Thursday, November 21, 2013

What We Ate

I promised more meal planning posts. Here's what we ate last week, after I wrote my last entry.

Wednesday: Beef stew turned pot pie. My favorite.

Thursday: Dinner at my mom's. My other favorite.

Friday: Spaghetti with my go-to "semi-homemade" staple sauce. 1lb of ground sausage, broken up and browned. 1 jar of ready made red sauce. Easy, quick and perfect.

Saturday: leftovers from the week.

Sunday: Oh, Sunday. I love Sunday dinner's. I roasted a whole chicken (smothered in butter, salt&pepper, and herbs de provence) along with carrots and onions. Mashed potatoes with dried chives, butter & milk. Gravy with chicken drippings. Easy & impressive. I also made cranberry applesauce (for Dash to eat for the week, but then I thought better because I obviously had to add sugar to offset the cranberry tartness. So, we ate it, a perfect complement to the faux-thanksgiving meal).

Monday: Peter got leftover Sunday night dinner. Ellie and I had whole wheat spaghetti with the perfect, simple tomato sauce. I blended a can of diced tomatoes and simmer it with a pat of butter and dash of both sugar and salt. Tasty and clean tasting - my favorite. I made blondies for dessert (like brownies, but no chocolate and made with melted butter and brown sugar). I've been on a hunt for a great blondies recipe lately. Haven't found it yet, but when I do, I'll share. I added toffee bit and toasted walnuts. Good but not great.

Tuesday: ball, dropped. Chinese takeout. Whomp, whomp.

Wednesday: Chicken and broccoli casserole. Old fashioned and perfection each time. Poach a couple chicken breasts and par-boil some broccoli florets. Mix together two cans of cream of whatever soup, about 1/2 cup mayo, 1-2 teaspoons curry and a dash of lemon. Mix all together, top with shredded cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake til bubbly, serve with rice. AND, I tried my hand at fresh pumpkin pie (roasted pumpkin off my front porch!). I'm not a dessert pie baker, and this wasn't perfect. The filling didn't cook just right, and was too sweet. Still perfecting the crust, too. No apologies though, we'll still eat it!

And that brings me to tonight! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Small Improvements, aka - Meal Planning

I'm on a mission to make as many small improvements as possible, with the goal of simplifying our life as much as possible. It's amazing how overwhelming the day to day activities can be with two young children. Even as I write this, at 11am, I'm not completely sure I brushed my teeth. And I'm definitely still in my pj's, as are my babes. :)

Here are some of the things I'm working on:
1) pick stuff up off the floor as you go. Obviously, this will be a work in progress for the rest of my life, but that's number one. It's easier to function with a clean floor.
2) Sleep train the kids. I'm still working on Ellie. She's stubborn, so getting her to go to sleep takes a ton of effort. Dash is next. Poor baby has no idea what's coming, but I can't keep up the charades of him taking 45 minutes to be put down. :(
3) Meal Plan. Hence this post.

I used to be really effective at meal planning. Even before kids, I recognized that planning for a week's worth of meals was not only time saving, but money saving as well. With kids, avoiding trips to the grocery store is an added benefit, especially as it's getting more and more difficult to keep Ellie in the cart and haul Dash in the ergo. It's been a good year since I've consistently planned our meals and executed them according to plan (being pregnant and sick throws meal planning way off, as does having a newborn!), but the time has come. Plus, we're in a stage now where Dash is sitting up but not quite mobile, so cooking is probably easier to do now than it will be for the next couple years. :)

So, once a week, usually Sunday or Monday, I think about what I'd like to eat that week. I plan against what I have in the house, and try to visualize what our weekly plans are (will we be having dinner with the family at all? will Peter work late at all?). I also plan for leftovers. Which meals will be enough to make into leftovers, and how many meals can I get out of any given meal? I also try to figure out when I will cook each meal, to make our days flow a bit easier, and to help me remember when to pull certain things out of the freezer.

I've been on a good roll too. For the last four weeks, I've stuck to the plan, and even managed to make a few non-planned meals out of food I already had in our kitchen - for some reason, this always makes me giddy with happiness. My hope is that I can write down (here, hopefully), what I did each week, if only to create a central location to reference for when I get cooker's block (that's similar to writer's block, of course!).

Monday: Carmelized onion, spinach, ham and cheese quiche. Crust recipe was super easy and I've duplicated it a couple times in the past couple weeks: 2 cups flour, 1 t salt (food process to mix). Add 2/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks, and 1/3 cup shortening, also chunked. Pulse in food processor several times until coarse like breadcrumbs. Add probably 5-7 tablespoons ice cold water, 1 at a time, while pulsing. When the dough can be pulled together, form in into a ball, wrap in saran wrap and put in the fridge or freezer til ready to use.

Tuesday: Pizza so good I made it three times in a week. I don't think I've ever made something three times in one week. Homemade pizza dough (I like Pioneer Woman's). Topped with pureed squash (hooray for having loads of roasted and pureed squash! Thanks Dash!), cheese (I've used both Fontina and a Norwegian triple creme, both were great), chopped up bacon, and then loads of shredded brussel sprouts. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. Bake at 500 til the sprouts are nice and brown. (15-20 min?).
I don't usually take pictures of our food, but I shared this with my step-dad
Wednesday: BLTs (with avocado for me, of course!). Bonus: the bread I purchased for BLTs was used throughout the week, and the bacon was used in the previous night's pizza.

Thursday: Marinated flat iron steak served with rice & black beans, warmed tortillas, lime wedges (and avocado for me, of course!).

Friday: Chicken Cordon Bleu casserole. It was okay. I topped it with stuffing drizzled with a little butter. Not my favorite, but I'd make it again if I ran out of ideas. :) Plus, I was able to use the ham from Monday night, and the cheese from the pizza.

Saturday: Chicken cooked in the crock pot, with salsa, corn and kidney beans. After a couple hours, I shredded it and served it in crispy tortilla bowls (prepared like this). Served with lime wedges, cheese and avocado for me, of course. :)

Sunday and Monday I made that pizza again, and right now I have beef stew simmering in the crock pot for tonight. Tomorrow night I'll shred up the leftover beef, and throw one of the frozen pie crusts I made last week on top, and turn it into pot pie. Tonight, I'll serve with bread sticks I made last night from extra pizza dough.

So, that was last week's dinners. I'm always looking for new, easy ideas, so let me know if you made anything successful last week!