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Monday

16

November 2020

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COMMENTS

Bulk Bin Menu Inspiration

Written by , Posted in How To, Meal Hero, Menu Planning, Otamot, Thoughts

I wrote about some of my favorite bulk bin treasures in a recent post. Here are some creative and yummy ways to use those delicious ingredients.

I’ve included fourteen days worth of dinner ideas. You could double that by doing things like getting creative and swapping out the type of beans or rice in a recipe, using a different kind of protein, or something as simple as using a different type of pasta.

Bulk Bin Menu Ideas

Monday – Pasta Night 

I like the first day of the work week to be a pasta night. I know I’m going to be a little extra tired. I know I’m going to need something quick and easy. Pasta is perfect for that. Add some bulk bin beans, top with some chopped nuts and scallions, and dinner will be on the table in no time. 

Tuesday – Taco Tuesday

I could probably eat tacos every day of the week. They’re all great ways to use bulk bin beans. And, I’ll bet you could smear some refried beans on a flour tortilla and use it to wrap a hard taco and then maybe, just maybe, when it breaks all the fillings would stay in the taco instead of ending up on your plate… Or am I the only one this happens to?

Wednesday – International

There are so many great flavors. It’s fun to try something new and broaden the palate. 

Thursday – Breakfast for Dinner

Breakfast food is one of my favorite types of food to eat. Any time of the day. 

Friday – Better than Takeout

Take out is fun! But it’s great to learn how to cook dishes that are on par with takeout… and sometimes they’re even better!

Saturday – Pizza Night!

Pizza can be a great bulk bin meal. From the ingredients to make the crust to the toppings (I think toasted nuts and seeds on a pizza with arugula and prosciutto would be fabulous!), it’s a bulk bin winner.

Sunday – Soup

Soup days are my favorite. Maybe even more so than pizza. Soup is one of the best ways to use bulk bin ingredients, use the last of the wilty veggies in the produce drawer, and warm the soul on a chilly evening. 

What are you cooking from the bulk bin? Do you have any favorites?

Happy Cooking!

The original post, written by Rachel Oberg, owned by Meal Hero, first appeared on the Meal Hero site. It has been used with permission. It has been adapted slightly. The copyright for the photos that appear in this post are owned by Rachel Oberg.

Monday

9

November 2020

0

COMMENTS

Bulk Bin for the Win

Written by , Posted in How To, Meal Hero, Menu Planning, Thoughts

I love to shop in the bulk section of the grocery store. I feel like I save so much money by packaging it myself. I love a good deal and I love it when I come in under budget after a trip to the grocery store. 

The way that Meal Hero works (type in an ingredient and get tons of recipe inspiration) is such a great way to menu plan and get creative with the treasures found in the bulk bin. 

Here’s an in depth look into my favorites in the bulk bin. They star in many of our meals and take up plenty of space in the pantry of my kitchen. 

My Favorite Bulk Bin Ingredients and What to Do With Them

Legumes 

Beans

I always have beans on hand. They’re great for so much more than Chili. They make a great addition to pasta. Want a hearty vegetarian dinner that’s gonna be quick and easy? Look no further than Pasta E Ceci. You could sub some cannellini beans for the chickpeas and add some hearty greens (like swiss chard, spinach, or kale) and it’ll change it up enough to feel like a completely different meal. Oh and with those pasta leftovers, add a little bit of stock and you’ve basically got a Minestrone Soup. If it’s movie night and you want something to snack on that’s a little more substantial than popcorn (also something I like to buy from the bulk bin), turn some leftover pinto beans into refried beans. I like to top them with some cheese and bake until it’s hot. Then top with some sautéed bell peppers, homemade guacamole, sour cream, and salsa

Lentils

Lentil Stew is one of my favorite things to make with lentils. But, lentils are also a great addition to salads. They can star in a Lentil Salad, or be an accompaniment to hearty greens and winter squash in a Roasted Squash Kale and Lentil Salad. You could even toss them with some pasta if you’re all out of chickpeas for your Pasta E Ceci. Leftover cooked lentils can be blended and made into Lentil Hummus, which would be great for dipping raw bell peppers and carrots. They would also be great in a wrap.

Oats

I can’t remember the last time I bought rolled oats from anywhere other than the bulk section. I always have cooked oatmeal on hand. I make a huge batch and freeze it in individual sized containers. Oats are obviously great for so much more than oatmeal though. They’re amazing in cookies. They’re a great addition to snacks and breakfast foods like muffins and breakfast cookies, pancakes, granola, and granola bars. And they make great homemade bread. Oh! Can we hop back on the oatmeal train for a second? Have you ever tried Baked Oatmeal?! It’s like oatmeal’s fancy cousin. Drizzled with a bit of maple syrup and served with a side of breakfast sausage, that’s a favorite comfort food of mine. Oats are one of the main ingredients in a Fruit Crisp. And what’s perfect about this dessert (which also doubles as a breakfast – add some yogurt, a drizzle of milk, or just eat it cold right out of the fridge!) is that it can be made all throughout the year. In the spring, try Rhubarb Crisp. Summer calls for berries or stone fruit (or both!). Fall means apples and pears. In the winter, I’d like dried fruit in a Cranberry Apple Raisin Crisp

Pssst… did you know that oats are great in savory dishes too? Doesn’t this recipe for Shiitake Mushroom & Kale Savory Oats sound fabulous? You could also make a pot of oatmeal and top it with things like crispy bacon, scallions, crispy onions, chopped nuts, grated cheese, seeds (pepitas/flax seeds/toasted sesame seeds/chia), a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of Maldon salt. Such a great bulk bin meal!

Grains (or things we think of as grains)

When I think of grains I usually think about rice. But, then I remember amazing things like farro, quinoa, and wild rice (which is not technically a rice at all). 

One of my favorite ways to use farro is in a Farro Grain Bowl. You could switch up the toppings depending on what you’re in the mood for. I love to top them with roasted veggies, bacon, and a fried egg. I also love salads where grains are the stars. Like in this Kale and Farro Salad with Bacon. Farro is amazing in soups and stews. I’d definitely recommend using it in something like this Creamy Chicken and Farro Soup. And in this Farro Risotto with Roast Mushrooms… farro and roasted mushrooms?! Yes please!!

Wild rice is one of the best things to make when I want to switch things up a bit. I love brown rice. I am a fan of quinoa. But sometimes I get in a rut and forget to get creative with what’s in the bulk bin. Wild rice is great in a simple meal. You could cook some artichokes, crisp up some sausage or tofu, and top cooked wild rice with butter or olive oil, lemon zest, and some sea salt. Perfection. But, let’s not stop there. I think that served with a simple green salad, Cheesy Crockpot Wild Rice Casserole, Crock Pot Autumn Quinoa Pilaf, or Butternut Squash With Whole Wheat, Wild Rice, & Onion Stuffing will make easy weeknight dinners. I might pair these Cranberry Wild Rice Meatballs with Potato Pancakes (I’m thinking ahead here, but this could be a super fun day after Thanksgiving meal and a great way to use up those leftover mashed potatoes). And how about this Fruited Multigrain Pilaf that uses wheat berries, farro, and wild rice and pairs it with fruit. Sounds delicious!

I love to eat quinoa. Its tiny little bobbles are simultaneously crunchy and soft. It’s quick and easy and is a great way to add protein to a dish. I really enjoy it with beans and fresh corn in the summer in a Mediterranean Quinoa Salad. In the winter, swap out the corn and summer veggies for some leftover cooked winter squash, keep the beans, and serve it hot rather than cold. If you’re a fan of Tabbouleh, try it with quinoa instead of rice. Quinoa is a great addition to a Chicken Teriyaki Bowl. If you love muffins, try some Quinoa Chocolate Chip Muffins. It can also be a simple side. Cook the quinoa and add a bit of salt and any of the toppings I suggested for the pot of oatmeal with savory toppings. Or make it sweet by topping it with a splash of coconut milk, some maple syrup, and some cinnamon. 

Rice is such a versatile grain. I love it with stir fries, in soups, and in Cheesy Chicken with Grapes and Rice. I love that it freezes well, and is great when it’s reheated and topped with a fried egg and some leftover roasted veggies for lunch. Add it to beans and you’ve got a complete source of protein. I like the idea of doing this with Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice and Spanish Rice with Beans.

Baking

No, you can’t buy cookies and bread in the bulk bins (but if you’ve got a great local bakery to support you’ve got it made!). But, you can buy things like flour, cornmeal, and sugar there. Some stores will even have flours that have been milled by local farmers. Ask the people working at the store. They usually know a lot about the items that they’re stocking and are eager to tell you about their favorites and what they love to make. 

Nuts

I think that nuts are the best from the bulk bin. Not only do I get to see them before I buy them, but since I’m packaging them, I know how long they’ve been in the bag. (Tip: Shopping at a high traffic store means the bulk bins are likely to be restocked often, meaning fresher food for you!) I love to sprinkle nuts on salads. One of my favorite breakfast treats is a Trail Mix Cookie that’s loaded with nuts. I enjoy nuts eaten out of hand with an apple or banana. They’re a great addition to a Fruit Crisp or toasted and added to a bowl of granola and yogurt.

Seeds

Same story as the nuts. They’re great bought out of the bulk bin and are a great addition to so many dishes. I always have sesame seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds on hand. I eat them all the time. I top almost every salad with sunflower seeds and pepitas. I love to mix chia seeds into a bowl of oatmeal

Snacks

Sometimes I can’t believe how expensive it is to buy good quality snacks. But, then I head over to the bulk bin and am able to not only save some money, but buy the amount I need (because who needs the pressure of eating the entire bag before they go stale?!). Two of my favourite things to get are those little sesame sticks and chocolate covered almonds. 

What are your favorite meals to make that star the bulk bin?

Happy Cooking!

The original post, written by Rachel Oberg, owned by Meal Hero, first appeared on the Meal Hero site. It has been used with permission. It has been adapted slightly. The copyright for the photos that appear in this post are owned by Rachel Oberg.

Monday

19

October 2020

0

COMMENTS

Cook Once, Use it Twice

Written by , Posted in How To, Meal Hero, Menu Planning, Thoughts

My goal when I’m planning our menu is to make healthy meals that are going to taste great. But, I also want them to fit into our grocery budget and I want them to be easy. We don’t eat a lot of take-out. Most of our meals are made from scratch and are eaten at home. We enjoy this lifestyle. But, sometimes I get overly ambitious with my menu planning and forget to add the tired factor to the equation. 

I know it can’t just be me who is often tired and a bit hangry at the end of the day. It’s easy for me to want to get takeout or open a box of mac and cheese. And there’s nothing wrong with either of those. But, my goal is for these to be a treat rather than the norm. So when I plan my menu, I try to plan for ways to use our leftovers well. It makes it feel like I’ve given myself the gift of time. 

I also don’t like food to go to waste. Food isn’t cheap and I grew up in a family that didn’t like to waste it and made every effort to be mindful about using what we had and using it well. I’ve taken that into my own kitchen. If we roast a chicken to make lazy Sunday afternoon sandwiches with mayo, Maldon salt, and the last of the summer’s tomatoes, it’s also going to be made into Chicken Pot Pie and Pad Thai before the bones are turned into stock

I’ve been working with a meal planning app called Meal Hero. The way that Meal Hero works (type in an ingredient and get tons of recipe inspiration) is such a great way to menu plan and get creative with what you’ve got on hand. I especially love it for planning to Cook Once, Use it Twice.

Here are some of my favorite ways to do this, using recipe inspiration from Meal Hero’s site and my own: 

Roasted Chicken

Start with: Roasted Chicken (served with Oven Baked Brown Rice and Green Bean Fries)

  • I love to roast a whole chicken. It feeds us for many meals and it freezes well. If you want to plan ahead, you could roast two, take the meat off the bones and freeze it in containers that are labeled for their intended meal. 
  • I would substitute it in things like Chicken Curry in a Hurry and then suddenly your cooking time drops from twenty minutes to the time it takes to cook the veggies and reheat the chicken. Winner winner chicken curry dinner.
  • Don’t have time or energy to roast a chicken? Many grocery stores carry pre-cooked rotisserie chickens. No shame in picking a couple up. Have it for dinner (it’s already hot and ready to go!) and then save the rest for other meals. We do this often. 

Tofu

Start with: Pad Thai

  • When I’m making meals like Pad Thai, I like to cook a big batch of tofu, which already makes for a quick meal, and save the leftovers to use in other quick meals. If you have any leftover chicken this is a great way to use it too. 

Pasta

Start with: Tired Pasta

  • This is an easy meal to make when you have last minute dinner guests or you forgot to defrost the pork chops that you were planning to make for a weeknight dinner. No big deal. You got this! My favorite way to make it is by cooking ground meat in a dry skillet and letting it get a bit crispy. Then I’ll add some frozen peas… I know, fancy. I’ll add some torn hearty greens like spinach or kale and a big handful of chopped scallions. Add in the cooked pasta with a bit of its starchy cooking water. Let everything get happy in the pan for a minute or two. Add a little salt and pepper to season. To serve I like a drizzle of olive oil and maybe dusting of grated cheese, and dinner is ready in a flash. If I were to cook some extra ground meat then I’d have it ready for things like Chili, (add it to) Tacos, and Taco Salad
  • I usually cook a whole pound of pasta when I make it for dinner. Then it’s ready to go into Chicken Noodle Soup or be reheated with some butternut squash and a splash of cream and topped with some crispy bacon. 

Ground Meat

Start with: Tacos

Beans

Start with: Brothy Beans on Toast

  • I like to cook a few varieties of dried beans ahead of time and use them as needed. But, I also love the ease of opening a can of beans. Just depends on the time that I have to prepare. 
  • To make the Brothy Beans on Toast: Take whatever beans you have on hand. Add a little liquid and seasonings like salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Toast some bread. Rub the toasted bread with garlic. Top with the beans and a drizzle of olive oil. I like this dish served with Coleslaw and Tomatoes and Avocado with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Maldon salt.

Chili

Start with: Chili

  • If you’re like me and you love chili that has both meat and beans, those beans in the above section will come in super handy here. If you’re in the no beans chili camp, I’m here for you too. Both are delicious. 
  • Make with the Leftovers:
    • Taco Salad (I’m all for a super quick meal that’s ready in the time it takes to ask the family to wash their hands for dinner!)
    • Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese (I like to serve this with Coleslaw or a bright salad with a vinaigrette)
    • Sweet Potato Bowls with Chili on top (I like to cube sweet potatoes, toss them with oil and salt, and roast them, flipping once, until they’re crispy outside, tender inside. Then top with reheated leftover chili or, like I did the other day, topping with leftover crispy pork and cabbage and some bacon.)
    • Hasselback Potatoes with Chili on top

When prepping for these meals, you could do it all at once, or just do my trick and roast two chickens at the same time, add an extra pound of ground meat to the pan and reserve half of it to freeze for other meals (labeled with the intended meals and dates to make your life even easier), or add some extra noodles to the pot. They’re little things like this that have made a big difference in how I feel when it’s 5pm and I forgot to stop working and I’m hangry. If I remember that I already cooked half of what I need for dinner and it just needs to be reheated, that’s motivation enough to put down the phone and not order takeout.

What are your favorite meals to make big batches of so that you can Cook Once, Use it Twice?

Happy Cooking!

The original post, written by Rachel Oberg, owned by Meal Hero, first appeared on the Meal Hero site. It has been used with permission. It has been adapted slightly. The copyright for the photos that appear in this post are owned by Rachel Oberg.

Tuesday

15

September 2020

2

COMMENTS

Leaning In

Written by , Posted in Thoughts

This has simultaneously been the best and worst year. The longest and shortest year. The most and least productive year. The most freeing and burdened year. But, in all of this, I think grace has been abundant, even when I didn’t feel it. In the dips and valleys of the worsts, longests, leasts, and burdens. Grace abounds. Hope peeks in. Love and light break through the cracks of despair.

Grace has felt a lot like freedom. It’s been both raw and gentle. With big feelings that can be crushing if they’re not handled gently. Raw and gentle. Wounds and healing. This year has been powerful and awful and wonderful.

I’m leaning in.

I long to live a more restful life. In the past I might have thought it was lazy. But it’s not. It’s being intentional about rest and self-care. It’s prioritizing the things that are important to me and letting go of some of the things that no longer get to take up space.

I’m leaning in. I’ve started making more of our food from scratch. Things like bread, stock, and applesauce. They’re made from scraps and wild yeast. The stock is made from the contents of the freezer bag that has been filling up over the past few months. It’s stuffed with veggie ends and trimmings. Popped in the Instant Pot and covered with water to cook for a short time. It yields the richest veggie broth I could imagine. The applesauce is made from the fruit’s pulp, leftover from making Brandy Apple Jelly. The bread is leavened with wild yeast water, made from dried dates that I bought ages ago. It blows me away to be able to cook with things that might have been tossed into the compost bin.

I’m leaning in. I’m growing things in the garden. Looking for quality over quantity. A slow paced life over one that lets me win the battle of who is the busiest or the most tired. I’m looking for time to breathe deep, enjoy the crisp fall air, and pet the sweetest dog who is sleeping beside me as I type.

I’m leaning in. Literally. Leaning in to the sleepy Brando, to smoosh the soft fur around his ears. I could have missed out on this.

I wonder, when 2020 is but a memory, what will normal be like? I’m hoping that these things stick. I’ve heard this sentiment echoed, so I know I’m not the only one who has been longing for something to change.

Friday

21

August 2020

0

COMMENTS

Just Breathe

Written by , Posted in Dog, Thoughts

To do today: Be like Brando. Find a patch of sunlight and breathe in the warmth that’s found on a chilly late summer morning.

My sis-in-law, Karensa, has been teaching me yoga. And I feel like I’m learning how to breathe. It seems essential for so much more than the breath of life. It helps with focus for to dos, clarity in work, and calm in tumultuous times.

As Brando lays here, he listens to the world outside the window. He hears distant cars drive down the road at the end of ours. He listens carefully to check if they’re familiar. If they’re not, he relaxes and takes a deep breath. The neighbors walk by. We both hear their footsteps on our quiet road. He is alert. He looks to me for what to do. I tell him it’s the neighbors and that he’s safe. He lays his head back down and takes a deep breath. He will nap until they turn around and walk back towards their home, footsteps breaking the silence again.

When we lived in Burbank, Brando and I would take walks around our neighborhood. Every once in a while there would be a break in the traffic. Silence in the city. It was such a gift. Sometimes I’d close my eyes and take it in. Now that we live in the country, I forget to notice the quiet. Until I remember. Until I am overcome by the peaceful morning. By the dog laying in the patch of sunlight. By the neighbors’ feet crunching the gravel.

Right now the only things breaking the silence are soft chirps coming through the open windows, the refrigerator humming in the other room, and the contented sound of Brando and me breathing as the sun slowly creeps towards its place in the midday sky.