Week 32: Turkey Day


The first year the boys deep fried a turkey at Thanksgiving in Mason, TX

My favorite day of the year has almost arrived and I am SO excited! I LOVE Thanksgiving probably more than any one person should (some of my nearest and dearest can attest to this…). I love cooking on any normal day so a day that is completely dedicated to cooking for one big feast is right up my alley. I am also super traditional about the foods I like to eat with approximately zero room for flexibility. Just ask my family. There can be extra dishes, but there absolutely have to be a few dishes that are traditional from my childhood Thanksgivings with my mom’s family. Growing up we spent most of our Thanksgivings at my mom’s parents’ house. It’s her mother’s favorite holiday as well so getting everyone together always seemed like a pretty easy thing to do to make her happy. My grandmother is not much of a cook, her words not mine, but a turkey is something she does well. My mom, much to my brother’s disgust, always insists on mashed turnips. This is something I have given up as an adult; not all together but just on Thanksgiving. My mom’s stuffing with roasted chestnuts and dried cherries is another dish I have to miss out on every other year when we have Thanksgiving with Travis’s family. There is just not enough time in the day to make it all. But what I do make and insist on every single year with no exceptions is my grandmother’s cranberry-raisin pie with a beautiful lattice crust and sweet potato Anna, a dish with layers of thinly sliced sweet potatoes and leek sprinkled with fresh thyme and drizzled with ample butter. It is “simply divine” to quote my grandmother. A deep-fried turkey has also made its way onto my “must have” list. That is something Travis and my brother-in-law dreamed up four years ago and my life has never been the same. I also feel like I need to state that I do love that this day brings family together. That is probably a given, but since it is clear how much I love the food I didn’t want to miss stating the obvious. I am not holding my breath this year since Stella doesn’t seem to be very into food, but I hope in years to come she will share my excitement and joy in preparing and eating all the deliciousness that Thanksgiving is about. No pressure though. Since we are away for the week and I am not responsible for meals, I will be back to meal planning in two weeks. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Sweet & Savory Beef Stew with Whole Wheat Egg Noodles & Broccoli

  • I genuinely look forward to making this dish every year when it is finally cozy enough to call it fall/winter. It is yum!
  • I’ve used onions or shallots and butternut squash or sweet potatoes and it is always good.
  • This time around I didn’t have time for an hour in the oven so I just let it simmer away on the stove for 20 or so minutes until the squash was done and it worked out just fine. I am sure the meat would have been more tender the other way, but it was by no means tough.

Tuesday: Goat Cheese & Bean Enchiladas with Green Salad

  • I hesitate to even post a recipe here since it was merely inspiration, but for those of you who want a recipe, here it is.
  • I bought a large can of red enchilada sauce and used that instead.
  • For the filling I mixed a can of black beans, refried black beans, goat cheese, other random cheeses I needed to use up (ricotta and fresh mozzarella), scallions, diced bell pepper, green chili, and lime juice.
  • I filled the corn tortillas and baked them as instructed and served them with sour cream, avocado, cilantro and lime. They were super good and pretty easy.

Wednesday: Chicken Katsu with Creamy Slaw

  • I failed to pound my chicken thin enough so it took longer to cook, but Travis helped fix my raw chicken dilemma thankfully.
  • For the slaw I used a combo of red and green cabbage since we had both and cooked it for a little longer than suggested. I really liked the slaw but wish I had used less mayo or substituted half of it for sour cream. I really dislike the taste of mayo and could get a hint of it. Sensitive, I know, with only 2 Tbsp but that was my verdict for other non-mayo fans.

Thursday: Salmon Eggplant Curry with Brown Rice

  • I’ve made this many times and always prepared it differently than the recipe says to give my veggies extra time to cook. I start by stir-frying the eggplant with some oil until it is very soft. Remove it and then stir-fry any other veggies I am including, which is typically more than the recipe calls for, with the curry paste and garlic as the recipe suggests in step 1.
  • I’ve done this with green and red curry, so take your pick, and then serve it over brown rice. The basil and lime juice add some excellent flavor, so don’t leave them out!

Friday: Crockpot Lasagna with Veggies

  • This is from the food blog my friend introduced me to the other week and so far we are two for two. This was super easy. I made it in about 15 minutes with Stella awake and no one got hurt which is saying something. The layers are all straight from the can so there is no pre-cooking or mixing involved.
  • I diced up 4 zucchini but any mix of veggies would be great.
  • I opted for cottage cheese over ricotta since I think ricotta is a bit bland.
  • I used a combo of spaghetti sauce and plain canned tomato sauce with a sprinkle of Italian herbs over top.

Week 31: Sometimes Foods

img_6993A good friend of mine from grad school came and stayed with us last week and gave me my new food words to live by. In my work in community nutrition we never refer to foods as “good” or “bad” but instead would say they are either “everyday” or “sometimes” foods. A very true statement that is pretty easy to follow. My new and revised version of this concept is that there are no bad foods, just bad quantities. For people who like solid rules with specific quantities or lists of allowed and disallowed foods, this won’t work for you. But for everyone else who tries to navigate the world of food on their own with whatever knowledge they have, this works pretty darn well. Thanksgiving and the holidays are full of sometimes foods, but they are sometimes occasions that only come around once a year. As much as I love pumpkin pie, I truly only get to enjoy it once a year as with about 90% of the dishes I make and eat around the holidays. In my festive build-up to my favorite day of the year, hint: it falls on a Thursday every year, I mix in sweet potatoes, cranberries, and other fall staples but try to find healthier ways to enjoy them in a more everyday way. The Cranberry-Shallot Sauce this week calls for only 2 Tbsp of brown sugar as opposed to the 1 cup of sugar used in a typical cranberry sauce. I love rich, delicious holiday food but not everyday. It’s easy to make a dish taste good when it is loaded with sugar, cream and butter but finding a tasty ways to cook those same foods without all of those sometimes ingredients is much more of a challenge and something I am glad Eating Well has taken on for me! I haven’t had the time to try these yet, but here is a great example of a healthy twist on a delicious dessert with their Chocolate-Sweet Potato Parfait. I am sure I would skip the meringue step and just top it with whipped cream, but they look beautiful and sound very tasty. This week inadvertently is a very meat heavy comfort food kind of menu. Maybe I am trying to compensate for the 70 degree weather we are getting during the day by making cozy food for dinner. Either way I still think it is delicious and full of colorful veggies and whole grains. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Slow Cooker Creole Chicken & Sausage with Brown Rice and Green Salad

  • Now I can’t actually take credit for making this but it was so tasty! My good friend from grad school who stayed with us last week and while we were away last weekend made this for us to find Sunday when we returned from being out of town. All of Travis’s coworkers were wondering what he was eating for lunch the next day it smelled so good. Best house guest ever!

Tuesday: Tuna Noodle Casserole

  • This is a glorified version of a lunch I make for myself on days when I can’t find anything to eat. A box of whole wheat Annie’s Mac & Cheese, a small can of tuna, and frozen peas.
  • I get creative with the veggie additions in this dish adding a combo of leftovers, frozen and fresh.

Wednesday: Turkey Tenderloin with Cranberry-Shallot Sauce, Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • This dish screams fall to me and is a perfect combo of tart and sweet. So good!
  • I couldn’t for the life of me find a turkey tenderloin so I used chicken breast but a pork tenderloin or chicken or turkey tenders would do the trick. We just cooked the chicken in a pan instead of the oven.
  • The longer the cranberries cook and bread down the better it is. If you hit an undercooked whole cranberry it will make you pucker since there is not much sugar in the dish.
  • I halved the Brussels sprouts and tossed them with oil, salt and pepper and roasted them at 425 for 25 or so minutes while everything else was cooking.

Thursday: Bavarian Leek & Cabbage Soup with Garlic Bread

  • I almost didn’t include this since it was so bland, but I still think it has potential and is a good fridge cleaner. We had potatoes, carrots, celery and cabbage that needed using up so it was the perfect dish for this week.
  • Towards the end I panicked and just started adding anything I could find to help add some flavor: 1 tsp caraway seeds, paprika, salt, etc. It was a dish that definitely improved over time. The final night I had it I added some leftover roasted cauliflower which was perfect. So my suggestions to pick and choose from would be to roast the veggies, add more spices like the caraway seed, add more salt earlier on, a can of diced tomatoes, use a flavorful green like kale, and garnish the heck out of it.
  • I don’t think I would recommend this if you didn’t have a bunch of produce to use up, but I always love a challenge and figuring out how to save this soup certainly was just that.

Friday: Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, Roasted Cauliflower Steaks and Red Rice

  • My cauliflower steaks did not hold together beautifully like theirs but it was still delicious.
  • I used a different chimichurri sauce that I made this summer and froze, but I am sure this recipe would due in a pinch.
  • I thought the red rice went well with the cauliflower and sauce but any grain would do just fine.

Week 30: I’m Sorry For What I Said When I Was Hangry

img_3876Hangriness is very real. It’s genetic from my dad’s side afflicting my dad, brother and me with varying degrees of hangriness. Another food related wedding vow Travis promised me was to carry snacks for me wherever we go, very much a self-preservation thing. Travis and I spent 6-months traveling together before we got married, a good test for a lot of reasons, but it was on that trip that I somehow figured out that melting down when hungry was not helpful. Like at all. If I held it together things worked out a lot faster and better in the end. A crazy revelation really and one that some others in my family have yet to learn. Once Stella was born I really learned that my hunger played second fiddle to hers and that I needed to get while the getting was good. Eat while she sleeps and if not I would just have to deal. Her screaming could far outweigh my grumbling stomach. So I started stashing trail mix and Lara Bars in her nursery and around the house for middle of the night and early morning feedings. I now always keep my favorite oatmeal-raisin (chocolate chip, yum!) buttermilk muffins in the freezer for a quick refuel and have just this last week become a fan of the pumpkin-oat-peanut butter energy balls that are so easy to make and the perfect mouthful (or two) of fuel. Fueling up well and often is the key to both of our happiness. Bring enough healthy snacks everywhere we go to keep little Miss Stella Mabel happy and well-fedand will be my new challenge in life! Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Smoky Stuffed Peppers with Sautéed Chard

  • I ended up using a combo of leftover grains I had from previous meals which made the dish even quicker.
  • Because I used an already cooked grain I didn’t have to use much chicken stock, just a little to rehydrate the grains and get everything nice and soft.
  • I love the smoky cheese on top of this. It’s an excellent touch.

Tuesday: Red Kuri Mac Cheese with Green Salad

  • I had never tried red kuri squash until we got it last year with our CSA and made this recipe. It is a very flavorful squash, my new favorite, and another that you don’t have to peel which cuts down on prep time. And this dish is amazing!! Make extras and freeze it.
  • I think the whole wheat pasta is a good fit for this kind of dish for those of you who are hesitant to try it or use it on a daily basis. It adds a heartiness and nuttiness that works well with the rich cheese sauce.

Wednesday: Skillet Apple Chicken with Kale Salad and Quinoa

  • Another very fall themed dish that was quick and easy. And I actually followed the recipe!
  • I added dried cherries and nuts to our kale salad and used a balsamic, lemon juice, Dijon and extra virgin olive oil combo for the dressing to go with the flavors in the chicken dish.

Thursday: Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili with Corn Bread

  • I used two sweet potatoes instead of one but otherwise followed the recipe.
  • The chili goes well with cornbread which I usually make myself with a little white whole-wheat flour substituted in. Cornmeal is usually degerminated, meaning not a whole grain, though there are some mixes you can buy that use whole corn but it will still have sugar. Just an FYI to the Mamas on a Mission.

Friday: Fish with Coconut-Shallot Sauce, Brown Rice and Green Salad

  • There are some dishes with a coconut milk sauce that are kind of bland. They may sounds super good on paper but don’t quite excite in reality. This recipe sounds kind of bland on paper but is truly delicious. Probably because there is enough salt unlike a lot of healthy dishes, but this a super easy fish dish is surprisingly tasty. Just follow the recipe and serve it with a grain that can soak up all the good sauce.

Snack: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Energy Balls 

  • One of my mom friends posted this recipe last week. I’ve been popping them ever since and though I think I will make some tweaks next time, because why follow the recipe more than once, they are so easy and add new variety to my on-the-go snacks.
  • I did use less honey and think I could sub in more peanut butter to compensate and add more stickiness.