Secret Pals + Menu

As a teacher, there is rarely time for socializing (or maybe that is just me). There’s the occasional ‘hey, how’s it going’ in the hall, maybe you have a few minutes to ask about someone’s personal life but most interactions are about students with people that are inside your grade group. Every now and then, there’s a social and you really get to interact and it’s not because you need to discuss data or interventions. Even then people stick to their typical group because that is who they are comfortable with

Teaching is not for the faint of heart and it is not for the social butterfly. You are in your room grinding through the day with your kids or bouncing from room to room attempting to bridge gaps, while simultaneously trying to get each student to meet grade level expectations, digging through data, raising money for all the causes, planning fun activities, loving on those that don’t get love, doctoring knees, diagnosing all the aliments, boosting self-esteem, listening to all the stories, getting excited about multiplication, division, light, sound, fractions, The Constitution, etc. (it is really a never ending list). Your day is filled with people coming in and out of your room to help support your children or your students are being pulled for even more support. If you do strike up a personal conversation the students get even louder and then you are further behind on what needs to get done that day.

In an attempt to build comradery at work and maybe make things a little more exciting, another teacher and I came up with the idea to have secret pals all year round. The idea was to pair everyone up and have monthly themes for gifts. October was the obvious ‘you’ve been boo-ed’ and November will be ‘thankful for you’, December is ‘secret Santa’ and that is about as far as I have planned. Each person has someone to leave a small gift for each month based on the theme of that month.

Simple. Sweet. Easy.

This was much easier said than done as are most things in life. We had to first get the names of all the staff. That wasn’t even easy. With personnel changes and extra people, an updated (correct) list was hard to come by. Then figuring out the best way to pair everyone was a pain. They do have these apps you can use to randomly pair people, but those did not run smoothly. We had to go the old fashioned route and just let people draw names. A few names might have been cut off and lost in the process…so that was an issue. I’m telling you this was not easy to pull off. I’ll know better next year. After all of the frustration trying to get the ball rolling on building some community, the heartbreaking part was the reaction of others.

“I don’t even know her. She isn’t anything like me. Can I pick another person? Is this optional? Do I have to participate? This is going to cost too much. I like the group I do Secret Santa with already.” Just the sheer looks of disgust were enough to make me want to cancel the whole thing.

I was really glad that we did not do this at a faculty meeting with everyone present and that I was the only one who saw and heard these selfish reactions. It was sad and so frustrating at the same time. The whole point is to get to know someone that you might not know. The whole idea is to try and get out of your comfort zone and make some new connections.

You might not be best friends, skipping through a field of dandelions at the end of the school year, but you will have made that person smile at some point. At least once a month you will have made that person’s day better. Just once a month you can forego your Mountain Dew and snack to get your secret person something they like instead. In the process you might even make yourself feel better by completing a selfless act.

The selfishness of others is astounding. I get that everyone lives busy lives, but every now and then you should slow down and just appreciate someone that has not even begun to appreciate you. You don’t have to wait to be nice to someone until they go out of their way to be kind to you. It costs NOTHING to be kind to someone, but it does take effort. The world is cruel and twisted. Everyone deserves words of affirmation and positive attention. Everyone is going through their own hell and could use some encouragement. So when someone hands you a road map on how to make someone feel special, draw the name out of the bucket and say thank you.


Cream of Mushroom Soup with Garlic Herbed Breadcrumbs + Chicken Breast

Pork Chops + Souper Creamy Lemon Butter Cheesy Zucchini Orzo

Saucy Coconut Curry with Rice Noodles + Garden Vegetables

BLT Chopped Salad + Corn, Avocado, Feta

Tuscan Ribollita- Veggie, Bean & Bread Soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Garlic Herbed Breadcrumbs

I only have two new recipes that I am trying out this week and I am super excited about both of them! The first one is this mushroom soup. I am not a big fan of mushrooms but Josh is and if cooked just right I too can love them.

I cooked a mushroom pasta last week with Carba-nada, so I am going to continue that this week, but with something a bit different. This recipe has more herbs and seems more soupy than the pasta dish I had last week. I am going to skip the breadcrumbs and use the carba-nada in it’s place. I can’t wait for this one!

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 medium shallot, chopped
4 tablespoons salted butter
*2 tablespoons
6 cups wild mushrooms, sliced
3 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
*32 ounces mushrooms of choice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
6 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream or canned coconut milk
*whole milk
1/2 cup grated manchego or parmesan cheese

*omitting bread and using carba-nada
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups roughly torn sourdough bread
2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, smashed
kosher salt 

*adding in chicken breast with oregano, thyme, and garlic

Pork Chops + Souper Creamy Lemon Butter Cheesy Zucchini Orzo 

This recipe was so great the last time I tried it. I mixed in chicken with the orzo and zucchini. It was delicious. This time I am going to eat it as a side dish. I would use carba-nada instead, but I don’t have any other big carbs that are going to push me over my limit so I am going to leave it as orzo.

For this dish to have no oil or heavy cream sauce, it turns out so much better than you would think. Since the zucchini and squash have so much water in them, it creates this create creamy sauce. I promise you, you do not need all 3 tablespoons of butter, 1 is plenty here.

*Changes I make to meet my macros 

3 tablespoons salted butter
*1 tablespoon
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 pound dry orzo pasta (use gluten-free, if needed)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 medium zucchini and or yellow summer squash grated
*2 of each depending on size avaliable
1/2 bunch kale, finely shredded
3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon onion powder
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup whole milk or canned full fat coconut milk
*whole milk 
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
*75-100 grams reduced fat parmesan 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)

Saucy Coconut Curry with Rice Noodles + Garden Vegetables

Last week I had planned a rice noodle dish that I skipped during the meal prep process. We had our fall festival at school and a friend’s birthday dinner this week, so I decided to skip that one. I wasn’t that excited about the recipe that I had chosen. I do however, love this recipe. I love all of the vegetables that it has. It is very unexpected and so perfect. I add chicken to mine for extra protein. Watch the serving of rice noodles because they are packed full of carbohydrates.

8 ounces rice noodles
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 sweet onion, diced
2 zucchini, or summer squash, diced
2 ears sweet corn kernels, removed from the cob
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
2-3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 14 ounce can full fat coconut milk
*light coconut milk 
1 tablespoon fish sauce (soy sauce for vegan option)
2 teaspoons honey
juice and zest from 1/2 a lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro OR basil, roughly chopped (use you personal favorite)
sliced jalapeño pepper and green onions, for serving 
*add in cooked chicken breast

BLT Chopped Salad + Corn, Avocado, Feta

I made this into a BLT bowl. Josh is not a fan of salads, so I used rice instead. I also added in chicken for extra protein. I have used leftover steak and shrimp before and it is wonderful that way. Chicken is always easier to cook when it feels like you are cooking 17,000 things at one time. I was hesitant with this recipe since there is no dressing, but there really is no need for one. It is so fresh and flavorful, it is one of my favorites hands-down.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

2 cups butter lettuce, chopped
*lettuce or rice for a bowl option
2 cups fresh arugula, chopped
*1/2 cup cooked rice per bowl 
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
*10 tomatoes per salad
4 slices thick-cut bacon, fried and crumbled
*0.5 - 0.8 ounces cooked bacon per salad 
1 cup sweet corn
*pan seared sweet corn 60 grams per salad  
1 avocado, chopped
*0.5-0.7 ounces per salad 
4 ounces feta, crumbled
*non-fat feta 
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
*omit oil 
1 lime, juiced
1/4 tablespoons salt
1/4 tablespoons pepper 
*cooked chicken breast

Tuscan Ribollita- Veggie, Bean & Bread Soup

Completely new recipe for me. I have never made a vegetable soup and this won’t exactly be a vegetable soup because I am going to add in ground deer meat.

I will do a review of the recipe next week.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

5 tablespoons olive oil
*omit- spray oil for vegetables
3 cloves garlic; crushed
1 onion; finely sliced
2 stalks celery; chopped
2 carrots; chopped
*12-15 ounces
1 big bunch of silverbeet; finely sliced
400 g tin whole tomatoes
1 liter stock (good quality veggie stock, chicken, beef or whatever you like)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes *or adjust to your liking
1 teaspoon salt
400 g tin cannellini bean
1 loaf of country style white bread; cut into chunks
parsley for serving 

E N J O Y !

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