Thursday, January 28, 2010

This is how we do it.

Def Jam. A mere 15 years ago, back in the day when R & B videos were relatively tasteful.

A couple of times this week, I've gotten asked, "How do you do it all?" "It" being, cook 3 meals a day for 2 adults, 7 days a week.

To me, it doesn't seem like it's a burden or a giant chore. But we all decide what our priorities are, and that's what we make time for. You might make time for exercise, or knitting, or watching football, or playing music. Eating well is important to me, so that's what I make time for. And I enjoy spending time in the kitchen.

Even doing all this food prep, I don't spend more than an hour in the kitchen a day, and most of the time, less. The biggest time saver is planning. I plan for a week at a time, figure out how I can use leftovers, what I can cook a lot of at once, etc. We try do a single shopping trip a week, first stopping at Cub, then at the co-op (we buy all meat, dairy, and a few other things at the co-op exclusively). We spend about $100/week for the 2 of us; I'd like it to be less, but fresh produce in the middle of winter and responsibly raised meat aren't cheap. In the summer, we'll spend far less thanks to the St. Paul Farmers Market.

From now on, each week, I'll post our weekly menu. It's not set in stone; once in a while I go out for lunch at the last minute, or we decide to go out for dinner. Often, I miscalculate exactly how many servings something will be, or how much of it John will eat. I think you'll see a lot of repetition here; it helps that we don't mind eating the same thing for breakfast every. single. day...I hope this dispels any myth that I'm some kind of super-homemaker.

My calorie intake is typically between 1000-1300/day; John's is more like 1700-2000.

January 25–31, 2010

John: Yogurt, banana, granola
May: Breakfast sandwich (English muffin, egg whites with vegetables; I cook a big egg white omelette on Sunday & cut it up into 5 pieces for the week)

Cabbage rolls with tomato sauce (left over from last week); green beans (left over)

Carrot sticks; celery; wasabi peas

Ginger scallion noodles; steamed bok choy; flank steak

John: Yogurt, banana, granola
May: Breakfast sandwich

Pita sandwich (turkey, sprouts, tomato, cucumber, mustard)

Carrot sticks; celery; wasabi peas

Mushroom soup; steamed bok choy; green beans

John: Yogurt, banana, granola
May: Breakfast sandwich

Pulled pork sandwich (left over from last week); green beans

Carrot sticks; celery; wasabi peas

Flank steak; sauteed kale with garlic; roasted cauliflower

John: Yogurt, banana, granola
May: Breakfast sandwich


Carrot sticks; celery; wasabi peas

Chicken breast; spinach & sauteed mushrooms; Brussels sprouts

John: Yogurt, banana, granola
May: Breakfast sandwich

John: lunch out (Wienery, if I had to guess)
May: Chicken breast; sauteed spinach & mushrooms

Carrot sticks; celery; wasabi peas

Lemon chicken; pea pods; roasted cabbage

Toast; poached eggs; bacon or Polish

Lemon chicken; pea pods

Short ribs; grits; collards

Poached egg & lardon salad

Whatever leftovers are in the fridge

John: Probably more leftovers
May: Dinner date with a friend

Asian Cabbage Rolls

These are a bit of work, but quite good. I might try other kinds of cabbage in the future, or even collards or other kinds of greens.

About 20 large outer leaves of a Chinese cabbage (plus a few extra in case of rips)

2 T unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 or 3 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, finely chopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 T fish sauce
1 hot sauce, or more to taste
1 T soy sauce
Chopped herbs (I used about half a cup of basil & cilantro, combined)

Tomato sauce:
1 T olive oil
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
Herbs to taste (I used more basil and cilantro)
Salt & pepper to taste

Bring a large part of water to a boil. Submerge cabbage leaves until soft and pliable (just a few minutes); remove. You may have to do this just a few leaves at a time.

Sauté the garlic & scallions in the butter just until softened and beginning to turn golden. Combine with the rest of the filling ingredients.

Lay a cabbage leaf out in front of you, stem end farthest away from you. Be careful not to tear the cabbage leaves. If you get a tear, rip a small piece off of an extra one to use as a patch.

Place about a quarter cup of filling near the end closest to you; begin rolling the cabbage leaf around the filling away from you like you would a burrito, first rolling the end over, then folding the sides in, then continuing to roll to the stem end of the leaf.

Set aside, seam side down, and finish with the rest of the rolls.

Place rolls in a steamer and steam in a covered pot for 10-15 minutes.

While they're steaming, make the tomato sauce: sauté the garlic in the olive oil, then add the tomatoes, herbs, salt & pepper. Heat to a simmer.

Serve cabbage rolls hot with some sauce. Parmesan on top is nice, too.

40 calories per cabbage roll
30 calories per 1/3 cup of sauce

Fig & Bacon Salad with Parmesan

I ate this for dinner the other night, along with half a baked potato topped with a parsley-kind-of-chimichurri-sauce.

Big, big handful baby greens or cut-up lettuce
2 figs, fresh or dried, cut into quarters
2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
Parmesan shavings

1 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
Dab of Dijon mustard
Juice of a quarter lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine the dressing ingredients and toss with the lettuce. Top with the figs, bacon, and Parmesan.

1 serving
320 calories

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chicken & Vegetable Salad

This is good as-is, or served over a bed of greens or cous cous. If cherry or grape tomatoes are in season, they would be a nice addition.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1.5 c lightly steamed green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 can quartered artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
1 bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into small pieces
1 smallish-medium zucchini, cut into rounds

4 T olive oil
4 T red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1 small bunch fresh basil, chopped
Leaves from a few sprigs fresh oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all of that up.

4 servings
270 calories per serving

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mmmmm GRITS.

Savory Grits Breakfast...or lunch...or serve it with a salad and call it dinner

This is simple enough I won’t even bother typing a recipe. It’s hot and filling and wonderfully comforting, especially on a cold winter morning.

Fix yourself a couple servings of grits according to the directions on the box. White, yellow, quick, original…your choice.

While they’re cooking, sauté a couple big sliced-up mushrooms in a skillet. Add some garlic, crushed tomatoes, herbs, salt & pepper, or a bit of pasta sauce if you have some in the fridge. Or use the mushrooms & garlic by themselves, that would be great too.

Poach a couple eggs.

Split up the grits into two bowls, top with the mushroom mix, top with an egg or two.

Make a vegan breakfast by skipping the eggs.

Serves 2
250-300 calories per serving, with one egg, depending on how large a portion of grits you use.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Poached Egg & Lardon Salad

I make this for weekend breakfast or brunch a lot. It's also a nice light lunch or dinner, especially if you serve it with a little bread or small pasta dish. (In the photo, I've served it with a small amount of fried potatoes, a tomato, and some apple slices.)

1 T olive oil
2 t red wine vinegar
1 t Dijon mustard
Juice of a quarter or half a lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

2 big handfuls mixed greens
2 eggs
3 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and broken into pieces; or, cut into dice, cook, and drain

Set a nonstick skillet with about an inch to an inch and a half of water—and a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar—over heat to boil.

While it's coming to a boil, mix dressing ingredients well in a jar or small cup. Place the greens in a mixing bowl, add dressing, and toss. It's very important not to overdress the salad, since the runny yolk of the egg will also dress it, so keep in mind that you may not need all the dressing.

Divide the greens between 2 plates and top with bacon pieces.

By this time, the water should be boiling. If you don't know how to poach an egg, here's an easy method: crack each egg into a small bowl or cup and tip into the water. Cover and remove from heat. After 10 minutes, the eggs should be perfectly poached. (Me, I just lower the water to a simmer, tip the eggs in, and keep an eye on 'em.) Remove with a slotted spoon and drain the water off before topping each salad with an egg. Add a little salt & pepper to the egg if you like.

Serves 2
250 calories per serving

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stuffed Squash

This is hearty, lovely for fall and winter, and feeds a crowd really cheaply. Make it vegetarian and lower in calories by eliminating the pork.

4 smallish to medium-sized acorn squash, halved, seeds removed
1 T olive oil
1 lb lean ground pork (or buy some lean pork loin and chop it into very small pieces yourself)
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 c cranberries, fresh or frozen
4 oz goat cheese crumbles
1 c cooked brown rice
Salt & pepper
Sage, fennel, whatever spices you like

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Arrange the squash halves cut side up on baking sheets. If they don't sit up nicely, make a thin slice off the back so they are stable. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until nearly cooked through; the squash should be about 20 minutes away from being fully cooked.

While squash is cooking, brown the pork in a nonstick pan with canola spray.

When pork is fully cooked through, combine with remaining ingredients and season to taste with salt, pepper, and any other spices you like. I used sage, fennel seeds, a little Chinese 5 spice, and I don't remember what else.

Remove squash from oven; fill cavities with pork mixture. Put them back in the oven for about 20 minutes. Serve 1 squash half per person.

8 servings
About 310 calories per serving

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Contest

Gained 7 lbs back. I shake my fist at thee, holidays! I coulda been a contender!

Spurred on by a contest with my friend Tigger, I'm back on the plan.

Whichever of us loses 10% of our total weight first, wins.

167. 16.7 lbs. Let's do this.