Lunch Planning Update

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Last week I shared that I was trying meal planning for lunches. I am happy to report that it was a success. I will be doing it again starting next week (we are out of town most of this week, so I didn’t bother).

I am surprised at what a difference planning lunches made. The kids only ate chicken nuggets once last week. I wasn’t stressed when I needed to get lunch on the table at noon and we walked in the door at 11:55. It was one less thing to think about.

I am a lunch planning convert. Now I just need to get better about meal planning dinners.

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John Cookies

When John and I got married we had M&Ms on the tables for people to snack on. I like to be overly prepared, so I bought extra M&Ms just in case. Well, we didn’t need the extra M&Ms. We ended up with about a gallon of M&Ms. John took it upon himself to eat the extras.

He created the “deconstructed candy bar” and had it for dessert every night. It is a very fancy name for a simple treat. First you put a glob of peanut butter in a bowl. Then you put M&Ms in the bowl. Then you dip pretzel sticks in the peanut butter and scoop up a nice sized blob. Then you dip the peanut butter pretzels into the M&Ms. Then you eat it. If you get tired of using the pretzel sticks you can use a spoon and place pretzels directly on the glob.

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Deconstructed Candy Bar, circa 2011

Today I looked at the remaining Easter M&Ms and knew that they had to go. I don’t like to have temptations like M&Ms in the house. I got to thinking about John’s deconstructed candy bar, and decided to take those flavors and put them in a monster cookie.

I started with the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Monster Cookies. I made a few changes to the recipe. I reduced the brown sugar by about 1/3 and added about 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter. I also added pretzel bits, as I was trying to recapture the magic of the deconstructed candy bar for John.img_20180409_170952_263570686803.jpg

The cookies turned out OK. If I make them again I would reduce the salt from the original recipe. I should have thought about that when adding the pretzels and the peanut butter, but I didn’t. John likes the cookies that he inspired, but he isn’t sold on pretzels in cookies, as they lose a bit of their crunch. I liked their crunchy texture and peanut butter flavor, but I think there were too many chips. I absolutely loved the rice krispies and I think I’ll be adding them to cookies again.

I’ve been trying to mix up my baking by not following recipes to the letter. I am an experienced enough baker it is unlikely that I will royally screw cookies up. Even if the cookies are bad at least I will have tried something new.

 

Lunch Planning

If you follow me on Instagram you have probably noticed that we are on the go a lot. The kids and I rarely spend a morning at home. We are usually out enjoying the city and head home in time for lunch.

I love being out of the house, but it is stressful getting back to the house with enough time to cook and serve a healthy meal. I’ve become one of those moms I swore I wouldn’t be – a freezer chicken nugget mom. My kids eat them often. Maybe four times a week.

My kids are in a picky eating phase. They have a few meals they will always eat: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, mac and cheese….the usual carb heavy toddler fare. I’ve fallen into a bad habit of feeding them what they will eat, even though I know full well that they will eat anything if they are hungry enough, and it often takes introducing a food several times before they will accept it. It is so much easier to grab the food I know they will eat.

I need to change that. I want the kids to grow up excited to try new foods. I want them to have a healthy diet. So I’m putting down the chicken nuggets and picking up a plan.

I’ve been meal planning on and off for about a year. It took me a year to decide that meal planning doesn’t have to be for dinner (I know, I can hear you say duh from here). This week when I sat down to meal plan our dinners I also came up with a plan for the kids. I’ve included all of the kids favorites, but I’m introducing other healthy options too. I even plan on having Audrey help me put together the spaghetti bake.

I plan to prep the veggies and fruit the night before to make assembling the meal easier. I thought about prepping it all tonight, but I have the time to prep veggies daily.

Ideally I will stick to the meal plan all week. Realistically I’ll stick to the plan for three days. That is a start. I’m OK with easing into the plan.

Here is what we plan to eat for lunches this week:

Monday – Leftover chicken and noodles (adapted significantly from this), oranges

Tuesday – Leftover chicken and noodles, red pepper strips, oranges

Wednesday – Leftover spaghetti bake (from Tuesday dinner), cucumber, applesauce

Thursday – Chicken nuggets, cucumber, cinnamon bananas

Friday – Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, carrots, oranges.

Wish me luck. Do you meal plans? Do you have any advice? Do you have any suggestions for picky toddler approved healthy options?

Meatless Monday: Ginger Curry Pita

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Last week I got a text from my friend with the above picture and the text “I wish you were here to not order the ginger curry pita with me.” We’ve been going to lunch at Java Joe’s for years, and we used to order the same thing every time – the ginger curry pita. In the past year they have redone their menu and no longer have the ginger curry pita. That’s a shame, as it is incredibly delicious.

So she got me thinking about that tasty lunch. I was lamenting that I would never eat it again, but then I remembered that 8 years ago we raved about it so much a staff member gave me the “recipe.”

I say “recipe”not recipe because when I dug out the slip of paper I found this: a list of ingredients and no directions.

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I decided to use this as a starting point to recreate the pita for home. I wanted to make a smaller batch – we may buy chickpeas by the case at Costco, but a food service can is a bit much. There were no directions for how to prepare this, but it struck me as something that was cooked low and slow with minimal fuss, so I decided a crock pot would be good here.

I’m happy with how this turned out, and I will be making it again soon. It’s a great sandwich for lunch. Elliot and I are both big fans, and Audrey doesn’t outright hate it (that is a win when cooking for a 2 year old). It reheats well, and keeps for a few days in the fridge.

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Ginger Curry Pita

Serves 4-6

2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 T Teriyaki Sauce

1/4 red onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1/4 head cabbage, chopped

1 T ginger

1 T curry powder

1 T honey  or 1 t agave

Put ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. The timing on this is not critical -you just want to cook down the vegetables and have the flavors meld together.

Serve on flat bread. Pita or naan would work well.

If you don’t have a crock pot you can still cook this. Cook the onion and peppers in a dutch oven until soft in a little bit of neutral oil.  Once soft, add the spices and cooked until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low until slightly mushy.

 

Egg Noodle Casserole

Last night I made a casserole just to use up random ingredients I had in my kitchen. I end up with a lot of random things when I send my husband to the grocery store. I’ve started  sending him photos of what we need and give him precise directions on where to find the items in the store (why yes, I do consider myself detail oriented, why do you ask?). But there are occasionally issues, like when he can’t find the frozen egg noodles so he buys a bag of dried egg noodles. Or when he confuses a grocery list with a Costco list and we end up with a six pack of cream cheese.

I figured I could use up some random things. If it was good we would eat it. If it was kind of gross John and Elliot would eat it (they will eat anything). It turns out it was so good John requested that I make it again in the future. That’s why I decided to blog about it, more so I could remember it more than I feel that this recipe has to be in the blogosphere.

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Bagged Parmesan does not melt. Or get brown.

Egg Noodle Casserole (Serves 8)

  • 1 bag No Yolk Egg Noodles
  • 1 8 oz brick cream cheese, softened (totally OK to do this in a microwave)
  • 1 jar marinara
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 bag frozen veggie meatballs (OK without. Also OK to use real meatballs)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Parmesan for the top

Preheat oven to 350. Put a pot of water on to boil. While water is coming to a boil shred the zucchini on a box grater and put in a  clean kitchen towel set over a colander over a bowl. Defrost the meatballs in the microwave so the casserole doesn’t take as long to bake. Or don’t. You do you.

Boil the noodles as directed on bag. While the noodles are boiling squeeze the zucchini in the towel. Once dried, add to a mixing bowl with the brick of cream cheese. Mix them together. Add the pasta sauce and mix some more. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and the bag of frozen meatballs then stir some more. Open some wine or do some dishes or something until the noodles are done.

When pasta is done drain it and add to a greased 9 x 13 pan. Add the sauce. Mix it around so the noodles are evenly covered. Sprinkle parmesan over the top (don’t buy the bagged Kraft stuff, as it was pretty disappointing in this application). Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

We enjoyed this with red wine and an imagined salad (we didn’t have the stuff for a salad in the house, but it would have been delicious). I’m planning on giving leftovers to the kids for lunch for several days.

If you make this let me know!