Sunday, November 28, 2010

Home/Work Basics: Starting the Day Off Right!

As each year begins, I promise myself that I will be diligent in my meditation. When I meditate at the beginning of the day, I feel more calm, peaceful, and focused. However, I always seem to get off track and let my quiet time fall to the wayside. This year was no different. I started off meditating and journaling. However, as I got busier with work and family obligations I found other things to do besides meditate.

Reading one of my favorite blogs, Moptop Maven, inspired me to get back on track. Her insightful article on meditating made me realize how valuable that time is. I took her advice and found my "peaceful place" and now I meditate at least three times a week after my jog over this bridge.

I sit in a picnic area at the base of the bridge and just spend some time focusing on me.

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce

Continuing in the theme of heartier vegetarian fare, I made a vegetarian Bolognese sauce that very “meaty” in texture and flavor. I wish I could take credit for creating all of my recipes from scratch but I must admit that Cooking Light’s website and magazines have provided me with many great ideas.

So what made this sauce different than your typical veggie pasta sauces? Mushrooms! And I am not a big mushroom fan but a combinations of chopped fresh mushrooms and crumbled dried mushrooms created a ground beef like texture when added to the sauce.

The ingredient list was pretty basic. I was able to find everything at my local Publix:


1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/4 ounce)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped carrot

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1 (8-ounce) package cremini mushrooms, finely chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (28-ounce) can organic crushed tomatoes with basil, undrained

1 (2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind

12 ounces uncooked whole-wheat penne (tube-shaped pasta)

1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

I used my Magic Bullet to process the dried mushrooms until finely ground. The recipe says you can also use a coffee or spice grinder.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms; sauté 10 minutes. Add wine; simmer 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Add 1/4 cup warm water and next 4 ingredients (through cheese rind) to onion mixture. Stir in ground porcini. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes. Keep warm. Remove rind; discard.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Place 1 cup of pasta in each of 6 bowls. Top each portion with 3/4 cup sauce and about 1 tablespoon cheese.

Work Basics: Do the Hard Stuff First!

I am always looking for ways to make life simpler. Be it the latest app or template, there are many ways to prioritize daily to-do’s. As management consultant (and mother of two) who works from home, I have no shortage of daily to-do’s. The challenge is to keep my work and home life somewhat separate even though they literally merge.

When I started working from home, I would have a conference call and then put in a load of laundry, work on a client deliverable, then start my dinner,etc. Sounds like a great balance but the reality of it was that I found myself working on my consulting projects well after my family was tucked away in bed. Though I was no longer on the road like I was when I worked for a huge consulting firm, I was still exhausted. I had to figure out how to become more efficient.

Then one day while in a meeting, one of my professional colleagues mentioned that he got through the more tedious aspects of his job by “doing the hard thing first”. Talk about an “aha” moment! I realized that my exhaustion and lack of productivity during the day was because I was tackling the easy and familiar tasks and leaving the more difficult ones closer to the deadlines.

The very next day, I did the task I dreaded the most first. The remainder of the day was easier, more relaxed and overall, more productive. So, my conclusion is that no matter how many apps I have on my smart phone or how cute my to-lists look posted on my magnetic whiteboard, it is up to me to “get it done” and doing the hard thing first is the best way to start my day!

How do you make sure you make the most of each day?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rosemary Roasted Cornish Hen

Now that the temperature is dropping, it seems more natural to roast than to grill. Hence, my use of the remainder of my fresh rosemary to season my Cornish hens. And yes, I actually made this recipe weeks ago when the rosemary was actually fresh. I’ve just been a little slack with my posting.

This recipe was extremely simple and very flavorful. I started with a Cornish hen, fresh rosemary, and some Kerrygold garlic butter. I seasoned the hen with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Then, I placed the rosemary and butter under the skin so that the flavor would really sink it (and it did!)

I roasted the hen at 350 for a little under an hour with some red potatoes sprinkled with a bit more of the fresh rosemary and some butter. I made some green beans and voila!, a quick and healthy weeknight meal!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian West African Soup

As the weather gets cooler, my vegetarian dishes are taking on a heartier flare. Light pastas with fresh veggies are perfect for the summer however I try to choose comfort foods in the fall and winter. This Monday we had vegetarian west African soup. Very easy. Very filling and extremely flavorful. One caveat – you must like peanuts.

Here are the ingredients:

2/3 cup roasted peanuts (or 2/3 cup natural peanut butter)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 cups chopped onion

6 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 15 1/2-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained

1 15 1/2-ounce) cans black beans, drained

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

Flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional)

This recipe is so quick and easy that I managed to throw it together in the 30-minute window between dropping my son off at football practice and heading out the door to a meeting.

The recipes calls for homemade peanut butter in which you place peanuts in a food processor; process until smooth (about 2 minutes), scraping sides of bowl once. In the interest of time, I use 2/3 cup of natural peanut butter.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Add peanut butter, potato, and next 6 ingredients (potato through tomatoes); bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes or until potato is tender. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

This recipe is also great reheated if you have leftovers.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hair Basics: Rosemary Spritz

The other day, my neighbor gave me a beautiful bunch of fresh rosemary. It was fresh from her herb pot and smelled great. So, what was I going to do with this unexpected gift? I love to cook with rosemary (which is one of the things I did with it) however I know my family would not want to eat rosemary in every meal for the next week or so. Then I remembered that rosemary is also fabulous for hair. I did a little internet research and came up with great info. A few examples can be found here, here, and here. Besides smelling great, rosemary is known to stimulate the scalp leading to hair growth. So, I decided to make a couple of hair products with my fresh rosemary.

The first was a simple spritz. I steeped the fresh rosemary in my Teavana tea maker and let it stay in there until it cooled. While it was still warm, I added about a teaspoon of raw honey – good for moisture and shine. The honey completely dissolves in the warm water so there is no stickiness in the final product.

I keep the spritz in the fridge since it is all natural and won’t last long at room temperature. So far, I love it! I spritz my hair at night before going to bed and also mid-day just to give it a quick shot of moisture. It works well and is easy and inexpensive to make.