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!

 

Meal Planning Monday Week 3: Some Fall Foods!

Happy fall y’all!  October has arrived and right on cue, the morning air in Virginia Beach is cool as I meal plan on my screened-in back porch…although I’m sure the reprieve from the heat is temporary. I’m a fall person, so one can hope.  Anyone else?

Another sign of fall? We celebrated Oktoberfest this past weekend (most of which is technically celebrated in September, for the record) with a fun party in our backyard biergarten. This year’s party had about 45 adults and 40 kids running around!  SUPER thankful the weather was perfect since my house would have been CROWDED otherwise.

It’s always a good party when you put your phone down and ignore it for hours!  The down side is I was so busy and enjoying myself that I forgot to take even one photo!  So, here’s the bier tent from last year…

So, I’m especially tired this Meal Planning Monday, but serving you helps motivate me–I really hope it helps you!

And of course, the seasons inspire my meal planning, too.  I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for all sorts of fall foods for my meal plans!

So, we’ll start the week with Oktoberfest leftovers because it’s easy, and then finish on Friday with a pumpkin soup that I have missed. All. Year. Long.

Meal Planning This Week: Fall Foods

Monday (a busy night): Leftover brats (from our Oktoberfest party this weekend), Instant Pot sweet potatoes, and a simple salad

Note: My potatoes have a diameter of about 10 inches, so I cut them in half lengthwise and place on rack with 1 cup water, HP for 18 minutes, NPR 15 min. (For more help, use this IP sweet potato cooking guide.)

Tuesday (a busy night): Slow Cooker Burrito Bowls (served over lettuce and topped with avocado)

Wednesday: Garlic Shrimp with pan-fried zucchini topped with parmesan cheese, and a simple salad

Thursday (a busy night): Leftover Slow Cooker Burrito Bowls (the family never minds these leftovers!)

Friday: Harvest Pumpkin Soup and a simple salad

Buon Appetito! What’s your favorite fall food?

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…

How to Crush the Back to School Rush

Back to school means “back to business as usual” for many of us–whether you have school-age kids or not!  During summer, we all tend to embrace a subtle circadian shift to allow for more daylight, relaxed schedules, and well…fun! But suddenly in September, the shift back to a typical schedule seems drastic as we are swept up in the back to school rush.

In addition to our new, usually busier fall routines, we can find ourselves bombarded with messages of impending change, which circulate in advertisments, the media, and of course schools. That’s because after New Year’s, September is one of the most popular start dates for making positive changes!  But when you ride the wave of popular change, sometimes you can get carried away with goal setting and expect too much of yourself.

Simply put, don’t do that! It sets you up for failure!

If you want to really crush the back to school rush, and be able to sustain any changes without becoming overwhelmed, plan ahead and be realistic!

I’m sharing FOUR simple ways I’m planning ahead to crush it–as an often distracted, sometimes overwhelmed, work-at-home parent of school-age kids–in case it helps you.

#1: My kids are packing their own lunches in the evening. 

Back to school is synomonous with the dreaded task of packing lunches, am I right?  So, ahhh, what a relief, my kids are now doing it for themselves!  And honestly, they are really enjoying it, even my youngest, who is six.

Bento Box Lunches

We are entering “year 4” of using these bento lunch boxes from Yumbox.  Each section serves as a template for packing lunches, which makes it easy. (They are a little small for older kids, so we usually also add some popcorn, pretzels, or crackers in a small separate container.) They really hold up, which makes them more economical (and you save by not buying pre-packaged items, which is also “green”!) There are many other bento-style boxes, but these are my favorite because they are leak proof between each section, which is harder to find.  Yes, this matters!  Because if juicy fruit leaks on bread or crackers, then your well-planned healthy lunch is ruined! That’s a preventable Mom fail…

#2: I am meal planning on Sunday (or Monday) and shopping once for at least 4 dinner meals at a time.

I need to get back to well-planned, easy weeknight meals, but still keep them homemade and healthy. And I really need to waste less time shopping. Honestly, I found myself in the store EVERY DAY the last week of summer.  Each time I was annoyed at how slow the cashiers were and really it’s my own fault for not sitting down for a few minutes and planning ahead to avoid wasting a ridiculous amount of time.  I may even embrace that it’s 2018 and try grocery delivery this month!  Seriously, am I the only one who hasn’t tried it yet?

#3: I am recommitTing to bullet journaling (and renouncing the chaos).

In January, I began creating my own weekly calendar in my spiral notebook planner. I fell off the wagon in June with the distractions of summer, so I’m getting back on now. It’s NOT fancy. I DO NOT doodle or create beautiful spreads like you see on Pinterest. It is pencil and ruler-drawn columns for each day, with “to do” boxes to check, and includes my meal planning for the week.

(I also write our weekly menu plan on a white board on the fridge to keep it handy and it lets the family know what’s for dinner, but the written record has become helpful to page through for repeat ideas over time.)

I use bullet journaling in conjunction with my phone calendar for appointments and reminders. It is simple, organized and customized to me and I am less scatter-brained and better off when I do it every week. Honestly, I’m starting next week when the after-school activities ramp up…

#4: I AM SCHEDULING 30 MINUTES EVERY DAY TO WORK OUT. 

I’m usually active every day, but I tend to give up time for myself when things come up or I get busy and stressed, so I really want to work on this. I’ve definitely had more time in the morning now that I’m not making lunches! But I prefer to wait till the kids are off to school, so I’m not designating a specific time. I just want to literally schedule some type of exercise for myself each day and treat it like any other commitment I make to other people.

Have I mentioned Planning Ahead is Key?

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it. Planning ahead is the best way to make positive changes to your lifestyle, such as eating more real foods and fewer processed foods. And it can and should be the simplest of plans.  To overstate the obvious, when we prioritize things that are most important to us, and have a way to stay organized, life is less overwhelming. Anything we can do to simplify things and create healthy habits helps our brains work for us, not against us, sort of on autopilot.

So, that’s what I call crushing it–planning ahead, doing the important things well, consistently. (That is, most of the time, with some grace for yourself!) I’d love to learn more about how you’re planning to crush the back to school rush, too.

Patriotic Red, White and Blue Real Foods

When you’re searching for festive holiday foods, the Internet (Pinterest) is full of creative hacks, but most festive recipes contain a variety of processed foods full of artificial colors, preservatives and flavors.  Fourth of July food inspiration is no different–you won’t find too many easy, patriotic red, white and blue REAL FOODS for you to enjoy with your family…

Well, I like to play with my food as much as the next mom (maybe more since I’m a dietitian), but I prefer to work with nature’s ingredients as much as possible.  I think it can be even more creative and just as fun!  And it’s certainly healthier for everyone involved.  That’s why I am sharing several of my favorite patriotic foods with you this Independence Day.

Yes, some are treats and some even contain sugar, but a non-diet approach works best when it includes the freedom to enjoy treats at times!  (Click on photos to link to recipes.)

Happy 4th of July! May you feel nourished every day by the things that matter most, including freedom, gratitude, and time spent with friends and family around a table of good food!

Almond Flour Gluten Free Waffles with Red, White and Blue Fruit
Almond Flour Gluten Free Waffles with Red, White and Blue Fruit
Patriotic Seven-Layer Dip Flag
Patriotic Seven-Layer Dip Flag
Red, White and Blue Flag with Roasted Vegetables and Mozzarella
Patriotic Red, White and Blue Roasted Vegetable Flag with Mozzarella Cheese
Strawberry, Banana and Blueberry Fruit Flag
Patriotic Fruit Flag
Patriotic Red White and Blue Wine Spritz
Patriotic Red, White and Blue Wine Spritz
real fruit snow cone syrup
Real Fruit Snow Cone Syrup (No Artificial Colors)

Save Time With Easy Real Food

Save Time with Easy Real Food: Mission Behind this Blog

Ahhh, summer’s here. It’s Week 2 and my kids act like we have all the time in the world. During any downtime, they’re lounging on the couch, trying to put off for tomorrow (or never) what they could do today. Then September sneaks up on them. Every. Year. And they wonder where the time went and why they didn’t do more during summer break. The point? It doesn’t appear to matter how old you are; everyone wants more time–that’s why it’s my main mission to save time with easy, real food!

I actually feel I should confess. I have a nutrition and food blog, but I usually hate reading food blogs!  Although I do love searching for new recipes to try, it’s a real time suck when bloggers share blow-by-blow random thoughts speckled with as many as 10 photos of the same food taken at different angles.

Pretty food is nice to look at, but dinner doesn’t make itself, am I right?!  I just don’t have time for that and neither do you, I suspect.  (And frankly, as a blogger I prefer to firmly plant myself on the side of the proverbial fine line where I am helpful, rather than a narcissistic oversharer.)

So, I instantly scroll down recipe posts, skipping all the commentary, to do my 10-second unofficial check of the recipe to see if it meets my criteria before I consider trying it.

My Recipe Checklist

What are my criteria, you may wonder? Well if you look at my Recipe Index, you’ll get the idea pretty quickly. But here is the unofficial checklist:

  • All real-food ingredients
  • No (or very minimal) sugar
  • Grain free/gluten free (if possible, to minimize refined carbohydrates)
  • Lower in total carbohydrate
  • No highly refined oils (such as seed and vegetable oils, including corn and canola)
  • Easy instructions
  • Minimal time commitment (bonus points for under 45 min)
  • Will My Family Eat It???

Perfection Is Impossible

Not too surprisingly, few recipes meet these criteria!  I realize my checklist is discriminating, but you should know I don’t follow these criteria for everything I eat. Technically, I do not have food rules; I eat everything.  And I don’t feel guilty when I choose to eat something that is outside of this list!  You shouldn’t either.

However, I don’t eat everything every day.  Most people’s idea of moderation is likely not cutting it for health.  I choose to eat lower carbohydrate, real (from nature) foods, 9 times out of 10, because I feel better eating this way—and believe it is the most evidenced-based way to eat for optimal health (more on that very soon, a blog post series is in the works!)

Plus eating easy, real food creates a path to simplicity in this overabundant, distracting life.  Literally–I don’t walk up and down the majority of grocery store aisles.  Figuratively–I try to concern myself with what’s important and disregard the rest because it’s how I keep my head above water!  I am known for saying, “I’m on a need-to-know basis and I just don’t need to know!”

So, when I am creating and sharing recipes to help you live a healthier lifestyle, these are my strict criteria to help you focus on what to eat more often than not.  Because anyone can easily use meal plans, order meal delivery kits or look up convenient, sugar-laden, highly processed recipes online.  But it is so much harder to find homemade, easy, real-food recipes that you can rely on for your day-to-day, non-diet meal planning for a healthy lifestyle.

Mission To Save Time

Because it is my number one mission to save time, I designed my site (which affects how you choose to get connected, see below) mainly to avoid wasting your time (and mine).  After all, if you don’t feel you have enough time, you won’t prioritize your family’s meals.  It is hard enough trying to cut through scientific jargon, mainstream media and popular culture to figure out what’s legit. So, when you take the time to pull up a chair to my table, I promise to always serve you the following:

  • Easy, real food recipes that are as brief as possible.
  • Recipes that are continually added to the Recipe Index, but are not posted—mainly so you are not emailed (read: bothered) every time one is added!
  • One photo per recipe, just enough to whet your appetite (but not within the printable recipe; I’m saving your printer ink!)
  • Evidence-based blog posts on a variety of nutrition topics relating to a lower carb real-food lifestyle—always summarized with a meaningful, practical “bottom line” and/or tips for moving forward.

Choose How to Get Connected

If you’re ready and willing to learn more, there are several ways to get connected with www.thewanderingrd.com, depending on which question(s) you want answered!

“What to Eat?”

If you want to cut to the chase and figure out what to eat (that is, what’s for dinner tonight?) here are some ways to get connected with www.thewanderingrd.com so you don’t miss when there are new recipes to try.

“Why Eat Real Food?”

If you are looking for the “why” behind a lower carb, real food lifestyle (for people with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes or anyone else) of course you’ll also find that at www.thewanderingrd.com! The best way to stay connected for this type of information is to subscribe to the blog via email, if you haven’t already, so you don’t miss a post.

(On a computer, from the homepage, look just under my photo to subscribe to the blog via email. Or on a mobile device, click on the faint square with 3 bars at top left, click “Contact Me” and scroll down to subscribe to the blog via email.)

What’s Next?

A new blog post series is in the works starting in July to cover some big topics and make them easier to digest. Don’t wait–get connected so you don’t miss a thing!