Archive of ‘Lifestyle’ category

HAPPY 2015!!

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On this day last year, I made 14 New Year’s Resolutions to myself. It’s time to see how I did!

2014 GOALS

1. Finish my dissertation DONE
2. Potty-train Ruffy (our dog) DONE
3. Clean out / Organize the basement DONE
4. Remodel the upstairs and get a new tenant …half done (no new tenant)
5. Save up and purchase an elliptical …nope
6. Stick with the Paleo diet 90/10 Well, for 10 months! 
7. Make a big dent in my student loans Big? A dent, anyway
8. Plant and eat my own vegetables / herbs DONE
9. Create a family recipe book DONE
10. Finish my handmade Christmas gifts by November DONE
11. Use our wedding china DONE
12. Go on at least one vacation DONE
13. Go parasailing (I mean… why not?) …nope
14. Cook an entire dinner for my family DONE

So 9 and 3 halves out of 14 isn’t bad, is it? We did remodel the upstairs, but we decided not to get a tenant because we are moving. I didn’t purchase an elliptical for the same reason. And the Paleo diet? I kept up for 10 months but needed to stop for medical reasons. Parasailing would have been great, but I guess I just need to move that to my 2015 list! All in all, I am very pleased with my progress. I knew I was shooting for the stars with such an ambitious list, but if you don’t raise the bar, you never know what you can achieve! Speaking of 2015, it’s time to make a new list! This one will be very different.

 

2015 GOALS:

1. Commit 10 random acts of kindness
2. Move into our new home
3. Work out regularly (~3 times per week) and stay in shape
4. Keep an even keel – no stress meltdowns
5. Give more compliments – make people smile!
6. Unplug (no screens) for a day
7. Go on at least one date night per month
8. Get my bed back – no dogs!
9. Conquer my fear of waxing
10. Go on a vacation
11. Make a big dent in my student loans
12. Spend less, save more (at least 3 month’s salary)

So there they are, my 2015 goals! They look so daunting and huge right now, but I hope I can conquer them by year’s end. Baby steps are the key to success (and writing down your goals, check!)

I’d love to hear about your goals, too! Anything scary? exciting? fun? challenging? important?

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Summer Bucket List 2014

Fellow teachers, you will totally understand where I am coming from with this post. We get so excited for summer – not because we plan to sit around all day, but because we’ll finally have the time to catch up on all of the ‘life’ we miss out on during the school year. We get to take care of ourselves, take care of our homes, and reinvest in our relationships. I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t push themselves even throughout the summer to be the best they can be.

Most of us, in fact, continue to work on our teaching practice throughout the summer. We tutor, plan, research, collaborate, and create. I don’t stop thinking about my students and my classroom at all throughout 10 weeks. In fact, I will be doing something school related 5 days per week. The best part, of course, is that I get to sleep later, work at my own pace, and work anywhere I like (including my sunny backyard, the library, or a coffee shop).

I have many things I’m really excited to do this summer. I also have things I know I need to accomplish. To ensure that I maintain a healthy balance, I’ve created a Summer Bucket list. I’m happy to share it with you. I’d love to hear about your summer goals, whether or not you are an educator. What are you most excited about? What do you hope to accomplish?

Summer Bucket List 2014 (c) Kristen Dembroski

This template was designed by My Love for Words

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School T-Shirts

School T Shirts (c) Kristen Dembroski

You know what happens when you’ve worked at a school for 7 years? You realize you’ve collected a looooooot of T-shirts. It makes me so happy when I look at them! Each is a unique and fond memory. Many are signed on the back in Sharpie.

Some of the wonderful T-shirts in the above collage are collected from:
* Our annual school Walkathon
* School musicals
* Foreign Language Week
* PBIS Shirts
* Volleyball T Shirts
* Jump Rope For Heart

I plan to always save every – shirt so that someday, I can make a quilt full of my favorite memories of teaching 8th grade!

P.S. How great is it to have a job where you are (occasionally) encouraged to wear a T-shirt to work!
P.P.S. Don’t even ask me how much I’ve spent on T-shirts. Yes I realize how easy it would be to figure out but I refuse to calculate the total!

 

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Holiday Cooking and Baking

Having off of work is GREAT!!!! For the last 3 days, I have been cooking and baking like a madwoman. I’d love to share some photos and recipes with you. By the way, all of the food below is Paleo, which means grain and dairy-free.

Holiday Cooking and Baking (c) Kristen Dembroski1. Vegetable Omelet – just egg, unsweetened almond milk, peppers, tomato, broccoli, and avocado on top at the end.
2. Baked Kale – delicious! Just put a bunch of kale in a bowl, add a tablespoon of olive oil, and mix. Then spread the kale on a baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, garlic, and ground pepper, bake for 10 minutes at 350, et voila!
3. Bacon – I bake the bacon on a metal rack on top of a baking sheet so the grease can drip off. Make sure to line the baking sheet with aluminum foil for easier cleanup. 350 for 20-30 minutes.
4. Salmon in a Bag – I cut 6 round slices of lemon to line the bottom of a piece of aluminum foil, then placed the salmon on top. I sprinkled the salmon with salt and garlic, then topped with a few thin tabs of butter. Close up the aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until the fish flakes apart and is cooked through.
5. Cardamom Thumbprint Cookies & Peppermint Macaroons dipped in Chocolate – I am a Norwegian, so I couldn’t resist trying the Thumbprint Cookies for christmas. The cookies turned out fantastic, and I will add that you really need to beat the vanilla frosting for at least 10 minutes to get the consistency you desire. I plan to add red and green food coloring for something festive 🙂 The Peppermint Macaroons turned out deliciously as well, but I will use less peppermint extract next time. Dipping the bottoms in dark chocolate (and licking the spoon!) was the best part!
6. Gyro meatballs and Tzatziki Sauce – this is BY FAR my favorite thing I have made! I used high grade ground sirloin, and I also pan-friend them after baking them to give a nice brown crisp to the meatballs. For the Tzatziki sauce, I used coconut milk instead of coconut cream or yogurt, and this was a mistake. It still tasted fantastic, but was a bit watery.
7. Party Tray – I made this for a party I attended. Crackers, 2-year aged cheddar, salami, goat cheese, almond cheddar spread, pistachios, almonds, and strawberries. Obviously the crackers and cheese are not Paleo, but the rest is proof that you can enjoy Paleo snacks with your friends!
8. Banana Nut Muffins – these are mostly just bananas and eggs with very little flour. They taste pretty eggy to me, but perhaps I should have used more ripened bananas. They are great warmed up with a touch of butter.
9. Homemade Granola – My husband and I just love this. It is absolutely better tasting than any granola I have ever purchased. I will make this again! Next time, though, I will add more nuts because there is quite a bit of the honey-mixture to go around.

 

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My Kitchen Wish List

I have been absolutely in love with cooking and baking lately. I’ve gone from being an ‘everything-from-a-package’ girl to a ‘home-made’ girl, and I hope I never go back! I honestly didn’t know I had it in me. I used to just think I was a terrible cook, and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. The thing is, I come from a family of great cooks – my mom, my grandma – and I just wanted to make them proud and live up to our family name.

So, I decided I was going to practice and practice and teach myself to be a good cook. These past 2 weeks, I’ve baked salmon, brined and roasted chicken, created a butternut squash soup from scratch, baked homemade cookie bars, made protein bites, chili, braised beef, baked acorn squash with homemade applesauce, julienned zucchini spagetti, cooked waffles, and on and on and on. My husband loves it, because the fridge is always full of wonderful healthy foods 🙂

I’ve been pulling out all of these gadgets that people gifted us for our wedding, but I never used. I am finally using our stand mixer regularly, as well as our waffle iron, blender, food processor, tools like a zester, masher, and press, and – as always – my beloved crock pot.

Now that I have my kitchen operating at full-steam, I see there are a few items I would like to add to the already-stuffed cupboards. Below is my current kitchen wish list – oh a girl can dream!

My Kitchen Wish list (c) Kristen Dembroski

 

1. Silicone Baking Mats
2. Lunchbots Leak Proof Containers
3. Pampered Chef Dutch Oven
4. All-Clad Iron Griddle
5. Silicone Baking Cups
6. So many cookbooks! Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans, The Paleo Cookbook, The Paleo Recipe Book, Against the Grain, Well Fed 2, and so many more!!!
7. Immersion Blender by Kitchen-Aid
8. Oxo Food Storage Containers

 

If you could stock your kitchen, what would be on your wish list?

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Snow Day Cooking

Wherever you are in the world, you may be aware of the winter disasters happening all over the south and midwest. My sister was stuck in Dallas for 2 days waiting for a flight back to Wisconsin. Here in Milwaukee, the highway is a parking lot, and the snow is falling heavily and consistently. My mom was supposed to go to work today, but after spending 45 minutes on the highway and getting no where, she called in and headed home. I hate thinking about my family out in this weather – it makes me so nervous!

I haven’t left the house…. or my pajamas (tee hee). The dogs are doing their best to cuddle and stay warm, too.

Snuggling Puppies (c) Kristen Dembroski

 

I’ve been cooking and baking ALL morning and afternoon. Sometimes, the cooking bug just hits ya and you gotta go with it, you know? I figure something like, “Hey, the oven’s all ready warmed.” Or, “The kitchen’s already a mess.” Even, “I’ve already opened the bag/can/jar of __, may as well just finish it?”

So yeah, I went a little nuts. Here is what I’ve made this weekend so far. Everything is Paleo friendly – only whole foods, no grains, gluten, dairy, or refined products. (Click on the list below for links to the recipes):

Paleo Foods (c) Kristen Dembroski

1. Bacon! In the oven, I lay the bacon across a metal drying rack placed on a baking sheet to allow the grease to drip. 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
2. Energy Balls These were supposed to be bars, but they weren’t holding together very well. Maybe they needed a touch of coconut oil? Consists of: almonds, cranberries, figs, chocolate chips.
3. Heart Chili This recipe took a while – browning the ground beef, sautéing the vegetables, then searing the beef cubes. It was not a ‘just throw it all in the crock pot’ kind of recipe, but it does taste delicious.
4. Cauliflower Rice A delicious Paleo alternative to rice. I will say that my food processor sure got a workout this weekend! I didn’t have all of the spices the recipe called for on hand, so I just used sea salt, ground pepper, and cajun spices.
5. Strawberry Protein Balls These are a hit with my husband. I don’t think they’ll keep very long, so I am going to enjoy them quickly.
6. Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins I love taking these to work for a quick and filling breakfast. And you know what else I love? My new silicone baking cups. I’m never going back to paper! And now I need to buy the blue pack too (hint: these are a great stocking stuffer for the foodie in your life)!

With all this food in my fridge, I still sit here hungry, not sure what to eat! Ah, dilemmas dilemmas. Maybe I’ll bake some salmon 🙂

 

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Cooking Up a Paleo Storm

Our family tradition is to spend the weekend after Thanksgiving decorating the house for Christmas. We put up the tree and Christmas lights, which is such a fun thing to do as a family. I have one very important message for our new dog, Ruffy: Thou shalt not lift thine leg on the Christmas tree. And I mean it!

Since I was in the spirit, I also decided to cook up a storm this weekend. It’s great to have a fridge full of prepared foods that are ready to go. I spent practically the entire weekend in the kitchen. I’ve run the dishwasher 4 times in the past 2 days, sheesh! My husband assures me that our dishwasher is eco-friendly and actually uses less water and resources than handwashing, so that’s good.

I’d love to show you what I made. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am trying to switch to a Paleo diet. I am doing this slowly, and I’m up to 2 meals a day plus snacks. Hopefully I can make the permanent, full switch and stick with it!

Raspberry Torte

This recipe is from Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC. The recipe is actually for a pie filling, but I decided to make it into a frozen treat instead. Next time, I would add little sticks to make popsicles, yum! Ingredients: fresh raspberries, lemon zest and juice, medjool dates, and coconut oil and butter.

Raspberry Torte (c) Kristen Dembroski

Homemade Apple Sauce

I keep saying to my husband, “This was so easy to make, and it tastes SO much better than store-bought apple sauce. Why wouldn’t anyone just make their own?” This is a Paleo applesauce with only 3 ingredients: apples, honey, and water (oh, and a dash of cinnamon). Tastes phenomenal, and no added sugar! Find the recipe here.

Homemade Applesauce (c) Kristen Dembroski

 

Zucchini Pancakes

This recipe is also from the book Practical Paleo. I got to use my food processor a lot this weekend! These taste wonderful and actually don’t use too many eggs (only 3). I plan to warm them up for breakfasts throughout the week, in addition to my Paleo Waffles I blogged about on Thanksgiving.

Zucchini Pancakes (c) Kristen Dembroski

 

Apple Cider Beef Roast

I also came up with my own ‘recipe’ for a beef shoulder/roast I picked up at the grocery store. First, I added coconut oil, sea salt, and black pepper and pan-seared the roast in a skillet – a couple of minutes, just enough to seal in the flavor. Then I transferred the meat and oils to a casserole dish which I filled with apple cider (not covering the meat, but probably about an inch high). I see now that I need to purchase a Dutch oven – hint, Christmas gift! I baked the roast at 400 degrees for about an hour. It was very juicy and tasty! I served it with a side of baked yams and roasted squash. P.S. The dogs LOVE squash. Who knew? I always try to sneak a few vegetables into their food, and this one was a hit!

Beef Roast (c) Kristen Dembroski

 

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Here’s a link to the recipe for these amazing chocolate chip cookie bars. I added walnuts to mine. My husband and I are definitely going to fight over these!

Paleo Cookie Bars (c) Kristen Dembroski

Later this week, I hope to make these Energy Bars. You know, my favorite thing about Paleo recipes is how SIMPLE they are! Just a couple of ingredients, things I already have on hand, and nothing crazy or exotic I have to go to a speciality grocery store to find. It’s perfect for me and my busy teacher lifestyle!

I have one more thing to share with you all regarding Paleo foods. I found a great new blog called Nom Nom Paleo. She’s great! She recommended this Spiral Vegetable Slicer. I have wanted one of these for a while, and the reviews were great and the price was right – I ordered it! Excited to give this a try. Squash spaghetti, anyone?

 

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Black Friday: Black is for Evil…

I used to get up early and enjoy Black Friday shopping with my family and friends. Oh, the thrill of the hunt! We would sit around with the flyers and create our Shopping Map/Plans after Thanksgiving dinner. I would sleep over at someone’s house (since I live the furthest away), and we would get up at 4am excited and ready to go. I did this for several years during my college years, purchasing the necessary household items at attractive prices. I can still tell you the bargains I found – blankets, dishes, small electrics, etc. Slowly over the years, I’ve grown disenchanted with this idea, and I’ve been Black Friday shopping less and less. I guess I realized, what do I really NEED anyway? We’re married, we have a nice home, our mothers spoil us, and we both have steady jobs to buy the things we need when we need them. I’m sure if we had children, things would be different.

Then, this year, something I never thought could happen actually happened. My mother, who is a manager at a retail store, was told that they would be opening on Thanksgiving and that she would have to come in and work. Since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I was devastated when we had to cancel it. My mom had to work overnight on Thanksgiving, then again on Black Friday. She also has to work on Saturday, by which time I am sure she will be a walking zombie. She says she is too exhausted to try and do Thanksgiving this weekend, and she just wouldn’t enjoy it. We’ve decided to push off celebrating until New Years.

So how does this make me feel about retailers, shopping, and Black Friday? PRETTY ANGRY!! I did not go out shopping last night on Thanksgiving, and I truly wished no one would have. I wished that the retailers would feel silly opening their doors and paying their employees time-and-a-half while Americans did the right thing and stayed at home to spend time with family. Unfortunately, as I saw on the news, a lot of people hit the shops last night. My mom says there was a lull between 1am and 5am at her store. Perhaps things will change next year, but the pessimist in me thinks it won’t, and this will become the acceptable holiday tradition.

So this year, I will save my money and spend the day at home with my husband and my dogs instead.

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Happy Thanksgiving 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

It is definitely my favorite holiday of the year. FOOD FOOD FOOD!

Between my husband and myself, we have 3 families to visit on Thanksgiving. Since my mother had to work on Thanksgiving for early Black Friday Sales (ARG!!), we only visited my husband’s 2 families this year. We will celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom on New Years when the holiday sales and craziness are over.

Dinner #1

Thanksgiving Dinner (c) Kristen Dembroski

Dinner #2

Thanksgiving Dinner (c) Kristen Dembroski

 

I did really well keeping with the Paleo diet – Thanksgiving is kind of a perfect holiday for that! I stuck with the meats and vegetables. I also started the day out with an amazing Paleo breakfast. You can find the recipe for the Paleo Waffles here. I made a full batch on Thursday, and I’ve been warming them up the leftovers for breakfast.

Paleo Waffles (c) Kristen Dembroski

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The Practical Part-time Paleo

Practical Paleo

I recently purchased a copy of Practical Paleo by Dianne Sanfilippo, BS, NC. It has a wealth of information about eating whole foods. The idea of ‘Paleo,’ which is short for Paleolithic, is to return to the pre-agriculture, pre-industrialization diet that our human bodies were designed to consume. If you consider just the last 100 years, with the invention of the refrigerator and chemical preservatives, our bodies haven’t kept up evolutionarily to handle all of these new foods. You could also call Paleo the ‘Whole Foods’ diet or the Gluten-free diet. You get back to the basics of eating foods that don’t come in packages or boxes and have nothing but all natural ingredients. Flour, grains, sugar, and dairy are off-limits. Fruit, veggies, meat, and nuts are in. Pretty simply actually.

Sanfilippo explains that many of the chronic conditions and diseases that plague our modern society can be attributed to a diet high in gluten, sugar, and dairy that our bodies are unable to process. Eliminating these foods from your diet can have an extremely positive effect on your overall health, not to mention your waistline. Since I have several chronic conditions from IBS to rosacea, this seemed like a really attractive diet to adopt.

Since ‘Going Paleo’ full time seemed scary to me, I decided to wade in slowly. I’d try one meal a day – breakfast – since we all know that it is the most important meal of the day. My typical breakfast includes a bowl of cereal with almond milk, but I’m hungry again in an hour. And then in another hour. And I’m starving by lunch. So I figured hey – what have I got to lose by trying something new? Hopefully, I’ll find a new way to feel fuller longer and regulate my blood sugar to sustain my energy for the morning.

I started at the grocery store where I filled my cart with smart choices

Paleo Grocery Cart (c) Kristen Dembroski

When I got home, I began preparing a few new foods to try for breakfast. Sanfilippo has some very simple but delicious recipes in her book.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Pancakes (c) Kristen Dembroski

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins (c) Kristen Dembroski

Bacon!

Bacon (c) Kristen Dembroski

I hard-boiled a half-dozen eggs as well so they are ready-to-grab. My lunches for the past 3 weeks have been chicken and vegetables with an apple, so that puts me at 2 Paleo meals a day actually – yay!

I also plan to try out these Banana Berry Smoothies and these Paleo Waffles later in the week. Excitement!

I will keep you posted with updates and new recipes that I will try. Hopefully I can stick to this for a significant amount of time and begin expanding to Paleo dinner and snacks 🙂

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