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!

Menu for May 6th – 12th

I am SO aware that this post is a day late.  Being gone for several days requires some rest before jumping right back into the swing of things.

Here is what is in the dinner plan for this week.  Several of these things are new to my recipe box, so I am excited to experiment.

Monday – We had defrosted and re-heated chicken burritos.

Tuesday – Honey lime pork tenderloin with wild rice and either asparagus or broccoli.  Leaving out the sesame oil, and subbing olive oil for the processed canola.

Wednesday – Chef salad with diced ham, egg, avocado, cheese and avocado dressing.  Dressing will be made with organic greek yogurt instead of mayo, and a bit less oil.

Thursday – Potato soup with whole wheat biscuits

Friday – Chicken with beans, tomatoes and corn grilled in foil.  I will be changing this up a bit.  I plan to use fresh tomatoes instead of canned, whole fat jersey cheddar, and olive oil instead of pam.

Saturday – Quiche with cheese and bacon

Sunday –  Sauteed shrimp over orange/avocado quinoa.  Cannot wait to see how this turns out!

Here’s to a great week with no whammies!

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 – The recap, and our “Why”

I am LATE with my update today.  I am tired.  The kind of tired that hurts.  This is a combination of mind numbing training for the last four days, and all of the food prepping/planning from the last week or so.

Yesterday’s recap:

Yesterday started to fall apart at lunch.  Dave forgot to pack something to bring with him to work, and ended up having portions of what was catered for his lunch meeting.   He chose spanish rice, and refried beans from the fajita plates that were delivered.  Spanish rice was made with white rice, so….yeah.  For dinner, his boss wanted to take him out to dinner because another college was in town, and there was no righting the ship.  Really hard to eat out unless you are in the kitchen with the chef watching him cook.  😦  Who wants to be that patron that asks what all is in the sauce or salad dressing.  Especially when it is not due to an allergy.   I survived the day without taking a dive into a tub of chocolate, and even maintained real food eating habits until tonight when I was sitting in front of a whole mess of yummy cookies and mini cakes.  I had one, and it was a-mazing.

I have been asked about the reasons why we made this pledge.  There are several answers to that question.  The main reasons were a family history of high cholesterol, and a desire to influence a palate for our boys while they are young for healthy food instead of processed food.  I would say this has been a long time coming.

When I was pregnant with Trevor, I had a crisis of conscience of sorts.  I knew I needed to eat better, but was not really sure what that meant.  Our first change was to move to organic meat and dairy.  This became much more of an issue for us after watching the movie Food Inc.  When Trevor was born, I made his food, and we tried to make a switch to organic produce when possible.  I should note that while we did change meat, dairy and produce choices, Dave and I never eliminated processed food or sweets from our diet.

Fast forward to the arrival of sweet Lucas last April, and the realization that Trevor would require a bit of developmental therapy.  I went on a mission to research things that could be causing the developmental delays.  As a family, we commited to ridding our home of chemicals, and we also changed to exclusively using a chemical free manufacturer of  personal care products to limit chemicals that are applied to our skin.  One HUGE area of hypocrisy remained our diet.  How can I really say that we are eliminating chemicals, if we are still eating them.  Again, I did not know what to avoid, or how.

The turning point came when I stumbled upon a website that I was using mainly for recipes.  I began reading her story, and the steps that she took in her family to eliminate processed food from her diet.  We began making small changes to the way we ate at home.  We replaced sugar with maple syrup and honey, and eliminated vegetable and canola oils from cooking.  The small changes were easy, but could we make a 10 day pledge?  It took me a LONG time to decide that we could commit.

While trying to pick a 10 day stretch that would give us the best chance to succeed, I watched a documentary called Hungry For Change.  Everything changed.  It was time, and this documentary was what I needed to get moving.  Thus…April 1st began our 10 days of real food.

One big struggle I have, is what to do with all of this information.  I cannot unlearn the things that I learned in the books or documentaries.  It is knowledge that demands a choice.  While I am glad that the 10 days are done, there will certainly be portions of our 10 day pledge that remain in some form or another going forward.  Juicy is here to stay!  I read that if you can maintain healthy eating habits 80% of the time, then you are doing great.  I want to aim for more like 90/10 while at home, but know there will be times when we are out, or the boys are away from home, and I will not be able to control what they are eating.   I need to be realistic.

I may have to tell other parents that my kids will not be eating the cupcake or whatever treat is being offered, and I am not looking forward to those tough convos honestly.  I need to know my audience, and choose how much detail I give when talking about the changes we are making as a family.  It can sound soap-boxy, and it do not want to come off as judgmental at all.  My choice does not have to be someone else’s choice.

Having said that, should you be interested in learning more, here are some resources that really helped me understand why it was time to make a change.

Books:

In Defense of Food

The Unhealthy Truth

Feeding Baby Green

Documentaries:

Food Inc.

Hungry for Change (Watch in parts on You Tube)

Forks over Knives

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Fresh

Websites:

www.100daysofrealfood.com

www.unconventionalkitchen.com

www.weelicious.com

iPhone Apps:

Fooducate (Tells you the ingredients of any food that contains a bar code, and also helps identify if it contains any possible GMOs.  AMAZING.  Get this!)

ShopNoGMO

Happy eating friends!

Real Food – Day 10

Yes!  We can do hard things!  One.day.left!

Yesterday:

High – Dave worked from home, and did SUCH a good job with all of the meals.  It would have been so easy to grab easy, pre-made food for himself and the boys, but he stuck to the plan.  <Beaming>

Low – I was gone from 8am to 8pm.  LONG day, and it was awful to be gone for both lunch and dinner.  Had to let go of a bit of control.  Grumble.

Breakfast was a very safe, tropical juicy.  The boys ended up having oatmeal instead of defrosted french toast.

Another day of class, and another day of tempting pastries.  Today: my kryptonite…pumpkin bread.  It was like even Salesforce was conspiring against me.  Jerks.

I ate a pb&j, granola, a pear and some carrots for lunch.  The string cheese did not make it into my bag, and I did not eat the Lara bar.  Dave was working from home, so he ate the spinach salad that I claimed he ate the other day.  Turns out it was not eaten, so that was an easy lunch.  I am so very shocked that he wanted to avoid the mac and cheese.  Odd.  The boys had yogurt, applesauce and avocado.  Trevor also had a pb&j.

Dinner was supposed to be pork chops, zucchini and sweet potato.  Dave did have all of the ingredients to make the pork chops, but the recipe required a bit too much prep and cooking time with two minions present while working from home.  Plus, the sweet potatoes that I thought were in the fruit basket were actually already used on Saturday.  He called an audible, and made zucchini, spaghetti with red sauce and some Italian sausage that I got at the farmers market over the weekend.  Both boys really enjoyed dinner.

Dave and I had our parent class, so our dinner was eaten in the car.   The snacks at class were acceptable.  Cheese and fruit mainly.  I again was the lady checking the ingredients.  Honestly, it is not embarrassing any more, and I know how to quickly scan for the prohibited items.  BTW, did you know that orange/yellow cheese is artificially colored?!?!  Some do use naturally derived colors, but still color nonetheless.  Why why why?

I am in day 3 of class today, so we have a “plan” again.  I am prepared for things to derail, and that will have to be ok.  Breakfast did go as planned though with juicy and french toast for the boys.

We have a combination of my mama and our sweet babysitter Whitney hanging with the boys today.  Fun fact: I babysat for Whitney and her brother when they were little.  I met their family and began working for them when she was only 4!!! #howamisoold  There is a list of items that they can eat for both lunch and dinner including banana, avocado, zucchini, pear, and the remaining pasta.  I even broke down and bought some “squeezers” in the event that the options run out.

Dave is scheduled to have a lunch meeting tomorrow that will be catered.  :/  Not sure if there will be anything provided that will work, but we shall see.  This type of situation is most definitely the biggest challenge when trying to make better food choices.  It is hard to know what is in or what is used to cook your food when you are away from home.  I brought an apple, more granola, a grilled cheese and my Lara bar.  Maybe I will eat it today since it has been in my purse for three days.

Dinner for us is TBD.  It may be one of those nights where you stand in front of the fridge for a few minutes looking for inspiration.  Who knows, I might go mac and cheese.  Ha.

Last real food recap will come tomorrow.  Did I mention that we can do hard things?!?!

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.