September Meal Plan #1: International Appreciation

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Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, originally posted to Serious Eats

Big Sis goes back to school this Wednesday! And Little Bro starts preschool the following week! I’m excited for the externally-imposed routine to recommence, and I’m trying to take best advantage of this time to make tiny (but hopefully high-impact!) shifts in our routine. More big picture thoughts on that later. For now, here’s how it relates to food.

I already do A LOT to manage the food around here. I meal plan, stick to my grocery list, and (usually) adhere to my food budget. But one aspect of meal-planning always escapes my attention: lunches. Lunches are my Achilles heel.

LUNCH RESOLUTION: I’m going to try pre-making all of our lunches the night before until this (hopefully) becomes a not-even-worth-mentioning part of our routine. The kids are pretty easy. I bought sandwich fixings for Mr. M. And I’ll be working my way through a big vat of slow-cooker Indian-spiced lentils. You can definitely eat them with rice, though I prefer them with naan and yogurt.

CSA UPDATES: This week’s treasures include wax beans, Thai basil, Chinese eggplant, broccoli, garlic, arugula, tomato, and cucumber. I’m going to make and freeze pesto. The cucumbers and tomatoes will go into lunches. And garlic… well, that goes into everything in the Diamond household. The rest? Well, the rest has inspired this week’s dinners!

INTERNATIONAL APPRECIATION: You’ll note an international flare to the week’s menu. Yum! We’re lucky enough to live on the Pacific Rim in a diverse area replete with fabulous Asian markets. This week, we’re taking advantage and treating our taste buds.

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Vegetarian DinnerEggplant stir fry

The Big Easy – Szechuan dry-fried beans and pork chops

Fast and FlavorfulArugula salad (with shrimp added) and Dutch oven bread

Too Hot to Handle?spicy garlic-fried chicken and char-grilled broccoli (Yes, I’m assuming the children will have pancakes or peanut butter and jelly that night. The spice factor’s a bit high for the 6-and-under crowd.)

Slow Cooker Mealsausage, spinach, and white bean soup 

 

August Meal Plan #3: Lazy Days of Summer

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Our grilled onions are delicious… and quite tasty alongside grilled oysters! 

This week’s CSA box includes carrots, zucchini, broccoli, Serenade melon, cherry tomato, and several sweet onions. I’ve also got to use up some red pepper. And I have a head of lettuce that Mr. M forgot to chop up for his fantasy football draft party (he had a taco bar, which always works well–with or without the leafy greens!)

Yes, this week will be salad heavy. And that’s good, actually. I’ve been noticing lately that I never take care of my own lunch. I’ll literally plan and pre-make everyone’s lunch but my own, and then somehow wind up surprised when I end up choking down the kids’ leftover sandwich crusts and broccoli stems for me meal. Perhaps it’s time to treat myself like an actual human being, instead of a sentient garbage disposal? Um, yes. And to that end, I’ll be stocking up on some salad swag for my lunches… and probably still have leftover lettuce for a meal.

Also, a pattern here: every meal involves my CSA produce and is SUPER easy. Apparently I’m also on a chicken kick and eschewing my usual vegetarian meal. Oops!

Ah, well. Bring on those last few lazy, hazy crazy days of summer!

Meal #1 (peppers)pesto chicken pasta with sliced veggies and spinach dip

Meal #2 (broccoli)chicken quinoa casserole with sliced veggies and spinach dip

Meal #3 (lettuce, cherry tomato)crispy chicken salad

Meal #4 (peppers, onion) – chicken fajitas, just using the recipe on the back of the spice packet

Meal #5 (zucchini, onion) – grilled oysters and sweet onions with zucchini tots  (I’ll have to post my recipe ASAP for the onions!)

August Meal Plan #2: Veggie Catch-Up

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Image from Sally’s Baking Addiction

This week’s CSA box includes a lot of veggies I can just slice up and eat with spinach dip (carrots, colored bell peppers, broccoli, and cucumber). That’s good, because I’m still desperately trying to use up last week’s bounty–which includes Swiss chard, green onion, and green lettuce. I’ve also factoring in some fresh melon and potatoes this week.

CSA Vegetarian Meal #1 (chard)Swiss chard and black beans over rice

CSA Big Easy Meal #2 (Poblano peppers)slow cooker chicken tacos

CSA Freezer Meal #3 (potatoes, melon)clam cakes, oven-roasted potatoes, and fruit salad

CSA Freezer Meal #4 (chard, green onion)quiche with this pie crust and a filling of chorizo, green onion, and Swiss chard

CSA Big Easy Meal #5 (lettuce, cucumber in the salad) – spaghetti and meatballs with green salad and store-bought garlic bread (almost everything in this recipe comes from a jar or a box… no recipe links necessary!)

August Meal Plan #1: Catching My Breath

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Image and recipe from Kristin at Yellow Bliss Road

Sorry I missed you last week, Internet. I was busy (a) celebrating my 9th wedding anniversary with Mr. M (b) suffering through a heat wave and (c) obsessively setting up my new Passion Planner. (More about that last one later!) Here’s the least you need to know about last week’s menu: Giada De Laurentiis’ dirty risotto is delicious for a celebration, especially when paired with champagne, ice cream, and a simple green salad.

Okay. Moving ahead. We’ve officially entered the tail end of summer, which means that I’m feeling pulled in multiple directions. Mr. M and I are trying to savor several more hot-weather adventures with kids, but we also need to finish up this season’s home projects (which, yes, we’ve totally been putting off). I’ve got to get Big Sis ready for first grade and Little Bro ready for preschool. I’m also traveling for work. Oh, and pretty much everyone in my family has a birthday this month. Soccer. Did I mention soccer? (Pause. Breathe into a paper bag.)

In richly busy times such as this, the thought of meal planning can be overwhelming. I need simple. I need fast. And I need to acknowledge my tendency to eat my stress… which means that everything has to taste fabulous. So I’m reviewing my target rules for tastiness (namely, that everything tastes better when rolled in a tortilla, dipped in soy sauce, covered in sour cream, or made into a pancake). Oh, pancakes. You’re definitely taking a starring role this week!

Other factors: this week’s CSA box includes melon (which we’ll have for breakfast) and slicing tomatoes (which will go on sandwiches). I’ll be building the week’s dinner recipes around scallions, cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, and kohlrabi. Hard to believe that I’m halfway through the CSA season! Ten more weeks to savor fresh veggies 🙂

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Vegetarian CSA meal #1 (scallions)sesame-crusted tofu and scallion cakes

Vegetarian CSA meal #2 (zucchini, kohlrabi, and carrot) – veggie fritters with herb yogurt sauce, summer fruit salad

CSA meal #3 (cauliflower, potatoes) – mashed cauliflower, oven-roasted potatoes, and pan fried pork chops

CSA meal #4 (green beans)slow-cooker roast chicken with steamed green beans and boxed rice pilaf

leftovers re-imagined (shredded roasted chicken) – chicken pesto sandwiches with fruit, sliced veggies, crackers, and store-bought spinach dip (yes, this is a portable meal I’ll be taking to a family picnic.)

July Meal Plan #4: a Whole Lot of Hosting

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Image and Recipe from Sweet Anna’s blog

I’ve been laboring under the delusion that this will be a quiet week because swim lessons ended. But then I realized that we’re hosting overnight guests on Thursday and a dinner party potluck on Friday. Then Saturday, we’re helping my delightful 88-year-old grandma move to her new home. All good things that we plan to fully savor… which means I’ve got to have my cooking and cleaning game thoughtfully planned in advance!

So, yes. What party-pleasing recipes do I have that feel appropriately celebratory without totally taking over my life? And how can I make them while using lots of fresh veggies? After all, I’ve still got leftover CSA cabbage to use. Items in the new box include: potatoes, zucchini, sweet red Italian torpedo onion, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, arugula. We also got garlic and carrots, which get eaten and used without any planning. 🙂

So, for our overnight guests we’ll be going on the casserole route. Why? Because they’ve been traveling all summer and are joining us fresh from a long camping trip. I imagine they’ve had tons of barbecue in the past few weeks, and an oven-baked meal might be a refreshing change. I’ll also be making a slow-cooker breakfast casserole for everyone to enjoy the next morning alongside some cantaloupe. (I love a good slow-cooker breakfast when I’m hosting. It means people can eat whenever they’re hungry and no one’s beholden to wake up at a certain time.)

And for our Friday night dinner party? Kebabs! Food on sticks = pretty. Plus, it involves grill work (Mr. M’s chosen domain, which gives me an all-too-brief and very-much-needed break on the domestic front!)

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CSA meal #1 (cabbage and snow peas) – shrimp stir fry (snow peas and chopped onions added to this recipe)

CSA meal #2 (zucchini, potato, onion) – turkey and zucchini meatballs with oven-baked potatoes and grill-charred onions)

vegetarian dinner – Brie and fig jam grilled cheese sandwiches (yes, I have more leftovers to use up!)

hosting overnight guests (CSA arugula) – broccoli quinoa casserole with arugula salad and a fruit tray. For dessert, I’ll serve ice cream and/or some lemon cookies pulled from the freezer.

Kebab-themed potluck dinner party (more CSA zucchini, tomato) – We will grill kielbasa kebabs and piri-piri kebabs. I’ll also serve green bean salad and Caprese salad skewers (note: I’ll be buying balsamic glaze in order to prefer my sanity!)

July Meal Plan #3: Fast, Fresh, and Filled with Veggies

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Two factors continue to govern our summer meal planning. First and foremost, I’ve got to use up our weekly CSA produce. This week’s box included lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, beets, green beans, cabbage, and cucumbers. (I’m using ingredients for every dinner this week, so no CSA notations on the recipes below).

I’m also surprisingly busy this summer with tons of close-to-home fun. Currently that includes hanging out with friends and family, soccer practice, swim lessons, and the occasional kid-friendly adventure. I’m trying to minimize my time in the kitchen without compromising the yum factor.

With that in mind, here are our dinners for the week…

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Pantry Challenge #1 (clams from freezer) – fried razor clams and beet slaw

The Big Easy #1 – Dutch oven bread and a thrown-together green salad (mine will contain shredded chicken, diced melon, goat cheese, cucumber, and candied walnuts… topping it off with store-bought honey mustard dressing)

The Big Easy #2 – anchovy pasta with steamed green beans

Pantry Challenge #2 (chicken from freezer) – Vietnamese chicken salad

July Meal Plan #2: Simplify, Simplify

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Recipe and photo from Amanda at Heartbeet Kitchen

Confession: while I’m thrilled about this week’s dinner plans, I’m saving the real excitement for our leftovers. Yes, the whole reason I’m making crock pot chicken is so that (a) I can roast it without heating up my house and (b) I can shred the leftovers to make buffalo chicken quinoa casserole. (Yes, Amanda’s delicious casserole recipe IS there, I swear! You just have to scroll down past the equally delicious green salad recipe.) I’m looking forward to stocking our fridge with some delicious make-ahead lunches.

This meal plan was tailored for a CSA box that includes lettuce, new potatoes, zucchini, cabbage, broccoli, and snow peas.

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Big Easy CSA Meal #1 (potatoes, broccoli) – crock pot roast chicken, potatoes, and broccoli

CSA Meal #2 (lettuce & freezer bacon) – Hawaiian salad (three great salad recipes grouped together here… just keep scrolling)

Vegetarian CSA Meal #3 (snow peas) – tofu and veggie stir fry

Pantry Challenge CSA Meal #4 (cabbage) – grilled ribs and ramen cabbage salad

Delicious Carbs – pesto pizza with goat cheese, kalamata olives, red onions, and roasted red peppers (here’s the link to my preferred crust recipe)