What I ate last week (and why you should care)

“If you cooked for me, I’d definitely be plant-based!”

“Do you spend hours in the kitchen!?”

“What the hell is that? And can I get the recipe?”

These are a few of the questions and comments I’ve heard recently from friends of mine who follow my overly food-saturated instagram stories feed.  These are extremely flattering comments and I take pride in people taking notice of something I’m passionate about. The not-so-sexy truth of the matter is the way I cook doesn’t take me long in the moment, but does take practice, planning, and patience. And a husband who will eat just about anything.

To tackle all of these questions, I thought I’d write about what I ate this past week, how I come up with the ideas, and the process I use to make healthy, interesting, yet simple recipes that fit into the work week. Why should you care about what I eat or how I get the ingredients to turn into the instagram worthy photos? Because the meals I make are chock-full of vegetables (which you need to be eating more of, don’t you?) don’t use crazy ingredients, so you can find them in a regular grocery store, and they are cost effective, so you aren’t going to break the bank. I believe weeknight meals should be delicious, exciting, and help you spend more time with your loved ones. I use the time in the kitchen to get creative, decompress from my day, and put effort into something I know is good for me. So, if you want to do the same, then read on. And that’s why you should care.

Last Week’s Meals: The Thought-Process

When planning out my meals for the week, I typically take into consideration the extra-curricular activities (on top of work) I have. Will I need to meal-plan on nights I don’t have much going on to compensate for the nights I have hike club, dinner with friends or a jam session with the chuggers (a rad musical trio I’m in with my buddies Ryan & Mark. We rock)? If there are nights that will require a quick dinner, I choose tried-and-true meals I have made before, so there’s no guess work in the kitchen. Everyone has a meal or two that they can put together without batting an eye or opening a recipe on their browser. An example of a meal like that for me? Chick pea tacos, all day. Sliced onions & peppers in a skillet. Can of chickpeas tossed with cumin in the toaster oven. Put that in a spinach wrap, with a side of beans and voila!

For the nights I know I have some extra time, I’ll choose a newer dish that I can get creative with or perhaps a dish that has a sauce (which adds time/extra dirty dishes). How do I choose these meals? By scrolling through Pinterest choosing something that looks delicious, then altering the recipes in my head based on ingredients I know I have or can get at the store easily. Simple is the name of the game here, so picking those exotic dishes don’t work and the ones that take 45 steps to complete aren’t for me either.  For example, I knew I had a jam session last Tuesday, a hike scheduled for Wednesday, and an outdoor movie night scheduled on Thursday. Plus, Mike and I are home for lunch everyday, as he’s in-between projects (we just sold our 5th Happy Homes investment property!) and I work from home. So planning meals that will leave left-overs or buying ingredients that will work for multiple meals, is key. Below are the meals I planned last week – and we ate 18 meals in from Monday to Sunday, two meals were at friends houses and we’re going out tonight!)

Meals

  • Korean BBQ cauliflower wings with spring rolls and veggie wontons
  • Grilled Zucchini Pitas with a vegan dill sauce & sliced Cucumbers
  • Veggie Tacos with peppers and onions and a side of spicy navy beans
  • Lentil Meatballs (I used them for Mediterranean pitas & a spicy peanut ramen dish)
  • Tofu Broccoli wraps with garlic sweet & sour sauce
  • Black bean crumble (from Morning Star) tacos with a chipotle mayo & brown rice
  • Homemade pasta with basil pesto & sun-dried tomatoes

The Plan

I like to pick a day to meal-plan, batch-cook for the week (meaning cook a few of  the more time-consuming recipes) and possibly even grocery shop. Often, I can’t do all of this in one day, especially if it’s nice out. As much as I love to cook, I do like to prioritize my outdoor-time, especially on the weekends.  Last Sunday was Easter and we headed to my sisters in the early evening, giving me all morning/afternoon to prep food for the week. I ended up making the lentil meatballs, as they were a bit more involved, and were something I could heat up all week, in a pinch. Below are some of the sauces, tips and ways I prepared the above. If you take anything away from this post, know that simple ingredients make the best meals and you can save so much money by planning your meals before grocery shopping and sticking to the list.

Homemade pasta with basil & sun-dried tomatoes 

I use the simple recipe from The Ultimate Pasta and Noodle Cookbook. Three ingredients, plus the actual pasta maker. This takes some time, but Mike and I love making it together. And it makes a ton, so we had it for our outdoor movie night and everyone loved it! I purchased the basil sauce & sun-dried tomatoes at the Dollar Store. Yup, both of those items were a total of $2.14. Anyone who typically buys sauces in a groccery store should know that is a KILLER deal.

Vegan Dill sauce

Vegan Mayo

1-2 tablespoons of water

Dried DIll

  1. Mix all together until you have a saucey consistency.

Chipotle Mayo

Vegan Mayo

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1-2 tablespoons of water

  1. Mix it all together until you have a saucey consistency.

Korean BBQ Sauce 

1/2 cup of water

3 tablespoons of sugar free ketchup

1 tablespoon of sriracha

1 tablespoon of soy sauce or amino acids

1 teaspoon of chopped garlic

1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water

1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil

  1. Heat oil & garlic for a minute (until melted)
  2. Add ketchup, soy sauce, and water and stir till mixed well.
  3. Add cornstarch mixture and stir till thick. Keep on low heat.

What are you eating this week? Happy cooking!

Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day, Save Money & Live Happy

Happy Earth Day! Yes, I realize it was yesterday, but the more I thought about what Earth Day was all about, the more I thought about the ways I live my life, on a daily basis, that celebrate the beautiful Earth we live in. Now, there are plenty of ways in which my footprint weighs heavy on our mother Earth, ways in which I don’t do everything in my power to live as minimally as possible. Airplane travel is one of those ways. But, we’re talking the small, day-to-day things, the daily mindset I have adopted over the years in which I’m affecting change. Or at least trying to do my part. So I thought I’d write about a few simple things I do that not only minimize my carbon footprint, but save me money in the long run and allow for a happier existence. Wow, big claims!

Grocery Shop Once a Week

This one is huge for all of the reasons. I find if I meal plan prior to grocery shopping, I not only eat healthier all week, don’t waste food, save money by not eating out or grabbing un-necessary items. It’s really a win-win. Plus, you’re not running back and forth to the grocery store for this one item, or that thing, wasting gas and time. It’s really been a great way to ensure our meals are as efficient as possible as well, because I’m not left wondering what we should have for dinner or lunch. I know the items in the fridge are there to make a particular meal, so takes the guess work out.

Reduce the Plastic 

I’m sure I don’t have to go into great lengths about the obscene amount of plastic we as humans consume, throw out, waste. The oceans, landfills, roads are full of it. Within the last few years, this has really made an impact with me, so I’ve tried to reduce the amount of plastic I buy and use. A few years ago, I asked for Pyrex Smart Essentials 8-Piece Mixing Bowl Set, which has been amazing in the kitchen, to use for leftovers and meal prepping.  And it’s helped me reduce the amount of Tupperware, plastic wrap and plastic bags I use. Last year, I bought plastic bags once and they lasted all year. Plastic straws are another culprit I’ve kicked out of my life. When we got married, I actually registered for Metal Straws , which I use everyday in my morning smoothie.

Eat Seasonally 

I’m extremely fortunate to have a gorgeous backyard that Mike and I have built over the years, with huge garden beds that allow us to grow our own food. Mike has planted rows upon rows of lettuce, spinach, kale and beats so far this season, as they are cold weather plants. Going to the grocery store and taking notice of what’s in season is hugely important to the carbon responsibility we all have. As spring comes into bloom, the local produce gets more and more abundant, so take note of what’s on sale and in season. Eating in season not only saves money, but allows for a more colorful, healthy plate! And if you can grow some of your own, even better!

Backyard Oasis

Enjoy your own Backyard 

As noted above, our backyard has truly become an oasis for us and we spend a ton of time out in it, especially in the spring, summer and fall. Often times, we’ll spend most weekends enjoying time out back, instead of driving to a bar or restaurant. Yup, you guessed it….this saves a ton of money! Don’t get me wrong, going out and about with friends can be a blast, but with our Arvada backyard, we often choose to stay put and enjoy ourselves. Creating our dream space has allowed us to entertain more, turn the tv off and step out back, play with our pups in the grass, pick the produce that Mike grows, encouraged me to do more Yoga at home….the ways in which we enjoy the space really goes on and on.

These are only a few things I find myself doing to celebrate the planet in which we call home. I’d love to hear some of yours!

Happy Earth Day!

5 Time Saving Tips to Eat Healthy during the work week

Let’s be honest, during the week it can be hard to fit everything in; work, laundry, walking dogs, cleaning, working out, seeing friends and or family takes up a lot of time and planning. So who the hell has time to meal plan and cook! And cooking delicious, healthy meals? What am I, Betty Crocker!?

I’ve had a few friends lately ask me if I am cooking constantly….follow me on Instagram and you’ll understand where they could get that idea. I post yummy food pics almost days a week, insta stories that show ingredients turned into what many have called gourmet meals. And while I am extremely fortunate to have a remote working situation, cutting out the commute and providing lots of flexibility to cook hot meals for lunch, I don’t in fact cook for hours on end. I wish I did!

The meals I’m making typically consist of whole-foods, very few things I’m using are packaged or bottled. Most sauces are homemade, seasoning is usually limited to dried herbs or fresh citrus and packaged or pre-made foods are rarely used. On an average week, Mike and I eat in 4 or 5 nights out of the week, including lunches due to the fact that I work from home and he usually heads home from a job at lunch. Depending on the day, I have anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes for lunch, as my work schedule is on east coast time and we are a meetings heavy organization, so I am on the phone a lot!

So, how in the heck do I find the time to eat in 90% of my meals, using fresh, plant-based, whole ingredients without spending hours prepping? Here’s a few things I do to ensure success on these fronts:

  1. Plan meals, as in what I will be making, before I go to the grocery store. I typically pick 3 or 4 meals I want to make so I know at least 4 or five meals will be covered (we usually have leftovers from at least two meals). When I know what I want the end result to be, I take the guess work out of weeknight meals, saving me time when I go to cook because all I have to do is pick one of the pre-selected meals.
  2. Prioritize what you already have first, veggies second. If you look around your kitchen and realize you have a lot of brown rice, make sure you’re incorporating that into at least one of your meals. If you’re starting from scratch, make the veggies the main focus of your meals.
  3. Stick to the grocery list. Once I have the meals I want to cook, I peek in my cupboards to see what I have, then make a list of the ingredients I don’t. When at the grocery store I try to stick to the exact list, so I don’t throw a bunch of junk impulsively into the cart. Just by sticking to the list alone, you will be amazed at the cost savings, plus you won’t have food spoilage!
  4. Pick a day to prep. Whether you have time on your weekend to set aside time to grocery shop and meal prep, or have to split the two up, I find it extremely helpful to find one night early in the week to cook two meals or at the very least, to prep a few things for the following night’s dinner.
  5. Use your time in the kitchen wisely. If I know I’m cooking something that may take a bit longer (sweet potato fries or baked cauliflower take some time) I’ll use the baking time to throw in or fold a load of laundry, vacuum or clean a bathroom, do some yoga or perhaps finish up some work. I’ll typically prep all veggies at the same time or use time while that nights’ dinner is cooking or sautéing to prepare the next nights meal. Time is precious, so use it wisely!

Here are a few sample meals I plan pre-grocery shopping, keeping all the above in mind.

These meals are made for two people, with many of them making enough for 3 meals, so I’ll have lunch a few days a week already made.

I love to cook and usually rotate a few tried and true meals every two or three weeks, as they are easy, delicious and really inexpensive. Once you start cooking more, you’ll get more and more comfortable with meal planning, knowing what goes well with what, using fresh ingredients to pack a punch (without the added preservatives, sugar, salt) and knowing your way around the kitchen, so cooking won’t seem like such a chore.

If you truly don’t like to cook, make sure you’re picking simple recipes, with only a few fresh ingredients, so preparing them will be easy.

Hope these tips help you during the week – Happy Monday!