Weekly Meal Plan 9/14-9/20

I began writing this post and realized that I wasn’t in fact writing this post at all, but another one that discusses overcommitment and its toll on our spirits. I’ve saved that and set it aside in favor of meeting this particular commitment, albeit a day late. If you don’t see the irony here, you probably need more rest too. ;-)

In all seriousness, my relative persistence in posting a meal plan is very helpful to me personally. I mean, I hope it helps you as well, but really, when I take the time to do it, I am actually planning our meals – something that doesn’t necessarily happen if I don’t sit down and write a post about it. You are keeping me accountable whether you’re using these or not – look how powerful you are! The exercise is also useful because of its unassailably necessary nature. This is not to suggest that we will expire if I don’t make a meal plan, or to indicate that I am completely unrealistic and believe that it is never okay to fly by the seat of your pants for a day or so because you just can’t do one more thing right now. I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m able to make those adjustments from time to time, but when it comes down to brass tacks, we need to eat.

I say it all the time in these meal plans – “here’s what’s going on in our house… but we still need to eat.” No matter what chaos or drama emerges, no matter what the dog eats and requires emergency veterinary intervention for, no matter which car or house part needs fixing or replacing, we need to eat, and when I plan what we eat, all of those other parts work better and are less stressful. It’s a little tiny slice of domestic magic that does not always shine so brightly in the abstract when it’s on a checklist of too many other important things.

So thank you for holding me accountable, reminding me that there IS something I can do right now to make all of our lives easier this week.

Monday: Southwestern Salad, whole wheat bread

Tuesday: Chickpeas, Potatoes, and Tomatoes (very much like this dish); sautéed green beans, bell peppers

Wednesday: Miso Soup, green salad

Thursday: Nutshroom Burgers, veggies for burger toppings, steamed broccoli

Friday: Homemade Pizza (artichokes and onions and no moo for me!), cut veggies

Saturday: Thirty Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili, green salad, rice or taco shells to go with

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever and spinach, green salad

Lunchbox Treats: Homemade Smoothie Pouches (these reusable food pouches are the bomb!) – just search smoothie in the search bar, we’ve got lots

Adult Lunches: Cold Kickin’ Soup (It’s coming. I can feel it.)

Here’s hoping your priorities are clear and well aligned with your values… okay, that’s too much. I hope you have a super week.

March Wrap Up

Holy Bananas I can’t believe March is over! After all that dreadful winter, the calendar leads me to believe Spring is actually upon us and the rain gauge outside agrees. Yay! I bought some pea plants today to give the garden a jump start – they were so beautiful on the shelf at the Food Co-op that I couldn’t help myself. Sometime over the next few Spring-y days I’ll get them in the ground. Because if there’s one thing I love in Spring, it’s garden fresh peas. Mostly I love eating them off the vine when nobody else is looking, but I’ve also been known to throw them in food for others, like the Company Good Pea Soup featured in this week’s menu. I’ll have to buy some for that, but even store bought fresh peas are a nice welcome for Spring.

Bigg Sis and I have both had a busy month in the parts of our lives that we don’t really highlight here. She’s been working her behind off at work and school. I’ve been trying to keep the twins engaged in what has been a less than spectacular academic year and learning and performing a whole lot of music. All that activity helped to shake the winter blues away, but sheesh we’ve been busy. I can’t believe we actually managed to write some posts at the same time.

Bigg Sis tempted us with Healthy Stuffed Peppers – which earned her a 100% approval rating at her house (a score that is difficult to achieve in both of our homes). I shared a variation on one of my favorite simple one pot dishes: Lentils, Potatoes, and Tomatoes. So good, and great as leftovers (I just thawed and ate some yesterday). A fan of potatoes and want a new way to eat them? Try Bigg Sis’ Shepherd’s Pizza – we loved it! Or go more traditional, and make some dairy free gravy using a tried and true cooking technique for sauces and gravies – a roux. Oh sweet comfort food, how I love you.

  

If you are also a fan of comfort food, try some of our meal plans from March (especially earlier in the month when it was colder) to shake things up at your house. We do these plans every week and it’s made a huge difference in my ability to plan, budget, spend less time at the store and have something on the table in a reasonable amount of time. Nice, eh? Take a look at all our Weekly Meal Plans by clicking on that category in the sidebar.

Unfortunately March brought us some food warnings and recalls. We post these when they catch our attention (find them in the Health News and Views category), but if it’s something you’re worried about, you should check out the Food Safety News website. I’ve also been contemplating posting these to our Facebook page, which you’ll find at Baby Steps to Better Health.

Hope you’ve had a spectacular March friends. I don’t know about this lion/lamb business where March is concerned, I’m just glad it’s finally getting warmer. Lion or lamb, we hope things are looking brighter and sunnier in your neck of the woods.

Don’t Diet. Eat Real Food. Let Us Help.

At the end of 2012, we had a few things to say about the annual dietary revolution that so many people attempt in honor of the new year. We revisit those thoughts now, when yet another year is approaching at a breakneck pace…

So here we go.  The New Year approaches and the diet chatter is increasing.  Everybody’s choosing plans, making resolutions and getting ready to start measuring their bits and counting their stuff.  If you are one of these folks, I’m going to ask you to reconsider.  I’m going to ask you to do something completely radical. I’m going to ask you NOT to go on a diet.

When we decide to go on a diet, we are committing to a temporary state of restriction, usually in an attempt to achieve some sort of numerical change – a smaller waistline, a lower reading on the scale, a smaller clothing size.  When we commit to a temporary state of restriction, we are admitting to the foregone conclusion that the results of that restriction – the number drop – will also be a temporary phenomenon.

You cannot return to the way you normally eat and maintain those lower numbers.  It doesn’t work.  If you’ve made this particular resolution in the past, you already know this is true.  Simply restricting what you eat also doesn’t guarantee that the food that you DO eat will actually nourish you.

BSNewYearWhen we decide to change the way that we eat, we are committing to a higher level of consciousness about what we eat in an attempt to eat food that is more healthful, that provides our bodies with more of what they require; a body that is getting what it needs is far less likely to torment us with the cravings that often drive us to eat unhealthy foods.

When we decide to change the way we eat, we are committing to caring for our bodies and our health, and are therefore also committing to caring for those around us who love us and cherish us.  When we decide to change the way that we eat, we open ourselves to the joy of living healthfully and the adventure of eating new and abundant real foods.  And so I ask you, on this auspicious occasion, NOT to diet, but to change the way you eat.  Eat Food, Real Food.

Big Sis and I have spent a lot of time this year talking about Baby Steps to Better Health.  Maybe you missed it; maybe you weren’t ready; maybe you already think you eat well and weren’t interested in making a change.  But now it’s coming – that resolution moment – that moment when so many of us get a little honest about our habits and find a little motivation to make some change.  If that’s you, and you’re ready, we’d like to invite you to join us taking Baby Steps to Better Health.

We’ll do a recap of the steps we’ve already covered.  We’ll get you started.  We’ll help you figure out what to eat and show you how to make it super yum.  If you’re ready, we’ll help you take those steps that will get you eating and feeling great in a way that works for YOU, with changes that YOU choose according to YOUR timeframe.

This is YOUR plan; it’s YOUR body.  YOU should be the one to decide what to put in it, thoughtfully and consciously, using ingredients that aren’t invented in a lab.  And you will find that the food you put in that body can be both succulent and healthful, both sublime and invigorating, both yummy and nourishing.  Because real food is delish and it does your body good.  Don’t diet; Eat Food, Real Food.

If this sounds like the way you’d like to start 2015, rather than kicking off the year with a glass full of nutrasweet and a package of freeze dried low cal low fat air filled nothing, maybe this is your year. We’ve put all our baby steps in a book for you, Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals, so you can work your way through them with a little encouragement from us. Let 2015 be your year, the year that you do it different and things actually change. Let us help.

An E-Book for Real People about Real Food

Normally I would be posting a meal plan today, but frankly my meal plan is all over the place. As so many of you are, we are entering an extended period of celebrating. The hitch for us is that we’ve been under siege of illness for over 2 weeks now. It looks like we’re nearly done, but many of our guests are iffy.  We’ve admitted to ourselves that a certain amount of flexibility is going to be required in the days to come. My larder is full of a variety of options and we’re just going to roll with it.

With that said, we fully intend to roll with it in style because we have a big reason to celebrate around here. A few years ago Bigg Sis and I started this whole crazy blog business as a way to get some practice writing, to write together and to each other, and to begin to consider how we could write a book that would help regular folks improve their health by eating real food. And at long last, we have reached that goal.

Our e-book, Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individualsis a labor of love, of effort, of humor, of cooperation, of irritation, and most of all of Bigg Sis’ dogged and relentless determination. We are so delighted to share our own food journeys with all of you and hope that you can find some inspiration, so guidance, some advice, some help, and the occasional laugh while you construct your own path. The book is based on our Baby Steps series from the blog, with expanded explanations, examples and stories. If you are ready for a change or if you know someone who is ready (or almost ready) for a change, check it out. What better time than the present to give the gift of better health in easy realistic steps from hilarious (okay, nice and amusing) sisters?

While you contemplate that, I’m sitting on the couch, big dog at my side, next to the glow of the lit Christmas tree taking this last little opportunity to rest before I finally get to see my sister again. We’ll start our holiday celebration feeding our families together, singing a bit, cooking a bit, taking a walk or two and laughing laughing laughing. I can’t wait. Here’s hoping your holidays are whatever you need them to be, that your company is warm and caring, and that your meals are delicious and satisfying. Eat well, be well friends.

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!

The Common Ground to Eating Lifestyles

I didn’t want to say diet because the big ‘ways of eating’ or ‘eating lifestyles’ that are out there right now such as vegan, paleo and GAPS are NOT diets.  They are approaches to eating and are intended to be forever, not a temporary withdrawal of something until weight reaches a desired level.  And let’s be honest, the forever part sometimes comes with an amount of rigidity that can spawn righteousness, ugliness and intolerance.  Can you have some vegans and some paleo eaters over on the same night and expect peace all evening?  Well, with some people you can, but I know many bloggers who feel themselves to be in a certain camp who are then lambasted by people who feel they are either in the wrong camp or have swerved too far out of the campsite……even if they were chasing a fabulous butterfly or helping their child get to the latrine at the time!

It’s odd, because as a nurse I can attest to the fact that different medications have different effects on different people.  Same species, different effect.  There is huge variety between members of our species regarding allergic reactions, effect on bowel movements, mood, and weight, even one eats the same exact thing as the person standing behind him or her in the cafeteria line.  Why then would we assume that the same eating lifestyle would be optimal for everyone?  It won’t, and it isn’t and so there.  So where does this leave us and why am I risking getting flamed by the tee-totallers?

We are left with the common ground to the eating lifestyles and I use the word ‘ground’ on purpose.  The Lifestyles: Paleo, Vegan, GAPS and many others, recommend in one way or another that you eat natural foods and avoid processed foods.  They can all agree that it is good to eat more vegetables, eat less Twinkies.  Eat more that either came from the ground, or from something that ate something that came from the ground, and less pre-packaged, pre-chemicalized, pre-preserved, pre-pared by someone other than you or your Aunt Marge, foods.   As often as possible.

All of the lifestyles have marvelous science, tests, books, and even movies to back up their point of view, but I know from years of experimentation that there is no one with the exact same digestion as me.  I know for a fact that I can not do dairy, and have a very tough time with beans, but that is not true for everyone.  I do not have any physical problems eating meat, but frankly I am much more comfortable eating meat that came from well-treated, naturally fed animals and I can not afford to do that often so I eat less meat.  Me, me, me, it’s all about me isn’t it?  Well, when it comes to what works for ME nutritionally speaking, yes.  There are valid arguments about how the raising of different foods affects the planet and I take that into account in my purchasing, but it ain’t easy feeding a family ideally all the time.

Just had to stick in a picture of some veggies – Little Sis’ quick and easy “Chemical Free Simply Fabu Sweet and Sour Pickles20140427_132043-001

Here’s another reason to drop the flags and banners and just educate people about the very real trouble with processed foods and the Food Industry.  If you narrow your diet too dramatically you miss out on a lot of delightful social happenings.  If I can’t eat at anyone’s home but my own then I have seriously limited my experience of the world and I would miss the interactions that tend to happen when people gather to eat.  Sometimes at a gathering, celebration, restaurant or party you just have to do the best you can with what is there.  Of course people who eschew animal products for ethical or religious reasons have to be choosier, but it is very rare that there is not something edible for most everyone.

So back to an eating lifestyle…… Little Sis and I began the Baby Steps series because it is difficult to attain a healthier, much less completely healthy, lifestyle.  Making changes to your diet is difficult and believing that life is all vegan/paleo/GAPS all the time or nothing, leads a lot of people to failure in making lifestyle changes.  Pay attention to and try to decrease the amount of processed food in your diet and you are choosing the bottom line element of lifestyle eating that has so powerfully affected people’s lives that they think their way works for everyone.   Maybe the common denominator of less processed food is also the common denominator for feeling and looking better with these changes!

Everytime you eat more healthfully……you are eating more healthfully!  Seriously.  That is WAY better than less healthfully.  If you need some encouragement, check out our Baby Steps series and our Sugar Busting series, because unfortunately, sugar outside of plants and milk is a processed food and is heavily present in most processed foods.

I often counsel patients who are trying to improve their eating habits / lose weight / lower blood pressure, etc. to start with the vegetables.  Eat more vegetables up front and there won’t be as much for the other stuff….preferably the other stuff is the least processed possible, for you, at this time, in this situation with these people.  It’s really all you can do and still remain mildly sane – personally I have given up on totally sane!

Replace Those Unhealthy “Health” Foods Part 2

So last time we met (for more than some dreadful food recall, that is) I had pointed out an article that highlights several “health” foods that we would all be healthier if we’d simply do without.  Bigg Sis and I are constantly surprised by the health claims of food manufacturers and their willingness to present their products in ways that suggest they’re good for you when, in fact, they simply are not.  To continue down a positive road in reaction to this info, I’d like to finish (part 1 here) replacing Buzzfeed’s list of 18 bogus health foods with real healthful suggestions.  On with the show. 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

You Deserve Real Food….. Baby Step #8

BabyStep8“Psssst!”

“Who me?”

“Yeah you.  The one who is being unkind and intolerant to someone.”

“I’m nice to other people, what are you talking about?”

“Everyone?”

“Well, I certainly try.”

“And what do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror?”

(silence)

“And what do you say to yourself when you make a mistake or slip up on a plan or intention?”

“Well that doesn’t count!…… Does it?”

What do you think?  Does it count?

When my students would pronounce themselves stupid or a jerk after making an academic or behavioral mistake I used to ask them what they would say to their best friend in the same circumstance.  They always had lovely encouraging things to say to their best friend.  But we don’t treat ourselves like a best friend.  And although the deep seated human condition from which our self-directed harshness and nastiness arises is beyond my expertise in terms of explanation (or understanding, as I do it too), I do have some suggestions for overcoming it.  I believe that a lot of our problems related to diet and food choices stem from the same kind of negative self-directed language as well as the language that advertisers have drummed into our heads. Continue reading

Don’t Say Diet

OR…

A Real Change for the New Year.

So here we go.  The New Year approaches and the diet chatter is increasing.  Everybody’s choosing plans, making resolutions and getting ready to start measuring their bits and counting their stuff.  If you are one of these folks, I’m going to ask you to reconsider.  I’m going to ask you to do something completely radical. I’m going to ask you NOT to go on a diet.

When we decide to go on a diet, we are committing to a temporary state of restriction, usually in an attempt to achieve some sort of numerical change – a smaller waistline, a lower reading on the scale, a smaller clothing size.  When we commit to a temporary state of restriction, we are admitting to the foregone conclusion that the results of that restriction – the number drop – will also be a temporary phenomenon.

You cannot return to the way you normally eat and maintain those lower numbers.  It doesn’t work.  If you’ve made this particular resolution in the past, you already know this is true.  Simply restricting what you eat also doesn’t guarantee that the food that you DO eat will actually nourish you.

BSNewYearWhen we decide to change the way that we eat, we are committing to a higher level of consciousness about what we eat in an attempt to eat food that is more healthful, that provides our bodies with more of what they require; a body that is getting what it needs is far less likely to torment us with the cravings that often drive us to eat unhealthy foods.

When we decide to change the way we eat, we are committing to caring for our bodies and our health, and are therefore also committing to caring for those around us who love us and cherish us.  When we decide to change the way that we eat, we open ourselves to the joy of living healthfully and the adventure of eating new and abundant real foods.  And so I ask you, on this auspicious occasion, NOT to diet, but to change the way you eat.  Eat Food, Real Food.

Big Sis and I have spent a lot of time this year talking about Baby Steps to Better Health.  Maybe you missed it; maybe you weren’t ready; maybe you already think you eat well and weren’t interested in making a change.  But now it’s coming – that resolution moment – that moment when so many of us get a little honest about our habits and find a little motivation to make some change.  If that’s you, and you’re ready, we’d like to invite you to join us taking Baby Steps to Better Health.

We’ll do a recap of the steps we’ve already covered.  We’ll get you started.  We’ll help you figure out what to eat and show you how to make it super yum.  If you’re ready, we’ll help you take those steps that will get you eating and feeling great in a way that works for YOU, with changes that YOU choose according to YOUR timeframe.

This is YOUR plan; it’s YOUR body.  YOU should be the one to decide what to put in it, thoughtfully and consciously, using ingredients that aren’t invented in a lab.  And you will find that the food you put in that body can be both succulent and healthful, both sublime and invigorating, both yummy and nourishing.  Because real food is delish and it does your body good.  Don’t diet; Eat Food, Real Food.