Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jan. 1: Meal Planning 101

The key to eating properly is preparation. I find that most of us fall off the wagon when we aren't prepared. Hunger is a powerful motivator to grab something at Taco Bell's drive-thru. I find that if I make a bunch of basics all at once then there is always something to grab quicker than you can say "Happy Meal"!

This is a revamp of a post I wrote almost exactly a year ago - Jan. 2, 2010.  Clearly, this plan has worked for over a year for us!
Once a week I do a big food prep and usually there is a little more cooking once or twice a week. I like to have certain basics on hand so that I can put a meal on the table (or in the cooler) in a snap.

I always have the following items prepared because I can change up the flavors and have many different types of meals according to how the day is going:

baked brown rice (recipe below)

cooked chicken breasts

veggie steamer bags (instructions below)

ground meat (usually turkey or chicken, sometimes beef) (recipe below)

some type of salad

I always have these staples on hand:
canned beans
whole wheat pita bread
frozen corn
whole wheat pasta
canned spaghetti sauce
tomato juice and tomato paste
baby spinach
natural peanut butter
frozen fruits and vegetables
a nice organic granola

This is the stuff that works best for my family and our particular tastes.  You have to balance this out with your own family's favorites.  For example, f you detest yogurt, clearly that isn't a good option.

Steamer Bags of Veggies:

My kitchen would not be complete without steamer bags full of veggies. As soon as I get home from the grocery store, all veggies that are to be cooked over the week get washed and prepped for cooking (cut up, peeled, etc.) Then the veggies are placed in steamer bags with a sprinkling of Mrs. Dash or other seasonings. I always have several in the fridge to choose from. Right now in my fridge I have bags of : cabbage, broccoli, broccoli and cauliflower, cauliflower and carrots, asparagus, and green beans and carrots. They get nuked for 4-6 minutes and then are all set. (Note: in the winter when produce is very pricey and not so fresh, I substitute frozen veggies for fresh - you can still use the steamer bag method, or you can just nuke them in a covered dish.)

If I am in a hurry ( which is most of the time) I steam the veggies before adding them to the stir fry skillet - it really speeds things along!
Mexican Ground Meat

1 pound of ground meat ( lean beef, chicken breast or turkey breast)
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
chili powder to taste
1/2 can of tomato paste (or a squirt of ketchup)

Saute veggies in a bit of olive oil. Add meat and cook until browned. Add chili powder and stir in tomato paste. Thin with water if necessary. Cook for a couple of minutes until blended. This mixture is good for a quick taco filling, spaghetti sauce, or chili. It is also good stirred into rice and topped with salsa for an all in one dish.

Baked Brown Rice

This recipe is a modified version of Alton Brown's Baked Brown Rice - you can check out Alton's version at this link.

1 1/2 cups of brown/wild rice mixture
2 1/2 cups of homemade stock (you can use an organic canned chicken broth - you don't want MSG!)
1 cup of baby spinach
1/2 cup carrots
2 cloves garlic
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F. Bring stock to a boil on the stove. I use a pot that can go in the oven to make things easier. While boiling stock, put spinach, carrots and garlic into the food processor and pulse until it is coarsely ground. Add the veggie mixture and the rice to the pot and immediately put the lid on it to seal it tightly. Place this in the oven for exactly one hour and you will have a big pot of perfect fluffy rice.

I usually have my chicken breasts baking on the other rack in the oven at the same time.
With the rice you have a side that goes with any meal: Mexican, Chinese, Greek - it is very versatile. It's also delicious in a soup.

Here is a list of meals that can be quickly put together using the above foods:

 ~ chicken and broccoli stir fry over rice ~

~ rice and chicken skillet with salsa ~

~ pita sloppy joes with ground meat ~

~ spaghetti with meat sauce ~

~ Mexican meat and rice ~

~ chicken soft tacos ~

~ ground meat soft tacos ~

~ chili ~

~ chicken vegetable soup with rice or noodles ~

~ chicken cacciatore with pasta ~

~ pita pizza with chicken and veggies ~

~ chicken pita w/ tzatzki and veggies ~

~ Mexican pita pizza ~

~ garden salad with chicken ~

I hope this gives you a few ideas for meal planning and food prep. This system is working really well for us. It's family friendly and best of all, there is constantly good food ready and available.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dec. 29: And more things to do with turkey.....

BBQ Pulled Turkey

1 serving per person of turkey breast
BBQ sauce of choice - I like the spicy/sweet ones
finely chopped onion, peppers, jalapenos (to taste)

In a microwave safe bowl, take two forks and shred the turkey breast until it's stringy.  Stir in your chopped veggies and BBQ sauce - I like to use enough sauce to cover the top layer of turkey.  Stir well and put the turkey in the microwave - heat for about two minutes per serving.

You can serve this on a bun, in a wrap or just on a plate with some salad on the side.  It's some yummy stuff and bears a strong taste similarity to something you've simmered all day long!

Tomorrow's recipe is going to be turkey noodle soup - stick around for it - so YUMMY!!!!

The holiday pounds are gathering and rejoicing on my tummy, giving me a really awesome muffin top in my work clothes.  You can imagine my delight.

The back issue is getting worse.  I've been to the doctor, who says she is as certain as can be that I have one or more herniated discs.  I declined the MRI because she said she would not be treating me any differently if I stuffed myself into that tiny claustrophobic tube.  I hate the helplessness of this - I'm starting to feel like a cripple - I hobbled around all day today and bear a rather strong resemblance to Quasimodo. 

I have some physical therapy exercises I can do to help, which is great - makes me feel like I'm actually accomplishing something. 

I'm using heat almost constantly, which relieves some of the pain.  The other options offered were heavy duty painkillers, epidural painkillers and a bunch of stuff I can't afford (massages, etc.)    I've chose to stick with ibuprofen because it dulls the pain to a tolerable level and I can still function.  No way are they shoving needles in my spine.  Just, ew.  Not gonna happen.  This isn't much of an update because there is simply nothing new to tell.

I hope all is well and you are enjoying your turkey!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dec. 27: On the Second Day of Turkey my True Love Made for Me....

Okay, no true love - I made it for myself.  But I have two yummy turkey leftover dishes for you!

Turkey Caesar Salad

You will need:

~ A huge bowl of baby spinach
~ A serving of turkey breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
~ A handful of croutons of choice
~ Bacon (I use the Kirkland's bacon crumbles - kind of fattening but not as artificial as some stuff)
~ Freshly chopped minced garlic
~ Light Caesar dressing

Mix your salad dressing with the fresh garlic - this will give you a decadent, restaurant-style salad dressing (and very stinky breath).  Build your salad and stir well.  This is a super quick dinner!

Turkey "Fried" Rice

You will need:

A pot of baked brown rice
2 servings of turkey breast, chopped
minced garlic to taste
soy sauce
olive oil

I use  my cast iron skillet for this and I always make enough so I have leftovers for lunch the next day.

In your skillet, saute minced garlic in the olive oil until golden and fragrant.  Stir in your turkey and turn the heat up to high.  When things are really sizzling add some powdered ginger and soy sauce and stir well.  Then stir in 2 servings (based on your personal intake) of brown rice and mix well, cooking on high for about 2 minutes until the soy sauce is nicely caramelized on the mixture.

I serve this with steamed veggies and I top it with some spicy red pepper jelly that I got from Costco (so spicy/sweet and delicious!)


Today I got so much accomplished.  I tackled my 10 year old's bedroom (shudder).  I took 4 garbage bags of stuff to the car to be donated tomorrow and 3 garbage bags full of, well, garbage, out of that room.  It's unbelievable what a disaster it is. 

I'm really trying to declutter and downsize - my car is loaded to the hilt with donations of bedding, towels, toys and kitchen items - this is all stuff I moved here in October that remained packed so I figure if I haven't needed it yet, I can live without it.

Hopefully decluttering my house will help me declutter my body.  I ate well today and felt much more energetic for it.  I'm back to work tomorrow and really have my fingers crossed that I will be able to stay on track.

Have a great week!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dec. 26: Tons of Turkey!

Today my kitchen has been a turkey processing plant.  (Not in the yucky chemical way, of course!)

First, I sliced the remaining turkey breast and bagged up meal sized portions for the freezer.  I took the remaining dark meat and carcass and portioned it out between my two stockpots and my crock pot.  In each pot I added fresh whole cloves of garlic, a whole onion, a handful of carrots and a handful of spinach, as well as sea salt.  Then I covered the contents with water and simmered for 8 hours.  I was left with enough flavorful stock for 3 large pots of soup and 4 one-cup servings for cooking rice.  Then I removed the dark meat from the bones (an easy task after simmering for that long) and bagged up three 1.5 cup servings of the meat to add when I make soup.

I don't usually make a whole turkey but this has been a learning experience.  Leftover queen that I am, it thrills me to have such a full freezer!  I got the 17 pound turkey from my workplace. 

So what am I going to do with all that turkey? 

Top 10 things to do with Turkey
~ turkey noodle soup ~
~ turkey sandwiches ~
~ turkey Caesar salad ~
~ BBQ pulled turkey ~
~ smoked turkey and bean soup ~
~ turkey salad sandwiches ~
~ turkey fajitas ~
~ turkey stroganoff ~
~ turkey "fried" rice ~
~ turkey tetrazzini ~

I bet you can guess the basis for this week's meal plan!

Sunday: Turkey Caesar Salad
Monday: Turkey "Fried" Rice with Steamed Broccoli
Tuesday: Broccoli Soup (I might need a break from all that turkey!)
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Grilled chicken pizza with the kiddos
Friday:  New Year's Eve party

I'm kidless today and tomorrow - the girls have gone to their grandparent's house until Thursday.  I got up and went to the early church service and then did what little grocery shopping was needed this week.  I then packaged up all that turkey and managed to shove it into my thoroughly stuffed freezer and fridge, and the rest of the day will be spent purging and organizing.  (God bless the Flylady!)

I started a new blog today chronicling my financial issues.  Don't worry, it won't be as dismal as it sounds! There may be some cross-over, but anyone that is having, or has had, financial problems may be able to relate as I try to dig myself out of the hole and hide out from bill collection terrorists.  Check me out at Life in a Pinch.

I hope everyone continues to have a wonderful holiday weekend.