Things my Therapist told me (meal plan 11/15-11/22)

It is winter here.

It’s not snowing yet, but it is cold enough to need coats, & most importantly the sun is setting at 4:40 now, which means that when I work I won’t get home before dark until mid-January when the days get longer again. Right now the wind is whipping outside blowing frigid rain in all directions. If there were daylight we’d see white caps on the lake, but alas it is dark. Making lots of things in the crockpot lately. Dark evenings means lighting candles, fuzzy slippers, chili & stew & early bedtime.

I’m thinking a lot lately about mindfulness, about being present, & about how my attitude affects my experience. I am working on being present – present to my feelings, present to my kids, present to my husband. I’m thinking a lot about routine – I am the type of person who desperately needs routine & structure.

So, back at it, shall we? How’s the week look?

Sunday – we haven’t done this in a while – roast beef, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans.

Monday – nothing going on, everyone is home – chili is a good meal for miserable weather, & maybe some good bread to go with it.

Tuesday – husband is working for three days in a row this week, but I still want a good dinner for the kids & me. Maybe pasta pie? I want to see if this is something I can do in the crock pot.

Wednesday – chicken & rice soup & grilled cheese sandwiches. I made the broth last week from the bones of a rotisserie chicken because I’m a baller, but you can buy broth if you have a life or whatever.

Thursday – spaghetti & meatballs, a family favorite.

Friday – stuffed peppers – using a “stuffing” of quinoa, onion, spinach, cheese & whatever else is around.

Saturday – honestly probably picking up takeout. I’m just trying to be real here.

Sunday – feast of Christ the King! Fetucini Alfredo, oven-roasted chicken breasts, & greens. Cake (boxed, with canned frosting) for dessert.
Ok, what are you eating this week?

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A couple of hacks – a prep post

So, meal prep is tough. If you’re like me & struggling just to be organized even in what goes into your bag, then it gets a little tougher.

This week (Sunday) my mom came and we did meal prep together. It was great, because it’s nice to have somebody else to shop & chop veggies with, and also my mom is a ninja at trimming and cutting chicken, & then she washes the whole kitchen with bleach after like a BAMF. It was a little challenging for me because my mom & I have different organizational styles – we’re wired differently – and so I had a little bit of anxiety because I like to do things my way (go figure) but in the end the meals were prepped and the kitchen was cleaned and we all had a great dinner.

 

Here are some bits of wisdom I’d like to share from my own trial & error in meal prepping:

 

  1. Start with an empty dishwasher & clear counters. For the love of God, do this. If you’re the kind of cowboy who can roll with the punches and get past this then more power to you. I, personally, need to know I can put everything we’re using in the dishwasher as soon as we are done, thereby making the final cleanup that much simpler. Also, as you’ll see, I have raw meat germ anxiety, so this helps.
  2. Do some pre-food setup. I like to have the casserole dishes, crock pot liners, oven bags, whatever already set up & open on the counter before I start anything else. That way the time between finishing a task (chopping an onion) and having a clear space to start the next thing (opening a can of tomato sauce) is as short as possible.
  3. Chop veggies first. For me, cutting vegetables is the kind of chore that takes about the same amount of time whether I’m cutting one onion or seven. Do them all at once and then separate them into the containers/bags/bowls for each meal & you’ll save effort later (also if you’re anything like me you’ll save the “Wait, did the raw hamburger touch this cutting board? Because these peppers will be raw in a salad, so . . .” anxiety that plagues me). Need onions in every meal? Good, dice them all at once and split them into piles. Life just got easier.
  4. Prep meat last, eggs second to last. This is how I have to do it. So, for example, I’ll put the onion, bread crumbs, cheese, seasoning, sauce, etc into the bag (or bowl) where I’m mixing up meatloaf first. Then I’ll crack an egg into a bowl, then I put in the ground meat (turkey if my mom’s eating it) in, dispose of all the packaging for the ground meat, mix the meatloaf, wash hands thoroughly, put everything in the dishwasher, wash my hands again, then move to the next thing. Too many times I’ve realized AFTER grabbing the jar of oregano that my hands are covered in the possibly salmonella-y stickiness of raw meat.
  5. Label & put instructions on things. An example: if I’m making meatloaf, I always make two. Same effort, twice the output. Then I’ll label the second meatloaf clearly, because that’s my ace in the hole freezer meal for a week when I’m maxed out & behind. Another example: I work until 3:20, drive 15 mins to pick the kids up, then drive 45 minutes home. Husband usually works later, but maybe today he finished up early & is home before me. Clear instructions scrawled in sharpie on the aluminum foil covering the casserole dish means that dinner is already cooking before I get home. Yeah, invaluable, amirite?

So there you go, that’s what I’ve got as far as a prep post this week. Now you tell me – what secrets have you learned? What hacks have you invented? What ridiculous anxieties do you have in the kitchen? I want to hear it, dish it out (haha, get it) in the combox!

Sorry ’bout it… (meal plan 10/26-11/1)

I’m not very good at adult. It’s just the reality of who & what I am. We had son family stuff come up & I haven’t quite been able to get my shit together since. 

So, here’s my attempt at getting back on track:

Sunday 10/25 – having family over, let’s say pulled pork & coleslaw & maybe salt potatoes.

Monday 10/26 – the one night of the week husband will be home for dinner. How about mushroom chicken in the crock pot & steamed veggies?

Tuesday 10/27 – I have a meeting & husband works, can you say mac & cheese for everyone?

Wednesday 10/28 – husband works. DIY grilled cheese? It is the Feast of Sts Simon & Jude so I feel like something festive is appropriate. Idk, I can’t muster much on solo nights.

Thursday 10/29 –  husband *may* be home for dinner, so crock pot meatloaf, green beans, & sweet potatoes.

Friday 10/30 – breakfast for dinner! An egg bake with spinach, cheese, mushrooms, onions, etc. 

Saturday – probably dinner at my parents’ so we can take the kids trick or treating,

Sunday – 1/1 – feast of all saints & my brother’s birthday. Having my family over for dinner. My brother (turning 14) has requested fettuccini Alfredo with peas & grilled chicken.

There you go! 

My mom will be here with me on Sunday to prep, so I may even be able to do a real prep post for you. 
Have a stellar week you guys!

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.

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).