Saturday, December 14, 2013

10 Days Before Christmas Menu Post

 So, it is Saturday and I realize there are actually 11 days before Christmas if you are reading this today; but, this little gem of a menu post is set to start Sunday, December 15. Ten rapidly approaching days until Christmas. Are you feeling a little stressed when you think about it? Believe it or not (knock on wood) I am not really too incredibly stressed about it. Grant it, I do not have kids; however, I am a special education teacher. Any teacher somewhat dreads this time of year as their students get crazier and crazier in anticipation for Santa and a nice, long winter break.

I thought it would be nice to share some of the ways I have not been getting stressed out even though my dear school kiddos are totally bonkers. As seen in my nice little picture I have this adorable little Christmas coffee mug I love bringing out to enjoy the season. This mug makes me smile everyday. Taking that little bit of time in the morning to pour myself a nice cup of Joe helps caffinate myself for the day. Seeing the chubby smiling snowman just makes me a little more happy. Find something that starts your day off with a smile:) 

Rule number two- routine, routine, routine! While there are plenty of events going on that can cause for social chaos, I find that I thrive off routine. Keeping my routine as normal as possible helps mentally free up capacity to remain calm. The more calm I am the more peace I can bring to any environment.

Rule number three- take time for yourself. Lately, I've been taking time to exercise. I know the exercise probably has more to do with the stress management even if it is only 20 minutes spent on my mini stepper, but it is a little "me" time. Time where I can zone out and not have to think a whole lot. 

And finally, try to enjoy what this season is really about. Gratitude, the gift of giving, togetherness, joy, and love. I express my gratitude whether it is here on the blog, to my husband or friends, and to God. I've been giving and sharing what I have with others who don't have as much by giving whatever loose change is in my purse to those bell ringers or buying a toy for a child. While I do not regularly attend church, I am a spiritual person and find great love and joy in what Christmas is all about.

You can take the above for what it is worth or totally disregard it. I just thought it would be nice to share a little bit of what goes on in my little head. If you happen to see a slight smile come across my face even while my students are loud, crazy, and I'm sending them back to class cracked out on sugar because we decorated cookies the above rules are why. Yesterday they told me they had never had the opportunity to decorate cookies before. It was a little shake up to our normal routine, but a heck of a lot of fun and kept me on my feet for added exercise. Fulfilling most of what helps me to not get stressed out about the holidays.

Now how about a menu post? This week, per usual, is full of some great make ahead dishes. I say make ahead because it actually saves you time to make them ahead. My husband's office gathering was last night. He mentioned that a colleague's significant other had made one of my make ahead dishes, but stated that it took forever to make. He asked her if she actually prepared the dish ahead like the recipe name states or if she made it the day of. She made it the day of. The trick to all of my make ahead pasta dishes is to prepare them at least the day before so the pasta has time to soak up some of the sauce and soften. Baking the dish finishes the whole meal off. I will be sure to be more clear about this in the future. Make ahead and store! For example, this week's Sunday Sandwich, Southern Style Cuban Sandwiches, involves slow cooked pork tenderloin. I plan on cooking the pork in my Crock Pot while getting my other dishes ready for the week. Dishes include this week's Meatless Monday dish, Veggie Enchilada Casserole, and Make Ahead Meaty Ziti. Getting all of these things prepped ahead of time will allow you to simply pull the dish out of the fridge and bake in the oven. Giving you precious time throughout the week for yourself while dinner bakes. Since I'm full of suggestions today, few of the tools I use to make this happen are...
  • A slow cooker
  • 2 8-inch by 12-inch casserole dishes, I love my resealable Pyrex dishes so I can cover and store before baking, and cover again for leftovers the next day
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil. You will need this for the ziti to keep too much liquid from evaporating while it bakes.
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Here is this week's rundown:
  • Sunday 12/15 Southern Style Cuban Sandwiches with Sweet Potato Fries
  • Monday 12/16 Make Ahead Veggie Enchilada Casserole
  • Tuesday 12/17 Leftovers
  • Wednesday 12/18 Make Ahead Meaty Ziti with Salad
  • Thursday 12/19 Leftovers

Items you will need from the store or what you have on hand:

1 lb. pork tenderloin
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onions
4 small sweet potatoes or 1 bag frozen sweet potato fries, I make my own to save calories
1 bulb garlic (if you do not have any from previous lists)
1 package corn tortillas
1 can black beans
1 can diced green chilies
1 can gluten-free enchilada sauce 
1 can diced tomatoes with chilies (such as Rotel)
1 can diced tomatoes with onion and garlic
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 jar pickled okra or 1 jar pickles (in case you don't like okra)
1 box gluten-free penne pasta
1 canister grated Parmesan cheese
1 box frozen chopped spinach
1 bag frozen chopped butternut squash
1 package sliced 2% Swiss cheese
1 bag shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 bag shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
1 container light or fat-free sour cream

Pantry items you will need include:

Extra virgin olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Dijon mustard
Brown sugar
Gluten-free BBQ sauce
Dried Italian herbs
Dried minced onion
Onion powder
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Smoked paprika

Have a great weekend! I look forward to posting throughout the week!

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