Cultural Food for Hanukkah: Meal Planning Monday Week 12

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. You may know I’m not Jewish, but I do love eating my way around the world and enjoying traditional foods of other cultures. I think it’s the best way to get to know people who are different than ourselves while relating–because in many ways we are the same.

Whatever our culture, we all have values and beliefs that are important to us…and we all eat. It makes the world feel a little smaller when we are able to respect others’ values and beliefs even if we don’t share them. (As the original melting-pot culture, we could do this more often!)

And when we show interest in others, share a table together, and try new things, we are making ourselves vulnerable and well, life meaningful!

Frankly, sometimes what we eat isn’t even all that different–I find that so comforting! Or maybe it’s just the carbs…but take bread, for example. I love how many cultures have some version of a food that is traditional and similar, yet different.

  • Pita bread (Greek or Middle Eastern),
  • naan (India)
  • Italian bread,
  • baguette (French),
  • the spongy (Ethiopian) flatbread called injera
  • and of course, America has corn bread…or Wonder bread (kind of embarrassing, but it’s probably most representative of our culture)?

Well, then there’s also Jewish challah bread. My daughter has a new friend from school who is from Israel, and her mother shared this delicious freshly-baked loaf of challah with me last Friday! And these new friends also invited us into their home this week to share a meal to learn more about how they celebrate Hanukkah…such a generous invitation and I am really looking forward to it!

Of course you may have noticed I don’t eat a lot of bread because I try to avoid overly processed and refined carbohydrates.  So when I do, it has to be worth it…this is worth trying and I’m hoping I have time to make French toast out of it for “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) on Friday (because my kids have been asking for French toast for a while).

But if you don’t have time for breadbaking this week, try these easy salmon potato cakes! The are a new, higher-protein take on potato latkes, a traditional Hanukkah food. Latkes are fried traditionally to commemorate the miracle of a one-day supply of oil lasting 8 days. So, these are still pan-fried in olive oil, because they taste best that way! But they come together quickly with canned sockeye salmon and you can use frozen hash browns if you like (I prefer fresh, but if I don’t have time I use Trader Joe’s brand because they are preservative free).

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a busy night): Salmon Potato Cakes with sour cream, roasted broccoli and cauliflower

Tuesday (a busy night): Leftovers (Holiday concert night!)

Wednesday: Out for dinner (to a Hanukkah celebration with friends who are from Israel)

Thursday (a busy night): Instant Pot Chicken Soup (Not a Hanukkah food per se, but it’s easy and warms the soul like new friends! Plus I am making extra to have on hand for the winter.)

Friday: Cinnamon French Toast (with homemade Challah bread if time permits), and fruit

Buon Appetito! And Happy Hanukkah!

Creative Leftovers: Meal Planning Monday Week 11

Ah, Thanksgiving 2018 has come and gone and now it’s Cyber Monday.  If you’re too busy shopping online today (or just living your regular life) to plan this week’s meal–let alone cook–here’s hoping you still have leftovers.  But if you are sick of turkey leftovers or even the turkey-stuffing-cranberry sandwiches (my favorite), creative leftovers can make you extra thankful…for the Thanksgiving meal that keeps on giving throughout your busy work week!

I am weirdly satisfied when I am able to use up foods I have in the fridge. Is that a dietitian thing?! Or can you relate? Here’s my thinking:

  • Part of it is about making the most out of the meal to use up natural resources (i.e., the turkey and the vegetables).
  • Of course I’m also happy to create more meals from one holiday meal to stretch out the food savings.
  • But mainly I find it rewarding to create new meals–that my family members love and look foward to–out of tired, boring leftovers.

So, this week’s Meal Planning Monday inspiration is creative leftovers. Feel free to leave a comment about how you love using up your turkey and leftovers!

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a busy night): Leftover Shepherd’s Pie (Gluten Free)–a new recipe!  I froze half of this pie I made last week, but you could also use up leftover mashed potatoes and/or vegetables with this recipe.

Tuesday (a busy night): Leftover After-Thanksgiving Creamy Turkey and Rice Soup (new instructions for Instant Pot turkey bone broth!) Usually my husband makes this soup the Friday after Thanksgiving, but I waited till I got home to make it on Sunday so I could use my Instant Pot to speed up the broth step (while also being able to leave the house–win-win!)

Wednesday: Instant Pot Chicken/Turkey Enchilada Casserole  Use turkey if you have it, or chicken. You make the meat filling and enchilada sauce for this casserole in the Instant Pot and then assemble it into a casserole. It can be made ahead; just keep it in the fridge till you bake it. Leftovers freeze well, too.

Thursday (a busy night): Chicken/Turkey Pot Pie This is a family favorite with chicken or turkey and even when we don’t have leftover cranberry sauce, we serve it with the pot pie–a guilty pleasure! I feel a little better only using one crust on top.

Friday: Leftover leftovers?! Or if you’re fed up with fowl, it may be time for this easy Sheet Pan Italian Sausage, Pepper and Zucchini Bake

Buon Appetito!

Cooking Down: Meal Planning Monday Week 9

Are you a moody eater?  I am–and honestly it makes meal planning extra challenging sometimes!  But my freezer is full and it’s time to focus on “cooking down.”

Hoard much? I don’t know about you, but every now and then I need to reorganize the freezer and make a list of what needs to be used up.  I keep the list on a white board on the fridge, which helps hit me over the head with it.  Sometimes (most times) I need that…

If you’re not familiar with cooking down, you can read more about it in this post. Chances are you do it already, but if you don’t, check out my tips to get you started!

In a nutshell:

Cooking down is using up what you have on hand to minimize waste while still preparing easy, real food for your family.

So, this week’s meal plans are inspired by my need to:

  • prepare mostly from-scratch easy, real food for my family (as usual),
  • cook down and make room in the freezer,
  • catch my breath from the “birthday sweeps,” and
  • brace myself for Thanksgiving and the holiday season!

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (no school, M’s birthday): Out for a sushi birthday dinner (fitting for my daughter who was born in Japan!)

Tuesday (a busy night): Leftover Instant Pot Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, creamed spinach (with frozen spinach), and leftover roasted root vegetables

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Whole Chicken (from the freezer) with Seasoning Salt, caprese salad with fresh mozzarella (from my The Neighborhood Harvest delivery), and whole green beans (from the freezer)

Thursday (a busy night): Brunswick Stew (from the freezer)

Friday: Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas (from the freezer), served over lettuce and topped with shredded cheese, chopped avocado and sour cream

Buon Appetito!

Easy, Real Comfort Foods: Meal Planning Monday Week 8

Well, in case you were worried about me…I made it through my hectic week and I can honestly say that dinner never caused me stress, because I had a realistic plan.  Well, that…and the fact that I had other people making dinner a couple of the nights. Heh. Back to reality this week.

But despite a loud sleepover birthday party with eight 7th graders Saturday night, my Sunday was relaxing enough to figure out the week’s meals. Winning! For now…but I’m definitely in the mood for some easy, real comfort food this week!

What Is “Easy, Real Comfort Food”?

The holiday season is here (as indicated by the arrival of Starbucks’ holiday drinks on Nov. 2, and no I haven’t had one yet)!  And so is some cooler weather (in Virginia anyway)–so, bring on the easy, real comfort foods!

You know “comfort foods,” but you may not know “easy, real comfort foods.” I’m talking about foods that are:

  • easy enough to make during the week,
  • made from real food, not processed foods,
  • warm and hearty for the chilly weather,
  • and particularly nourishing to your body and soul.

Maybe you’ve eaten particular comfort foods throughout your childhood. Perhaps you ate a particular comfort food only one time, yet associate it with the memory of something positively wonderful in your life. It could be that you associate particular comfort foods with a particularly challenging time in your life. Or it’s possible you associate particular comfort foods with the seasons.

Either way, I believe comfort food is an integral part of life’s ups and downs–events or temperatures! But when did “comfort food” become synonymous with “guilty pleasure”?

Here’s the thing:

You don’t have to overindulge in overly processed foods to thoroughly enjoy your food.  Easy, real comfort foods are guilt free, wholesome and real-food based, but most importantly they are easily enjoyable.

So, my meals this week include some of my favorite easy, real comfort foods that I hope you will try!

A hearty beef stew, like my mom used to make
An Italian Tuscan bean soup that reminds me of friends we met in Japan and our time in Italy
A Mediterranean frittata that reminds me of my Greek heritage

 

 

 

 

 

And my version of a chicken pot pie that my friend Kathy shared after the birth of my second daughter on Nov. 12th, 11 yrs ago

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a busy night): Instant Pot Beef Stew (leftover from Sunday)

Tuesday (no school, but a busy night): Instant Pot Tuscan Bean, Vegetable and Bread Soup (adapting this recipe to make a bread-free version)

Wednesday:  “Brinner”–Mediterranean Caramelized Onion, Zucchini, Tomato and Feta Frittata 

Thursday (a busy night): Leftovers (Tuscan soup)

Friday: Chicken Pot Pie (with a single top crust)

Buon Appetito!

Halloween: Meal Planning Monday Week 7

Not gonna lie, barely holding it together this Monday. Thus, the late evening Meal-Planning Monday post. But trust me, Halloween meal planning is worth the wait!

Monday has gotten away from me, but it sure was productive, which is good.  I really needed to kill it today! Because the week is only getting busier as the days go on.

  • Tomorrow: oldest daughter’s turning 13!
  • Wednesday: Halloween festivities!
  • Thursday: major house cleaning (see Friday) and recipe development projects.
  • Friday: video interview in my home for a military professional spouse project.

So, I had to get a plan together quickly to–you guessed it–prevent chaos.  I hope these meal plans spark some festive or seasonal ideas and help you stay sane, too!

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a busy night): Instant Pot White Chicken Chili (a new real-food, gluten-free, dairy-free recipe; to be posted soon!) Tip: I made this at 2pm and kept it on warm until 6pm.

Tuesday (a busy night and my oldest’s birthday dinner request): Mom’s Pot Roast (bonus my mom’s visiting to make it for us), Instant Pot mashed potatoes, and green beans.

Wednesday (Halloween): Chili at my neighbors; I’m bringing a large simple salad to share and one of my many festive real-food Halloween treats–not sure which one yet!

Thursday (a busy night): Leftovers!

Friday: Instant Pot Lemon Chicken Piccata with roasted winter vegetables (I’m working on developing a new winter vegetable recipe collection for OnTrack Diabetes; if you like plant-based eating, you may want to check out the easy vegan recipes I recently developed for them!)

Buon Appetito and Happy Halloween!

Digging Deep: Meal Planning Monday Week 6

Ugh, I really don’t feel like meal planning today!  Can you relate? We had a busy weekend with camping and birthday parties, and I have a busy week full of my projects and the kids’ activities. (And did I mention it’s just me and the kids?) Plus I’m feeling like I’m all out of meal planning ideas.  Yes, it happens to dietitian bloggers, too. But…when I really stop and think about the alternative (not meal planning), I am always convinced to dig deeper.

I can reuse recipes, or peruse Pinterest (Try this Healthy Recipe Board). But whatever I do–I cannot bear the idea of scrambling last minute.

So, this is what I came up with for the week. I hope it helps inspire you to maintain some order while feeding your family some nourishing easy, real food.

New Fashioned Meatloaf

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a holiday): New-Fashioned Meatloaf (doubling recipe to bring a freezer-friendly meal to a friend traveling for a funeral), mashed potatoes, and green beans

Tuesday (a busy night): Dinner (pizza) out at the Elementary School’s Roller Skating Party

Wednesday: Instant Pot French Dip Sandwiches (recipe to follow) and salad

Thursday (a busy night): From the Freezer: Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls 

Friday: Baked Salmon with Dill Butter, Butternut Squash Gratin (Doubling recipe to bring a batch to a neighbor’s Oyster Roast on Saturday), and roasted broccoli

Butternut Squash Gratin

Buon Appetito!

One-Parent-is-Away Meal Plans: Meal Planning Monday Week 5

Meal planning takes on a whole new vibe now that my spouse has left for an 11-week deployment on the USN Comfort Hospital Ship. I don’t mean to say it’s easier, just different because my audience has shifted a little. Usually, I cater to our adult tastes and preferences and the kids are along for the ride. But when B is gone, I realized today that I try to use meal planning as a way to bring some control to my kids’ lives, by allowing them to choose some of their favorite dinner options.  (Within reason, of course!)  And they seem to appreciate it. That’s what inspires this week’s One-Parent-is-Away Meal Plans.

And BTW, you don’t have to be military to appreciate that family meals can be a source of comfort, predictability and normalcy for kids!

Sometimes my kids’ choices are a little higher-carb than I typically prefer.  For example, I did already promise them brinner (breakfast-for-dinner)–which means homemade pancakes or waffles–so you’ll see that on the menu below for this week.

But surprisingly, many of their favorites are some of my healthy favorites. For example, tonight they requested my Slow Cooker whole chicken sprinkled with homemade seasoning salt. I plan to roast a kobacha squash we picked up this weekend at the farm market after visiting the pumpkin patch. We’ll also have miso-roasted Brussels sprouts (because, shocker, we didn’t get around to eating them last week!)

The kids are handling the deployment like pros so far. Yes, maybe because it’s only the first week and we’re lucky we’ve only had one other long deployment in the past 13 years!

But we realize it could be a lot worse. So, we approach each day the only way we know how.  We focus on and appreciate our family’s usual traditions (food-related or otherwise), which comfort us and sustain us one day at a time.

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a holiday): Slow Cooker whole chicken with homemade Seasoning Salt (no other ingredients needed), roasted Kobacha squash and miso-roasted Brussels sprouts (recipes coming soon to the Recipe page!)

Tuesday (a busy night): Chicken Parmesan, fressh mozzarella caprese salad and roasted zucchini

Wednesday: Brinner (breakfast for dinner): I’m excited to finally try these Spelt Waffles created by my RD friend, Maria at Halsa Nutrition! I’ll serve them with a quick fresh fruit salad.

Thursday (a busy night): Leftover night

Friday: Homemade pizza night (with whole-wheat flatbread and Califlour crusts)

Buon Appetito!

Flexible Meal Plans: Meal Planning Monday Week 4

Maybe you consistently make meal plans. But do you always stick to them?  Well, I feel now is a good time to let you know–at week four of my Meal Planning Monday series–I do NOT often stick to my meal plans.  Realistic flexible meal plans are the key to stress-free weekday meals.

Life happens. You need to be flexible.  Changing your meal plans is fine and to be expected!

It’s always better to have a flexible meal plan that you can change than to have no plan at all.

Last Week’s Flexible Meal Plans

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday went according to plan. (I can usually hold things together for three days!)

But we planned a last minute family photo shoot for Thursday evening (before my husband deploys this week for about 3 months).  Although we planned on leftovers, at 6:45 pm when we finished up, we were hungry and decided to go for sushi.

Why? Because he’ll be stuck on a ship with limited food options AND because it sounded better to me than reheating and cleaning up. Win-win!

So, I moved Thursday’s leftover burrito bowls to Friday night’s menu.

But then on Friday…my lovely good friend of a neighbor next door surprised us with a tray of homemade chicken parmesan.  This is actually one of my favorite meals ever; I always requested it as my birthday dinner from my mom growing up!

Hmmm, pop that pan in the oven to melt the cheese (while I open a bottle of wine) or reheat leftovers?  No brainer.

So, the leftover burrito bowls got pushed back again and made for a great weekend lunch (and I had even put some in the freezer for a weeknight meal in the near future).  Nothing was wasted, so I feel absolutely fine about the changes.

Truthfully, changes happen almost every week. But I continually try to plan meals that are flexible enough to allow for the inevitable change of plans.  So, please don’t worry or give up if that happens to you, too!

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a holiday): Blue Cheese Bacon Burger Salad

Tuesday (a busy night): Baked Salmon with Dill Butter, Roasted Asparagus, and a simple salad

Wednesday: Baked Acorn Squash with Sausage Stuffing, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and a simple salad

Thursday (a busy night): Instant Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup and a simple salad

Friday: Leftover soup and salad (TGIF!)

Buon Appetito!

 

Week 2: Meal Planning Monday

Happy Meal Planning Monday!

It’s that time again–time to get easy, real-food meals planned to stay sane this week…through the rest of September.

I, for one, am taking it one week at a time. We survived our first full week of school last week (it was delayed with 4 days off school, thanks to Hurricane Flo.) Of course, this week promises to be just as busy. So, bring on the slow cooker and Instant Pot meals!

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, don’t worry. Most Instant Pot meals can be slow cooked and vice versa. If you have both, decide whether you want to be fixing the meal early in the day or later in the day.

Personally, I also don’t like to slow cook in my Instant Pot, because, for whatever reason, it is a lot slower than my slow cooker. So, since I am accustomed to my trusty slow cooker, I’m not parting with it–even though I have an Instant Pot and my slow cooker handles have fallen off and the lid has been replaced once). It has earned its keep.

Hoard kitchen appliances much? Maybe…but only the useful ones. Haha.

Meal Planning This Week:

Monday (a busy night): Fresh-caught grilled tuna (from a neighbor), Asian peanut cole slaw, and brown short-grain rice (I’ll post a recipe/photo of the cole slaw on the recipe page after tonight!)

Tuesday (a busy night): Slow Cooker (or Instant Pot) Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash (you can use zoodles or pasta, if you prefer.)

Wednesday: Dinner at church and then packing 30,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger (I would otherwise be making enough meatballs to have leftovers.)

Thursday (a busy night): Sheet Pan Italian Sausage, Pepper and Zucchini Bake

Friday: Trying out these vegan, gluten-free Spicy Chickpea Veggie Burgers (from Running on Real Food) with Roasted Vegetables (I will separately roast eggplant and tomato, so eggplant gets nice and crispy!)

Buon Appetito! As always, please leave your comments or questions. Did you try any recipes from last week? Do you have any special requests or dietary restrictions you need to work around? Let me help!

Meal Planning Mondays Start This Week!

Weekly meal planning is near and dear to my heart. You’ve heard me say I feel strongly about the meal-planning process, and you can read more about my tips for meal planning in this post.

So, meal planning for dinner is something I do pretty regularly, although never 100% of the time.

But when I don’t do it, I always regret the chaos that ensues. I’m left scrambling during the busiest time of day (3 to 7 pm for me) to make sure what I’m eating and feeding my family is as nourishing as possible. Can you relate?

You could say there are two kinds of people in the world (actually, I think this trick works for most topics, LOL):

  • those who have realistic menu plans, and
  • those who don’t (meaning, either they’re not realistic OR they didn’t bother at all!)

I care about you, so I’d really like us to be in the “realistic menu plan” camp together–which is why I’m always talking about my easy, real food recipes.

But even as an RD, it’s still hard to pull meals together every week, so I’ve decided to share my personal weeknight meal plans with you on “Meal Planning Monday.” I don’t want you to follow it exactly, but rather use it as a tool (along with my recipes) to get ideas for planning your own easy, real food weeknight meals.

Bonus: sharing here will help keep me on track for my own family!

Meal Planning This Week:

Monday (a busy night): B’s “Gonna Get Through This” Chili (from the depths of the freezer, found thanks to Hurrican Flo!)

Tuesday (a busy night): leftover Brunswick Stew from the weekend, and a simple salad

Wednesday: Simple Salmon Cakes with Tatziki, and a simple salad

Thursday (a busy night): a Tofu Stirfry (sorry no recipe yet, creating a new recipe and testing it on my family!)

Friday: Homemade pizza with Califlour Foods plain crust (sampled these crusts at the AADE Conference–yum! And no, I don’t get any financial compensation!)

Buon Appetito! And don’t forget to let me know which recipes have inspired you in the comments! Next week I’ll be sure to include an Instant Pot and/or Slow Cooker option…