Following a Weekly Meal Plan

A Farmers Market haul

The past month has been terrible from a "you are what you eat" standpoint. Being incredibly busy at work, vacation, then coming back to even longer hours at work has meant we've been doing a ton of eating out. And not a ton of healthy seasonal cooking at home.

This is why yesterday I pulled out all the items in my pantry cupboard to take stock of what we had on hand, and then made a week's meal plan that made good use of what we had on hand. I should note that I had no idea I had 8 cans of enchilada sauce in that cupboard. This is one of the primary drawbacks to using a deep, tall shelf next to the stove as a pantry, but when you're a renter in a high price city, you make do.

Here's what I came up with to help thin out the cupboard, and stop eating out so much:

  • Sat: mus sa mun curry with beef over rice
  • Sun: bean and beef enchiladas
  • Mon: chicken stir fry
  • Tues: Bean and cheese quesadillas
  • Wed: lasagna (make sauce ahead on Sunday)
  • Thur: pork chops
  • Fri: eat out for dinner

I also made sure we had a ton of yogurt and healthy cereal for breakfast, and plenty of tasty yet healthy snacks to keep me away from the cheese. This reminds me I really need to figure out how to make my ideal spicy trail mix. I love that stuff.

Today, I'm doing some prep work (making pasta sauce and a chicken+bean soup), making some sides (bean salad, potato salad, corn muffins) and mixing up chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough for the freezer. That sounds like a fine way to spend a Sunday don't you think?

Easy Pasta Sauce

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 a red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 a white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 15 baby carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 15oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a stockpot and heat on medium. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become partially translucent. Add in the carrots and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in tomato sauce, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 1 hour.

I'll be using this for my lasagna this week.

Chicken and Black Bean Soup

  • 1 32 oz container Imagine organic chicken broth
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 a red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 a white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 15 baby carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast fillet (i.e. half a chicken breast)
  • 1 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 Tsp poultry seasoning blend of your choice

Pour chicken broth into stockpot and heat on medium high and bring to a boil. Sprinkle chicken breast with your favorite poultry seasoning and salt and pepper then add to the hot broth and poach, removing once meat is white all the way through. Cool chicken until it is at room temperature, then shred into bit size pieces. While your chicken is cooling, reduce heat to low and add in your separately olive oil sauteed onions, garlic and carrots (I did mine at the same time for the pasta sauce then split the total cooked mixture in half). Add back in your shredded chicken and simmer for an hour.

Makes 4 servings. 5 points plus per serving.

Ranch Chicken Marinade

This recipe was inspired by my colleague sharing this recipe for Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kebabs. My version is pared back to a quantity suitable for dinner for two, and to reflect that rosemary is not a favorite herb in this household.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
splash of lemon juice
splash of red wine zinfandel vinegar
two twists of pepper from the pepper mill
1/2 tsp sugar
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (a little over 1 lb) chopped into small chunks

Combine all but the chicken in a small bowl and whisk together until combined. Let stand 5 min while you chop up the chicken. Place chopped chicken in a ziploc bag, and pour marinade over the top. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to cooking chicken by your preferred method.

 

Our Easter Eats: Spicy Lamb Roast and Strawberry Gooey Bars

Sonoma County vineyards
As planned, I made Jam Hands' gooey bars for easter dessert. I couldn't find lemon cake mix though, so they became strawberry gooey bars, since that was the one fun flavor I could find at Target. They looked incredibly festive. No photos of them, unfortunately, as I never did figure out a good way to capture their yumminess in a photo without making a mess.

And yes, I made dessert first. Because it was a lot less daunting than making a lamb roast for the first time.

I used Charles Phan of the Slanted Door's lamb marinade, at my colleague Melita's suggestion. I love spicy sweet combinations, and knew from the get-go that I was going to love this marinade.

I modified mine slightly to be as follows:

2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
1 small jalapeƱo, stemmed and chopped (left the seeds in)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce

I combined all the ingredients in a bowl then used my pestle to smash them all together nicely. I placed my Boneless lamb leg roast into a ziploc plastic bag, poured the marinade over it, then sealed the bag up and left it in the refrigerator to soak it up for about 2 hours.

I preheated the oven to 375, and baked the lamb, having poured the marinade over the top of it in the baking dish, until it was no longer pink in the center, which was about an hour and a half. I served with a tamrind chutney, some sour-cream laden mashed red potatoes, and some Roederer sparkling wine.

Glad that I finally tried my hand at lamb. It wasn't any trickier than any other meat I've roasted thus far. Too bad I can't make gyros at home…

Red Velvet Cookies

sort of more auburn velvet cookies

I finally got around to making those red velvet cookies I saw over on Fake Ginger's blog.

After making them today, I would call these more like devilishly chocolate chip cookies more than red velvet, truth be told, but I did really like them. I'm less excited about having ruined my manicure with the red food coloring.

I made a couple of tiny tweaks to the recipe, trying to get more of a red velvety taste, and to account for the original recipe's comments regarding amount of wet ingredients.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg

In a liquid measuring cup, add together:
1 teaspoon red food coloring
1 tsp lemon juice
fill up to 1/4 cup line with heavy cream

In a large bowl, sift or stir together:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 375. Cream the butter and sugars in an electric mixer. Mix in the egg. Pour in the cream mixture, scraping down the sides to get as much of the red coloring into your bowl as possible. After this is just mixed in, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. You will have a fairly thick dough.

Use a cookie scoop to form your cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes or until cookies start to firm up.

Yields 38 cookies.

Tea and Sympathy

SconesOver the past few days, the news has alternately made me angry and disappointed. Disappointed overall in the lack of empathy I'm seeing folks have for others who lack their privilege. And angry to see those smugly assured they will never be poor, or female and pregnant raising a child alone, and thus can not imagine why we should provide social support for those who need it.

When I've seen folks in my twitter feeds being hateful, I've unfollowed. When I've seen thoughtful posts such as the one I linked to above, I have shared them. I am only one person, but I try to do what I can.

Most of what I can truly impact is, of course, my own immediate surroundings. How I behave, my empathy for others. And of course, my baked treats. For as long as I can remember, I've used baking as a way to show those close to me that they have my love and support. (And I've contributed a fair number of treats to charity bake sales.)

This is why today I am finally getting off my butt and making my blueberry scones. I'd wanted to bake them for my team for Christmas, but I battled a nasty cold for most of Christmas, and colds and baking do not mix. So there you have it — Christmas in February: Frog Hollow jam and scones from me. It's a small gesture, but one from the heart.

Recipe adapted from the Ritz Carlton Book of Afternoon Tea, a gift many years ago from the fabulous Miss Mitzi.

  • 3 cups flour, self-rising
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter (8 TBSP)
  • 1 1/3 cups 2% milk
  • 1 cup dried blueberries (Substitute a cup of Guittard milk chocolate chips if you are not a blueberry fan)

Butter 2 cookie sheets or spray with cooking spray; set aside. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F (220 c.) Sift dry ingredients together. Add butter, cutting in or thumbing in, until butter is integrated throughout, as tiny flakey crumbs. Slowly pour in milk, stirring in with a knife until just combined. Add blueberries, and stir in. You will have a very sticky dough. You may roll out the dough on a floured board to a 1 cm (1/2 inch) thickness and cut with a 2" pastry cutter into rounds, or use a floured ice cream scoop to make the balls of dough equal sizes and drop onto your cookie sheets. Personally, I prefer the drop scones, as you get some crunchy bits on top.

Bake 12-15 minutes until they are golden on top. makes 20 drop scones, or 24 rolled scones. 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per scone.

Cheddar Apple Pork Meatballs

Meatballs1 lb. ground pork

1 cup reduced fat mexican blend cheese

1 medium onion, grated

1 medium apple, grated (I used honeycrisp)

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg, whisked

salt and pepper to taste

garlic powder to taste

I adapted this recipe from a recent Everyday with Racheal Ray issue, lightening it up a bit. Pork and apple is such a classic combo, and the cheese makes the meatballs a little different (and tasty).

In a large bowl, stir together all of your ingredients, saving the egg for last to bind it all together. Spray cookie sheet with non stick spray. Form pork mixture into 16 equal sized meatballs, and place onto cookie sheet. Broil for about 10 minutes. If you are doing WeightWatchers, it's 3 PointsPlus per meatball.

I served these with egg noodles tossed with 1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream and 2 TBSP butter.

One of my favorite new recipes in some time. I froze the remaining meatballs for a future dinner.

Giants Cocktail

During the second game of the World Series, my significant other concocted an easy and delicious cocktail that I've christened the Giants Cocktail in light of its orange hue and its inspiration. Taste-wise, if you loved Orange Julius as a kid, you'll love this cocktail.

  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 3 ounces vodka
  • 1 tsp vanilla syrup
  • 1 1/2 ounces Grand Marnier
  • 7 ice cubes

Combine the ingredients in a blender and blend for 20-30 seconds until frothy. Serve in the chilled cocktail glass of your choice. Makes 2 drinks.

Holiday Star Cookies


Holiday star cookies, originally uploaded by almostgold.

Starting in on the frosted+sugared cookies now.

 Merry Christmas Cookies

1/3 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon lemon extract

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream vegetable shortening, sugar, egg, honey, and lemon extract until light and fluffy. Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt; stir until well blended. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  Lightly grease cookie sheets.

On a lightly floured board, roll dough 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters.  Place 1-inch apart onto prepared cookie sheets. 

Bake 8-10 minutes. Ice with your favorite royal icing technique. I like to slather them in frosting then cover them with colored sugar. 

Share with those you love.

Faux Slaw

For the longest time, coleslaw kind of grossed me out. It was always this weirdly slimey mess of vegetables you'd get on the side of your turkey club sandwiches at diners. And not something I wanted to eat.

But at some point, I had some really good tangy, crunchy cole slaw. Probably from East Coast West deli or Max's Opera Cafe. And now, every so often, I get the craving for it. But just for one serving. Last night, I came up with a faux slaw that acted as a coleslaw stand-in snack while I played on the computer.

Faux Slaw

  • 1 handful shredded purple cabbage
  • 1 handful shredded carrots
  • 1 handful broccoli slaw
  • 1 TBSP Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
  • 3 or 4 turns of the pepper mill

In a small salad bowl, combine the veggies, add the salad dressing, combine until well-coated. Finish with the pepper. Fast, easy, tasty, and a little lower-calorie than a traditional coleslaw.

Surviving Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving has long been one of my favorite holidays. But the catch has always been getting through the week without having to go buy a new pair of jeans due to overindulging. Keeping that in mind this year, I planned some easy and low-cal casseroles to get us through the week, and leave me to freely indulge in all my turkey day favorite dishes.

First though, I need to do a shout out for my favorite side dish at this year's Thanksgiving dinner table: Martha Stewart's Sweet Potato and Sage Casserole. And yes, I brought home a hefty glad storage container full of it.

Black Bean and Corn Casserole

  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz corn kernels
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed/drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 12 tortilla chips, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375. Spray your casserole dish (shallow and wide works better than a deep round for this) with your non-stick spray of choice (I use an olive oil spray.) Using a non stick pan on medium heat, cook the onion, garlic and bell pepper, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until both are softened. Remove from heat and stir in the corn.

Whisk the eggs and egg whites, milk, hot pepper sauce and ricotta together in a large bowl. Add the beans and the cooked vegetables. Spread evenly in your casserole dash, top with the cheese and the crushed tortillas. Bake until browned and bubbly. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and freshly ground pepper on top. Serves 6.

Turkey Tetrazzini

  • 1 1/2 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1 lb ground turkey breast
  • 8 oz fettuccine, cooked per package directions, drained
  • 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella
  • 1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375. Spray your casserole dish (use a deep round if you want it more creamy, a shallow and wide dish if you like the crispy noodles) with your non-stick spray of choice
(I use an olive oil spray.) Season the ground turkey with garlic powder, salt and pepper then brown in a non stick pan. Set aside.

Whisk broth and milk together in a medium-size saucepan. Stir in one tablespoon of butter. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened and boiling (8-10 min.) Add salt and pepper, remove from heat. Stir in sour cream and ricotta.

Add your noodles, vegetables and turkey to the cheese sauce. Stir together until everything is coated with the sauce. Pour into the casserole dish. Top with the mozzarella. Bake until browned and bubbly (20-30 min.) Serves 6.