Weekly Meal Plan #9: Crockpot Love

pumpkinsI’m getting fancy this week with a document attachment. Watch out, world!

I made my meal plan for the week on a rainy, blustery day. Sweet Pea and I went puddle-stomping, then took a warming shower before settling down for a lovely lunch… beef stew leftovers while listening to Norah Jones croon through our I-Pod speaker. Then Sweet Pea burrowed under Load #5 of laundry for the day as it came fresh from the dryer. “Cozy!” she announced, heaping the warm pajamas and blankets over herself. In a word: it’s been a heavenly day.

Well, you can definitely see the weather’s influence in my meal plan for the week. I am more than happy to send my crockpot into overdrive. Woo-hoo!

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Pumpkin/Apple Treat: Pumpkin Pie Cookies and Pumpkin Pie French Toast

The Random: Not making a “random” this week, as I’ll be making the Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup intended for last week.

Vegetarian: kale, leek, and mushroom frittata (maybe with hash browns on the side)

Pantry Challenge: chicken pot pie (sautéed veggies and chicken, mixed in with homemade cream-of-whatever soup and then bound up and baked in the pie crust recipe of your choice).

The Big Easy: Crockpot Lasagna with sautéed beet greens and apple slices

Crockpot/Freezer: Beef, Barley, and Vegetable Stew from Everyday Food

Pizza/Pasta: pasta with kale pesto and leftover proteins and veggies

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Working Mommy Blues

Sweet Pea and me during our last swim session

Sweet Pea and me during our last swim session

Working full-time is the suck. I’m not going to sugar coat it for you. Some women, of course, manage admirably–they work a full day, do tons of Pinterest activities with their kids, and keep their gorgeous homes spotless with homemade organic cleaning products. In their free time, they exercise, scrapbook, and volunteer out in the community.

I am so clearly NOT that woman.

It’s not the working that’s so awful. It’s coming home without any energy, already drained before I get to see my daughter for the first time all day. It’s wanting to play with her, but knowing that I have to make dinner. It’s constantly watching the deterioration of our relationship in a hundred little ways and feeling like I can’t do anything about it, because (a) I’m exhausted and (b) I’m not doing this job for giggles and personal satisfaction. We actually need the money.  Oh, and (c) I’ve got papers to grade as soon as she goes to bed so I can’t afford to “waste” my energy on, you know, emotions.

In an attempt to be proactive, I decided to sign us up for parent-child swim classes. We did this last year, too, and Sweet Pea had a blast. So of course the first swim lesson (this Tuesday) coincides with parent-teacher Open House, a mandatory work event. And it’s my husband’s first night of classes, so he can’t go either.

In the grand scheme, I know it’s a small thing. Come on. One missed swim lesson? Stiffen your upper lip, Kate! But right now it just feels symbolic of everything else that’s getting to me.

I’d like to tell you that I’m taking this little hiccup stoically, or even pleasantly, with a spirit of gratitude that we have a local set of grandparents willing to pitch in whenever necessary. And don’t get me wrong. My mom is an absolute rock star grandma and Sweet Pea will have a blast swimming with her.

But.

The majority of me just feels bitter and angry that I can’t be there for my kid.

Any advice? Inspiring words of wisdom? I could do with an attitude adjustment and/or a swift kick in the head.

Weekly Meal Plan #8: On the Run

Sweet Pea, our budding pastry chef

Sweet Pea, our budding pastry chef

Busy week coming up. My husband starts his evening classes. Sweet Pea and I start mommy-daughter swim lessons. And my presence is cordially required at Open House this Tuesday for a little teacher-parent time… yes, while I’m supposed to be at swim lessons. Because why make life easier when it could just feel painfully, painfully difficult? (I anticipate a full-out whine about this later in the week.)

Last week’s meal plan categories worked out quite well. We’re going to give them another spin.

On a positive note: our farmer’s market feels like fall! My husband and I have hit upon an essential question for the season: how many delicious baked goods can we make from pumpkin? From apple? Taste buds cheering at the thought!

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Note: There will be salads with almost everything. We still have a lot of lettuce from our CSA, though I have high hopes of eating it all before it spoils!

Pumpkin/Apple Treat: Pumpkin Coffee Cake with a Brown Sugar Glaze (Doctored box cake mix? Totally my speed this week. And though we bought sugar pie pumpkins at the store, something tells me we won’t be making our own puree until next weekend…)

The Random: Just not doing it this week. Somehow, we’ll just have to survive on leftovers and the kindness of others (i.e., my mother, who’ll be swimming with Sweet Pea while my husband’s at his night class and I’m at Open House)

Vegetarian: veggie tacos from Clean Eating magazine (I’ve made them before; these are good and also filling)

Pantry Challenge: Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup (trying to use up meat in my freezer, in an effort to make room for fully prepared freezer meals)

The Big Easy:Tater Tot Casserole made with homemade “cream of whatever” soup mix (I’ll be shredding in broccoli and perhaps cauliflower)

Crockpot/Freezer: Lazy Day Stew (double win–pulling it out of the freezer and, after it thaws, sticking it in the crockpot)

Pizza/Pasta: Healthy Chicken Alfredo Pizza (our toppings may be less planned out and look more like a leftovers dump… but whatever…)

Weekly Meal Plan #7: A Slight Tweak

I am trying something new this week. I want to stave off the temptation to make grilled cheese sandwiches or BLTs for dinner (not that there’s anything wrong with that). So I’m planning with mid-week disillusionment in mind.

This is especially important, as my husband starts school again next week. (Yes, we sat down and said, “We’re both working full-time and we have a toddler. This isn’t enough pressure. Let’s send one of us back to school and try to pay for it out-of-pocket!”) So two nights a week, I’ll be on my own… and odds are Sweet Pea will be clinging to my leg, begging me to pay attention to her instead of cooking.

Huh. It’s almost like I’ve done this before.

The new categories I’m planning for:

  • The Random: for whatever recipe I’m craving and/or dying to try
  • Vegetarian: a budget- and health-helper
  • Pantry Challenge: because using up ingredients I already have will help the budget and soothe my Type A soul
  • The Big Easy: must be quick and make plenty of leftovers (I’m thinking comfort food)
  • Crockpot/Freezer: I want to dump it in the oven and/or crockpot, then forget about it.
  • Pizza/Pasta: because nothing says “Friday night” like mixing your leftovers with one carb or another

And without further ado, here’s how the categories play out this week!

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The Random: deviled pork chops with green salad (all hail Mark Bittman, amazing cookbook author)

Vegetarian: veggie shepherd’s pie from Clean Eating magazine

Pantry Challenge: shrimp burritos modeled after the lovelies from QB (check Nunu’s Shrimp Burrito on this menu)

The Big Easy: Frito Chili Pie

Crockpot/Freezer: honey sesame chicken for the crockpot, with rice and a broccoli-heavy green salad

Pizza/Pasta: a Kate pasta creation, to involve: kale, Parmesan, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and whatever’s left over on Friday night!

Weekly Meal Plan #6: And Then Came The Fatigue…

salad in a jarI am rather impressed with us. We made it through last week with nary a desperate call for takeout. Does that mean I also made it through the meal plan? Of course not ! We had leftovers and BLTs for some of our dinners. Now I’ve got a wee bit of a pantry challenge going on. Recipes to make from last week, plus random staples (couscous, frozen tomato paste, etc.) that I’d like to start using.

Also, the “new” of school will wear off sometime around Wednesday… and I anticipate miserable fatigue taking its place. Good times!

Let’s plan for the worst, shall we?

BreakfastKale Quiche followed by Slow Cooker Oatmeal (Throw 2 sliced apples, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon in the bottom of the crock pot. Pour 2 cups of oatmeal and 4 cups of water on top. Do NOT stir. Cook overnight for 8 – 9 hours on low. Thus far, the only oatmeal my husband actually likes!)

Lunches – leftovers + salads in a jar (we are overflowing with CSA lettuce). Process note: when you make salads in a jar, just pack your ingredients from gooey to crunchy to lettuce on top. And pack a plate or bowl for later salad mixing.

Sunday – the tilapia meal planned for last week

MondaySalsa-filled baked avocadoes

Tuesdaybroccoli quinoa casserole

Wednesday – curry from a jar (again, this was planned for last week)

Thursdaycrockpot minestrone soup

Friday – fish tacos (freezer fish to use up–I’ll bake it with some taco seasoning on top, plus a little Cuban oregano from our herb garden. Serve with usual taco fixings.)

Saturday – leftovers, breakfast for dinner, or something from the freezer

Food: The Best of August

5.25.13Meal plans are all well and good, but it’s nice to know which recipes turned out really well. This, of course, is a matter of personal taste, both in regards to actual food flavor and in regards to how much time I can stand to put into making food. My husband and I are both working full time, and we have a very busy toddler. It’s important to us to have fast, healthy, and/or super tasty meals. Bonus if we can hit all three points with a single recipe!

After all our August cooking and eating, these are the foods we Diamonds plan to put in regular rotation:

Breakfast

Lunch

  • Make-Ahead Lunch Wraps (super freezable)
  • squash wraps (Dice garlic and onions. Slice up zucchini and summer squash. Sauté until soft, adding some red pepper flakes and/or Salt & Spice. Add some form of protein if you so desire–we like pork or chicken. Serve in tortillas with pepper jack cheese.)

Dinner – side dish

Dinner – main dish

Weekly Meal Plan #5: Both Adults Working Full Time

If you haven't checked out Skinnytaste, you should! An excellent recipe resource.

If you haven’t checked out Skinnytaste, you should! An excellent recipe resource.

Congratulations to my freshly re-employed husband! He starts his new job on Tuesday, which is the same day I start full-time teaching. We’ll be on nearly the same schedule, plus he’s going to school in the evenings.

Buckle up, folks. I anticipate this year’s going to be a wild ride. To get us started, some easy food that fulfills my recent protein cravings.

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Breakfast – Slow Cooker Oatmeal (Throw 2 sliced apples, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon in the bottom of the crock pot. Pour 2 cups of oatmeal and 4 cups of water on top. Do NOT stir. Cook overnight for 8 – 9 hours on low.)

Dinner #1Chile Pork & Tomatillo Pasta (from the Aug/Sept. 2012 issue of Clean Eating)

Dinner #2 – tilapia with beet roesti and sautéed beet greens (I just season the tilapia with garlic powder and lemon pepper spice, then I grill or sauté it. On the greens: just wash, chop, and sauté with garlic and olive oil)

Dinner #3 – Indian Curry from a Jar (we have some Kali’s Table to use up)

Dinner #4 – quesadillas with chickpea and tomato salad

Dinner #5Crock Pot Italian Sloppy Joes (with side veggies)

Dinner #6Tomato and Arugula Salad with Grilled Steak and Portabella Mushrooms (from Raising the Salad Bar)