Menu plan, January 19-26

My boys with their "poppa"

My boys with their “poppa”

My mom and dad are visiting this weekend!  I love it when they come to visit, even if it means my dad will find projects to work on around my house that I never even know needed to be done.  =)

For those of you that are new to my weekly meal plans, breakfasts these days are almost always oatmeal or toast with peanut butter & banana and a hard-boiled egg or two.  I usually take dinner leftovers for lunch at the office, since I got out of the habit of eating sandwiches while I was pregnant (listeria and whatnot), and now I’m too lazy to make a sandwich in the morning.  I’m not following my theme nights this week since I’m off work on Monday for MLK Jr. Day.  Here’s what we’re having this week:

Sunday – meatloaf, roasted sweet potatoes, green beans  (This meatloaf recipe makes a LOT, so I usually split it into two “loaves” and freeze one for later.)

Monday – Chicken & pesto with spaghetti squash

Tuesday – Falafel, pita & Greek salad (aka Greek Night, one of my favorites)

Wednesday – Leftovers

Thursday – Thai-style ground beef, brown rice, and stir-fried carrots, bell peppers & sugar snap peas

Friday/Saturday – eat out/leftovers/ and maybe some chicken tortilla soup?  Do you have a recipe you can recommend?

What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to getting dinner on the table — figuring out what to cook, getting to the grocery store to shop, having time to cook, or not knowing how to cook the things you want to?  

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Linking up with the Menu Planning Challenge from Mommy Run Fast & Fitness, Health & Happiness

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Cooking School: Veggie Haters

Photo Credit: Nati's Cakes via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Nati’s Cakes via Compfight cc

New Year’s Resolutions – love em or hate em, you’ve got to admit that trying to eat a little healthier (a very common one) is a pretty good goal.  But what if you just don’t like vegetables?  Or if you like them, but you’re trying to cook healthier meals for your family and you’re getting some major push-back from someone else in the house?  It’s time to deal with cooking for the veggie hater.

This post was inspired by a question I got from a friend of mine.  She’s a young wife and her husband hates vegetables.  In her words, he “will eat a kiwi or baby carrots about once a month, but it’s very difficult to get him to eat non-meat/bread/processed things.”  Whether you eat vegan, paleo, or something in between, I think we can all agree that eating baby carrots once a month is not going to cut it in the fruits and veggies department.  Here are my top three strategies for cooking vegetables for the veggie hater.

Hide them.  Stay with me.  I’m not going to go all Jessica Seinfeld on you here, but I do think that hiding veggies has a place in a healthy diet.  I don’t mean hide as in don’t tell the person they’re eating veggies (although you might have to try it), but hide as in make them as unobtrusive as possible.  We could all stand to eat more vegetables in our diets, why not make a few servings really easy?  Shredded or pureed vegetables can be added to many foods with little or change to the flavor of texture.  

Try adding pureed red or orange vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, or red bell peppers into chili or other creamy soups.  (The really easy approach is to use pureed pumpkin, since you can buy it already pureed.)  Speaking of chili and soups – if you’re making anything soupy, you should be able to substantially increase the vegetables without affecting the flavor much.  Shredded carrots or zucchini can be added to muffins.  It’s pretty hard to sneak spinach into most foods, since the color gives you away, but if you have a willing participant who just doesn’t like the texture of vegetables, you can eat tons of spinach without ever eating a salad — put it in smoothies, meatloaf, baked pastas, and soup. I’ve even heard of people putting spinach in muffins!  (Tip: spinach releases a lot of water when cooked, so frozen spinach that has been thawed and squeezed out works better when extra water would mess up the recipe.)

Minimize them.  I don’t know why, but something about chopping vegetables really small seems to make them more palatable to many people.  Try a chopped salad, or just dicing everything smaller or shredding next time you make a vegetable side dish or something with vegetables in it, and see if your veggie hater will eat it a little better.

Sweeten them.  Have you ever heard of super-tasters?  Basically, they’re a small segment of the population who have really super-charged taste buds.  It sounds awesome, but when it comes to vegetables, it’s curse because super-tasters taste the bitterness in vegetables that many plants have developed to fend off predators.  To combat this, we have to figure out how to sweeten them up.  (The vegetables, not the super tasters.)  Step away from the sugar!  Cooking vegetables at a high heat — like roasting or stir-frying — will caramelize their natural sugars and make them taste sweeter without any added sweeteners.

Good veggies to roast are carrots, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli and bell peppers.  Cauliflower is surprisingly good roasted, especially with a favorite seasoning blend on top.  (Penzey’s Northwoods or curry powder are totally different but equally delicious on cauliflower.) Hard squashes (like butternut and acorn) are good to roast too, but they can be difficult to peel when raw, so try roasting the squash cut in half with the seeds removed, then scoop it out of peel and cut it up afterwards.

Here is my roasted vegetable un-recipe:  turn oven to 400, chop veggies into uniform-sized pieces (smaller will cook faster if you’re in a hurry) and toss in a little olive oil. Put everything on a cookie sheet and sprinkle on a little salt. You can add other spices later — sometimes they burn. Put veggies in the oven to cook and stir them around every 15 minutes or so. Cook until they look browned and are soft on the inside.

Copycat them:  Are there vegetables that your veggie hater will eat in a restaurant?  Other than a Bloomin’ Onion?  What about fajita vegetables at a Mexican restaurant, stir-fried veggies floating in soy sauce at a Chinese restaurant, etc?  You might be able to recreate these as side dishes at home, and even if you do use a heavy hand on the salt, sauce, etc., I can guarantee you it’s probably still healthier than what you get at a restaurant, and YAY they’re eating vegetables.

Normalize, normalize, normalize:  Veggies at every meal, no exceptions.  (Okay, I give you a pass on breakfast.)  Make vegetables a normal part of the food culture at your house, and eventually eating them will become less of a foreign concept.  Yes, it’s frustrating to cook things that you know other people won’t eat, but they’re never going to change unless presented with the opportunity.

I want to encourage you to try, try, try again when it comes to presenting the veggie hater with new foods.  Recommendations for feeding picky children often state that you should present the same food to a kid up to 12 times before you should expect them to eat it without a fight.  I see no reason that a picky adult should be any different — if anything, they will probably be more resistant and set in their ways!
Have you overcome your veggie hating ways?  Tell me how!  What’s a vegetable you hated as a kid that you love now?
Welcome to my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment!
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Weekly menu plan, January 12-18

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Thai Lentil Chili from last week’s menu — delish! (and vegan, if you’re into that sort of thing)

The polar vortex has lifted! The polar vortex has lifted!  We might even be able to get outside a little bit this weekend… wouldn’t that be awesome?  Of course, the main things my son is excited about are getting to stay in his pj’s on Saturday morning, and going to the grocery store (clearly we’ve taken advantage of the free cheese samples at the deli counter a few times!)  Here’s what we’ll be shopping for:

Sunday – “I have time to cook!” night: Glazed chicken & almond quinoa, roasted broccoli

Monday – Crockpot night: Goulash & egg noodles (I know, I know — goulash.  Sounds like your least favorite cafeteria food.  But this is really good – slow-cooked beef chunks, beets… mmmm….)

Tuesday – Soup/salad/sandwich night: Inside-out sushi salad (I’ve made this before and it’s so good!  I’m hoping it will be a big hit with my 3 yr old too, since he has a newly discovered love of edamame.)

Wednesday – Leftovers

Thursday – International night: Asian pork sliders with Magic Miso-Mayo, oven garlic fries, wasabi slaw (baby carrots for the “it’s too spicy”/under-4 crowd)

Friday/Saturday – eat out/leftovers

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Menu plan, January 5-11 – with a grocery list!

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Meatballs…. nom nom nom.

We made it through the holidays, the New Year’s resolutions/goals/wishes have been made, and now we finally have a “normal” week ahead of us.  I am looking forward to another year of family meals, which will include baby food in the very near future!  We’ll see if I am ambitious enough to make homemade baby food for Sam the way I did for Josiah.

Here’s what’s on the menu for our house this week.

Sunday – “I have time to cook” night!: 40 Clove Chicken, roasted potatoes, kale salad

Monday – Crockpot night: Mushroom beef stew, spinach salad, bread

Tuesday – Soup/salad/sandwich night: Red Lentil Thai Chili, naan from Trader Joe’s (I found this chili recipe via this post from AlphaMom that has three “alternative” chilis that all look pretty tasty)

Wednesday – Leftover chicken (maybe some chicken salad with that yummy garlic chicken?)

Thursday – International night: Pizza-pasta bake (baked pasta with turkey pepperoni, olives, and green peppers)

Friday/Saturday – eat out/leftovers/whatever I feel like

If you want to cook more easy, healthy meals in the new year, I want to help you!  A good place to start would be my other menu plans and my Cooking School series.  I am also trying out the addition of a downloadable grocery list this week.  Please let me know what you think and if this is something you would use!  Grocery List 1.5.14

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The Bobsleddies, Part 2

Photo Credit: [rotten apple] via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: [rotten apple] via Compfight cc

Yesterday I started my mini-Best Of series with a list of my top 5 most-read articles from 2013.  Today I’m highlighting some of my favorites from the year, even if they didn’t get read the most.

My post about Christmas morning at my grandparents’ farm when I was a kid.  Somehow my (surprisingly tech-savvy) grandma found this post and asked me to read it to everyone in my extended family before we started opening presents this year.

My goal setting posts.  Here’s a good one reviewing my August goals — I had a baby in late July, so my August goals were things like “take a nap everyday.”  I love reviewing my goals monthly and coming up with goals/projects that make a concrete impact on my happiness in a relatively short time span.

Sisters in Spirit: Forgiveness was all about the struggles of forgiving myself when I feel like I’ve royally screwed up as a parent — yelled, spanked, and utterly missed the mark when trying to design a punishment that fits the “crime” of a squirrelly three-year-old.

My posts on running/weight lifting/etc. were pretty slim this year, but this one I wrote at 33 1/2 weeks pregnant makes me smile.  I am so proud of myself for continuing to stay active throughout my pregnancy.  I do actually enjoy exercising, so that helped, but since this is my second kid, I knew it would be a lot easier to exercise before the baby came than after!  (5 months post-partum, I can attest to the truth of this statement.)

I loved writing about reading this year!  I know it pushed me to read more than I would have normally, even after my extra reading time during maternity leave came to an end.  I talked about some of my favorite books of the year (Bread & Wine and The Art Forger) in my October Twitterature post.

I got back into scrapbooking this year, using the Project Life system.  (For the uninitiated, it’s basically an album + photo pocket pages + a “core kit” of color-coordinated cards for filling in dates, writing down memories, etc.)  My favorite part was the little Project Life baby book that I created, since I knew there was no way I was going to keep up with a traditional baby book for my second child.

What was your favorite thing you wrote (or read) on a blog this year?

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Best Of Beauty School Dropout – “the BOBSleDdies”

Photo Credit: [rotten apple] via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: [rotten apple] via Compfight cc

For the last week of 2013, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of my favorite and most popular posts of the year — a “Best of” series, so to speak.  I’ve been jokingly referring to it as “the bobsleddies” in my head ever since I wrote out the abbreviation BOBSD (Best of Beauty School Dropout) in my blog planning notebook.

I’ll kick things off with the 5 most popular posts of the year.  Tomorrow I’ll dig into the archives for some of my other favorite posts.

1. What’s on your bookshelf?

2. Cooking School: Slow Cooker 101

3. What I’m Into, October 2013

4. Cooking School: Asian Cooking Toolkit

5. Merry Christmas to YOU — a giveaway! (giveaway now closed — sorry!)

I was really happy to see that my Cooking School posts seem to be resonating with people.  I put a lot of thought into coming up with topics that might help people who want to learn to cook or expand their cooking skills a bit and to keeping it really accessible to newbie cooks who might not have a lot of kitchen gadgets or experience using (or access to) unusual ingredients.  (PS, if you have any requests or suggestions for posts in that series, I’d love to hear them!)

I also loved that two of my most popular posts were from link-ups.  I have made so many new blog-friends this year (and even met Shana in person!) from participating in link-ups.  I’ve tried several, but my favorites are Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature, Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into, and Vodka & Soda’s Humpday Confessions.  Oh, and I can’t forget One Community, the photoblogging link-up that I co-host with Kelli and a rotating assortment of other photography loving friends.

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Menu plan, December 29-January 4

Another holiday week!  I don’t know about you, but all of these festivities are starting to wear me out!  I’m looking forward to kicking off a fresh new year and settling into a good winter routine.  But this week, I’m mixing up the normal meal plan since we have a day off in the middle of the week.

Sunday – Meatloaf, green beans, mashed potatoes

Monday – tacos, fajita veggies (sautéed bell peppers, onions & mushrooms with chile powder and lime juice), rice & black beans

Tuesday – New Year’s Eve!  With a preschooler and a new baby, we won’t go out this year, but we will have a special family dinner together.  I think we’ll have Japanese take-out — sushi for the grown-ups and chicken teriyaki for Josiah (3).

Wednesday – Happy New Year!  We’ll be hosting a New Year’s Brunch in the morning, so dinner will be something simple, like Crock-pot black-eyed pea soup (for good luck!)

Thursday – leftovers

Friday/Saturday – Salmon and garlic veggies/finish off leftovers/Parmesan chicken, broccoli, potatoes

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Linking up with the Menu Planning Challenge from Mommy Run Fast & Fitness, Health & Happiness

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Menu plan, Dec. 15-21 and Christmas Tree Cookies!

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I did finally break down partway through the week and go to the grocery store for a few essentials, but I didn’t cook a single thing off my menu plan from last week.  So this week’s menu plan will be a rerun of what I planned for last week.  (There were a lot of promising new recipes on there, so check it out if you’re looking for inspiration.)

For your foodie fix, I’ll direct you to a post on Missouri Women Bloggers where I shared my grandma’s Christmas Tree cookie recipe.  They’re not your normal sugar cookies — the sour cream and nutmeg really makes them something special.  My grandma’s trick of icing the cookies while they’re warm makes it really easy to make the icing pretty and shiny, even for uncoordinated cookie-icers like me.

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Menu plan, December 8-14

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Brrr…

We’ve got a week of frigid temperatures forecasted, so I’m going to try to cook lots of warm, nourishing meals to hopefully keep us all healthy during this bad weather.

Monday – Crockpot night: Slow cooker chicken in peanut & chile sauce, rice and beans

Tuesday – Soup/salad/sandwich night: Mushroom quiche, wheat rolls, and some kind of green vegetable on the side

Wednesday – Leftovers

Thursday – International night:  Ma po tofu (I add broccoli slaw and shredded carrots for some sneaky veggies)

Friday/Saturday/Sunday – Eat out/Leftovers/something more complicated: That weekend cooking project will be Herb roasted pork with butternut squash, apples and onions

Did you get snow or really cold temps this week?  What’s your favorite big meal to cook on the weekend because it takes too long to make it during the week?

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Menu plan, December 1-7

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Mmm… Thanksgiving food.  Sorry it’s blurry, I snapped a quick pic with my phone.  where taking pictures of your food before you eat might be thought of as a little weird.

Whew… back from a whirlwind trip to Kansas City for Thanksgiving, we’re back and sort of back to normal, although I can’t get over feeling like today is really Sunday.

I’m keeping things simple this week — turkey sandwiches (of course), tacos, my favorite vegetarian chili, homemade pizza, some BBQ brisket out of the freezer, and loaded baked potatoes.

I don’t think I have any Christmas events this week, but I woke up this morning to my mom baking gingerbread cookies with my son, we’re putting up the tree today, and Advent starts tomorrow, so it’s going to start feeling Christmas-y around here soon!

Are you already into Christmas mode?  What’s on your menu this week?

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Linking up with the Menu Planning Challenge from Mommy Run Fast & Fitness, Health & Happiness

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