The Art of Meal Planning

In my two years of marriage, I’ve come to appreciate homemakers worldwide.  Setting up housekeeping is no easy task, especially whilst juggling a full-time job and a mildly enthusiastic social life.  Somehow, things like dirty floors, dusty shelves, and unorganized closets continuously find themselves forced onto the back burner of my life for the more important things like an impromptu Audrey Hepburn marathon or taking a rare afternoon nap.  I’m really trying to build better housekeeping habits, but working a full day and then coming home to mop hardwood floors is just not appealing.  There’s really only one part of keeping house that I do relish…meal planning.

I’m quite the creature of habit.  Though I freely embrace new experiences and tastes, it’s only to reassure myself that what I love is the best.  I adore ritual.  In this fast-paced, technology riddled existence, ritual is a true comfort.

Each Sunday afternoon, I partake in my most favorite ritual–meal planning.  I brew a large pot of Lady Grey, enjoy something sweet, and drag out my old friends {Julia, Nigella, and Ina, to name a few}.  I consider each weeknight with care, constantly assessing what my larder holds and what is in season at the market.  It might seem antiquated…the little wife consulting her cookbooks, but it helps me make purposeful decisions about what we’re eating.  Armed with a handwritten list and a plan, I am in control when I march through the marketplace doors.  It makes avoiding things like cookies, chips, and bought dressings much simpler.

Monetarily speaking, planning meals in advance is a wise decision.  I can consult the advertisements and make notations about what we’ve already got in the larder.  I’m able to feed our family of two for approximately $200 each month, and that’s buying organic vegetables, meat, and dairy products.

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What about you?  Do you plan your weekly meals?  Or are you a Domestic Goddess, planning meals for a month at a time?

What I’m Reading

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a lifelong reader, purely by habit.  I wouldn’t say I love reading…it’s just a necessity, like oxygen, food, or water.  Today I’m linking up with Emily at Jones Design Company for book week.  Here’s what I’m currently reading:

Though I tend to read fiction stories {mostly the classics like Austen or Bronte} or historical nonfiction {anything about the French Revolution or the Tudor dynasty}, this nonfiction journal of a chef’s travels is absolutely captivating.

Georgia Pelligrini, a former Wall Street whiz turned gourmet chef traveled the United States learning to stalk, hunt, kill, and clean everything from elk to wild hog.  Each chapter includes various recipes and her adventures are simply breathtaking.  Though I am a gun owner and a daughter/sister to hunters, I’ve never had an interest in hunting my own game until now.  Pelligrini’s compelling argument has this clean eater quite convicted:  how can we know for sure about the quality of our meat unless we harvest it ourselves?

You can order Girl Hunter here.

Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops with Apple & Onion Chutney

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A typical Saturday afternoon includes jammies, catching up on DVRd television shows, and copious amounts of coffee.  Though it’s not in my nature to sleep late, I do enjoy lounging about with Josh.  Saturdays have a tendency to slip away from us.  This morning we settled in for a movie and before we even knew what happened, it was nearly 2:30!  Our tummies were rumbling and I remembered that I’d stashed two smallish pork chops in the refrigerator.  They’d been swimming in aged balsamic vinegar for at least twelve hours.  Because we were so hungry, I knew I needed to whip up something quickly.  I roughly chopped two Red Delicious apples and finely diced a small yellow onion before tossing the chops into a hot pan coated with coconut oil.  Ten minutes later, Josh and I sat down for a hearty lunch that made me secretly think of this.

This recipe is sinfully simple and perfect for a lazy lunch or quick dinner.  Enjoy with something creamy like cheesy polenta or orzo cooked in rich chicken broth and you’re all set.

You’ll need:

  • 2 pork chops
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar {set aside 1/4 cup}
  • 2 Red Delicious apples, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon organic coconut oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Marinate the pork chops in 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar for at least thirty minutes.  If at all possible, marinate the meat overnight in the refrigerator.  When you’re ready to cook the meat, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat.  Salt one side of the pork and lay them salted side down in the pan.  Salt & pepper the other side of the pork.  While the meat cooks, roughly chop the apples and finely dice the onion.  After four minutes, flip the chops.  Cook for two to three more minutes. Plate and allow to rest.

Toss the apples and diced onions into the hot oil.  When the onions become translucent, add in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.  Place a lid on the pan and allow the poor-man’s chutney to come together for approximately four minutes.

Top the pork chops with the chutney mixture and enjoy immediately.

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XOXO,

Court

I apologize for using so many Instagram pictures as of late.  Sometimes pulling out the DSLR is just too cumbersome. 

Dill Mayonnaise

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In the Deep South, mayonnaise is nearly as important as owning a decent bird dog.  I cannot remember a holiday without mayonnaise-laden dishes like potato salad, macaroni salad, or egg salad.

 Obviously, the word salad is used quite loosely here. 

 I grew up in a Duke’s Mayonnaise home.  My Mother was technically a Miracle Whip user, but she converted to the Church of Duke’s upon marrying my Daddy.  While Duke’s is delicious…certainly the best bought mayonnaise available in stores, my homemade dill mayonnaise just knocks all other options out of contention. 

 Daddy, please don’t kill me for such a blasphemous statement.

 Homemade mayonnaise is simply perfect, especially with a pinch of dried dill.  It’s delicious on sandwiches, it’s perfect for “salads,” and it makes deviled eggs that are to die for. 

 You’ll need:

  • 2 egg yolks*
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ cups canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • Kosher salt, to taste

 To begin, whip the egg yolks, vinegar, and mustard using a hand mixer.  Add salt to your preference.  Then, while still whipping, slowly drip the canola oil into the mixing bowl.  Once the mixture begins to look like mayonnaise, you may stream the remainder of the oil.  Whip until all the oil is nicely combined.  Then, fold in the dill weed with a spatula.  Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days.  Yields approximately 2 cups.  

 *Though I typically use free-range, hormone-free eggs, I always use pasteurized eggs when making mayonnaise. 

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Lemon Vinaigrette

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Salad dressing is such a simple pleasure, especially when it is homemade.  Though it seems fussy and pretentious, making things like mayonnaise and salad dressings gives you complete control over what goes into your body.  Banish the Wishbone bottles from your refrigerator with this simple & tangy vinaigrette.  You’ll soon become addicted!

You’ll need:

  • 2 lemons
  • ¾ cup quality olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed & peeled
  • 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese {grated}
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar

Simply combine all of the ingredients in a Mason jar, give it a furious shake, and pour over your favorite green salad {or even pasta salad}.  Bon appetite, y’all!

 

XOXO,

Court

 I based this concoction on a recipe found here

Meyer Lemon & Kale Orzo

Winter is my least favorite season for many reasons, the foremost being that most vegetables & fruits are out of season.  Tomatoes taste terrible, zucchini is kind of squishy, and corn is an abomination.  It’s best to take advantage of in-season produce, which is why I combined two of my favorite wintertime goodies {Meyer Lemons & Kale} into a rich and creamy pasta dish.  It’s comfort food to the max, but this dish could also be quite elegant for a casual dinner party.  Though I would not suggest freezing this dish, the leftovers make an excellent lunch the next day.

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You’ll need:

  • 1 cup orzo
  • 2 cups all-natural chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lemon, juiced & zested
  • 1 bunch kale, shredded or torn {personal preference}
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Begin by bringing the chicken broth & water to a boil.  Pour in the orzo and cook until al dente {approximately 6 to 7 minutes}.  Drain, reserving one cup of pasta water.

In a skillet, cook the garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add in the kale, lemon zest ,and lemon juice.  Cook until the kale is nicely wilted.  Then, stir in the parmesan cheese and reserved pasta water.  The result will be a deliciously cheesy and creamy dish that is light but filling.  Combine the sauce with the orzo.  Garnish with parmesan curls and serve with crusty French bread.

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Fear

Our first year of marriage, I lived in constant fear.  I could never name my fear, or really describe why I was afraid.  It was a comfortable little niche in which to live–I was afraid and it was safe.  When you’re really and truly living in fear, you cannot challenge yourself to grow exponentially or let go of lingering doubt.  Though I felt quite safe, I was incredibly miserable.

Eight months into our marriage, my husband put his foot down.  My husband is incredibly brave and very, very determined, which can sometimes come across as brash and bossy.  He’s exactly what I need.  He isn’t afraid of anything except the occasional snake {and who doesn’t have a phobia or two?}.  He made it very clear that while I felt safe in my little niche of fear, I was killing my faith in God, humankind, and myself.

I hate it when he’s right.

He helped me conquer my unnamed fears by first giving them titles.  My personal fears were named Death, Budget, and Failure.  After they each had proper titles, he helped me tell them NO.  Sometimes it was daily…sometimes hourly…sometimes minute by minute.  The more I said NO, the better I felt.  I stopped fueling my fears and instead, began feeding my faith.

What would you do, I mean really do, if you weren’t afraid of anything?

Would you travel without fear of planes, trains, or automobiles?

Would you start a new adventure, without fear of failure?

Would you live with purpose, without fear of judgement?

Would you start that business venture  you’ve always dreamed about, without fear of losing?

When you tell your fear NO, the world is a place of endless opportunity.  Why deny yourself what the Lord has freely given?

When I ended Fear’s reign over my life, I also ceased worrying.  Sure, I still sweat the small stuff like, “Oh, I hope I don’t burn those cookies,” or, “Man, I really hope my car can fit into that parking slot.”  But the big stuff like Death, Budget, and Failure?  Things of the past, my friends, and I’m so thankful for it.

I no longer experience the crippling anxiety of my past when we make big decisions.  God has a plan for our life together.  I believe in His plan.  Fearing the uncertain or the unknown is a waste of time and {I believe} an insult to God.  Put your faith in the Lord, cease feeding your fears {whatever they are named}, and begin leading the life He has intended for you.

My prayer for 2013 is that you may experience the same peace that I now have.

XOXO,

Court

Avgolemono Soup

I have been fighting back a cold for nearly two weeks.  It’s difficult enough to be sick at home, but we’ve been traveling for the past eleven days, so I’ve been sick in South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina.  My aunt, mother, and mother-in-law were all graciously accommodating about my illness, but there is really nothing like being tucked into your own bed with a large mug of Lady Grey tea and this:

Tonight I made Avgolemono soup in an effort to dose myself with a healthy amount of both protein and Vitamin C.  This soup is incredibly simple and comes together beautifully in just under ten minutes.  It’s rich and creamy without containing any cream–perfect if you’ve got a loved one running a fever.  This recipe serves four and I would not recommend freezing leftovers.

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You’ll need:

  • 4 cups all-natural chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup orzo
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Bring the chicken broth to a boil and pour in the orzo.  As the orzo cooks, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice.  As the orzo continues to cook, carefully ladle the broth in 1/4 cup increments into the lemon juice/egg mixture, stirring constantly.  Continue tempering the eggs until you’ve poured at least two cups of hot broth into the lemon juice/egg mixture.  Pour the lemon juice/egg mixture into the stockpot and allow the soup to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.

Garnish with freshly grated lemon zest and serve with crusty French bread.

Bon appetite, y’all!

XOXO,

Court

2013–Him

On New Year’s Eve, my wife eloquently stated her resolutions for 2013.  She’s focusing on her spirit this year, not on losing weight.  My main focus this year is losing weight.

You may ask why.

I can give you 240 reasons.

2012 was literally my heaviest year ever and I don’t intend to repeat it.  I want to lose weight because I need to be healthy for my wife.  I also want to feel better about myself.  It isn’t going to be easy, but it will certainly be worth the time and effort.  My goal is to look like this:

My goal is not to be skinny.  My goal is to be fit and healthy.  My goal weight is 200 pounds, so I’ve got a long way to go.  I plan to lose weight through both diet and exercise.  I’m going to focus on mostly cardio via running/swimming with recovery days focused on yoga and rebuilding muscle tone.

Here are a few other goals for 2013:

1.  Apply Dave Ramsey’s FPU steps throughout the entire year.

Last year, Court and I started using Dave Ramsey’s FPU lessons to balance our monthly budget, save money, and pay off my school loans.  It’s worked out well for us, and I want to continue apply the “Baby Steps” to our lifestyle each month.  For more information on FPU, click here.

2.  Carpentry (building instead of buying).

I recently built a workbench with my own two hands.  It felt natural to be surrounded by sawdust and power tools.  Throughout 2013, I plan to hone my skills in this area.  My ultimate goal is to build my wife a farmhouse table over our summer break.  The concept of building instead of buying is foreign to my generation–I plan to make this part of our lifestyle.

3.  Read more.

After graduating from college, I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed reading.  I prefer nonfiction historical reads and fictional graphic novels (The Walking Dead, Batman, etc.).  I’m going to focus more on reading each Thursday (No Technology Thursday).  First up:  Bear Grylls’ autobiography: Mud, Sweat, and Tears.

2012 was the year of uncertainty.  I was unhappy in my job, I was unhappy with living in Georgia, and I was ultimately unhappy with myself.  2013 is the year of great change and personal reflection.  I’m happy with my new job, I’m happy in our farmhouse, and I’m going to be happy with my body and my spirit.

–Josh