Dinner Menu for the week of July 7th

It has been so very nice to have a few days off, and to have Dave home.  We went to the Bay Area Discovery Museum, enjoyed a Fourth of July parade, and took turns sleeping in.  SLEEPING IN!  Despite the few relaxing days, I have neglected food shopping and bulk cooking.  Oy!

While I put together a menu for dinner each week, there is so much more planning and cooking that we do every week.  Breakfast, lunch, snacks and all of the prep that is needed for each nightly meal.  In addition, we are still working on Trevor’s limited palate.  He does eat real food, but we cycle through the same 10 or so items that he will gladly swallow.  So…cooking for him adds to the to do list.  Thank goodness Lucas will eat anything.  Then when he is done, he will eat what is left on Trevor’s plate.

So, taking a few days off from food duties, leads to Dave standing in front of an open fridge/cabinet in search of something to eat for lunch or snacks.  It is time to get cracking.  Tomorrow is going to be a cook/prep/freeze ahead day.

For this week’s menu, I am doing a week of repeats.  These are all getting made again because they were a hit in a past menu.  Some of my very faves will not be highlighted simply because I will not have ingredients.  The items I picked can either help me stock my freezer (chili), or will be easily made with much of what I have on hand.  I am excited!

Sunday: Chili and cornbread.  For the chili, I leave out the sugar, bacon bits, hotsauce, and corn chips.  I use one whole beer.  Cornbread recipe is modified to use whole corn meal (that I will grind in my Vitamix from organic popcorn!!!), whole wheat flour (ground in the Vitamix from whole wheat berries!), olive oil instead of veg, no sugar, and a bit more honey.  This meal usually does a really good job of stocking the freezer.

Monday: Left over potato soup (on last week’s menu) and a small salad.

Tuesday: Chicken pot pie I plan to make this interesting by not using any crust, and instead covering the top of the filling with whole wheat biscuit dough that will be dropped on top prior to cooking. I tried this the last time, and it was AMAZING!!! I will post pics of the process.

Wednesday: Lemon Butter Salmon, and steamed broccoli. Plan to add some garlic to the salmon prior to baking.

Thursday: Spring quinoa salad.  Just plain delish!  Naturally there would have to be a quinoa dish right?!?!

Friday: Chicken Parmesan cutlets over whole wheat spaghetti with corn on the cobb.

Saturday: Spinach quiche

Last week I promised pictures of my sweet little garden project.  Oh how it has grown!  Today I added four types of lettuce and two types of kale.  I had to move the peppers to the front too because the monster zucchini and cucumber plants were trying to swallow them.

garden1 kale

lettuce zandc

Before I wrap up, I have a request.  If anyone out there has a favorite real food recipe, please post a link to it in a comment.  Or, even if it is not made with real food ingredients, but it is a favorite, I might be able to modify it by swapping a few things out.  PLEASE send me some inspiration!

Have a great week!

Dinner menu for the week of May 27th

This whole meal planning thing is starting to get a bit easier.  Having said that, it does seem like every week, something comes up that changes my plan.

Last week, we skipped the salad night on Thursday, because I went out to dinner with some of my sweet girlfriends.  It was SO nice to have a night out.  With a daily goal of 90% real food, and 10% everything else, I spent pretty much ALL of my 10% on an amazing dark chocolate brownie topped with ice cream and drizzled dark chocolate sauce.  It may have been closer to 20% though.   Shhhhhhh.

Saturday, I had every intention of making the poached eggs with bacon and asparagus, but the bacon jumped out of the package onto the kitchen floor earlier that morning.  It was a total loss.  I decided to combine the asparagus that was on the menu, with the salmon planned for tonight (Sunday).  It turned out amazing!

salmon

BTW, Dave said that I have to acknowledge that HE cooked this masterpiece.  He reminded me that I always have to credit the chef.

Even though the salmon ruled, both the chicken parmigiana, and the taquitos were the stars of last week’s menu.  Actually…the wild rice soup was awesome too.  It is really great when there are no whammies on a menu.  All the recipe links are here.

It is the last week in May, and I am WAY over my grocery budget already.  I was hoping to get back on track by making smoothies instead of juice, but it has been a harder transition than I had hoped.  I have a freezer full of frozen fruit for smoothies, but have been buying tons of fresh stuff to accommodate Trevor’s desire for “doooooooce”.  It is hard for me argue with a 2yo that begs for kale, spinach, beet, celery, carrot, orange and apple juice.  I mean honestly.

So, I am resolved this week to only use items that I have on hand in order to give the bank account a break.  Yikes!  This will mean smoothies (sorry Trevor) using the frozen fruit, and only trips to the store for milk.  This should work given that we plan to skip eating at home two of the seven nights.

Monday:  Happy Memorial Day!!!  We will be going somewhere to eat some BBQ most likely.

Tuesday:  Salsa chicken tacos.  We will use corn tortillas, and add avocados, cheese and tomatoes.

Wednesday:  Creamy chicken and wild rice soup.  Replay from last week.  It was so good, AND this is a “use it up” week for us.

Thursday:  Dave and I will be going out to dinner for our 4th wedding anniversary.  Yay for date night!

Friday: Cheesy pesto chicken bake.  I will be making my own pesto in the Vitamix.  Hope it turns out well!

Saturday:  French toast with carmalized bananas.  Inspired by this recipe, but I will be using whole grain bread and whole milk for the egg mixture.

Sunday:  We do not have any seafood on hand except some frozen pub battered halibut that has been in the freezer for longer than I care to admit.  Not a real food option sadly.  We will be having soup again (ya know…to use it up) that I will pull from the freezer.  Can I tell you how much I appreciate having cooked ahead?!?

In closing, I am reflecting on Memorial Day, and how its significance reaches far beyond the BBQs, and the day we get off work.  I am humbled by the service and sacrifice of those that have made the US safer.  May we never forget what you have done for us, and may we live lives worthy of your gift.

Cookapalooza

There is something about pressure that makes me react. I am best in the space between the very last minute, and a deadline. I was always the kid that did not do homework until the night before it was due. You would have thought that the many long nights would have taught me to plan better.

I knew about my impending four day conference for months. As the days drew near, I began to make lists of the many things that needed to be accomplished prior to getting on that plane. While I started on the laundry and packing, and other tasks, I left the cooking for the Sunday before I left. It was a LONG day, but it made me feel like there were solid options available for my boys to eat while I was gone.

Here is what was made and the links to the recipes used.

  • Refried beans that cooked overnight Sat night, and were ready first thing in the morning.  Used the beans in the burritos below, and put some in the freezer.
  • Chicken in the crock pot used for burritos
  • Another batch of granola (Some for home and some to bring with me on the trip)
  • Zucchini muffins For the freezer
  • Whole wheat waffles Divided into quarters and put in the freezer
  • Chicken Enchilada soup Put in quart ziplock freezer bags.  Uh…make this people.  Delish!  Just a few changes made to the recipe though, mainly because of what I had on hand.  I used three potatoes and one sweet potato.  I used cannellini beans for the white beans, and I used a homemade taco seasoning.  SO much cheaper than store bought, and I know what it contains.  Also, skip the transfer-to-a-blender step, and use an immersion blender.
  • Quinoa bites  These turned out SO fabulous, and all three boys really like them.  How cute are they?!?!

quinoabites

Sadly, there was one notable epic fail.  I was very excited to try out my new tortilla press and cast iron skillet for making whole wheat tortillas.  I did something so, so wrong.  It could have been that I added too much oil, or that I let them sit out too long before cooking, but they were hard, and stiff, and greasy.  Booo.  I am determined to make them again, so stay tuned for stories of success next time.

I was feeling quite accomplished, until the time came to clean.  Ugh.  No thanks….

mess

After all of the cooking (and cleaning) was done for the day, we had broiled scallops and Parmesan Zucchini for dinner in an effort to cook up the remaining fresh items from the farmers market trip the day before.  Both items were amazing and required almost no additional cleaning!

In the days before I left, I cooked up some chicken breast for the boys, assembled the burritos using the chicken above, and set aside several food items to take on my trip.

I have been here in Salt Lake City for two full days. Man…sure is HARD to eat clean while away from home.  I did bring a few things that work for breakfast, and there are some good fruit options for lunch.  Dinner has been a real challenge.

Heading home Sunday afternoon, where the week and menu planning begins again.  Cannot wait to hug those men of mine, and to fire up Juicy.

Three conclusions from today

1.  I suck at cooking fish.  I actually had to toss out two of the three pieces of snapper.  No real recipe research + holy crap I am starving = garlic, butter, lemon and nasty fish.  Did I mention that it was gross?!?  Seafood night might require some serious recipe consideration, or we will be eating shrimp and scallops every other week.

2. Artichoke season rules.  Yes, I eat the outside part with the sole purpose of getting to the heart.  Too bad these suckers do not freeze.  UPDATE:  Dave has told me that he will never eat another artichoke in.his.life.  Three consecutive artichokes that have graced his plate have been snacked on by worms.  Sigh.

3. Granola and yogurt is amazing.  How did I just discover this?  I rocked out a batch of homemade granola this week. Dave decided to have a bowl of granola, whole milk yogurt and a drizzle or 5 of honey tonight for a sweet treat.  People…could this be my late evening cereal replacement?

Excited about the farmers market tomorrow, and a cookapalooza on Sunday.  Oh how life has changed!

First week of dinner plans are in the works!

Real Food and Real Life

My decision to change my family’s eating behaviors has consequences.  Benefits too, but consequences.

Over the last few weeks, post 10 day challenge, things have gone a little south.  I would not say true south, but slanting in the general direction of south.   I spent the last three days of our challenge at an all day training, and the following week, both Dave and I had long work meetings with lunch provided.  We had two birthday parties, (one for our little Lucas) and I am just plain tired.   Bleh.

This is where real food meets real life.  Do you say “no thanks” to the free food at work, and sit there eating your bagged lunch, or do you do your best to choose the least processed option out of the provided lunch menu?  Knowing full well there is zero chance you can ascertain what all is actually IN the lunch.  At the birthday party, do you let it all go for the sake of the celebration, or do you again try to find the most acceptable option available.

Now listen, I have no desire to be a martyr, suffering for my cause.  I also do not desire to be that judgy mcjudgerton person that looks down my nose at your plate of food in disgust while I chomp carrot sticks.  Despite my best intentions, I am afraid that even simply making non-processed food choices while in the presence of those that are not doing the same, can come off as a bit preachy.  The inevitable conversation begins about why I am not having the burger, or cake, or drinking one of the many soda options, and before I know it, I’ve said too much.  Suddenly I am the person that I did not want to be.  The one that makes others feel guilty about their choices.  I am passionate, yes, but never want to make others feel badly.

Given the above, I have decided that home is going to be my real food sanctuary.  A place where I know what is in each meal, and where all of the choices available are acceptable.  I can exert control here without having to explain.  It will be my 90%.  The 10% will be everything else.  The work meeting, the birthday party, the snacks Trevor has at school, the Starbucks coffee when I forget mine at home.  Although, I still plan to make healthy choices while away from home as best I can.  Getting twitchy already about my 5 day trip in May.  Can you pack perishables in a suitcase?  What about Juicy?!?!?!

Overall, I am thrilled about the changes we have made.  In 2013, I have lost 20 pounds! (Some of that was the result of a nasty flu.)  Dave has lost 10 just this month!  While weight loss is a nice side benefit, it was always my goal to just get us healthy, and to develop good eating habits in the boys.  I accept that there will be times when we head in a southern direction, but I am hopeful that we can get back on track when we slip.

To stay consistent, we will try to stick to a dinner plan.  This will make it easier for me to know what to grab at the farmers market, and what to order in my CSA delivery each week.

Here is the general idea:

Monday:  Leftovers, Crockpot or something defrosted from the freezer that was cooked ahead.  I go into the office on Mondays, so dinner prep the night of will be impossible.

Tuesday:  Protein with veggies.  Leaving this day open to use whatever meat I got from the local farmers market over the weekend.

Wednesday:  Soup and sandwich night.  This can also be chili and cornbread or something similar.

Thursday:  Salad night

Friday:  Another protein night since the CSA box (delivered Thurs) will most likely include a protein.

Saturday: Brinner.  Yes please to anything that makes it on the menu.

Sunday: Seafood.  Fresh fish at the farmers market each week.

Sunday will also be my plan/prep/cook ahead day.  I hit up the farmers market on the weekend, and I also have to have my CSA order in by Sunday, so I will know exactly what will be on hand.  I can hopefully use most of Sunday to cook ahead things for breakfast, and to chop the veggies needed for each dish on the weekly menu.  It is all together possible that I live in a fantasy world, and that this will last a week.  Here’s to trying my best!

In other news, I started a separate FB page where I will post blog updates and such.   In addition to blog posts, I also plan to include what actually made it to our weekly meal menu here.  Like the page to see the updates:  https://www.facebook.com/DeterminingValue

Operation: Fill that freezer!

As I mentioned in my first post, our family has begun living on a budget. A few items that are helping us stay on track include:

  • Switching to a super concentrated and eco-friendly brand of cleaning and personal care products
  • Paying attention to, and recording per unit prices of commonly purchased food and grocery items
  • Making meals in bulk, and freezing

My food budget recently underwent an extreme makeover during a visit from my super-mom friend Val. She taught me how to leverage my freezer to reduce spending, and reduce food waste. It was a turning point. So much so, that I bought a cute little chest freezer from my friend Georgette! Note all of the empty space in there.

freezer

My latest mission is to fill my deep freezer with yummy meals that I can pop into the oven or microwave on evenings when I cannot muster the energy to cook.  (This is most nights honestly) I am also reading a great book that has some tips on cooking ahead: http://www.amazon.com/Frozen-Assets-2E-Cook-Month/dp/1402218591/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1359004542&sr=8-2&keywords=cook+for+a+day+eat+for+a+month 

The book is a little agro, but I am using many of her suggestions.  One fabulous one is to just double/triple the recipe of whatever you are making some evenings, and freeze batches for another night.  Brill right?!?!

My mission to cook ahead would be so much more fun with a group. Would anyone on the peninsula like to do a “frozen meal exchange” with me?!?  We could do a 1:1 exchange of both a meal and the recipe.  This will not only give us each a bit of variety, it will expand everyone’s recipe box!

Who is in???