Weekly Meal Plan 5/25-5/31

I am alive. THAT was a long week. So, remember how last week I posted that I’d be late with the meal plan because my husband was away and my daughter was throwing up? Yeah, when’s the last time THAT was a one day problem. It’s been a long and tiring week although everyone was home and well in time for the weekend and this weekend has been really swell. Lots of time spent with friends and lots of almost summer weather. Tons of time in the garden and things are really looking pretty good. I’m liking the straw as mulch I’ve tried this year, and I’m just glad with all the events planned for May and June that I’ve found a little time to weed and water.

This week will, I do hope, be more pleasant than last, but it’s still pretty full. We’re enjoying the last few hours away from our usual responsibilities here today and then we have 3 short days until the next celebration, when my nephew graduates from high school (not Bigg Sis’ son – I have many nephews). Then there’s a pool party with friends and time to see BIGG SISSSSSSS! Yay! I keep having to remind myself to care about these last few weeks of school for the kids. “Finish strong.”  Yeah, how about we just finish, K? With all the parties and chaos it seems particularly important to me to plan some healthful meals so we can be sure we don’t only survive on party food (wait, is that bad?). So… the week.

Monday: Vegan French Toast with Garden Strawberries (yeah, okay, not the most healthful, but a great way to welcome the strawberries that I picked this morning), Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Tuesday: Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala, green salad

Wednesday: Lentil Bulgur Burgers, Power Tabbouleh, cut veggies and pickles

Thursday: Company Good Pea Soup (we’ve got garden peas y’all), crusty wheat bread and green salad

Friday: Graduation Party

Saturday: Pool Party at Friends’ House

Sunday: homemade pasta, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Adult Lunches: Salad City, some greens ready in the garden too!

 
I hope your week is full of celebrations, even if they are small ones and that your early summer is proving fruitful.

More On Sleep and Awareness

Well-BeingEven though it’s Monday, I won’t be posting a meal plan today. Not because I don’t want to, but because I am totally impaired. It is not possible for me to write a meal plan today. Those of you who’ve been playing along may know that I have some determination to get more sleep this year.These last two days have been a major fail on that score as I have a sick little one (why does vomit only happen in the middle of the night?) and I’ve gotten very little sleep… hence the impairment and lack of meal plan. I’m shooting for tomorrow on that.

As for the larger sleep  goal, while I can’t say definitively that I have gotten more sleep all the time, I do think an important trend has emerged. I have become significantly more aware of the negative impact of not getting enough sleep and I have become quicker to recognize when I’m not getting enough sleep. I’ve made some observations lately that have been critical to the development of my sleep practice.

First of all, I now have a FitBit. Now, I know I know we’ve said you don’t need to spend money to get more fit and you don’t. HOWEVER, I’ve really been struggling with acknowledging my fluctuating reality in getting exercise and feeling good. I needed a reality device. I needed the equivalent of the pedometer I got after I gave birth to twins. The cool thing about the FitBit is that it also tracks how long I sleep. This dumb (and slightly creepy tracking me) little device has made the connection between the amount of sleep I get and my mood the next day crystal clear. I’ve only had it for a little while, but in that little while Mr. Little Sis has been away on business. A good time to make a change in my own behavior. Earlier to bed it was and guess what? When I get more sleep, I like my kids a WHOLE LOT MORE. I am more patient. I find humor in situations that would otherwise aggravate me. I’m more willing to be in the moment and enjoy them, to play with them rather than just do what’s required to get through the day. And know what else? Even with all that zen lahddie-dahddie fun with my kids, I still got a ton of stuff done in the yard and the garden AND made decent progress on the cabinet project.  It seems so silly, so simple. It couldn’t possibly be as simple as that, right? It couldn’t just be that we need more sleep… or could it?

For a little reinforcement of that learning, while Mr. Little Sis has been away the kids got sick (which almost always happens and I don’t really want to think about how that can be true). We’ve had some nights with very little sleep. And know what? (I realize I sound like a 5 year with all the “know whats”; I don’t really care.) Adults are no different than children. We all have a harder time holding it together when we don’t get enough sleep. My two, who really are generally well behaved and affable seem to have a limit of two fundamental problems. Lack of adequate sleep is one seriously fundamental problem. What that means is that one other thing being wrong on a sort of basic level means game over. I’m hungry and you’re not giving me food right now, tears. I feel yucky and you’re not making it go away, tears. I can’t find the Lego piece that you just stepped on and nearly broke your foot, tears.

Yes, kids can be like this, but in particular TIRED kids are like this at my house. Two things help: 1) more sleep and 2) acknowledging out loud to them that they are tired and you understand it’s hard to deal with things when you’re tired. Tears stop, sometimes there’s even an apology. Then we fix the secondary problem because without a fever there is no napping at our house anymore. Here’s a banana. Everything’s okay. Really.

Well-BeingAll of this gives me significant pause. It seems, from this long and rambling series of observations about sleep while I’m completely exhausted. Perhaps it is not just my children that can only have 1 fundamental problem at a time. Given inadequate sleep any other problem of any significance becomes too much to handle. All problems added on to too little sleep also become much larger than they are in reality – I’m hungry for a snack becomes tears. I can’t find my Lego becomes tears. My boss didn’t love my presentation… My car broke down… The dog ate 2 pounds of chocolate chips (yes, this is a real example and also occurred while Mr. Little Sis was out of town and required me to make the dog vomit, we’re a regular vomitorium)… tears or an adult over-reacty equivalent. What would happen if we all just got more sleep? Would we be more productive? Would we be more tolerant of each other? Would we remember to enjoy the good things? Hmmmm. I’m going to make sure to get more sleep tonight (assuming the vomit part is over, which with twins is a big assumption) and see about all of that. Anybody want to join me? I mean in your bed, of course. My sick child and misbehaving dog will be in mine.

Sleep well, be well friends.

Weekly Meal Plan 5/11-5/17

It’s been an exciting domestic week here in mid-Maryland. The kids are giving me the daily countdown on school. The garden is in and mulched with straw (which if you ever purchase is a great time to line the car with a tarp, duh… The cabinet project proceeds and in acknowledging how very long this is bound to take, I’ve surrendered to the pace and am focusing on purging things as I approach each cabinet. It has been very liberating. While there is a certain charm to a chipped cup, the ones with cracks down the side are decidedly less cute. We had a lot of cracked bits. Some will be used as plant holders, some for pencils, some for fai

ry houses, and those that still function but were unnecessary are being donated. VERY freeing. I may need to find the cracked bits in all the other rooms as well.The things that accumulate in 25 years of adulthood can be staggering. All that we don’t need and that could be of use in some other way to to some other person… staggering. Dogs shed in the spring, and I’ve always thought there was sort of a built in zen wisdom to dogs. Perhaps it’s time to take a lesson from Baxter and shed away as though it’s the most natural thing to do. Meanwhile light meals that are easy to prepare (I’m flying solo this week) and that don’t add spiritual or physical weight to this lighter feeling are the order of the day.

Monday: Rice sticks with raw veggies, cashews and Asian dressing (Bragg’s, rice vinegar and garlic chili paste)

Tuesday: Super green salad, crusty bread, seasoned chick peas, olives, pickles (it’s supposed to be H.O.T.)

Wednesday: Zucheesey Noodles, peas, green salad

Thursday: Sesame Pancakes with Honeyed Oranges and Kale Smoothies (yes, I’m playing to the kid crowd while Dad is away… can you blame me?)

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies (we eat this while we have a movie picnic in the living room)

Saturday: Creamy Daal, Vegan Palak Paneer, Naan (we’ll see about all of this, ambitious after nearly a full week flying solo)

Sunday: Pasta (from a box, Daddy’s the homemade pasta king around here) with red sauce AND pesto, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Adult Lunches: salads, leftovers, hummus and spinach sandwiches

There. The week is much less daunting now. I hope it is for you too. ;-) Eat well, be well friends.

Weekly Meal Plan 5/4-5/10

Wow. I kicked some major garden booty this past weekend and I am feeling pretty smug. Or at least I was feeling pretty smug until I looked at the weather forecast and realized that it’s supposed to be in the high 80s most of this week. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m A-OK with some summery days arriving, but my little newly transplanted seedlings will not like it very much. What can I do about that? Give them a little shade is what I can do. I happen to have some of the kind of cover a lot of folks use for hoops to protect from frost or bugs. Here in mid-Maryland where late winter frequently hangs out until summer can make an appearance, I have found this kind of cover to be very useful – for cold nights and sweltering “Spring” days. So starting at about 2 pm I will cover those little babies and then get on with birthday preparations… for Mr. Little Sis.

Birthday planning is one of those areas where having different family cultures can really throw a wrench in things. In my extended family birthdays are pretty low key. Like, we are happy you were born, but let’s not get carried away, okay? In Mr. Little Sis’ family it’s like the freaking circus is coming to town JUST FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY. It took me a while to realize that this basic family culture difference was at the heart of what I rightly discerned as his very polite and yet still perceptible letdown on every birthday that I have orchestrated. I’ve upped the ante for the last couple of years with positive results, but am finding myself at a bit of a loss this year in the food department of the birthday celebration. I’ll sort it out, and it will be good, but you’ll notice an incomplete spot on my meal plan… and that is SUPER irritating to my inner OCD freak. Please forgive the omission and my neurotic response to it. I hope you are having a great week, that all your endeavors are established before the heat rises on them, and that you have plenty of cool foods to eat if you will be sweating… like the ones we have here…

Monday: Umbrian Lentil Salad, Green Salad, Whole Wheat Bread, Navy Bean Herb Hummus

Tuesday: Nutshroom Burgers, Sweet and Sour Pickles, green salad

Wednesday: Mr. Little Sis’ Birthday…. aaagh I don’t have a plan and I’m FREAKING OUT. Okay, not quite freaking out, but it’s not good people. I may just let him choose whatever he wants, which could mean just about anything depending on his mood.

Thursday: Singapore NoodlesMung Bean Sprouts Namul

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Taco Salads (Picadillo as the chili, big greens and cut vegetables, some healthier tortilla chips)

Sunday: Homemade Pasta, green salad

Adult Lunches: Power Tabbouleh, Kale Avocado Sprouts Salad

Lunchbox Treats: Almond Lemon Jots

 

Looks like a great week. Nice cool summery foods to welcome what looks to be a very warm May. I hope you have a stellar week and that all the important people let you know how much they love you. Okay, maybe if just one does that it would be good. right? Eat well, be well friends.

Weekly Meal Plan 4/27-5/3

Another day, another massive inhalation of paint fumes. But wait, you say, aren’t you concerned about your health? Aren’t you using low VOC paint? Don’t you need your brain cells Little Sis? The answers: yes (of course), yes (on the insides of the cabinets), and I guess sometimes. The cabinet project proceeds apace. I’ve finished a couple and am making my way around the first corner on the upper cabinets. Yes, this is time consuming. Yes, I now understand why people we talked to wanted to charge so very much to do this. Yes it looks fantastic, even only partially complete. And let me tell you how much more rewarding this is than any of the other chores that await, well except cooking which I still love, but confess is not quite as fun in my disarranged kitchen. I am not a terribly neat person, but I am not a big fan of a disarranged kitchen. I am working on my ability to accept said disarray as part of the process. Yeah, I’ll let you know how that’s going as soon as I rinse the sawdust out of my tea mug… For your meal planning enjoyment:

Monday: Potato Squashers, sautéed green beans, green salad

Tuesday: Easy Veggie Lo Mein (from Meatless Monday)

Wednesday: Spinach Chickpea Burgers, burger fixins, pickles and cut veggies,

Thursday: Tofu Bahn Mi, Quick Pickled Asian Carrots, green salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Nofredo Sauce, green salad, Wilted Mediterranean Kale

Lunchbox Treats: Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Adult Lunches: Namuls and leftovers all week

There it is folks. We’ll see if I can stick with it enough to share a recipe with you later in the week. How’s that for some ambition? If you’ve not yet checked out our FB page, give it a like . You know you want to. Eat well, be well friends.

A Big Winner!

unnamedThe long wait is over. After a week of entries, we have pulled a name from the hat (okay, it was a large measuring cup because yes, we’re that high tech around here) and Rita is the winner of our friend Annie Oliverio’s new cookbook. In case you miss the first description of this fantastic book, I’ll give you a short version Annie is a super creative and accomplished plant based cook. She has assembled a cookbook based on the kind of craving you might be having. Each craving includes a variety of healthful plant based answers to that craving call. She is really super talented. Bigg Sis and I have both been using recipes of hers for a few years and have yet to be anything but Wowed. So, Rita is the lucky winner, but you can get your own copy of Crave, Eat, Heal: Plant-based, Whole-food Recipes to Satisfy Every Appetite on Amazon. Check out Annie’s blog here. Rita, if you are a Facebook user, please go our page and use the message function to let us know where to send your book. If you’re not a Facebooker, let us know in the comments and we’ll devise another communication scheme. Congratulations to Rita for winning and to Annie for putting together such a wonderful book!

Recalls: Chicken Sausage, Blue Bell Dairy, Queso Fresco

NewsUpdate6It seems that while I’ve been busily painting and staining, there’s been a whole lot of nasty food contamination happening. Even if you don’t eat this stuff, please give it a scan so you can share as appropriate. Nobody wants to eat these things.

First up apple chicken sausages. Sold under different brand names, so if this sounds like something you have or would buy, please check the details here.  Apparently there’s a risk of eating some plastic machine parts with your chicken. Yeah, gross.

Next we have products from Blue Bell Creameries. This is a Texas based dairy products brand that started as a much smaller recall and has now expanded to their entire line of dairy products because of a risk of listeria. Details here.

Finally, queso fresco from La Clarita Queseria for staphylococcus aureus. More about that particular risk here. More about the recall here.

Eat well, be well friends.

Weekly Meal Plan 4/20-4/26

Hey friends! We’ve had a string of lovely days here in mid-Maryland. helped friends celebrate their marriage over the weekend and got to take a lovely warm walk through our fantastic town. Came home to kids well cared for by their grandmother. All played out and happy. Supah. A lovely respite from our big cabinet project, which is still in full swing, although with a bit of an admission that the pace of last week is, in fact unsustainable. Still making plenty of progress and they’re looking really great (perhaps I’ll post a picture or two to our FB page), and I’ve made all manner of mistakes. I prefer to see them as domestic learning opportunities. What learning opportunities have you had lately? Any of yours involve band-aids?

Monday: Lentil Casserole, snap peas, green salad

Tuesday: Burritos/Taco Salads (with this Roasted Vegetable Chili)

Wednesday: Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff

Thursday: Mushroom Gumbo

Friday: Homemade pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Sushi Rice Salad, grilled veggies

Sunday: Homemade pasta with pesto, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Adult Lunches: kale salads and leftovers

Happy Spring to those of you enjoying the same season that I am. I hope all of your projects go smoothly, that all your meals are delicious, and that your learning opportunities are relatively painless. Eat well, be well friends.

Weekly Meal Plan 4/13-4/19

“But I can’t. I don’t have time. I have SO much to do. There’s crap all over my counters. There’s stuff all over the table. I can barely move in my kitchen. I HAVE to finish this house project pronto. I can’t possibly stop and write a meal plan right now. No, really I can’t. I need to keep working until this thing is finished…” And so the monkeys have been shouting in my head all day. They don’t really shout – that would be too obviously hostile. It’s more of a chatter, you know, like monkeys.

You see, in my brilliance, I decided that rather than spending one more minute being annoyed with my kitchen cabinets, I would – no not pay anyone to do anything about it because I am way too cheap for such a maneuver – begin the process of refinishing them. Okay, it’s not a full on refinishing, but the details are not really all that important. Point is every inch of my cabinets needs to be touched several times with a variety of renovation products and tools – many of which create smells that are likely killing my brain. Yeah, so I started that without a single thought about what else might be on the calendar. Yep, that’s how I roll. Call me impetuous. Call me impulsive. Call me shortsighted and long on initial enthusiasm. Here’s the thing. I have a LOT of cabinets. Most of the time, that fact resides in the positive category. Today… yeah.

At any rate. I was preparing to publish a brief explanation of why I didn’t make a menu this week because totally busy, kitchen under tarps, stain all over my fingers, addled by primer fumes, and then it dawned on me (in spite of the aforementioned addled state) that this is EXACTLY when I need to make a meal plan. My week is going to be crammed and difficult. Mr. Little Sis is traveling this week. A close friend is getting married on Saturday and I have music to prepare for that. I have some resume work to do for some freelance work I’d really like to score (as long as they don’t give it to me anytime soon). I really need to make a plan for SOMETHING or the whole family logistical world is going down the crapper. So, I need a meal plan. And I need to actually spend a little longer on it than usual so I choose wisely. Momma needs a lot of help or there’ll be a whole lot of carry out, and I really don’t want to do that. So, here we go friends. A meal plan for the uber busy, slightly overwhelmed, fume addled, and admittedly a little grumpy home cook.

Monday: Varia-Bowls with Roasted Asparagus and Fabu Asian Peanut Sauce

Tuesday: Nofredo Spaghetti, peas, Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Wednesday: Chickpea Salad Sammies, Oven Fries, green salad

Thursday: Tunisian Roasted Vegetables see Bigg Sis’ tips on easy tabil and harissa here

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Wedding Dinner!! (no, not our wedding, we already did that almost 16 years ago)

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with roasted vegetables, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Yeah, I’m taking a pass here, okay? Low sugar graham crackers from a box this week friends.

Adult Lunches: Kale salad – from a bag… that’s right, I said it. This is how I cut myself some slack during a busy week. I buy kale salad in a bag. I am weird.
  

I will take some pictures later in the week and post them on our Baby Steps to Better Health FB page, which I strongly encourage you to visit. :-) Hope you’re managing your time and expectations better than I am this week friends. And yes, that’s a low bar, so there you go a win for the week for you – and it’s only Monday! Eat well, be well friends.

Popcorn Pasta – A Strangely Named Last Minute Dinner

Popcorn Pasta?! WTH is she talking about?! This could take many unappealing forms – using popcorn AS pasta and putting sauce on it – which would, of course, melt the yummy part of the popcorn and leave you with a strangely starched and very hull-y red sauce. Yeah, that’s not it. One could also, in theory, put popcorn on your pasta as a topping I suppose, but similar difficulties would ensue unless of course you were using raw pasta in which case I would tell you that nobody who is sober should really chew on raw dried pasta. So what on earth is popcorn pasta, my kids’ new favorite?

Popcorn pasta is named thusly only because I season it the SAME way I season popcorn. So you’re about to get a key not only to super easy and yummy pasta but to fantastic popcorn (you know the kind you make in a pot and then put stuff on). Popcorn pasta has 4 ingredients. Yep, I said 4. It is done in approximately 30 seconds longer than it takes to cook your favorite dried pasta, and, in case I haven’t said it, is super yummy. Four ingredients: dried whole wheat pasta (yes, please whole wheat and here’s why OR if you’re a white pasta devotee, still read that bit about why and try a blended pasta to get used to the idea of wheat pasta), olive oil, salt, and nutritional yeast.

We were fine there for a minute, weren’t we, and then I said nutritional yeast. There are many of you (our vegan pals) who already know about nutritional yeast and likely call it something like “nooch” so you don’t have to use this totally unappealing moniker, but the uninitiated will not find “nooch” in the store, so we have to pull back the curtain. What the heck is nutritional yeast?! Unfortunately this is not a terrible quick, or appealing sounding answer. I can tell you that it is NOT the same as baking yeast and substitutions will create messy and unpleasant results. It is also NOT Brewer’s yeast, which will not be as messy, but will taste like poo. Nutritional yeast comes in flake and powder form and is often used in dishes that might otherwise include some cheese – ya know, like pasta. Why on earth must they call it nutritional yeast? Well, clearly whoever named it did not study marketing, but here’s the skinny on “nooch” from one of my favorite bloggers (FatFreeVeganKitchen)…

“As you can guess from its name, nutritional yeast is packed with nutrition, particularly B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein. It’s low in fat, is gluten-free (check specific brands for certification), and contains no added sugars or preservatives. Because vitamin B12 is absent from plant foods unless it’s added as a supplement, nutritional yeast that contains B12, such as Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula, is a great addition to the vegan diet (though I strongly recommend taking a supplement as the only way to be sure you’re getting enough). Not all nooch has B12, so check the label carefully before buying.

The vitamins and minerals are all well and good, but truthfully, I use nutritional yeast for its flavor, which has been described as cheesy, nutty, savory, and “umami.” Just a tablespoon or two can add richness to soups, gravies, and other dishes, and larger amounts can make “cheese” sauces and eggless scrambles taste cheesy and eggy.”

So there you are – good reasons to use nutritional yeast despite it’s terrible name. Two more good reasons: awesome popcorn and Popcorn Pasta. I am only writing this up in recipe form because I am unable to bear the inconsistency that would result from simply describing the procedure (which would admittedly be adequate), now you know something about me you probably didn’t want to know.

Popcorn Pasta

  • Whole Wheat Pasta cooked according to your preference (we’re an al dente bunch)
  • Olive Oil
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Salt

So here you go, the big finish. Add olive oil to your cooked pasta – enough to make it a little slick, not enough to pool. Add generous shakes of nutritional yeast and a teaspoon of salt (adjust for your taste and pasta amount). Stir together – if you have one of these beauties this part is even easier. Taste. Add ingredients as desired. Serve with veggies. Demolish. Delight. Yes, the procedure for super yummy popcorn is the same, although I use a mister for my olive oil in that situation to avoid the aforementioned popcorn mush problem. Eat well, be well friends, even when that means eating things with terrible names.