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Monday, April 23, 2012

Recipe Review from 4/16/12 & Meal Planning

Some queries have come my way regarding how do I manage to make all these new recipes.  So, let's talk about meal planning.   It started about 16ish years ago, Husband and I both recently graduated, student loans due, working part-time jobs, that I started meal planning.  It has been shown in studies that plotting out your meals for the week 1) saves money by avoiding impulse buys  2) saves money because you are only buying what you need for that time frame 3) saves money in less food waste  4) healthier meals and less snacking.   Providing you follow your plan, of course

This does take some getting used to, but now, it's second nature for me.   Consistency and some flexibility is important. 

I usually start contemplating the coming week about Wed or Thurs.  First I ask:  What do we have going on?  And I plot it out in my grocery notebook:

Mon (K yoga/bkgrp)
Wed (husband shooting)
Thurs (K yoga)


So I know two nights I only need dinner for one (Mon and Wed) and that one night will be a late dinner (Thurs).  Then I ask: what do we want to eat next week?   Lunches are usually but not always vegetarian, meat meals for supper.   Or if lunches are meat based, then I try to have at least two vegetarian dinners.

Sundays are great for meal prep to jump start the week.   Having picked out my dishes below, I know that I need to make the tadziki chickn salad on Sunday for lunches.  The Saag Aloo will last for a couple of meals, then make something mid-week.  I do find that it is important to not over plan, to allow some flexibility if we choose to go out for dinner.    

Sun  lunch - homemade raman noodles
        supper -  Saag Aloo (potatoes and spinach)  co-op recipe
Mon (yoga/bkgrp)  Saag Allo leftovers for 1
Tues  Vegetable Burritos   (Ckng Lght May 2012)
Wed (husband shooting)  Saag Aloo leftovers for 1
Thurs (yoga)  Burrito leftovers
Fri   Broccoli and Cheese Rice Bowl  (Ckng Lght May 2012)
Sat   leftovers

Lunches - Tadziki Chicken Salad (Ckng Lght, May 2012), pita bread, fruit

In this case, I'm buying a rotisserie chicken to save time, I have leftover potatoes that need to be eaten up, and part of a red pepper that will get tossed into the Saag Aloo.  I buy 16oz of spinach a week for my green smoothies, so I won't need to buy extra spinach.  I have some frozen leftover rice in the freezer that will go into the burritos.  And yeah, it's two back to back rice dishes, but so it goes.  I'll probably make cottage cheese pancakes (see last weeks review) so I'll have to buy some cottage cheese.  Fresh fruit to round out the grocery list.

Plan to eat the perishable fruits and veggies first.  I don't keep a lot in my pantry (don't have the space in my house) so I buy what I need when I need it.  I try and utilize pantry and freezer items so I don't have stuff languishing.   The recipes for the meals are below.    My friend, who has a family of four, also meal plans.  She has to make a lot more meals and her leftovers (if any) are lunches for her or her husband the next day.   This is what works for me, there are other ways, and I don't always make a new recipes.  Summer time is not infrequently just something on the grill with a salad and veggies. 

Tadziki Chicken Salad (Ckng Lght, April 2012)
Quick and easy, yes.  Make ahead...only if going to be eating later that same day or at the latest, the next day.  Between the cucumbers and the yogurt, this became very liquidy by day 4.  And unappealing.   As long as eating shortly after assembly, good taste and a nice variation on chicken salad.  I served with pita pockets.

photo from
2/3 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cucumber, seeded and shredded
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast  (thigh meat is fine too)
3 ounces multigrain pita chips   (I did pita pockets)

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken; toss to coat. Serve with pita chips.

Robin Bashinsky, Cooking Light
APRIL 2012

Vegetable Rice Burritos  (Ckng Lght May 2012)
I ended up modifying and simplifying this recipe.  It seemed like overkill to have both cheese and a 'dressing', so I skipped the dressing.  I didn't buy cilantro (would have been a nice flavor addition, but wasn't worth the cost).   I didn't re-heat everything in little "burritos" after I was done, I just warmed up the tortillas and served like tacos.   Flavors were bright and summer-like and a nice change of pace.  Very quick once I dropped two steps.   This did not feed four.  Try two.   Still, I would make these again. 

photo from
4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1/3 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1 teaspoon chopped garlic, divided
2/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 tablespoon chopped jalapeño pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup halved grape tomatoes 4 (7- to 8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
4 ounces quesadilla cheese, shredded (about 1 cup packed)   I used extra sharp cheddar because I had some in the fridge.
Cilantro leaves (optional)

1. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add rice and 1/2 teaspoon garlic; sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 2/3 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork; stir in jalapeño.   I had some pre-cooked brown rice in the freezer that I just warmed up.

2. Combine sour cream, chopped cilantro, juice, and red pepper in a small bowl.   Skipped.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic and mushrooms [and jalepeno] ; sauté 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add corn and zucchini; sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and tomatoes; sauté 30 seconds or until tomatoes are thoroughly heated. Remove vegetable mixture from pan. Wipe pan clean with a paper towel.

4. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide sour cream mixture evenly among tortillas; spread to a thin layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top each tortilla with 1/4 cup cheese, about 1/4 cup rice mixture, and about 1/2 cup vegetable mixture. Roll up each, jelly-roll fashion. Return skillet to medium heat. Add 2 burritos to pan, seam side down; cook 1 minute on each side or until browned. Repeat procedure with remaining burritos. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired.  Serve. 

Krista Ackerbloom Montgomery, Cooking Light
MAY 2012

Saag Aloo  *Indian Spinach and Potatoes*  (Whole Foods Co-op flyer)
A super easy, great tasting dish made complicated by myself - I forgot I was out of garam masala, but knew I had enough ingredients that I could make a batch.  Which added an easy 20 minutes to my prep.   I also over cooked my potatoes so they weren't as firm as they should have been for the frying bit.   ((sigh)) some nights are like that.  Still, this was great on it's own and would be good as a side to some tandori style chicken thighs. 
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
1 lb russet potatoes  (I used yukon)
1 1/2 tsp jalepeno pepper, minced
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
12 oz fresh spinach, roughly chopped  (I used baby spinach and skipped chopping)
I added 1/2 of a julienned red pepper - yum!

In a medium sized pot, bring 2 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil.  Cut potatoes into bite-sized chunks and add them to boiling water and cook for about 7 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain, set aside.

Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Fry the parboiled potatoes for about 8-12 minutes or until lightly brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Turn down heat, add onions and pepper and saute until just soft.  Add spices and saute for 2 minutes, then add lemon juice and water and simmer for a few minutes more.  Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach is fully wilted.  Add potatoes to the skillet and mix well.  Serve hot.

Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese Rice Bowl  (Ckng Lght April 2012)
Doin' a Happy Happy Joy Joy dance here!  Yum yum yum!  Leftover rice works great for this.  As does leftover Rotisserie chicken.  I added some mushrooms (needed to be used up) and oh my gosh.  This is a repeater. Probably even as soon as next week!  Check the cheese, but this should be GF. 

  • 1 (8.8-ounce) pouch precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben's)
    photo from
  • 3 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces  (or thigh peices)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions Skipped
  • 3 ounces light processed cheese (such as Velveeta Light), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted Skipped

  • 1. Steam broccoli 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.

    2. Heat rice according to directions.

    3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 4 minutes or until done, stirring occasionally. Add onions and cheese, stirring until cheese begins to melt. Stir in rice; fold in broccoli. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with almonds.

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