Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas

If you find you need a hostess gift or have a tight budget, take a look at this list as there are some great homemade gift ideas.  You can have your children involved in helping you make these; it can be a special tradition to make your gifts at the holidays.

A homemade gift is a perfect solution for those people on your list that you want to give a little something to and you want it to be special instead of just a gift card.  Gifts likes these are perfect for a teacher, your hair stylist, a hostess gift, or even a little party favor for your own holiday party.

We think homemade gifts like these are easy projects to do with kids, they can help with measuring and pouring, tie ribbons or even decorate the tags.

Chai Tea Mix- Portion it into a jar with a holiday ribbon and a printed tag with mixing instructions.

Hot Cocoa Mix- Like the tea, you can put it in a glass jar with a ribbon, or even use a zipper bag that you then wrap with colored cellophane tied with a ribbon and the mixing instructions.  Stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are carrying artisan marshmallows, you can split up a package of those between your baggies for a little something extra.

Truffle Hot Chocolate Balls- Just another option for giving hot chocolate, these rich truffles are mixed with hot milk.  Wrap a few, place in a mug with marshmallows and a candy cane and then wrap the mug with cellophane and a ribbon.

Cinnamon Pancake Mix- We love this idea.  You can create a cute printed label to go with it with the cooking instructions for their Christmas morning breakfast.  Tie a spatula to it with a ribbon to make it a little more special.

5 Grain Pancake Mix- This link has a little instruction card to print and give with the mix and shows a cute way to present it in a jar.  The recipe for the pancake mix yields a lot; you could probably make up 8 jars to give that would provide 2 batches of the pancakes in each one.

Candied Lemon Peel- These look so pretty in a jar or wrapped in food-safe cellophane bag.  If you have a lemon tree bearing fruit right now this is a great way to use them.  You could also makes these to add to your cookie and candy platter as a pretty and edible garnish.

Soup Mix in a Jar- Something different instead of sweets.  The ingredients can easily be purchased in bulk and be very inexpensive.  There are great suggestions for modifications from the reviewers of this recipe.  The recipe is for 1 jar, but when it’s made into soup it yields 12 servings.  You just have to use the calculator to get the amount of ingredients for however many jars you want to make.

Cajun Spice Seasoning Mix in a Jar-  Large quantities of the spices for this mix can be purchased at a warehouse store, or a supermarket with a bulk spice section to make it economical.  It makes quite a bit and you can stretch it even more if you portion it into small containers.  Include a tag with ideas for using the mix.

Hot Fudge Topping-  Rich and delicious, portion into a jar, tie a ribbon and attach an ice cream scoop.  Or use it in a movie gift basket with a package of microwave popcorn, other ice cream toppings and a DVD or movie rental certificate.

Homemade Caramel Sauce- Do the same with the fudge topping or create a gift basket with a jar of each.

Cranberry Orange Marmalade- Very inexpensive to make, can yield 4, 8 oz jars.  Two flavors that go so well together and are perfect in the winter season.

Lemon Salt Scrub- Not edible, but made with sea salt, olive oil and lemon juice.  Buy those in bulk for an inexpensive gift.

Here are several easy to make candies that yield quite of bit which is ideal when you need quite a few gifts.

Chocolate Cookie Bark- White chocolate, dark chocolate, a little peanut butter and crushed Oreo cookies.  Plus, the basic recipe is adaptable to change up the flavors, such as using peppermint flavored Oreos and omitting the peanut butter.

Mint Thins- Buttery round crackers, dipped in peppermint flavored chocolate.  Sounds crazy, but it’s a great combination.  A unique and tasty treat.

Peppermint Bark- Creamy and crunchy, super easy to make.  It looks pretty too!

Peppermint Patties- You will be a hit when you bring these to a party!

If you want any help or recommendations for holiday candy and cookie recipes, please add a comment and I'll be happy to help!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Pies and Cheesecakes

Updated 10/6/14
If you are local to me, (Greater Sacramento Area or the Bay Area) you can enjoy a homemade holiday pie, or creamy and delicious cheesecake made with love by me.  Everything will be made from scratch and fresh just before you need it.  Most items can be frozen in advance to save for when you need it.  Apple pie can be delivered frozen and unbaked or baked and ready to serve.   

Available Items
  • 9 inch Georgia Pecan Pie, $25- A slightly sweet shortbread crust and rich molasses and pecan filling. (baked and ready to serve)
  • 9 inch Apple Pie, $20- A tender, buttery crust with sweet apples, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Your choice of top crust or brown sugar oatmeal crunch topping. (unbaked and frozen to bake at home)
  • 9 inch Pumpkin Molasses Pie (baked and ready to serve), $15- A little bit different than your usual pumpkin pie, sweetened with honey and molasses.
  • 9 inch Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake, $25- A spicy graham cracker crust and the most delicious, creamy, pumpkin cheesecake you've ever had
  • 9 inch NY Style Cheesecake, $20-  Delicious traditional recipe with a whipped chocolate ganache topping.
  • 9 inch White Chocolate Christmas Cheesecake- $30- A cookie crust with a creamy white chocolate cheesecake and a white chocolate glaze on top.  Add a jar of raspberry or strawberry sauce for $5
  • 9 inch Chocolate Peppermint Cream Pie- $20- Chocolate cookie crust, creamy peppermint-infused chocolate custard, topped with real whipped cream and crushed candy canes.  This pie needs to be made fresh and delivered no longer than one day in advance of serving.


Order by November 22nd for delivery by November 26th (Thanksgiving is Nov 27)
Order by December 17th for delivery by December 23rd

Orders needed earlier for holiday parties can be arranged.

Contact erika@e-mealplanning.com to place your order today.  $10 per pie/cheesecake deposit required when placing order.

Visa/MasterCard/Amex/Discover Accepted through PayPal

NY Style Cheesecake (pictured with whipped chocolate ganache)

Apple Pie with Crunch Topping

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake with brown sugar whipped cream

Georgia Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Molasses Pie

White Chocolate Christmas Cheesecake
Chocolate Peppermint Cream Pie

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Moving in Several Different Ways

A very quick post as an update.  I'm sitting on the floor of an empty house where I still have wireless Internet with my laptop actually on my lap.  My back is killing me and my feet are falling asleep.  But I will push on...
I've been in the thick of moving the e-mealplanning World Wide Headquarters.  Moving is hell on Earth.  It might be the one thing in life that is simultaneously so great and so horrible.  Oh, maybe childbirth too.  That runs a close second.  I get to do both in the span of about 5 months.  Go me!

Anyway, new house, great.  Packing, moving stuff and cleaning old house, not great.  Doing it while pregnant and technically unable to lift heavy items, really crappy.

But in my head I've got all kinds of upcoming blog posts brewing.  When I'll write them, I don't know.  I've got the holidays on my mind too and I'm going to be sure and get that information shared with you soon.

Oh and I've got to do a technical move too.  My actual business website, www.e-mealplanning.com is going to shift and all that content will be located here in my blog, and so the address will move too.  Haven't even begun that move yet.  But I will over the next two weeks.

In the mean time, I wanted to recycle some previous newsletters from last year at this time.

Here is a list of recipes- a few I have shared recently, but several good ones that I don't think I've shared since last year.  They're all good for this time of year and also great for providing leftovers to have again in your lunch or on a busy night.
Recipe List

Also- before I move this page, check out my list of great food-related homemade gifts.  I plan to update it and will share the new link when the page moves, so check it out now and start planning!

Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas

I hope you're having a great holiday season.  Please drop me a line at info@e-mealplanning.com if you want any cooking or baking advice or need help.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meals for Week of November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving is almost upon us.  I hope that last week's post has been helpful with ideas for side dishes and desserts.
This week I wanted to get you thinking about holiday baking and so I will start with sharing a link to a blog who recently posted some great tips for baking.  Over the next few weeks I'll chime in with a few of my own tips as well as recipes and ideas for homemade gifts.
This post from Jennie at In Jennie's Kitchen, besides having great tips for baking basics includes a recipe for pumpkin buttercream which looks fantastic. 
Baking Basics

This week I am sharing recipes that are a mixture of meals for next week as well as recipe for using turkey leftovers.  And one more pie recipe that I highly recommend.

Next week, I am going to take a break.  The e-mealplanning Headquarters are finally going to move and so we have to spend the week finishing our packing and then take a break for the holiday before getting back to packing and then moving.  And after that, I hope I've got Internet service. Although there's always Starbucks and free wifi...

I wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday, take time to enjoy your family and friends and whoever else you share the holiday with.  We all lead busy lives full of stress and joy, so take time to think about and be grateful for the joy.

Meals for Week of November 22, 2010

Fettuccine with Clams, Basil, Tomato, Corn and Garlic- This dish is low in sodium and calories and fat.  You can make it healthier by using a whole wheat pasta or one of the 50/50 whole wheat blend pasta.

Cheeseburger Pizza- Use a healthy/whole grain English muffin for this super easy and kid-friendly pizza.  Serve with a salad or vegetables with dip.

Creamed Ground Beef- OK, I know it sounds gross and maybe a bit dated.  But it's good and I think of it as a variation on hamburger stroganoff and it's actually lower in fat.  It's a quick weeknight meal and you could eat it over green beans and sauteed mushrooms and no pasta for a one bowl, lower carb meal.
Turkey Cobb Salad- All the parts of this salad except the avocado could be prepped in advance.  Makes it so easy to just assemble and eat.

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie- Pot pie is actually rather simple to make.  And when you have the leftover turkey or chicken already made that makes it quicker and you can use a pre-made crust if you don’t want to make one from scratch.

Leftover Turkey Enchiladas- This doesn’t even need enchilada sauce.  A few simple ingredients and a great way to use up leftover turkey.

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup- Great for leftovers, but good anytime because turkey parts like legs are very inexpensive.  And of course a leftover roasted chicken would work well.

Pineapple Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette- After all the heavy eating over the holiday, have a lighter meal that is low in sodium, fat and calories.

Sweet Potato Pie- It’s really quite simple to make and it’s very tasty!  If you are scared to make your own crust, I highly recommend the pre-made crust at Trader Joe’s.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Meals for Week of November 15, 2010

So this week I have some recipes for dinner, but I have mostly put together a list of Thanksgiving recipes based on requests on the e-mealplanning Facebook page.
I did not include a turkey recipe.  I considered adding one that I have used, but I thought I should focus on the side dishes and desserts.  Please leave a comment here or on Facebook if you are interested in a turkey recipe recommendation or if there is any other recipe you are looking for.

Meals for Week of November 15, 2010

Thai Honey Peanut Chicken- A very easy 10 minute stir fry.  Delicious!

Chicken Posole- This is a very quick and basic version of a traditional Mexican soup.  Don’t use the oregano listed in the recipe, add cumin instead so it has a smokey, Mexican flavor. 

Chicken Strips with Blue Cheese Dressing- This is a lower fat version of baked chicken strips.

Baked Chicken with Rice and Black Beans-Sometimes a meal like this is great on a busy weeknight because you don't have to watch something on the stove.

Black Bean and Tortilla Bake- Kid-friendly and healthy vegetarian meal.  Easy to make and you can always adapt it to suit your tastes.

Artichoke Spinach Lasagna- Vegetarian lasagna that takes very little prep time.  It can be frozen to cook another time or freeze leftovers. 

Pumpkin Pancakes- This recipe is perfect for if you purchased the large can of pumpkin and didn’t use it all as it only requires 6 tablespoons of pumpkin.  Or, just purchase a smaller 15oz can and then keep the extra in the fridge or freezer to make more another day.  Keep in mind with the pumpkin that if frozen or refrigerated a lot of moisture comes out and that’s ok, you should just squeeze the water out of it. 

 Thanksgiving Sides and Desserts

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread- Really good!  And a little bit of a different change from the typical sweet potato casserole.

Mashed Potatoes with Brown Butter, Goat Cheese and Sage- If you are open to  trying something new for Thanksgiving instead of basic mashed potatoes, you MUST try these.  THE BEST.

Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing- For many years, making stuffing was not my job on Thanksgiving.  I actually never cared for stuffing, I would take a tiny serving and that was it.  It’s not that it didn’t taste good, just not my favorite.  Anyway, I found myself having to make stuffing and this is the recipe I used as my guideline.  I really like how simple it is and it tastes really good.  I actually add chopped apple and cook it with the celery and onion.  Look to get a natural, nitrite free sausage.
Simple Stuffing- Basic stuffing recipe that you can adapt to add more ingredients like apples, mushrooms or nuts. 

Thanksgiving Stuffing- Another very easy and traditional stuffing recipe. 

Golden Beets and Brussels Sprouts- I happen to love Brussels sprouts and I recently discovered my love of beets.  The two roasted together is fantastic.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Apples- Brussels sprouts really pair well with something sweet, it gives them a mellow flavor.  In this one the sprouts are shredded, so it's a whole different texture.  The recipe includes using tofu to make it more of a complete meal with protein.  You can leave that out for a side dish or keep it for vegetarian guests.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts-  This recipe is my personal favorite, maybe because it's my own creation and won a contest.  However, I no longer "own" it and it's published in a book, so I don't have permission to post it.  Here's the basic directions:  Trim and then roughly chop sprouts (don't leave them whole) and sautee in a pan with some butter or olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until tender, then drizzle in some good, thick balsamic vinegar, mix it around, let that bubble and caramelize.  Add another pat of butter and stir to create a smooth sauce.  As an option- caramelize onions first, then mix those in with the sprouts toward the end.

Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash- A vegetarian main dish option using high protein quinoa.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes- As with most things from Paula Deen, these are equal parts delicious and terribly fattening.  They are sort of like a cheesecake bar, but with a cake-like crust.  It's great to bring to a Thanksgiving pot luck, people with love you for them.

Pumpkin Cream Pie- Basically your standard pumpkin pie recipe, but includes a recipe for a whipped cream topping.

Georgia Pecan Pie- This is "my" pecan pie recipe.  I wrote the recipe down in a spiral notebook when I was in high school.  I took it from a Thanksgiving issue of Bon Apetit and I regret that I didn't include the year of the issue.  In any case, I am pretty sure that I've made this pie every year at Thanksgiving (and sometimes Christmas) for probably close to 20 years.  I have never bothered to search for it online since I have it written down, but was happy to find it so I could share it with you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Meals for Week of November 8, 2010

So it's not Winter yet, in fact the weather here at the e-mealplanning World Wide Headquarters has warmed up to the upper 70's.  But I'm pushing ahead with Fall and Winter meals.  With that in mind, I came across a little article about nutritious "super" Winter foodsCheck out the article here.

Meals for the Week of November 8, 2010

Pasta with Butternut Squash and Pecans- This is a great meatless meal, or it could be a side dish if you wanted.

Quick Chicken Tostadas- These are super easy to prepare.  You can find ready-made tostadas where you find tortillas, or make a lighter kind by baking corn tortillas in the oven until crisp. 

Pumpkin Gnocchi- Give this a try and make gnocchi from scratch.  It’s actually not too difficult. 

Burger Sliders- Fun for kids and inexpensive to make.  Use ground turkey instead of beef if you prefer.  Serve with sweet potato fries and a salad.

Curried Squash & Chicken Soup- You can control the heat with adding a little of the red curry paste at a time, a little goes a long way.  I found a jar of paste made by Thai Kitchen in the Asian food section of the supermarket.   The recipe is written to serve 2, but you can easily just double it to serve more or to have leftovers for lunch.

Herb Garden Chicken Slow Cooker Recipe- Very easy recipe for a whole chicken in the slow cooker.  You can cook sides dishes separately or throw some vegetables to cook along with it.

Turkey Meatball and Tortellini Soup-  I came up with this soup just staring into my freezer.  I had ground turkey and a package of tortellini, some Trader Joe’s frozen green beans, a few other veggies and canned diced tomatoes.    My family loved it because it was actually a soup that was filling as a meal all on its own.  And every time I’ve made it, it’s been a little different just based on what vegetables I have.

Chicken with Artichokes and Angel Hair- This recipe calls for capers, which add a great little tart and salty flavor to the dish.  You can leave them out if you want or add something else like mushrooms.

Spaghetti with Shrimp and Bacon-  Fast and simple dish that calls for just 2 strips of bacon to add a little smoky flavor.  You could also just use ham or pancetta if you wanted.

Side Dishes
Salad with Beets and Yogurt Dressing- Salad is hard for me in colder weather.  I’m just really not interested in the effort to fix a salad.  Eat out at a salad bar?  No problem.  But at home, I am not so good.  But this salad is really simple and utilizes beets, which I have recently fallen in love with.  Greek yogurt is a fantastic base for a dressing, but if you prefer, use whatever dressing you like.

Roasted Cauliflower- Simple and delicious.

Cran-Berry Green Tea Smoothie- I like the use of brewed green tea in this smoothie; it’s a great way to start the day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Meals for the Week of November 1

Happy Halloween!  This is an iPhone photo I took this week when we visited a pumpkin farm very close to our house.  When I was there I also picked up a beautiful butternut squash that I can't wait to use next week as well as some local honey that I hope will help me to naturally reduce my seasonal allergies.  Since I will be 8 and 9 months pregnant at the beginning of Spring when I always have severe allergies and usually take medication, I'm hoping local honey that contains the pollen will help me.

It's November already.  Hard to believe, although I say it every year, it's amazing how quickly the year passes.  For me, I'm already thinking about the holidays and specifically about what I'll be cooking and baking.  If you like to bake and make candy and cookies to give as gifts, my #1 Tip for holiday baking is to start stocking up now on your supplies.  Pretty much every grocery store and even stores like Walmart and Target have their holiday baking displays set up already with items on sale.  I always find it to be easier to start buying things like chocolate chips, sugar, flour, mini loaf and cake pans, even butter with each trip to the store, to help spread out the cost.  You can even get nuts in advance, just stick them in the freezer along with the butter so they can stay fresh.  By the time December rolls around and you are in the thick of spending money on gifts or travel expenses, you have already purchased what you need to make heart-felt homemade treats.

I will begin sharing great recipes for the holidays over the next few weeks as well as on my Facebook page, if you have questions/comments or want advice, please let me know.

Meals for Week of November 1, 2010 

Don't forget to use ziplist.com for an easy way to make your shopping list.

Apple and Cheddar Whole Wheat Quesadillas-This can certainly be a snack, but I consider quesadillas my go-to meal for a busy night.  Have a salad or tomato soup on the side and it’s a complete meal.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas- I’ve recommended this recipe before, but it’s worth repeating and a great Fall meal.  They re-heat well and are perfect to pack in your lunch for work the next day.

Spaghetti Squash Marinara with Italian Sausage- Instead of pasta, use delicious spaghetti squash.  You can make the squash in advance and then re-heat and add your favorite pasta sauce. 
Beef Stew with Noodles- Very simple with not a lot of ingredients.  This is a great Sunday evening meal or the kind of meal where you can multi-task while this simmers on the stove.  

Parmesan Crusted Chicken Tenders- These take just 30 minutes to make and they are low calorie, but flavorful.
Chicken with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Orzo- Sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, cheese and whole wheat orzo pasta.  Easy enough for a weeknight, but could be a great dish to serve company.  

Turkey Meatloaf- A tasty and lower fat alternative to traditional beef meatloaf. 

Crockpot Pasta Fagioli- Similar to a minestrone soup, this contains ground beef and it is a sort of copycat of a soup available at The Olive Garden.  The recipe can easily be vegetarian by omitting the meat and using vegetable stock instead of beef.

Apricot Barbecue Wings- I don’t know about you, but in our house chicken wings aren’t always a snack, or appetizer, we have them as a part of dinner.  So you could have these cooking while you’re away at work or save them for a weekend to have when watching football.  Either way, they are sweet and tangy and delicious. 

Tortellini Tomato Spinach Soup- A low calorie but filling soup that you can throw together on a weeknight.  Great for lunch leftovers too. 

Side Dishes/Dessert

Butternut Squash with Sage-  You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to make this, give it a try and if you love it, then serve it again for the holiday.
Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries- I like this because it has a slightly different twist than other oven recipes using spices like Chinese Five Spice or pumpkin pie spice instead of just salt and pepper. 

Spiced Applesauce Cake- So perfect for fall.  It’s really a very simple scratch cake with a delicious cream cheese frosting. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Meals for Week of October 25, 2010

I think Fall is finally here.  I know it has been for many parts of the country but here in California we continued to have a heat wave.  But now it's been cooler and rained a little and so now it really feels like Fall weather food.
I don't have any helpful or interesting articles to share this week.  But I did want to pass along a few links for Halloween treats that might provide inspiration.

Martha Stewart's Halloween Cookie Photo Gallery is always fun to look at.  Many cookies have some elaborate decorations so they may be a little labor intensive, but they are cool to look at.

Bakerella's Halloween Cake Pops- SO ADORABLE.  The next time I make cake pops myself I will document how it goes.  I have not reached the adorable skill level yet.  Not by a long shot.  But the actual process of making the pops (or balls) is not difficult.

If you want to put a little treat bags together and make it a little healthier try this Trick or Treat Trail Mix.

Meals for Week of October 25, 2010

American Chop Suey- This recipe has a crazy name, I haven’t read the article in Relish Magazine that accompanied it, but in any case, it’s an inexpensive and easy to prepare meal. 

Turkey Pumpkin Chili- A really unique twist on chili, but pumpkin pairs well with chili spices to create a sweet and smoky chili. 

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage, Butternut Squash and Kale- Make it healthier by looking for a nitrite-free sausage, but this is a complete meal with vitamin rich squash and kale. 

Black Bean Tostadas- Really easy meal that will be ready in 30 minutes.  It’s meatless as written or you can adapt it to use whatever you like.

Easy Slow Cooker Chili- I really like this recipe for chili in your Crock Pot.  It's interesting because it's not the recipe I use for chili I make on the stove, but I like it for the slow cooker. I have made it with or without the beer. 

Braised Chicken Thighs with Potatoes and Carrots- Another simple and easy slow cooker recipe.

Easy Shepherd’s Pie- I know I had a shepherd’s pie recipe last week, here’s another that is a bit more traditional and baked in the oven.

Yellow Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup- Fantastic meatless soup that is still hearty.  Great fall flavors. 

Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna- The combination of sage and butternut squash are so good!  Definitely use fresh or cooked store-bought noodles, don’t use the no-boil noodles.  Cut your prep time with using pre-cut squash.

Stir Fried Turkey in Lettuce Wraps- I love this because you can really just create whatever stir fry you want using the flavors you like.  Plus is quick and easy to make and fun to eat. 

Side Dishes/Desserts/Snacks

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds- In case you need some instructions to follow for roasting the seeds from your Halloween pumpkins.

Sautéed Kale with Toasted Cashews- You easily do this with spinach if you prefer, but give kale a chance.

Marshmallow Popcorn Balls- I have been making these for Halloween for quite a few years now.  I much prefer them over the traditional method.  You can make them more festive by mixing in Halloween M & M’s or other candy. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Meals for Week of October 18, 2010


Sorry, I know it's been about 4 weeks since my last post.  I never meant to take that long to get back to the blog.  Even now, I'm sort of winging this post.  We're still in the midst of packing our house and I'm just starting to regain some energy as my first trimester comes to an end.  I think about the blog constantly and I have felt so guilty about not putting in the time to work on it.  I keep questioning if I was wrong to take a break when I seemed to be gaining momentum with new subscribers.  Life is still incredibly chaotic.  My kitchen is mostly packed up.  I kept out just basic utensils and a couple of pots and pans.  And now I realize we won't be moved until after Thanksgiving and I am determined to cook Thanksgiving dinner because it's been like 3 years since I have made anything beyond a dessert or a dish to bring to some other house for the holiday.  So now I'm hoping I can make it work with just a few pots and 2 baking dishes.

In other news I've lost just over 10 lbs and about 8 inches from my Mama Boot Camp classes, even though I haven't worked nearly as hard at it as I originally intended.  My own personal eating has been very hit and miss with pregnancy food aversions, cravings and general lethargy that makes me not hungry.  I have made a few great dinners in recent weeks utilizing produce from my Farm Fresh to You delivery and locally raised beef that I recently purchased from Cal Tex Cattle Cooperative.  (I will have more about this beef coming soon with some recipes of what I've made.)

Fall is here and with that, delicious recipes using the great seasonal produce.  Except it's been in the high 80's and 90's where I live.  It's a buzz kill for the Fall Mood.  But in any case I'm listing some great Fall recipes in hopes that they are just right for others out there.

Recipes for the Week of Octobr 18, 2010

Baked Southwestern Tilapia- Simple and flavorful, ready in under 15 minutes.

Slow Cooker Sausage Lasagna- An easy way to have lasagna on a busy weeknight.  This recipe is an e-mealplanning favorite!

Chicken Stir Fry with Yakisoba Noodles- The beauty of a stir fry is it’s really about the method of cooking and the ingredients you use are up to you.  You can also prepare the noodles separately and not add them to the pan but instead just serve the stir fry over them.

Glazed Pork Tenderloin Medallions- Good enough to serve for company but also easy for preparing for the family on a weeknight.  The sweet and tangy sauce is wonderful with the pork.

Easy One Pot Mac and Cheese- Love this recipe, so great to whip up on a weeknight and serve with simple steamed veggies or a salad.

Skillet Shepherd’s Pie- A twist on the classic version that takes less time and instead of using mashed potatoes uses frozen shredded hash brown potatoes.  Also a great meal to make using a cast iron skillet or any heavy bottom, oven safe skillet.

Crock Pot Thai Curry- You may have most of these ingredients on hand and simply need coconut milk and chili paste.  Feel free to substitute the eggplant for another squash or use whatever combination of vegetables you like.

Minestrone Soup- It's not exactly authentic, but a very simple and easy recipe for a classic Italian soup.  It uses frozen vegetables and we suggest the Italian style variety or to use whatever fresh vegetables are available.  Hearty enough to be a meal alone with some bread or a salad.  To add more flavor; use the Italian style chopped tomatoes.  This soup freezes well.

Side Dishes/Dessert

Fall Salad with Maple Vinaigrette- This recipe can really just serve as inspiration for your own version of a fall salad.  Apples and blue cheese are always great in any salad.

Butternut Squash with Wilted Spinach and Blue Cheese- You can roast the squash in advance to toss this together quickly on a weeknight.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake
- No baking, just mixing and assembling.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Meals for Week of September 20, 2010

You know that phrase “Sometimes life gets in the way”?  Well, I have to use that phrase this week.  I started thinking back and although I only moved to this blog format in August, I have been writing my weekly newsletter since June 1, 2009.  I have done it every week and I have not missed a week.  I have written it while on vacation, on holidays and while sick.  But this week I have to just take a pass.  I had to have a little talk with myself this week.  I talked about everything I have going on, the obligations I have made and the deadlines for various tasks that are looming.  I realized that something has to give.  Today (Friday) is the first time I’ve truly sat down at my desk this week.  I’ve had appointments, my personal chef work, meetings, soccer practice and housework that have kept me from doing any writing or research all week.  I considered taking a photo of the enormous pile of unwashed laundry to share here in hopes of getting some sympathy but then I decided it was too embarrassing.  But the biggest thing hanging over my head right now is that we’re going to put our house up for sale.  We have a goal to have it listed at the end of September.  This means we are supposed to begin packing and sprucing up the house.  My husband works very hard and commutes over an hour each way to his job, so he’s generally not home for about 14 hours each day.  Our oldest has soccer on the weekends.  This is basically leaving the weekdays to do this work.  Meaning me.  By myself.  Granted, I have hardly begun any of this except for a bit of closet purging because this week was full with other stuff.  It’s really made me feel like my household has come off it’s wheels.  So I decided I have to devote some of my time at my desk to writing lists and making plans for myself and my family, to get us back on track so that I can get my work and this blog back into the routine.

And then here’s an added wrinkle to my already crazy life- we’re expecting a new addition to our family!  It’s still early in the pregnancy, so on top of all the work I have, I’m moving at a snail’s pace to do any of it because I’m so exhausted I’m practically lethargic and I’m operating in a state of constant nausea.   So ok, excuses, excuses, excuses.  But with all of that, I thought I should do what “experts” say, take a step back, put yourself back on your To Do list, and prioritize.  So this is me, trying to do that.

I didn’t research or cook any new recipes and I haven’t read any new articles to share with you.  On the left margin of the blog is the archive and you can browse through that to look at previous weeks as there may be recipes there that you haven’t tried.  I am also linking here a couple of past recipe pages from my website that used to be password protected for paying members.  Some recipes I have used again in recent meal plans but a few I haven’t used in awhile and I should have because they are good.

September 14, 2009
October 5, 2009

Here’s something I had bookmarked and had been meaning to share, it’s a Martha Stewart collection of kid-friendly recipes.

Thank you and I’ll be back with you next week!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Meals for the Week of September 13, 2010

I'm very tardy this week.  I'm full of reasons and excuses, but I won't bore you with that.  I will say that on the 4th it was my birthday and then a holiday weekend and I didn't get as much cooking, research and reading done as I would have liked.  In fact, I'm embarrassed to reveal that although I did look for something to write about this week, nothing caught my interest enough to want to share it with you.  I couldn't possibly do yet another blurb on back to school or packing lunches.  So I thought maybe I'd just get right to it and just do the meal plan.
I do have a request for my readers though; I would love some feedback.  I have been told that sharing cooking tips and links to articles and information that I find interesting is a great part of my weekly post, but I would love to get more requests and comments about what kind of information and resources you want.  So comment here or drop me a line at info @ e-mealplanning.com and let me know your thoughts.

Meals for the Week of September 13, 2010

Turkey Sloppy Joes- Sloppy joe’s don’t have to come from a can, it’s so easy to make the saucy meat mixture from scratch.  And this version uses lower fat ground turkey and whole wheat buns to make it healthier.

Calico Bean Soup- This vegetarian slow cooker recipe is healthy and provides plenty of fiber and protein.  It uses dry beans, which means you could start this soup before bed and let it cook overnight, then keep it warm all day to eat for dinner that next night.  If you’d rather not do that, use canned beans and cook it on low for 6 hours.

Salmon with Orange Mustard Sauce- If you have a good size microwave that has a turntable to rotate food, give this recipe a try.  Salmon is quick cooking and this meal is even quicker steamed in the microwave.  One note- it doesn’t state to cover the food when cooking, but you should cover it with plastic wrap so that it steams to cook.

Coconut Shrimp Soup- Easy to make Thai-style soup.  It doesn’t take any hard to find ingredients and still result in a flavorful soup.

Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce- Simple and delicious.  I love this sauce. 

Simply Roasted Pork- One 3oz slice of this pork tenderloin roast is 159 calories.  Pork tenderloin is naturally flavorful and lean.  It takes just a few simple seasonings to make this great weekend dinner.

Mexican Taco Stew- It’s sort of like a chili with ground beef and black beans but the seasoning is more in line with tacos and it doesn’t have to cook all day like other kinds of stew, it’s ready in about 30 minutes.  This would also be great to serve on the weekend while watching football.

Broiled Lemon Garlic Chicken- Fast and easy method for delicious roasted chicken.  It goes perfect with a salad.

Rigatoni with Goat Cheese- Super easy, takes just 10 minutes.  An easy vegetarian meal or serve it with grilled chicken and a salad.

Low Carb Low Fat Grilled Eggplant- This is sort of a casserole, but not quite, layering slices of grilled eggplant with ricotta cheese and roasted red peppers.  You can actually serve individual “stacks” of the layers.

Side Dishes/Dessert

Quinoa Salad-  Unique combination of cranberries and sun dried tomatoes with a lemony dressing.  Simple and you can make it ahead, perfect to put in your lunch.

Last week I provided a couple healthy dessert recipes.  This week, I wanted to share two cookie recipes I tried and loved.  Both rather simple to make, and both make a lot of cookies, perfect to use for parties or to donate for school bake sales.  The chocolate chip one can also be portioned and frozen to just keep on hand whenever you need to make a few cookies.

Butterscotch Cookies

Hot Chocolate Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friday, September 3, 2010

Meals for Week of September 6, 2010

Labor Day Cooking

At first I told myself I would not write about Labor Day cooking.  Everywhere you look there’s information; be it sales at the supermarket, the program line up on Food Network and every food/cooking website.  But then I thought I might as well share a couple of great recipes that are good for taking to a barbecue potluck.

Guacamole- This is how I make mine and I have people tell me they love it.  I avoid chopped raw onions which just about every other recipe includes.  I don’t like raw onions and so therefore I don’t put it in MY guacamole.  I do however add a little of a fresh salsa or a pico de gallo, which does contain onions and to me, it’s the right amount to add flavor, but not have it be overpowered by onions like so many guacamoles can be.

Spinach Artichoke Dip- Ooey, gooey and delicious.  Another party food I am often asked to make.  You can mix it ahead of time and bake it at the party, or just re-warm it in the microwave or oven just before serving it.

Broccoli Salad- There is a great ready to assemble broccoli salad kit you can find at Costco, I have had it and it’s good.  But I also like this recipe and it’s really very easy to make.

Snickerdoodle Blondies- My kids LOVE these.  It makes a lot, so it’s great for a party. 

Lunch Ideas

I wanted to share a couple links that have lots of ideas for packing lunches.

I recently wrote about Easy Lunch Boxes- They have a great photo gallery of their boxes packed with lunches.  Tons of inspiration even if you don’t have them.  Although I highly recommend you try them. 

Building a Nutritious Lunchbox- Toward the bottom of this short article is a link to a larger list of lunch ideas.

Meals for Week of September 6, 2010
This week I chose some recipes based on requests from my Facebook page.  There are some crock pot recipes as well as quick and easy meals for busy weeknights.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meals for Week of August 30, 2010

After School Snacks
If you need some ideas for after school snacks or even just snacks for packing in lunches or when you’re out and about, pick up the September issue of Food Network Magazine.  It features a handy tear-out booklet of 50 after-school snacks.
A couple that caught my attention-
  • Yogurtwiches- a scoop of frozen yogurt placed between graham cracker squares, rolled in chocolate chips and then frozen until firm.
  • Pita Nachos- whole wheat pita sliced into wedges, broiled until golden, then sprinkled with cheese and salsa and briefly broiled again to melt the cheese.
  • Apple Quesadillas- Thinly sliced apple with grated cheddar cheese placed on one half of a tortilla, fold the other half over it and cook in a skillet until golden on both sides.
Health Benefits of Watermelon
Someone recently told me they read that pureed watermelon was not only refreshing but a healthy energy drink.  Did you know that watermelon is a great source of vitamins A, C and B6?  It also has a higher concentration of lycopene than tomatoes.   For me, I think I’ve undervalued watermelon mostly based on the name.  Not that water isn’t healthy, but I just considered it a refreshing, but messy to eat fruit and because it was so juicy I didn't even think about how much good stuff is packed in that juice.  Always in search of healthier alternatives to sports drinks for my athletic daughter, I did a little research and found several articles.  I’m sharing this one because it’s a quick read and includes a great recipe. 

The Surprising Health Benefits of Watermelon

Meals for the Week of August 30, 2010

A new month is almost upon us.  How is that possible?  I thought it was the 4th of July just last week?  In any case, I consider the start of the month a time to take stock of my cupboards, fridge and freezer and then form a shopping list to re-stock any of the things I like to keep on hand.  Then throughout the month I plan my meals based on what I have and make just a few additional shopping trips later in the month for more dairy or produce as I run out.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta- Meatless but filling, using whole grain pasta, a little cheese and roasted veggies.  This can be just as good with grilled vegetables.

Thai Style Chicken Legs- Great recipe for grilled chicken.  Use a food processor or a chopper to blend up the marinade; it might be easier than pulling out your blender.

Corn and Tomato Pie- Different from the previous tomato pie I shared last week, this has both a bottom and a top crust and the addition of sweet corn.  You might be back to school, but hold onto the flavor of summer and make this pie!

Chicken and Summer Vegetable Tostadas- What we like about this recipe, is there no frying of tortillas.  Just bake them to get crisp and then they crisp up some more when you broil it with the toppings.  This method can really just be a jumping off point for your own tostada combinations.  And use whatever kind of tortilla you prefer.

Beef, Cheese and Noodle Bake- Here’s a kid-friendly casserole that doesn’t contain any cans of high sodium, processed soups.  You create your own cheese sauce to combine with lean ground beef and noodles.  Try ground turkey if you prefer.

Grilled Steak with Tomato and Scallions- The recipe calls for using flat iron steaks which are less expensive than other cuts and fairly lean as well.  The grilled vegetable topping is great.

Zucchini Strand Spaghetti- This dish is so perfect for summer and don’t be afraid to adapt it to suit what you like.  The basil oil in the recipe is wonderful, but you can always just toss it with regular olive oil with some sun dried tomatoes and grated parmesan.

Easy Ravioli Bake- *COOK’S NIGHT OFF* Use this recipe as a guideline for your own baked ravioli creation.  You may need a larger casserole dish depending on the size of ravioli you choose.

Pork Chops with Dijon Sauce- I love how well Dijon pairs with pork chops and this creamy Dijon sauce is really good!

Quinoa Stir Fry with Vegetables and Chicken- Quinoa is a fantastic high protein whole grain that is similar in texture to cous cous, but a tiny bit larger.  This is a great, one dish meal that you can really customize to your own tastes.

Simple Grilled Tilapia- This recipe is really a no-brainer.  But if you’ve seen tilapia in the store and wondered how to prepare it, give this a try, it’s really a great tasting, but mild fish that doesn’t need much fuss preparing it.  Plus, it’s very inexpensive!

Breakfast/Side Dishes

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins- A lighter muffin, with added fiber and whole wheat flour, but a little bit of chocolate that will appeal to kids.

Chilled Cucumber Soup- Super easy soup!  Very refreshing and with the non-fat Greek yogurt you get healthy protein as well as important probiotics for digestion.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Meals for Week of August 23, 2010

Articles of Interest

There was a report recently about how re-usable shopping bags can be dangerous because of bacteria that raw food or moisture can leave on the bags, then creating cross-contamination. This quick blog article discusses that report and how it is a good idea to periodically wash your bags.
Wash Those Bags

I recently discovered Delicious Living magazine and was happy to see they have a pretty extensive website which included online versions of their print articles. This particular article about eating a nutrient dense diet has some good information. I like the lists of the top 5 foods in various food groups like grains, fruits, and vegetables. So even if you aren’t going to create a structured nutrient-dense diet, keep them in mind and try to eat them often.
The Nutrient Dense Diet

What I’m Doing

I have completed 4 weeks of my Mama Bootcamp. My exercise in between sessions has not been what it should be, but now that we’re back to school, I think I’m going to be much better. Although I shouldn’t make excuses, the last few weeks of summer break had us traveling all over be it overnight or day trips and left me with little time to visit the gym. I did actually do some exercising at home, which is sort of a miracle, because I really never do that. I found myself with fast food way more often than I should have. I must admit, as much as I do love to cook from scratch and truly have an interest in healthy cooking, I am a sucker for the junk. French fries are my weakness. I’ve tried to be prepared and instead of just remembering to pack a snack for my kids, I pack a snack for myself as well. It could be as easy as a Larabar or a baggie with fruit, cheese and a couple of crackers. And I’m carrying my water with me at all times. I love these re-useable plastic tumblers made by Aladdin-
They don’t sweat so you don’t have water dripping down the sides!

One other change I have to make right away is get back in the habit of planning all my meals. I know, me, Ms. E-mealplanning, not planning her meals. I’ve always got dinner figured out but I used to also create a detailed chart with breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole family. Now that we’re back in school, I really need that level of organization, plus it will help me with my Mama Bootcamp program. Maybe next week I’ll share my chart with you.

Meals for Week of August 23, 2010
This week I made sure I was back to my usual variety of recipes between seafood, poultry, pork, beef and meatless meals.  Most are quick for a weeknight with a couple that are probably more suited for weekend cooking.  The other day I posted on Facebook that I'm always happy to help find a recipe for someone or I'm taking requests for recipes to include in the blog, so I put that same question out here.  Leave a comment if there is something you have been wanting to make and need a good recipe or if there is a type of meal you'd like to see in the blog.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meals for Week of August 16, 2010

Back to School Shopping
Summer has quickly flown by and many kids are returning to school this month. I wanted to share a few ideas for back to school lunches and products that can help you. Actually, this info works just as well for the adults in your house who are packing a lunch practically every day. It’s less expensive than eating out and much easier to eat healthy when you pack a lunch than be tempted by restaurants near work. I’m sharing some links to several different things that can help you with packing lunches.

Reusies- Eliminate or reduce your use of plastic sandwich or snack bags. These cute bags are food safe and clean easily and over time you will reduce your garbage and the amount of money you spend on plastic baggies.

Easy Lunch Boxes- I’ve shared links to other styles of lunch box systems in the past, but this one is less expensive and very easy to use. Like they say, they are in between high end bento style lunch containers and cheap disposable storage containers. I spent $30 including tax and shipping for a set of 4 boxes plus a cooler bag for my husband. The kids’ lunch boxes will fit them. These are compartmentalized and the lid seals the compartments. They are not completely leak free when packing dips or yogurt, but their website has some ideas and ticks that can you do to still pack those sorts of things. What I like about these is you can still fit it in your child’s beloved lunch box and it reduces the number of little containers you have to pack. (and then wash!)

Land’s End backpacks and lunch boxes- Highly recommend the back packs and lunch boxes from Land’s End. They really hold up well throughout the school year. Shopping tip- Land’s End has a department within many Sears stores and they offer more sales and clearance of the products than the online store and catalog. They also sometimes provide display models of items that are catalog only so you can see and touch them before ordering.
Some quick lunch and breakfast ideas-
  • Leftovers can work for kid’s lunch too- A thermos that can be popped in the microwave for 2 minutes while you’re getting dressed in the morning will keep warm until lunch. You can pack leftover taco fixings with a tortilla or a baggie of tortilla chips.
  • If you have one of the little bottle bags that sometimes comes in a diaper bag, don’t toss it out when you’re done with bottles! Heat a burrito, quesadilla or hot sandwich, wrap it in foil, stick it in the bag and then pack that in your lunch. It keeps the warm food separated from whatever else you’re packing.
  • Sometimes it’s more fun for kids to have a lunch full of snacks than just a sandwich. A little container of peanut or almond butter with crackers, apple slices and cheese slices can be filling. Or baby carrots, ranch dip, salami or ham slices with crackers and cheese is great. It’s like your own version of the popular Lunchable but with something like the Easy Lunch Box, you save a lot of money and make it healthier.
  • Make breakfast burritos ahead and individually wrap them to microwave and then eat on the go. They freeze well, or on Sunday make up some to keep in the fridge for the coming week. 

Cooking Tips
  • To avoid overcooked vegetables, be sure to remove them from the heat when they are slightly underdone from your desired doneness. There is carryover heat that will continue to cook them, so turn the heat off and let them sit for a couple minutes for serving.
  • The larger the zucchini, the more water content. Even though it’s neat to grow an enormous zucchini, your better tasting ones and the ones easiest to prepare will be ½ lb or smaller. If you need zucchini to put out less water in a dish (like a casserole or lasagna) sprinkle slices with salt, let it sit and then gently squeeze or use a paper napkin to blot them and remove the water.
  • If you have overripe bananas but don’t have the time to use them right away, place them in a plastic zip bag and put them in the freezer. When you’re ready, they will thaw quickly ready for use.
  • Pre-cut bagged lettuce or salad greens only seem convenient when you are going to use the entire bag at once. Moisture is the enemy with those things. Plus they are more expensive when compared to just a regular head of lettuce. But yet buying whole heads of lettuce (like the 3 pack of romaine hearts) lasts longer when I wash, cut and spin dry then place in a sealed container in the fridge. You can even add sliced cucumber and mushrooms to have a salad ready, but I only recommend that if you’re going to eat it all within a couple days. You can also place a paper towel over it and then the lid and that helps fight moisture.
This week I have recipes that I hope will be easy for those first few days of getting back into a routine with the return of school. I’m a little heavy with the chicken meals, but it’s a nice variety of chicken recipes along with a few meatless recipes. Please be sure to come back and post to share how your meals turned out or email me any feedback at info@e-mealplanning.com.

Meals for the Week of August 16, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Meals for Week of August 9, 2010

Home Cooking Can Help
There are studies that show that the rise of processed and prepared foods from outside the home contributes to the rise of obesity in the US.  One of the reasons I created e-mealplanning.com is to help families reduce the need for excessive eating out and consuming overly processed foods and instead help promote healthy home cooking.   I’ve been reading the report from the Task Force on Childhood Obesity from the Let’s Move website and I have to say it’s not really new found facts or ideas, we've been hearing this information for a few years now, however it's great to have a push to promote healthier eating for children and there’s an action plan for ending obesity.  But as I’ve said before, saying and doing are very separate.  I’ve got my work cut out for me in my own house with getting all of us on board with eating healthier.  But learning to cook and making the effort to cook more at home from scratch can make a difference in being healthier.

I wanted to share a couple of resources that are useful to read.  I actually shared these in a newsletter a couple months ago but now that I have the blog and new readers, it’s worth sharing again.
The No High Fructose Corn Syrup List- http://highfructosehigh.com/no-hfcs/

The other item I have is not a specific article but a section of the Eating Well website that is full of articles and recipes for healthy diets for kids.  There are tips for packing lunch, nutrition guidelines, and articles on getting kids to make healthy choices.

Cooking Tips

  • Drink a lot of milk in your house? Save some money and keep dry milk powder on hand to mix up and use for cooking and save your milk for drinking.
  • When making a stir fry with any meat or poultry, you don’t have to completely defrost it. Meat slices clean and easy with a sharp knife when slightly frozen. It’s a great way to get very thin slices.
  • A common mistake in cooking is to over-soften butter. Don’t try to speed things up by heating it. To soften butter for baking- Over a mixing bowl, shred the amount of butter you need on a grater. The little pieces will soften faster than a solid stick. In no time, the butter will be bake-worthy. (From Martha Stewart)
  • Always dry your steak before cooking it. A wet steak steams instead of fries when you put it in a pan.
  • I'm always having you purchase fresh herbs for recipes. Take your unused herbs, tie the stems together with twine and hang upside to dry. Store them in a container in a dry place for future use.
  • When slicing juicy fruits like melons, place in a colander over a bowl to drain and allow some of the juice to drain which saves it from getting mealy when storing the cut fruit.
  • Substitute for wine in cooking: Use 1/2 cup broth plus 1/2 tsp red or white wine vinegar or lemon juice for 1/2 cup wine
  • Did you know that you can freeze buttermilk? If you buy a half pint for recipe that calls for one cup, just portion out the rest into 1 cup or ½ cup portions into paper cups, set them in the freezer and once frozen you can wrap each one with plastic and then store them in a zipper freezer bag.

This week's meals are varied like usual, but I provided a couple of recipes that focus on using summer fruits and veggies like corn, zucchini, tomatoes and nectarines that you may either have bursting from your garden or will find on sale in stores and markets.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meals for Week of August 2, 2010

A Journey

Stepping out on your own, no matter what the circumstance, can be a scary leap of faith.  For me, taking an idea such as meal planning and trying to make it into a business was a big leap of faith. Not only for myself but for my family who I depend on to support me in this endeavor.  It’s been just over a year.  I’ve enjoyed it, I still feel passionate about what I do, but I have a long way to go in meeting the goals I set for myself.

Along the way, I started to realize I was on another parallel journey of self discovery and self improvement.  I wasn’t just reading and researching all things related to food and spewing out information in my newsletters.  I was beginning to form my own opinions, gravitating towards resources and attitudes about food and wanting to share that information.  Except, that I wasn’t always LIVING it.  How can I pass along great information or impart my own ideas if I’m not following my own advice?  I discovered that I had a disconnect between what I believed in and what I was actually doing.

So over the past year I’ve been trying to change my household to have healthier eating habits.  I have always cooked and baked, so cooking from scratch is no problem.  Cooking from scratch with whole foods is healthy.  But the next step to that is cooking with healthier ingredients, eating the treats in moderation and being aware of the ingredients in the products you eat and making better choices for your health and the planet.  I try to strike a balance of implementing changes where I can and not radically shake everything up to the point where it’s met with resistance.  So I’m buying organic produce, checking ingredient labels, trying to reduce processed foods, doing most of it gradually.  Trying alternatives to overly processed favorites and looking at healthier recipes for meals.

And then there’s the whole matter of being accountable.  That’s the next step for me.  This week I started a 12 week training program through Mama Boot Camp.  It’s a once a week group training class that has me doing additional workouts as homework and tracking my food.  Clean eating, planning my meals and snacks isn’t so much the challenge, but pushing myself to workout hard and keep accountable requires a coach.  It’s the same story you so often here, the mother who is always taking care of everyone else but herself. That’s me.  And sometimes I’m not even really doing a good job of taking care of others because I’m not in top shape to do it. 

I decided to change from the subscription newsletter service to the blog because it was much more important to me to share the information than to make it only available to those who pay for it.  And because I’m on my own journey to eating better, learning more about food and being healthy, I want to share that journey with you and  I hope the blog platform will inspire you to share your own ideas, challenges and journey with me.

If you have not seen my previous newsletters, each week I will share a list of meals with the link to the recipe.  I highly recommend signing up for ziplist.com and use that free tool to create your shopping list.  In addition, I share links to interesting articles, cooking tips and other food related information that I think is relevant.  And from time to time I’ll share with you how things are going in my own house.  I hope you will sign up to receive the blog via email or in your RSS feed.

Meals for the Week of August 2, 2010

Meals are listed below with links to the recipe on another website or a down loadable document for you to open and save.  Choose however many meals you need for the upcoming week. Visit Ziplist.com and use their free tool to create your shopping list.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


So for the past 3 weeks I have done some personal chef-type cooking.  I use that term loosely because I am not a professional chef, I am a home cook.  But I have slightly changed my In-Home service where I cook once a month with a client to help them get organized and stock up on some meals for the month, to come in and cook once a week an almost full set of breakfast, lunch and dinner.  These people wanted to reduce their eating out and their habit of running to the store to pick up a meal.  Plus lose weight and stick to a certain food plan.  I'm not a dietitian or nutritionist, I don't pretend to be.  I just read the material and then laid it out for them.  They don't have to think as much about what to eat or to eat the right thing because all their choices are good.  Each week I go to their house and cook.  I make breakfast items, prep salad, cook vegetables and then make several entrees that last them for multiple dinners and lunches.  If I were to attempt to cook in advance for a full week in my house, I don't know if the fridge has the space.  But in their household of 2, they typically have leftovers of every meal, so they can pack some for lunch as well as eat it again for dinner another night.  This picture below is what their fridge looks like when I'm all done.  I actually posted this a couple weeks ago.

It's about 2 rows deep of containers.  That week you can see salmon that I prepped but didn't cook so that they could fix that fresh.    Sometime in the next few weeks I'll post some more about this with comments from them about how it's going.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (on Tuesday)

I didn't post last week.  We basically ate leftovers from the holiday; bbq chicken, corn on the cob with a few other odds and ends thrown in.  Then I traveled out of town with my oldest for a girls' weekend.  We had a lot of fun.  Returning late on Sunday night, I had a list running through my head of what I should make this week.  I've got some changes coming that I have to prepare for and will post more on that later.  So this will be short and sweet for now.

Monday- I grilled shrimp that I seasoned with this delicious Thai coconut rub from Two Spicy Ladies which is local to me.  I found it at my farmer's market.  I also grilled two pieces of Ahi Tuna, which I get frozen at Costco.  It comes in a bag with individually wrapped pieces.  It's pretty good when marinated (I did garlic, tamari and a little teriyaki) but I don't usually sear it to stay rare in the middle like I would with a nice fresh piece, it was cooked all the way through.  I also grilled some asparagus and boiled some edemmame.

Tuesday- Grilled Chicken tacos.  No recipe, I just season the chicken with taco seasoning (I happen to use Pampered Chef Southwestern Seasoning) grill them and then we'll have the usual taco fixings.

Wednesday- Turkey lettuce wraps- Butter lettuce is scheduled for my produce box, so I'm going to stir fry some ground turkey with vegetables and serve it with lettuce leaves and some sweet chili sauce.  Very healthy, very little fat.

Thursday- Grilled Pork Tenderloin, but I'm using method 1 from my Grilled Pork Chops recipes.  Plus some grilled zucchini and I might just actually make a salad.

Friday- Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Glaze and Vegetable Stir Fry.

Saturday- I'm going use leftover grilled chicken to eat it with salad.

Sunday- Company coming so I plan to grill steaks along with zucchini, onions and make a caprese salad.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

July 4th recipe suggestions

My oldest, July 4 09

Our nation's independence seems to always be all about grilling and pot luck parties. Here are my suggestions for great recipes to fix on July 4th.

First, a plea. If you are going to make burgers, try actually making the burgers. I'm not going to say that I don't permit frozen, pre-shaped patties to ever enter my home or my mouth, but I strongly encourage you to try making the burgers yourself. It can be as simple as just seasoning the ground meat with Montreal Steak Seasoning or even these "mini man" burgers from Alton Brown that are basic sliders which are great for parties. Just put out a nice variety of toppings and condiments and everyone can have fun with their own creation.

Onto my list. Below are some of my favorites that I think are great choices for celebrating Independence Day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Monday is almost over and I sit here at the computer incredibly exhausted from about 5 hours of non stop cooking, some of it grilling outdoors in about 99 degree heat. Not that I'm complaining about doing that, it was great and it's going to be a weekly gig that I'm trilled to have. But boy am I beat. Confession- I went to bed after 1am, because I decided at like 11pm to get out of bed and watch the latest 2 episodes of HBO's True Blood. So to be up at 6:30am and then cooking by 10, I'm not surprised that I'm starting to fall apart at 5:30pm. And for the record, watching True Blood was worth it. I just won't be doing much this evening besides mustering some energy to get dinner on the table. And luckily there's no soccer, but everyone (except me) will be home late, so I can spend some time just sitting before starting dinner. The photo is what their fridge looked like when I was finished.

I do want to share some exciting news! Thanks to blogger, Savour Fare I learned about an online shopping list tool that I instantly fell in love with. I've been creating my own lists in Excel for about 4 years now and was doing the same thing each week for the newsletter and my custom clients. But ziplist.com is the first online tool and iPhone app that I have actually liked. They have a recipe database that pulls from several big recipe websites like Martha Stewart and Recipezaar. You can also add recipes to it yourself, using their recipe clipper, which basically will grab the ingredients off a recipe you are viewing. You can then either just add it to your own recipe box or to your shopping list. In a few weeks, my own e-mealplanning recipes will have ziplist button that adds the recipe to your shopping list and sometime near the end of 2010, I will be able to build a shopping list that others can download into their own ziplist. And I really love that the iPhone app keeps automatically sync'd with whatever you've updated online. Besides the app, they make it easy for you to email or text your list to someone else and they have a mobile version for other phones to use in the mobile browser. I am going to no longer create these Excel lists each month but will ZipList instead. For example, the clients who wanted me to help them plan their meals and have food ready for them signed up for Ziplist, then let me know the login info so I could go on and build their list for them. All they had to do was check it over and remove anything they didn't have and then shop. It was all ready for me when I showed up this morning to cook.

And now to what I'm cooking this week-

Monday, June 21, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I skipped last week. I actually did write out my meal plan, I just didn't get a moment to create something for the blog.

This is a photo I think I took last summer. It's my CSA produce box from Farm Fresh to You. This Wednesday is my next delivery. In some parts of the country, people who participate in a CSA service are just getting their first deliveries of the season. I think we're spoiled here in California as we have year round service. I used to get their regular sized mixed box every other week, but reduced it to the small mixed box when I was finding that our consumption (and our schedule) wasn't going to make use of everything. I sort of find that statement to be a bit ridiculous, because basically it means we're too busy to eat healthy fruits and vegetables. But yet it is the challenge that I have in my house. Plus, we're not good salad eaters and the box always contains a lettuce. My husband eats salad when I put it in front of him at home. But at a restaurant when there's the choice of soup or salad or a salad bar add-on, he's not choosing it. Pack a salad in his lunch and I am met with a glare. I like salad and love a good salad bar, but at home I usually like to fix a specific salad; like a spinach with berries, not just a mixed green. So it's not that we don't eat fruits and vegetables, with the CSA box I make use of the vegetables as side dishes with our meals. We eat the fruit, but I don't think we eat enough fruit, including myself. It's not the go-to snack that it should be. So we need to work on increasing our intake of fruit and I should re-visit my account and review what I exclude, it would be better to get more of something we always eat as a substitute for something we're not consuming.
In any case, I highly recommend subscribing to a service like Farm Fresh to You. I like that you have total control over what you get. Not all CSA's are like that. Plus you can view online what is coming in the box, so you can plan ahead. :-)

Monday- Homemade Manicotti- Love this! It's so easy to make the pasta sheets. I've got leftover sauce from last week to use with this. I am also going to make a point of making a caesar salad. I can also assemble it in advance, then set the oven timer to bake it just before we come home from soccer.

Tuesday- Grilled Chicken, baked potatoes, green beans- Simple but good.

Wednesday- Grilled pineapple chicken quesadillas- We love these! I'm grilling extra chicken on Tuesday to use with this and maybe even the pineapple, although the pineapple is so good grilled fresh.

Thursday- Grilled Pork Chops, caprese salad, corn on the cob

Friday- Not cooking, attending a fundraising dinner

Saturday- Busy day with a soccer tournament. Plus possible plans with friends so I'm keeping this day open.

Sunday- Another day of soccer, but should be home by the evening. So I'm going to play it by ear, but plan to grill some burgers.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

With the short work week and various end of the school year functions, last week was hectic. Three day weekends are great, except then you have to cram 5 days of work into 4. I had a mental idea of what I would do for dinners and meals, but never wrote it out. And with the arrival of summer break, this is when I think we tend to start to fall off the wagon with being organized. What I mean by that is in our house we tend to plan some, but are more spontaneous with last minute activities like barbecues with friends, heading to a lake or a river, going on an overnight trip, etc. It's what makes summer so great, but yet it sometimes makes it more expensive (eating out) or a little more chaotic when it comes to what goes on in the kitchen. It's hot and I find that after a day outdoors, I come home and the last thing I want to do is be in front of a stove or even the grill. So my goal for this summer is to keep the fun, but be more mindful of our budget and think twice before choosing take out over what's in the fridge or freezer. That may even mean not stocking up as much when I shop so that money is not spent on food that is wasted. It's going to most likely be less expense to run to the store for an ingredient than to eat out, but at least I don't spend on food that goes uncooked AND eat out. Right? I haven't run any numbers on this, but it just seems to make sense to me.

Menu for this week-

Monday- Cheap and Easy Turkey Stir Fry My go-to for our nights we have soccer practice.

Tuesday- Pictured above is grilled pizza from last summer. I plan to do our first grilled pizza of the summer this week. Everyday Dish has a recipe and a video so you can see how to put the dough on the grill. I would like to attempt my own dough, I just don't think I can do it this week. So I'll use some dough I purchase at the store.

Wednesday- Grilled Shrimp Kabobs, rice, salad. I usually just do a basic seasoning of lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper or Old Bay seasoning on the shrimp.

Thursday- Grilled Pork Chops, grilled peaches and veggies. Our produce box will come on Wednesday, but it doesn't look like it will contain any veggies I would grill. Except for the peaches. I will either steam some of the broccoli or maybe stir fry it.

Friday- Grilled Salmon Teriyaki, broccoli, rice- I love this recipe for making my own teriyaki sauce.

Saturday- We're attending a barbecue that's actually going to be a friendly contest, we can either bring something to grill and share or a side dish. I am undecided on what to bring. They said you could bring a side dish because the women said they don't grill. But I do and I'm leaning toward coming up with something to grill. But I've also got a few side dishes I really like and could bring one. Maybe I'll do both!

Sunday- Keeping this open because we have plans to be out part of the day and I'm betting we will have dinner out.