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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Changing gears from yesterday: let’s talk about food and the practical concerns of getting meals on the table.

One thing that has become quite the quandary is how to feed my child now that she has more after-school activities.

She’s always done activities, but they were mostly right after school or on the weekend. Now, she has practices and lessons that don’t even START until after five. These are no longer after-school activities, they are now EVENING activities and I don’t like it. (I don’t dislike it enough to remove her from the activities, apparently.) Carla is a child who absolutely NEEDS eleven to twelve of sleep a night, so my husband and I are trying really hard to make sure she is in bed with the lights out no later than 7:30 pm. But when an activity ends at 6:30… how am I supposed to squeeze nourishment into the tiny space between “traveling home from activity” to “bedtime preparations”? It seems impossible.

(Perhaps you are thinking “McDonalds”! I have zero qualms about buying my child a happy meal. I ate fast food probably twice a week as a kid before gymnastics and piano lessons. But Carla does not eat fast food. Or, if she does, it is so rarely I cannot count on it as a reliable food source. Her palate baffles me.)

Options I have explored so far, with varying but mostly discouraging results:

  1. I made a big pile of sun butter and jelly sandwiches that I could freeze and defrost whenever we needed a quick meal. Carla ate one and pronounced it was terrible. Another night, she ate a few bites of a sandwich and refused to eat anymore. And then we lost power for many days and the rest of the sandwiches perished.
  2. Lunchables, accompanied by fruit.
  3. Snack dinner: some combination of pepperoni, cheese, crackers, olives, roasted chickpeas, sugar snap peas, and fruit. This is, I think, the most successful option. But it’s also challenging, because Carla prefers the same things over and over but then grows tired of them and then we are SCREWED.
  4. Bagel with cream cheese, accompanied by some combination of pepperoni, sugar snap peas, cheese, and fruit.

I have also been trying to bulk up Carla’s after-school snacking game. So on a day she has an activity at 5:00, I give her the usual banana right after I pick her up from school and then make her a yogurt and fruit smoothie to eat on the drive to the activity. Hopefully this is providing her with some extra protein and fat and vitamins, in case it’s a night where she only eats a Lunchable.

Over the summer, we were able to eat dinner as a family a lot more frequently than we ever have. But family dinners have gone right out the window since school started, what with Carla’s earlier bedtime and my husband’s work schedule. So that’s a bummer. But I am prioritizing my child’s sleep over everything else right now and I feel good about that. Carla is so busy and learning so much, I really want her to be well-rested so that she can get the most out of everything she’s doing.

The other Kid Activity-Related Issue that’s derailing my meal plans is that I am so flustered by what Carla is going to eat that I keep throwing up my hands and scrapping my own adult dinner plans in favor of Panera or takeout or prepared foods from the grocery store. Which are all fine options, but tend to be less healthy and more expensive than the food I’ve already planned to make. It’s just that I am TIRED by the time Carla is in bed. I am still doing my own thing during the day — a day in which I never seem to have enough hours — but on top of that, I feel like remembering which outfit she needs for that day’s activity or washing outfits for the next day’s activity or making sure we are stocked up on banana and frozen mangoes or rushing to pick her up from school or rushing to get her into her soccer uniform or rushing to get her to swimming on time is taking a lot out of me. And sure, it’s nice that she can come home after school to play for a while before ballet, but then I am driving to and from school and then to and from ballet when it would be much easier to go directly from school to the activity. The chunks of time between school and activity are too short to do anything of substance. I am constantly watching the clock or gathering necessary equipment or preparing snacks or driving or waiting in traffic or urging Carla to don her appropriate gear or prodding her to eat eat eat or brush your teeth or get your jammies on. It’s nonstop until she’s asleep, is what I’m saying. (HOW do you people with multiple children NOT COLLAPSE FROM EXHAUSTION?) This is what it is like to be Mariah Carey’s personal assistant, right? THEN, if I wait until 7:30 to start making dinner, well, we won’t be eating until 8:30 or 9:00 and that’s… later than I like to eat. More relevant is that I am TIRED. I don’t want to be chopping and sauteeing at 7:30. I want dinner to be ready to go. I can accomplish this, of course; it just means more meal prepping on shopping day, which I can totally do if I grit my teeth and just do it.

If you are a parent, you have my fist bump of empathy. If you are a parent of multiple children with (or honestly without) activities, you have my abiding awe and respect. If you’ve figured out the Kid Activity/Dinnertime solution, please let me know.

In the meantime, here’s what I’m planning to make and eat this week:

Dinners for the Week of October 15-21

 Note: I loved this the last time I made it, and, once again, I will make the peanut dressing from Damn Delicious for my husband and the teriyaki dressing from Le Crème de la Crumb for me.

Note: This is an old standby. It’s super easy to make, so my plan is to marinate the salmon and chop/wash the broccoli in advance and then make this on one of the late activity nights – I can shove everything in the oven and let it broil while my husband is reading to Carla.

Note: I plan to make this on another late activity night. It’s a slow cooker option – and, honestly, I need to expand the number of meals I can make in the slow cooker. This way, dinner will be ready to eat as soon as Carla is in bed.

Note: To make this easy, I need to make the yogurt sauce in advance and chop the bell peppers in advance. I can do it.

  • Pizza

Note: I haven’t decided yet if we’ll have traditional pizza or if we’ll do a taco pizza. I am leaning toward the latter, especially considering we are skipping taco night this week. But I will make a game time grocery store time decision on this one.

Note: I’ll probably save this for the weekend, because it’s a new recipe and because it seems somehow “special.” Probably because of the novelty. Also, I like to shop for fish on Saturdays. There is no reason, it’s just how I am.

  • Out

 

 

What’s on your menu for this week, Internet?

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The past two weeks of meal planning were thrown completely off by a major storm that knocked out our power for four days. While a friend who had electricity saved all my chicken and pork by stowing it in her freezer for me, we still ended up throwing out a ton of food. I have not gotten around to replenishing anything but the basics (half and half, sour cream, jarred garlic [I cannot quit it], cheese). We have eaten out a good deal since the storm hit, and boy is it easy to not cook when you have been not cooking for awhile. Anyway, we are getting back to normal this week if it kills us.

We are in this weird liminal space between summer and fall where I cannot for the life of me decide whether I want to force myself to grill chicken and eat salad… or I want to give in the urge to make rich, stewy fall suppers. Let’s try a little of both, shall we?

Dinners the Week of September 24 to September 30

  • Tacos

Note: My family grew weary of Taco Tuesday so we took a little break… but it’s BACK, baby!

Note: The last time we made this, the chicken was weird and put me off chicken for… a long time. I am now firmly back in the Pro-Chicken camp, but I am a little apprehensive. Yet chicken paprikas is one of my favorite foods, so I can’t stay away forever… Well, hopefully this turns out okay.

Note: I saw a similar salad on a menu recently and realized I’ve never tried making something like this. So let’s give it a shot.

Follow up: This was good! Except I… made some alterations. First, I added corn and avocado because that’s how I roll. Second, I made swordfish instead of chicken because it was on a killer sale and I couldn’t resist. Third, I did not love the peanut dressing, so I also made this teriyaki dressing except I didn’t have pineapple juice so I used the juice from the mandarin oranges. My husband used a combination of the dressings and enjoyed it very much. Fourth, I didn’t eat any mandarin oranges. Fifth, I forgot about the cabbage which is likely still in my fridge. I am the kind of person Internet recipe writers HATE.

Note: We haven’t had this in ages and I’m excited for it.

Note: We did not get to make this the last time I planned it due to the power outage, so let’s try it again this week.

Note: This is another one we did not get to make the last time I planned it. Hopefully it isn’t cursed or anything. As I said previously: I honestly have no idea what Gochujang tastes like, so it could be a Very Bad Plan. But it sounds lovely and my idea is to cook it on Sunday while we’re watching football and have a Nice Family Dinner together (not that Carla will eat anything with flavor. But hopefully she’ll eat the components.).

Follow Up: This was good! The flavor of the gochujang was the perfect blend of tangy and spicy. The marinade was very easy to make, and it was simple to just set everything into a pan and let it cook for a couple of hours. The one disappointment, for me, was the garlic. I was really excited about all the slow-roasted garlic, but it didn’t really ADD to the experience. I might do without it, next time.  Did I forget to the do the scallions? Yes, I did. Crap. They are probably languishing in my fridge with the cabbage from the salad. Oh – I have also decided I am Over skin-on chicken. It’s just so flabby and gross and you put the marinade ON it, so you miss out on the marinade flavor. I know that it helped flavor the potatoes or whatever, and helped keep the chicken from drying out, but there has to be SOME WAY to do with this boneless skinless chicken breasts. I think it would be better.

  • Date Night

What are you planning for dinner this week?

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This week may be a little ambitious, food-wise. I am trying… ALL new recipes this week. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I think? Well, and a glutton for flavor. There’s that, too. Plus, my husband and I just started the new season of Great British Baking Show, which always makes me itchy to get into the kitchen. Since my pants won’t let me exercise my creativity with Genoese sponge and various breads, I am turning, instead, to New Ways to Liven Up Chicken & Pork. And there’s some seafood in there, too, for good measure.

You’d think that I would have remembered, whilst planning, crucial-to-my-cooking-ability items like Carla’s Multiple After-School Activities. And my general pattern of Diminishing Desire to Cook as the Week Wears On. And our somewhat-new, not-always-achieved tradition of Movie Night on Fridays, which requires easy things like pizza that we can all eat together. You’d THINK I would take these important things into consideration, but you’d be wrong, because only just now am I thinking of those things and I have already done all the shopping.

WE SHALL PRESS EVER FORWARD.

Dinners for the Week of September 10-16

Note: I mean, this is just a salad, with chicken, and a lemon vinaigrette/marinade. So it’s not WILD in terms of newness or difficulty. Don’t worry. It gets progressively worse.

Note: Why can’t I be happy with plain salmon and mango salsa? I LIKE plain salmon. But nooooooo. I have to dress it up with this BBQ sauce because apparently I can’t be happy without making extra work for myself.

Follow Up: This was… decent. The “BBQ sauce/rub” was tasty, but it didn’t caramelize at all and ended up being sort of gritty. The mango salsa was delicious, as it always is, and the meal was simple enough to prepare. So I might try it again in the future, with some alterations to the cooking time/temperature to ensure that the sauce has a better consistency.

Note: Pork tenderloins were on sale (so were pork chops – bad week for piggies I guess) so I scooped some up. This marinade sounds yummy.

Note: My family is still kind of tired of tacos (WHY????), so I am switching things up with this shrimpy version. I have never met a shrimp taco I enjoyed – shrimp does not stay inside the taco shell very well, in my experience – but the slaw sounds yummy and I will accept any opportunity to slather avocado on a tortilla, so we’ll see how this goes!

Follow Up: This was fine, but a lot of work for what it was. The rub for the shrimp was good — I ended up broiling the shrimp, and that worked great. The dressing for the slaw was tasty, but — after making it as directed and tasting it — I ended up adding a little honey to help balance out the flavor. And then I added half again as much cilantro, because it just tasted less cilantro-y than I would hope for from a cilantro lime slaw. Also, the slaw was very bitter because of the cabbage. I don’t really like cabbage, as it is, and the dressing wasn’t enough to cover up its flavor. My husband suggested that I need to cut it much thinner, and that would help. Well, I cut it as thin as I could, so maybe I have to buy the pre-shredded stuff at the grocery store for an arm and a leg. Also, even though I cut the slaw recipe in half, we ended up with approximately ten tons of slaw. Which we didn’t like enough to keep, so I ended up throwing it away which is SO WASTEFUL and I hate it. I made some guacamole to go inside the tacos with the shrimp and the slaw, and that was good. All in all, it was nice to try something new, but I don’t know if this was worth the effort.

Note: This can’t really taste like tandoori chicken, can it? Well, we’re going to find out! I went to the Asian grocery store and got some Kashmiri chilli powder and I am COMMITTED. Not quite sure what I will do with the rice and peas, though. Maybe I will experiment with infusing the rice with saffron? Or this turmeric recipe sounds interesting, maybe? Or I could keep them separate and sauté the peas with shallots? I have no idea. I guess it will be a game-time decision. 

Follow Up: THIS WAS SO DISAPPOINTING. My husband liked it, or at least he claimed he liked it, so maybe it’s just me. The marinade was fairly easy to make, but it was… more tangy than I was anticipating. Maybe I was expecting something like a tikka masala sauce, and so it’s my own fault, but this was NOTHING like tikka masala. It was tangy and not at all spicy. (The owner of the Asian grocery store told me that the kashmiri chili powder was used in Asian cooking mainly for color, and I read elsewhere that it’s comparable to paprika, so maybe I was secretly hoping for more spice and that’s where the disappointment came from.) Also, this took FOREVER to cook. The recipe says 40 minutes, but it took over an hour to get it up to temperature. And, because of the skin-on chicken I think, the marinade never really penetrated the chicken itself, but just layered on top of the skin (which I didn’t eat). As a sauce lover, this was super disappointing. I think if I were to try it again, I might use boneless skinless chicken breasts and cook them IN the marinade, rather than basting them. And I would try to increase the spice level of the marinade, and maybe think of a way to tone down the tang. I don’t know. It was a big letdown. I ended up sautéing the peas with shallots — sweating the shallots first in a little butter, and then adding a few tablespoons of chicken stock to the peas — and those were good.

Note: And the pièce de résistance is this slow-roasted chicken. I honestly have no idea what Gochujang tastes like, so it could be a Very Bad Plan. But it sounds lovely and flavorful and different. My idea is to cook it on Sunday while we’re watching football and have a Nice Family Dinner together. (Not that Carla will eat anything with flavor. But she’ll eat the components. Well. Maybe not the potatoes.)

  • Out or Leftovers

 

Let’s keep in mind that any or all of this could fall apart at any moment.

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

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The weather around here lately has been very fall-adjacent: no humidity, cool breezes, lots of fluffy grey-tinged clouds scudding across the brilliant blue sky. Leaves are beginning to do their autumn dance routine: curl, release, drift groundward. School has started, and the mornings are dark when I try to coax Carla from her warm little cocoon of bedsheets and blankets. We’ve been leaving the windows open at all hours. My husband had a pumpkin flavored coffee drink this weekend. Sure, there’s plenty of time for the heat of late summer to come roaring back. But right now, it feels natural that we’ve slipped into September.

Natural. But I feel a little off-balance with the speed of it all. Wasn’t I, just yesterday, putting away the winter things and getting out Carla’s spring dresses? Wasn’t I just packing her off for her first day of summer camp? Hasn’t it only been five minutes since she was born? I know the wheel of time spins faster and faster the further you get from the center. But this is ridiculous. Everything is going past in such a blur.

First grade. My baby has started first grade. It’s thrown me in a way I wasn’t anticipating, and I’ve been a little mopey and melancholy. A walk in the sunshine helped today. Let’s forget that I got nearly hit by a car (I was in a crosswalk! Crossing when MY direction was green and the driver’s direction was red! And she just rolled right through the crosswalk and right through the red light and turned right and only looked mildly startled when I threw up my hands practically right in her face because I was mere inches from her car!). I walked to do some errands, which was very satisfying. And I got to pass lots of adorable homes with their adorable lawns and exterior décor (one home had seating for TEN PEOPLE in the front yard! Three benches! Two chairs! And a loveseat!) and I walked past a pizza parlor that smelled heavenly in one way and a home in which someone was doing laundry and using Downy fabric softener which smelled heavenly in a whole other way.

And now I am thinking about meals, sticking rather sternly to salads and grilled meats while I can, even though the weather is urging me toward stews and soups.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

Dinners for the Week of September 3-9

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe, and I am skipping the mango/avocado salsa because I cannot stomach those two particular textures sharing real estate in my mouth.

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe, too. It just sounds yummy. And hearty in an almost-stew sort of way.

  • Out

And I have somehow managed to get through an entire summer without making an icebox cake, which is something I highly discourage. So I am going to try to remedy that by making this Lemon Icebox Cake.

 

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

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We continue to have lots of rain, but now the rain is punctuated by absolutely glorious summer days. Sunshine, high clouds, breeze. I am out walking as often as I can because it is GORGEOUS. Makes meal planning a little tricky, though, because I want to grill as much as possible but also need to have a few options on hand when I’d rather not flip chicken in a downpour and then eat sodden chicken.

And, yes, I am back on chicken! It is a relief. Life is easier when I can eat chicken.

Here’s what’s on the meal plan for this week (sorry about the weird line breaks — I have no idea why they are happening or how to fix them and am too lazy to poke around in the html):

Dinners for the Week of June 25-July 1 (OMG JULY? SUMMER IS PRACTICALLY OVER):

Note: I will drizzle the salad with balsamic glaze as well, and will use bell peppers instead of corn because I FEEL LIKE IT.

Note: This just means that I am replacing the pork called for in the recipe with chicken.

Plus, we have had an abundance of plums in our grocery store lately, so I am going to make this amazing and super easy plum cake (I have made it before and TRUST ME it is awesome): https://smittenkitchen.com/2013/10/purple-plum-torte/

That’s it! I’m hungry already!

What are you eating this week?

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German food is not really my favorite. While my husband was super excited about all the schnitzel and sausages, I was… excited about the salad? (Seriously, in Vienna, my meals were always accompanied by a little green salad with a simple, lemony dressing. Super simple, but something about the fresh-from-the-garden lettuce – none of that limp, brown-at-the-edges stuff you often see in US restaurants – and the tang of the dressing made it irresistible.) As I mentioned yesterday, I really enjoyed the abundance of asparagus… but even delicious asparagus can’t staunch my craving for spicy, full-flavor food. So when we first got back from Bavaria, I gorged myself on all the foods I missed. Tacos, spaghetti with meat sauce, homemade curry, hamburgers (I bet that there are plenty of hamburgers in Bavaria, but I ordered one in Vienna and something about the seasoning of the meat or the meat itself just turned me off completely and I was afraid to order a burger the rest of the trip), stir fries, nachos, enchiladas, copious amounts of hot sauce.

But now I’m ready to get back to normal, semi-healthful cooking. Here’s my meal plan for the week ahead:

Dinners for the Week of June 18-June 24

* Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Broccolihttps://themodernproper.com/posts/perfectly-roasted-broccoli

* Garlic Grilled Shrimp with Quinoa Saladhttps://www.acouplecooks.com/garlic-grilled-shrimp/ and https://avocadopesto.com/thai-veggie-quinoa-bowl-gluten-free-vegan/#wprm-recipe-container-19442

* Chicken Shish Kebabs with Asian Zucchini Noodleshttps://whatsgabycooking.com/chicken-shish-kabobs/ and https://gimmedelicious.com/2016/06/03/easy-10-minute-asian-zucchini

Note: Did I tell you I bought a… noodler? Okay, it has a real name that is escaping me right now… It’s a… Oh! Yes! A spiralizer! I bought an inexpensive one per Lee’s recommendation and have used it exactly one time. So I plan to use it for the second time this week, to see if it is as labor intensive as it was last time. (Wait a second. That link is taking me to a spiralizer that costs $23; when I bought it, it was $8.99. I get price fluctuations and all, but this makes me cranky. It is NOT worth $23, that’s for damn sure.)

* Fish Taco Bowlshttps://damndelicious.net/2018/12/29/fish-taco-bowls/

* Mexican Salad with Chipotle Grilled Chickenhttps://www.gimmesomeoven.com/everyday-mexican-salad/and https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/chipotle-chicken-marinade/

* Fire Fry: https://lifeofadoctorswife.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/fire-fry/ 

* Chili

 

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Let’s talk about food!

Note: Combining salad and tacos is becoming a regular pastime of mine, I see. And I am HERE FOR IT.

Note: I have had this on my To Eat list for a very long time. It sounds slightly… off-puttingly-sweet to me? But I think if I add some broccoli and maybe some rice it should be good.

Note: This marinade sounds super good. And I have a bunch of pork chops in the freezer just begging to be eaten.

Note: We haven’t had this in a long time, but it was so good the last time I am wondering why I waited so long? Per usual, I will be amping this up with extra veggies.

Note: I can’t remember, but I think last time I turned this into a stir fry? Whether I did it or not, I plan to do it THIS time.

Note: I may or may not make a Greek salad to go along with this chicken. Lots of leafy lettuce with some cucumbers and onions (and tomatoes for those who eat such things) and maybe some avocado and maybe some Kalamata olives? Sounds pretty delicious to me.

Note: I haven’t made anything in the instant pot in a long time. Perhaps this yummy sounding chicken will get me back in the groove.

 

What does your weekly menu look like, Internet?

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