On New Year’s Resolutions

Over the past few months I have been noticing my need to be more organized, and also feeling that ache for community that is so easy to lose in our constant state of busy-ness. The last few years have been a wonderful adventure, a wonderful state of controlled chaos. But as my children grow older and head off to school, I have become more and more aware of how I need to be more intentional with my time in order to maximize the (now shortened) time I spend with them.

When setting out my goals for the year, there were two ideas that were very important to me. The first is that I wanted to organize and plan my life better so I could spend more time with my loved ones in a conscious and present way. This means not being distracted or split between tasks when I’m with my kids and it also means calling people up to make plans to spend time together, like we keep promising we will. (Isn’t it crazy how quickly a year goes by? How many opportunities are missed?)

The second goal I had was to expand my repertoire of recipes. I felt like we were on a five-meal rotation and even if I wanted to try something new, I didn’t plan ahead to get the ingredients at the grocery store and the extra trip to the store didn’t seem worth it so we had something I already had on hand.

So, now that January is almost over, I wanted to take stock and see how my resolutions are going. I have been inspired by some other families out there sharing how they put their lives and schedules together and the philosophies behind how they run their households, so I thought maybe I’d share mine as well.

In our culture there is so much prized on individual accomplishment, so much focus on self-improvement and empowerment. And I don’t think those things are wrong. But I also think that great joy comes from the things we do together. The nights we stay up too late chatting with a friend. The meals we linger over together. The time we invited strangers into our home, and they left as sisters. Our families and the communities we build around them are the things that will last so much longer than anything we accomplish on our own.

So with that in mind, I set out to organize my time better to focus on our family’s togetherness, and the joy we share in just being present with each other, eating together, talking together, adventuring together, sharing trials and triumphs together. Family dinner every night has always been very important to me, but through the years of young babies, the preparation that went in to it had started to feel daunting. So I wanted to come up with a plan to make it more of an excitement and less of a drudgery.

Enter: Sweet Peas Meals. Last year a few of my favorite food bloggers teamed up to create a meal plan that sends you a weekly email with a menu and grocery list. It’s like Blue Apron, only you shop yourself to save money and to make the adjustments necessary to feed a family of any size.

I check the menu with our calendar and decide what we’re going to make, then I get all my grocery shopping for the week done on Friday. Thursdays are our crazy nights when I need dinner done quickly, so I like to plan either left-overs or a crock pot meal for that day. And if I know we’re having guests, I know to just double the ingredients for that meal and then we’re ready to go! I love heading into the weekend with a stocked fridge and a kitchen ready to host. It’s all my #goals working together at once!

So, if you’re interested, here are seven of our favorite new recipes. All of these are so easy to double or triple, which is great for inviting friends over or having leftovers and not having to cook for a whole day! Yay!

Our absolute favorite meal so far is the Honey Chipotle Chicken Bowls with Coconut Lime Quinoa. Actually way easier than it sounds, and if our friends are to be believed, liked by pretty much everyone. Oh my yumm.

Easy Chickpea Vegetable Stir Fry – healthy and delish. Who knew chickpeas were a good idea for a stir fry?

If you or anyone you know is on a special diet, this Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa is a great way to fill everyone up with goodness and flavor. We made it without the enchilada sauce once and replaced that with some green salsa and it was really good.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Tortilla Soup – so good, so easy to make ahead of time. Save yourself the trouble of making tortilla strips and just crumble up some tortilla chips if you’re not trying to impress anybody.

Winter Citrus Butter Salmon – sounds super fancy, can actually be made in less than 30 minutes. Looks fancy, too, so you know, amazing. We served it with some quinoa because quinoa is my new favorite.

BLT Lettuce Wraps with Avocado Ranch – we actually ended up making this into sort of a brunchy thing with friends. We made a bacon, egg and cherry tomato scramble and served the avocado ranch to go with it. It was really good. The kids chose to opt out of the dressing, but that just meant more for us.

Thai Chicken Zoodle Soup – we made this sans chicken and sans a zoodle maker. We just cut up the zucchini into strips and it worked fine. It’s easy to keep the items for this soup stocked and then use whatever veggies you need to eat up soon, so I think this one will be a staple. Also, ready in less than 30 minutes!

(One of the things I’ve loved about this particular foray into cooking is that these recipes are so flavorful and delicious in themselves that it’s easy to skip the meat. So if you’re looking for a non-boring way to go vegetarian more often, I would totally recommend a meal plan like this.)

And one more, because you can’t forget dessert: I tried these cookies that are apparently taking over the internet: Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies. They are a fun twist on the classic, and excellent with tea. Which makes them extra cozy and appropriate for January, when tea and candlelight are what gets me through these dreary days.

Have you tried any new recipes lately? I’d love it if you’d pass some along! Also, tell me all your household-running secrets. How do you make the dream work?