Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meals: 29 November-3 December

The most wonderful, busy, crazy, fun time of the year is here!  We had company the week of Thanksgiving and it was lovely.  I decided to brave a week without a plan and it went smoothly.  I had stocked up on salad ingredients and chicken sausages and peppers and that plus the classic turkey dinner on Thursday got us through the week with no problems.

Reality is setting back in and I spent way too much time yesterday trying to come up with a dinner.  I don't like that!  This week is also really busy so I have a few (lots) of meals out planned.  It feels good just to get it down in a plan though, no matter what we are having.

Minestrone with Turkey Kielbasa - it's definitely soup weather and this is one of Tim's favorites.  It's also quick and easy, which is important since I have a training appointment at the gym.

Subway Sandwiches - with all this fancy holiday food to overindulge in I think we are both ready for something more simple.  We've been avoiding sandwiches lately because of all the bread, but I think this is the perfect time to splurge on some subs.  I might try to swing Big Town Hero instead of Subway because I completely adore their bread.

We will almost certainly be eating out and I'm hoping for McMenamins.  We'll see what I can work into the schedule.

Caesar Salad Wraps

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese - more soup for this delightfully chilly weather we've been having.  I'm going to see if I can pick up some Grand Central Ciabatta and make some extra special grilled cheese sandwiches.  We'll see what I can do!

Feel free to leave me a comment with your meal plan.  I hope yours is looking a little more put together than mine is this week.  How do you build your menu post-holiday decadence?  Do you go cold turkey on the junk food? (tee hee) Or do you favor a gradual transition back to the balanced life?  Did you manage to enjoy the holidays without going completely crazy on food?  If so, high-five - and maybe next year I'll join you!  (Notice I didn't even attempt to say that I would join you for Christmas - ha!)  It really wasn't all that bad.  I'm mostly just overly busy this week and I needed to get something simple in place so that we would at least have a plan.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meals: 13-19 November

I completed this plan around Thursday of last week, but have been slow to post it.  I think it will be a good - I've already had two of the dinners and enjoyed them.  I intentionally simplified the plan a bit this week and I don't have any new recipes to try.  My parents will be here visiting all of next week and I want to be able to focus on getting ready for their visit!

(leftover) Bean and Kielbasa soup (which was excellent - both times!!) - Tim's parents came over for lunch and I made garlic and rosemary chicken tenders with steamed carrots, steamed broccoli, and cottage cheese on the side.  Mom and Dad brought garlic bread to complete our nice, colorful, tasty lunch.  With such a fabulous lunch, I decided dinner could be simple.

Tilapia, (leftover) steamed broccoli and carrots, canned green beans, cottage cheese

Chicken Tricolore, salad

Tamales, chips, mango salsa - I'll be bringing these to our community group shared dinner.  I buy the prepped - not frozen - bag of tamales at Costco and I'll steam them up.  Their mango salsa is great, so I'll get that, and I'll look for some sort of whole grain tortilla chip.

Low-Carb Zucchini Lasagna

Spinach Feta Salad, bell pepper slices

Tomato Basil Soup, Grilled Cheese

Thursday, November 10, 2011

food memories - nutritious associations

Food creates huge bonds and memories for me.  Tim and I go to hockey games frequently and when we started going we would often get nachos (nothing tastes quite like stadium nachos).  We've adjusted our budget and adjusted our diets and now the sight of that neon-orange glue that they call cheese makes me feel a little queasy.  My tummy is thankful that we don't often have stadium nachos.  But there is still a part of me that craves them between every first and second period of a hockey game.  It's a firm association - just a memory built around the sense of taste.

Watch - now that I'm blogging about it, I'll probably end up buying nachos this Friday.  Just great! :-p

But there are other food memories too.  Good food memories.  Right now I am getting ready to go and meet a friend's new baby.  It's making me think back the almost seven months to when my little one was born and I'm remember the sights and smells and sounds of the hospital experience.  I'm reliving the taste too, which is why for breakfast I'm having lime jello and beef broth.  Gross, right?  I had a c-section for Little Miss's delivery, and I ate a TON of jello while anxiously waiting for labor to start.  And the first food I was able to have as I was recovering post-surgery was beef broth.  I had also been on a low-sodium diet for most of my pregnancy, so I think that snap of salt and the warm liquid was exactly what I needed.  So now, anytime I am feeling nostalgic about Sophie's birth, I have some beef broth.

All of this to say - food memories can be good - they don't have to be indulgences.  I'm looking to build a family diet where we eat healthy, fresh, flavorful food around important events in our life, or repeated events, so that we come to crave those foods.  I've started making a chicken caesar wrap for dinner and bringing it with us to eat in the parking lot before a hockey game.  I want our birthday parties and holidays to have fresh fruits and veggies as part of the memory - and maybe just a few cookies or desserts.  I think that special food for special times makes sense, but if it's always junk food then that is what we will crave when we look to create those special feelings.  It's something that I want to continue to improve for us as much as possible.

tools: steamer

I grew up with a Rival steamer/rice cooker that my mom used for a couple of decades - pretty much three or four times a week.  We were eating a LOT of rice in those days.  We would have rice for dinner with soy sauce and then the leftover rice would be served at breakfast with milk and sugar.  We used it for veggies too - mostly carrots or asparagus.

I now have my own steamer and it is fan-cee - woo!  It's beautiful and it works so well and I love it.  It's a double-decker and has a wonderfully large capacity.  I grabbed this pic of my current Rival steamer from Amazon.

I have not tried meat in it, but I have cooked rice in one basket and a veggie in the other basket, or two different veggies.  Steaming always sounds to me like it will be a big pain, but once I get it going, it really isn't bad.  I like it that I can set something to steam for 30 minutes, then work on the rest of dinner, and everything has some hope of being done at the same time.  It's the perfect cooking method for me because I prefer almost all of my veggies to be crisp-tender and boiling or even pan cooking sometimes just doesn't let up and they are a soggy mess.  Tim has grown fonder of several veggies that I suspect he disliked mostly because of texture in the past.  And I agree - soggy asparagus is one of the most disgusting things ever.

My new use for the steamer is to cook food for baby Sophie.  I steamed apples and carrots the other day, with great success!  I am using a little munchkin hand-mill to grind up the softened food - but I need to switch to my big food processor (more on that later).

I'm also reading that steaming is a great way to retain nutrients (compared to boiling or microwaving).  We are pro-nutrients, so this is great news.  Leave me a comment if you are steaming something that I haven't thought of.  I kind of want to try potatoes.  We do green beans, asparagus, carrots, spinach, and apples now.  Have you tried any meat or fish?  Want to encourage me to be brave enough to give it a go?

simple meals

As much as I'm enjoying the hunt for new recipes - and I'm pleased with the success we've had at finding new meals that we like - I'm starting to miss the very simple three-part meals that we typically eat.  The classic is "meat, starch, veg" but we've adapted it recently to be "meat, veg, _____" with the third item being more veg, more meat, or some sort of protein booster like cottage cheese, or beans, or eggs.

This morning I'm going through my meal planner and creating single ingredient meals, like "green beans" or "cottage cheese" so that I can easily create a meal by dragging and dropping my three items.  I think next week I'll do chicken, steamed broccoli, and pinto beans - maybe add a little string cheese in there.  The advantage to adding it in the meal planner is that I can drag'n'drop onto my chosen day, but also, it auto-populates the ingredients into my shopping list.  For my pinto beans I will need beans, red pepper flakes, garlic salt, and onion.

Sometimes the simpler the meal, the more we savor the individual ingredients.  I know it makes prep easier and cheaper.  I also find simple meals easier to adapt to our schedule, since I can often pre-prep meals and then we're ready to go within a few minutes if I know Tim isn't sure when he'll wrap work up that evening, or if I have an errand to run right before dinner.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Slow-Cooker Chipotle Beef Tacos with Cabbage and Radish Slaw

Guest photographer: Tim

This meal was delicious!  I cooked it up on Monday.  The original recipe is from Real Simple.  I will definitely put it back in the queue for a month or two out.  I have never cooked with canned chipotle peppers like this before and I wasn't paying attention and I bought them whole instead of chopped as directed.  I mostly just used some of the sauce from the can and a little bit of one of the peppers - it had quite a bite to it, but I liked it.

I used bok choy for the slaw instead of cabbage (Tim isn't crazy about cabbage), and the flavor worked out well.  The original recipe is meat and slaw in tortillas, but I served the meat over a bed of slaw instead.  It was great.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Meals: 6-12 November

The schedule piled up on me and I didn't make the meal-planning a priority on Wednesday.  I am reminded of why I started planning ahead - things run more smoothly in my kitchen when I have a menu, shopping, and prep plans all set.  Here's the menu for the upcoming week.

scramble - I have some breakfast sausage leftover from Wednesday's lasagna triumph

slow-cooker chipotle beef tacos with cabbage and radish slaw (new recipe!)

tilapia, green beans, apple slices

Community group is having baked potatoes!  I signed up to bring some of the potatoes, cheddar cheese and sour cream (I am going to watch and see and if no one signs up to bring bacon, I will bring that too.  Bacon is awesome!!)

white-bean and kielbasa stew (new recipe!)

chicken caesar salad wraps

Burgerville.  yum.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know if you want any recipes.  Stay tuned for reviews as I cook my way through the week.

Updated: Caramelized Onions with Apples Tart

Guest Photographer:  Tim

As I predicted, the luau food was enough to keep us fed through our normal dinner time.  We were hungry around 8:00p though, so I made this apples and onions tart that I planned for Saturday night.

It's beautiful!  Perfect meal for a fall evening.

This was easy, tasty, and beautiful.  The only complaint I have is that it was begging for some cheese.  It just needed a bit more flavor.  Tim and I agreed that it could use some gouda mixed in with the sour cream, or maybe some gorgonzola cooked in with the apple and onion mixture.  Next time!

11.5.2011 - update - we made this again on Thursday and I added some gorgonzola.  It was delicious.  Absolutely perfect!!  It added just a little more flavor to the mix and it was great.

Chicken Tricolore

I tried a completely new recipe on Thursday night; I picked it up from this Plan to Eat blog post.  I hosted a PartyLite party that evening, so I made this since I knew I could assemble it earlier in the day and then we could eat it quickly before party guests arrived.  It was beautiful, easy, and delicious.  The big three.  I didn't do a careful price analysis, but it's pretty affordable.  The big four. !  I used chicken tenders since I had them on hand, and I'm really not big on bone-in chicken.  Tim had his with a few tomatoes and no green olives on his plate, but he still liked the flavor of the dish.  This recipe was an all-around win.  I am going to use Plan to Eat to put it in the queue to make it again in the next few weeks. (I love that feature.)

Spinach Alfredo Lasagna with 2 Types of Sausage

Community group chose lasagna for our dinner, so I took one of my favorites - Spinach Alfredo Lasagna.  I used Jimmy Dean sage breakfast sausage, blended with a mild pork Italian sausage.  It was perfect.  Tim took leftovers for lunch the next day and I think he's asked for it again once a day since Wednesday :)  Success.

Ginger-Apple Pork StirFry

This is one of my favorite stir fry recipes.  I got it from sparkpeople.com and I love the bell peppers with ginger.  I used a ginger paste from a tube instead of powdered ginger this time, and I thought it had a little more snap to it, which I loved.  The only thing I missed this time was the leeks that I usually use - the pop of green color is nice.  The yellow onion tasted good, but it wasn't as pretty as it usually is.  Food should be pretty whenever possible.