Off Topic with an Menu Monday Attempt to Get it Together

Heather says

Late summer is difficult around here. You’ve got the usual back to school hassle and sports starting up with four kids, we enter birthday season mid-August and before any of that happens, I start dreading an anniversary.

For those that don’t know, my sister was killed  in August of ’13. It was a traumatic event and for reasons I’m not going to delve into here, it was initially treated as suicide and until her husband passed away in February, we didn’t dispute that publicly. “Justice” doesn’t always happen and I don’t know that we would feel any better if it had occurred. 

Like many of you I struggle with depression, for me, it manifests as anxiety. Late summers, for me historically have been the toughest, ’13 just made it that much worse. Now August is nightmares and lying awake hoping to sleep, knowing that if I don’t get enough sleep I’m going to be an anxious, irritable mess the next day, lather, rinse and repeat. This year it didn’t start as soon and maybe it is ebbing away a little more easily. Maybe someday I won’t spend that week reliving the time sitting in the CCU. I wish there was a way to just be able to turn off for a week around now, but life doesn’t stop and those of you with kids know how it just piles on this time of year.

Like many of you, making it through is one foot in front of the other even when we don’t want to. It’s also cutting myself some slack when getting through isn’t meeting the impossibly high standards I love to set for myself.

I keep on keepin’ on, using routines and knowing what’s next, and trying not to kick my own ass when I just can’t do it helps me get through. So here we’re back to menu planning.

  • Monday – Carnitas over sopes (this is only my second attempt at the corn cakes, if they turn out well, I may be ready to share them) rice and beans, slaw
  • Tuesday – Beef stew (This will also make lunches for two kids for Wed & Thur)
    Learn to make beef stew, a perfect meal for chilly evenings or whenever you need comfort food. Stretch the meal by serving it over rice.
  • Wednesday – Macaroni and Cheese with chicken, I’ll add blue cheese and Frank’s Hot Sauce. I let the kids add bacon and roasted jalapenos, if they want. Broccoli on the side. It’s kind of a celebration, a big project should be wrapped up, but I have the feeling comfort food will be high on my list.
  • Thursday – Clean Out Refrigerator Night
  • Friday – Tuna cakes, cheese grits, collards
    oven baked tuna cakes recipe
  • Saturday – We’ve got a birthday and he’s requested Spaghetti and MeatballsSpaghetti with Meat Sauce
  • Sunday – Red Curry – I’ve been substituting eggplant and cashews for chicken, but we will have company so we’ll splurge and have shrimp and cashews.

I may make a crockpot Sticky Chicken for the macaroni if it seems like there won’t be enough stew to feed the crew and prep lunches. 

I’ve been considering an InstantPot for a few months now, I’m looking at the largest one, hoping it’ll help keep the kitchen a bit cooler when I’m cooking large amounts for the upcoming week. Does anyone have one? What are your thoughts on the appliance? Is it worth the nearly cult following it seems to have developed?

Here’s to a new week and hopefully turning the corner.


  1. Louise on August 30, 2016 at 11:10 am

    This is my second try at this. Having some problems posting. I have an Instant Pot and adore it. It’s worth every penny even if it’s not on sale. I’ve had mine three-four years and use it at least weekly. I can go from frozen boneless, skinless thighs to Chicken Tikka Masala with this thing in 45 minutes flat while I’m cooking the rice in the microwave. It’s not gourmet, but it’s better than ordering in pizza and everyone likes it at my place. The liner fits in the dishwasher.

    I also use it for meat sauce for pasta, soup from frozen stock and corn on the cob. It doesn’t heat up the kitchen. Takes up some space on the counter and that needs to be thought about before a purchase.

    I ordered an extra liner as well as the glass lid for when you’re just keeping things warm.

    • Heather Solos on August 30, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Louise,
      Thanks for the feedback, that does make the purchase feel a little less risky.

  2. Heather Solos on August 30, 2016 at 6:50 am

    Thank you, Jill.

  3. Heather Solos on August 30, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Connie, thank you very much. I used to have a stove top pressure cooker and when I felt like dealing with it, it worked really well. I love you, too.

  4. Connie on August 29, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    My sister-in-law has the instapot and loves it. She prepared a meal in it the night my husband and I arrived at her house, and it was delicious. I don’t know any details, though.

    I’m at a loss for words about your sister’s anniversary. Know that we love you.

  5. Jill on August 29, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    I wondered what an Instapot was. I s review (and a lot of others!) when I googled it. Hope this will help.

  6. angel on August 29, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. I knew about your sister , but I was unaware of the developments that occurred in February . My prayers are always with you . I understand how hard August is. my 11-year-old died on September 3 . Her surgery took place in August. the latter part of the month is hard for me . For a long time I wanted to just sleep all the way through the month and wake up in October . Thank you for the recipes in the menu they help me get through a lot . I know there are people in Charleston like me , they’re always pulling for you praying for you and thinking .

    • Heather Solos on August 30, 2016 at 6:52 am

      I am so sorry for your loss.
      If I hear Green Day’s Wake me When September Ends at the wrong time? I’m a blubbery mess. If you’d like to get coffee sometime, let me know.

  7. Renee on August 29, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    I just want to send you a note of support and let you know that I have said a prayer for you for getting through the next week and for continued healing.

    • Heather Solos on August 30, 2016 at 6:53 am

      Thank you, Renee. Things are improving. I appreciate your thoughts.

  8. Patty on August 29, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    I almost bought an Instapot during Amazon Prime Day and didn’t, now I’m kicking myself. I don’t have one (yet) but I am also intrigued by them. I just wanted to let you know, the last two years Amazon has had them on sale for $69.99 on Prime day. I’m hoping they may go on sale again on Cyber Monday and I’m going to snag one. I just wanted to let you know, in case you want to hold off for a deal.

    • Heather Solos on August 30, 2016 at 6:57 am

      I had one of them in the cart, on Prime Day, but the largest one wasn’t for sale. I spent way too long yesterday trying to figure out why there was such a price discrepancy between the 8 qt and the 8 qt (pack) nowhere in the details did it mention that it was an 8 quart (2 pack). I was trying to figure out if it was the InstantPot + accessories. /sigh
      They will likely have deep discounts when the sales cycle hits again.
      The upside of running this website / business is that I can at least get a tax write-off for these investments.

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