MJR Fixes, Flops, and Cheats – 2018

Thank you for joining me for My January Rest. January 31 was the last day of My January Rest (MJR). And, I still have one more post to write—the 2017 MJR Review. This January went faster, seemingly, than any other MJR January! Next year, I will have a Rest, but if I write about it, I will commit to a posting schedule!

What has my writing problem been? Painting!

Most Januarys, I take a break from painting. The end of each year is extra busy with art activity, and my normal rhythm requires a break from the studio. But this year, I have had a lot of projects in the studio, which means, when I am busy painting and preparing for events, it is harder to take the time to write. While I love to write, I am still learning and slow at the process.

But, write I will. Putting my experiences into words, helps me process the effectiveness of The Rest, and readers have shared that the posts are helpful and encouraging. Those are all good enough reasons for me to persevere. Beyond this post, I’ll post a review, then be done until next year.

One of the fun parts of My January Rest is flops, fixes, and cheats. Something always goes wrong enough to make me laugh, curl my nose, or even pitch the problem. The other side of the coin, is that I always learn something new as in how to make something, or find out I can substitute one item for another, or even that I like two odd flavors together. Ok, that is nothing new for me! And always, there are the temptations that surface. The question is do I fall to them or redirect myself before I succumb to the MJR failure?

Flops
There always has to be a flop or two, or I’m not digging deep enough into the recesses of my freezer or pantry. We ran out of brownie mix and my teen wanted brownies. I pulled out a tried-and-true Good Housekeeping cookbook and she balked at the long list ingredients and multiple steps. In her instant world of add water, she said, “Can’t we just google a simple recipe?”

We did.

I found a five ingredient recipe and it was easy. Easy yes, but not so good. The girl didn’t like them. We only had Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder, and I think it was too bitter. I couldn’t taste them so I asked my husband to. He thought they were fine. I’m a curious sort of person so, I went to my Great Neighbor and borrowed some regular cocoa powder. I wanted to try again—to see if it was the recipe or the cocoa powder. While there, she handed me a box of brownie mix. She said, “I have extras and isn’t that a part of My January Rest.” Bonus, it was Ghirardelli.

Brownies were a cheat as well as a flop, because to my daughter’s delight, my husband forgot that it was MJR and bought a brownie mix. That is his story! The story ended poorly, or perhaps it was MJR justice. The unnamed mix-handler (to hide the identity of the guilty party) used the wrong measuring device and the brownies resembled more of an oil slick than a cake-like confection.

Another flop was a smoothie that I froze this summer. I pulled it out and thawed it, but I could only consume about half of it, no matter how much I told myself it was full of nutrition.

Before MJR ever began, I cleared out several items out of the freezer. It was a bad year for freezers. Our large, old freezer kept leaking on the floor. We’d walk into the laundry room, step in a puddle, and say, “Ewww!” If we had a dog, we would have blamed it on the dog.

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Frosty Freezer Malfunction

The tricky part was that only happened once in awhile, so we while we suspected the freezer, we weren’t entirely sure. Eventually, while trying to figure it out, we pulled the freezer out and found a scorched mark under the appliance. The freezer immediately went bye-bye. Thankfully, it was a short timetable until we got our new freezer. We only had to put food in a cooler for a short time. Our refrigerator-freezer had a flap go bad around the same time and food would frost up in a short period of time. In the process, we pitched some food that was frosted up and some items I intended on making stock with. Also, I donated or gave some meat away in the process. That meant when January came, my freezer was much leaner than previous years.

Fixes
One of my favorite ways of cooking is seeing what is in the fridge and make it up as I go along. That satisfies my creativity and my spontaneous spirit. Being older and wiser, I’ve become far less spontaneous as a lifestyle, but I can use that spirit to whip up a quick dish. MJR makes it even more fun, in that I have less options to use, and I try hard to use what is usable! A delicious fix came about because I was offered leftovers after a board meeting. There were several large quantities of ingredients left over after Moe’s catered our session. The food was going to be pitched—so, I grabbed black beans, grilled onions and peppers, and took it home.

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Black Bean and Beef Soup

The black bean soup I made was a hit. I chopped the grilled onions and peppers, added the back beans, added canned diced tomatoes with the juice, the remainder of the ground beef (I learned that I could cook in the slow cooker), and spices (black pepper, smoked paprika, oregano, fresh garlic, cumin, celery salt, and a pinch of cayenne). I added all ingredients to my Instant Pot and it was so good!

I ran out of my favorite Hazelnut decaf coffee. As fix, in order to make it last longer, I added it to another decaf. The coffee lasted almost all month and the hint of hazelnut was perfect.

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Cheats
Cheats, and there were many this MJR! One of my rests for the month was sugar: I also try not to use artificial sweeteners, honey, or other sweet substitutes. The goal is enjoy the food, as is, without making it more sweet. Movie time was a big temptation. We almost always have boxed candy, ice cream, popcorn or some treat during our once-per-week movie night. We supported a friend’s son by purchasing some Boy Scout Kettle Corn. Technically, it was ok because it didn’t contain sugar, but it has some sort of artificial sweetener. And while I allow myself minimal processed food, I remembered the reason for resting from junk (after eating it of course) is to heal my body. I don’t think that the popcorn was evil, but I doubt it was good for me. And yes, it felt like a cheat—both times!

Another cheat was purchasing pizza. And one box of macaroni and cheese (the last day of the Rest, because my teen wanted it: I made her put the olives and extra mac and cheese back). Sigh.

We had our family Christmas get together in January. We were traveling out of town and didn’t want to make our host cook. We offered to order pizza, which is perfectly fine for MJR, But, our girl was sick and wasn’t able to come. My husband had a coupon for a large pizza at half price. She missed out on Christmas, and pizza. We offered to get one when we got home, and snuggle up for a movie. She jumped at the chance. Later she asked why we bought pizza for MJR. I told her it was a special occasion, and honestly, since we were traveling when I offered, I forgot! MJR amnesia at its finest.

This one is only a sort-of cheat, if there is such a thing. We made Italian beef with one of the roasts in the freezer. We had hamburger buns in the freezer, but no gluten free buns. I was going to use bread. But, my husband wanted real buns that could handle the Au Jus. I got buns for them. When I went to a store to buy fresh berries and use up a gift card I had for six months. They didn’t have good berries. I rarely shop at this store and didn’t want to have to make a trip back another time, so I used the gift card on two Red Velvet Donuts with cream cheese frosting in the hole as a treat for the girls and gluten free buns for me. No, I didn’t have to have buns, but the opportunity was there without spending money out of pocket!

And an almost cheat: thought about purchasing a pizza for the girls when we were watching a movie, but then realized it was MJR. Instead we made a frozen pizza from the freezer.

In order to avoid temptation, I went with a plan: no sweets. HyVee was offering gluten-free samples so I went with a friend to try new products. The amazing part, is that there were zero sweets offered! While I didn’t purchase anything for myself, I purchased a couple italian sodas for my dad’s Christmas present. I came out of the store with three free GF sample packages and a purchased veggie tray.

Purchased veggie tray? The friend I was with was hosting dinner that night for me and our friends. When I saw what she was spending on us, I offered to pick up the tray—and, that was the right thing to do. Normally, I would have purchased the veggies and processed them in order to save money, but I rested from my normal mode of operation and saved time instead of money. While saving money is important, giving and serving a friend, is more important. Plus I had a new container of hummus at home that I brought to go along with the veggies. Perfect.

MJR challenges my thought patterns and that is a good thing. I get stuck in my ways: we all do to some extent. Whether it is using the same old things over and over, while letting others sit and go bad, or feeling compelled to save a dollar at a time where time or relationship is more valuable than money. Or not taking the time to look for something (or a substitute) before purchasing something else. I try to be conscientious, but every year’s MJR challenges me and teaches me something new.

The last post will be My January Rest Review, so that I can have a reflection to focus on for next year’s MJR.

Have you have any fixes or flops when trying to use what you have?

 

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