Monday, January 6, 2014

This Week and the Plan

So in the true spirit of eating meals at home and incorporating two fish meals into our diet this week, I sat down this weekend and pre-planned the meals. This week's dinners are:

Spinach ravioli (low fat cheese ravioli in a spinach-tomato sauce)
Black beans and rice (Cuban style, over brown rice)
Ground turkey sloppy joes with corn
Slow cooker sauerbraten with spaetzle and green beans
Tuna noodle casserole (at DH's request)
Blackened Tilapia Baja tacos

The tuna casserole is to ease DH into fish this week. He requested it, so I figured if I could keep him happy by making him something he wanted, then I could get him to eat the fish tacos later on ....

I like pre-planning the meals this way and making the grocery list with the cookbooks on hand, so we don't buy anything extra, and I don't have it planned by day by day, so I can still make what I feel like making when I get home, as long as I stick with the overall meal plan for the week. Flexible, yet planned. I love it!

Another thing that I think will help immensely is that I did all the prep on Sunday afternoon. I previewed the recipes and pre-chopped everything ahead of time and stored them all in the fridge, so now when I get home I can just grab the ingredients and cook. The prospect of having to chop when I get home at 6PM is off-putting and sends me to the drive through more often than not. Now, this required about an hour of my weekend time, but I think it will be worth it in the end.

I had a huge "derp" moment, though - I was going to do the sauerbraten in the crock pot while I was at work today, but it didn't dawn on me that it only needed to cook for 5 hours on low setting. I pre-read the recipe, and noticed that the meat had to marinate for 24 hours and I took care of that, but why the 5 hours cooking time did not compute, I couldn't say. I leave for bus stop drops/commute to work at 7:15AM, and I don't get home much before 6PM, and I was not comfortable leaving the crock pot on and unattended for that long. Plus, the roast is just going to dry out if it sits there for 11 hours, even on "keep warm" setting.

So, change of plan: I'm doing the sauerbraten tonight in the slow cooker for tomorrow night's dinner, and all I will need to do is reheat it and cook the spaetzle when I get home.

This evening's dinner, by request from DD, was black beans and rice. The pre-chopped ingredients worked like a charm, and I'll let you in on a little secret: I use homemade chicken stock when I cook the brown rice to give it a flavor boost. Here is the recipe, which was given to me by my mother in law and which I tweaked, just a bit:

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 tsp minced garlic
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp oregano
1 packet Goya Sazon
1 tbsp wine (white or zinfandel works best, and if you don't have wine, it's OK to use a wine vinegar)
4 slices turkey bacon, pre-cooked and chopped
16 ounces (2 cups) chicken stock

Cook in a separate pot:
Brown rice (I use Minute Rice and make around 2 cups yield, using chicken stock in place of water)

Heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the onions and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent. Add seasonings, wine, and bacon, then black beans. Stir in chicken stock last. Bring to a boil, then decrease heat and let mixture reduce until liquid is absorbed (about 30 minutes or so).  Serve over separately cooked brown rice (about 1/2 cup rice to about 1/2 cup black bean mixture). This recipe serves 4.

I'll let you know how the sauerbraten is, tomorrow evening. They are forecasting temps at 15 below zero for tomorrow so I think that's a good warm choice for dinner.

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