Okay, So Now What Do I Do?

They say that getting started is the hardest part…and I agree.

I feel overwhelmed at times, wondering how do I even go about making positive change in my life when I see so much that needs improvement? How do you prioritize, how do you know which area to tackle first?

Well, for me, I’m starting with cooking.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to cook. But if you ask my family, particularly over the last few years, they will tell you that I don’t cook very often at home. Announce a potluck at church and I’ll fry chicken for hours, or let me be the one to whip up a meal for our Friday night Bible study group. I’ll volunteer in a heartbeat.

But put me in my own kitchen, with my own family, and I lose the desire. I’m too tired. I want to go out to eat. I don’t know what to cook. I run to the grocery store for ingredients for a new recipe, forgetting that my freezer is already stocked full of perfectly good food waiting to be cooked.

I’m disorganized and without motivation when it comes to cooking for my own family, day in and day out. So that is one of the first things I have been trying to address on this noble journey.

So, what does scripture say about this?

“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar; She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.” Proverbs 31:14-15

Okay, well, some of that just does not apply to me. Thankfully, a few things have changed since the time of King Lemuel. I don’t have to traipse the docks looking for the best produce each day as it comes off the merchant ships. There is a huge HEB about 12 minutes from my house, and it usually has everything I need, and a little bit more.

It is also not necessary for me to get up at the wee hours of the morning. My husband leaves for work at 4:30 each morning and does not eat breakfast, and since it is summer, the teenagers tend to sleep in a bit late. If I were to get up at the crack of dawn, I would be cooking only for myself. So, in an effort to best conserve my time and energy, I will let that one pass.

Servant girls? Yeah, right.

It is the simplest part of this verse that applies to me: she provides food for her family.

I am expected, quite simply, to make sure that everyone in my household has something to eat. I don’t have to cook multi-course meals every day. But I do need to oversee the fridge and pantry and make sure that in those times when I will not prepare a big meal, there is something healthy to grab and go.

One of the strategies that I am experimenting with right now is preparing meals ahead of time and stocking my freezer with things that are easy to throw in the crock pot. About two weeks ago I made a massive batch of homemade pasta sauce and froze about 8 quarts of sauce in Ziplocs.

My sauce recipe is so, so easy, it’s almost a shame to call it homemade. But it does incorporate fresh herbs and vegetables, so that should qualify, yes?

Thought so.

Anyway, I’ve already put the family on notice that since I will not be working this year, the meals are not always going to be fancy. I figure we will have pasta once a week, so freezing it in mass quantities is a no-brainer.

I’ve also frozen some pre-seasoned meats that are ready to be thawed overnight and dropped in the crock pot with veggies, and I’ve done some individual servings of Weight Watchers healthy recipes.

It has actually inspired me to do some food preparation for friends, who often complain that they don’t have time to plan healthy meals. (Look for a link to my food business, The Picky Palate, within the next few weeks…)

Yesterday, I made about 12 batches of homemade salsa with fresh tomatoes from my garden, and from the gardens of two friends who have tomatoes coming out of their ears. Using my handy-dandy Pampered Chef chopper, I was able to whip out that salsa in no time at all.

I decided not to put in jars this year because if it sits around in jars in the fridge, then I will be tempted to keep chips in the house all the time, which negates the health value of the salsa. By freezing it, I can use the salsa as bases for soups and bean dishes, and add to pasta sauce and crock pot meals whenever I need it.

I have found many great recipes on Pinterest, which I will start providing links to as soon as I figure out how to do that. I’ll upload a few pictures, too, so you can see what the food looks like in real life, from my own crock pot.

I find myself motivated to put meals together at the last minute, now, instead of just sitting around waiting for everyone to wail with hunger pains. And that motivation allows me to be creative with new meal ideas. Let me share one with you real quick:

Two nights ago, I purchased fresh chicken breast in bulk, as well as onions, jalapeno, and cilantro for the salsa. I had not actually decided what to do with the chicken, other than to freeze some in individual bags for later use. When dinner time came around, I had about a cup of salsa in a bowl that would not fit in the bags I was freezing.

I threw the leftover salsa in with some brown rice, 1 cup rice to 2 cups of water, and cooked it in the microwave for about 20 minutes in my stone crock ware. I added about a teaspoon of cumin and a dash of salt, also.

Meanwhile, I heated up a can of cream of chicken soup, using 3/4 milk and 1/4 water. I cut two of the breasts into several pieces, then pounded the pieces out with my meat tenderizer. While the meat was sautéing in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, I added a handful of chopped cilantro and 4 or 5 sliced jalapenos, in long strips, to the simmering soup.

After the chicken was grilled, I added the soup to the skillet, along with several ears of sweet corn from my garden. I put the lid on, turned the concoction to low, and prayed for the best.

It was a total experiment, but based on flavors that I know the family likes. And I must say, it was a complete success.

Now, some of you may be saying that you have 1,001 recipes using cream of chicken soup. Yes, so do I. And I’m aware that it’s not the healthiest thing in the world to serve your family. But I think that when used as a base for flavor, it’s okay. We drizzled a little on the chicken and rice, but the majority of the soup was leftover. In fact, I’m going to freeze the rest of it today for future use.

Smart, huh?

It feels good to have a hot meal for the family every night, even if it is something simple. And it feels like I am making progress in my journey.