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.

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 6

Ah, the weekend!  So glad you are here.

Yesterday’s happenings:

High:  I went into the office and got a break from the kids.  Er…I was able to accomplish work-y things, and feel like a productive adult.

Low:  Real food molds too fast.

Day6

Breakfast yesterday went as planned.

Lunch was a bit of a sh*t show.  I left a bunch of things for the boys to eat, and told the nanny the rules.  Again.  When I came home, I forgot to ask her what they actually ate. Several of the items I had set aside were left uneaten on the counter.  Hmmm.  Trevor did have yogurt all over his shirt, so one can assume that he had some yogurt for lunch.  When I packed a lunch for me and Dave, I thought that I had packed enough for both of us.  Dave saw what I brought, and proceeded to ask me what I would be eating.  Sigh.  I packed two zucchini muffins, two rice cakes with peanut butter, two string cheeses, a hard boiled egg and a pear.  After half of that was gone on Dave’s snack at about 10:30, we decided to head to Whole Foods for other snackables.  We settled on a nut mix thing, and some honey sweetened granola after squinting to read the labels on the bulk bins for about 15 minutes.  We also got two Lara bars.  Those are pretty “YES please” btw!  In other news, Dave told me that he would not be eating any rice cakes in the future.  Ever.  I actually do not mind them, but he could not even choke down the two that I brought.

Dinner was sh*t show part two.  The mac and cheese was flavorless.  It needed WAY more salt and pepper.  Or bacon.  We have lots of leftovers.  :/  Lucas did not mind it, but Trevor only got a few bites down.  They both had avocado, and we made Trevor the ever so popular pb&j.  I swear he would live on those if needed.

Today:

We rocked a tropical kind of juicy this morning with pineapple, kiwi, oranges and apples.  It was SO good.

Day 6

The boys had banana and oatmeal.  After breakfast Trevor and I headed to the local farmers market to replenish our supply of fruits and veggies.

Dave and I had some defrosted chicken enchiladas from the other night.  (That night, I made a small, loaf pan size, serving with the remaining ingredients and popped it into the freezer.)  The boys had sweet potatoes for lunch with rice and beans.

For dinner, the boys are going to have some steamed broccoli, applesauce, and the rest of the sweet potatoes.  The adults are having some sauteed scallops with wild rice and broccoli.  Hope it is delish!

Happy Saturday!

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???