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 83 – Spanish Tortilla

I do a lot of meal planning these days and mostly with limitations. I plan dinners for Sam and me at home (and now lunches for me to take to work), lunches for Sam, lunches and dinners for another family, and sometimes food for events I do for other people. Needless to say as much as I used to love menu planning, I’ve started to run out of ideas, in particular for creative foods that I can eat at my current stage of food experimentation.

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The other day I was asked to prepare a special lunch for the family I cook for since they were having a midday pool party with some other kids and moms. At a loss for what to make when the mom requested a shrimp salad, I was saved when she pulled out all of her magazine clippings and began ooo-ing and ahh-ing at all the recipes she wanted me to make. Great! I thought. Finally someone else is coming up with the ideas.

At first I have to admit I was a little out of my comfort zone. I had taken over the entire counter (as I don’t usually do), leaving shreds of brussel sprouts, kale, and lemon seeds strewn in my path. I told the mom later “the more unfamiliar I am with a recipe, the more I make a mess.” The kitchen displayed the evidence that I was very unfamiliar. Now it’s not like these recipes were difficult, but their relative newness threw off my organization. I hadn’t had the usual prep time to study and decide how to execute them so instead I just dove in, hoping for the best. Thankfully I work for a wonderful family and the recipes turned out well. The mom helped me clean up near the end and she seemed thrilled with the food that I had made. It’s good to get outside your comfort zone and it’s great when someone else finds the recipes (so long as you can actually make them!)

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Yesterday, however, I was confronted once again with the ever-present problem of what to make with the ground beef that I’d bought earlier that week. I went through the usual options in my head – tacos, meatballs, “spaghetti,” none of which either sounded appealing or possible for me to eat. Then somehow I came up with a more exciting option. I thinly sliced some potatoes and gently browned them in oil and I threw the ground beef and some eggs on top. Voila! A delicious, simple, and comforting meal.

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I have included the recipe below, with some options for those of you who can eat certain foods that I can’t. The great thing about this recipe (like many favorites of mine) is that it is flexible. Throw in some veggies, leave out the meat, use more eggs, whatever floats your little boat.

Spanish Tortilla

2-3 medium yukon gold potatoes

olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced (optional)

1/2 lb – 1 lb. ground beef or Italian sausage

1/3 cup shredded cheddar or other cheese (optional)

8-10 eggs

1 cup milk of your choice (I used almond milk with no flavor issue)

salt and pepper to taste

rosemary (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet or cast iron skillet over medium heat with a splash of olive oil. Meanwhile wash and thinly slice your potatoes, trying to keep the thickness as even as possible. When the pan is hot, carefully lay the potato slices in the pan, overlapping slightly if necessary. If you have to do multiple layers, salt and pepper each layer before adding more. (You can also add the onion here) I also added rosemary in this step. Allow the potatoes to brown for a few minutes, without stirring them. Check them by lifting them up, flipping them over to get the top layer down to the bottom of the pan if needed. Once they are starting to brown, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and allow to steam for a few minutes. They should be able to be pierced with a knife or fork to the point of being almost edible (they will cook more in the oven).

Meanwhile in a separate pan, brown your beef or sausage, drain of any fat and set aside. Be sure to season your beef with salt, pepper and rosemary if using beef (the sausage will have plenty of flavor). When the potatoes are ready, add your beef on top. Whisk together your eggs and milk. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and beef (top the beef with cheese before adding the eggs if desired). You want your egg mixture to cover all of your filling so beat more eggs with some milk if necessary. Turn off your burner and immediately transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until firm and lightly browned. Let cool slightly, slide a spatula around the outside and invert onto a cutting board or serving plate. Cut into slices and serve.

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