Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Meal Plan 4/18-4/24

This is my last week before I start my new job. It's bitter sweet. On one hand, I'm really excited about my new job, it's all the best parts from my old job without the worst parts. But on the other, it's been really nice spending so much time with my Tiny Boy (who isn't so tiny anymore).

Change is always hard. At least there is always the constant of great food!

Here's my plan for this week:

Saturday: Roasted salmon, sweet potatoes and a veg

Sunday: Greek Meatloaves and salad

Monday: Grilled flank steak, veg and cheese scrolls (freezer)

Tuesday: Ricotta spinach pasta (Cooking light April 2012)

Wednesday: Pepperoni and veg pizza (using this dough)

Thursday: Hummus cheesesteak hoagies

Friday: Out

For the Freezer:
Slow cooker pork tenderloin x 2
Honey mustard chicken x 2
Chicken parm x 2

After we went shopping our plans changed a little and we ended up going out to eat Saturday night so the salmon got pushed to Sunday night and I'm saving the Greek meatloaves for another time. As much as I love to stay with our meal plan sometimes you need to be flexible and adapt to life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cooking Dried Beans in the Crockpot

This past year from my CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) I got a lot of dried, local, organic beans towards the end of the year. In theory, dried beans are great but only if you take the time to cook them. Cooking beans on the stove just takes so long especially when you take into account the overnight soak ahead of time. I knew there had to be an easier way which is why I was pumped to see a crockpot soup recipe that actually starts with dried beans.

This soup was great. The beans were cooked perfectly and the broth had a really nice thickness to it. Plus, it made the house smell amazing. Even though the weather is starting to warm up I think this soup will still have a place in our meal planning rotation

Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup, slightly adapted from Cooking Light, March 2015

6 cups unsalted/low sodium chicken stock (I used homemade)
1 large chopped onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
2 minced cloves of garlic
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf (I left this out when we made it the first time and the soup was still yummy)
12 ounces dried white beans (any bean would be great in this soup BUT kidney beans need to be boiled for 10 minutes before being used in a crockpot due to toxins)
3 cups greens (I used baby spinach but chopped kale or swiss chard would be great too)
2 T tomato paste
1lb Italian sausage (I used sweet but any variety would be great)
2 T fresh lemon juice (I totally forgot to add this at the end)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve

I swear it's tastier than this picture makes it seem!
1.) Add the chicken stock through beans to the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. Throw out thyme stems and bay leaf.
2.) Stir in greens, tomato paste, salt and pepper into soup.
3.) Remove sausage from the casing and form into little meatballs (I made about 30). Add to the soup, cover and cook on high for 30 minutes until meat is cooked)
4.) Stir in juice (if you don't forget) and serve with cheese on top.


Do you use dried beans?

How to: Grill a Whole Chicken with Indirect Heat

I know I've mentioned it before but I love grilling. Growing up, my dad always had at least 1 grill and a couple (or more) smokers and we used them pretty regularly. I haven't bought a smoker (yet) so I have to make due with my grill. A few summers ago, I started cooking whole chickens on the grill using indirect heat and they are so yummy. They have a slightly smoky flavor to them even though they are not smoked. It's also really easy. Think of it as the crockpot of summer.

How to: Grill a Whole Chicken with Indirect Heat
1.) Bring your chicken (4-5lb) to room temperature by taking it out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This will help the chicken cook evenly.
2.) Each grill is different so get to know yours! While the chicken is warming up, turn on all the burners on your grill. You want it to get to be about 500F. I have three burners on the grill.
3.) Dry your chicken well with paper towels (dry chicken=crispy, brown skin). Seasoning is really up to you. I've used a mixture of fresh or dried herbs mixed in butter under the skin; lemon zest with herbs and butter under the skin; or just salt and pepper on top of the bird. Try different things and see what your family likes.

4.) Line a 1/4 sheet pan with foil and fit a small rack or broiler grate on top of the pan. Although the foil is optional, it really helps with clean up.
5.) Place your seasoned chicken on the rack and tuck it's wings behind it's body. This helps the wings not get dried out.
6.) Turn off on of the burners on your grill. Put the chicken on this side. After about 45 minutes rotate the pan so the other breast is towards the heat.
7.) After another 30-45 minutes, check your birds temperature. I take the chicken off the grill when a thermometer reads 165F. If you don't have a thermometer wiggle the legs, if they seem really loose your chicken is probably done. Another way to tell without a thermometer is to poke a small hole near where the leg joins the body, if the fluids are clear the chicken is probably done.
8.) Carefully (it will be really hot) take your chicken off the grill and tent with foil for about 10 minutes. This helps the juices soak back into the chicken so it won't be dry.
9.) Slice up your chicken and enjoy!

Do you grill with indirect heat?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Meal Planning 4/11-4/17

Every week I sit down with a pad of paper and plan out our meals for the next week. I do this for a few reasons but the biggest being I don't like going to the grocery store mid week. I'm not sure why but after work, I want to go home. I don't want to make any stops. So for the most part, unless it's an emergency (like running out of coffee) I won't go to the store mid week and we'll just make due with what we have. This is why it's important to make a pretty detailed list before we go shopping. Sometimes I may stray a little if I see a good deal and want to stock up on something but for the most part I stick with my list.

The first thing I think of before we go shopping is what do I already have on hand. I don't like wasting food or accumulating too much in our cabinets. Our new house has a lot less storage than our Colorado house so space is at a premium. Also, Costco (where we buy most of our meat) is further away than we are used to so we won't be going there weekly but instead every 3 weeks or maybe monthly.

Yes, it's that empty by the end of the week
The second thing I think of is what do we have going on that week. Do either Brian or I have a work event? Are we going out to eat? Do we want to make anything extra for the freezer? Right now I am trying to bulk up our freezer with meals, sides, different breads and breakfast items to make my going back to work transition a little easier. Even though I have always worked since having Jacob, between changing jobs and moving I will have been home for almost 2 months when I start my new job. Plus my hours are different so I will be getting home later than we're used to. For the next few weeks I have a goal of making 5 extra freezer meals and some sides/bread each week.

The third thing I think of is the weather. Wait, what? How does the weather impact cooking? The big question here, can we grill? I love grilling so if the weather is going to be nice you bet our grill is going to be on. Pittsburgh weather has a lot of afternoon/evening showers right now so grilling is a little iffy.

Trying to think of what to eat week after week can get a little daunting. Sometimes I get in a rut and we seem to eat the same things week after week. I like to have some favorites in the rotation but I also like to try a few new things ever week too. When I make my list I look at my stash of Cooking Light magazines and the Foodgawker app.

So, what are we eating this week?

Saturday: Slow cooker Tuscan white bean soup (Cooking Light, March 2015)

Sunday: Grilled whole chicken, potatoes and a vegetable

Monday: Chili Mac (Cooking Light, March 2014) I plan on doubling this recipe to have a few freezer meals

Tuesday: Beef tacos, slaw and a vegetable (Cooking Light, March 2015)

Wednesday: Roast pork tenderloin, thyme biscuits and a vegetable (Cooking Light, April 2015)

Thursday: Mini Greek style meatloaves, quinoa and a vegetable (Cooking Light, May 2013)

Friday: Out to eat

Freezer Extras:
Light Wheat Tortillas x 3
English Muffins
Crockpot Lime Pork
Tuscan Bean Soup

Grocery List:
2lb wheat pasta                  2lb mushrooms                 4 bell peppers                 freezer pans
veg x 4                               tomato sauce                     wheat flour                     cabbage
cilantro                              carrots                                baby spinach                  oranges
2lb sausage                        pork tenderloin                  bread flour                      mint
yogurt                                feta                                     lemons                            fruit
milk                                   2.5lb pork butt x 2             4 limes                            honey

Did you ever think blueberry pancakes could be so messy?

Do you meal plan?