Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Meals, lately

Okay, people have asked about our usual recipes or what a standard week looks like, so I'll try to keep doing these every so often. I've been stashing the old meal plans in the back of my binder so I can pull them out and do little round ups. But I neglected to write dates on these, so I had to piece them together a bit. I think I got everything in more or less the right order but it took some detective work and I'm not sure I got it all correct.

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Week 1:
Salad (Monday): Wild rice salad with roasted green beans and cranberries
Meat/lentils/pasta (Wednesday): Chicken in cashew nut sauce
Easy meal (Thursday): Burritos

Planning thoughts: Auditioning another new grain salad recipe, balancing it out with one of our favorite old recipes.

Advance prep: I made the wild rice salad on Monday and also made an extra large batch of the cashew sauce. I divided it and froze half of it (originally intended to freeze 3/4, so that's what you see written).

Recipe thoughts: I liked this wild rice salad but the cranberries made it just a little sweet for me. It was great as leftovers on a green salad though.

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Week 2:
Salad (Monday): Kale salad with slow cooked salmon
Meat/lentils/pasta (Wednesday): Pizza - sweet potato with brie + marinara with sausage
Easy meal (Monday): Sweet potato and black bean burritos (from Moosewood)

Planning thoughts: I had pizza dough in the freezer (need to share the recipe we've been using soon!) and I must have been feeling like sweet potatoes. Things changed during the week, though. I ended up making the burritos (not actually an easy meal, but I freeze at least half, which will mean an easy meal later on) and the salad on Monday and then the week got busy and we didn't need the salmon. I never buy meat until right before we use it, specifically because of situations like this. Note - I always purchase sausage from Whole Foods and buy just as much as we need (same with pretty much all our meat) which is why you never see leftover meat that needs to be worked into my meal plans. For this week I bought a single sausage, which feels a little ridiculous, but is just enough for a pizza.

Advance prep: Not much this week, unless you count the fact that I was benefiting from previous prep by using up the pizza dough I had ready.

Recipe thoughts: All of these are standards for us. I really love the sweet potato and brie flatbread. These sweet potato/black bean burritos are great but I'd forgotten just how much filling this makes! I have a ton in the freezer now.

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Week 3:
Salad (Tuesday): Cilantro noodle bowl with broccoli (posted about it here)
Meat/lentils/pasta (Monday): Mushroom rice casserole
Easy meal (Thursday): Eggs with black beans and tortillas

Planning thoughts: Trying out new recipes again! Not much left over to use up.

Advance prep: None. Luckily these were all pretty quick.

Recipe thoughts: The casserole was great. Maybe too good, because we definitely didn't get that many servings out of it! I think we got four servings, so either we're pigs or it's intended as a side dish. The cilantro noodle bowl was also really good. I used more broccoli than is called for in the recipe, because I like a really high vegetable to noodle ratio. We grilled the tofu on our large cast iron griddle and it was perfect. The easy meal is just TJ's cuban black beans on a corn tortilla (must be heated directly over the flame to get it a little crisp) with a fried egg on top. Add salsa, sour cream or just tapatio if that's all you have on hand. 

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Week 4:
Salad (Monday): Pearl couscous with prosciutto, mushroom and asparagus
Meat/lentils/pasta (Tuesday): Soba with peanut citrus sauce (+ steamed broccoli)
Easy meal (Thursday): Bean burritos + green salad

Planning thoughts: Nothing much that needed to be used up (just some broccoli and some burrito fixings), had some new recipes (couscous and soba) that I was eager to try out.

Advance prep: Minimal. I worked from home on Monday which freed up the time I would normally spend on my commute. I made both the couscous and the soba that evening and we ate the soba the next day.

Recipe thoughts: I liked the couscous pretty well but still haven't decided if I'll make it a standard. It might be better for winter. The soba noodles were good but still not quite what I was looking for!

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Week 5:
Salad (Monday): Meyer lemon grain salad with asparagus, almonds and goat cheese
Meat/lentils/pasta (Tuesday): Mom's beef stew (+ green salad)
Easy meal (Thursday): Roasted vegetable quesadillas (based on Moosewood Cookbook recipe) + green salad

Planning thoughts: I had leftover bell pepper, bok choy, asparagus, broccoli, sour cream, salsa, tortillas. The grain salad was another new recipe I wanted to test out. I didn't make a note of this, but I must have had a long day at work planned because that's usually when I treat us to the beef stew, which is a crockpot dish that apparently I've never shared. It's a really simple one.

Advance prep: I prepped the meat and veggies for the stew after I put the grain salad together and I also roasted the vegetables for the quesadillas at the same time. I actually put the entire stew together and then store it in a bowl in the fridge overnight, then put it all in the crockpot the next morning. I used to just put everything together in the ceramic liner but I read that refrigerating in the liner is a bad idea because the crockpot takes longer to get up to temp and it can be a food safety issue. This is a bummer and I've been doing it that way for years with no issues, but why take the risk over a single extra dirty dish?

Recipe thoughts: The grain salad was pretty good and we both liked it. I'll probably make it again soon. My only complaint is that it felt a little heavy because of the cheese. Again, I liked it as leftovers on top of a green salad better. This might be a personal issue.

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Week 6:
Salad (Monday): Spring wild rice salad
Meat/lentils/pasta (Wednesday): Chicken in cashew nut sauce (again)
Easy meal (Friday): Frittata (leftover chives, goat cheese, asparagus)

Planning thoughts: We had leftover goat cheese, chives and asparagus from the grain salad the previous week. I also had frozen cashew nut sauce from a couple weeks previous and I still had some wild rice leftover in the bag that I could use up.

Advance prep: None. Luckily these were all pretty quick.

Recipe thoughts: The wild rice salad was great. I subbed black lentils for the split peas because those are what I had. The color contrast was obviously lacking, but it tasted really good. Frittatas are just a good way to use up random leftover ingredients.

When I look back over this I realize we rely pretty heavily on a rotation of various burritos and quesadillas. I think we get caught in a cycle because we buy salsa or sour cream and then want to use it up over the course of a few weeks. This is fine with me.

Whew. I'll try to start doing more regular posts with our meals so you don't have to look at a month and a half at once!


  1. I'm obsessed with this soba noodle recipe, perhaps you'll like it too: http://www.eatliverun.com/peanut-soba-noodle-bowls/

  2. Quesadillas and burritos are easy, cheap, and can be prepared infinite ways. We eat lots of both those things, too. In fact, I always joke that Cheech's Mexican genes are the strongest because the kid will eat just about anything wrapped in a tortilla.

    We also do lots of spruced up boxed Mac N' Cheese on nights that I really don't have it in me to put in too much effort.

    1. Yes! We have some disagreements in our house about tortilla choices (I like quesadillas on flour tortillas, D thinks all tortillas should be corn) but luckily we both agree that things are better when wrapped in tortillas.

      What do you add to boxed mac and cheese?!?! I need to up my game. Hot dogs are not really upping the ante.

  3. Hi Rachel! What do you guys do for lunches? I also cook for two people and during the week I pretty much want all home-cooked meals for both health and budget reasons. The only system I've found that works to meet this goal and not spend an insane amount of money is to make huge dinners that yield lunch leftovers. I love leftovers but if something happens and I don't cook dinner I get super annoyed that I basically have to eat out twice (for lunch the next day) and making big dinners is more time consuming than cooking something quick. We also have, um, really serious appetites so often dinners made to serve 4 serve the two of us. I'm just always looking for lunch creativity!

    1. I know I'm not Rachel, but I just had to chime in because I was encountering a similar problem! Right now I'm making one big meal that can be stored for the week for lunches. This works so well for me for two reasons: one, I can prep it early in the week and don't have to worry about what happens if we eat out one night or are just lazy. Second, I can eat the same meal every single day for lunch but I can't stand to eat the same thing for lunch as dinner and vice versa. I don't know why I'm so particular, it makes my life slightly harder and I should probably just get over it, but oh well. My favorite to do this for is chicken and zucchini masala over rice, it just keeps so well (I store the rice separately though). Homemade soups and stews are also good options! The grain salads from this post look amazing and I can't wait to throw them into our lunch routines.

    2. Hi, Samantha and Judy! I make dinners that leave leftovers for lunch (detailed info on the meal planning process I use is right here). It does take a little extra juggling to avoid eating the same thing for both lunch and dinner, which happens every so often and I admit is a total bummer.

      I'll also sometimes do something similar to what Judy does, which is make the big grain salad on Monday, we eat it Monday night but then for the rest of the week I eat it for lunches only. I'm fine eating the same thing for lunch every day, or the same thing for dinner multiple days, but not both!

      If I've had leftovers for lunch and they're all that is left in the fridge for dinner, I'll usually opt to whip up an easy meal instead (i.e. eggs).

  4. Just had to comment that I'm a huge fan of your meal plan posts. I'm always finding ways to streamline meal prep, and I like that your meal ideas are realistic. As much as I appreciate beautifully photographed recipes on other blogs, I hardly ever bookmark them to make. But I often reproduce a lot of your recipes or meal ideas because they sound delicious and easy enough for leftovers, etc.

    Also, I'm constantly struggling with leftovers for lunch... if I love a meal I end up eating the whole thing and never saving any. I might have to just do what Judy suggested ^^^ and make a separate batch of food for lunches. I don't mind cooking at night (well, for the most part), but I hate packing my lunch the night before. So this might make things easier. Thanks!

    1. Yep, having a big batch of something is so helpful! I've been letting the grain salads function this way. They're a main dish one night but then a lunch (or sometimes a side dish) the rest of the week. They can also be sort of transformed for lunch by putting them on a big bed of salad and making them a topping.

      I have the same issue sometimes with eating the entire meal! Sometimes what I'll do is portion it out immediately out of the pot (so if it is supposed to make four servings, I'll pack two servings in separate containers for lunches and then plate two servings for our dinner). This works best if I know it's a meal where the portion sizes are accurate and I'd only be eating the rest because it was so tempting. Sometimes I make a recipe for the first time and realize the portion sizes are totally out of whack and then I either have way more leftovers than I planned for or we eat the whole thing and there's nothing left!

  5. This is just unbelievable to me. We are complete (and I mean COMPLETE) opposites. I swear if I had 1/16 of your organizing and planning skills, I would be a better wife and mommy!! I've never been able to use a crock pot bc I decide what we are having for dinner around 5:00 and then have to run to the grocery so I'm never prepared! And don't even get me started on what gets left in my fridge and ruins (veggies, meats and I've certainly never used an entire thing of sour cream before it expires) so now I'm seeing I would be saving more money also!!! I need to work harder on this!

    1. Okay, so I know everyone's brain is wired differently, but I swear you can learn to do this! I am so *not* naturally organized. I had to teach myself years ago to come up with systems that help me stay on track and they've made me organized.

      Try it out! Coming up with a system that works for you is so much less work than facing down the kitchen every single night with no plan, I promise!

  6. Love your menu planning posts. Keep them coming! I think it's great how you have a number of vegetarian meals during the week. Whilst I am not vegetarian I do feel that I should try and have more meatless meals. Thanks for the ideas and recipes you post.
    I made the Mushroom Rice Casserole - and you're right, 8 servings?! As if....I think we also only got 4 servings out of it....and this was despite the fact that I served it with grilled chicken.

    1. Ha! Glad it wasn't just us. I was shocked when we ate half of it right after I made it and I quickly realized that there was no way it was going to be 8 servings. Tasty, though!

      Incorporating more vegetarian meals is super easy once you have a decent supply of recipes! I have a head start because my sister has been vegetarian for years and I'm used to cooking that way. Our big grain salads are usually veg and it's easy to make egg dishes or pasta dishes veg as well.

  7. Any chance you could post your meal planning template?

  8. Nevermind, just found your post about it! Thank you!


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