A few weeks ago, I had an experience that made me understand the phrase “you are what you eat.” I was feeling sluggish and impatient at work for several days. I dreaded my lunch, ate Cheez-Its for dinner one night and had a measly 20 minute workout because I had zero energy. Once I took a minute to reflect on the reasons my mood was so different, I could put two and two together that it was because of my eating habits. That week I tried not to go to the grocery store so I could use up some of my pantry staples and items in my fridge before they expired. While I felt good being practical, the combinations I created lacked flavor and inspiration. The meals I was pulling together weren’t filling either, so I deferred to snacking. No wonder I was feeling irritated, distracted at work, and tired at the gym. It was the first time in a while that it hit me how much the food I eat impacts my mood.
I knew I had to do something about it, so I decided to use a gift card from Christmas to go purchase my very first Crock-Pot. Even though it was 7 p.m. when I got home from the store, I was determined to make something for lunch the next day. I tossed chicken breast, sweet potatoes, cannellini beans, garlic, onion and thyme into the slow cooker with some chicken broth. They bloomed into this fragrant soup with tender chicken in a matter of hours. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend starting your Crock-Pot late in the evening since it takes several hours, it was exactly what I needed for a mood booster. When I brought this chicken and sweet potato soup to work for lunch the next day, I felt myself becoming energized with every bite.
The simple slow cooker soup really kicked off a better mood for me. The next night I went grocery shopping to grab a few things other things I was craving: brussels sprouts to sear in a cast-iron skillet, some carnitas pork meat to make burrito bowls and a new bottle of pinot noir to open as a toast to the weekend. Even though I got a funky start to the week, I was excited to get back to creating delicious flavors in the kitchen again.
Looking back at the course of that week, it it incredible how much food impacted the way I was feeling. I started off the week sluggish and irritable just because of not being properly nourished. Things shifted dramatically once I was energized by a slow cooker chicken soup and inspired by a few random ingredients. I learned my lesson that having food or recipes ready for the week will directly correlate to my mood. My Sunday Meal Prep routine brings me genuine happiness every weekend, so I am going to stick to that when I can. And while Cheez-Its are my guilty pleasure, I am going to avoid keeping them in the house so they don’t turn into a regular snack for dinner.
I would love to hear, have you noticed your food choices impacting your mood?
Meal prep has become a ritual for me every Sunday. I spend the morning researching recipes for lunch and dinner of the upcoming week. I think about snacks that will sound good in the middle of a long work day and also what kind of fruit I feel like adding to my breakfast routine. I scope my refrigerator and pantry for inventory and write out my grocery list. Later in the day, I will do my grocery store run, cook up the dishes and store in re-portioned containers.
While I love the hour or two spent in the kitchen preparing for the week ahead, I know there are pro’s and con’s to meal prep. Everybody has their own style in the kitchen, so read through my list of both sides of the story to see if you think doing weekly meal prep is for you.
Pro: One visit to the grocery store is all you’ll need to get food and ingredients for the whole week. Plus, it’s usually less busy on the weekends than in the post-work rush hour.
Con: Making a grocery list can feel like a homework assignment. Grocery shopping is sometimes the last thing you want to do on a Sunday morning while you’re sipping your coffee (unless you can roll up in your pj’s).
Pro: Putting in a couple of hours on Sunday will save you from making a new dinner every night and a new lunch each morning before work.
Con: You have to spend several hours in the kitchen cleaning, prepping, and cooking multiple recipes on the weekend when you could be exploring the city, at the gym….or really just laying in bed watching TV.
Pro: You have at least four dinners and four lunches ready for the week. Soups, meats and bold flavors actually tend to get better with time, so the dishes develop more flavor each day.
Con: You set yourself up for leftovers for several days in a row. On the fourth day of chicken salad you may actually rather go hungry than eat it…again.
Bonus pro: The minute you get home from work, you don’t have to think even about what’s on the menu for the week because it’s already done! Plus, you can spice up the dish each day with a new topping or transform it in a new way.
So what do you think? Have the pros of doing meal prep on the weekend won you over? In my experience, once you’re in the habit of spending time on meal prep, you will feel less stressed during the week. I know I especially enjoy those few extra minutes of sleeping in each work day since my lunch is ready to go. Tracy, from the blog Shutterbean, was the woman who made me inspired to meal prep. In this post she talks all about her routine, why she does it and her favorite recipes for meal prep.
Here are a few recipes from around the web on my Sunday Meal Prep radar: Chicken Tortilla Soup reminds me of my Southwest roots, so I want to try out this recipe in a slow cooker for the first time! This would be easy to bring for lunch to work. I have some tofu in the freezer I want to use in the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps. Using crisp lettuce one night and regular tortillas another will make this dinner feel new after a few nights. Now that it is officially winter and a warm breakfast is exactly what I need to fuel my morning, I want to try these instructions for making oatmeal for the week. I always bring my breakfast to work, so this will be easy to transport.
I would love to hear what recipes you are looking forward to trying out for meal prep! Comment below or send me a Snapchat of your cooking in action. My username is GourmetGab.
Let me preface this post by saying this dish does not do justice in photographs. My dining room lighting and the deep red color of the sauce make it look very one dimensional, but the flavors of the red curry and nutty basmati rice were delicious. I wanted to post this recipe because of two reasons: one, I have always been intimidated to make anything “curry” and two, I always eat the same brown rice from Trader Joe’s every time I cook with rice, so trying a new kind made me feel inspired.
This recipe from Budget Bytes is so simple (only 8 ingredients!) and costs a total of $5.40. Isn’t that a bargain? To make the curry you don’t need anything other than simple curry powder. You don’t have to decipher exotic labels or buy spices you’ll never use again. Using diced tomatoes gives the sauce a sweet flavor and a rich red color. I love including the spinach because it adds texture and a contrasting green color.
The Royal basmati rice actually makes such a difference in the overall flavor of the dish. It is nutty in flavor and compliments the curry just like you’d find in authentic recipes. Sometimes the brown rice I make gets sticky, but the basmati rice was smooth and fluffy. Fun fact: like sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it’s from Champagne, France, basmati rice can only come from India and Pakistan.
Maybe with your adventurous spirit of 2016, you will give this curry dish a try. Or, at least, go out of your comfort zone with buying a new kind of rice. Either way, enjoy!
Being home in Phoenix for the holidays gave me the opportunity to enjoy some of my favorite spots that I miss while I’m away. Now that I live in Indianapolis and have traveled across the country, I can really appreciate Phoenix all that it really is. After growing up in the Phoenix suburbs, I am so happy my parents now call the urban center of the city home. In our new neighborhood we have access to some of the best restaurants: so many up-and-coming spots, along with the classics that never get old.
While there are so many places I would put on this list, I chose to highlight the top 10 spots that are always in my rotation while I am home. This list of suggestions is concentrated, more or less, to the Midtown/Uptown area. Without further ado, in alphabetical order, here are 10 of my favorite spots in Phoenix.
I could roam the isles of grocery stores for fun and for hours. While I don’t often do regular grocery shopping at AJ’s because it is pricey, it is the perfect stop for specialty items and baked goods or meals. The main reason AJ’s makes my list is for their iced tea. When I’m home I make an obligatory run for the large iced tea that costs a whopping $1.50. The China Mist flavors are endless, but served with their special crushed iced and fresh chunks of citrus, the tea can’t be beat.
Home of the best carne asada in the valley, America Taco Shop is my favorite casual spot for a Mexican food fix. They have franchised several locations, but I believe the food is best at their 7th Street location. Try their Cochata (iced coffee mixed with horchata), carne asada burrito, al pastor tacos or breakfast burritos in the morning.
Chef Silvana of Barrio Café has created something special at Barrio Cafe. You’ll first notice the restaurant off 16th Street because of the incredible murals coloring the outside of the building. Once you get inside, you will find some of the best Mexican food in the valley. Start the meal with a margarita and an order of tableside guacamole. Their posole soup is one of my favorites, but you truly can’t go wrong with any dish.
This hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop has been family owned for 60 years. Choose your timing carefully because around lunch, the lines are long and seating is limited. Sandwiches here are made by hand with Boar’s Head meats and cheese. The options are endless, but my favorite is the Wild Turkey. You can find my dad and I eating lunch here on his break while we catch up on life or the news.
When it comes time to order pizza, stay in for the night with a bottle of Meomi wine and catch up on reality television, Federal Pizza is our choice. Dining inside, the restaurant environment is so cool with one of my favorite geometric pattern murals. Luckily there is also a drive through pick-up area so you can call in your order. My favorites are the At Last (ricotta cheese, corn and broccolini) and Casanova (prosciutto, Dates, ricotta and arugula).
I could go to Lux at 7:00 in the morning, noon and 10:30 at night all in one day and be happy. At this local hangout, you’ll find a little bit of everything, but none of it disappoints. In the morning, you will want to order one of their beautiful fresh-baked pastries. Come afternoon, you will feel the creative juices and energy flowing from the crowd of people in the zone on their computers working or studying. In the evening, the bartenders will be busy concocting craft cocktails with finesse and precision.
I keep thinking the bruschetta and mixed green salad are going to become redundant, but I honestly cannot stop coming back for more. Postino is the perfect spot to reconnect with friends and, if the weather is stunning per usual, sit outside while you’re eating. Choose four types of bruschetta to share and grab a $5.00 glass of wine if you stop in before 5:00pm. Their saying is, “Drinking wine at lunch is not a crime.” It could be the best motto for life.
If you ask my Dad, this is the spot he would choose for dinner for any occasion any night of the week. I love the industrial interior of the restaurant and bar area facing to the outdoors. The baked tomato and goat cheese appetizer is a favorite of mine. If you ever need bread for a dinner party or meal, swing by to grab a fresh loaf they sell for under $5.00.
This historic church-turned-restaurant is a recent favorite of mine. I am still wowed everytime I walk in and see the grand ceilings and elaborate chandeliers. Their grilled romaine salad and street corn could serve as a meal for me, but don’t miss out on their tacos. The coffee braised beef tacois fabulous. And the happy hour deals lead my family there often for an early dinner.
Whether it’s a girl’s night or small group reunion, The Yard is the perfect spot to hang out, play games and enjoy a few cocktails. When I walk into The Yard, I feel like I just got to a neighborhood block party. There is a huge open space in the middle with games, big couches and chairs, television and a sky full of outdoor lights. The drink options are great and if you’re hungry, you can grab a bite at Culinary Dropout built right into the same place.
I hope this list of ten spots gives you an idea of a few places to try when you are in the area or – to the locals – a suggestion for somewhere to add to your rotation. I am always discovering new favorites while I am back in Phoenix, so I look forward to trying out new places next time. What places are on your favorites list in Midtown Phoenix?
I love the idea of new year’s resolutions and the mantra of “new year, new you,” but I am not one to back down on promises. When I make a goal, I have full intentions of following through one hundred percent. However, making a goal that will translate through 12 months, 365 days, is quite a challenge.
While I was talking with a friend this weekend about new years resolutions, he presented me with the idea that new years resolutions should really be more about forming healthy habits. Any kind of habit, whether good or bad, becomes second nature and therefore, incorporated into everyday life. If you set out to make good habits a part of your everyday ritual, they are much more likely to be sustained over long periods of time. These small things will result in better attaining of a long-term goal.
I’m glad this conversation happened because I was struggling to come up with my resolutions for the new year. I wanted to continue things I adopted in 2015, like trying new recipes weekly and building better savings. I am so happy with how these goals have become a part of my lifestyle! The goal of researching new recipes led me the healthy habit of doing meal prep Sundays where I prepare my meals for several days of the upcoming week. The goal of building better savings lead me to the healthy habit of budgeting monthly.
While my goals for 2016 may not be completely new, I am promising to continue the healthy habit of doing meal prep Sundays every week. (I’ve had so much fun documenting this on Snapchat if you want to follow along! My username is gourmetgab.) I am so excited that I just got a CrockPot for Christmas. I plan on continuing my goal of one new recipe a week by putting the CrockPot to good use. (Can you share some of your favorite recipes below in the comments?) One new goal I want to incorporate is taking better care of my skin while I am young. To help me get there, I am vowing to start the healthy habit of drinking more water flavored with lime or lemon each day.
What new years resolutions did you set for 2016? Have you thought about breaking them down into small healthy habits you can incorporate into your daily life? I look forward to reading your comments below. Happy 2016!