Opposites

caprese nobake

These two items are completely opposite in nature, and that is okay with me!

First the caprese salad, which I am currently quite taken by. It is so simple and quick to make and tastes wonderful. Tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, a drizzle of olive oil, fresh ground pepper and coarse sea salt. Yum!

The second photo shows the ‘best ever chocolate oatmeal no-bake bars’ which I found at mommysavingmom.com. Again, this recipe is quick and simple and delicious. I left out the nuts, raisins or dried cranberries, more for my kids’ sakes than my own, although I would never add raisins anyway. I think dried cranberries would be very good in this though. I did not have quite enough peanut butter, so I used half peanut butter and half almond butter. I have a child who detests peanut butter, so I am waiting with bated breath to see if he will like these bars. Of course, he also is not a big chocolate-lover, so it might not really matter. And these bars are quite chocolaty! I think that I might use even more oats and coconut in the future to cut down on some of that chocolate goodness.

Menu Planning

I did something on Sunday that I have not done for a long time. I sat down with a list of what was in my freezer and a couple of cookbooks, and I planned out dinner for the entire week.

I first seriously started weekly meal planning in January 2012. It was great while it lasted, which was several months. Baseball season was the beginning of the end of my planning sessions, because our household lives in chaos from mid-April until mid-summer. Having time to actually prepare dinner is difficult enough during baseball season, let alone having enough time to plan ahead. I know that is a cop-out. Planning ahead would make life simpler, I know, but living at the ball park for three months wears me down. So, my meal planning fell apart, and I never got around to picking up the pieces until now.

Meal planning is always a challenge. There are varying degrees of picky children and conflicting schedules in this house. It isn’t easy to find meals that will be healthy and enjoyed by every member of the family, and I really do not want to eat those few meals several days a week! My oldest, most picky child believes in four major food groups: Subway, pizza, tacos, and spaghetti! While I do enjoy each of those meals, I want more variety than that.

Making healthy meals is another challenge. I strive to eat clean, but it is often a struggle. I am currently avoiding wheat, which may not be a forever choice for me, but I do think that I will generally consume very little. Sometimes a recipe can be easily adapted to be made without wheat without compromising the taste that my kids expect and enjoy; however, there are just as many instances where the end result really is not all I would like it to be. For example, shirataki noodles are a wonderful wheat-free option in lieu of regular pasta. I’ve used the spaghetti-style shirataki noodles with stir-fry and with spaghetti sauce, and both were great. Even the kids ate those noodles without batting an eye! Then I tried the fettucini-style shirataki noodles and they completely bombed. Honestly, it was like trying to eat rubber!

So, planning a week’s worth of meals often feels like a daunting task. I want to try new recipes but know they won’t likely be appreciated. I want to make healthier choices, but I don’t want to be throwing out leftovers. I want the benefit of having a plan, but I struggle with the interruptions to routine that throw wrenches into my plans. I might plan a more elaborate meal for a particular day, only to wind up driving a child somewhere right before dinner that night, and there goes my plan! And then, sometimes I just like being spontaneous. There are a lot of dishes that I have to be in the right mood for, and you cannot plan for moods.

Despite all that, I did sit down and I did plan out a week of meals. Let me tell you! Yesterday was the first day of the week, but my plan already saved me. Mondays are always long days, because I work a full day and usually have somewhere to be in the evening. Yesterday was no exception, but I also had to pick up two children from two different locations, and I did not have a solid time frame for the one. While I had hoped to pick up both kids by 3:30, we were not finally home until 4:30. It was so tempting to stop somewhere and pick up something that would be ‘quick’ and ‘easy’ instead of sticking to my plan, but having a plan made such a difference. When I made the plan, I knew that Monday would be crunched for time, so I planned the meal appropriately. The ‘pick up something quick and easy’ option would not truly have been as quick! By the time we would have picked up something up and got home, it would have been at least 5:00 pm. Instead, we were eating brown rice pasta with Italian sausage meat sauce and Caesar salad shortly after 5:00.

So, here is the rest of my meal plan for the week:

Tuesday: Chinese chicken and rice, raw vegetables (leftovers for picky kids)

Wednesday: Shepherd’s pie, a green salad and raw veggies

Thursday: roasted pork tenderloin, quinoa, corn

Friday: roasted salmon fillets, roasted asparagus, green salad

Saturday: I seldom cook on Saturdays, because I start work so early that I am basically in zombie mode by late afternoon.

Sunday: black bean soup (sandwiches for the picky kids)

Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Salad

This salad is so simple to make and so easy to manipulate. Fresh basil leaves, sliced tomatoes, and sliced fresh mozzarella, coarse Celtic sea salt, fresh ground pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar-that’s it! You could add sliced avocado. If you can get your hands on heirloom tomatoes or yellow tomatoes, they would create an interesting visual and wonderful flavour. You could use crumbled feta instead of the mozzarella.

I will admit that I found the mozzarella to be rather bland and boring. Perhaps I could have drizzled the oil and vinegar more generously?

Lunch

I have not been very good at bringing a lunch with me to work, but I know that doing so is a necessary step on this journey to clean eating and a healthy lifestyle. So, I bought myself a cute but functional lunch bag, and last night I prepared my lunch for today. Fat-free plain Balkan-style yogurt with fresh raspberries and blueberries. A southwest quinoa salad which I made last night.

Here is the recipe for my southwest quinoa salad, more or less, because I made it up as I went along.

You need 1 cup quinoa, cooked with chili powder and cumin, then allowed to cool. I think I used about 2 teaspoons of chili powder and 1 teaspoon of cumin.

In a large bowl combine the following:

  • the cooled quinoa
  • roughly a half cup of frozen corn niblets
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
  • roughly a half cup of canned black beans, rinsed
  • red onion, finely minced, as much or as little as you like
  • red pepper, finely chopped
  • a handful of chopped cilantro
  • a couple pinches of Celtic sea salt
  • juice from half a lime
  • one tablespoon of olive oil
  • one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

Beet, Spinach & Carrot Slaw

I do not particularly care for beets. I will eat them, if necessary, but I don’t like them. However, I do like this slaw recipe, despite the abundance of beets.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup fresh orange juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, and coarse salt and ground pepper.

Trim and peel about a pound of beets. Grate the beets and place in a strainer. Rinse until water runs clear, then squeeze dry with paper towel. Add to bowl.

Trim and peel two medium carrots and grate. Add to bowl.

Wash a large handful of spinach, then cut into thin strips. Add to bowl.

Toss to combine. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 4, although it could easily feed at least 6 as a side dish.