Cooking for the Week Ahead

It has been too long. I am still here. I am still eating. I am still cooking. I am still writing.

Life has been busy and different. I no longer come home in the afternoons after work to shop and cook dinner. (In fact I now work almost 8 hours more per week than I used to!) Instead I try and spend Sunday evenings stocking up on foods to pack for lunch and dinner for the week ahead. With my new schedule I get home from work just in time to kiss my wonderful husband, heat up some leftovers, and thank my past self for making them. During the work day, instead of staying on my toes pulling pans in and out of the oven and serving hungry children, I’m on my (mental) toes keeping parents happy, making sure their kids get the care they need. It’s a different life. When I can I go for runs around this beautiful lake.

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So how I do plan around my new and busier schedule? I try to make foods that will travel and keep well and feed me with comfort and keep me full until the next snack. These blueberry walnut muffins were made as a challenge to myself while one of my friends was avoiding processed sugar. They contain a little bit of honey, plus whole wheat flour, oats, walnuts, and of course blueberries! The oats and nuts make them more filling, add great contrasting textures, and are also quite tasty!

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I know some of your are scoffing the the mention of whole wheat flour in a muffin, but trust me – these were well-received after our long and muddy hike!

IMG_2584This quinoa and chickpea salad is my new favorite go-to lunch salad. I adapted mine from this one on the New York Times Cooking site and I especially enjoy it with roasted carrots. Made with canned chickpeas and a few chopped veggies, it’s fairly quick to make (especially if you use couscous). If you make a big batch at the beginning of the week, you will be set for lunches for the week!

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Another quick and healthy lunch is a big salad. Boxed mixed greens, chopped deli meat, cheese cubes, nuts (toasted, if you’re fancy) and dried fruit make for a delicious lunch. Bring a bottle of dressing to work or a little container of your own if you can.

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For dinners, soups and stews make for tasty fare and can be especially easy if you throw it all in the crock pot. Above is one of my favorites – Ginger Chicken Meatball Soup – adapted from this lovely recipe. When I plan my meals for the week I try to make at least two recipes, preferably one in the oven or on the stove and the other in the crock pot. Between the two of us packing lunch everyday and eating dinner at home, we need a lot of food!

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On the weekends when you have some time to relax and you’re feeling somewhat ambitious, make yourself some pancakes, fluffy and warm, served hot from the skillet. Top them with bananas, toasted nuts, and real maple syrup. Don’t go out to brunch. Make it at home instead! Then you don’t have to decide between ordering the pancakes and the omelette – you can have both!

Ah yes, but the weekends don’t last long, so you enjoy them while you can. Go out to dinner, whip up a homemade dessert for your loved ones, and then get ready to get ready for the week ahead once again. Even if the week is a rough one, at least you can say you were well-fed!

 

 

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Post 119 – 5 Ways to Jazz up Plain Yogurt without adding sugar

I have always been a fan of yogurt. Creamy, smooth, tart and sweet – it is a comforting and easy to eat kid food. I remember eating yogurt pretty much every day while growing up, either packed in my lunch or for an afternoon snack. Though I know my mom tried to give us healthy food whenever possible, it is hard to get a kid to like plain, unsweetened yogurt. Ours was almost always flavored and sweetened while my mom sometimes bought her own tub of plain yogurt to eat for breakfast or sneak into healthified desserts.

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Well you know what they say… like mother, like daughter. As it happens, I grew up and began buying myself plain yogurt to have with my granola. Though I have adjusted to the lack of sweetness, sometimes I want to add a little something more to make it special. Here are five ways to jazz up your plain, unsweetened yogurt without adding excessive amounts of sugar.IMG_1516

1. Stir in some fruit – fresh or frozen! Thawed frozen fruit can be juicier than fresh fruit and can therefore make your yogurt seem more luxurious and colorful. The night before, pour some frozen berries into a small container to thaw in your fridge. In the morning, drain some juice if necessary and then stir it in. You are adding both color and flavor! Alternatively add a nice fresh fruit like ripe strawberries, raspberries or peaches in the summer.

2. Add some zest! Grate some lemon, orange, or lime zest into your bowl. I find lemon adds a nice zing and freshness to the yogurt. If you really like you can also add a squeeze of juice, but make sure to taste it as lemon juice might make your yogurt too tart. Orange juice, however, would add a nice, natural sweetness.

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3. Stir in your own vanilla. Like vanilla yogurt? Save on sugar and add your own vanilla extract or vanilla paste if you have it. Sometimes just having that vanilla scent and flavor makes it seem sweeter.

4. Sprinkle spices that hint at sweetness. Cinnamon is a spice that people most often associate with sweet things – snickerdoodles, cinnamon rolls, etc. Try adding a little bit of cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg to your yogurt and see how much it sweetens your bowl.

5. Swirl in some (homemade) jam. So this one might be cheating a little bit since jam is usually sweetened, but this way you can at least control how much sugar you are putting in. I like adding a mixed berry jam and barely swirling it into my yogurt. It’s like fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, though you don’t have to wait until the end to find it!

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Try these five delicious ways to jazz up your yogurt and let me know what you think. Top it off with some homemade granola for added crunch and you have a delicious healthier treat!

Bon appetit!

Post 75 – Homemade Almond Milk

Fact: I have always loved to experiment with new recipes. I started out trying basic recipes when I was younger and as I’ve become a more proficient chef and baker I have graduated to slightly more unusual recipes. I’m not talking crazy-out-there-no-one-has-ever-done-this recipes, just ones that your average home cook wouldn’t make. Some of my experiments have been motivated by my desire to feed those with special dietary requirements such as vegans and gluten-free folks, and some simply by my desire to see a new process actually work. This almond milk recipe meets both of those needs – vegan, gluten free, and a new process for me.

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The past several months have been filled with on and off frustration for me when it comes to food, thanks to my GERD. I have mostly looked at this “disease” as an inconvenience that keeps me from eating the way I want to eat. Until recently…

After talking with someone who knows a lot about food, nutrition, and digestive health, I saw a different perspective. She said something along the lines of: You may be frustrated now, but think of this as an opportunity. Your body is telling you something is wrong and you have the opportunity to fix it. Though it took a few days for her words to really sink in, I realized she was right. I have the opportunity to improve my health immensely while I am still young, and hopefully I can prevent anything too serious from happening in the future.

I like to think of this homemade almond milk as part of my opportunity for better health. When I went through a test period of eating dairy free, I made this almond milk to go with my favorite homemade granola. I have generally disliked the store-bought kinds as they taste too strongly of toasted almonds, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to make mine how I wanted it. And the recipe was easy. It only requires some preparation and a little bit of time. Keep in mind that without the preservatives it will only keep a few days, but if you make small batches this shouldn’t be a problem. Whether you’re dairy free or not, I hope you try this recipe and discover something new. And I hope it doesn’t take something like GERD for you to realize your opportunity to achieve your best level of health.

Homemade Almond Milk

Below is a photo recipe. For details, check out this recipe that I used.

First soak your almonds overnight in water. Drain, rinse, and add fresh water and blend in a blender or food processor. If you are meticulous you can remove the skins from all of the almonds (they slide off easily after being soaked). Just pinch them lightly between your fingers and be ready to catch the almond that might go flying out!

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photo 4(11)The almonds will get broken up and make a creamy milk and almond meal.

photo 2(19)Place a thin kitchen towel or cheesecloth over a container and pour in your blended almond milk and almond mixture. Squeeze all of the liquid from the almond solids.

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photo 5(5)Once you have squeezed out all the liquid you will be left with slightly moist almond solids and almond milk! Refrigerate your milk and almond solids and save for a tasty recipe.

I enjoyed my fresh almond milk with strawberries!

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And the almond meal went to work as gluten-free almond meal chocolate chunk cookies later in the week! We ate a few on our road trip and put the rest in the freezer for later.

Recipe for cookies here – note: I used butter in place of coconut oil

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Cheers to better health!

Post 33 – 5 tips to keep you from eating like a crazy, starving person (because you’re most likely not)

I post about a lot of life victories, delicious recipes, and happy moments, but there’s a side of Erin Eating Everything that you don’t see that often. Literally Erin eating everything.

Lately I’ve been on some crazy ravenous hunger kick (lately?). Well, calling it hunger is hardly accurate. I am constantly surrounded by food, accustomed to instant gratification in this day and age, and confused by the signals my body is sending me (or rather not listening to them at all).

A great many things can be solved with kindness, even more with laughter, but there are some things that just require cake. (Don't believe it!)

A great many things can be solved with kindness, even more with laughter, but there are some things that just require cake. (Don’t believe it!)

See those Oreos on the tables? Delicious! Imagine what they taste like! Wait, don’t imagine – eat one! Eat two even! Everyone else is eating them.

I work in an office where the table by the door has a constant supply of sugary snacks, I also work in a kitchen (food everywhere!), and the moment I walk in my apartment food is in plain site. I am always within reach of food to the point where when I want it, I can get it – almost instantly. It’s become a problem and I think my body has been trying to tell me for a while.

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It’s times like these when I wish I had a magic pill, an easy solution that fixed all of my crazy cravings and moments of weakness. I can hear the infomercial now: Take this pill daily and within seconds all of your cravings for junk food will disappear.***

From what I can tell so far though there is no magic bullet, just common sense. At a certain point you have to step back, talk to yourself and think about what you’re doing. Are you in control? Do you feel long term satisfaction from eating this way (or just instant gratification?) I know for me it’s an ongoing challenge and I have my good days and bad, but every now and then I give myself a good pep talk and calm down for a few days.

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So to help me out (and maybe you’re in the same boat – hey neighbor!) Here are some tips to keep yourself from mindlessly eating when food is there and you aren’t really hungry:

  1. Write one goal for yourself at the beginning of the day (think small as in this is small enough and reasonable enough that I can accomplish it. Day two can go bigger) and keep it in your pocket or taped to your phone or somewhere that you’ll run into it a lot. Sometimes seeing a note from your reasonable self can help tame the crazy you when it comes out.
  2. Picture yourself in the situation before it happens (I know, I know this sounds hokey, but work with me here). Picture yourself looking away from the food that’s tempting you instead of staring at it and expecting it to jump in your mouth. Perhaps coming up with something to do instead of staring at it or thinking about eating it will help (just decide what that something is before you get to that moment)
  3. Give yourself a long to-do list and be productive! I find most people’s bad eating habits stem from boredom and if I have enough to keep me occupied (in an interesting way) I am less likely to graze on random foods.
  4. Stock up on good snacks that you want to eat and can eat if you are legitimately hungry (but first ask yourself are you actually hungry or do you just want to put something in your mouth?)
  5. Are you in control or out of control? What works better for you – eating just one bite of something you love to get your fix and then you can walking away? Or do you need to completely avoid whatever is causing your crazy eating habit and not allow yourself even one bite? If you’re the former, make sure to have a small bit available to you so you don’t end up giving in to something less satisfying just because you want something.

Find what works for you (easier said than done, but not everything works for everyone) and stick with it. Most food things are just bad habits waiting to be replaced by good habits. So start a new habit!

***Not available in all states. Must take this medicine regularly for the rest of your life. Side effects of going off this pill may include: wanting to stuff your face with those fluffy frosted grocery store sugar cookies, eating absurd amounts of Pringles, and sneaking off during a party to secretly finish off the rest of the half gallon of ice cream.

P.S. (I’m still keeping the name of my blog. Erin Eating Reasonably doesn’t have the same ring to it…)

IMG_2293P.P.S. Look out for a quick cooking video (hopefully) in the next few days. Stay tuned.