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 95 – Food Snapshots

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas will be here any minute! We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with Turkey, Wild Rice, Salad, and Mashed Potatoes. We have been enjoying other delicious foods since then including pizza and cupcakes to celebrate Sam’s birthday. Here are some photos of some of my latest good eats.

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America’s Test Kitchen Quicker Cinnamon Rolls

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Thanksgiving Apple Streusel Pie

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And homemade chocolate sauce…

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Gingerbread granola with crystallized ginger, cranberries, and raisins.

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Homemade pizza in the works

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Yum! Leftovers!

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Cran-Raspberry Birthday Muffins (for Sam)

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Holiday Lava Fudge Cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake – mmmmm!

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving and are almost ready for 2015!

Post 91 – Cupcakes for dinner!

That cozy time of year has started to settle here in Boston (for the moment at least – it was 85 this weekend!) and with that comes a change in the recipe routine. It’s time to start the soups, stews, and hearty meals that stick to our bones and keep us warm. Time to make all those pumpkin recipes you’ve been pining after on Pinterest. Well, my friends, do I have a recipe for you! Cupcakes for dinner! Feels like a treat, looks like a treat, and incredibly satisfying – how could you go wrong? (Wow, this post is already sounding like a sales pitch!)

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Of course I’m not talking about regular cupcakes – these are meatloaf cupcakes, personal meatloaves, muffin-shaped meatballs, meat-cakes or whatever you want to call them. They are quicker to bake than one big meatloaf and can be personalized and even decorated if you’re feeling fancy. I’m sure they would be a hit with young kids.

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Start with your favorite meatloaf or meatball recipe, grease (or line with baking cups) a muffin tin and smoosh that meat mixture right in those muffin cups. I adapted this scrumptious recipe for meatballs with pumpkin in them and I highly recommend it (just use canned pumpkin instead of the butternut squash to save time). Bake them at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until cooked through and nicely browned. NOTE: You might want to put the muffin tin on a sheet pan just in case the grease spills out and burns on the bottom of your oven.

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While they’re baking, chop up some potatoes (any kind), boil, and mash with a bit of butter and milk. Top your tasty meat muffins with your choice of mashed potato or sweet potato “frosting” – piped on if you’re feeling extra special (though if you leave the skins on the potatoes, as I did, piping is a little tricky so I just dollop-ed).

 

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Serve them up with your favorite roasted vegetables, salad, or sauteed greens. Delicious, easy, and sure to make you feel like you’re having a treat.

 

Meat Cupcakes

your favorite meatball/meatloaf recipe

OR

2 lb. ground beef

2 eggs

1 15-oz can pure pumpkin puree

3/4 cup shredded Parmesan

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 tsp. ground cinnamon (sounds weird, but is so good)

3/4 tsp. Kosher salt

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a muffin pan with cupcake liners or spray with a pan spray.  I made about 16 muffins with my mixture.

If you have time and so desire, toast your pecans for a few minutes in a saute pan on the stove or on a sheet pan in the oven. Be sure to watch them so they don’t burn. This should only take a minute and really enhances the flavor of the nuts. In a large bowl, lightly beat your eggs to break up the yolks. Add in the remaining ingredients (including pecans, making sure they’ve cooled a bit) and mix to combine all ingredients.

Divide the mixture between the muffin pans, filling the meat muffins to the rim. You could try mounding the mixture slightly too if you like that look, though they might make more of a mess. Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165 and they are nicely browned.

Top with homemade mashed potatoes and serve. Yum!

Post 68 – Gluten free Baking Day

Snow days: a good excuse to bake and cook all day (if that’s what you like to do of course!). So today that’s exactly what I did.

First I sent Sam off to work with some coffee cake streusel muffins. I figured since I got the day off and he didn’t, I should reward him and his fellow employees for going to work despite the nasty weather. Next I used the overripe bananas to make myself a treat: gluten free banana muffins. (Side note: Thanks to my GERD issues, I have decided to go gluten-free for a few weeks as an experiment. It’s tough saying no to homemade chocolate chip cake and ham and cheese croissants, but luckily in this day and age gluten free is totally do-able.) I made these muffins with coconut flour and almond meal and the bananas kept them nice and moist.

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Recipe adapted from here. I baked them for half the amount of time and left out the chocolate chips.

photo 3(9)Great texture and flavor – chewy and crunchy, just like I like.

Next I made dessert, also gluten free. First you start with some chocolate…

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Now close your eyes and don’t look while I add the secret ingredient.

 

 

 

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Ok you can open them now 🙂

photo 2(9)Spread out into a greased loaf pan, dot with chocolate chips and bake.

photo 1(11)Mmm fudgy, dare I say, healthy brownies.

Truth be told, they were slightly disappointing. I found them to be a little too thick and dry (the batter was really more like dough) so I might sub out milk for the Greek yogurt next time or add another egg. I will have to experiment with this recipe again. Recipe found here.

I continued my day of baking in another house, cooking for my favorite twin toddlers. Though I know they love chicken nuggets, I have been slightly disappointed in the latest chicken nuggets I’ve made for them. Their mom also commented (kindly) that she thought they’d eat more of them if they were a little more golden brown. So I switched recipes to achieve a better flavor and color and I’m hoping this one will be a hit! They come from a healthy comfort food cookbook and have a nice color, flavor, and crunch. I’ll share the recipe below. Hopefully the twins will like them.

The chicken nuggets ready to bake

The chicken nuggets ready to bake

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And ta – da!

photo 3(10)Cheesy and crunchy and golden!

And here are their chicken nugget lunches. I have learned that in general these guys don’t eat a lot (they do have very small bodies to feed) so I try to keep lunch portions small. Lately I’ve been using the cutters their mom bought to make fun-shaped fruits and veggies. Why eat regular carrot slices when they can look like flowers?

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I also made them pizza rolls for dinner, which is one of their favorites, so I know these guys will eat well tonight.

Now <sigh> the only thing left to make is dinner for Sam and me. Ah well, I do enjoy a good day spent in the kitchen at least.

Crispy Chicken Nuggets

adapted from 150 Healthiest Comfort Foods on Earth

1.5 lb. chicken breast, tenders, or fillets, cut into bite-size pieces

1 egg

1/2 tsp. salt, divided

2 cups cornflake cereal (gluten and sugar free if possible)

1/4 cup + 2 T. grated parmesan

1.5 T. flax seed meal

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare two sheet pans lined with parchment paper, sprayed, or lightly oiled. In a wide dish, mix egg and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. In a processor pulse corn flakes until fine, then add in cheese, flax, the remainder of salt, garlic, and pepper. Pulse to mix. Alternatively crush in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Pour into a wide dish. Dip chicken cubes into the egg and salt mixture and then bread in the cornflake mixture. Place on cookie sheet. When all nuggets are breaded, put the cookie sheets in the oven and bake until heated through and golden – about 15 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken cubes. Be sure to test the temperature to reach 165 especially if feeding to small children! Cool slightly and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

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On another note, one year ago I started this blog! How much has happened in a year and how fast time flies! Thanks to all of you who follow my adventures. I am grateful to you all.