Weekly Meal Plan 1/19-1/25

Don’t know if you’ve noticed… or if I’ve even mentioned it, but my meal plans rarely go entirely as planned. Truth be told there’s a lot around here that doesn’t go entirely as planned, but I think this has more to do with our family culture than with some sort of underlying deficiency with the plans themselves. I CAN report that even though plans have often required at least one last minute modification, since I’ve been planning our weekly meals there has been 1) a huge reduction in the number of trips to the store which means 2) lower spending on food, and 3) less stress in the critical after school timeframe. I already know what I’m cooking and can work on that while nagging (I mean advising, yeah that’s it advising) about homework and piano practice and hang your coat up and whose sock is that… You can imagine that making a decision in the middle of all that advising could be a little daunting.

This past week, as a result of invitations we could not refuse, our regular Sunday night pasta has not yet been made and eaten. So, the planning and cooking for me is a little lighter than usual as we will return to our regularly scheduled pasta next Sunday. We could eat pasta every night with great pleasure. If this is not true for your family and you’d still like a plan, feel free to peruse plans from past weeks or to scroll through some of our recipes in search of a replacement. Me, I’m glad to be eating it, and even more glad that Mr. Little Sis will be playing chef for all that pasta. I will be taking on some additional paid work this week, so we’ll be relying on a slightly different division of labor, and putting our bare bones 15 year old CrockPot to good use. And so without further ado…

Monday: Homemade Pasta with the Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever

Tuesday: Miso Soup with Rice Noodles (leftover from last week)

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Herbed Beans and Barley

Thursday: Slow Cooker Burrito filling in taco shells (they’re in love with tacos), chopped veggies and green salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Three Sisters Savory Cobbler (from December’s Vegetarian Times) 

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Pesto, green salad

lunchbox treats: Dark Chocolate Dipped Wheat Pretzels

Adult lunches: leftover Nutshroom Burgers from last week

 

In other news for the week, I will continue to attempt to get more sleep as part of my Year of Well-Being, which may be extra hard (and extra necessary) with a loaded schedule. Big challenge ahead. I’ll let you know how it goes… unless I blow it and I’m too tired, in which case I’ll post something like brm;kjasdkhjfklja;hzzzz.  Eat well, be well friends. If you need help with that first one, check out our e-book: Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals. Have a great week!

Slow Cooker Herbed Beans and Barley

The weather has been doing its transitional season flip flop around here. One week it’s summer, one week it’s fall with a little scent of winter in the mornings. And with the change of seasons comes the change of activities that makes the challenge of family dining a very real one. While I limit my kids to one after school activity, because there are two of them, we are still on a wacky schedule for two of the five weekend nights. Monday Ms. Picky Pants does gymnastics from 5-6 and Tuesdays my increasingly gigantic son plays T-Ball from 6-7. These times bookend our usual dinner time.

Because there’s no way my gentle giant of a boy could make it through T-Ball without dinner, we simply eat early on those days. Monday is more challenging as there’s no way we could eat in time for a 5 o’clock practice. And so, given these complications AND the drop in temperature, there is no better time than now to bring the slow cooker out of the corner cabinet and keep it in semi-permanent residence on the counter. Preparing the meal the night before, or in the morning and letting it cook all day allows us to eat at whatever time and frees me up during the crucial times for chauffeuring and cheering responsibilities (I especially like the cheering part).

Our favorite new slow cooker recipe was an improvisation of mine, a pantry wonder that is sure to become a regular in our house. I’ve used kidney beans because I had them on hand, and because I think they’re so good looking (that’s weird, isn’t it). I imagine just about any bean would work here, although this one time I’d steer you away from lentils as they do tend to mushify a bit and the pearl barley is already providing a creaminess that benefits from a little more substance in the bean department. White beans, black beans, chickpeas would all be great. This dish was so simple and satisfying. The gentle giant just LOVED it.

Slow Cooker Herbed Beans & Barley

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  • olive oil for the pan
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
  • 3 c kidney beans (soaked overnight or quick soaked*)
  • 1 1/2 c pearl barley
  • 5 c veggie broth
  • 1-2 t thyme
  • 2 t red wine vinegar
  • 2 T Bragg’s or soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Warm olive oil in pan on stove. Add onions and celery. Sauté until onions are nearly translucent. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute or so. Place sautéed veggies in crock pot with all the other ingredients. Turn on low. Cook for 5-6 hours. Yes, that’s it. Stir, season to taste, and serve on a bed of deep greens. Spicy fans may enjoy a little hot sauce. I like it both ways. Delish.

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* Quick soaking beans requires bringing the beans to a boil, allowing them to really boil for 2 minutes, and then leaving them in the hot water for an hour, then rinse and use for cooking. They will not be tender as they are not fully cooked yet, but will not be little rocks anymore.

Slow Cooker Burritos

My increasingly not so little ones are taking swim lessons.  They’ve been taking them for a while, but now I really feel like we’re starting to have swim, not just don’t be afraid of the pool, lessons.  They have a ball, and honestly I kind of love sitting in that humid air, watching them take instruction from someone else, splashing with their peers, laughing at themselves and at each other.  It’s good stuff.

The only problem is that the lesson happens at 5 p.m. on a school day.  Five o’clock is usually dinner prep madness and there’s nobody hungrier than two six year olds who’ve been in the pool kicking like mad and working on circle arms.  Here we come up against one of the reprted biggest drawbacks of scratch cooking – time.  So we arrive home at 6 p.m., half an hour after “usual dinnertime” and with two ravenous, cold, and exhausted children.  This is a carry-out dinner trap in the making…

Crock Pot, my old friend, do your thing.  While I admit to having scorned the Crock Pot in younger days, when one circulated at a White Elephant party I attended with aspiring teachers in their 20’s (I was a ripe 31 at that time), I knew they were missing out by mocking this lovely kitchen tool, and that I was about to score big.  My simple Crock Pot has been with me ever since.  Just two settings – Lo and Hi – and a timer that I bought to turn the lamps on when go on trips, but it’s still kicking and if it ain’t broke, don’t replace it with something fancy that will.

This Monday’s slow cooker offering was driven by a recipe in the Cooking Light Slow Cooker Cookbook.  As you know, I’ve developed a fondness for barley.  These barley, black bean and corn burritos caught my eye right away, so I set to getting everything going around lunchtime in order to come home to finished dinner, and the finished product did not disappoint.  As usual I made some changes based on what I had on hand and tipping the scales of possibility in favor of my most reluctant eater.  I’ll share my version with you, but feel free to check out the original for plenty of slow cooker suggestions.

Barley, Black Bean, and Corn Burritos

  • olive oil for pan
  • 1/2 c chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans (or equivalent dry, soaked and cooked), rinsed and drained
  • 15 oz tomato (diced, crushed, whatever – I used 15 oz leftover homemade pasta sauce)
  • 1 c uncooked pearl barley
  • 1.5 c water
  • 3/4 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
  • juice of 1/2 small lime
  • 2 T Bragg’s or soy sauce
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 t chili powder
  • 1/2 t ground red pepper (opt – I omitted)

The recipe suggests putting all ingredients in the Crock Pot raw.  Personally, I prefer to cook my onions a bit first.  I REALLY don’t like onion crunch in cooked food, so I always sauté my onions for a few minutes and throw the garlic in for a few seconds once the onions are translucent.  I then moved the whole lot to the Crock Pot.  Follow with all of the remaining ingredients, stir, put the lid on and turn that puppy on low for 4-5 hours (ours took 5).

Once I got everything going in the crock pot, I chopped some fresh veggies and cilantro to go with the burritos so that I would literally simply have to take the bowl of veggies out, get tortillas out, a little cashew cheese for the parents, and serve it up.  Worked like a charm and my little man indulged in hungry swimmer thirds.  Picky pants was less impressed, but honestly wouldn’t you have been a little disappointed in her if she acquiesced in the face of several foods mixed together with a hint of cumin?  I knew it was a long shot and decided it just wouldn’t be her night (she had her favorite Crock Pot dish after last week’s lesson).  The rest of us were very happy. Delish.