Weekend WrapUp

Happy Monday!

This past weekend I meal prepped again, Mister and I both agreed we liked the convenience of fully prepared and packaged meals versus just a big ol’ container of say chicken and another tupperware of veggies, so we’re going to stick with this format.

I ordered the containers via Amazon, they’re the Fitpacker brand and so far so good.  I’m actually considering investing in some of the sectioned off containers for snacks or easier packing of different meals.  But let me make sure I can keep this good habit up before I go down that path.

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This week I kept it simple, Mister and I each got five containers of the same meal (1 per weekday for lunch or dinner per our schedule)  Mashed sweet potatoes, mini meatloaf, zucchini and summer squash.  Easy. It helps if you lay out the logistics of what you’re trying to do ahead of time.

  • preheat the oven for the meatloaf
  • get the potatoes in water, bring to a boil on a back burner
  • mix up meatloaf, form, put in oven
  • chop up onions/garlic/veggies
  • saute veggies (or you can throw them in the oven)
  • puree/mash potatoes
  • put everything in containers and refrigerate

From start to finish, this was about two hours.  And at least thirty minutes of that was me on the couch watching TV.

For breakfast this weekend, I’m still on my big avocado toast binge.

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Mash the avocado right onto some toast, drizzle with lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper.  There’s something so satisfyingly decadent about this simple recipe.

In the glass is greek yogurt mixed with berries.  With the parfait and the toast for breakfast, I’ve got healthy fats, protein, a little sugar, complex carb, sweet, and savory.  And the hardest part was making the toast.

On Sunday it was the anniversary of Mister asking me to be his wife, so we took a break from food prepping and wedding planning to enjoy some sunshine.  We debated where to go, and just by chance ended up taking our dogs to the same dog park where we met three years ago.

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(Bulldogs aren’t built for endurance)

I wanted to cook up something special for dinner, without incorporating our go to steak and potatoes.  Since it was nice out, Mister wanted to grill, but I had my belly set on pasta.

We picked up some italian sausage for the grill, and then the ingredients for a healthier version of a creamy pasta.

If you’ve never mixed ricotta cheese with pesto; do it now.  Ricotta can be the easiest way to make a creamy pasta dish, without tons of cream/butter/parmesan type foods (especially since both Mister and I have dairy sensitive bellies).

  • boil pasta water
  • slice and saute garlic and baby bella mushrooms, set aside in a bowl
  • trim and saute green beans, add to the bowl
  • add the pasta to the water whenever its boiling, set a timer so you don’t have to pay attention
  • thinly slice and saute yellow or red pepper, add to the bowl
  • when there’s only a few minutes left on the pasta, add chopped up broccoli florets to the pot.
  • drain pasta/broccoli
  • toss the veggies, pasta, ricotta, cheese, pesto all together.

At this point, it looked great but was missing a little pizzaz.  I thought for a minute and realized that ricotta usually needs a little acid to jazz it up; so I grabbed a whole lemon and squeezed it into the dish, along with a hearty dose of salt and pepper.

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I plated up the pasta and veggies in wide pasta bowls, and sliced the sausage on the side.  Mister did a perfect job grilling the sausage to crispy, charred goodness.

 

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Dinner for Breakfast

I love breakfast. I even eat breakfast for dinner more often than I should admit. It’s without a doubt my favorite meal.

Yesterday, however, I had dinner for breakfast. And I don’t regret it.

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The night before I made chicken Parmesan with spaghetti, and some grilled, marinated eggplant and zucchini (the veggies came frozen from Trader Joes).
In the morning, that dinner still sounded good.

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I poured leftover marinara sauce into a sauté pan, and cracked two eggs directly into the bubbling liquid. Covered to steam for a few minutes.

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Once the whites were set, and the yolks still semi-soft, the whole pan was poured over spaghetti. And then all smushed together in a very un photogenic way. Seriously good breakfast.

Back in the Kitchen

Well that sounds like it should be offensively sexist. But I like cooking. And the kitchen exists on the same plane at running outdoors, and the gym; these place calm me. For that time I’m finding my way through a meal, I can forget whatever anxieties or stressful moments happened before. It’s just me, a pot, and a spoon. And a knife. And a cutting board. Well you get the idea.

Last night I made Beef Stroganoff. I’ve been making variations of this for a while now. I rarely remember to follow a recipe…throwing in what feels right at the time.

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Brown some flour coated beef in a hot pan. Stir occasionally while adding baby portabella mushrooms to the mix. Once brown add some liquid. I happened to remember a can of French Onion soup that was spot on. I can’t even remember why I bought it. I don’t even like French Onion soup.

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Since I was using canned soup to help things along, I went all out with it came to seasonings. And by all out, I mean I used a McCormicks seasoning packet. (Im bracing myself for the foodie backlash, sorry not sorry)

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I know these packets are a scam. I know I have most of the ingredients. But I swear a fairy godmother lives in that Stroganoff packet and makes it taste exactly the same every time. I kind of like that level of certainty.

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Brought the whole thing to a boil then popped the pot into a hot oven. Mister was working late, so I let it cook for about 45 mins – 1 hour before we ate.

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Once pulled from the oven I plopped that whole block of cream cheese in there. It was “light”, and from Trader Joes. So yea it’s pretty healthy, trust me on this one. Stir stir stir until the whole pot is an oddly unappealing color and you wonder why you ruined it with the cream cheese, but trust me. Jews know about the goodness of cream cheese.

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Typically I would serve it over egg noodles, but Trader Joes didn’t have any. And we’re pretending to be a wee bit healthier. So I used these noodles:

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I’m a huge fan of these. And finally Mister confirmed they taste just like regular pasta. Their slight density/bite made them the perfect counterpart the hearty beef. And I snuck some green beans at the bottom of the bowl. One bowl, two pot meal.

It was snowy and my belly was beyond full. So happy to be back in the kitchen.

Fed Like Family

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Last night Mister and I went to Ferrari’s restaurant for an abundant meal of carbs served in an atmosphere that I can only liken to a Grandmother’s living room. It was perfect.

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Upon arriving you wait in this cozy, slightly cramped, bar / vestibule. The bar tender appears to be possibly the owner, maybe family of the owner. He was friendly, welcoming: greeting regulars by name, teasing the staff, and making sure everyone felt at home while they waited.

The hostess popped back and forth from the mysterious dining room and the bar area, promising we would be seated in no time even without reservations. Sure enough, we were taken back there in under 15 minutes or so, though the wait was as enjoyable as the dinner to come, serving as an introduction to family atmosphere.

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The wood paneling. The framed family pictures. Mismatched dishes. It was just like someone had pushed the couches aside only moments earlier to set up extra tables for the expanding dinner party.

Service was efficient, the waitstaff seemed to appear at just the right moment to take orders and deliver food, while leaving us plenty of time to talk and relax with the cold wine.

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The bread basket that arrived was good quality bread but it was cold and sad. I didn’t want to waste any calories or stomach space, so I pushed it to the side once our salads arrived. Included with entrees, we both requested the house dressing. It was a slightly more complex Italian dressing that worked perfectly over the perfunctory mixed salad. These salads are the hallmark of local red sauce restaurants, highlighted by sharp cheese and sweet roasted red peppers.

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Starting with fried calamari, we were delivered these light, crispy morsels of tender squid. They weren’t the least bit chewy, and I was able to fully enjoy the salty, lemony goodness only made better by the bright sauce served on the side. It was thick with plum tomatoes, and lighter than their marinara.

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Mister chose chicken Parmesan, while I went with their Chicken Antonio. These giant chicken dishes arrived crisp with bowls of pasta. My chicken was egg dipped, crispy, but sitting in a perfectly tart sauce of lemon, wine, and garlic. I wanted a spoon to really enjoy the sauce on its own, it was that good. Light and decadent.

The chicken Parmesan was crispy in its breakind, thin. Neither chicken cutlet was dry or over cooked, which is sometimes the downfall of such giant portions or basic dishes. Ferrari’s marinara sauce is anything but basic. With the perfect consistency, neither too thick nor thin, with a bright tomato flavor I surprised myself with how much I liked it. Normally, I find marinara overwhelming when it’s costing my entree and my pasta, but this sauce was sweet without being cloying and had an actual depth of flavor. I just barely regret not ordering some.

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Instead of marinara, I requested garlic and oil on my linguini. Mister went with Alfredo on his spaghetti, and the table was covered with an overwhelming amount of food. According to their menu, pasta is cooked to order and to allow for extra time for this. The pasta was certainly al dente, mine came dripping with garlicky unctuous oil.

The only downfall, aside from the cold bread, was the side order of meatballs Mister ordered as an afterthought. They had the most unpleasant texture, and I’m not even sure how to politely describe them. It took effort to swallow my one bite; soft and squishy like white bread, with an aftertaste I would equate to the taste left in my mouth if I mistakenly breath in to deeply near the container of dog food. These were pretty terrible. They were not frozen, but they were not crispy on the outside and had a puréed, bready texture.

Meatballs aside, we had a fantastic night. We were not rushed in the slightest, even with a line out the door once we left. Our stomach full of garlic, chicken, wine, and pasta it was one of the best date nights we had in a while. Although pricy ($81.00), we have enough leftovers for at least two more meals. But it was more than the food or the price, it was the lighthearted feeling of a warm room filled with conversation and laughing. Shared meals and family reverberated from the wood paneling. Hardly weighed down from the gluttonous meal, instead I left relieved of the week’s stresses, lighter in spirit.

On a Roll

Second quick and cool dinner in a row. Thank you Trader Joes for allowing such wondrous occasions.

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Chicken sausage for protein, cooked for about 20 mins in the toaster over at 350°. It reminded me of kielbasa, in a great way.

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Quinoa-Brown Rice pasta, cooked in boiling water for about 7 minutes.
This stuff is great. Seriously it’s filling but tastes just like regular pasta.

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Snip the corner off this bag of green beans to round out the meal.

Toss everything with a pinch of Parmesan, maybe a little salt or butter to fatten it up. Voila, dinner is served in about 20 mins.

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Angelic Alfredo

I was determined to transform fettucini Alfredo into a lighter, healthier dish. And I pat myself on the back for a serious success.

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I started with these (organic, happy) chicken breasts. Browned on both sides and then in the oven at 350° with a dash of Italian seasoning and paprika. I’ve gotten much better at timing, using the oven is part of that strategy!

20140310-204502.jpg In a separate pan brown up way too much pancetta. Once that’s crispy remove and let it crisp up on a paper towel. Snack a bit then proceed.

20140310-204704.jpg in that pancetta pan cook up as much minced up garlic as you would please.

20140310-204759.jpg once your kitchen smells like garlic and you’re drooling, add diced zucchini and peas. Cook that goodness until the zucchini is starting to soften. Now this is where the magic starts.
Add about a cup of chicken broth.

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Remember that chicken in the oven? Pull it, chop it, and add it to the pan to finish cooking and absorb the goodness.

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20140310-205335.jpg Add plain Greek yogurt.

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It was cheesy, without being gloppy or heavy. Seriously delicious.

Spaghetti Night

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Since I started cooking, I liked the process of making meat sauce; letting it simmer and meld together for a satisfying dinner. Lets upgrade that experience a little more.

Spaghetti squash is a great start. Pop that whole thing in the oven at about 350° for an hour. Some people cut it first, but its cuts like butter once its cooked so save yourself the effort. Once it’s done (you’ll be able to easily pierce it), carefully cut it in half length wise and let it cool before removing the seedy guts. Don’t remove too much, the rest is that spaghetti goodness.

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Now for the sauce.

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Drizzle oil in a pan, once it’s heated enough add smashed garlic and diced onion. Let that cook down a bit before adding the rest of the ingredients. This time I used a can of crushed tomatoes, chopped sun dried tomatoes, grated carrots, frozen peas, and some browned [happy] ground beef. [happy=antibiotic and hormone free, grass fed and finished]

Let that all cook together. Simmer it, covered, for as long as you can stand. I let it meld for about the length of a yoga video while my dog gave me dirty looks.

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What do you put in your sauce?