Weekly Menu 12/8-12/14

You thought perhaps it had all caught up with me, all this silly menu planning promising, didn’t you? You thought I’d finally hit the wall. Well… I guess I did, but then I decided to scale it. Aren’t I tough? In truth I didn’t want to plan a menu today any more than I wanted to do laundry or get out of bed; however, I was compelled both by my promise to you and by the fact that I knew if I didn’t do the menu, I likely would continue only to feel worse about doing any of those things. A case of the blahs is not defeated by last minute ill-considered meal consumption, at least it’s not for me. So, with all of that undersell out of the way, I give you the week in food:

 photo f618fbe6-237f-44d3-aa49-4f134f91e5c6.jpgMonday: leftovers – what else can one do when the fridge is full of lots of single servings, the cook is tired, and there’s holiday decorating to be done?!

Tuesday: Shweet Potato Stew, brown bread, pickled carrots, and green salad

Wednesday: Green Bean and Potato Coconut Curry, cucumber slices, green salad

Thursday: Nutshroom Burgers, Sauteed Green Beans, Freezer Pickles, burger fixin’s

Friday: Homemade Pizza

Saturday: Dinner with Friends – Yay!

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with spinach and a green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Sweet Potato Cookies (I will make lots and freeze some for the holiday crowd)

Adult Lunches: Cold Kickin’ Soup (Gotta keep that immunity up for the holidays!)

 

Hope your week goes swimmingly, or at least treadingly!

Weekly Meal Plan 12/1-12/7

Holy crow where is the time going?! I can’t believe I just typed those dates in… I sincerely hope you all have had a lovely weekend, and if you’re in the U.S. a superb Thanksgiving. We enjoyed our feast, spent some good time together, watched the kids play in the first snowfall and visited with old friends. We’re now working our way through what’s left of the leftovers and trying to get our heads around the fact that Christmas is around the proverbial corner. But even with leftovers and post/pre holiday chaos, there’s cooking to do and meals to eat, so while I’m a little late in the day, I’m keeping my promise to myself and those of you who heard me say it. ;-) A week of healthful yum for all of us.

Monday: Leftover Mashed Potato Soup, homemade wheat bread, green beans and green salad

Tuesday: Spicy Mushroom Gumbo (using a recipe in More with Less as guidance), brown rice, cut cucumbers, roasted root veggies

Wednesday:  Rockin’ GF Falafel, roasted potatoes, green salad with tahini dressing

Thursday: Leftoverlicious Lentil Casserole, steamed broccoli, cut cucumbers

Friday: Homemade Pizza, carrot fries, salad

Saturday: Middle Eastern Chickpeas with Spinach (Moosewood Low Fat Favorites), Power Tabbouleh, green salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with spinach, red peppers and green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Almond Joy Brownies

Parent Lunches: leftovers of all of the above as I will be making double batches :-)

Hope you all have a super duper week.

Weekly Meal Plan 11/17-11/23

How we react to things is a really good indicator of our core, our essence, those fundamental and if not unchangeable, at least strongly resilient parts of ourselves. This last week we discovered (while having someone complete one repair on our heat system) that a significant section of our venting was, in fact, not even connected to the thing that makes the heat. We have lived here for over seven years.

My husband, in a display of his generously sunny disposition, responded with “Yay! It’s finally going to be warmer in a big section of the house.” And I know he’s right, and I’m happy about it too. But right there along with my happy, is a calculator of all the wasted heating dollars, and frustration with all the HVAC people who’ve been here before now… because REALLY?! So, it’s fixed, and as tonight it seems that winter has arrived, I’m happy about it too. Really I am. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want warm comfort food, because just like my dollar wasting calculator, my desire for comfort food is core, basic me-ness. I’m pretty sure both my love of comforting belly warming foods and frugal dishes show up in this menu. Hopefully all my sunny people will eat them and still stay their wonderful sunny selves. Hope your week reveals something essential about you that you just love.

 photo b4b5fa15-af38-4aaf-93a3-efb49641c748.jpgMonday: 30 Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili, Quinoa, Cornbread, Green Salad

Tuesday: Lentil/Bulgur Burgers, Roast Potatoes, Broccoli, Green Salad

Wednesday:  Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup, Mixed Grain Bread, Green Salad

Thursday: Asian Varia Bowl with Rice Noodles, Veggies

Friday: Homemade Pizza, Cut Veggies

Saturday: Baked Butternut Squash Risotto, Green Beans, Green Salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Spinach and Pesto

Adult Lunches: leftover chili, leftover Cold Kickin’ Soup

Lunchbox Treat: Peanut Butter Crisp Cookies (yes, I will share this one…)

  

I had completely forgotten about those cookies. Yeah, I gotta go. Hope your week is as easy or as hard as you need it to be and that all of your vents are properly connected. Eat well, be well friends!

Weekly Meal Plan 11/10-11/16

And then we got sick… I joked about last week’s menu looking like one written by someone who had a cold… I was apparently seeing the future. Our family has been passing around the most delightful illness. By midweek I was fevered and dizzy. The plan did not necessarily go as planned. The reality of that happening from time to time reminds me that it is always a good idea to have some fall back positions, especially the kind that only require heat in order to make food happen. Freezer food is your friend, especially if you have small germ factories in your house that make a daily deposit and withdrawal at the local public incubation system. We relied heavily on earlier efforts last week and as a result ate reasonably well in spite of my being completely out of commission. Mr. Little Sis is quite culinarily capable, but is strapped for time, so our freezer stock served us well. I will, over the next few weeks, make a concerted effort to include at least one very freezable meal (we have lots of ‘em here) in the plan and double the amount so I can restock for the next round. In the meantime, while I am still coughing, I am at least able to stand up and move around, so life goes on, and that means food. On with the weekly plan.

 photo 554b547c-c3c4-4c40-a2a6-51f6ad6ad77b.jpgMonday: Potato Pancakes (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) with Cashew Cream, Applesauce, Green Salad

Tuesday: Pakistani Lentil Kima, Spice Marinated Cherry Tomatoes(from Vegetarian Times), salad

Wednesday: Lentil. Mushroom, and Sweet Potato Soup, Wheat Bread, Salad

Thursday: Zucheezy Noodles (didn’t happen last week and I really need to throw Ms. Picky Pants a bone here), sautéed green beans, cut veggies

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Roasted Vegetable Chili, cornbread, green salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with spinach, green salad

Grown-Up Lunches: Cold Kickin’ Soup

Aspirational Dessert (If I am up to it, IOW): Mango Coconut Bread Pudding… yeah, it sounds great, but don’t count on it. I’m not.

That’s my plan for the week. I’d say I’m excited, but it would be more honest to say I’m just hoping this week I can actually do it. ;-) Hope you are virus free and all your meals are healthful and delicious!

Weekly Meal Plan

Wow are we having some beautiful weather in Mid-Maryland! The trees are changing color. The mornings are crisp and the afternoons are sunny and warm. Oh fall, I love you. This week’s menu is definitely leaning in the fall direction, and probably also shows that we’ve got a wicked cold circulating through the troops. Lots of warm hearty comfort food working its way onto our table. Hope you’re enjoying autumn as much as I am! Continue reading

Why Should I Eat Something I Don’t Like?

Indeed.  Why should my son who asked that question of me?  Why should I?  It got me thinking about ‘First World Problems’ and starving children, but, let’s be honest.  Generations of parents have tried to convince their children that they should eat something nasty just because there are people in the world who would be happy to have that nasty thing which is WAY better than nothing.  But it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work for children OR adults.  Empathy is not the forte of the young, especially when it really doesn’t make sense.  It is sad that others do not have enough to eat, or what they want to eat, but my son will say that if there is something he prefers right there in the cabinet, then why can’t he have that right now?  He knows what he eats for dinner won’t affect that poor child’s hunger either way.  So how to answer that question for him, and for myself.  In a culture that emphasizes choice, reward and satisfaction, why shouldn’t we always have something we like to eat?

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I chose a picture of broccoli because my son used to hate broccoli. The only way we could get him to eat it was to allow him to put ketchup on it (Bleah!) He still does not love it, but he eats it, without complaint, and without ketchup ;-)

I’ve got 3 responses to share with my son and myself:

A) You can acquire a taste for things / change your taste for things;

B) You have 1 body which you would like to be able to navigate through as much of this world / life as possible; and my personal favorite….

C) Because I made it and we’re all sitting down here together to eat it, dammit!  i.e. this is about more than your personal satisfaction.

I know, that’s all a bit flippant, so allow me to expand…

A) Indeed you can acquire a taste for things and even lose a taste for things!  I recently splurged on a purchase of some fancy Italian ice cream which was labelled chocolate / peanut butter.  Who knew the fancy Italian ice cream would have little peanut butter cup candies in it?  My mother will think I’m lying, but I removed the candy peanut butter cups because they were too sweet.  They made the ice cream cloyingly sweet to me, so I didn’t eat them.  Mind you, I used to ADORE Reese’s peanut butter cups.  They were my candy of choice and Younger Big-Bro could always get a good trade out of me at Halloween if he had Reese’s cups to offer.  However, I have lost my taste for milk chocolate and heavy duty sweets because I stopped eating them and learned to love other things that are not so sweet instead.  It can happen.  It took awhile!  Baby Steps friends, remember to take Baby Steps – small changes a bit at a time, like reducing amount or cutting it with something.  With chocolate you can slowly switch over to darker chocolate.  For more info on making switches – either fast or slow, see Baby Step #1 The Ol’ Switcheroo, or Baby Steps Boost which makes suggestions for how to take Baby Steps away from some common unhealthy foods.

It can also happen that people’s taste buds change as as they mature and as they age.  Little Sis will tell you that Miss Picky Pants (my adorable niece) has taste buds that can change overnight ;-)  If they haven’t tried it in awhile, have them try it again.  And not the touch the corner of the fork with your tongue and then make a face try.  An actual try that involves a bite, followed by chewing and swallowing.  We require 2 bites because the first one is still colored by negative expectations, or a poor guess.  This rule goes for adults also.  As a precursor to answer ‘C’ I say, “Put your Big Girl Panties on and just eat it – it won’t hurt you even if you don’t like it.”

B) If children were left to eat without any input, some of them just might develop some serious nutritional deficiencies.  Heck, many adults have serious nutritional deficiencies.  Personally I am low in iron.  I try to eat greens and cook in a cast iron pan to amend that situation.  I’m sure you know the basics of balancing protein, carbohydrates and including lots of veggies and fruits.  Perhaps more information about what nutrients are in our food and what those nutrients do for us would help allay the tendency to eat pizza every night.  Check out some resources for nutrient information:
– Charts on the nutrients in fruits, vegetables and fish
– 
An extensive list of foods and the nutrients they contain – this is a pdf booklet – you have to go through about 10 pages of other info before you get to the chart, but it is a good resource.

As we mentioned in the Baby Step on getting your kids engaged with change, try to tie in their personal goals with their food intake.  In other words, if they want to be an athlete stress the nutrients needed to help them get stronger and to grow healthfully.  If they want to do well in school stress the foods that will feed their brains….

Understanding the physiological need for a variety of healthy foods and the physiological benefits of a variety of healthy foods can be helpful in convincing yourself and others to eat things that are not your first, or even second or third choice.

C) Eating is about more than personal satisfaction.  It is part of the ritual of converting the bounty of the planet into bountiful community.  It takes a village to feed one gaping maw.  Recognizing the involvement of community, family or personal involvement on the resulting meal or even packed lunch takes a little emphasis off the pleasure and places it back on the living, necessity of eating.  So when our culture shines through in my son’s belief that he is entitled to have something delicious every time he eats, I can try to re-focus him on all of the reasons and all of the work that goes into feeding people.  Little Sis’ family starts the evening meal with some thanks to the one who prepared the meal.  What a great way to re-focus the meal on the bounty of being fed…. the bounty of having good nutrition…. and the bounty of being together and taking care of each other.

Should we live to eat? or eat to live?

Here at the Pantry we usually fall in the middle on such spectrums of possibility.  It surely seems too stringent to do either exclusively.  But there is definitely room in most of our lives for a little more eating to live.  Such a blessing to even have a choice!

Baby Step # 14: Add Some Nourishment

BabyStep14Bad weather brings out the survivor in us, doesn’t it?  Threats to our electricity, our ability to drive (with all the inherent loss of access to food and other stuff), ability to do our job, and our plans in general, are indeed very upsetting threats.   Some of us bring in the outdoor furniture or delicate plants, some of us check the batteries in the flashlights, some of us buy lots of bread and milk, some of us check the firewood, blankets and maybe even fuel supply for the generator.

It is a giant step in our culture to go from: “You deserve a break today….. Treat yourself….. A moment for you…… You deserve the best…… Because you’re worth it” and all the other attempts by advertisers to get us to reward ourselves by purchasing their products to: “Batten down the hatches!”  We don’t have to batten down very often, do we?  Left to our own devices and the influence of Madison Avenue we’ve become quite accustomed to having our favorite food or at least something we genuinely like when we eat.  Every time we eat.  Why not?  Who wouldn’t choose what they like over what they dislike? Restaurants, convenience stores, vending machines and the center aisles of the grocery store are all too happy to provide our favorites, with plenty of questionable additives to keep them from spoiling and to make them easy to prepare.

My fellow nurses and I marvel over the number of patients who will say, “I can’t eat that”, or “I don’t eat that” when offered hospital food, not because of allergies or being vegetarian, or gluten-free, but simply because they don’t like it, or it’s not what they are used to or not the way they usually fix it.  Why should the nurses be surprised?  Nurses are surprised because nursing is a fast-paced ‘batten down the hatches’ kind of job.  With far too many tasks to complete in far too little time, we are in survival – and patient survival! – mode.  As a result, we just don’t always understand that patients who are recovering or depressed or feeling lousy but not in danger, continue to behave within the rules of this culture.  “You deserve something that you like, why not your favorite?”  And so when the patient complains about the food, we ask them what they want, call the fine people in nutritional services, get the patient’s request filled if at all possible, (no matter if it’s not terribly healthy), and then make jokes in the nurses station about how we work in a spa rather than a hospital.   (Some of the high cost of American health care, this spa mentality, but we won’t go there today).

I am not trying to say these patients’ behavior is bad or wrong, it is our culture and it is what it is, but it does offer some insight into the difficulty of improving eating habits and trying to maintain a healthy weight in this American culture.  How is a person supposed to feel satisfied by a meal or a snack if that meal or snack represents less than what one likes, or is less than is ‘deserved,’ or somehow less than what society says is good, best or one’s right?

I believe that part of the battle for creating a healthy lifestyle is identifying what nourishes you.  Taste buds are not the only players in the satisfaction game.  A nourishing meal or experience is satisfying because you have been nourished, i.e., your body, mind or spirit has been strengthened, guided, fed, nurtured, sustained, encouraged, cultivated, supported, fostered, developed and/or promoted.   I’d like to see a McDonald’s french fry do that all by itself.  Mind you, a McDonald’s french fry eaten with friends….. or after basketball practice….. or on a date…… or any other physically, emotionally or spiritually fulfilling activity is another story.  So, it’s not always the french fry that satisfied you, but the company or the circumstances in which you ate that fry.

Baby Step #14: Add Some Nourishment

What Nourishes You?

To add some nourishment, you have to figure out what nourishes you. Consider the following:
– What makes you feel good for a prolonged period of time?  What do you talk or think about a day, a week, or a year later?  I bet it’s not the french fry.
– Why do you find unhealthy food (pick your fave) satisfying?  Is it the convenience?  Is it buying something?  Is it the restaurant atmosphere or sneaking something once the kids have gone to bed?  Is it the taste, the texture?  Is it having someone make something for you?  Does it represent a break from an activity that you find difficult or draining?
– Do you plan nourishing activities to feed yourself and possibly your family in body, mind and spirit?

If you can recognize some truths about what nourishes you, it might be easier to get more nourishment and less ‘processed food Ka-Pow sugar/fat and salt taste’ into your life.

Check your self-worth.

In order to add some nourishment, you must believe that you are worth nourishing.  It is easier to believe that you are worth nourishing when you are well nourished.  “Them that’s got, shall get,” right?  Kind of twisted, but I believe it’s true.  It’s like smiling at yourself in the mirror when you don’t feel very up.  It makes you feel better.  Steve Martin says you can’t play a sad song on the banjo.  It’s also hard to be sad when you are smiling.  It’s also hard to choose unhealthy food once you have experienced nourishment.  But you have to pay attention.  You can’t attribute feelings, behavior and choices to feelings, behavior and choices unless you are paying attention.

So again, ask yourself:

“Why do I choose what I choose?”
“Am I trying to nourish myself?” – remember all of those wonderful meanings of nourished: strengthened, guided, fed, nurtured, sustained, encouraged, cultivated, supported, fostered, developed and/or promoted.”
“What nourishes me?”
“How do I get more of what nourishes me in my life?”

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Sometimes after work when I’ve been out of the house for 14 hours and running around for about 11 of those I get home and feel ravenously hungry.  If I don’t pay attention I will overeat and sometimes choose the least healthy option in the house before realizing that I’m full and not running and my feet hurt less and I can slow down and take care of myself.  I just caught myself doing it again last night, so I’m going to pack one last healthy item in my lunch bag to eat on the way home.  That will take the edge off of feeling ravenous and allow me to come into the house and nourish myself by sitting down, relaxing and catching up with my husband and son.  They nourish me (when I spend time with them!!).  Allowing myself to be still after a very busy day nourishes me.  Reading nourishes me.  Making things nourishes me.  Meditating/Praying nourishes me.  So many things other than a quick fix of a Ka-Pow dose of sugar, fat or salt nourish me.  And it is lovely when I pay attention and care for myself enough to seek out nourishment over satisfaction.

Practice and Experiment with Conscious Choices

I am not suggesting that you should not choose to eat what you like to eat, but I am suggesting that consciousness about your choices may make you aware of more choices, both food and non-food, available to you.  If they are nourishing choices, you may ultimately find them to be more satisfying than what you currently choose.  I often use Lent as a time to remind myself of what a certain indulgence means in my life.  When I give it up, I either miss it terribly or find that it was not so important to me after all.  That is how I was able to reduce my sugar intake.  I found that after 40 days of nothing sweet I found most sweets unappetizingly sweet and by the end I didn’t miss them as much as I thought I would.  Giving up fiction did not have the same result.  I missed it very much and appreciated it more when I returned to it.  In fact, I think I chose my books more carefully because I wanted to read really good books.  Since those days of Lenten deprivation I have found it very helpful to ADD something for Lent – some devotional practice or amount of quiet time or time spent to help others and I find that to be very nourishing. What could you give up or add to challenge your conscious decision-making?

Baby Step #14 is really a life-long journey, but even long journeys can be taken in baby steps.  I certainly have made steps forward and backwards in learning what, and then pursuing, what nourishes me.  ‘Batten down the hatches’ can take us to survival mode when we know what is important to basic survival.  Finding and pursuing what nourishes us in body, mind and spirit can help us survive and grow with grace and with respect for ourselves and for others.  It’s not easy.  I have to remind myself that like all of the baby steps, a baby step forward is still a step forward.  In fact it nourishes me to attempt, to succeed, to fail, and to try again.  I remember and treasure this process long after the memory of tasty treats has faded.

I encourage you to figure out what nourishes you and to add some more nourishment to your life.

Step 12: Winning at the Grocery Store

I’m at the grocery store.  I’ve brought the twins (something I try very hard to avoid).  One of them is chasing me with a package of purple glitter nail polish and the other is asking in his most polite voice if he can just SHOW me something he saw a few aisles ago.  I am maxed out.  I have a list but I can’t freaking find it. My cell phone is vibrating into my side and I can see from the screen that it’s an old friend I’ve been exchanging voice mail with for months. Calgon take me away indeed.  This IS shopping, though.  Purchasing the stuff of life happens on regular days with all of their regular promise and regular pitfalls. Despite the purple glitter nail polish pleading (or whatever drives you nuts at the store), we all make it home with some food. Well, at least mostly.

babystep12Here’s the thing.  Like so many of our normal self-maintenance routines, food shopping is very much an act of habit.  If you have not been in the habit of seeking out and buying healthier food, it becomes awfully easy to miss in the market.  And if your market is set up like most markets, they’re not making it any easier for you to get to those real food goodies. There are some critical things to remember about grocery stores if you want to make some healthier selections. 1) Most real food spoils. 2) Much of the food sold in the average grocery store does not spoil. 3) The grocery store is a for profit business, not a purveyor of health.

Let’s talk a little bit about these ideas. so you can come away from this step with a better strategy for hitting the market. Continue reading

Sometimes It’s Not That Complicated

I am a member of an online Mom’s group.  I don’t necessarily participate all that much, but when the twins were infants and we had just moved here, it was a lifesaver.  There was always someone around to “talk” to.  I still check in from time to time, to chat with my book club friends, get advice on a restaurant, or help a new Mom know it’s going to be okay.  While I was visiting with my online ladies yesterday, an interesting question caught my eye. Continue reading

Baby Step 10: What’ll You Have?

My Southern grandmother’s way of asking if we wanted more was not, “Would you like some more?”  It was “What’ll you have?”

BabyStep10In other words, “Which of these delicious things will you have more of now?”  And it was hard, both physically and socially, to not promptly pick your personal favorite of her offerings.  For me it was her hot milk cake, her watermelon rind pickles, her homemade biscuits with homemade plum jelly or her sugar cookies.  Notice the sweet theme…. oh yes, I was a sugar hound!!  It was not only delicious but complimentary to have more.

Our culture has become very much about more.  If you have’t seen Super Size Me, I highly recommend it for an eye opener on serving sizes (and other outrageously egregious practices) in fast food restaurants.  The film has some rough language and frank talk about sex, so may not be appropriate for younger kids.

In the less is more and more is really more dichotomy of our culture that loves:
both skinny bodies and large breasts;
both many choices and extra large servings;
both designer names and cheap food;
both the most expensive health care system in the world and the 37th most effective health care system…
we are in a watermelon rind pickle indeed. Continue reading