar to the recipe that I made last summer, this one includes Italian dressing but combined with black beans (you knew that there’d be a recipe in here somewhere with beans, right?), corn, tomatoes, avocado, and our beloved cilantro again, and this is such a hit (don’t be scared if you don’t like cilantro.  Just add in another herb that you do like!).  http://www.familyfreshmeals.com/2014/08/cowboy-caviar-recipe.html. And did I also mention how great red onion is?  Serve with carrots or tortilla chips (I like organic baby carrots or Way Better snacks–http://gowaybetter.com/).

Tortellini.  Need I say more? This is a Pioneer Woman’s recipe (www.pioneerwoman.com) that I saw on Instagram (it pays to follow your favorite chefs online), and when you’re craving comfort food, who doesn’t want pasta?  I went easy on the cream and cheese and just tried to add in more veggies (carrots, peas, etc.).  Compared to my whole wheat pasta, the spinach and cheese tortellini was a real Sunday night treat!  http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2014/03/tortellini-primavera/.

Remember I told you about the website “Simple Green Smoothies?” (www.simplegreensmoothies).  Well this one is courtesy of them, via my friend M who couldn’t sleep one night a couple of weeks ago and sent me some of her best make-ahead smoothie recipes.  I had never tried avocado in a smoothie before and was surprised by just how delicious this one is!  I had also never frozen smoothies ahead of time, either, but I wanted to give it a try, so I put a few batches in the freezer for those mornings when I know I just won’t have time to juice.  The truth is, I find it much more filling than a juice, so a smoothie is a nice alternative on those days when you want to feel full longer.  http://simplegreensmoothies.com/green-smoothie-recipes/skinny-mint-green-smoothie.

2 cups almond milk (unsweetened)
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (I halve this because the mint is pretty strong otherwise)
2 bananas
1/2 avocado
4 medjool dates (pitted)
2 tablespoons cocao powder
* optional: cacao nibs sprinkled on top

Pre or Post Workout Energy bites courtesy of my friend C’s Mom. I’ve been craving chocolate recently.  In order to try to get off of the sugar bandwagon after my birthday festivities this month, I’ve been slowly trying to decrease the cravings by just having these on hand in case I really feel like I need a little energy before a workout or just a little something sweet (I’m actually thinking about detoxing from sugar for a week or two, which I did kind of by accident a couple of months ago and then it all went down the tubes with my birthday, but I felt pretty great while not eating it).  While my friend sent me the recipe in a text, I also found it on Pinterest and on the website Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One (www.stopmeifyouveheardthisone.com).  And here is the recipe: http://stopmeifyouveheardthisone.com/2013/08/08/how-to-healthy-banana-oatmeal-chocolate-chip-cookies/.  Oats, almond butter, bananas, and dark chocolate chips are easy enough to just blend together in a bowl, but this time I decided to also add in some unsweetened shredded coconut, chia seeds, and cinnamon.  Bake @ 350 for 15 minutes and yum!  You could take out the chocolate chips or add in dairy-free chocolate chips or basically tweak it however you like (peanut butter instead of almond butter, flax seeds instead of chia, etc.).  The idea is instead of eating a packaged cookie or a piece of candy, you know where your ingredients are coming from and it’s not processed junk.  And while I could live off of peanut butter, I’m beginning to find that almond butter is pretty great too!

Tonight?  I’m making the Barefoot Contessa’s omelet for two with a side salad (I use less butter and just a splash of milk and would use sweet potatoes, if SHL would let me). Please tell me that you ♥ BC as much as I do!  www.barefootcontessa.com.  Because breakfast for dinner is pretty great, isn’t it?  http://www.barefootcontessa.com/recipes.aspx?RecipeID=365&S=0 xoxo.

Ego Vs. Truth

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“I recently did an interview, and someone said to me, ‘Are you so proud of who you’ve become?’ … ‘I haven’t become anyone. I’ve just become more of who I really am.'”  ~ Gabby Bernstein.

I learned a big lesson this week my friends.  I let my ego get the better of me.  I got into that “I’m better than you” mode.  It was like everything that I’ve learned from Gabby Bernstein just went right out the window.  I didn’t even feel like myself.  Actually, as I write those words, I realize that I did feel like myself– like the Sam a year ago or even 6 months ago who let the negativity run her life (at least in some aspects).

I sometimes get wrapped up in the ways in which I feel that bureaucracies let us down. The things that seem so obvious, and yet don’t get done.  But I don’t have to tell you; we all have situations in life, whether at work or dealing with a customer service issue, or even a spouse or partner who doesn’t necessarily do things the way that we would (or the way that we think is best), where we feel frustrated by what we view as the incompetence (or inadequacies) of others.  Our ego gets in the way, and we so badly want to be right.

On Friday I let myself get sucked into a place filled with anger and frustration; a place that I haven’t been to in a long time, because I’ve been making such a concerted effort to stay in the light, and not get stuck in the negative energy.  At the heart of it, most everybody has the best intentions (and if they don’t, I can’t change that).  Still, I recently began to realize that I need to take better care of myself when it comes to shielding myself from negativity (as much as possible), and the first place that I wanted to start was work, since I spend 40 + hours there every week. So I was able to identify that my energy and creativity could be better used in making sure that my own space at work felt healthier. I rearranged my office so that my folders no longer cluttered my desk, moved things off of the windowsill so as not to block the light coming in (grateful for a window), and put pictures and flowers in places where feng-shui deems them as bringing in more love, light, and creativity.

I started to close my door (grateful for a door) when I needed to.  Not all of the time because I enjoy the social aspects of work and I don’t want to give off a sense of being unavailable, but when I need to focus or when the energy doesn’t feel good.  I say good morning and smile, even if it is Monday morning and I didn’t have time to juice and I don’t quite feel like saying anything at all.  I try to see the positives in others, even if I don’t always agree with their ways of doing things.  It would be silly to say that I get it right every day, but once I began to focus my attention more on creating a positive work environment for myself, things felt better.  Lighter.  And once I started to meditate on seeing more creative solutions to situations that I thought of as being “set in stone,” doors lined with possibilities began to swing open.  I just don’t believe in coincidences anymore.

When I originally wrote this blog post I went into great detail about this situation that made me want to write this in the first place.  And then I realized that what had happened, the specifics of it, didn’t really matter.  What mattered was that after the situation occurred, the rage started to bubble up inside of me.  I began to feel superior.  Clearly I was better, knew more. How come people just weren’t getting it?  (Translation:  How come people weren’t just doing what I “knew” to be right?).

So I went back to what Sam 6 months ago would have done, what I have done before. I sent out a scathing email to the “culprits” expressing my dismay.  It wasn’t pretty.

Now I can tell you (and you’ll just have to take my word for it) that what I was upset about is valid.  It’s what I did next that reflects the “old Sam.”  At the time I can tell you that I felt justified.  Better, even, having gotten it off of my chest. I was so in the middle of it that I couldn’t even see straight.  I let my ego and my frustration with others and with this particular system as a whole drag me into a thirst that just didn’t feel as though it could be quenched unless I exploded and hit “send” on that email.  I told myself that because I had a valid concern, I was right to be so angry, and therefore I was right to send out that email basically yelling at people (I didn’t write the email in caps, but I mine as well have).  I wasn’t living in my truth at that moment,  I was living in my ego.  I know this not just because of how I handled things, but because it ate at me all weekend.  It wasn’t the fact that I was upset that was a problem (I still believe that my feelings were in alignment with the situation).  It was how I decided to convey my feelings that later made me feel crummy.

Looking back on it, though only two days and one Gabby Bernstein video later, I realized that while I wasn’t proud of losing my s*** (for lack of a better term), the real lesson was in the fact that I was able to see that this isn’t how I want to handle my anger, anxiety, or frustrations anymore. That there must be other ways (I’m still trying to figure out what those are, but I know that they must exist.  Sometimes I feel like I’m not heard unless I scream).  And that while we try to stand in the light most of the time, sometimes we get sucked into the darkness because we’re human.  We’re not machines with a formula who can spit out the proper response all of the time.

But the biggest lesson of all?  While I can work hard on forgiving others, I think I also need to forgive myself on this one.  But next time, I hope that I’ll choose differently.

Secret (And Not So Secret) Birthday Dreams

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What would a blog be without a birthday post?  I have learned so much in this past year that I’d love to share with all of you.  A year ago at this time, as I was turning 37 years old, I had just undergone a liver ablation surgery and was beyond grateful that it was successful in heating up and killing the tumors in my liver.  It didn’t mean that more lesions could never show up (g-d forbid), but it did mean that these looked to be dead. Once I got home from the hospital I quickly realized that my body was screaming, “enough already!”  Between fertility treatments, a miscarriage, and the diagnosis of cancer, I had been put under anesthesia and had my blood taken and received enough medications to make me dizzy. You know the story. But I was afraid that if I complained, I may be punished (by g-d?  The universe?) and that things may get worse.

One of the toughest things that I’ve had to battle over the past year has been my own mind.  Trying to figure out a way to breathe in the gratitude and acknowledge it, while still staying true to myself and trying to believe, really believe, that it’s OK to also ask the universe for more.  (Even as I write it, it’s a difficult concept for me to wrap my mind around.  How can I possibly ask for more when I am alive?).  I call it “magical thinking,” which I remember learning about in social work school, and now here I am, living it.  Translation: If I complain or ask for more, it somehow negates the gratefulness that I have for all of the abundance in my life, and something else bad will happen.

So I fear that magical thinking may be keeping me (for now, anyway) from reaching my true potential, my true authenticity, because while I could never put into words the overwhelming feelings of joy that I have about the treatments that I have received and my doctors and the prayers and love and support in my life, there are other things that I would like to ask the universe for.  It’s too scary to even put into words right now, but we all have our own secret (and not-so-secret) dreams, don’t we?  I have to believe that my true potential and my true authenticity are just waiting to burst open, like the flowers that we’re all so eager to see bloom every spring.  If I can give my dreams the platform to be acknowledged and brought out into the light, perhaps they can shine.

So I as turn 38, I wrap my heart around all of the love in my life, and I acknowledge that I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be at this age.  And then I begin to accept that maybe it doesn’t really matter.  Maybe what matters is the quality of my life, with or without the things that I thought I’d have. At the end of each day, I want to be healthy and happy.  Maybe we can over complicate things too much in thinking that there is some special code for our own happiness, and it’s like a riddle that we’re always trying to figure out, without realizing that we ourselves can choose to be happy (maybe not all the time, but a lot).  Or maybe we think that we’ll finally find happiness in a materialistic thing or in comparing ourselves to what everybody else seems to have, or that we can only find happiness in a child or a house or a partner or a vacation or a job.  I am slowly getting to know myself in a way like never before, and allowing the concept of self-care and spiritual health to really fill me up.  I also know that every day can’t be a good day; I acknowledge that this past year has been filled with some dark, scary days, and I recognize that I need to process and heal from those dark days in order to be able to lean towards the light. And light there has been, and so much of it:  Being with my family and celebrating birthdays and holidays and traveling with SHL and spending quiet time with my closest friends on the beach and by the pond and snuggling with my nephew and finding feathers and making healthier shifts in my life that include making myself a priority for the very first time in my life.  And letting go.  Wow, letting go!  If my house isn’t perfect when guests come over or if I say no to something that I just don’t feel that I can (or want to), do or if I say yes to something that I’m completely scared of and just do it anyway!  Never before have I realized just how much power there is in letting go of who you think you are or who you think you have to be.

Everybody likes to celebrate (or not celebrate) their birthdays in different ways.  For me, living with cancer, I will never turn down a day to celebrate my life.  This year I want to recognize all that I have, and all that I can be.  xoxo.