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If this is your first visit to a meal plan page, find the strategy behind it here.  Welcome!

Tuesday 3/17:
breakfast – popovers with sausage gravy and scrambled eggs
lunch – homemade pizza, kale salad
dinner – corned beef and cabbage

Wednesday 3/18:
breakfast – Alton Brown’s breakfast smoothie, slice of swiss cheese
lunch – homemade pizza, kale salad
dinner – corned beef and cabbage

Thursday 3/19: breakfast – Alton Brown’s breakfast smoothie, slice of swiss cheese
lunch – corned beef and cabbage
dinner – three bean chili and cornbread

Friday 3/20:
breakfast – Alton Brown’s breakfast smoothie, slice of swiss cheese
lunch – chili and cornbread
dinner – stuffed potatoes

Stuffed Potatoes

Stuffed Potatoes

Saturday 3/21:
breakfast – breakfast pizza (with scrambled eggs, 3 andouille sausage, and grated mozzarella)
lunch – stuffed potatoes
dinner – chili and cornbread

Sunday 3/22:
breakfast – breakfast pizza
lunch – stuffed potatoes
dinner – hot dogs (with homemade buns, zucchini relish, mayonnaise, and sriracha), kale salad

Monday 3/23:
breakfast – breakfast pizza
lunch – hot dogs
dinner – bounty rice

This week’s ingredient list:
meat
-corned beef (1.25 lb)
-2 chicken breasts
-1/2 lb thick bacon
-6 hot dogs
-1/2 lb ground beef
-three andouille sausages

dairy
-3 oz white cheddar
-1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
– 6 slices swiss cheese
-8 oz mozzarella
-milk of choice
-one dozen eggs

produce
-large green cabbage
-3 lb of medium russet potatoes
-1 lb carrots
-5  bananas
-yellow onions

frozen
-10-12 oz of frozen strawberries
-10-12 oz of frozen peaches
-10-12 of frozen blueberries

pantry
-three cans tricolored beans
-1/4 cup bbq sauce
-tomato paste
-diced canned tomatoes
-butter
-cornmeal
-flour
-yeast
-sriracha
-zucchini relish
-grapeseed oil
-12 oz (by weight) pomegranate juice

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Stuffed Potatoes

Stuffed Potatoes

Stuffed Potatoes

This recipe was born out of laziness, a tight budget for the week, and a well-stocked freezer (which is not always the case).  The filling is also nice in a grilled sandwich.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thaw and dry 10 oz of frozen spinach. Place a small amount of oil in a shallow bowl. Roll the potatoes in the oil and place on a lined baking sheet.  Bake for one hour.

Slice the baked potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh.  Place the flesh and the rest of the ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl and gently combine.  Scoop heaping portions back into the potato skins and bake for 15 minutes further.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup grape seed oil
3 lbs medium sized russet potatoes
10 oz of frozen spinach, thawed and drained/ dried
2 chicken breasts roasted and shredded (I prefer this method)
3 oz white aged cheddar, grated
1/3 cup bbq sauce (I make this in the summer and love it in this recipe, but any bbq sauce will do.)
6 oz thick cut bacon, chopped, pan fried, and drained
1/2 cup whole plain yogurt

Comfort Food

chocolate pie Blogging is so 2010… I don’t really do it anymore between raising a toddler and growing tired of the sound of my own virtual voice, BUT… Our household has managed to make some real progress in the world of health and budgeting food over the last few years, which is impressive to us mostly because one thing hasn’t changed: we love comfort food.  For lunch today i had pumpkin sausage stew and chocolate meringue pie.  And I’m writing this on a whim, so, no, that wasn’t planned for the purpose of making my point.

No matter how health or budget conscious we get, we still have our tastes and still throw down more food than most of our friends, but as of now we are ALSO managing to shed a few pounds each month and my cooking load has dropped dramatically.  So i thought, as a fun outlet and a database for our journey, I would begin to share our meal schedules with the internet, in case the strategy or recipes are helpful to anyone.  That’s right.  Strategy.  And Schedules.  Get ready, folks, you are about to be bored out of your mind.

I cook one main dish per day – enough portions to feed our family for three meals.  I set up the schedule so that I am cooking breakfast once and lunch/ dinner twice.  That way each day we have one brand spanking new meal, and two meals of leftovers.  Don’t worry.  Comfort food eats better the next day. I plan out meals at least one week in advance (sometimes the whole month).  This is really helpful with budgeting.  Each meal has to average $3/adult.  If I know a birthday or dinner party is coming up, I need to make room in the budget for a more expensive meal.  We also buy organic as much as possible, which I believe just about doubles our grocery bills. As an example, here’s a shot of our meal schedule for the rest of this week:

Thursday 3/12:
bfast – blackberry cobbler  and plain yogurt
lunch – pumpkin sausage stew, chocolate meringue pie (meringue portion of recipe here)
dinner – mushroom alfredo macaroni, spinach salad

Friday 3/13: bfast -blackberry cobbler and plain yogurt
lunch – pumpkin sausage stew
dinner – twice baked potatoes, spinach salad with crumbled feta and dried cherries

twice baked potato

Saturday 3/14:
bfast – blackberry cobbler and plain yogurt
lunch – twice baked potatoes, spinach salad
dinner – lentil shepherd’s pie

Sunday 3/15:
bfast – popovers and sausage gravy with scrambled egg (this is a four-day breakfast for us)
lunch – twice baked potatoes, spinach salad
dinner – lentil shepherd’s pie (start pizza dough for tomorrow night)

Monday 3/15:
bfast – popovers and sausage gravy with scrambled egg
lunch – lentil shepherd’s pie
dinner – homemade pizza, side salad

So, the big health increase/ weight decrease comes from three things so far.

1 – Pay attention to calories when you decide on portion size.  Often our favorite foods are more calorically dense than others; our bodies are programmed to desire foods that are calorie jackpots.  Sometimes we want more than our allotted portion.  But we don’t eat it because it would throw off the schedule AND our budget.  And nine times out of ten, 45 minutes later we realize we didn’t need it.  If we’re still hungry for more an hour later, we make some popcorn or grab a cheese stick.

2 – Drink more water.  It’s not exciting, but it is good for metabolism and for recognizing real hunger v thirst masquerading as hunger.  And it’s good for, you know, hydration.  One big help for consuming more water has been to keep sparkling water on hand.  Add a squirt of lemon or lime juice and it’s more than tolerable.  (i often sneak a sugar cube in there, too…)

3 – Supplement the comfort food entree with an easy, low sugar side salad (especially if the entree happens to be low on nutrient dense vegetables.  The dressing you use here is important, because if you go too creamy or sugary, you may as well grab a burger, and we’d all rather have the burger anyway.  We almost always use either a quick shallot vinaigrette (for dark greens like spinach and kale) or lime vinaigrette (for light greens like romaine).

January, for us, has been about left-overs.  Turkey roast, tea and coffee gifts abounding, not to mention left-over bills, which make us especially grateful for the surplus in the cabinets.

Sadly, I was without the where-with-all to photograph the many soups we made, but I want to share them anyway.  One day spent cooking and some freezer space utilized made for easy and tasty, wholesome meals for us this remarkably snowy, southern January.

First, Jaron’s favorite, a Rick Bayless empire creation: Chili Verde with Turkey and Garbanzo Beans.  We used shredded turkey and leftover turkey stock.  With a little sour cream, this chili quickly jumped to the top of our list.  Make it, serve it, freeze the left-overs to use one or two weeks later and it won’t even feel like left-overs.

When Jaron and I were in Ireland last year, one of our favorite experiences was a visit to the Avoca cafe, south of Dublin.  It’s homey, quaint, and serves up absolutely delicious and nutritious hearty food.  We had soup and Irish brown bread because we had heard it was a local staple.  And now it’s one of ours, too.  You can find these recipes and more in this beautifully photographed and written cookbook by Avoca.

Avoca Irish Brown Bread:

This bread calls for some unique ingredients, a couple of which you may need to order.  But let me tell you, it’s worth it.  It’s very easy to make, deliciously hearty and moist, and uber healthy as breads go.  Pair it with some salted Irish butter to elevate a lighter soup to a full meal.

Preheat oven to 450.  In a large mixing bowl, combine 6 oz white flour, 8 oz coarse brown flour, 3 tbsp wheat bran, 2 tbsp wheat germ, 2 heaping tsp baking powder, and 1 level teaspoon salt. After stirring together, add 1 tsp treacle, and about six cups whole milk. Stir together.  You want the mixture to be moist, but not runny.  Pour the mixture into a well-oiled loaf pan and bake twenty minutes at 450.  Then reduce oven temperature to 325 and bake for a further hour.

Remove pan from oven and use a butter knife to run around the sides of the loaf to loosen.  Dump it onto a cooling rack.  Tap on the bottom to see if it has cooked through.  If you hear a hollow sound, the bread is done.  If not, return it to the oven for ten minutes (don’t put it back in the pan, just straight onto the shelf).

Now for the soup.  Once you have the bread in the oven, you can bang out this soup in the hour plus that it cooks.  It was a first for us, also from the Avoca Cafe Cookbook, and a new favorite.  Slightly sweet and full of roasted red pepper flavor.  It’s my new grown-up substitute for the Campbell’s tomato that I was so fond of growing up.

Prep: Peel and dice 10 large carrots and two large yellow onions. De-seed three red bell peppers and cut into fourths.  Broil the red peppers and carrots together in a shallow oven-safe dish for ten minutes. 

Meanwhile, gently saute the onions in two tablespoons olive oil for ten minutes in a dutch oven or thick-bottomed stock pot.  Peel the charred skin off the bell pepper (it’s okay if the part that’s still red stays on).  Add the carrots and bell peppers to the onions, along with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the ingredients together and add six cups of water, six bouillon cubes, and the juice from one lime. Bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for twenty minutes or until the carrots are quite tender.

Puree the soup in a blender and reheat gently.  Serve with a teaspoon or creme fraiche or plain yogurt and a dash of paprika.

I’m sure this meal is lovely with Guiness, but we just discovered our favorite beer from home at my new employer‘s brand new store and had to go with that this time.

Replay from last year:

I thought I’d dedicate a few posts to my favorite Fall flavor combo, squash and sausage (with squash and apples coming in at a close second).  First up is one we recreated after experiencing it last year in Chicago at Cajun joint “Heaven on Seven“: Spicy Pumpkin Sausage Soup.

Prep: Dice 1-1.5 lb spicy smoked sausage.  Make sure you don’t buy raw sausage as it behaves very differently spicy sausage sautethan smoked.  Also dice 1/2 c yellow onion and 1 tbsp garlic and slice 3/4 c baby bella mushrooms.

Saute these ingredients in 1 tbsp olive oil along with 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried basil (or 1 tbsp fresh), and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes until the sausage starts to brown and the onions are translucent.

Add 2 c water with bouillon cubes and 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes (with liquid).  Mix thoroughly and stir in 1 14 oz. can pumpkin.  (Make sure you don’t use pumpkin pie filling!)

Simmer for one half hour.  spicy pumpkin sausage soupThen add  1 c shredded spinach and cook 5 more minutes.  Depending on the sausage you choose, this soup can come out very spicy.  If the fire is too hot for your taste, you can easily put out the flame with about 1 tbsp heavy cream per bowl, while even enhancing the texture of this hearty soup.

Jaron loves this soup; if you’re into grilling brats in the summer, this is the perfect fall adaptation.  Earthy, comforting, and bright.

We paired it with Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale.  I’m not always a flavored beer fan, but the spices in this one go well with the red pepper in the soup.

I love Fall – it’s officially the beginning of comfort food season.  Nutrition and comfort can easily go together, but sometimes we yearn for a little hint of summer, a little brighter food to cut through all the spices and potatoes.  For us that means it’s time for Ginger Butternut Squash Soup.  Its bright, clean flavor is one of our favorites.  And with only five ingredients, it’s fast and cost-efficient.

Prep:

Chop 2 yellow onions.

Mince two tablespoons fresh ginger root.

Peel, core, and chop 2 apples (again, I prefer honeycrisp).

Peel, seed, and cut into cubes 1 butternut squash.

Saute the onion and ginger in one tablespoon oil in a large soup pot until the onion is translucent.

Add 4 cups water and 4 bouillon cubes to pot and bring to boil.  Simmer until squash and apples are tender.  Puree the whole thing in a blender while hot.  (Be careful – I’ve had many a burn from careless pureeing!)  Stir in salt and pepper to taste and serve.

(Recipe from Simply in Season.)