Succulent Pressure Cooked Lamb

Shortly after our son was born, we decided it might not be a bad idea to invest in either a slow cooker or pressure cooker. After watching an infomercial for a pressure cooker on TV, we were sold. We bought one from Target and the particular one we got definitely gives you the most bang for your buck because it’s both a pressure cooker and a slow cooker, all in one. Each time we’ve used it, it’s cooked meat (and our meals, as a whole) to perfection. When we recently got some lamb, I knew that the pressure cooker would, once again, come to my rescue. I love using it because it’s pretty much foolproof and cuts down your cooking time significantly. You just throw everything inside and let it work its magic.

With it I made lamb, which had been stuffed with cloves of fresh garlic, and then, generously seasoned with salt, pepper, and dried rosemary. It stewed in broth, along with onions, golden potatoes, and sweet potatoes. The lamb was so tender and juicy that it fell apart at the touch of our forks.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lamb, boneless, cut lengthwise into 2 inch pieces
  • 10 cloves garlic, cut into thirds
  • 4 golden potatoes, quartered
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into 4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups of chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Lamb 1

Preparation:

Wash, rinse, and pat the lamb dry. With a sharp knife, cut small slits into the sliced pieces of lamb, and insert a few pieces of garlic in each.

Lamb 3

Season each side of the lamb generously with salt, pepper, and rosemary.

Lamb 4

Lamb 2

Turn on your pressure cooker and pour the oil inside the inner pot. Place your lamb inside and sear the meat until it is lightly browned on all sides.

Lamb 6

Remove the lamb and set aside in a bowl.

Place the onions and potatoes inside the same pot and cook for a few minutes.

Lamb 7

Add the tomato paste and broth. Put the lamb back in the pot.

Lamb 8

Place the lid on the pressure cooker and program to cook for 30 minutes. Once done, turn the valve of the pressure cooker to release the steam. When the steam is completely released, remove the lid.

Now, get ready to breathe in the delicious aroma of lamb that looks like it’s been braising all day in a slow cooker.

Lamb 9

Transfer to a Pyrex or baking dish to serve.

Lamb 13

You can eat the lamb and vegetables on their own or serve with white rice or cauliflower rice.

Lamb 11

I wasn’t kidding when I said the meat was literally falling apart.

Lamb 12

Perfection in as little as 30 minutes! You can easily fool everyone into thinking you slaved over this meal all day in the kitchen.

Bon appétit!

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Harsh Reality

As soon as you begin school, the famous question that gets asked is,

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I remember hearing this question a thousand times throughout my childhood. Teachers and parents would ask, and we were all expected to somehow know what we wanted to spend the rest of our lives doing at such a tender age. As a kid, big decisions like that are fleeting. One day I would want to be a doctor, another day I would want to be a lawyer, some days I felt like I wanted to be a psychologist, and once I even wanted to be the first female president of the United States. You can say I was pretty ambitious!

I always had a knack for writing but felt like my occupational dream needed to be more grandeur. I had an innate ability to connect with others and was empathetic to the core, which lead me to the decision to pursue law. Initially, I wanted to be an immigration lawyer because my grandparents and relatives lived overseas and I felt the pain and struggles of so many other children, who at such a young age like myself, had to grow up living worlds away from the people who meant the most to them.

In high school, college, and university, I kept my major as English but had the goal of taking the LSAT after graduation and attending law school. I remember my parents paying ridiculous amounts of money for those LSAT courses, in hopes that I would fulfill my dream and be a successful member of society. After taking a few of the full-length practice tests in my LSAT class, I knew I was in for trouble when I saw there were logical reasoning sections, which, in other words, meant math and logic games, also known as the dreaded word problems we all hated in school. Math was the only subject that I really ever struggled with my entire educational life. I always ended up excelling and receiving A’s but mostly because my dad had a degree in math and was a genius. Back home, he learned algebra ridiculously early in elementary school.

I struggled with the logic games like crazy. I surrounded myself with a wealth of resources, such as the Logic Games Bible, but no matter how hard I studied, my mind simply couldn’t wrap around and grasp the fundamental concepts of the logic games. The first time I took the LSAT, my score wasn’t nearly high enough to get into the schools I had my heart set on. The second time, my score had improved but was still getting me no closer to the schools I wanted to get accepted to. Despite that, I still held on to a tiny shred of hope. I went to the primary school I had my eyes on and met with the Dean of Admissions. I told him about my interest in the school but admitted that my score was lower than the average student’s. I still remember how unsympathetic he was. Sometimes, you hear remarkable stories about how someone in a position of power took a huge leap of faith because they saw potential in that individual but that didn’t happen here. Stories like that are so foreign to me because I feel like I have worked tooth and nail for every accomplishment I’ve achieved in my life. I was never thrown any miracles. My successes in life have been strung together with good old-fashioned hard work and perseverance.

The Dean simply looked at me and said in a very straight-forward manner that I basically didn’t have a chance. And, that was that. My childhood dream was crushed, my parents’ money was wasted, my efforts and their efforts were all fruitless. And, for what? Because I couldn’t pass the math section of the LSAT to get into the school I wanted? It seemed absurd. I was a smart student but according to law school’s standards, apparently not smart enough. I could have persevered, not given up on my dream, went to some out of state law school that would accept my score (and, there were a few that would) but I wasn’t willing to put any more sweat, blood, and tears into this than I already had, which lead me to believe that I never truly wanted to be a lawyer bad enough or else I wouldn’t have given up my so-called, “dream” without a fight.

It took years to come to this last conclusion and be at peace with my decision to not pursue law school. For years, I felt the guilt of failing — a feeling that really had been very unfamiliar to me up until that point. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, as cliche as that sounds. Now, although I am not a lawyer, I work at one of the top companies in America and have a work-home life balance, which is so important. I think to myself that God had something better in mind for me, that it wasn’t written in the stars for me to be a lawyer because I may have spent even more of an investment into the field, only to end up hating it. My own LSAT teacher became a lawyer, passing the LSAT with a nearly perfect score, but ended up retiring after a few years and starting a music band. When I found that out, it lessened the sting. Let’s not forget about John Grisham who quit his law profession to be a writer.

There are three points to this story:

  • Point #1: Life doesn’t always go as planned. You may have one plan for your life but God may have an entirely different one in mind for you.
  • Point #2: Life isn’t fair, but as the famous quote says, it’s still good.
  • Point #3: Everything happens for a reason.

I leave you with one of my favorite poems of all-time by an unknown confederate soldier. I hope it resonates with you as much as it has (and still does) for me.

Unanswered-prayer

Stuffed Butternut Squash with Balsamic Reduction

I recently came across a stuffed butternut squash recipe that I tried out for dinner.  The end result was a beautiful and satisfying dish! I made some minor modifications to it:

  • I used turkey bacon, instead of regular bacon
  • I ditched the celery and added baby bell peppers, instead
  • I used the balsamic vinegar to make a balsamic reduction

Here’s my version of the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash, halved
  • 1 pound organic, grass fed lean ground beef
  • 6 slices of turkey bacon
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 baby bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • A few dashes of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

BNS 1

Preparation:

Cut your butternut squash in half and scrape the seeds out.

BNS 2

BNS 3

Place your squash face down in a Pyrex that’s filled with 1/2 inch of hot water.

BNS 4

Put in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium nonstick pan, cook your ground beef until browned. Add the olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent, then, add the bell peppers and continue cooking. Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, and stir.

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Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.

Cook the turkey bacon until crispy, remove from heat, and once cooled, crumble and add it to the bowl.

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BNS 14

Remove your squash from the oven and wait for it to cool. Then, scrap out the insides, leaving 1/4 inch of squash, and add the scooped out squash to the bowl, mixing all the ingredients. Stuff your squash with the beef mixture and place back in a 350 degree heated oven (without the water) for 20 minutes.

BNS 15

BNS 16

In a small pot, add the balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and then, reduce to low heat. Keep stirring, for about 15-20 minutes, until the liquid reduces and thickens.

BNS 10

Remove from heat.

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Take the squash out from the oven and drizzle the balsamic reduction on top.

BNS 20

Cinnamon Bun Muffins

The aroma of gooey cinnamon rolls baking in the oven is probably one of the most heavenly scents ever. During my teenage years, I worked at a department store and remember the sweet, overpowering smell of them baking at the Cinnabon that was all the way on the other side of the mall. Back then, I didn’t have a metabolism to worry about, so, I indulged in them whenever the craving hit me. Now that I’m older, though, and don’t have quite as quick of a metabolism, I’ve realized that while cinnamon rolls are, in fact, still amazing, that their accompanying calories are not.

Needless to say, when I came arose Elana Amsterdam’s recipe for Cinnamon Bun Muffins, I was ecstatic, especially since she used basic ingredients that I had laying around in my pantry.

Here are how mine turned out. Aren’t they lovely?!

CB1 CB2

One batch of these was gone in just a day, which didn’t stop the inner fat kid in me from making subsequent batches. I love that they’re in muffin form, too, which makes them portable and easy to grab in the mornings when you’re on the go.

Head on over to her page for the recipe (in case you resisted the urge earlier and haven’t already)! And, don’t say I didn’t warn you about how incredible these taste. They will be sure to become a favorite in your home and win your tastebuds over.

Grilled Tri-Tip and Oven Roasted Red Potatoes

Picture this: succulent, thinly sliced pieces of tri-tip that have been grilled to perfection and crispy oven roasted red potatoes, drizzled with melted butter. Are you drooling, yet? What if I told you that you can make this dish in as little as 45 minutes? These days, I’m all about coming up with effortless dinner ideas because being both a wife and a mommy can make you pressed for time. If you are following the Paleo diet, you can still enjoy this meal by omitting the potatoes.

Time is ticking, so let’s get started!

Ingredients:

  • 5 red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds marinated tri-tip roast, thinly sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

Preparation:

Wash and scrub the skins of the potatoes with soap. Dry. In a large bowl, add the quartered potatoes, dried parsley, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Toss to coat. Transfer to a sheet pan and spread in an even layer.

TT 1

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes, take out of the oven, flip potatoes with a spatula, and place back in the oven for 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven, add a few dashes of more salt, and drizzle the melted butter on top.

Place the sliced tri-tip on a heated grill (I used my George Foreman) and grill for 5 minutes for medium rare or 7 minutes for well done.

TT 2

TT 3

Remove from grill.

Serve with potatoes.

TT 4

Ooh la la! Who doesn’t love some meat and potatoes? Dig in!

Easy Weeknight Dinner: Beef Medley and Coconut Sugar Butternut Squash

After a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is come home and spend hours in the kitchen to feed your family. Tonight’s dinner recipe I’ll be sharing with you can be made in less than an hour and is quick, easy, healthy, and delicious. In this dish, the savory flavors of beef, spinach, mushrooms, garlic, and onions collide with the sweet, rich flavor of butternut squash that’s been cooked in butter, coconut sugar, salt, and cinnamon, to give you a dish that will leave your tastebuds dancing.

Ingredients: 

  • 1-1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef (I used 85% lean)
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly diced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 cups butternut squash, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • A dash of cinnamon

Din 1

Preparation:

Chop your mushrooms and onions (I decided to add garlic on a whim.)

Din 2

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat and add your beef; cook until browned.

Din 3

Add two tablespoons of olive oil and sauté your onions until translucent, for about 2 minutes.

Din 4

Add the mushrooms and sauté for two more minutes. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the garlic.

Din 5

Add the spinach and cook until wilted.

Din 6

Add cumin, salt, and sprinkle generously with pepper. Remove from heat.

Din 8

In a medium nonstick pan, melt butter over medium heat. Once the butter starts sizzling, add the butternut squash.

Din 7

Saute the butternut squash for 15 minutes, until the squash is tender and turns a deep orange color. Then, sprinkle with coconut sugar, cinnamon, and a few dashes of salt. Remove from heat.

Din 9

Voila!

Din 10

Motherhood: What No One Tells You

I was reading an article about motherhood that really struck home. It feels like whenever someone announces the news that they’re pregnant, you hear the same sorts of advice: sleep when the baby sleeps; enjoy every second of your maternity leave because your life will never ever be the same, again; sleep in as much as possible because you’ll soon be waking up for middle of the night feedings; watch all your favorite shows while you can because once the baby arrives, then good luck trying to sit uninterrupted for more than a few seconds, and the list goes on. You also hear these idealized stories about breastfeeding, how it’s supposed to be such a beautiful, seamless experience, and how much more you’ll be bonding with your baby because of it. But, no one tells you about the real nitty-gritty stuff that seems to be taboo.

My baby was born full-term but was almost 2 weeks early, so he weighed a mere 5 pounds 6 oz. Due to his size, he wasn’t able to latch on. The hospital made me feel like getting him to latch was achievable if I kept trying. But, continuing to do so only led to more disappointment and failure. I met with lactation consultants, Googled like a madwoman, used the Nipple Shield and various other gadgets, but got no closer to where I started. That’s where the pump came in and was my savior because I learned that there was a such thing as being an Exclusive Pumper. I was talking to a lactation consultant on the Kaiser Breastfeeding Hotline when she recommended I check out an EP group on Facebook called Exclusively Pumping Moms. The name is pretty self-explanatory: you’re still breastfeeding but it’s like drinking beer from a can, instead of straight from the tap.

And, so, my journey into the elusive exclusively pumping world began. During my time at home, I would pump 7-8 times a day, every 3 hours, and force myself to stay awake long enough to do my dreaded middle of the night pumps. Let me tell you what no one tells you: it was brutal! Let me tell you what else no one else tells you: there were so many times I wanted to give up, to throw in the towel, to put my baby on formula and call it a day, but my will to keep going was stronger than my sleep-deprived nights that were filled with watching pre-recorded shows on TV to help keep me awake, as the sound of the pump robotically played in the background. I read a quote once that has really stuck with me: the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. And, that part of my life that would have been able to sleep peacefully at 9 p.m. when the rest of the family went down, that part of my life when I could go out freely, instead of living my life in 3 hour increments to come home and pump, that part of my life that would have been able to eat lunch with friends and have a social life once I went back to work, was exchanged for the gift of breast milk I was able to give and that I’m still able to give to my baby. Seeing him thrive and knowing that it’s because of the nutrition I’m providing him is an invaluable gift.

No one tells you that there will be some days when you break down and cry because you’re a new mom and have no idea why your baby is crying. No one tells you that no matter how much you love your baby that there will be moments you feel like walking away, locking yourself in a room, and screaming at the top of your lungs. And, please know that doing so doesn’t make you a bad mom; rather, it makes you normal.

But, let me tell you something very important: no matter what you go through for your children, please know that every bit of it, when all is said and done, is worth it (and, if you happen to have to throw in the towel, at times, for your sanity’s sake, please also know that that’s okay. We’re only human, despite the rest of the world thinking we are actually Superwoman.) You will be rewarded tenfold with smiles, hugs, and kisses galore. You will be rewarded with the intangible, which is more valuable than any material possession that you can ever receive. Motherhood is the hardest, yet the most selfless, rewarding journey you will ever embark on.

Buckle up and enjoy the bumpy ride.