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Seven Ways to Make Food Prep Exciting

Eating at home can be better and more fun than dining out every day.  Here are seven ways to make home food preparation interesting.

For many years, it was my responsibility to feed our family of seven three healthy meals a day.  I decided to approach meal preparation as a hobby to keep myself engaged. Now, my years of others relying on me for meals are gone.  

BUT, eating out presents some challenges to maintaining the healthy approach to life my husband and I are intent on following.  A focus on nutrition and some food allergies and our slowing metabolism that seems to accompany the accumulation of birthdays make eating out a lot a challenge.   

Cooking for fewer people has required some adjustments. But, I am finding that cooking at home for most of our meals is not only better for us but it can be fun and give us some new shared interests.

Here are some ways we keep meal prep from becoming boring.

Find new recipes

Cooking shows on television can inspire new recipes. Themes, slants, approaches, points of view….any time of day on multiple channels, there are cooking shows to inspire.  

Websites can help!  Pinterest is a great source of recipe inspiration.  Have coconut milk in your cabinet and need the inspiration to use it?  You can find a multitude of options there.  Want to make gluten-free, vegan brownies?  There will be a number of recipes to choose from.  Want a new take on meatloaf or spaghetti or need to know how to use that mystery ingredient that your gardening neighbor bestowed?  Find it online.

My daughter has almost replaced me with AllRecipes.com.  She has found family favorites there that for me were hand-written on 3×5 index cards.

We subscribe to at least one food-related magazine at all times.  When it comes, I sit and peruse all possibilities and tear out the pages with foods we might like to try.  If we try it and like it, it gets filed.  If it is forgettable, out it goes.

Try new foods  

By “new” I don’t necessarily mean “weird.”  (Unless weird sounds good!)  

Growing up, the vegetable choice was pretty much green beans, peas, corn, or carrots.  I remember broccoli showing up when I was in my 20’s as a “new” veggie.  Zucchini came a little after that.  Now, with improved refrigeration and shipping and preservation methods, you can get all sorts of foods that were unknown to you even a few years ago.  

Try something new!  You might like it!

Explore different cuisines  

When we moved the small-ish “micro-urban” community we live in, more years ago than I can believe, there were 3 restaurants in town, not counting the common fast food places.  One was a chain family restaurant, one was locally owned and had good burgers and sodas and soups, and the third was a more-upscale Italian-ish place.

Now, same town, we can choose from a long list of places to eat different cuisines. Thai, Indian (from different regions), Mexican (both authentic and Tex-Mex), Chinese (buffet, sit-down, carry-out), Korean (especially if we are willing to brave the campus area), and others that I am sure I am not currently aware of.  

So many options for so much fun and exploration!

Buy unusual (to you) ingredients

My husband is an avid runner.  As he has had more birthdays, he has gotten more interested in the mechanics and technology of long distance running. Several books he has ordered have opened us up to new ingredients.  We now have several types of miso in our refrigerator. Seaweed. Tahini. Quinoa. Agave syrup. Chia seeds. Various types of “milk.”  And we are learning how to use them successfully.

Turmeric is a new spice to us.  We now have Garam Masala and Cumin on the spice shelf. I discovered Ginger Juice that I use regularly. And the oil and vinegar stores know me by name. (Wild mushroom and Sage Olive Oil are my favorite. Balsamic fig vinegar is all I need on a salad.)

Learn new techniques  

Back to television, watching competitive cooking shows has taught me a lot.  PBS has great cooking shows for techniques, as do other broadcast channels.   Even simpler television cooking shows have introduced me to smashing garlic cloves with the side of a knife to easily remove the skins and having a “discard bowl” nearby to save time when chopping and preparing.

Googling recipes for gluten-free bread has given me the information I needed to have a measure of success in baking yeast bread with flours that are not made from wheat (which required me to buy and learn to use unusual ingredients).  A simple technique I ran across online made my bread go from flat to raised, actually resembling the wheat bread I made for years.

Remember old favorites

Don’t forget those family favorites.  I remember once when I was on a roll to make meals interesting to our children that my husband requested spaghetti—at least once a year.  I had gotten so into meal prep that for one whole year, I never repeated a recipe.  Variety being the spice of life and all that, he just wanted an occasional “comfort” meal (even though he did assure me he enjoyed my creative efforts).

Now, with me being gluten-free and us both watching our caloric intake, we can substitute spaghetti squash with a favorite sauce. Chili is easily accomplished in the crockpot. He has perfected nachos that are healthy and tasty.  Sometimes the old favorites hit the spot.

Divorce yourself from perfection.

Food prep and dining at home should be fun and nutritional, not perfect.  When you are trying new ingredients, or preparing new recipes or learning new techniques, sometimes it comes out less than what it looked like on television or online.

No worries!  If it is edible, then that is a success.  If it is not (which will happen rarely, I promise!) then, don’t eat it.  It’s as simple as that.

Do you enjoy cooking at home?  What have you found to be successful for at-home meal preparation? What new ingredients have you tried?  What will you never try again?!

 

 

 

 

 

* This was originally posted by Debbie at SixtyandMe.com

 

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

It’s Here!

I’ve been telling you about my new book and now it is ready! 

I’m excited to share with you that my ebook is available for purchase on Amazon for just $2.99!

 

 

I’ve been gathering content for a long time by keeping journals to record life lessons and significant moments. This book, “Which Old Woman Will You Be?” is my first. It takes a practical look at ways to be sure you are becoming the person you want to be in your ThirdThird of life, ages 60–90.

As we age, two things happen.
1. We have less energy to pretend, and
2. We care less what others think of us.

The result is that who we really are, who we have been at our core, is what comes out. By living on purpose and determining who we want to be when we are younger, we can intentionally become the “Old Woman” (or Old Man) that we want to become.

I think you will enjoy the book and I am thankful for your support!  Purchase your copy here: http://a.co/9FEn4bg

If you enjoyed the book, write a review on Amazon or share with somebody you know who would benefit from this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Describe Yourself

It takes some forethought and practice to know how to describe yourself.

I once had a meeting set up by a friend who knew I was starting a new venture.  He knew someone who was generous and who had some experience similar to mine and arranged for us to meet.  I prepared what I had and was very excited to impress this stranger.  I had great ideas, plenty of experience to validate my approach, and some written explanations and examples.  I shared them all.

Finally, I  stopped my “presentation” and looked expectantly at him.  He said, <direct quote>, “You have been talking for 20 minutes and I still don’t know what the hell you do.”

Ouch.  But a really, really good ouch.

I went home and Dave took one look at me and said, “Something just happened to you…and it is good.”  He was right.  I had asked some questions of my “benefactor” and he had headed me in a good direction.  I gathered up a flip chart, post it notes, an easel and a myriad of colored markers and pens and my journal while Dave reserved a suite room for me at a hotel in a town an hour away.  I stayed two nights and three days.  I created and defined and practiced and read and came back with an elevator speech and a list of services I provided.

It was the first time I had heard of an elevator speech and it was the spark I needed to launch a successful coaching and training business that has taken me to some very interesting places, learning some very interesting lessons, and meeting some very interesting people.  It was the start of significant growth for me, professionally.

All from a failed attempt at describing myself and what I do.

I sent a note of appreciation to the man (whose name I honestly don’t remember) and a bookmark with a quote on it with:

 

 

It’s never too late. Are you in your third third? Make it your BEST third.

 

 

 

Strategy

Strategy

One of my Mantras is, “Be Intentional”.

Do what you say you will do… but think about it first.

Hmmm.   I can’t remember the moment I decided to live with intention, but most people who know me would probably use the word to describe me.  It might have come from watching people not be intentional.  It might have come from the hard lessons of the frustration that comes from letting others direct my efforts or decide my focus.  Whatever the source, “be intentional” has become an almost daily mantra for me.

I can’t just tell myself to be intentional, I have to have a strategy or a plan to guide my behaviors, thoughts, and actions so that I actually become intentional.

strat·e·gy

[a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.]
 
Here is my intentional strategy: 

Be Intentional-

  • Know what I believe.  I don’t have to tell everyone every thought and/or opinion I have, but I should know what I believe and why if I want to be sure I am doing or not doing what is important to me.
  • Decide for myself how I spend my time.  There are television shows that I might enjoy or benefit from.  There are books and magazines worth reading.  There are people who will add to my life if I spend time with them.  If I choose for myself, I will be less likely to succumb to advertising and marketing ploys for things I really do not want to steal my time away.
  • Don’t say “yes” or “no” too quickly.  Take time to consider how I commit my time and energy.  There will be consequences to any decision and I am wise to be as much in control of my decisions and actions as possible.
  • Don’t blame others for my own choices and results.  Own my own efforts and decisions.  Apologize when necessary.  Reimburse when appropriate.  Accept credit and praise graciously.  Say thank you and “I am sorry.”
  • Live without regrets.  If I consciously, intentionally decide what to say, how to spend time, who to be with, what to do, then the chances of having regrets is slim.

We can’t become intentional on accident. What is your strategy?

 

Energy

Understanding your sources of energy is basic if you want more of it. In the same way, understanding what drains your energy is just as important.

Do more of what gives you energy + Do less of what drains you

Plan for re-energizing after necessary times of draining activity.

Based on the DiSC model, people are usually either energized or sapped of energy by people contact. For some, being around others is key to their joy and sense of worth, while others are drained from a day of constant contact with other people.  My husband used to come home from a long day of interacting with people and just want to sit quietly. I, however, had spent a day with our kids, longing for adult conversation. I wanted to sit and talk. Energy drains at work!

A task can have the same type of effect….either energizing or sapping.  Give one person a difficult task to accomplish and you charge them up.  Another person, faced with the same “opportunity” may want to run and hide. Those are some basic hints to your energy.

There are little energy drains all around, not as easily defined, that can nag without being identified, if unnamed.

energy

I took an assessment once that came from the idea that there are habits we have or don’t have that drain or give us energy.  If we can identify them and change them, one by one, we will have more natural energy and be more productive.  From the assessment, I found a few habits that I realized really were annoying me….and robbing me of energy.

A silly thing, to some, but as I checked “no” on the statement that “my car is in excellent condition”, I realized that it irritated me every time I got into my car and noticed it needs to be vacuumed.  For years, I had kids at home that I could pay to clean my car.  However, that was no longer an option. They were all grown up and vacuuming (or not vacuuming) their own cars.  My car, was un-vacuumed.  And it took a bit of energy from me every time I got in my car.

As small as it may seem, keeping my car vacuumed and washed, turned out to be a step forward in reducing negative energy for me. I made a small, but energy producing change that made a fairly significant difference.

After getting into the habit of keeping my car a bit more tidy, I tackled filing papers and receipts, updating my will, and consistently contributing to savings—and “no” as answers on my assessment.  Each of those turned out to be positive step to boost my energy on going forward instead of avoiding being annoyed by things I hadn’t done.

Deeply rooted, good character comes from good habits.  An occasional habit-inventory is a good way to keep focused on purposefully living YourBestThirdThird.  Any energy we still have at this stage is important to be positive.

 

 

“Your character is the sum total of your habits.”Rick Warren

 

photo credit: At the pub – Dublin, Ireland – Black and white street photography via photopin (license)

Know Your Strengths

strengths

Having a clear Mission Statement is at the core of designing Your BEST ThirdThird.

That’s why we have been devoting this blog to taking you step by step through a process to write your own Personal Mission Statement.

If you are participating and are in the process of writing your own Personal Mission Statement, you have considered and evaluated…

  • How you think of yourself (drew an image),
  • How others have articulated their belief in you (remembered others’ prophecies),
  • Your personal values, and
  • The qualities you most hold dear.

Why? So that you can focus on the MOST important opportunities you have.

And now, you are ready to consider your strengths… how you are wired and how that fits in with your great mission statement.

[It’s not too late to start writing your Personal Mission Statement]

You have a personality (though a common joke when I am presenting on this topic is that someone is fearful that they won’t have one).

It could also be said that we are wired to have certain Behavioral Tendencies. Or, we might suggest that a certain percentage of our emotional make-up is genetic wiring.

Whichever way you want to think of it, it is very obvious that we are each unique, and that we fall into similar categories, depending on…

Whether we are motivated by Task or People.

Whether we are Fast-paced or Slow-paced.

Where on the spectrum of each of those we fall.

How that all fits together.

Understanding our “personality” is crucial to our success in life.  Even understanding a few basics about your strengths will clarify your Personal Mission Statement.

 

For a basic, quick quiz to give you an idea of your tendencies, click HERE.  After you choose a few options given, it will give you a percentage of each of four “tendencies” and some suggestions as to how you might want to use your strengths in your BEST ThirdThird.

P R A C T I C A L   E X A M P L E 

At some point, I realized that the BEST use of my wiring was to stop trying to become a “pianist.” I could get to the right notes (eventually), but I could never feel, hear, sense the music like some of my friends could.  Instead of the precise, detailed piano playing that was not a natural connect for me, I  eventually helped to recruit and organize musicians for our church worship team instead.

Basically, while I can fill certain roles with some ability (one-handed piano notes), there are other roles that I can actually flourish in (seeing the possibilities in others).

I have other, more in-depth ways to help you tap into your personality and tendencies, if you are interested.

The Tendencies Quiz is a good place to start but there is so much more to discover about yourself. Contact me or leave a comment here if would like to explore more!

 

Your Values

values

What you do speaks so loudly
I can not hear what you say.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Values is our next focus for this process of writing your Personal Mission Statement.

What you value is an important part of who you are.

It says a lot about how you were raised and how you have evolved, grown, and changed through your experience of LIFE.

It is what has become important to you.

Here is one definition of Values:

“A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.”

Some synonyms are: Principles, ethics, moral code, standards, code of behavior.

Use this free workbook page for this part of your process.

The instructions should be clear on the worksheet… select the ones that are most important, then, rank them in order.

The two steps are important, even if tedious to choose and then rank.

Take your time.  Don’t rush.

Figure yourself out.

I do this exercise myself every time I ask someone(s) else to do it.  It makes me think, every time.

  • Do I value being appreciated or respected?
  • Is accumulating knowledge important to me?  (Yes….if it is knowledge to be used in understanding.)
  • While I prefer going to the grocery store without having to add up my costs as I put things in my cart (which I did for many years of raising a growing family on a budget) and while I enjoy having some discretionary funds, neither Financial Security nor Accumulation of wealthy ever make it to my list of 10.

That is always an interesting conversation I have with myself after this exercise.

I have consistency… Spirituality and Faith are always #1; Wisdom, Openness, Self-awareness, a sense of humor are always on my list.

Who I am is made up of what I value.

Tackle your worksheet with honesty and thought.

Choose values you hold dear.

 

 

Memorable Affirmation

Remembering comments from childhood often first brings negative thoughts.  It’s sort of amazing to me how true that is.  We can remember the scoldings or the mistakes or the failures, but it’s harder to remember any positive affirmation we receive through out our lives.

The stories that you tell about your past shape your future.

– Eric Ransdell in Fast Company

You have positive memories if you will take a few minutes to access them.

So….do that…..now!

Take a few minutes and remember some positive comments that were made to you about yourself when you were a child.

Who said something to you that shaped you in a positive way?
Who saw in you potential when you were too young or naive to see it in yourself?
Who invested in you in a way that you were challenged to see yourself in a new way?

I have to say that this was hard for me when I first did this exercise.  I did not have a lot of “cheerleaders” in my young life.  I can’t remember teachers singling me out for my intelligence or family members commenting on my positive strengths. No caring neighbor said to me, “You are special” in a personal way that I remember.

I had a softball coach, though.

Ethyl Lee Rehms.

She was my fifth grade teacher, too, and she gave me confidence in the classroom (once, by assigning me as one of four debaters for a class history).  She was also our physical education teacher and she made me see that I could be athletic (She told me I ran like a chicken once and that if I held my arms in, I could take a few seconds off my 50-yard dash).

But, as my softball coach, she brought out the best in me.

She put me at third base when I was 10 to get me strong enough to follow the awesome shortstop who was 3 years older than me.

Once, she sent everyone home except for the first baseman(girl) and hit grounders to me for another 30 minutes in the hot Texas summer sun. (I do think she went and moved her car so protect is from my occasional wild throws!)

Miss Rehms invested in me in my deepest places…..

She saw that I was good at something and she made me better.

affirmation

You have someone like that in your life.

     W H O   I S  I T ?

Download this free worksheet and write it down.

Commit to remembering a Positive Personal Prophecy someone had of you as a child.  Or more than one if you are so fortunate.

This is important.

That person identified an important part of you that will be an aspect of your Personal Mission Statement.

 

If you missed my post from Tuesday, go back and read Describe Yourself and work through part one of today’s free worksheet.

Image Credits: keniscott.tumblr.com/