10 Hacks for Creating a Healthier Kitchen

[Image Credit: 123RF.com #82516319]

It’s a scene that plays out in kitchens across the country (heck, probably across the world) every day. Someone opens up the fridge, pantry, or cupboard with the intention of pulling together a healthy meal for their family, but chaos stares back at them. They either don’t have the time or the heart to wade through the disorganized stacks of bottles, boxes, bags, cans, and jars, so they grab a box of mac & cheese and call it a day.

What if there were a better way?

What if there were a way to clear the clutter and the chaos in the kitchen and create a mealtime haven that made pulling together healthy dishes for your family a no-brainer?

Well, the great news is that with some simple tweaks and the will to do it, an organized kitchen can be yours!

Having just gone through this particular exercise in my own home, I present to you my Top 10 Hacks for Creating a Healthier Kitchen!

Hack #1: Pull It All Out and PURGE!

Look, I get it! When I first attempted to organize my kitchen I was sure I could just move things around and I’d be all good. It didn’t work! The only way to clear the chaos is to remove EVERYTHING and touch each and every item, deciding what stays and what goes. Check expiration dates. Toss whatever has expired. Be ruthless about each item. Are you really ever going to eat that jar of artichoke hearts you bought 3 years ago for some recipe you never ended up making? Do you have 3 open bags of chia seeds like I did? Consolidate them into one container and toss the empties. Don’t get overwhelmed!  You can do this a cupboard/pantry/fridge/freezer at a time. Heck, you can even do it a shelf at a time if you want. Just start. I found that just breaking the inertia made me want to keep going. Then, once you have made the big purge and either trashed or donated all the stuff you’re never going to use, it’s time to get busy!

Hack #2: Alphabetize Your Spices

I know it sounds incredibly OCD, but I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to just reach for the spices I need instead of taking out every single jar until I find the cumin! Try it!  I promise you’ll like it!

Hack #3: Use Mason Jars

Hey, I grew up in the South and honestly, I thought the only use for mason jars was to can green beans and tomatoes from my Gramma’s garden and make jellies and jams. Boy, have I been missing out. I’ll tell you a secret… I have actually successfully completed TWO projects that I saw on Pinterest.  The first was Minion cupcakes for my son’s 11th birthday. The other was to use mason jars to store my grains and bulk items. Talk about a tidy pantry! Chia seeds, rice, dried beans, bulk spices, coconut flakes, goji berries, cacao nibs, etc. They look so pretty in their jars! Plus they are airtight so things stay fresh and bug-free! 😮

Hack #4: Use a Fruit Bowl

Pull out one of the large, pretty bowls that lives in the recesses of your dining room buffet or go buy a nice bowl (mine is aqua and has sea turtles on it) and fill it with fruit and display it on your counter. Not only is fruit beautiful but if you can see it you are more likely to actually EAT it!

Hack #5: Hide the Free Day Food

Ideally, I like to buy just enough free day food so that I run out at the end of the day, but sometimes that doesn’t happen and there are leftovers. So, I hide them. We have a basket in our pantry that we hide all the junk food in, but you could also put it up in a high cabinet (preferably one that you need a step stool to reach). Out of sight, out of mind!

Hack #6: Consolidate Like A Boss

Go through your plasticware and your pots and pans and get rid of the stuff that is all scratched up, stained, lidless, etc. Keep the items that you use often, but get rid of the extra stuff you either never use or that is past its prime.

Hack #7: Get (and Use) An Instant Pot – STAT!

For the love of all that is good and holy, I resisted the Instant Pot craze forever. I’m not a fan of uni-taskers in my kitchen and I thought the Instant Pot was just that. However, I inherited a brand new one from my mom when she passed away earlier this year. Honestly, I was scared of it. I remembered all too well the pressure cooker explosions in my Gramma’s kitchen when I was a kid and feared that maybe I had a little PTSD from the experiences. But let me tell you, this ain’t your Gramma’s pressure cooker! It took me a few weeks to actually try the slow cooker setting and a few more weeks before I worked up the courage and used the pressure cooker setting. But dang y’all, shredded chicken from freezer to table in less than 30 minutes?  I was sold! If you’re a busy mom who is running in 10 different directions at any given time, go get one!  You won’t regret it!

Hack #8: Use a Garbage Bowl

I learned this trick from Rachael Ray. When you’re preparing your meals have a large bowl on hand to collect the trash – the bags, the ends of the carrots, the twigs that are leftover after you pull the rosemary off, the potato peels, etc. Then, you only have to make one trip to the trash can and the counter stays so much cleaner and more organized!

Hack #9: Keep a Go To Meal On Hand

Keep all the ingredients on hand for an emergency meal – you know, the times when you come home from work and everyone is screaming that they are STARVING and you need to whip something up in a jiffy. For us it’s a box of pasta, a jar of Rao’s Marinara Sauce, ground beef, and chopped veggies. I can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes.

Hack #10: Plan Your Menu and Prep in Advance

I plan my menu on Thursday, shop on Friday, and do meal prep on Sunday. This has become even more important while Deb is on a consulting assignment across the state. I fix her meals in advance so that all she has to do is heat and eat. It works really well for Josh and me too. It’s so great to know exactly what we’re eating in advance. Cooking everything in advance has given me a ton of time back in my days. I really love it!

What are your favorite kitchen hacks to save time, eat healthier, and stay organized? I’m always learning and evolving so I’d love to hear what works for you!

Accountability Time… AGAIN

Accountability Time… AGAIN

Okay friends, I have ONE MORE MONTH of workout “restriction” to go. I’m not going to lie, having your health care provider tell you that you may only exercise for a MAXIMUM of 30 minutes per day was a bitter pill to swallow for this Ironman triathlete, but the alternative was NOT attractive either – adrenal burnout, out of control cortisol, weight gain, etc. – so, I’ve been a good girl (for the most part – there was that 56 mile bike ride at Ironman Gulf Coast 70.3 last month… and that 2500 yd swim with Megan a couple of weeks ago…).

But you know, after Gulf Coast, I found myself completely going to the other extreme too. I didn’t want to do shit! It’s like my brain said, “Well, if you can’t go out and ride for 3 hours and run 5 miles off the bike it’s not even worth getting dressed.”

Stupid? Of course!

But the bully in my brain got pretty feisty and, other than yoga, I can count the number of workouts I did in June (30 minutes or whatever) on ONE hand. Not good, friends!

So, I have a plan for July and I want to add an extra layer of accountability in by posting my plan here on the blog and then updating it every Monday. Don’t let me slack, people! I have a sprint triathlon on the schedule on 9/8 and a full marathon on 11/25, so I can’t spend another month sitting on my ass. I plan to spend my bike and run sessions working on heart rate training, so 30 minutes each, with the goal being to increase mileage within a set heart rate range (125-135 bpm) during those 30 minutes over the month.

I appreciate any support and/or encouragement! ❤ And if anyone wants to play along at home, the more the merrier!

Here’s the plan…

The Yoga is a YouTube 30-day series – “Yoga with Adriene” called TRUE

The Core work is a short phone app – hence every day.

Okay, Happy July… Here we go!

A Rough Patch

I went from I. AM. SAD to just spinning out in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Mom’s illness progressed much more quickly than any of us thought possible and she passed from this world peacefully on Easter Sunday. She was surrounded by the people she loved the most (and who loved her back) and she really did go out on her own terms. If death can be beautiful, then her’s most certainly was.

She didn’t want a funeral, so we held a Celebration of Life in her honor. I wrote this reflection on my Mom and her greatest (of many) gift to me.

A REFLECTION ON MY MOTHER

(April 14, 2018) During the last two weeks I have been asked countless times by friends, colleagues, and family members “How are you?”  and I guess my answer is that it’s all a matter of perspective. I’ve been reflecting on my Mom a lot over the past few months as I’m sure you can imagine… How much I love her… What a special person she is… What an awesome “Ga” she was to Josh, Will, Maggie, and Sabrina… What a wonderful gift she was to all of us. Thinking about it, I believe one of the greatest gifts she ever gave me was the gift of perspective.

The glass was always half-full for Mom – she understood the power of positive thinking intuitively at the soul level. When things happened throughout her life that anyone looking in from the outside would consider to be negative, or obstacles, or even tragic, Mom would always get this thoughtful, far-away look on her face and just smile and say, “Oh well, everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.”

She always told me that if I wanted something badly enough and was willing to work for it, I could have it, without question. She never cautioned me to dumb down my dreams or to fashion a “Plan B.” She was my biggest fan and most ardent cheerleader.

Mom was my very first life coach, although I didn’t realize it at the time, and sadly, for much of my adult life I viewed her as somewhat foolish and impractical – a dreamer. But what I failed to notice for a very long time was that my mother – that wishful thinker and pie in the sky dreamer – was actually a very competent “DOER.”

Behind the scenes, without a lot of fanfare she raised two pretty amazing daughters, working multiple jobs to make sure we had everything we needed (and most of what we wanted). Then, once we launched out into the world, 25 years after most of her peers, she reclaimed HER life. The amount of courage she must have had to summon in order to shed the comfortable cloak of a Virginia Tech secretary and go back to college in her 40’s must have been incredible. But she did it and she did it with passion and she created the life that she had only dared to dream for all those years while she was raising her babies.

How many of us do that?

How many of us have the guts and the courage to follow our dreams when EVERYTHING in our outside world tells us that we are being foolish, including the people who are closest to us?

When I ponder the legacy of my mother – my son’s grandmother – I hope that she will be remembered as the eternal optimist who lived by the Quaker creedo – “Pray, but move your feet!” I hope that whenever any of us think of Mom we remember her steadfast belief that we can have ANYTHING we want badly enough if we are willing to have the courage to rise above our circumstances of the moment and go to work for it.

My perspective of my mother’s life has shifted dramatically over the years and I am oh so grateful that God chose her to be my Mom.

So when people ask me how I am or if I’m sad I hope I’m able to muster up that same far-away look and wistful smile and tell them that everything is just as she wanted it to be – just as it’s supposed to be. That we should all be so lucky to live our lives on our own terms all the way to the end.

Before I sit down, I’d like to read a poem I found that really speaks to the gift of perspective – a gift my Mom gave everyone she ever encountered.

 

“She’s Gone” by David Harkins

You can shed tears that she is gone

Or you can smile because she has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back

Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her

Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday

Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember her and only that she is gone

Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind,

be empty and turn your back

Or you can do what she would want:

smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

 

I look out at all of you gathered together in this sanctuary and the common thread that binds us all together is Alice. You call her “friend,” “colleague,” “teacher,” “cousin,” “sister” and even “Ga,” but Anna and I have the happy privilege and honor to be able to call her “Mom.”

On a fun note, my sisters and I got to spend some quality time together and even recreated an old childhood photo. (No Old Mil was consumed in the re-enactment of this photo… blech)

Recipe Share: Crack Slaw

Have you ever had “crack slaw?” Oh my! It is so amazingly delicious and addictive (hence it’s name, I suppose) and EASY. I’ve tried a number of different recipes and some are better than others. I’ve tried versions that incorporate brown rice and others that just use plain old shredded cole slaw mix. This recipe is my own and it has been crowned by my teenage son as his new favorite meal, surpassing his previous fave, honey-soy salmon. I left out the brown rice and replaced the cole slaw mix with broccoli slaw. I’ll warn you though, if you make this, whip up a double batch! 😉

Angie’s Crack Slaw

Ingredients

4 Tbsp sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 tsp. ginger root, grated
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1-2 lbs. organic, pastured ground beef
2 12-oz bags of shredded broccoli slaw
4 Tbsp soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
4 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
salt/pepper to taste
black sesame seeds
chili oil (optional to add some heat)

Instructions

Heat sesame oil in a large wok or skillet. Stirfry garlic, onion, and ginger root for 2-3 minutes until onion is translucent being attentive so that the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add ground beef and break apart with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add cilantro and brown ground beef for 5-10 minutes until no pink remains.

Add broccoli slaw and stirfry with beef mixture for another 5 minutes.

Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, and green onions. Stir to combine.

Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for another 3-5 minutes – broccoli slaw should be cooked to the desired tenderness.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in bowls, sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle with a small amount of chili oil (a little goes a long way) if you want it a little spicier.

Makes 4-6 servings. Enjoy!

I. Am. Sad…

Mom- 1977

I received some news this week… I knew it was coming… I’ve been steeling myself in advance of it… I REALLY thought I was ready for it… And then it came…

I got a text from my sister on Thursday evening (although I didn’t actually see it until 4:15 am on Friday morning)… “Hey. Call me when you have a few minutes to chat. New details to share regarding Mom.”

BACKSTORY:

Our Mom is sick. She’s been very sick since last summer with some mystery respiratory thing. She has a very hard time breathing unless she is sitting still or laying in bed. When she exerts herself in any way – even walking to the kitchen or bathroom – her blood oxygen level bottoms out and she is left breathless and on the verge of passing out. She’s been hospitalized twice for this condition – most recently over Christmas, when I went to Virginia and had my epic fail of a run. The doctors know NOTHING. And even if they did know what was causing it, they admit that there is probably nothing they could do about it. They have diagnosed her with end stage interstitial lung disease – I suppose this is the clinical way of saying “The lady can’t breathe and we have no fucking idea why,” but I digress…

So, my sister, Anna, took Mom up to the University of Virginia (UVA) Medical Center for a followup visit after her extended stay with them in December. The lead doctor on her pulmonary care team laid it out as gently as he could…

Mom is not going to get better… (we knew this)

A more invasive lung biopsy may give more clues as to what is wrong with her – although she would likely not survive the procedure, and knowing more doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to treat her any more effectively.

A lung transplant MIGHT be a viable option to extend her life… but she’s not a candidate for a transplant.

She is currently maxed out on oxygen that can be delivered in-home.

And so it goes…

At the end of the day, it was the first time a doctor has been willing to time-stamp my mom’s life expectancy… 6 months… that’s what they say…

I also know that in my business, diagnoses are mere suggestions and we can accept or reject them. I have told my mom that she has lived her 70+ years on this earth on HER terms and SHE gets to decide when and IF she goes out this time around. She doesn’t have to buy in to a 6 month life projection.

But still… I am sad.

My Mom is the greatest!

She never, EVER told me that I “couldn’t” do something. She encouraged me to spread my wings and fly.

She is my biggest fan and my most loyal supporter.

And she is a terrific Grandmother to Josh, Will, Maggie, and Sabrina… REALLY TERRIFIC!

My goal over the coming months is to do whatever I can to make sure that mom still has the ability to live life on HER terms. She deserves that.

Really, we all deserve that.

I would really consider it a personal favor if you would send love, light, positive intentions, and prayers to my mother… Her name is Alice… and she’s one in a million.

Thanks.

Habit Stacking

I’ve really been trying to get my stuff together from an organizational perspective this year. Here’s a post I wrote for our business blog that discusses what I’ve been doing. It’s called “Habit Stacking” and it’s terrific!

Hello Everyone! Angie Flynn here. I wanted to share a concept I’ve discovered recently that has really helped me get my s&*t together. Deb and I joke about it a lot, but I can get a little squirrelly and scatterbrained at times (I know, SHOCKING, right?). 1,008 more words

via A Behind The Scenes Look At Habit Stacking — Cheslow Achievement Group

My Favorite Vegan Recipe

As you may or may not know, Deb and I adopted a rabidly vegan nutrition philosophy from 2015 through early-2017 when we transitioned back to a more vegetarian diet with some fish and seafood thrown in occasionally. Today, we do eat beef and chicken in small amounts as long as the meat/poultry/eggs/cheese, etc. are organic and from pastured animals. I would guess that we still eat around 90% plant-based.

I found very favorite vegan recipe on Pinterest a couple of years ago and it has had a prominent place in our meal rotation ever since. This Lentil Chili from Katya at the blog, Little Broken, is simply AMAZING!  Rich and hearty, you’ll never miss the meat! I love to serve it over brown rice or cauliflower rice or in baked russet potatoes or baked sweet potatoes – and of course with ample sliced avocado.

If you’re not so concerned about keeping things vegan, you could add shredded cheese and sour cream too.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

Photo from www.littlebroken.com. All rights reserved.

Lentil Chili

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. olive oil or avocado oil (my choice)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 T chili powder
1 lb bag of brown lentils
1 28 oz cans no-salt diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes)
1 bay leaf
2 (32 oz.) cartons vegetable stock
⅓ cup fresh chopped cilantro
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add onion and red bell pepper and saute until soft and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
2. Stir in garlic and chili powder; cook until fragrant.
3. Add lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf, and stock. Season with salt and ground black pepper, to taste. Bring to a
boil, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until lentils are
tender. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.
4. Transfer 3 cups of the chili into a food processor or a blender and process until pureed; add the pureed chili back
into the remaining chili and stir to combine. Taste for salt and pepper.
5. Stir in cilantro and serve.

Makes 8 servings

Add-in suggestions:

  • spinach or kale
  • black beans