October 25, 2013

Week 42 - A Salad a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

Printable Version of Meal Plan

I was really pumped that our gradual switch to a more "Real Food" diet would result in us slimming down with no real effort.  Unfortunately, that's not what's happening and I think it's that our sugar intake has actually increased because I see so many "healthy" recipes for baked goods that are just too tempting to not try.  Summer is also our most challenging season.  While there's an abundance of fresh produce available in the summer there's also an abundance of "junk" food.  So fall tends to be the time of year that I crave fruit and vegetables in copious amounts and that's where we are right now.  We ate A LOT of salad this week!  Luckily salad doesn't have to be boring... this might just be my favorite week so far.

Weekly Recap

Lasagna - I had Supper Club with the gals on Sunday night (at Two Doors Down on Barrington St. - Kale Caesar Salad highly recommended!!) so I made a super quick and easy lasagna for the fam before I left.  I used a jar of organic pasta sauce layered with uncooked lasagna noodles, cottage cheese (mixed with an egg and Parmesan cheese) and shredded mozzarella.  Because I didn't bother adding any meat I didn't have to cook anything.  I just assembled and put it in the fridge until they were ready to throw it in the oven.  We had leftovers for Monday lunch and put the rest in the freezer.  Love lasagna!!

Trout, Boiled Potatoes and Arugula Salad - This meal was a winner with everyone.  Dave in particular gave it a strong two thumbs up.  I baked the trout seasoned with just salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice.  Easy.  We had it with boiled potatoes (I don't know why but to me fish and boiled potatoes go together like PB & J) and our most favorite salad at the moment - arugula tossed with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt & pepper and fresh shaved Parmesan.  We could eat this salad every day of the week! 

Kale Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing (Oh She Glows) - I wanted to give another Kale Salad a try and this one definitely did the trick as a meal on it's own.  I added bulgar to make it a bit more hearty.  Really liked this dressing.  You can't go wrong with any recipe from Oh She Glows - vegan or not!

Marinated Chicken w/ Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots - I'm determined to keep trying Brussels sprouts until my family love them as much as I do!!  And until then... more for me!  I used to occasionally marinate chicken in either Italian or Basil Parmesan bottled dressings.  Lately I've been skipping that section of the grocery store and never have any on hand.  So when I saw this recipe for Italian Herb Dressing from My Whole Food Life I instantly thought of chicken.  I marinated for about 8 hours and then baked it in the oven.  It would have been better grilled for sure but it was too chilly outside for that.  Either way, this dressing was a good substitute for my old standard marinades.

Tuna Salad on Rye Crackers - New favorite lunch alert!!  I mixed a can of chunk white tuna (in water) with olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, feta, grape tomatoes and pepper.    We had it with Ryvita Rye Crackers that I worked out to be 1 Weight Watchers point per 2 crackers!!  Low point, full of flavor lunch!

Panko Tofu w/ Kale Salad - Two of my favorites come together!  Not surprising I enjoyed this meal.

Panko Crusted Tofu

Greek Quinoa Salad w/ Chickpeas - I realized this weekend that we haven't had this quinoa salad in ages!  If you're trying to introduce more quinoa into your diet I would consider this a good "starter" recipe.  Marin helped me make it and then had a bowl and declared 'Mommy, this is the best salad ever!'  She then asked for a second bowl saying 'mmm.... this salad is TOO good!' and then went on to ask for a third bowl!  Kid-friendly?  I think so!  I mix cooked and cooled quinoa with tomato, cucumber, red onion & feta.  Throw in some black olives if you like.  I add chickpeas or tofu if I'm making a meal out of it.  Stir that up with some Greek salad dressing - I recommend this one.  This salad will keep well for a couple of days so double it up! 

Marin's version of "Helping"

Greek Quinoa Salad

Pork Chops w/ Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Mash - This meal was simple, just a few ingredients and no recipe required so it makes for a good week night meal in that way.  I pan-fried the chops and simple boiled the sweet potato and cauliflower together until really soft and then mashed them with a little butter and milk.  Marin's not a fan of mashed anything so I gave her some frozen peas... sometimes you can't over-think things with kids!

Falafel & Tabbouleh - I've had this one on my list to try for ages and so happy I finally did!  Yummers!  Although I will say while the recipes are easy, this was still more effort than I typically like on a Thursday night.  But definitely worth trying, maybe just bump it up earlier in the week.


Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup - It's Friday!  Slow Cooker is on (hopefully!) and we'll be coming home to Taco Soup.  Can't wait!

This week was brought to you by a full 2 lb bag of lemons.  

Happy weekend everyone!


October 18, 2013

Week 41 - What Happens When Life Gets in the Way of Grocery Shopping

Printable Version of Meal Plan

We were away last weekend for Thanksgiving and arrived home Monday with no grocery stores open.  I was prepared for this and was able to put to the test one of the make ahead slow cooker recipes I had in the freezer.  I am now a believer!  But then it turned out I couldn't get out Tuesday night either so I took another look at our supplies and got us through another day.  Wednesday night Marin went to my parents house for a sleepover and Dave and I found ourselves with an unplanned date night... so again, no groceries.  By this point I felt it was a personal challenge to NOT get groceries for a full week.

This was manageable given that last week I had over planned a bit and had some leftovers.  So I actually started the week with enough milk and some fruit and vegetables.  I did make a trip to a pharmacy on Monday evening and picked up a loaf of bread ($2.50) and mid-week at Costco we picked up a couple of other items for about $18.00.  So $22.50 was my total spent on grocery items for the week!!  Hurrah!  This was also possible in large part to my freezer re-org.  This may sound a little dramatic (or maybe a lot) but having clean, organized freezers has changed my life....ok, maybe not my life but at least the way I meal plan. 

Here's what we managed to find to eat....

Breakfast - We mainly alternated between toast and cereal but I did squeeze in an overnight oatmeal - I can't help myself.

Corn Chowder (Mama Loves Food) with Tea Biscuits (100 Days of Real Food) - I prepared these last week to take with us for the weekend so we were cleaning up on this.

Lentils & Rice (Chef Michael Smith) - This recipe takes only a few ingredients that I almost always have on hand.  It also takes only about 5 minutes of prep time to make two days worth of lunches.  A great recipe to have in your back pocket.

Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken (Kojo Design) - This was prepped and frozen a few weeks ago with this very day in mind.  I knew I would need to have something that didn't require a trip to grocery store for the Tuesday after the long weekend.  Oddly none of us were over the moon about this one the night of but I finished up the leftovers a couple of days later and loved it!  I'd almost recommend making it a day in advance because it seems to take that long for the flavors to really blend.  I served it with couscous though which Marin did love.

Greek Nachos from Palladium Family Restaurant - I'm throwing this out there for anyone from the HRM area.  If you love Greek food they serve some of the best in the city in my opinion.  Maybe not the most romantic setting for a date night but we loooove the food.

Stir-Fried Beef w/ Roasted Vegetables - this was totally one of those meals that was thrown together with whatever odds and ends I could find.  We had cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, beets and onion - which are all vegetables I love roasted.  Then I stir fried some strips of beef I had frozen with a bit of an Asian twist - sesame oil, ginger, soya sauce and honey.  It was actually pretty good.

Squash Soup with Grilled Cheese - I thawed some squash soup and served it with grill cheese.  A fun idea would be to cut the grilled cheese into bite size squares for homemade "Croutons". 

Personal Pizzas - I had whole wheat pizza crusts in the freezer, just enough cheese and toppings to manage a pizza!  Another pizza Friday.

Homemade Chicken Fingers (Rachel Ray) w/ Roasted Potato Coins - I stock up on boneless skinless chicken breasts whenever they go on sale so I had some on hand.  On Friday's I like to do "convenience" food and while these chicken fingers aren't out of a box they don't take much effort either.  I like to mix the breadcrumbs with grated Parmesan cheese.  For the potato coins I simply microwave the potatoes and then slice them into rounds about a 1/4" thick.  Brush both sides with oil and bake at 450 until nice and crispy.  We still had carrots and celery to have on the side too!

Smoothie - Marin's smoothie love continues - this week was Strawberry & Banana (both from the freezer), Kiwi & Kale (both leftover from last week and in need of being used up), coconut water and honey.  One of our best yet!

Your kids don't like eating greens?  Maybe they'll drink them!

Parmesan Popcorn -- Remember last week I said I wanted to try a new popcorn recipe?  Well I found a winner.  Baking the popcorn gave it a nice crunch.  I packed the leftovers as a lunch snack and it was still crunchy the next day.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins - I had four of these gems from last week stashed away in the freezer.

So not too bad for only $20 in groceries!  I didn't even have to break out the KD.  But now I really, truly am out of food!

What are your go-to meals when life gets in the way of grocery shopping?


October 11, 2013

Week 40 - Snack Time

Printable Version of Meal Plan

We celebrated our anniversary last weekend by going out to one of our favorite local Italian restaurants.  We shared a cheesy appetizer, I ordered a pasta with a buttery sauce and then we shared a super rich chocolate dessert.  It was all amazingly delicious but I rolled out of there and was in a state of fullness for the rest of the weekend.  It made meal planning a real challenge because I wasn't in the mood to eat anything.  Add to that that Dave's schedule for the week was very up in the air.  So I jotted down some ideas and a loose plan and decided it would be one of those weeks that we just make up as we go along.

By Monday evening my fullness level was almost back to normal and I was ready to eat again so I made up for my uninspired meal plan by filling in the blanks with lots of tasty snacks.  So I'm skipping the regular week in review to instead talk about what we were snacking on...

Snack Attack!

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (Weelicious) - I had extra zucchini to use up so I found this recipe for Zucchini loaf and adapted it a bit.  I replaced the oil with apple sauce, used 1/3 cup of honey instead of 1/2 cup, added chocolate chips and made them into muffins instead of a loaf (they cooked in 20 minutes).  They made a dense and not overly sweet muffin which was fine by me.  My little taste tester approved too!  If you want to make them a little sweeter I'm sure an extra banana wouldn't hurt.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Hmmm... where did that muffin go??
Happy little taste tester.

Almond Milk (Oh She Glows) - I raved about almond milk when I started making it earlier this year and after taking the summer off I'm back in a groove, making at least one batch a week.  Once you make it a couple of times it really becomes something you can do with your eyes closed.  And it makes me happy to look in the fridge and see a jar of the frothy goodness.

Ricotta & Almond Spread w/ Fruit - If you start making almond milk you'll quickly realize you have to get creative with using all that pulp!  I love to mix it with ricotta cheese (roughly equal amounts) and a little maple syrup to use it as a dip for apples or pears or to spread on an English Muffin.  Yum is all I can say about that.  If you don't have almond pulp, almond butter (or peanut butter) are equally as good.

Veggies & Ranch Dip (100 Days of Real Food) - I'm trying to make veggies a daily snack (0 Weight Watchers points so eat up!)  I can eat raw veggies straight up but a little dip gives them some pizazz and our favorite at the moment is Ranch.  I premix the spices so it's a breeze to mix up little containers for lunches.  I'm also trying to get into a routine of cutting veggies early in the week so that they can be an easy grab and go snack any time.

Cheddar Crackers (Weelicious) -  We all love these cheddar crackers.  Must see if I can find a little pumpkin cookie cutter to add a little fun to the next batch.  Although I will say using a cookie cutter adds a great amount of time.  I typically just roll out the dough and then use a knife to cut them into squares.

Cheddar Crackers

Freezer Coconut Chocolates (Practical Paleo) - I made these on the weekend with a couple of simple modifications.  I added unsweetened shredded coconut and instead of making them using molds I lined a cookie sheet with parchment and froze the chocolate as one big square.  When it was fully frozen I used my hands to break it into small pieces which I'm storing in a bag in the freezer.  I find one piece the perfect little something when you want a sweet treat.

Roasted Chickpeas (Rachelleb.com) - I had extra chickpeas from my salad on Wednesday so I roasted them and seasoned with a little salt & cumin.  Yummy alternative to chips.  I like this recipe because it's the basic formula and then you can season them however you want.  These would be great tossed in a salad too!

Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted Squash - this was an accidental snack.  I had chopped my (buttercup) squash into small bite size pieces to roast for my salad on Wednesday... and then popped one in my mouth and realized it tasted like candy! 

Apple Chia Seed Jam (Oh She Glows) - I made a batch to mix in with my overnight oats and the extra I ate just as is.  So good.  I love everything apple this time of year.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars (Weelicous) - I actually made this recipe the weekend before last and we're just finishing them up.  Which is my main reason for being in love with this recipe.  They were easy to make, made a huge batch and last for up to two weeks.  And they were a hit with everyone in the family. 

Some of my other favorites that I've either recently made or are on my mind....

Pretzels and Tzatziki -  Pretzels had fallen off my radar for a long time so this was a treat last week.

Apple Chips - I loved these!!  They're easy to make but take a long time to cook so load up the oven with as much as you can.  I plan to get a batch of these in the oven for the weekend.

Apple Chips

Apple Sandwiches - I've taken a bit of a break from this one but have it on the brain again.  I typically do a nut-butter filling but if that's an issue for school this Nut-free "Nutella" (again... Weelicious.  Am I gushing??) would probably make a kid very happy!

Apple Sandwich

Potato Chips (Canadian Family) (or use other veggies such as sweet potato or beets) - guilt free chips, what's not to love!?  I want to try beet chips next week.

Roasted Edamame - I actually like eating just thawed edamame with a little salt but roasting kicks it up a notch.

Popcorn - We had two standard popcorn versions - Cheesy (butter and nutritional yeast) or Sweet & Salty (butter and honey with a sprinkle of salt).  I'm feeling the need to experiment with new seasonings.

Smoothies - Marin is feeling the smoothie love these days, I think because I typically give her creative control (within reason).  Last week we made a strawberry, chocolate (I mixed cocoa powder with maple syrup) and coconut blend that was awesome!  She also usually wants to add a green which is also awesome.  Smoothie packs and pops (make a smoothie and pour it into Popsicle molds) are great to have on a hand for a quick morning or afternoon smoothie fix.

And here's my helpful tip for the weekend... if you prepare a slow cooker meal before you head out for the day make sure you plug slow cooker in! 

Happy Thanksgiving!


October 04, 2013

Week 39 - Prep Ahead Meals

Printable Version of Meal Plan

I actually didn't plan on a theme this week but turns out most of my suppers were ones that I could prep ahead.  And I love a meal that's mostly done when I walk in the door!  It frees up time in the evening to prep supper for the next night... brilliant!!

Before we get into the details of the week I stumbled upon a link I thought I'd share.  My google stats are consitently showing that people are finding me with the term "Kid Friendly" so it would seem that feeding kids is a common struggle.  I thought this was a good article...Today's Parent: 10 Surprising Ways to Get Kids Eating Healthy.  This is us practicing #4...

Marin assembling the perfect bite.


Recipe Quick Links

Sushi Sandwich, Weelicious
Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats, My Whole Food Life
Simple Turkey Chili, All Recipes
Whole Wheat Tea Biscuits, 100 Days of Real Food
Salmon Cakes,  Source Unknown.  See Tuesday of Week 14
Kale Chips, 100 Days of Real Food
Quinoa Burgers, Eating Well Living Thin
Thai Peanut Noodles, Iowa Girl Eats
Kale Salad, Marin Mama Cooks
Tortillas, 100 Days of Real Food
Almond Milk, Oh She Glows
Granola Bars, Weelicious
Apple Pie Dip, Cookin' & Kickin'

Prep Ahead Tips

To stick with the theme I thought I'd skip the usual Week in Review and instead add some notes from each supper on what can be done the night (or even days) before to save time during the supper time "rush hour".   How much prep you decide to do can depend on how busy (or tired!) you are in the evening vs. how quick you have to get supper on the table.  I find doing even just a couple of simple things while I'm packing lunches can save time and cut down on mess while I'm trying to get supper ready.  Sometimes it's just the little things, like pre-measuring spices, that can help big time.

Chicken with Beet & Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette - This was a simple meal.  I cut the chicken breasts into cutlets and panfried them in coconut oil.  While they were cooking I assembled the salad - Arugula and kale mix for the greens, shredded beets and carrots, crumbled goat cheese and pumpkin seeds.  I made my standard balsamic for the dressing but added a little maple syrup to sweeten it up a bit.  I think roasted vegetables would have worked really well in this salad as well (I'm thinking beets and squash) but shredded made for a quick meal. 

Prep Ahead Options:
  • Prepare the Vinaigrette in a small mason jar and store in the fridge
  • Shred the beets and carrots
  • You could even make the chicken ahead of time... this Maple Dill Chicken is a great recipe for a tasty chicken that works well cooled, diced and tossed in a salad. 
Reinvent the leftovers:  There was enough salad leftover that I was able to toss it with some tofu and black rice (previously prepared and frozen) for lunch the next day.

Simple Turkey Chili - I Googled 'Simple Turkey Chili' and found this truly simple (and tasty) recipe.  We agreed that we preferred the ground turkey to ground beef.

Prep Ahead Options:
  • Pre-measure the spices and store them in a container next to the stove
  • Put the canned goods and can opener next to the stove
  • Make the Whole Wheat Tea Biscuits, if you're having them on the side
  • Optionally the chili could be made the night before and simply reheated
Or... use your slow-cooker and come home to a warm bowl waiting for you.

Reinvent the leftovers:  I made some macaroni and mixed it in with the leftovers to make a Chili Mac for the next days lunch.  We topped with shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

Salmon Cakes w/ Green Beans and Kale Chips - I've posted this recipe before, it's our favorite - mostly for the dipping sauce.  I used canned salmon this week and they turned out great.  The only step I did ahead of time was making the dipping sauce but as a shortcut I used the tube of cilantro (about 2 tsp) instead of fresh.  It's typically found in the produce section.

Prep Ahead Options:
  • Make the dipping sauce, which is also used to mix in with the patties. 
  • You can assemble these to the point of forming the patties and then simply fry them up at suppertime.

Quinoa Burgers on a Portobello Bun w/ Sweet Potato Fries - I've tried many a quinoa burger recipe, even making a few up as I go.  I liked this one for the consistency.  The mixture was pretty wet but when they cooked up they stayed together nicely but weren't at all dry.  I would suggest some fresh herbs and/or feta to give them a flavor boost though.  For the sweet potato fries I simply tossed them with olive oil, salt & pepper and roasted them at 425 until they were crispy.  I cooked the portobello mushroom caps with the fries and made a simple aioli for dipping using plain Greek yogurt, mayo (ratio 2:1) and minced garlic.

Quinoa Burgers

Prep Ahead Options:
  • Make the Quinoa... you could also make some extra for these brownies.  Just sayin'.... I mean you're making the quinoa anyway right??  Making the quinoa is a big time saver and the recipe actually calls for it to be cooled.
  • Shred the cheese, grate the carrot and chop the green onion
  • Pre-measure the spices
  • Cut the Sweet Potatoes

Reinvent the leftovers:  This recipe made a lot so we had leftover patties with a Kale Salad for lunch.

Chicken Fajitas! - Marin likes Mexican food so much that she literally had a melt down last week because I wouldn't make her nachos for supper.  Like I'm talking one of the biggest meltdowns I've witnessed in her 4 1/2 years of life.  I seem to have at least one Mexican meal a week lately but it's just such a crowd pleaser I can't help myself.  Everyone enjoying supper makes for a nice kick-off to the weekend too.  Plus I just really, really love to have an excuse to restock my tortilla supply.

Freshly made tortillas

To make the fajita filling I slice the chicken into strips and fry in a lightly oiled pan until no longer pink.  Remove the chicken and then saute sliced onions and peppers.  When they are almost done I add a spoonful of Mexican Spice Blend and a little salsa.  Add the chicken back in and stir it all up and continue cooking until the veggies are soft and everything is heated through.  Then we start with a tortilla and pile on the fillings! 

Prep Ahead Options:
  • Premix spices - Make extra and store in an airtight container for months.  I keep Mexican Spice Blend in my cupboard at all times.
  • Slice onions and peppers
  • Make tortillas - ok, ok, this is optional... you can buy tortillas I know.   But it just wouldn't be the same.  Trust me.  Tortillas can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for longer periods... but they'll only stay there for about a week or two tops.

Marin always likes to assemble her own quesadilla, nacho, fajita... and always puts a cherry tomato on top.  I told her last night we'd be having fajitas for supper so she set aside the last cherry tomato from her plate to have with her fajita.  I'm telling you this girl is serious about her Mexican food!

Tonight's Masterpiece

Happy Weekend!