Meal Plan: Week of 9/15/13

I find myself enjoying — finally — some “down time” in that I have met all my immediate deadlines for both the book and freelance work for the time being. (That doesn’t mean I don’t have deadlines, it just means that, as of right now, I have a whole week ahead of me with NO DEADLINES.)

This weekend has been dedicated to baking, shopping, reading, watching the BK play baseball (Saturday), and finally dusting off my sewing machine. Today will be all about sewing. I’ve got tons of fabric for skirts (me) and dresses (LK), as well as napkins and aprons (which I plan to pop into my Etsy shop very soon).


I’ve also done a lot of research around lunchboxes and meal planning, trying to clean up the BK’s lunchbox (fewer chips and sweets, more fruit and veg!) and plan dinners that accommodate everyone’s extracurriculars (BK’s baseball, LK’s swim and dance, my Monday and Wednesday evening classes) as well as my newly reinstated Weight Watchers membership.

(Side note: I recently went in for my annual checkup with my GP and mentioned that I’m — still — not happy with my weight. She suggested I’d be a good candidate for Optifast, since I’m motivated and am good at maintaining my weight. I considered it for a little while, mentioned it to The Husband, who said, “Yeah, because living on a chemical slurry is SO MUCH HEALTHIER than eating real food.”)

So, I’ve been trolling Pinterest and Cooking Light magazine for recipes that meet all the criteria mentioned above, and I think I’ve struck a pretty fair balance with this week’s options. My biggest challenge so far is that sometimes we just end up making another plan for dinner (like when we ended up at the new Lucy’s Fried Chicken instead of having the homemade pizza I’d planned to make for dinner with the BK last Thursday). Most of the time, though, I can roll that over into the next day or week. Oh, and leftovers. We are and always have been MISERABLE at managing leftovers. I welcome any tips or suggestions y’all might have on how to reduce leftovers-related waste.

Sunday: Chicken tamale casserole, veg, fruit
Monday: Slow cooker bolognese, pasta, salad, fruit
Tuesday: Burrito bowls, fruit
Wednesday: Slow cooker balsamic chicken, veg, fruit
Thursday: Italian wonderpot, salad, fruit
Friday: TBD. (If we could have a standing Friday-night dinner at Torchy’s, I’d be a happy woman.)
Saturday: TBD. We’re going to see the new Forklift Danceworks show that evening, so it might just be sandwiches.

Meal Plan: 2/12-2/18 (with recipe!)

It’s RETURN OF THE MEAL PLAN!!! After a week of WAY TOO MANY meals out, I put together and shopped for a meal plan that has us eating home every single night this week. My goals for this week’s meals were to have at least two vegetarian dinners, keep waste at a minimum, and be weight-loss friendly. (I’ve also written a meal plan for myself that has each day’s meals/calories/snacks planned out in advance because, dammit, I really want to be able to fit into all the cute clothes in my closet!) Of course, it didn’t help that after tonight’s pretty darn virtuous dinner, I had half an individual black- and blueberry pie from Pie Fixes Everything topped with a slightly unreasonable dollop of vanilla ice cream. Baby steps.

I’ve listed the mains here, but I also have a bunch of veggies from Johnson’s on hand: Brussels sprouts, carrots, bok choy, beets, and purple cauliflower. I’ve also got some salad fixings from the grocery. I just need to get some fruit that isn’t clementines, tangelos, or oranges. I’m not really a huge fan of summer, but I am ready for some fruit that isn’t citrus.

Sunday: Taco ‘Tater Skins (pictured above, recipe below)
Monday: Inner Peace Brown Rice and Cashews
Tuesday: Chicken with Pepperoni-Marinara sauce
Wednesday: leftovers
Thursday:Vegetable and Tofu Pad Thai (with a side of shrimp for the boy)
Friday: Pork and Potato meatloaf
Saturday: Leftovers/freezer surprise

The meal I made tonight was quite delicious and satisfying. I found it on Gina’s Skinny Recipes and, because I am lazy and skipped over certain parts of the recipe, I am going to post my cheater’s version here. I have renamed them Taco ‘Tater Skins because I refuse to call something “Santa Fe” just because it has black beans and corn in it.

Taco Tater Skins
adapted from Gina’s Skinny Recipes
(I don’t have a Points+ value for these, but I reckon they’re about a 5? Or a 7? I really have no idea.)

4 large Russet potatoes, cleaned and pierced with a fork
3/4 lb. ground turkey breast
1/2 white onion
cumin to taste
salt to taste
1 cup jarred salsa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
shredded cheese (I used a cheddar-monterey jack blend)

Preheat the oven to 450. After washing and piercing the potatoes, wrap them individually in foil and place them in the oven. Bake for 1 hour.

While the potatoes are baking, dice the onion. Warm about a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until soft. Add the turkey and saute until cooked through. Add the cumin, salt, and salsa and stir until combined. Add the beans and corn, mix thoroughly, then cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

After the potatoes are done, remove them from the oven (leave the oven on). Cut them in half and scoop out the insides, leaving about a quarter-inch of flesh on the inside of the potato. (I put the potato innards in the freezer to use when I need mashed potatoes.) Once the innards have been scooped, arrange the potatoes on a baking sheet (cover it with foil if you want easier cleanup). Place 1/2 cup of filling into each potato half (you may have excess filling; divide it evenly among your potato halves or just save it for later). Sprinkle some cheese on top of each half, then put the baking sheet in the oven. Bake until cheese is melted.

Serve with sour cream, if you like, or more salsa, or jalapeno slices, or guacamole, whatever.

Slow Cooker Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

Oh, this life as a food writer (and as someone who is surrounded by other food writers/bloggers and lovers of food) is wearing on me. And by “wearing on me,” I mean “I have to log 15-20 miles per week running or on the elliptical in order to fit into what few items of clothing I have that still fit me.” Sometimes you just have to clean that mess up. And with the weekend ahead of me — lunch tomorrow at Lucky J’s and dinner at Lucy’s, plus a baby shower here and a Super Bowl potluck on Sunday — I suspect I will be on an all-juice diet at least one day next week!

But tonight was all about vegetables, getting some fiber down the hatch in a pleasurable way. I had planned to make these for a vegetarian mommy meal, but a casserole presented itself for that family and we wound up having these all to ourselves. I like these because they are not super heavy in cheese (although they could be if you wanted them to) and they are mostly vegetables. I found these via Pinterest, and tweaked the recipe to suit what I had on hand (primarily a large bundle of spinach I’d bought at the farmers market and needed to use up). Once they’re cooked, they more closely resemble chilaquiles than enchiladas, but what is really important is that they are really, really delicious with the bonus of being incredibly easy.

(And we shall not speak of the peanut butter brownies and lemon sponge cake in the fridge.)

Slow Cooker Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

adapted from The Kitchn

1/2 white onion, diced
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup light sour cream
2 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1 t salt
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a blend of cheddar and monterey jack)
3 cups salsa (I used Mrs. Renfro’s)
12 small corn tortillas

Mix together the onion, spinach, beans, spices, sour cream, and 1/2 cup cheese in a bowl.
Pour 1 cup salsa into the slow cooker and cover the surface of the crock.
Make a single layer of six enchiladas by filling each tortilla with about 1/4 cup of filling, then rolling it and placing it on top of the salsa.
Spread a cup of salsa on top of your first layer, then sprinkle it evenly with 1/2 cup of cheese.
Make the second layer of enchiladas with the remaining filling and six tortillas.
Top with the final cup of salsa, but do not top with cheese.
Cover the crock pot and cook on high for about 3 hours.
15 minutes before serving, top with the remaining cheese and allow to melt.

Curried Chicken Pan Roast, or, coping with failure

This week has been so, so stressful. I keep thinking things will calm down, but they just keep escalating. My opportunities to work on my dissertation (I’m on my fourth and final chapter) keep getting curtailed (this week I got more time than usual, but I only managed to get a sentence or two written yesterday due to the kids being home for a snow day), and this causes me a lot of anxiety. I would really like to get an April defense date on the books, but there are people who have had my three other chapter drafts for MONTHS and I’ve gotten no feedback. I don’t know how to interpret this silence, but my default setting is OMG THEY HATE MY CHAPTERS AND THEY HATE ME. MIGHT AS WELL GO GET THAT APPLICATION IN AT McDONALDS. (I’m sorry. I know that I just went all Dooce on you with the all caps. I need to find a more creative way to be emphatic.) But I just keep plugging away under the impression (delusion?) that I’ll have all of my committee stuff ironed out and a defensible draft by April 15. I haven’t entertained the other prospect.

Additionally, back in the summer, I signed up to run a half-marathon, which is now two weeks away. I have yet to do a 13.1-mile run. In fact, I haven’t run in more than a week. The weather here has been quite cold and blustery and while I don’t really have an issue with running in the cold (because you don’t stay cold for long!), but when that 30 degrees is accented by frigid 20mph winds, no deal. And I can’t stand running on a treadmill or on an indoor track. I’m a very fussy exerciser in that regard. (That’s also why I stopped doing Zumba and Total Body workouts on campus, because I also can’t stand to work out among a bunch of 20-year-olds who weigh 100 pounds soaking wet and all of their body fat is in all the right places.) The weather is supposed to improve this coming week (apart from another cold, wet blast on Wednesday), so I can get back out on the trail and bust out some miles, but I am very, very, VERY anxious about what I’ve committed to do two weeks from tomorrow. In fact, there’s still a possibility I’ll chicken out and sell my bib to someone who failed to register before all the spots sold out.

And we won’t even talk here about all of the unfinished craft projects I’ve got floating around here, the disaster area that is my sewing room, and so on. There are so many loose ends flapping in the breeze over here, the only way I’ve found to cope with it is inertia. I was in bed last night at 8pm, watching bad stand-up comedy until I finally succumbed to sleep.

One thing, though, that I’ve found satisfaction in is cooking dinner, especially with my forays into roasting chicken. I’ve gotten it into my head that I want to have some variation of roast chicken for Sunday dinners. My first outing was a recipe from the Lee Brothers that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It turned out pretty well, except that I didn’t adjust the cook time for the larger chicken and it was a bit undercooked when I attempted to carve it. Which resulted in a roast chicken that was a bit dry in spots once it was totally cooked through, but it was tasty.

Last Sunday, I tried this recipe, despite the fact that my husband was in the Flu Cave and wasn’t eating anything but applesauce (he finally emerged on Tuesday, but he’s still fairly low energy). I had gotten two bone-in chicken breasts and four drumsticks, with the plan to pack those in Harrison’s lunch box. I was particularly excited about the winter veg that would roast with the meat; I adore Brussels sprouts and butternut squash is the only squash I’ll eat (I hate zucchini and I have a mild allergy to summer squash). I used “Punjab” curry instead of the Madras the recipe calls for; I’m not sure what the difference is between the blends, although I’m sure they both feature coriander, turmeric, and cumin.

I thought this chicken was delicious, and the way the veg caramelized in the pan was just delightful. The next time I make this (and there WILL be a next time), I’ll probably halve the oil and maybe use some chicken broth to moisten the veg because 4T of oil just makes me uneasy (oh, hey! I forgot to mention how I’ve totally been cheating on my diet and have stopped losing weight as a result! Yay!). Sadly, I was the only one who ate any of this meal. Harrison roundly rejected the chicken because the skin was yellow (from the turmeric). Laurel doesn’t eat any meat, and Matt was, as previously mentioned, on an all-applesauce diet. I did my best to work through the leftovers, but ended up tipping three of the drumsticks into the garbage (the breasts were HUGE, and I didn’t get the rest of the meat into the freezer before it was too late).

So, I’ll keep plugging ahead with my roast chicken project because it really is so simple, hearty, and pleasing. And these days, I need to take the small victories where I can get them.

A non-dairy treat and that soup recipe I promised

I had the good fortune to sample these while at Costco on Saturday (the cranberry almond flavor), and snapped them up immediately. Apparently, they come and go, so I may need to sneak back over there and stock up. Only 2 POINTS per pack! Awesome!

I bought new running shoes I can’t afford today. I really, really needed them and they are quite comfy and I really, really need to start running again. I’ve never had Sauconys before, but if the price is any indication, I’ll be running alongside Katie and Lance in next year’s New York Marathon.

Here’s that soup recipe I promised last week before I got my panties in a twist about stone-age feminism:

Butternut squash and carrot soup
1.5 c. butternut squash, cubed
1 c. carrots, diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4c. diced onion
1/4. celery
1 sprig thyme
1 quart vegetable or chicken broth

Heat olive oil over medium heat in 2-quart saucepan
Add onions and celery and saute gently until onions are translucent
Add squash, carrots, and thyme sprig and saute for another 2-3 minutes
Add the broth and increase heat. Bring soup just to a simmer and lower heat
Cover and continue to simmer soup gently until carrots are tender, approx. 25 minutes.
Remove soupd fromheat, discard thyme sprig. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.
Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.
Serves 4, 1.5 POINTS per serving.

The potato chips of mourning*

I’ve been quiet. This week has been incredibly busy, with deadlines out the wazoo. I have another deadline tomorrow, but am not sweating it as much as the paper and Spanish test I had on Thursday.

This class I’m taking on Thursday nights is killing my soul. I am currently taking it for a grade, but am trying to get my status changed to credit/no credit now that it appears it’s not required for my coursework. Ugh. I got my “homework” back from the previous week on Thursday and I got a “check minus.” I am 35 g-d years old and getting my PhD. Check minus has no place in my world. I don’t even give my undergrads check minuses. You know why? Because they are adults, not third graders. Never mind that I’ve spent two weeks reading the book that was the subject of the homework, trying very conscientiously to absorb and understand it. Nor that I’ve been laboring for the past several months on a book project that has snowballed in the home stretch before submitting the manuscript to the publisher’s. Nor anything else that’s going on my life. Nope. Check minus. That’s what I earned. What. the fuck. ever.

Needless to say, I had a bit of a fit. Not publicly, and not directed toward the prof, but there were tears. And if I hadn’t had a weigh in at WW the next morning, there would probably have been wine and/or chocolate.

But I was good, and the scale reflected that on Friday morning. 3.2 pounds gone my first week back in the saddle! It’s amazing how easy it is, although eliminating dairy presents a bit of a challenge in that it is so easy to just grab a yogurt and a piece of fruit for breakfast. A girl can only have so much oatmeal. Since my meeting is on a Friday morning, the first weekend back was pretty difficult. I spent those first couple of days just retraining myself to snack on fruits and veggies instead of Wheat Thins and Goldfish. Once the workweek started, it was much easier to track points — it helps not being five paces away from the pantry, too.

And, of course, I did exactly what I swore to myself (and to M, my WW partner in crime) I wouldn’t do after our first meeting together. The women in the meeting were talking about all of the voodoo/borderline anorexic things they do before meetings. Don’t eat anything with too much salt the night before. Don’t wear jeans. If your meeting is in the morning, don’t eat breakfast. I used to do all of those things, and I hated that I was such a slave to what that scale would say, a reflection of my “true weight.” But, of course, I ate the blandest, most salt-free thing I could find on Thursday night, and nothing passed my lips on Friday morning until after my weight had been recorded. Ridiculous. Also, I’m superstitious and will make sure I weigh on the same scale each week.

It’s crazy, I know, but if it keeps me going and keeps me losing, I guess I’ll just have to settle for being crazy.

Yesterday, I went to Stitch with C and L and spent a LOT of money. But I got some Yule gifts and a very cool t-shirt for myself (which I did not pay $45 for). I am very committed to purchasing handmade or making Yule gifts this year, but I’m going to have to reconcile myself to the fact that handmade stuff is going to cost more than the lead-drenched, Chinese sweatshop-produced plastic crapola you can pluck off the shelves at Target. But damn, it is hard to justify paying $28 for an embroidered American Apparel t-shirt for rapidly growing children, even though I know I’d be supporting entrepreneurial mothers and friends.

I have work to do, so should sign off. Tomorrow, a recipe for butternut squash and carrot soup. Yum.

*with apologies to Avital Ronell