February 22, 2013

Week 8–February Magazine Week

Printable Version of Meal Plan and Grocery List

I have a confession – I’m a bit of a magazine addict.  I subscribe to three – Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Today’s Parent and I flip through each of them quickly so that I can devour the food pages.  I always dog ear pages with recipes I want to try but then they get tossed in the magazine rack and I sometimes forget to go back to them.  So, I thought a monthly magazine week was in order!   So consider this your test kitchen!

Recipe Quick Links:
Salmon & Cauliflower Colcannon, Canadian Living
Sesame Beef Salad, Canadian Living
Maple Cider Chicken and Nutty Quinoa, Chatelaine
Healthier Refried Beans, Today’s Parent

Monday – We never did get to the egg salad this weekend so it got carried over to lunch on Monday.  I packed Wisecrackers (Costco) and veggies and ranch dip.  Not a bad little “munchy lunch”.  Supper was Salmon and Colcannon (Canadian Living).  Admittedly I had no idea what Colcannon was (fyi, it’s a traditional Irish dish made from potato and kale)  This meal was ok… I’d give it a 3/5 – I really liked how creamy the Colcannon was but I found the leeks were a bit overpowering.  This was my first time cooking with leeks so perhaps I didn’t cook them enough or used too much for the recipe.  I also used frozen kale since I couldn’t find fresh and I substituted trout for the salmon since it was cheaper.  Salmon, fresh kale and less leeks would likely have bumped this up to a 4/5.

Seared Salmon With Cauliflower Colcannon
Photo source:  http://www.canadianliving.com

Tuesday – I often use leftover salmon in salads for next day lunch and always enjoy it, so I made extra trout for a pasta salad.  I made a dressing using lemon juice, olive oil and grated parmesan.  Have to tell you…. not good.  The trout was really “fishy”.  I choked it down but Dave admitted he chucked it and went to the food court.  Like I said, I’ve done this kind of thing before, not really sure what made this one such a flop – either the trout or the dressing or both.  And supper was another flop… what a day!  We made Sesame Beef Salad from Canadian Living.  I’d only give this a 2/5 at best.  First, I much prefer a marinated and grilled steak over a pan-fried one (although I will say it was tender) -- I’d say save your beef for the BBQ and substitute tofu – cheaper too!  And the dressing for the noodles, while easy, was not as good as other sesame dressings I’ve tried.  I think cutting back on the rice vinegar would help.  Or just make my Pad Thai recipe from Week 1 instead!

Sesame Beef Salad
Photo Source:  http://www.canadianliving.com

Wednesday – Since the noodles were a flop Tuesday I didn’t have leftovers as planned.  Then I got pretty lazy on the couch and almost didn’t pack a lunch at all, but at the last minute I decided to make an easy Greek Couscous.  Couscous cooks up in 5 minutes so it’s a good no-fuss option when you’re feeling too tired to cook.  I added Kraft Greek dressing, cucumber, red pepper, green olives (I prefer them over black) and chickpeas.  Definitely an improvement over Tuesday’s lunch, was just missing a little feta which I was unfortunately out of.  Supper was Maple Cider Chicken with Nutty Quinoa.  This was good, I really enjoyed the chicken, very moist.  This meal is really filling but I did miss having a veggie.  I’d serve it next time with something like steamed brocolli.  Overall a 4/5.

Photo Source: http://www.chatelaine.com

Thursday – We had just enough chicken leftover to make one lunch which worked out perfectly because I was home with a sick Marin. So Dave took the chicken and I just had an English Muffin with peanut butter and apple slices.  Supper was a slow cooker refried beans recipe.  This wasn’t my first time making refried beans in the slow cooker and the only difference between this recipe and the one I normally make (this one from 100 Days of Real Food) is that you fry the onions first and you spice with cayenne instead of a jalapeno.  Both versions are very similar although I’d say this one had a little less kick.  Both versions I found dried out a bit so don’t be shy with the water and if they do happen to dry out just add a little water when you mash.  Either way this recipe is a winner and WAY better than canned – in fact not even comparable.  So even if you’re not a fan of canned refried beans I’d say give this a shot.  We typically have this meal with corn tortillas and the regular fixin’s but this time we did the nachos as suggested in the magazine.  Again, either way, you can’t go wrong.  Mexican is always a hit in this house so obviously a 5/5.  Yummy!

Photo Source:  http://www.todaysparent.com

Friday – I had the day off so I didn’t pack lunches.  Supper was leftovers.  Gotta love easy days!

While there were a few misses this week it’s always fun to try new recipes – never know when you’re going to find a gem!  It was also a super cheap week – I spend less than $120 in groceries and that included $20 in chicken for the freezer.

February 15, 2013

Week 7 - Kid Friendly Meals

Printable Version of Meal Plan & Grocery List

For the first time I planned my meals around a theme, instead of grasping at straws to come up with a theme after the fact.  I'm really excited about this week, I had so many recipes to choose from I simply couldn't fit them all in.  You'll likely be seeing a 'Kid Friendly Meals - Part 2' sometime soon.

Two of my goals this week:
- Pack lunches that were school lunchbag friendly (ie. kid pleasing, travel well and nut-free)
- Showcase recipes that were kid-pleasing yet not overly processed and "junkie"

Two of my main sources this week were a couple of my favorite blogs - 100 Days of Real Food and Weelicious.  100 Days of Real Food was started by Lisa Leake who blogs about cutting out processed food.  I can't claim that we're 100% off processed food but I can tell you we have cut way back over the last several months since I've been following Lisa's blog.  I came across Weelicious browsing cookbooks at the library.  Weelicious focuses on cooking for...well... wee ones.  I borrowed it and found that I wanted to try every recipe!  Some of the recipes from the cookbook and many others are available on the website.  I've only included recipes I could link to but highly recommend the cookbook!! 

Now that I'm cooking for a wee one I find I'm much more concerned about things like GMO's, organics, artificial colors and flavors, sugar content, etc, etc...  If you are too, 100 Days of Real Food is excellent resource and here are a couple of other links that might be of interest:

Recipe Quick Links

Whole Wheat Pizza, 100 Days of Real Food
Fish Sticks, Attack of the Hungry Monster
Slow Cooker Deli Style Chicken, 100 Days of Real Food
Pasta Primavera, Weelicious
Red Beet Pancakes, Weelicious
Coconut Chicken Tenders, Canadian Living
Veggie Nuggets, Weelicious
Whole Wheat Banana Bread, 100 Days of Real Food

And before I jump into the week in review I want to point out another change I made this week... the PDF version of the meal plan now has links to the recipe sources.  Since most of meals this weeks were linkable I didn't copy the recipes.  I'd appreciate your feedback on what you prefer!

Week in Review

Monday - Here's another reason I love my Kitchen Aid - I can now make dough.  For the first time ever I made my own pizza dough and I was so excited!  We had pizza for supper Sunday night and leftovers for lunch.  What kid wouldn't like leftover pizza for lunch??   For supper we had Fish and Chips.  The fish was super quick and easy to throw together and we all liked it.  This meal is kid tested and approved!

Lunch - Leftover Pizza, Banana Loaf, Popcorn & Fruit

Tuesday - Tuesday's lunch was Chili Mac.  I made a simple Chili (Browned ground beef, carrots, onion, celery, chili powder, crushed tomatoes and kidney beans), added some noodles and topped with cheese and served with a dollop of sour cream.  I had originally planned on Mac & Cheese but this week started to be higher in carb than we like so the Chili Mac was a compromise.   We can reheat in the microwave at work but I think it would stay warm enough in a good quality thermos for a school lunch.  Supper was a slow cooker deli style chicken.  We love chicken done this way!  You don't add water, just place the chicken on top of onions or rolled up foil balls and turn on low.  The recipe says 5 hours but mine was on for close to 9 and it was fine.  I served with some simple steamed veggies.  The brocolli and corn weren't her favorites but Marin did give the chicken a thumbs up!

Lunch - Chili Mac, Apple & Cheese String, Yogurt

Supper - Slow Cooker Deli Style Chicken

Wednesday - This lunch was by far my favorite!!  On 100 Days of Real Food she posts her kids school lunches.  One day it reminded me so much of those Lunchmates I loved as a kid!  You know the little packs with crackers, cheese and deli meat.  That post inspired my version of a healthy "Lunchmate" - Natural Selections Deli Meat, Havarti Cheese and Wise Crackers (Costco).  We had it with veggies and homemade ranch dressing - so good!!  Thank-you, Lisa Leake, for the inspiration.  And we rarely eat deli meat because of the sodium content so this was an extra special treat.  Supper was leftover chicken and a super easy Pasta Primavera from Weelicious.  Again kid tested and approved - I was on a roll this week!!

Lunch - Ham, Harvarti & Crackers, Vegetable & Dip, Fruit

Supper - Pasta Primavera

Thursday - Leftover Chili Mac for lunch - just as good a couple days later.  And in honor of Valentine's Day we had Red Beet Pancakes.  Most definately kid approved!!  They got an "mmm... I love red pancakes!"  Definately worth a try.

Lunch - Chili Mac, Cheese & Crackers, Pomelo

Supper - Red Beet Pancakes

A quick note about the grapefruit looking fruit in the lunch pic above - this is called a Pomelo.  It's bigger, sweeter and not quite as juicy as a grapefruit.  It's really easy to peel and break off chunks of the flesh.  LOVE!

Friday  - I didn't end up making Friday's meals.  Dave ended up heading out of town and I made lunch plans with some of my work gals.  For supper Marin and I had enough odds and ends leftover from the week to clean up on.  I'm really anxious to try the Veggie Nuggets on the weekend though - will keep you posted!

This post needs some editing but I'm falling asleep at the keyboard.  Will have to get back to that.  One thing I'd like to point out though is the new Pin It and Like It buttons at the end of my posts.  If you like this week please share!!! 

Night All!

February 08, 2013

Week 6 - Low Maintenance Meals

Printable Version of Meal Plan with Recipes and Grocery List

I was trying to plan meals that didn't require a lot of prep this week because I wanted to spend my evenings painting.  As it turns out I had a busy week at work, was leaving early every morning and falling asleep most nights putting Marin to bed.  So I got absolutely no painting done but did appreciate my low maintenance meals.

Recipe Quick Links:
Ranch Dip, 100 Days of Real Food
Whole Wheat Tea Bisuits, 100 Days of Real Food

Week in Review

Monday - This Monday followed Superbowl Sunday and in the spirit of game day we had loaded nachos for supper.  I used up the extra toppings with some quick cheese quesadillas (on pita) for lunch.  We had also picked up some Buffalo Style Boneless Chicken at Costco to have as a little Superbowl treat - but we were too full from the nachos to eat it.  So I chopped that up and threw it in a salad for supper.  I used the Ranch Dip recipe from 100 Day of Real Food as our dressing - we are loving this dip!

Tuesday - I cooked a chicken breast on the Foreman grill and used up the rest of the buffalo chicken to make sandwiches.  These were pretty darn tasty - the key being the Ciabatta buns and the avocado.  We don't have sandwiches often but I really enjoyed this one!  Supper was a super easy stew that we threw on in the morning.  Just a basic stew but really nice to come home to a fully cooked meal!  We had it with whole wheat tea biscuits, in case you missed them last week.

Wednesday -- Lunch was sushi.  This is actually far less complicated than it sounds.  It can take a bit of practice to roll but once you get the hang of it its really pretty easy.  Here are a couple of my tips...

Remove a couple of rows from the Nori sheet - just fold along the line, it will easily break off.

Don't overfill!  This is the bit that takes practice.  I find about this much filling works well...

And then voila... Sushi for lunch!  I'm not going to lie and tell you it's as good as your favorite Sushi restuarant but it's comparible to the grocery store stuff.
Thursday - And here it is... the one meal you should try this week... Ricotta Stuffed Shells!  I've been thinking about them since the big Ricotta sale back in week 2 and they never disappoint.  Easy and cheesy!  I know the presentation isn't the best here, but I thought it deserved a visual...
Friday - As always an easy day!  Leftovers for lunch (stuffed shells are better the day after) and although I have Thai Chicken Skewers on the menu I forgot to thaw chicken so I opted for Feta Omelettes, homefries and a simple green salad.  We'll have the chicken on the weekend - that's also on our favorite list.
I'm super excited about the upcoming week!  Hoping the snow storm doesn't stand between me and the grocery store on Sunday.  Also hoping it doesn't stand between me and Supper Club - if not, stayed tuned for another restuarant review as well!

February 01, 2013

Week 5 - Mid-Week Big Batch

Printable Version of Meal Plan, Recipes and Grocery List

I'm changing things up a bit this week in hopes of making things a bit easier.  You probably noticed last week that the Meal Plan, Recipes and Grocery List were posted together in one PDF file, which I think (and I hope you'll agree) is a big improvement over posting them seperately as images.  In addition to posting the link on the Meal Plan page I'll include the link at the top of the Week in Review post.  I'll also include in the weekly post a list of links to any recipes that are availabe on-line.

Weekly Quick Links:

Week in Review

Given that I was not feeling the greatest when I planned this week I feel it came together pretty well and was an easy one to follow.  This week was mostly inspired by a trip to Costco where I picked up some Spinach, Strawberries and Portobello Mushrooms.  I had a variety of Goat Cheese and Pre-Cooked Chicken from a previous visit as well.  To kick things off this was supper on Sunday night...

Spinach Salad with Fig Goat Cheese

Some other ways we used up these ingredients - Southwest Chicken Salads, Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Goat Cheese and Strawberry Shortcake.

I also threw in a Lasagna mid-week which worked out really well!!  I typically think of big-batch meals as a Sunday thing to do to stretch into the early part of the week but really its mid-week when I'm running out of steam!  Dave assembled the lasagna Tuesday night which made for an easy supper  on Wednesday with enough leftovers for lunch Thursday and Friday.   As a result the only meal we made after Tuesday was Thursday's supper - now that's an easy week!  Friday's plan is not a typo - Dave had a work event and Marin had a Birthday Party so we didn't need a meal tonight.

I typically focus on Lunches and Suppers in my review but I'd like to talk a bit about Breakfast this week.  If you're like me you sometimes fall into a breakfast rut.  I tend to throw a variety of breakfast ideas on my plan using things that I know we have on hand - but in reality many mornings I skip the plan and go for a quick piece of toast with peanut butter.  This week I added a bit of variety to my breakfast and it was a nice change!  We had flatbread and strawberries so one day I made a breakfast wrap with PB, Banana, Strawberry and large flake oats.  Delicious breakfast on the go!  I also made Almond Milk this week!!  I can't believe it either.  As a result I had an abundance of almond pulp to use up - yesterday I mixed it with oatmeal and this morning I had it on an English Muffin with a drizzle of maple syrup and topped with, you guessed it... strawberries!

The only meal I want to comment on this week is the fish tacos.  I very loosely followed the recipe that I've included in the plan.  I marinated the fish as per the recipe but pan-fried it instead of grilled.  We had it on corn tortillas... have you made them yet???  If my last picture didn't tempt you maybe this one will?  My main topping was a mango salsa, which was just a bottled variety with added diced mango.  This was my first attempt at fish tacos and I'd definately make them again but I wasn't overly crazy about the salsa - I found it overpowering.  I think a fresh mango salsa would be much better!

Now... my pick for the one meal you should definately try this week.... Strawberry Shortcake!  Ok, ok, I know you can't really make a meal out of it but it was such a treat!  I would also pick this one so that you have an excuse to try these Whole Wheat Tea Biscuits.  I splurged on REAL whipped cream.... yummmmm.  BTW - the whipped cream was a breeze to make in my new Kitchen Aid Mixer.  Have I mentioned before how much I love it??

One quick story before I sign off.  I'm now a month into my meal planning journey and am really happy with the results.  I feel more organized and I definately feel like we've saved money.  One thing for sure is that we've eaten out much less!  This is a true story - on a number of occasions last fall we told Marin we were going out to eat and she would say "um...I'd rather just go home for chicken and a salad".  Last week she asked me three days in a row - 'Mom, can we pleeeease go out to eat tonight??"  :-)