.family supper club.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable, blessed Thanksgiving.  We ventured down to Augusta to celebrate with my Mama’s family.  After losing Mama’s stepfather and mother within 48 hours about two weeks ago, it was wonderful to be surrounded by family.

When Josh decided to go back to school in order to gain a teaching certificate, we knew our already hectic schedule would morph into this crazy monster.  I knew our precious quality time was going to be pushed aside for things like term papers, teacher work samples, and endless hours of studying for seemingly endless certification tests.

As someone who craves quality time, I was dreading Josh’s foray into graduate school.  By nature, I crave the quiet and the familiar.  Grad school + football season + wrestling season does not equal the time I desperately need at home with my husband and family.  Over manis and pedis, I confided in my mother about my concerns and she {as usual} came up with a most brilliant plan:

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Family Supper Club.  The concept is simple:  plan and cook meals with the people you love.  This isn’t meant to be a nightly dinner party or anything particularly fancy.  It’s a way to spend maximize quality time while minimizing both stress and grocery bills.  It also eliminates leftovers altogether, something that makes Mr. C very happy.

Our Family Supper Club has been going strong for nearly a year now and I cannot say enough about what a blessing it is.  Even during our most hectic weeks {those weeks where football season and wrestling season intersect…nightmare!}, we were able to sit down to home cooked meals instead of relying solely on fast food or take away.  Some weeks we rely heavily on Mama and Daddy and other weeks they rely heavily on us.  In the end, we typically have four to five nights plus a Sunday dinner together.

I cannot stress what a blessing my Mama’s little idea has been.  Instead of worrying over what to cook seven nights a week, I might cook three nights a week at a maximum.  It has also been a wonderful incentive to follow our chore chart each day to keep our house “company ready.”  Is it a perfect system?  No, but it’s a lot better than getting home at 7:30 in the evening and guiltily eating fast food.

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1.  Find Your People.  Does Family Supper Club have to be strictly for family members?  Absolutely not.  Find a core group of people that you love and you’re all set!  Our FSC consists of the “core four” of Josh, Mama, Daddy, and me.  Sometimes we include my Grandma and Pop in the mix.  Other times, my cousin Clay and his wife Lauren join us.  The most important thing to remember is that if you don’t want to cook for a group of twelve, keep it small.

2.  Plan.  This was the part of FSC that was most difficult at first.  If you don’t plan together with your group members, someone might screw up {or get their feelings hurt!}.  Mama and I sit down each Sunday either in person or via text to discuss our comings and goings for the week.  All members of the core four have access to one another’s Google Calendars so we know exactly when Josh and Daddy have fire meeting, I have cheer practice, or Mama has a board meeting.

After we’ve established the who and where, we plan the what.  I typically cook on Mondays and Wednesdays while Mama takes Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We keep Fridays and Saturdays open for date nights or whatnot.  Sometimes Mama and I go grocery shopping together and sometimes we don’t.  Regardless, we always have a plan in place before the work week begins.

3.  Prep on Sunday.  One of the best things we’ve ever done in our marriage is to go to the market and prep all of our meals on Sunday.  Anything that needs slicing, dicing, chopping, or marinating gets done on Sunday.  We also prep our breakfasts {chia seed overnight oats} and lunches {usually grilled chicken, a complex carb, and a roasted veggie} at the same time.  It’s such a relief on our scheduled nights when I can come home, play with Atlas, grab the gallon-sized Ziploc bag labeled Monday, dump the contents in a pan, and call it a day.

4.  Cook!  It doesn’t have to be fancy!  I love spending time in the kitchen and I especially love trying new recipes, but I’ve learned to save that experimentation for our summer holiday.  Mama and I both utilize the Crockpot quite often and we each have a handful of healthy, filling recipes that are both tasty and easy to prepare.

5.  If at first you don’t succeed, fry, fry a hen.  Just kidding.  Working out the schedules of a family in the 21st century is a little bit like origami.  Sometimes our most well-planned weeks fall to the wayside.  Sometimes life just happens.  Don’t let one bad week ruin something that is ultimately meant to simplify your life.

Would you ever start your own Family Supper Club?  Or have you already got a similar system in place that works?  Let me know in the comments!

Happy Holidays!

XOXO,

Court

P.S.  My favorite recipe ever.

This makes washing up after FSC a breeze.

If you want to follow our FSC exploits, follow our hashtag #familysupperclub.

The Best Chicken Soup

Over the summer, the Captain surprised me with Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook, It’s All Good.  It’s a gorgeous book with simple, healthy recipes and loads of new ideas.  I made a notation in my meal planning journal that the very second the weather turned cool, I’d make her chicken soup.  She likens it to “Jewish penicillin” and after making it myself, I must agree.  It’s light, yet filling and it’s so flavorful.  The ingredients are easily interchangeable and I feel it would freeze beautifully.  I changed a few things to reflect what is available in our tiny rural town {finding a leek in Franklin Springs would be akin to finding buried treasure}.

You’ll need:

For the broth:

  • One whole organic chicken
  • 1 rib of celery, quartered
  • 1 carrot, quartered
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 bunches fresh Thyme
  • 10-12 cups cold water

For the soup:

  • 2 cups carrots, diced
  • 1 bunch Kale, removed from stems
  • Chicken broth {see above}
  • Shredded chicken, white meat only

Rinse the chicken well and remove innards {keep the neck}.  In your largest stock pot, add in all the vegetables and turn the setting to high.  While the vegetables sizzle, add the salt, peppercorns, and thyme.  Then, deglaze the stockpot with the wine.  After that, settle the chicken onto the vegetables and then cover completely with water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for two hours.

Strain and remove the chicken and discard the cooked vegetables.  Pour the broth into a new stockpot and add in the carrots and kale.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for twenty minutes.  In the meantime, pick the meat off the chicken and add into the stockpot.  Once the carrots are soft, serve the soup with crusty French bread.

Do you have a favorite cold-weather recipe?  I think this is our new favorite!

XOXO,

Court

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

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Today I needed cookies.  Instead of making a mad dash for Chick-fil-a {and don’t act like you haven’t done it}, I decided to make the old standby:  Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies.  When I was a little girl, we didn’t eat a ton of sweets…Mama was pretty careful about sugar.  The one exception was Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies–we’d make them together on Saturdays and then enjoy the fruits of our labor with a tall glass of milk.  You’ve probably got this recipe tucked into every church cookbook in your cupboard but it’s so simple and delicious that it bears repeating.

You’ll Need:

  • One stick of unsalted butter
  • Four tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • Two cups granulated sugar
  • One cup of crunchy peanut butter
  • Three cups of quick cooking oats

Combine the butter, cocoa powder, and sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, add the milk and peanut butter and increase the heat to medium high.  Bring to a rapid boil for one minute, remove from heat, and add the three cups of quick cooking oats.  Mix until the oatmeal is well-coated.  Using a tablespoon, drop batter onto waxed paper.  Allow the cookies to cool for one hours.

And go ahead…lick the spoon.

Yields approximately three dozen cookies.

Dieting & Transparency & Eating Crow

1Me at a happier time with a hand-battered corndog in my hand and a Romney sticker on my blouse.  Though, for the record, I still have my Ron Paul sign proudly displayed in my front yard.  That’s another post for another day.

Please let me preface this post by saying that Josh has a goal to lose 20 pounds this month.  Coupled with the 25 pounds that he has already lost, he’ll finally be at his desired weight.  Also, I’ve been having very painful, very random allergic reactions to some mystery food item that I cannot quite pinpoint.  I’ve considered allergy testing, but I’ve read over and over again that the testing is often inconclusive and to be honest, I have to lay down to even get a flu shot.  Needles and I are not pals.

On Sunday, Josh and I began a no dairy, no gluten, no sugar, no red meat diet.  For him, it’s all about weight loss.  For me, it was all about avoiding dairy {for my eczema} and possibly pinpointing grain as the culprit of my allergic reactions.  Josh surprised me with Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cookbook, “It’s All Good,” as a way to have tasty, gluten-free alternatives in our diets.  The book is beautiful and I’ve found multiple recipes I’ll use for many years to come.

I’ve tried the vegetarian thing before.  I gave up meat for Lent one year and then my iron levels went all wonky and my doctor advised against continuing my fast.  So I went to Firehouse Subs and ordered the most delicious, most horrific sandwich laden with every possible Italian meat and it was glorious.  Then, I got sick.

Last year after watching Forks Over Knives, Josh and I gave up all meat, meat by-products, and all dairy.  Cold turkey.  We lasted four days.  On the fifth day, I drove straight to the market after work, bought the most expensive, thickest bacon I could find, and I fried up the whole lot.  Then I ate it.  Again, it was glorious.  Again, I got sick.

Fast forward to last night, merely a few days into this month-long experiment.  It was late and I was hungry.  Our fridge was stocked full of healthy snack options like watermelon, citrus fruits, and cherries.  I had the option of Ezekiel toast with avocado or even a fruit smoothie with coconut milk and Kefir.  Instead, I threw a massive temper tantrum and begged Mr. C to drive me to McDonalds.  I purchased a Big Mac, fries, and a large Dr. Pepper and I devoured it.  I attacked that food like Rosemary attacks that raw beef in Rosemary’s Baby.  I was unstoppable.  I nearly had tears running down my cheeks.  It was magnificent and disgusting and completely glorious.  And then…once again…I got sick.

Mr. C, in his supreme wisdom, very gently said that we needed to talk.  He was right.  He’s always right.  So we talked.  We talked about moderation and my cravings and how it’s okay to indulge every once in a while.  We also talked about how it’s okay to have a Dr. Pepper every once in a while and how using three Chick-fil-a sauces for my waffle fries is probably not something to feel guilty about.

Together, we developed a few ground rules that will offer really healthy options while allowing for the occasional craving.

1.  All meat should be free of hormones and antibiotics.  Poultry should be free-range and all beef should be grass-fed.  When in doubt, cook venison.

2.  All eggs should be free of hormones and antibiotics.  Eggs should be free-range.

3.  Unsweetened almond milk is perfectly fine for day-to-day consumption, but if a recipe calls for cow’s milk {or even heavy cream!}, it’s okay.

4.  Most vegetables should be locally grown.  Out of season vegetables will be avoided.

5.  Salad Sundays, Meatless Mondays, and Soup Saturdays will be respected.

6.  Ezekiel bread is the only bread for us {barring the occasional loaf of French bread}.

7.   MSG should be avoided.

8.  Cookies are okay in moderation.  Like, once a week.  The same goes for Dr. Pepper.  Baking a pound cake is not the end of the world.

In essence, Josh stressed the importance of whole foods, lean meats, and minimal junk.  Moderation has never been my strong suit…I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal.  But the rules we developed will allow for the flexibility this free spirit needs while still adhering to Mr. C’s desire for law & order.

I felt like I needed to share my breakdown because I desire true transparency in my life.  On Saturday, we went from Trader Joe’s to the Fresh Market, and then we ran to Wal-Mart in order to stock our pantry.  I silently judged everyone I saw reaching for those Cool-Ranch Doritos or a package of terrible-horrible-no good-very bad Purdue Chicken {seriously guys, don’t eat that crap}.  To the people I judged, I’m sorry.  To everyone that received my YOUR BODY IS A TEMPLE, HOW DARE YOU PUT EVIL GLUTEN {OR MSG, OR CORN-FED BEEF} INTO IT?!? speech, I’m sorry.  

This is me, eating crow.  And I’ve wrapped that crow in the most gloriously buttered crust you can imagine.

Life is for living, bacon is for frying, butter is for eating.  Amen.

XOXO,

Court

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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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

 

Blue Bacon Cheeseburger Macaroni

Comfort is king in my home, and our king’s throne is located in the kitchen.  Like a great, woolen blanket over cold toes, comfort food is the most…well…comforting thing in the world.  Personally, I find the best types of comfort food involve copious amounts of starch and cheese and a tiny bite of heat.  It’s also of chief importance that comfort food can be easily eaten out of a bowl.  I can’t be bothered by plates, knives, or linen napkins when I’m in need of the warm embrace of comfort food.

We’re so close to our holiday that waking up in the morning has gotten difficult.  Our flannel sheets are so cosy that I just want to settle in for a lengthy hibernation.  After arriving home for work, all I want to do is curl up with a bowl of something comforting, flip on my Bing Crosby vinyl, and snuggle with the mister.  Tonight, I combined several of my favorite things—blue cheese, bacon, beef, sharp cheddar cheese, and macaroni—into a comforting and highly caloric concoction that I just have to share.

Ingredients:

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 ¼ cup milk, heated
  • ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Hot sauce

For the macaroni:

  • 1 pound macaroni noodles {whole wheat}
  • ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • ½ pound bacon, crumbled
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup béchamel sauce

To make the béchamel sauce, melt two tablespoons of unsalted butter in the same pan in which you cooked the bacon and beef.  Then, whisk in two tablespoons of flour and continue whisking for two minutes over medium heat.  After that, pour in the heated milk {I heated mine in a microwave safe pitcher} and continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.  Once you feel the sauce growing thicker, whisk in the grated sharp cheddar.  Add salt & pepper to taste as well as a few dashes of hot sauce.  Remove from heat.

Begin the macaroni by frying the bacon in a hot pan.  Remove from heat once the bacon is crispy.  Then, cook the ground beef in the bacon drippings and drain well.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil.  The noodles should cook no more than eight minutes.  Remove from heat and drain.  Then, mix everything together—the beef, bacon, blue cheese, béchamel sauce, and noodles.

Pour the mixture into a buttered baking dish and top with the additional sharp cheddar cheese.  Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

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