paring down so you can cook more

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meal planning

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Meal planning is my lifeline. Knowing what comes next in the kitchen keeps me grounded and helps my entire day tick through its marks.  Some weeks the meal plan is aspirational with mounds of new recipes to try and lots of new ingredients to work with. Sometimes it’s a simple rotation of rice and beans, tacos, and pasta. The best weeks though? Those are the ones with the perfect blend of what my husband lovingly calls “stovetop classics” and a teeny bit of new to keep everyone on their toes. Achieving this week to week without burning out has taken a lot of trial and error, where errors equal take out pizzas. Not the worst, but if we are eating out I’d rather it be an outing and opportunity to spend time together.

I have found that the key to sustaining a meal planning habit over the years (for me) has been to simplify and pare down the number of ingredients that I work with. Everything in my cookbook collection and everything at the grocery store is really just far too large a place to start. Paring down that everything to focus on what is in season, eliminates one of the most paralyzing parts of meal planning – where to begin.

You can apply this same philosophy to other parts of the kitchen, too. Instead of starting from “everything is game”, I now plan around a couple of base ingredients like barley and pinto beans and only keep a couple of kinds of fruit around.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be walking through a bit of how meal planning works in my kitchen. What kinds of things do I need to keep around to make weekday meals come off more easily? How do you get through a pound of <fill in grain or legume>  without boring of it by mid-week? Most importantly, how to start on a small scale so you don’t get overwhelmed and quit after a couple of weeks. Meal prep, pantry building, and shopping tips for you along the way, too.

Using a pound of chickpeas as a base ingredient to get us started so stay tuned!

 

meal plan – week 18

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vegetarian meal plans

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This is our first full week of summer break and I am so stoked for a more relaxed pace! Having plenty of healthy-ish snacks on hand is top of the mind as is working through freezer and pantry contents to make room for summer preserving (my favorite canning season is coming up). Meals for the week are super simple as I figure out our new rhythm:

  • Leek Risotto
  • Hummus Wraps
  • Black Bean Burgers *
  • Rustic Salads **
  • Summer Linguine ***
  • Black Sesame Otsu ***

Hoping this new rhythm includes a little more kitchen help from the 13yo now that her course load is lighter. We shall see how that pans out!


* Isa Does It
** Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking 
*** Super Natural Every Day

almost summer (+ watermelon)

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cooking in season / cooking with kids / familia

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Summer break has begun! The season of “how do we make an entire watermelon fit in the fridge” is here! The struggle is real and I have more than once had to tell the 13yo that we can’t get a watermelon until we clear room in the fridge. I try to get it quartered as soon as it gets home to make it feel more manageable:

  • half gets cubes up for easy snacking/packing.
  • one quarter gets pureed for popsicles
  • last quarter gets juiced for use in smoothies and cocktails

Popsicle season is also nearing so I’ll be sure to repost and update my small collection of homemade paletas in the coming week.

baked potatoes for dinner

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cooking in season

I know. I know. Carbs are supposed to be bad, but when broccoli comes in my CSA box the first thing that pops in my head is oven-baked potatoes. Crispy skins. Fluffy insides. Piled high with broccoli and sour cream. Happy Saturday, y’all.

This week’s CSA box: beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, fennel, leeks, spinach, kale and cilantro.

what’s cooking – week 10

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vegetarian meal plans


I anticipate a busy week ahead of Spring Break and SXSW (which we will forever have a love-hate relationship with). Hoping that food can help keep us grounded via our bellies.

BREAKFAST

  • Oatmeal
  • Breakfast Tacos
  • Waffles (weekend)
  • Greek Yogurt with Honey
  • Kale & Potato Scrambles
  • Orange & Sweet Potato Smoothies

MEALS

Currently:
Watching OJ: Made in America and wow.
Reading The Turner House
Impatiently waiting for the first swim of the year.


* The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook
** Vegetable Literacy
*** Dinner the Playbook

getting ahead of your CSA pickup

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food-related / vegetarian meal plans


I’ve always been a big advocate of planning from what you have on hand instead of planning and THEN shopping. Admittedly, making this switch is a tough one. You have to build new shopping habits and learn to build a pantry that will support your vegetable stash.

Luckily, most of our local CSAs here in Austin do a really good job of letting you know what to expect. It’s not foolproof. You might end up with collards instead of kale come boxing time, but taking a peek at your list might help you get a headstart on some brainstorming. It could also help you think through the order that you’ll use your CSA veggies in. Delicate greens, before hardier greens. Radishes and turnips before those nearly-everlasting sweet potatoes.

This is what I’m picking up tomorrow:

  • Beet, Red
  • Carrot, Orange
  • Greens, Collards
  • Greens, Kale, Curly
  • Greens, Spinach
  • Herb, Cilantro
  • Lettuce, Mixed head bag
  • Onion, Green
  • Potato, Sweet
  • Radish, Black Spanish
  • Turnip, Purple Top

I see that I’ll need to account for a salad right off the bat and find a way to use my green onions snd cilantro early on. I’ll post my meal plan in a couple of days, but for now I had a question. Would you guys be interested in a short series on pantry-building and shopping habits to help you better support your CSA box?

what’s cooking – week 9

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food-related / vegetarian meal plans

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Not gonna jinx anything by declaring that I am back (at least not with an exclamation mark), but it does feel good to be getting back into a rhythm with the blog. Picked up a few things at the grocery store to get us through our next CSA pickup on Saturday.

Breakfast
Having our usual, but am experimenting a bit with almond flour and determined to get more non-egg breakfasts into our repertoire. Trying out some fun stuff over the weekend and stocking the fridge with portions of steel cut oats for quick meals and in-betweens.

Meals (Lunch/Dinner)
Brown rice and black beans on standby in the fridge pretty much every day to help fill in any gaps:

Snacks
It seems insane, but it is time to start stocking the freezer with popsicles again. We’ll be snacking on

Banana-Walnut Bread*
Grapefruit Paletas
Mini-Cauliflower Quiches**

Currently:
Enjoying the lull that this grey day has allowed. 
Baking bread.
Admiring her from my work perch.


* Whole Grain Baking
** The Heart of the Plate
*** Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

meal plan – week 8

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food-related / vegetarian meal plans

Spring has crept into Austin really early. I’m relieved to have the worst of the cold behind us, but admittedly nervous about what 80º days in February means for July and August. This meal plan may not be in time to plan the bulk of your Week 8, but hoping that you guys can pull some quick ideas for the remainder of your week or get a jump-start on your planning for next.

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Breakfast
We have a regular rotation of breakfast tacos, oatmeal, yogurt & fruit, scrambles, and this time of year we have gigantic ruby red grapefruits. Dressing up our oatmeal this week and our toast is a little more special thanks to homemade bread.

  • Morning Glory Oats*
  • Honey Oatmeal Bread**

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Meals (Lunch & Dinner)
The prep of these two meals accounts for the bulk of my weekend cooking and Francie (my electric pressure cooker) takes care of any longer cook times that may be required on weekdays. It makes the hands on time at the end of my busy work/school days much, much easier. I’ve made notes below to indicate the advance prep work in addition to my regular weekend batches of legumes and grains.

  • Samosa Shephard’s Pie (steamed potatoes and pressure-cooked split peas)
  • Peppered Tofu Crisps^ + Grain + Veggies (marinate tofu in AM before work, pressure-cooked brown rice)
  • Beet Ball ’n’ Fries Salad*** (prep work for beet patties)
  • Enfrijoladas (pressure-cooked black beans)
  • Taco Salads (portioned greens, pre-cut veggies, pressure-cooked black beans, pressure-cooked brown rice)
  • Cabbage Ginger Noodles
  • Tofu Simmered in Hoisin Sauce^ + Broccoli (pressure-cooked brown rice)
  • Nachos or Tostadas or Sopes

Snacks
We are snackers and the better I am about keeping cut veggies and homemade on hand, the better we are about staying away from the chip drawer in the pantry. On really hectic work days, we’ll piece together “snack lunches” with whatever we have on hand.

  • Cauliflower Mini-Quichesº
  • Sweet Potato & Orange Smoothies
  • Banana Almond Milk Smoothies
  • Carrots & Hummus
  • Grapefruits
  • Roasted Beets

Enjoy the rest of the week!

Currently:
Watching The People v. OJ Simpson in the background.
Enjoying the stillness of the house.
Daydreaming about my first swim of the year.


* Whole Grain Mornings
** King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking
^ This Can’t Be Tofu
*** Salad Samurai
º The Heart of the Plate

lunch with the girl: phonatic

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all things food / austin

The following post was made possible by Phonatic

With the turn of the year always come resets and cleanses and vows to do more of this… less of that. I am not immune to these trends but we are generally in a good place with what we do with our food. Working a bit on cutting down pasta and bread, but this is more of a constant. Nothing new and exciting about it.

What does get me excited in 2017 is that the now-13yo is into trying new things. I’m not sure if it is a permanent shift, but I am taking advantage of it while it is here. And with that, I am starting a new series of posts – Lunch with the Girl. We’ll be hitting spots around town in hopes of finding new yummy vegetarian eats (that we both enjoy) and cozy spots to have working lunches.

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First up? Phonatic. We went quite a bit when they first opened and really enjoyed the veggie pho, but our visits got more and more infrequent as the Texas heat kept our pho cravings at bay and we realized that the kiddo was defaulting to bowl of steamed rice + fried egg.

We were really excited to hear that they were expanding their vegetarian/vegan menu and jumped at the chance to try it all out. We tried a full slate of dishes including the Spring Rolls with Tofu, Crispy Salt & Pepper Tofu, the Veggie Pho and a new dish that they are testing out – Marinated Eggplant over steamed rice.

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We ended with full bellies and the 13yo was an absolute trooper; taking bites and spoonfuls without questions. She liked everything, but her favorite, the Salt and Pepper Tofu,totally surprised me. She polished off the bowl in spite of its heat!

I’m looking forward to the eggplant dish making its way to the menu permanently, but am perfectly content with eating the Spring Rolls and Veggie Pho in the meantime. So good with lots of fresh veggies and hefty, sharable portions.

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Phonatic has locations all over Austin.

P.S. We went for a second visit (in a month!) and the 13yo ordered the Crispy Tofu & Veggies in a salad and I had the Veggie Pho. Just as fresh and yummy as the first time and I declare any location that gets her ordering a salad willingly a winner in my book.