Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Monthly meal planning - May

Actually trying out a few new recipes this month. As the weather starts to warm up I'm looking forward to more veggie noodle bowls using the spiralizer, so I found some recipes to test.

meal planning - May

Recipes this month - 

Sweet potato bolognese - again, no real recipe. It's just 1/2 lb ground beef, 1/2 lb hot sausage, 1 jar marinara and 2 large sweet potatoes that have been spiralized. (spiralizer post is here)

Spiced red lentils with caramelized onions and spinach - New to me, looks good. 

Brown rice noodle and vegetable bowl (x2) - No recipe, I just stir fry a bunch of veggies with some ginger and garlic and the extra firm tofu from Trader Joe's (it has the best texture!) and toss with some Soyaki marinade (also from TJ's) and the cooked noodles. This month I'm excited because I found some brown rice ramen noodles at Costco and I think they'll be delicious in this. 

Rainbow power salad with roasted chickpeas - New to me spiralizer recipe. Looks hearty. 

Red lentils and spinach in masala sauce - I was looking for a new red lentil recipe and couldn't choose, so I've inadvertently created a red lentil show down this month. We'll see which recipe we like best. 

Chicken korma + rice + saag - New to me recipe, recommended by a reader. I really liked the Food52 saag recipe I tried last month (also recommended by a reader - you guys are the best) but I might try the Chowhound recipe this month. It uses frozen spinach, which means you don't have to blend at the end. Worth it? 

Coconut curried red lentils + saag + naan - Our standard favorite around here. 

Spicy shrimp with pesto zucchini noodles - Another spiralizer recipe from Pinch of Yum. I've never tried their recipes before and I have two in one month. Fingers crossed! 

Spiced butternut squash salad with lentils and goat cheese - One of my favorite recipes lately. I do toss the arugula lightly with some balsamic dressing. I still use this basic recipe and almost always have a jar of it in the fridge. Lately I've been adding a shallot in there, along with garlic and whatever herbs I have on hand. 

Cashew nut chicken + saag + cauliflower rice - Using the package of sauce that I froze last time I made it. I get the cauliflower rice frozen from Trader Joe's (I'm lazy, and hate cleaning all the cauliflower bits out of the food processor) and saute it with a bit of onion and garlic.


  1. Good on you for all these lentil dishes. I despise them, which is frustrating, because they're just so cheap and healthy. I'm going to try one or two of these recipes, though. I'm sure it's like drinking water and I just have to get into the habit of it.

    1. Oh no! I know lots of people are meh on lentils or actively dislike them but I rely on them since they're low cost, high nutrition. What types have you tried? I'd highly recommend starting with red lentils (maybe the coconut curried red lentil recipe?). Make sure you have some Greek yogurt to top them with and some rice or naan to eat on the side (I buy frozen naan from TJs and it's delicious).

      D thought he didn't like lentils, but it turns out he just doesn't like the traditional broth-y lentil soup. (I actually don't love lentil soup either - it always tastes a little bit like dirt to me?)

  2. I second the red lentils! Better than the harder brown or green ones, although the pre-steamed ones from TJs are good. Rachel - I've made your dhal recipe so many times, and it's sooo good.

    I got a spiralizer thanks to your spiralizing post. I'm ADDICTED. So fun, and such a good way to get in tons of veggies. I have been buying the murasaki sweet potatoes (purple outside, white inside) for other reasons, but I tried to spiralize them to use as a sweet potato noodle. I'm not sure if they're that different than your typical sweet potato (I mean, they ARE) in terms of composition, but I was wondering how your sweet potato noodles are texturally. I made noodles with a curry sauce. The recipe I got said to cook the potato noodles for about ten mins, until softened/wilted, but not too much. Then it said to pour the hot sauce over it in a bowl and cover to let it steam the noodles a bit more. Sooo my experience was that the noodles were too crunchy. So I cooked them in the pan longer. That helped, but it wasn't consistent. Some noodles crunchy, some in between, softened where they resembled more of a noodle. I saw in your original post you had some problems cooking them too much that they got too mashed... so do you keep them on the slightly crunchy side, or do yours get sort of noodle-y? Thoughts?

    1. So I am weird and like the sweet potato noodles a little bit crunchy, but D does not agree and likes them more cooked. I've gotten to the point where I'm pretty good at cooking them to the right texture (soft, but not mushy). Note that you lose many of the long noodles this way as they break apart during cooking and you end up with some shorter pieces, but it's not too bad.

      I saute the noodles over medium high heat in a bit of oil (or I'll just leave some of the fat from the sausage in the pan instead) for a few minutes. I toss them gently to try to get them all to get a little bit of the fat, but they start sticking after a few minutes, generally. At that point, I'll start adding a little bit of water (a couple tablespoons at a time), then stir the noodles, then put the lid on the pan and let them cook/steam for a few minutes. I usually end up adding water 2 - 3 times, depending on how many noodles I've crammed into the pan (less is better for even cooking, but I'm lazy and like a lot of noodles).

      Once they are cooked to my liking (if D isn't home I'll go crunchier) I pour in the sauce, add in the meat, and let them cook for a couple minutes. I don't count on this step to really cook the noodles, though. If you were starting with hot sauce maybe it would make a difference but I'm pouring out of a jar.

      Basically, I think 10 minutes is a bit low for the cooking time. I think the whole process takes me closer to 15, and I'm getting the steam from the added water too. I'd experiment to see how well done you like them and what method works for you.

      I will say that they don't resemble pasta as much as I expected them too (it's impossible to keep the noodles long and completely intact and still have them cook, IME), but it is as satisfying as pasta for me! I feel so much better getting a big dose of carbs from sweet potatoes.

      Glad you're liking the spiralizer! I know I'll be using it more again as the weather warms up. Raw zucchini and other light vegetables are just not as appealing to me when it's cold out, so we end up mostly using it for sweet potatoes in winter.

    2. Thanks for the reply! I think the author of the recipe also noted she liked them crunchy. While I didn't mind the crunchiness, I think my brain was confused more than anything expect/wanting a softer texture (this is why I can't do spaghetti squash as faux spaghetti). If I don't tell myself it's a noodle substitute, then it's fine, but when I want to sub them for pasta, I prefer softer. The recipe did not call for adding water/steaming in the pan, but in my head I was thinking I should do that. However I tend to resist adjusting on the first run-through of recipes. I do think I'll add water next time.

      I'll def do the bolognese sauce with a future batch. I will enjoy anything with a bolognese, regardless of the texture of the vehicle lol.

    3. Yes, I don't think they can really be a pasta substitute, in the sense that they don't look, taste or have the texture of pasta! But they take the place of pasta, because they are carbs and I can put tomato sauce and meat on them. I'm an easy convert because while I enjoy pasta, I've never been obsessed with it (even the homemade stuff!). It's mostly just a vehicle for sauce for me.

      I agree on not adjusting the first time around - makes it easier to figure out what to tweak next time! Although I'm guilty of doing it sometimes because I don't have all the right ingredients on hand.

  3. Oh yes, you are SO right about the tofu. It's our favorite too.

    I need to try one of these lentil dishes this month

    1. I was so glad when I tried it the first time! I like tofu in general, but this one has the best texture of any I've tried. It's the only one that I feel could actually sub for paneer realistically (I see that recommendation all the time and was always skeptical before).

  4. I'm definitely going to go for the cashew chicken this month. I have to thank you for introducing me to the black bean sweet potato chili and chicken enchilada soup, I tried them for the first time in the past couple month and I've now made both multiple times.

    1. Glad you're liking them! Those are two of our favorites. The cashew chicken is great, and I've found that you really can leave it in the crockpot a bit longer and it's fine (I think I usually leave it in for 8 hours, since I'll ask D to turn it on before leaving for work and then I turn it off when I get home in the afternoon - the only nice thing about working offset shifts!).

  5. I love these roundups -- I get so many great ideas! I don't know if you're a tomato soup person, but I have been obsessed with this recipe lately:


    It is SO good with tons of red pepper flakes and greek yogurt on top! We usually pair it with classic grilled cheese. Super quick and absolutely delicious.


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