Normalcy + Menu

Some times writing a blog post comes easy. Other times I have to search for what I even want to say…I never want to be repetitive and write about the same thing, which is hard to do after blogging for over two years. Life has been so out of whack these past few weeks, leaving me feeling unmotivated and just here waiting to see what is going to happen next. I am a planner. I like to be in control of things, maybe that is why I chose to teach, count my macros, and write this blog on my menu. With the lack of normalcy, I have not felt very motivated to find inspiration or tackle any goals.

Most kids in America are out of school and (most) parents are charged with the task of working and teaching. If you aren’t already teaching your children, chances are you are going to be getting some online instruction soon or a workbook sent to you, so that will change. Normal life is now a thing of the past for most people. I thrive on my routine. I thrive on having a plan and a back-up plan. Living in such limbo, waiting on the next email to say when things can return to normal is not ideal, but it is our reality.

Right now you either sink or swim. You can sit on the couch, eating all your snacks, not interacting with your children, yelling more than usual, and living in a perpetual state of stress or you can roll with it. I am choosing to roll with it, I think. I don’t intend to show back up to work, whenever that is, looking like I need to go ahead and have this baby boy. Although at the rate I’m growing and with the return to work date moving further and further out…chances are I might just look like that.

It is hard to balance all the things. I want to keep my house clean, let the kids play, make sure junk food is not all that is consumed, teach something, maintain my sanity, etc. It is all easier said than done, major props to you stay at home moms that home school and maintain a clean home. Even though I am a planner, I don’t have our days mapped out. I don’t have cute lessons made for my kids to complete. I know that if I made these lessons, I would want to see them through. I would force my children to complete things that they might not necessarily want to do. My approach is more laid back and Montessori-style. We are learning through real-world experiences with each other, with some numbers and letters thrown in there.

The things I can control are the choices that I make. I can control my temperament, the way I react to stressful situations (words, tone, actions) and how I choose to cope with the stress (food intake, fussing/yelling, ignoring the issues, impulse buying). I am lucky that I have never been an impulsive person. I always think situations through, usually, overthinking the situation, thinking of every possible thing that could go wrong. It is how I have always prepared myself for the things that could disappoint me. Not the best way to tackle things, but it is just how I learned to protect myself from disappointment early on.

With all the uncertainty I have not been able to think of all the possible bad scenarios because I am not sure what is going to happen next. There’s no way for me to worry about things that could go wrong when I do not know what is coming next. The level of uncertainty that I am currently living in is driving me crazy though. I want to know what is going to happen.

I want to know for sure when I’m going to return to work. I want to know for sure if I or people I love will get sick. I want to know for sure that it will all be fine. I do know that this too shall pass. I know that without a shadow of a doubt that this time with my children is irreplaceable. Not to sound too corny but, I know they might not ever remember this time, but the bond we are creating right now is priceless. I know the type of bond we created during my maternity leave so I know this will be even better if I keep my cool and don’t turn into a crazy person, consumed with having things be “just so”.

There are so many posts and memes going around telling you how wonderful this time is and at the same time how this is all sending us to “hell in a hand-basket”. I would like to think that this is a time of reflection for people. I hope that no one is sitting waiting on the days to pass, so normalcy can come back. Think of how much you hated the normal weekday mess and were living for the weekend. Think of all the times you wished you could just stay home with your kids and play all day or had the time to tackle that “whatever” that needs fixing in your house. You have so much time now to be creative, to get outside, to start new routines or habits, and cross off that list of “whatevers”.

Don’t waste all of your time wishing for the normal days to come back and miss out on these rare days of being home, creating memories that you would otherwise not have been able to. No, the situation is not ideal and you can’t just go anywhere you please right now, but you can improvise. I don’t have it all figured out and I am preaching to the choir a bit here…I am working on putting all of these thoughts into action myself.

Wash your hands.


Unstuffed Spicy Tomato Basil Shells + Whipped Ricotta

One-Skillet Cheesy Cuban Chicken Rice Bake

30 Minute Chicken Fajitas with Roasted Pineapple Salsa Verde

Apple Butter and Sage Pork Chops  + Simple Kale Salad

Cabbage Roll-Ups

Unstuffed Spicy Tomato Basil Shells + Whipped Ricotta

I am trying not to test too many new recipes right now with the shortage of food in the stores around here. Luckily, this recipe has pantry staples and a few other ingredients that should be easy to find.

I am going to skip the sausage and use chicken breast to make it healthier and lower calorie. I love using the carba-nada over regular pasta, but it does have a lot more calories. If I were to use sausage or ground beef, then I would be unnecessarily adding to the calories. If you are not worried about your calories then eat the regular pasta and sausage.

I am going to cook my chicken and put it to the side. I like to keep my large ingredients like the chicken, pasta, and sauce separate so I can weigh them out individually and get an accurate count on my macros.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

1 pound jumbo pasta shells
*carba-nada or spaghetti squash 
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*Omit oil
1/2 pound ground spicy Italian chicken sausage
*cooked chicken breast
3 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano (or 1 tbs fresh oregano)
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves (or 1 tbs fresh thyme)
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (14 ounce) can tomatoes crushed
kosher salt and black pepper
2 cups chopped greens, such as kale, spinach, or chard
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons juice)
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese, whipped in the food processor, if desired
*low fat ricotta cheese 

One-Skillet Cheesy Cuban Chicken Rice Bake

I am a little hesitant to make this dish. Rice, beans, and cheese are all full of carbohydrates.

I love carbs but I don’t love when a dish takes up all of my carbohydrates and I am unable to eat my snack at night. I really look forward to capping off my macros after supper when the kids are asleep with some halo top, a protein shake (the good kind with oats, milk, peanut butter, and chocolate syrup), or some cereal. So I don’t want this meal to ruin that for me.

I am not going to add in the pasta and will just stick to the rice. This recipe is similar to the broccoli, chicken, and rice casserole that I have made. It has rice and pasta, I leave off one, take it easy on the cheese, and use low-fat milk to make it work for me.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*Spray olive oil 
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper using more or less to taste
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup dry broken spaghetti or angel hair pasta
*omit pasta
1 cup long grain rice
*3/4 to 1 cup jasmine rice
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped pepperoncini or dill pickles (optional)
1 (14 ounce) can black beans drained
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for serving
zest and juice of 1 lime, plus more for serving
1-2 cups shredded swiss or mozzarella cheese 
*84-112 grams of mozzarella 

30 Minute Chicken Fajitas with Roasted Pineapple Salsa Verde

This recipe is pretty identical to the 20-minute shrimp tacos I have made, which were delicious. If you haven’t made them yet and you have some shrimp on your hands, run and go make them now! Seriously, one of my favorite salsas yet. The shrimp version had more ingredients in the salsa, but I like that this recipe is a bit more simple.

The only thing to really track in the salsa is the pineapple and tomatillos. The tomatillos are awesome roasted with the other ingredients. If you can’t find tomatillos, you can use a jar of premade Verde. Add the Verde, garlic, jalapeno, and spices to a mixer pulse together until blended well.

These fajitas always turn into rice bowls for me instead of tacos. I love salsa so much and the macros are so great that I can have a lot of it. If you are going low carbohydrate, then skip the rice and just eat in the tortilla or alone. Some fresh cilantro, lime, and maybe avocado to top it off and you are set!

I interchange pork and chicken breast in this recipe often. If I have a pork butt I am definitely going to use that over the chicken breast. If the store is low on chicken when I go, I will go down to our local BBQ place and grab some naked pork.

*Changes I make to fit my macros

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips 
*chicken breast or pulled pork
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
*Spray with oil 
1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder 
2 teaspoons smoked paprika 
1 teaspoon dried oregano 
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder kosher salt and black pepper 
2 bell peppers, sliced 
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced 
6-8 small flour tortillas, warmed 
*High fiber/Low carb tortilla or rice 
crumbled cotija or shredded cheddar cheese mashed avocado and limes 
*Omit cheese OR avocado 
6 small tomatillos, husked 
*verde if you can’t find tomatillos 
1 jalapeño 
4 green onions 
juice of 1 lime 
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped 
1-2 cup diced pineapple
*1/4 -1/3rd cup per serving 

Apple Butter and Sage Pork Chops  + Simple Kale Salad

Believe me when I tell you this salad is as simple as it gets and surprisingly so good. The secret is all in the dressing. The only thing I change to this dressing is omitting the olive oil and adding more lemon juice. Other than that, I make it exactly as it says. I am going to add some beets to the salad. I have never done that before, but I love beets with this type of dressing so I know it will be a hit.

I was so nervous about the macros the first time I made these pork chops. I was not familiar with apple butter, I just assumed it had to be loaded down with carbs like jelly was and then adding apples too! I couldn’t imagine that these would be good for my macros, at all. I just knew that I would be blowing my carbohydrates for the day. I don’t usually calculate macros before I decide to cook a dish, typically I can make some pretty good guesses on what needs to be altered to make things healthier. 

The second time I increased the apple butter and it still did not push my macros to the limit. I was so happy to find a new tasty recipe for pork chops. Just like chicken breast, pork chops get really boring after a while if you don’t mix things up. This is the perfect recipe to mix things up with.

To make sure each pork chop has the same macros for apple butter, I add it to each chop individually. I make sure that each pork chop gets the same amount. Each pork chop will weigh differently, but they will still have the same macros for the apples and apple butter.

*Changes I make to meet my macros 

2 bone-in pork chops, about 1 inch thick
*4-6 pork loin chops 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*zero calorie olive oil spray 
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons salted butter
*1 tablespoon 
12 fresh sage leaves
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons apple butter
*around 50-70 grams depending on your macros
1-2 honeycrisp apples, cut into wedges
*2 apples, for 4 servings
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme 

Kale Salad: 
2 bunches kale, fibrous stems (in the middle of the leaf) removed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup slivered almonds
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
* 2 lemons squeezed 
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
* omit oil 
½ teaspoon garlic, grated
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper 
*add in beets

Cabbage Roll-Ups

I haven’t cooked these in a while, I usually forget about them until I have grown tired of spaghetti and chili. They seem very difficult to make just because of their presentation, but I promise they are super simple.

There are two key players in this dish that can blow your macros out of the water, the rice and hoisin sauce. The hoisin sauce is key though, don’t skip it, but don’t get too happy with it. You have to mix it with water and then cover the cabbage rolls with the diluted sauce. KEY.

In order to make these you will want to break the cabbage leaf about 1 inch from the bottom, fill the top of each leaf with an equal amount of mixture (if tracking), then start rolling from the top to the bottom. The break in the leaf allows the rolls to sit freely. If you are basing your measurements off of the changes I make, keep in mind that I double all of my recipes to have for lunch the following day.

Each roll was 190 calories, 18.7 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 9.2 grams of fat.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
*9 grams
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
*400-500 grams
1 lb ground pork
*around 40 ounces ground beef or venison 
1 cup cooked jasmine rice
*reduce to 3/4 cup if cutting calories 
1 large carrot, shredded
*4 ounces matchstick carrots 
3 scallions, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
*2 tablespoons 
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 large head Napa cabbage, leaves separated and thick white core removed
¼ cup hoisin sauce
*51 grams 
2 tablespoons water
*enough water to thin down, around 1/3 cup 

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