Friday, December 30, 2016

Meal Planning

Meal Planning!
I am writing this from my Whole30 perspective for this month, but the concept is absolutely something that can be used without W30 and I use a looser version of this plan in every day life.
(For one W30’er, one spouse who will W30 dinners, and one toddler who will still eat what we put in front of her)

Step 1: What does your week look like? 
At most, you’ll have 3 meals per day to plan. But do you have any:
·      Early Appointments so you need to prep a grab-n-go meal?
·      Late meetings so you need to prep extra “lunch” portions?
·      Events so you need to buy/pack extra snacks?
The first thing I do for meal planning is look at my week. I identify anything that would prevent/limit the standard kitchen or leftovers stance.

Step 2: The Meals! What looks good?
I don’t plan every day (Monday = Meatloaf, Tuesday = Taco salad, etc) because in general that just doesn’t work for me. I need some flexibility.
For Week 1, I need 6 dinners, 7 lunches, 4 breakfasts and 3 grab-n-go style breakfasts.
I usually start with dinners and I try to have a mix of prepped ahead, one pan meals, and a little more involved. Thanks to my W30 cookbooks and my past experience (and a little Pinterest) I came up with the following (in no particular order):
1.     Butternut Squash Soup with Poached Salmon (new recipe for us!)
2.     Sausage and Kale Soup (I have used nutpods in this, but unsweetened almond milk would also work)
5.     Taco Salad
6.     Cod with a citrus/avocado salad
I also try to pick dishes that can reused similar ingredients.

Once I have the meals picked, I figure out what will make good leftovers for lunches.
Both soups will make at least one extra serving and each of the sheet pan meals will make one extra serving. So that’s 4 lunches. For the remaining lunches, I will have the same thing: lettuce wrapped turkey burgers with mayo and pickles.

Breakfasts are harder for me, but I plan the following:
·      Breakfast bowl:
o   Mixed veggie roast
o   Fresh sautéed zucchini or spinach (pick one)
o   Egg or sausage (pick one)
·      Monkey bowl with a side of bacon

Step 3: The Prep
Once I have the meals for the week, I look at all the meals and figure out what I can and have to prep ahead. I commute at least 45 minutes each way so dinner has to be fast and easy. That only happens if I can dedicate part of Sunday to meal prep. My meal prep day has been the defining success or failure of my rounds.
For this week, I figured I can make the following on Sunday to simplify:
·      Chicken Broth
·      Butternut Squash Soup
·      Sausage and Kale Soup
·      Compliant Mayo
·      Grill the turkey burgers
·      Roast veggies for breakfast (sweet potatoes, Yukon potatoes, carrots, onions, beets)
·      Chop veggies for salads

The broth I can set up in the slow cooker in the morning (10 minutes of effort?). Each of the soups will take probably an hour. Cutting veggies for roasting and salads, maybe 30 minutes. The mayo takes longer to clean than to make. But it’s still a big part of my day. Hubs can run errands or have some one-on-one time with our toddler.

The meal planning itself is an evolving process. If something works really well, I will keep it in rotation (if these soups are great, I’ll make one Week 2 and another Week 3). And with Week 1, I keep it simple on purpose. Lots of repeats and lots of prep ahead because I need the successful moment to keep me through Week 2 (which is where I have flunked out). I keep notes on what sounds good during the week, and I use sticky notes in my compliant cookbooks. Most of my planning is on paper and I have a grocery app to use in the store.

In Case Of Emergencies: Even this simple meal plan may not go according to plan. So at the start of my Whole 30, I stock up on frozen cauliflower rice, compliant Aidell's sausage (not all flavors are okay), and frozen veggies. I can make a meal from just cauli rice and sausage in about 10 minutes. I always have RX Bars and Epic bars on hand too (in case of traffic, long meetings, spilled lunch, etc) to limit temptation to go off plan. Again - check the flavors, just like Larabars - not all flavors are compliant.

A note about Pinterest. For starters, I love Pinterest. I have found some wonderful Paleo bloggers on the site who post compliant meals or recipes that can be easily modified to be W30 compliant. But. Many recipes are marked Paleo or Whole 30 but are obviously not compliant. Be cautious and be knowledgeable. Just because someone else has called Paleo Pancakes “Whole 30 compliant” doesn’t mean that you don’t know the rules enough to know that it’s super SWYPO and off limits. Or people who, through good intentions, aren’t even aware of what Whole 30 really is and will post something with dairy or honey or quinoa. Don’t assume that the bloggers know better. You do.
I use Pinterest a lot – for parenting ideas, funnies, and recipes. I have a bunch of boards, and one just for Whole 30. Do you know about private boards? Well I have a private weekly board. And when I am going through W30 pins that I already have, I will simply pin again to my private board for the week. Then all my recipes are in one place, I don’t have to remember or search. Then at the end of the week, I just delete and start fresh.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Reverb 2016 - White Elephant

White Elephant // What are the gifts you’re looking forward to giving, or hoping to receive?

When I was growing up, Hanukkah had some predictability to it. We would always receive: calendar, pajamas, at least one outfit, one "big" gift, usually a book, and a few little things that we wanted to fill in the gap. Once I got to college, it was truncated to calendar, pajamas, and a big gift. I really enjoyed that growing up. And it's a tradition that I plan to continue forward with Knish. The only gift we got her last year was a dreidel. And I would like to start a dreidel tradition every year.

I saw in Pinterest (a blessing and a curse) a set of gifts themed "something you want, something you need; something to wear, and something to read". I can pair this with a calendar, pajamas, dreidel, and charitable donation to round out the 8 nights. Since Hanukkah isn't about gifts, per se, I would still like to keep the holiday modest as the years go on, but I know celebrating Christmas with half the family will confound this.

This year, my husband's family and I are doing something new for us - we are cutting back on gifts for each other and are instead adopting a family and buying for them. We all agreed that by the end of the holiday, we felt obligated and drained, so why not take the budget we were going to spend and turn it into something positive. We are all taking great joy in planning what to get for the family and I hope we can turn this into an annual tradition.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Reverb 2016 - Sunny Surprises

Sunny Surprises //  Most of North America starts to get frosty and cold this time of year.  If you had an unusually warm (tank tops and flip flops warm!) day unexpectedly and didn’t have to work, what would you do?

As I type this, it is sunny and warm (50’s) in the south of France. There are palm trees outside. And yet I still cannot frolic (I have been inside the hospital, working, watching the beauty outside).

But were I home and the weather turned amazing, I would wander downtown Seattle, taking in the sights and tastes, and perhaps take a ferry to an island. I could enjoy the breeze and salty air. Or maybe head north, off the main highway, to a tiny town where Hubs and I went on our way to our babymoon. We can view the coast between the trees, eat at the homey café, and take in the antique shops in Edison.

Basically, anything I could do to soak up even the smallest amount of Vitamin D to stock up for the remaining cloudy days through May.