How I Plan Weekly Meals

I think I have gotten either less spontaneous or too anal (in a detailed way!) as the years have gone by.  However, my idea of spontaneity is hub and I getting an 8pm craving, throwing coats on over our jammies and heading to Carvel.  It certainly isn’t deciding what to bring for breakfast and lunch to work as well as what to make for dinner that evening as I’m pretty much ready to head out the door for the office.  That usually resulted in either a hastily thrown-together meal, leftover appetizers from New Year’s Eve or take-out. I needed to consider a weekly plan.  Here’s what I came up with.

Meal Plan

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Spice Rub Ornaments

I came across this recipe on Pinterest and had saved it, thinking it would make an easy and inexpensive last minute Christmas gift.  I’m glad I did, because I decided to give it a go this year.  Most of the spices I already had on hand and the ones I didn’t I found in the dollar store.  You can follow the link to the recipe, but here are the ingredients and directions:

Here are the 14 spices and seasonings used in this recipe:

  • seasoned salt
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • sweet paprika
  • smoked paprika
  • chili powder (mild, medium, or hot)
  • celery salt
  • black pepper
  • sage
  • cumin
  • cayenne
  • allspice
  • cloves
  • mace

NOTE:  I did not have allspice or mace so they were not included in my version.  They were such small amounts that I did not think it would make too much of a difference.  The original recipe even states not to worry too much if you’re missing one of the small quantity ingredients.

There is one additional ingredient – brown sugar – which the above get added to.  You should spread it out on a cookie sheet for a few hours to dry it prior to making.

When ready, put all ingredients in a food processor and blend.  It’s that easy.

Now……what to put it in?

Purchasing a dozen small mason jars was a just a bit pricey.  I had come across several posts where I saw things such as hot cocoa mixes and bath salts packaged in clear, plastic ornaments.  I thought…..why not the spice rub?

I purchased 8 of them at Michael’s – regularly $1.99 each marked down to .59 cents.  Wow!  I got the medium sized ones which had a decent sized opening in order to use a wider funnel.  The mix isn’t as fine as salt or sugar – it does have a bit of a consistency due to the brown sugar – so it didn’t pour too well through a narrow funnel.

After I filled them, I tied on snowmen gift tags I got at the Target Dollar Spot (package of 8 for $1)  The result:

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Aren’t they adorable? 🙂

I then typed the ingredients onto a plain, white mailing label, trimmed around the edges to fit and affixed it to the back of the tag.

Between the ornaments, tags and spices, I spent under $8 for 8 gifts (I already had mailing labels).  These make a great gift to give to a hostess, client, teacher, neighbor or even a secret Santa or grab bag gift.  Plus, they were really fun to make!

Clean Eating Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Cookies

Mid-way through September, I embarked on a quest to eat clean.  Simply put – eating foods cooked and prepared in their cleanest form possible.  Grilling and broiling instead of frying.  Olive oil and vinegar instead of creamy bottled dressings.  Fresh herbs and dry rubs for marinade instead of sauces and butters. Whole wheat and multi-grain instead of white flour.  Pure honey over white sugar.

Okay, I think you get it.

I had been inspired quite a while ago after discovering Tosca Reno and her Eat Clean cookbooks.  After experiencing frequent migraines, not working out as much and eating very sporadically (and, sometimes, not very wisely) I had decided to pull the books out of the cabinet, open my planner and begin listing foods I already had on hand, ones I needed to purchase and recipes that incorporated them all.  One of the main proponents of Eat Clean is to eat every 2-3 hours which include 3 small meals and 2 snacks.  Meals weren’t a problem, but finding interesting, satisfying and clean snacks was challenging as I found myself rotating the same ones over and over.

I began to search clean eating recipes on Pinterest and came across this recipe for these Oatmeal Peanut Butter cookies.  After two attempts at making them and having them come out crumbly and dry as a bone, I decided to tweak it a bit, adding a few extra ingredients to turn it from a dessert into a healthy mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.  Here is my version:

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  • 1 cup uncooked oatmeal
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 2-3 tbsp low fat-high protein granola
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
  • 1 cup peanut butter (or any natural nut butter)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tbsp. of water
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325

Combine all dry ingredients (except the chocolate chips) in a large bowl and set aside.

Microwave the pea(nut) butter for around 20 seconds in a smaller bowl to soften it up (but so that it’s not heated up) a bit and make it more mixable.  Add the egg whites, honey and vanilla and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients a heaping tbsp. at a time until well blended.  You may have to use your hands to smush the ingredients together as it will be very sticky.  This is where the water comes in.  Add a tbsp. at a time until mixture is a little less sticky.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using a cookie scoop (or a tablespoon) scoop out enough of the mixture and form it into a patty a little smaller than the palm of your hand.  Remember, we are making these to be a snack rather than a dessert so it needs to be a little larger than a cookie.  Place them on the cookie sheet.  They should not rise or spread out so don’t worry if you keep them close together in order to fit the entire batch on one sheet.  This recipe should yield anywhere from 10-12, depending upon how you size them

Bake 10-12 minutes.

After cooling, I store in a small container or place in a quart-sized Zip-loc and place in my lunch bag so that I have them on hand for either my mid-morning or afternoon snack.  I also grab one to take with me (along with my water bottle) when I have to be out of the house early on Saturday for appointments and errands to keep me satisfied and energized (and away from the temptation of coffee shop treats and fast food drive throughs!

 

Mustard-Coated Pork Chops With Hot Pepper Rings

This recipe has been a favorite of ours, but yesterday I cooked it a bit differently.  In the past, I had heavily coated these with mustard then fried in super-hot oil, but the mustard coating had always melted off.  I also had to use thin cut chops so I didn’t have to fry them for a long time which either resulted in them drying out or absorbing too much oil.  The result of this cooking method was less frying time and a more fall-off-the-bone pork chop full of great flavor.  My secret weapon – my trusty French oven pot that has permanently replaced my crock pot that I gave to Goodwill.  Everything is done in the French oven as it goes from stove top to oven

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When Life Gives You Apples, You Make Applesauce

Or, in my case, when you realize that the large tree in the front yard that your late father-in-law had planted AGES ago produced apples, your husband steals a sheet, climbs ladder into the tree and shakes it violently until apples fall to the ground for you to peel, core, seed, and boil into sugary, cinnamony oblivion!

Not sure which one of us had the harder part here, but it was well worth it!

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Re-Purposed Meatloaf

The title doesn’t sound too appealing, doesn’t it?  But, I have no other way to describe what I did last night with leftover meatloaf.

Backstory: we make meatloaf two ways in our house – my way, which is quick and easy and hubs’ way which is, well, a lot more involved.  But…a LOT more flavorful.  He makes this delicious stuffing with white bread, carrots, celery, pignoli nuts and spices that gets folded into the meatloaf mixture.  It normally turns out wonderful, except he forgot the egg(s) this time.  As you can guess, the meatloaf didn’t hold very well.  Still, delicious thought.

Scraping what remained from the loaf pan proved fruitless and the loaf was now mush.  As I made my meal plan for the week, I had noticed red bell peppers sitting on the shelf that I had purchased the week before when they were on sale for $.99/lb (normally, they’re $2.49/b).  Okay, great – I can make stuffed peppers with the classic beef and rice mixture until I remembered……..the meatmush, erm…..meatloaf I had from last week.  What if…..what if……?

Ladies and gents, I bring you meatloaf stuffed peppers!Read More »

Pantry Staples Supper

What to make for supper?

Before I got on the stick by creating a supper plan every Sunday evening for the upcoming week, I would be pulling whatever protein we had out of the freezer and toss it in the sink to thaw as I rushed out of the door for the office every morning.  Then at some point during the day when my mind had a chance to wander to cooking, I would frantically search Pinterest for something interesting to do with said protein, only to have to stop at the grocery store either on my lunch hour or the way home to purchase any ingredients I may not have.

Now that I have a plan for the week, I can take stock of what I have and figure out what I can do with what I already have on hand.  Now, I know what I regularly keep as staples may not be what others do, but here’s a delicious example of what I made last night with everything I already had in freezer, fridge and pantry.Read More »

Stock Up Your Office Pantry

If you’re like me and work outside the home and are fortunate enough to have an office with a kitchen area, then you have a great resource to keep your energy and metabolism up during the day, keep unhealthy snacking to a minimum and save money by having not having to purchase your afternoon meal.

Bringing lunch is one option.  A lot of us pack a sandwich, salad or leftovers from last night’s dinner in a Tupperware for our lunch the next day.  But think about it – we’re (well, I am at least!) at the office 8-9 hours a day.  And during stressful, busy times of the year ( much like I have) you’re going to need more than just a sandwich or a salad to fuel your body, keep your mind sharp and your metabolism revving all day, especially if you’re sitting for a good majority of it.Read More »

6 Hours Of Standing = A Week of Convenience

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For the last three weeks, I’ve been dedicating Sunday afternoon to ‘cooking-palooza’ – whipping up 4-5 supper dishes and even a dessert or two. No, I don’t have a family of five – just hub and I.  But with the warm weather finally here, the last thing I want to do when I come home after working 8-5 is cook.  I want to get changed and churn out a 3.5 – 4 mile power walk without having to rush it in order to come back home and start whipping out pots and pans.  I want to water my plants, pull weeds or just crash on the couch with a cool drink until it’s time for supper.  Yes, it takes a lot of work and careful planning, standing for 5-6 hours on my feet in the kitchen is worth five days of not having to do anything except fill up a dish and pop it in the microwave.

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