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.


1 comment:

  1. What an awesome post - so incredibly helpful!!! I love the rice idea!!!