Meal Plan 9.27 – 10.2

Well, another week has come and gone, and we stuck to the meal plan pretty well! How are you holding up with this? 
Probably better than me. 
I’m feeling horribly “meh” about just about everything right now, and the challenge of this new school, this new group of students is wearing me down. Still no childcare finalized, still feeling unsettled. It’s been a tough week for a lot of different reasons.
So, I need some bright spots in my week, I need something to look forward to, something to be excited about, and because I am me – that thing is probably going to be food.
Here goes:
Sunday: Dinner at my mom & dad’s – something I will not make or plan or prep. Amazing.
Monday: Nothing on the calendar, so I have time for something more complicated & delicious. Gonna make something my kids really like: hand-cut, hand-breaded chicken fingers, roasted broccoli (dinosaur trees), sweet potatoes (yams), and (boxed) brownies. And ice cream. Hey, I warned you.
Tuesday: Husband has a work thing, but it’s also Michaelmas, so grilled cheese bar for me & the kids.
Wednesday: Tuesday was a feast for us (read more here if you want) BUT because of Husband’s work, we – as a family – are abrogating it. SO – Roast chicken, mashed carrots, mashed potatoes, and pie. Whether I make or buy the pie will depend on how the week unfolds (read: how Tuesday goes).
Thursday: Another night that Husband works, so frozen pizza, wine, and ice cream. #sorryI’mnotsorry

*A note about this, though – this is a win. I’m not picking up drive through, so I’m saving money. And probably calories. Idk, I hope anyway
Friday: Eggplant parmigiana. Done.
Don’t ask me about Saturday. I can’t think that far ahead.
Also I fail at shopping list. Sorry.

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A prep post

If we are being real, the meal planning isnt what saves time & makes life easier during the week. It’s the prep that makes the difference. 

This is obvious once you think about it: I can cut vegetables for four meals at the same time on Saturday, or I can do it four different times – after work, while my kids are melting down. I can clean up the prep work once, or four times. When I figured this out it blew my mind that I’d never thought of it before.

So, as an example: this coming week we are having chili, chicken fajitas, quinoa risotto, & a roast chicken dinner. On Saturday I slept in – all the way to 6:45, & at 7 I was in the kitchen making breakfast. Eggs, bacon, coffee, cinnamon rolls – we do weekend right.

At eight breakfast was done & cleared away, the kids were playing contentedly in the living room, & I was starting meal prep. By 10:15 the kitchen was clean, everything was done, & I was hanging out with my kids.

Here’s basically what I did:

Chili: the big one here is browning the meat. I saved the bacon grease in the pan, diced an onion, crushed a clove of garlic in & then added the pound of ground beef once the house smelled delicious. Flavored that with spices (oregano, cumin, cayenne pepper, a little seasoned salt, we are out of chili powder, go figure).

I let that sit & started chopping veggies for the fajitas & the risotto. 

Fajitas: this is all cutting. I tried to keep all the veggie cutting combined, so peppers & onions were cut, then I contaminated the cutting board with raw chicken. The package came with five breasts, so I took one & cut it in half to make two thinner pieces (like down the middle from the top? Idk how to describe this)

Anyway.

I sliced the chicken breasts into fajita-sized- strips & put them in a gallon size bag with the onion, pepper, & some seasonings (oregano, garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin…) & boom, Monday’s dinner is prepped. I put the other 2.5 chicken breasts in a separate ziplock bag in the freezer. Boom, next week supplies already.

Roast Chicken: Sunday we were having a roast chicken dinner & my mentality is if I have to clean up raw chicken mess, then I may as well kill two meals with one mess, y’know? So I got my old friend oven bags & some garlic cloves & I prepared the chicken for Sunday (post to come). 

Quinoa risotto: you can read the recipe here, & I basically did exactly that. I loaded the dishwasher & wiped the counters down while the quinoa cooked, & then put it all in an oven & microwave safe bowl & tossed it in the fridge. 

Start to finish just a hair over 2 hours & that includes stops to calm cranky babies & one diaper change. Not a bad price to pay for peace & calm in the coming week.

Ok, what are your meal prep secrets??

Meal Plan 9/20-9/26

There aren’t really words adequate to describe how much better this week went than last week. I’m not saying it was necessarily totally because I had my meals all prepped, but I think that definitely was a factor. Having that done made me feel like I was on top of my game – even if only in one facet of my life. That feeling of being ahead of the ball – even if only a little bit – makes all the difference for me.

One day I got home – and not early, actually about 40 mins later than I had wanted to get home – but because everything was already prepped I just got it started & was able to go for a walk with the kids. The sun was shining, the wind was whipping by & it was glorious. That’s exactly why this kind of organization matters – peaceful, relaxed time with my family makes my life better.

Ok, so. Here comes week two, are you ready?

Sunday, Sept 20th: we are having my family over to the new house for a Sunday late lunch/early dinner Sabbath meal. Roast Chicken, mashed potatoes, greens, salad, & mashed carrots. For dessert I’m making (boxed) red velvet cake with (canned) cream cheese frosting. Nobody tell my Gramma or my Aunt Ghee.

Monday, Sept 21: the plumber is coming to finally hook up the washing machine, & I swear to God this will be the fourth happiest day of my life. We have been here a month & some change without a washer & dryer & those of you who do it all the time, God bless you – your suffering is making saints. It’s fitting that today is also (another) minor feast for us, so a celebratory dinner is required: chicken fajitas, ranch green beans, and salad.

Tuesday, Sept 22nd: Husband has a work thing. Kraft Mac & cheese, roasted broccoli, & wine.

Wednesday, Sept 23: We are going to my brother’s soccer game, so it has to be something that can simmer alllll daaaaay – chili & bread.

Thursday, Sept 24th: Another work meeting. Leftover chili & wine.

Friday, Sept 25th: Finally, gloriously, a day with nothing! Quinoa “risotto” with mushrooms & bell peppers & salad.

Saturday, Sept 26th: As of right now there is nothing on the calendar, but I’m sure something will come up that I can’t foresee right now. Let’s say a smorgesborg of leftovers.

And, for your shopping list, you ready?

one whole roasting chicken (maybe two, probably two, we’re having my family over)
ground beef
chicken breasts
bacon
heavy cream (or half & half, or even milk if you’re counting calories, but . . . why?)
sour cream
shredded cheese
The good kind of parmesan (shredded, not “sprinkle cheese”)
quinoa
a can of black beans
a can of chili beans
a can of chili-ready tomatoes
two cans of mushrooms (it doesn’t matter, whatever’s cheap)
Chicken broth (or veggie broth if you take your meatless days hardcore)
a box (or three, however many you need) of Kraft mac & cheese
3-4 bell peppers
3 onions
garlic
a ridiculous number of potatoes (I like to get red-skinned for reasons of hackery you’ll learn here)
a bag of baby carrots (maybe 2?)
stuff to make salad
frozen kale/spinach
frozen broccoli
tortillas
a loaf of really good crusty bread, may need to buy this the day of so it doesn’t go stale

Quinoa Risotto

This is something I figured out after my friend Jayne explained what risotto was. It’s terrible for you, but so, so delicious.

A note: I frequently make this as part of our meatless meals, but if you’re not doing meatless, brown some italian sausage & toss it in, because it is amazingly delicious.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups broth
minced garlic (I like fresh, but do you)
1 bell pepper
1/2 onion
cream/half & half/milk
‘good’ parmesan (shredded)

Dice the onion & pepper, and add them to the garlic in a deep skillet pan. Once they smell amazing, add the quinoa and the broth. Let cook covered on low for 15-20 mins until all liquid is gone.

Add the Parmesan cheese, stir it in so it melts. Slowly stir in the cream/half & half/ milk. It’ll thicken up & make it all risotto-y. 

Serve.

Or stick it in the fridge & heat it up later in the week.

Chili

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This recipe is actually my father’s. It’s more of a ratio than a recipe, but hopefully you realize that that is just how we roll.
It’s best if you let it simmer for a loooong tiiiime in a crock pot. My dad is not a crock pot person, though, so he lets it simmer for a looooong tiiiiiiime on the stove on low. I have done both. I find the crock pot easier.

1lb ground beef

one onion

one bell pepper

one can of black beans

one can of ‘chili beans’

one can of chili-ready tomatoes

a mess of chili-related spices (cumin, chili powder, red pepper, oregano, etc)

I add, but my dad doesn’t: one can of mushrooms.

You can basically add whatever you want. I mean, obviously, it’s your chili. Do you.

Dice the onion and the pepper, and throw them in a nice big skillet/pan thing. Maybe with some butter. Maybe with a tiny bit of olive oil. I’ve done it with coconut oil, but Husband did not like that.

When the kitchen starts to smell delicious, add the ground beef & brown it. While browning it, add spices & salt, & all that. When the meat is browned, put it in the crock pot. Add all the cans of everything. Cook on low for an entire day.

Serve with sour cream and shredded cheese, & – if you’re feeling saucy – with bacon. Yes, of course.

Ranch Chicken & Broccoli

Unbelievably easy. Relatively healthy.

Chicken breasts

Frozen broccoli

Ranch seasoning 

Grease a large-ish casserole dish. Cut chicken breasts in half (either way, but I feel like they cook faster if you cut them into two thin, flat pieces through the middle) & place in the pan. Empty a bag or two of frozen broccoli into the pan. Sprinkle everything with a light dusting of ranch seasoning. Foil & fridge.

When time to cook, give it 45 mins or so (maybe more) at about 350-375, but always check with a meat thermometer.

Chicken, Cheese, & Kale enchiladas

First & foremost buy enchilada sauce. It’s time consuming & messy to make & if you’re the kind of person who makes their own enchilada sauce then seriously what are you doing reading this blog?

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So the idea to put spinach in the enchiladas came from Kendra, who is awesome.

Chicken (already cooked, preferably leftover)

Enchilada sauce

Shredded cheese

Frozen spinach/kale

An onion

Tortillas

First chop or dice or shred the chicken & dice the onion. Then put that, about half a bag of frozen spinach (or kale), two or three handfuls of shredded cheese & 1/2-2/3 of the enchilada sauce in a bowl & fold it all together.

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Grease a small casserole dish/oven safe pan.

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Spoon the filling into the tortillas, roll them up, & line them up in the pan. Pour the remainder of the enchilada sauce over it & sprinkle with another handful of shredded cheese. Foil & fridge, until it’s time to cook that at like 350 for 30-40 mins (until the cheese is all melted & the onions are cooked).

Greens

ETA: I edited this post after making kale using this recipe. I edited it to add a picture. This is a picture of my 2.5yo son’s plate. He ate ALL the kale I put on his plate when I made it this way.
KALE you guys, he ate KALE. And I put easily 3-4 tablespoons on there.

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See? There’s still sweet potato and meatloaf on that plate, but the kale is basically gone.

This is a recipe I got from my friend Karianna, who is awesome & her blog is great.

Leafy green plant (fresh or frozen, spinach, kale, collard, mustard, whatever)

Bacon

Frank’s red hot sauce

Buck’s seasoning

Stove top:

Start by frying the bacon in a deep skillet. When it’s getting that delicious smell, put the greens on top & sprinkle with Buck’s but be careful bc it’s salty. If you can’t get Bucks’s first I’m sorry because it’s delicious, but second seasoned salt works ok. When it’s getting to look pretty well cooked shake on a good amount of Frank’s red hot. Then taste it & adjust the Buck’s/Frank’s balance.

Crock pot:

First (always) put a crock pot liner in a small ish crock pot. I have used a small oven bag with success in my itsy bitsy crock pot. They say not to, but I’m a rebel.

Layer bacon, greens, Buck’s, & Frank’s but go really easy on the Buck’s & Frank’s because you can always add more but too much & now you’ve wasted time AND food.

Cook on low until it’s done.

Kidding (kinda). Cook for like 2-3 hours? Maybe just use the stove to be safe.

Meatloaf

As I mention in my about page I’m not really a recipe person. However, I can make a concerted effort to put together instructions which are like a recipe. Here is that attempt for meatloaf:

2lbs ground beef (or turkey)

bread crumbs

Shredded cheese

2 eggs

1 onion

Garlic powder

Italian seasoning

Barbecue sauce

First, grab two gallon size ziplock bags. Pour a good amount of bread crumbs into each bag (enough to make meatloaf with one pound of meat). You can always add more if the consistency is wrong, so err on the side of less. Next, add a handful or so of shredded cheese to each bag. Dice the onion & split it between the bags.

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Divide the 2lbs of meat in half & put one half in each bag. Crack an egg I to each bag, and add the garlic powder, seasonings, maybe some salt.

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Now press as much air out of each bag as you can & deal it shut.

Mix the meatloaf together by kneading it while it’s in the bag. This is a trick I figured out after too many child-related disasters while elbow deep in raw meat. Mix it together as much & as well as you can.

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Now, write the date & “meatloaf” on one bag & put it in the freezer.

You’re welcome.

Put the second meatloaf mix in a greased pan, cover with a little barbecue sauce, & throw foil over it before sticking it in the fridge for later.

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When it’s time to cook it, bake at 375 (ish) for 45mins to an hour. Poke it with a meat thermometer to be sure it’s safe. The internet says the safe internal temp for ground beef is 160, while turkey is 165. That seems arbitrary to me, but I don’t science.

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Alternatively, you could use a crock pot liner instead of a ziplock bag, then when it’s time to cook, put it in the crock pot on low for, idk, let’s say 5-6 hours. High for 4. Use a meat thermometer to be sure.

Always.

Meal Plan 9/13-9/19 (Can we start real life now?)

Today I looked at a calendar and realized that we’ve been living here for almost a month. It doesn’t feel like it. It feels like we are spinning in chaos & honestly I’ve been having a really hard time coping. Anyway, after my mom pestered me a little, I decided to get back to one thing that made my life a lot easier back before we moved: meal planning & weekly meal prep.

So, without further ado, here’s our plan for the week of Sept 13th through Sept 19th.

Sunday, Sept 13th: Husband will be busy at work aall daaay on Sunday & I will be there with the kids for at least part of it, so I made the executive decision that we are going to have pizza for dinner on Sunday. Happy Sabbath you guys.

Monday, Sept 14th: Today is a minor feast day for us (learn more here if you’d like) so I want to do something involving a little more effort, something we as a family really like – so we’re having meatloaf, mashed sweet potatoes, and greens (using as a base a recipe I got from my friend Karianna). I’m also going to make (boxed) brownies.

Tuesday, Sept 15th: Husband will be at work tonight, so I’ll heat up leftovers. It’s frugal . . . or something.

Wednesday, Sept 16th: Nothing going on – chicken & cheese enchiladas, using an idea I got from my friend Kendra a while back (I put frozen spinach or kale in the enchiladas to sneak extra veggies in, I know, brilliant, right?).

Thursday, Sept 17th: Ranch Chicken and Broccoli using a “recipe” so easy you’ll lose your mind.

Friday, Sept 18th: Shrimp tacos – this one you can’t really prep beforehand, so if you’re gonna have a busy day on Friday, maybe sub this with something else.

Saturday, Sept 19th: Husband will have another loooong work day, so I’ll heat up leftovers, or maybe we’ll go out. This is our swing day this week.

Also, I’ll be making chicken salad to have for lunch all week.

So here’s the shopping list for this week (I include a lot of things that I had in the pantry, so this is long & scary, but, y’know . . . adjust so it works for you):

Chicken breasts (enough for 3 meals)
ground beef (or turkey, whatever)
bacon
shredded cheese
sour cream
butter
eggs
green onions
white onions
celery
bell peppers
pico de gallo-style salsa (or the stuff to make it, but, like, I’m not gonna make salsa from scratch)
sweet potatoes/yams
frozen shrimp (I use the pre-cooked, de-veined, de-tailed kind because I’m lazy)
frozen kale/spinach (enough for two meals)
frozen broccoli (florets!)
tortillas (corn or flour, Husband prefers flour)
bread crumbs
enchilada sauce
ranch seasoning
mayo
mustard
Frank’s red hot (or other hot sauce)
oregano, garlic powder, Italian seasonings, etc

So, there you go! I’ll add a prep post eventually.

Good luck shopping!