De Ma Cuisine

Thoughts Archive

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.

Saturday

18

July 2020

0

COMMENTS

Feeding Myself

Written by , Posted in Burlap & Barrel, Menu Planning, Otamot, Thoughts

I notice a difference when I’m feeding myself well. For example, a couple weekends ago I didn’t eat enough, and what I did eat was a lot of empty calories. “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” (Julia Child quoting Oscar Wilde) has a place in my diet for sure. But, I feel a difference physically when I really feed myself. When I ate that way I felt bad all weekend. Physically poor, mentally and emotionally drained, zero energy for anything. Some of that might be unrelated (hello trauma, life, Covid, BLM, hormones, relationships, grief, work, stress…). But, the expression “garbage in, garbage out” seems fitting for my imbalanced food-life relationship of that weekend.

Since then, these last couple of weeks, I’ve been more mindful about what I’ve been eating. I ate things like Tofu with Cabbage and Crispy Rice, Brothy Beans on Toast with Creamy Coleslaw, and a Simple Garden Salad topped with tuna and seeds. And I feel great. The tricky part is the weekends. I’m going to try to make mostly good choices this weekend. It means doing some prep work ahead of time: washing and cutting fruit, making sure there are good options for meals, and picking greens from my garden and washing and drying them. And, remembering to show myself grace when I don’t follow my healthy eating plan perfectly. That’s ok too.

One of my goals for today is to plan our menu. It helps me to start the new week well when I have ideas in place. Here are some healthy-ish meal ideas to help with your menu planning for the coming week.

Dinners

Lunches

Breakfasts

Happy Eating!

*These are affiliate links. I get a small commission for any sales generated from these referrals.

Friday

3

July 2020

0

COMMENTS

Simple Garden Salad

Written by , Posted in Dairy-Free, Eggs, Gardening, Gluten Free, Herbs, Lunch, Main Dishes, Nuts, Quick and Easy, Salads, Thoughts, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

I have so much to say that I feel as though I might burst. My thoughts seem to tumble about and get muddied because there are too many to organize. I don’t know where to start.

I guess I’ll begin here. In the garden.

I feel like I should be talking about something other than plants and seeds and watering schedules. But, right now the world is showing me that there’s not a lot of joy out there. So, I’m going to share something that brings me a bit of happiness in the midst of turmoil.

I’ve been growing vegetables for years. My first garden was planted in hard-packed sandy dirt. It was at the top of the driveway of the second Central California house that Tim and I lived in during our second year of marriage. It resulted in five foot tall tomato plants with more fruit than we could eat. It was glorious.

The next garden was in raised beds set on a cement patio in our third house. That garden’s potato yield was incredible. A year or so later we moved again. This time to an apartment in Southern California. We brought a few of the garden boxes along with us and tried to grow herbs and tomatoes. They were always covered by a thin layer of soot from the nearby freeway. But, the real thwarmp that killed them was when the landlord renovated the unit above us and blew tiny paint droplets out the window and all over the garden. I was furious. I demanded to be compensated for the loss. I was. But, it didn’t fix the ruined garden. A couple of years later we moved into a house with a small front yard that served as our outdoor space. We put the garden boxes on the tiny cement patio. I was able to coax some tomatoes and basil to grow, but not much else. The next year I grew one acorn squash and some basil, but the tomatoes got blight.

We finally gave up on Burbank’s insane cost of living and moved to the East coast. Going from an almost year round growing season to one that’s about four months long has been a challenge. Last year I got three tomatoes. Total. And they were green when I picked them the day before the first frost. Green beans have grown well for me in this climate. My hope this summer is for jars and jars of dilly beans. I made some last year and they were delicious. I’d wanted to make pickles again too, but something has eaten all of my cucumber plants. Last year’s pickling cucumbers produced enough to can two quart sized jars. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that that probably won’t happen this year.

Of all the gardens we’ve had, this one is my favorite. Last summer Tim worked so hard to build it. He cemented eight foot posts to keep the fence strong and the deer out, buried the coated chicken wire a foot deep to deter pests, and made it as perfect as I could have hoped for. This summer we’ve added solar powered lights, an umbrella that Tim found at the dump, and mulch to cover the weed mat that lined our pathways. We’ve planted sunflowers, nasturtiums, and morning glories around the perimeter of the garden. Some hanging in pots, some in the ground. I had great hopes that the English peas would grow up the sunflowers. But, the sunflowers have had a rough spring. The same thing that’s eaten my cucumbers seems to like them too.

Whether or not the cucumbers survive, the sunflowers grow, or the tomatoes produce, in the garden is one of my favorite places to be. Nature is great, from a distance. I don’t like to hike or be outdoorsy. So this little space is just perfect for me.

I don’t know if this is where we will stay for years and years. It’s been a tough place to fit in and feel like we belong. That doesn’t mean we should leave. I love lots of things about where we are. The main thing being my home with Tim and Brando. They are not specific to this place. Home is where we are together. For now, this little piece of the East coast is it. And we’ve built a glorious garden to play in during the warm months.

Yesterday I picked some greens to use in a salad for lunch. It’s so simple that it doesn’t require a recipe. Here are the basics:

Simple Garden Salad

Ingredients

  • greens (arugula, spinach, beet, baby kale)
  • fresh herbs (basil) (parsley and chives could be great too)
  • seeds (pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds) (chopped nuts would be great too)
  • homemade dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a splash of maple syrup, dijon mustard, and salt)
  • fried eggs or crispy tofu
  • Burlap & Barrel Black Urfa Chili*
  • Maldon salt

Directions

  1. Wash the greens well. Tear into bite sized pieces.
  2. Sprinkle the greens with seeds and drizzle with dressing. Top with fried eggs or crispy tofu. I like my eggs over medium: whites cooked, yolks still runny so that they become a second dressing. Sprinkle some Black Urfa Chili* and Maldon salt on the eggs or tofu.
  3. Serve alongside last night’s reheated leftovers.

*Black Urfa Chili is an affiliate link, which means that I get a small commission for any sales generated from referrals.