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.

Dinner Menu for the week of May 20th

Before I get into the menu for this week, I have a request for you…  Please make these fajitas, and then make them again.  They were on last week’s menu, and they turned out so amazing.

It is shaping up to be a busy week for me, so many of the items on this week’s menu will be easy ones.

Here we gooooooo……

Monday:  Fajita chicken burritos from the freezer and a fresh green salad.

Tuesday:  Chicken Parmigiana cutlets over whole wheat spaghetti.  YUM!

Wednesday: Creamy chicken and wild rice soup.  Leftovers will go into the freezer for another night.

Thursday:  Mexican-Style quinoa salad.  Leaving out the onions/shallots, and using diced roma tomatoes since that is what I will have on hand.

Friday:  Beef taquitos.  Did not have a chance to rock some fresh corn tortillas last week, so maybe this will be my chance?

Saturday:  Poached eggs with Asparagus.  I am planning to use bacon instead.

Sunday:  Blackened Salmon with mango avocado salsa and steamed broccoli

BTW, still warming up to my Vitamix.  Cannot get used to the smoothie consistency, so  Juicy will not be retired just yet.  :/  “Vita” (her new name) may be redeemed when the dry container is delivered this week.  Hoping to begin grinding my own wheat and corn.

Happy cooking friends!

Dinner menu for the week of May 13th

Another week of meal planning is here. Already.

On Friday, my little sis and her family came up to visit.  It was a great weekend of fun and relaxing with a teeny tiny break from real food, though I did still try to make good choices when available.

In other news, Juicy may be on her way out in favor of my new VITAMIX!!!  It is so very different, in both good and bad ways.  I really do prefer actual juice over smoothies, but there is so much less waste with my new tool.  It should reduce our fresh produce spending drastically.  It is not only me that misses the pure Juicy kind of juice.  Trevor has left several full glasses of green smoothie juice around the house.  Hope I can get the consistency and taste right in the coming week.

These are the items on our dinner menu:

Monday:  Left over chicken.

Tuesday:  Chicken pot pie.   Like most things, I modify this recipe.  I make my own whole wheat crust, I use whole wheat flour in the filling, and I will be using chicken that cooked most of the day in the crock pot.  Hands down, the very best whole chicken I have ever made!  I will use the carcass to make stock overnight.

Wednesday:  Salad with black beans, quinoa, apples and almonds.  I  will try to find a suitable dressing to make, or it may end up being oil and balsamic vinegar.

Thursday:  Potato soup made in the Vitamix on Sunday with BLTA sandwiches.

Friday:  Grilled steak and veggie fajitas.  I might try to make some corn tortillas from scratch.  Emphasis on might given how the flour ones turned out.  :/

Saturday:  We did not have dinner at home on Saturday last week, so I will be giving the quiches another go.

Sunday: Lemon garlic salmon steamed in foil on the BBQ with brown rice and zucchini.

Every week there seems to be something that makes it on menu that I cannot wait to cook up.  This week it is the fajitas.  Last week it was the shrimp and quinoa with avocado and orange salsa.  It was SO amazing.  Lived up to the dreams that I had been dreaming about the dish.   Both visually appealing, and terrific flavor!

ShrimpQuinoa

 

For those that are mothers, I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day, and that you were celebrated today!  Enjoy your week!

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.

Dinner menu for week of April 29th

Oh planning.  I wish you did not require so much planning.  The menu hunting, the shopping lists, the shuffling of meal options to accommodate schedules.  As a working mama, I also have to plan to cook ahead for many of the weeknights, since prep the night of is a joke.  I have to avoid the open fridge stare at 5pm, or I will start buying convenience food again.

This week, I will be out of town Weds night through Sunday.  You mean I have to do MORE planning for meals that are easy while I am gone?  You betcha.  Due to this unique week, I am only planning dinner.  Breakfast and lunch can be a free-for-all.  Healthy free-for-all, but still…

On the docket for dinners:

Monday:  Chicken tacos using meat that cooked all day in the crock pot yesterday.  The remainder of the meat will be used to make freezer burritos.  (Getting around to making the burritos tomorrow)

Tuesday:  Chicken and cilantro lime quinoa.  Btw, just learned that it is pronounced KEEN-WA.  Yes, I have been calling it Quin-oh-wa.  So awesome.

Wednesday:  Chili and cornbread.  (Both currently in the freezer)  I modify this chili recipe quite a bit based on tips from my friend Val.  I leave out the sugar, bacon bits, hotsauce, corn chips and beef boulion.  I use one whole beer.  Honestly, this turns out AMAZING.  Time to make chili peeps!  Cornbread recipe is modified to use whole corn meal, whole wheat flour, no sugar, and a bit more honey.  Winner.

Thursday:  I will pre-make a salad for Dave with Spinach,  strawberries, almonds and a drizzle of olive oil.

Friday:  Spaghetti with grass fed beef delivered in the CSA box, and whole wheat noodles.  Also prepped and ready in the freezer.

Sat:  Brinner of waffles or pancakes or an omelette.  Dave’s choice here.  Dave’s parents are visiting, so it may end up being take out for the adults.  He can call an audible.

Sunday:  Most likely something like chicken enchilada soup from the freezer. (Made a HUGE batch yesterday.)  I get home right at dinner time, so that should rule.

Hope everyone has a great week!

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

Real Food – Day 9

And then there were 2.  I can see the light.

Yesterday:

High – My sweet Lucas is WALKING!!!  I know this is not food related, but he is walking.  We are ultimately doing this to better our health for our boys, and so I think it totally counts.

Low – Really poor food choices at my training class.  No shock honestly.  I was glad to have come prepared.

Our juicy was a bit on the nasty side again.  It must have contained too much of something good for you.  Like beets or kale.  Normally I can hide the taste, but too few apples I guess.  Also, I was over generous with the chia.  It became a sloppy, goopy, chunky mess, and I had to fish out clumps.  Shudder.  Still learning clearly.  The boys had oatmeal.

Dave and I rushed out the door a bit later than ideal, and he dropped me off at my training on his way to the office.  Here is what I found in the classroom.  Fruit option was great, but paired with danishes and way-too-much-sugar juices.  If I am being honest, I got really close to the treats and inhaled deeply.

Day9

I gladly ate my sandwich, muffin and granola for lunch.  Somehow I ended up with Dave’s carrots, so I snacked on them also.  Over lunch I had a great convo with a co-worker that too is eliminating sugar from his diet, and trying to avoid processed food.  He also brought a peanut butter sandwich!  Refreshing!  Dave did not end up eating his pizza for lunch because he said the juicy kept him full almost all day.  He snacked on nuts and granola at work.  The boys had banana, veggie rice and strawberries for lunch.  About half of the crackers were gone, so I can assume that Trevor had those for snack.

I got home just about 5pm, and Dave was hanging with the boys.  They had already eaten some spaghetti and avocado.  Trevor enjoyed some yogurt, and Lucas ate some cheese before they headed for the bath.  Dave and I both had left over pizza.

Today, we went with another tropical juicy since she was our very favorite.  Apples, pineapple, oranges and a few carrots.    We needed a delish one after the past two choke.it.down mornings.  Took a ch-ch-ch-chia break as well.  The boys both had defrosted french toast that I made a few days back with some pear.

I brought granola, a pear, string cheese, carrots and I still have the Lara bar in my purse from yesterday.  Dave is working from home today and will dive into the left over mac and cheese.  I can only imagine he will add some salt and pepper, and maybe some additional cheese.  There are lots of options for the boys that he can make.  He may even try to share the macaroni.  I would.

Dinner is going to be buttermilk pork chops with steamed zucchini.  The boys will also have some roasted sweet potato.  Dave is finding the recipe for the pork chops, and I will link it tomorrow.

In closing, as this adventure nears the end of our 10 days, we are starting to discuss permanent changes to our diet.  We still have to work out what will be eaten in moderation, and what will be left out on purpose.  Some things are much easier to avoid than others, and I want to be realistic, not a fanatic.  More to come here.

Real Food – Day 8

Three days left, and it is getting easier.  Yesterday in Costco, it did not seem odd for me to be reading labels.  BTW, BIG kudos to Costco for increasing their organic selections.  I am quite impressed.

The recap…

Our faithful juicy was a bit off yesterday morning  because I added two large grapefruits to the bounty.  SOUR!  Even Trevor was a bit slow to suck his cup dry.  Maybe just one next time.

After breakfast, Trevor and I hit up Costco.  We stocked up on juicy components as well as some bread (Honey instead of sugar, and 100% whole wheat flour!), quinoa, cheese, yogurt and butter.  The big win of the trip was that I bought a dehydrator.  Clearly I just went from a novice to a nut job.  Still, I am giddy about drying stone fruits this summer!!!

Lunch for the boys was avocado, wild rice with veggie sauce, and Trevor had some tangerines.  The tangerines we just got on Sat at the farmer’s market are amazing!  Dave and I had grilled cheese sandwiches.

After lunch, Trevor took a nap, and I took Lucas to Whole Foods to get the rest of the items on my list.  I planned to get to work as soon as we got back making a few things that would be used for the rest of the week.  Because I am going to a conference each day this week, I knew that I would have to get organized.

Between lunch and dinner, I made…

Granola!!!  This can be cereal, a snacky-type food, or something that is added to yogurt.  Trevor had a few bites, and he approves.  So darn good.

Day8

I also made some applesauce in the crock pot.  This is not a new task for me.  I have been making it in the crock pot for several months.  The end result was always worth the effort, so I endured the long and painful hour or so that it took me to cut and peel all of the apples.  Until…I got an apple peeler that changed by life.  Seriously.  Get one people, and make apple sauce.  You will never buy tree top or motts again.  I promise.  It is sweet enough that NO sugar is required.  We pop the finished product into ice cube trays, and then into the freezer.  It will last us about a month.

Before dinner, I prepped all of the items we will be using in juicy in the morning, and made the pizza dough.  It needed to sit in the fridge for at least an hour before baking.

Dinner for the boys was a total flop.  Trevor had whole plain yogurt, a tangerine, and some banana.  Lucas still has a snotty nose, so he mostly refused everything.  The main issue was that I tried to hide some kale in the zucchini, asparagus and pea sauce that they typically love in their rice.  EPIC FAIL.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that I tried to put this sauce on whole wheat spaghetti.  I know…it seems like I am new.  Even Lucas, who will eat anything, spit it out.  Well, pretty much the whole batch went into the fridge to try another day.  If I am being honest it will be in the compost shortly.  You win some…

Dave and I rolled out the pizza dough after the boys went to bed, and Dave made some pesto sauce.  He added some (not allowed but I totally spaced) canadian bacon with spinach and I stuck to the margarita pizza.  Here is how it turned out…

day 8

It was yummy, but I think next time I need to add more water to the dough.  It was a bit dry.  I think I also need to roll it a bit thinner.  Overall, it was a great first pizza from scratch.

Today, we had our juice, and the boys had oatmeal sweetened with applesauce.

Dave brought pizza and a spinach salad with strawberries, almonds and a balsamic vinaigrette with carrots for a snack. I packed a pb and honey sandwich with a defrosted zucchini muffin, granola and a lara bar for snack.  I have no clue what the food options will be like this week for me, so it will be best for me to bring everything with me.  The boys will have their nanny loving on them today, and she has a list of things she can give them for lunch.

Dinner for the boys is up to Dave.  I trust him to make something yummy for them.  I will be having the rest of my pizza from last night for dinner, and I am not really sure what is on the docket for Dave’s dinner.  Mom/wife fail.

Until tomorrow.

Real Food – Day 7

I propose that we get more than two days for every weekend.  Do I have a second?  I am going to a training class for work ALL week.  This means that I will have to get organized for our last three days since I will not be at home for any of them during the day.

Yesterday went well.  Although, I have lost my voice, and Lucas is still snotty.

High – We are ALL sleeping.  For the first time in over a year, everyone is sleeping really well.  It could be coincidental timing, but I feel like I am really getting rested.

Low – Dave wants cookies.  He misses them, and tells me about it often.  Actually, he told me yesterday he was over this “thing” we were trying, and he was quitting.  I did not relent.  We can do this.  We can do hard things.  Low #2 – Real food means TONS of compost.  Tons of stinky compost that needs to be emptied a few times a day.  It also means ants and bugs in the compost bin.  Ewwww.

Breakfast was uneventful except that Lucas wanted little more than a bottle and to go to bed.  He took a very long morning nap.

After lunch, both boys took marathon naps.  Dave and I rearranged the kitchen appliance locations to make some room for Juicy to have a home on the counter.  I was getting twitchy with no room to do prep.  Like NO room.

Dinner for the boys was sweet potatoes, cheese, applesauce and steamed broccoli.  We brought everything with us to the park across the street to watch cousin Dakota play baseball.  It was nice to be outside and let Trevor run around.  We came back, we got the rice started for our dinner, got the boys in the bath and then off to bed.  Once they were in bed, I broiled the scallops.  This was by far the best meal we have had since starting this real food adventure.

Day7

We used the chicken stock from the whole chicken cooked the other night to make the brown rice, and it gave it amazing flavor.  Honestly not sure I can ever go back to canned stock or even “better than bouillon”  stock.

After dinner, we made a really tasty dessert with sliced banana, peanut butter, and drizzled honey.  WOW!!!

Day 7

Today:

Breakfast was juicy for us with some chia, and defrosted pancakes for the boys.

Lunch will be veggie rice for the boys using the rice from last night, and zucchini, asparagus and pea puree for the sauce.

Dinner tonight will be homemade pizza.  Dave is planning to have a pesto pizza, and I am going to make a margarita pizza.  The boys will most likely have a cheese version.

I will also be spending much of the day cooking some items ahead to be ready for the remaining three days.

Off to Costco to stock up on goodness!