Lunches to Pack if You Are/For a Man/Soldier/Boyfriend/Husband/Son

Lately, I have fallen into the habit of making lunches for my significant other (MSO). Is that a habit one can fall into? It’s probably more an intentional act to show my appreciation… Either way, there’s been a learning curve to it.

At first, I would pack him one sandwich with nothing but cheese and meat, then I learned that he likes mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and jalepenos on his sandwiches. After that I figured out that apparently one sandwich and an apple are not enough, so began packing “ants on a log”, an apple, two sandwiches, and chips, and the occasional few cookies. Of course, this portion size and flavor thing has taken me half a year to even start getting the hang of.

Anyway, after a few months, I have gotten together a list of some of MSO’s favorite lunches that I pack him. These are big, filling meals that hopefully will help satiate a full-grown (or growing) man.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to pack in a.) your adult lunch box, b.) your teen’s lunch box, c.) your adult significant other’s lunchbox, I hope this helps. Portion size is everything. I have had to triple and sometime quadruple amounts that I once thought were “enough.” They eat so much! I pack MSO’s meals in rubber maid’s 5 cup easy fin lids container. They are my favorite container for packing lunches. I know that if I don’t have it filled 2/3 with carbs and protein, and 1/3 with veggies, I definitely have not packed enough.

Quesadillas - Sweet Spatulas

Quesadillas

Shepherd's Pie - Sweet Spatulas

Shepherd’s Pie

 Example - Sweet Spatulas

An example of how much food I pack to send with MSO for one shift: 2 sandwiches, shepherd’s pie, quesadillas, tapioca pudding, and a salad

Side view - Sweet Spatulas

Side view of Mac n Cheese with ground beef and broccoli with a slice of “healthy” deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie

Top view - Sweet Spatulas

Top view of Mac n Cheese with ground beef and broccoli, with a slice of “healthy” deep dish cookie pie

So, onto the Lunch Ideas!

  • 1 box of Annie’s Kraft mac n cheese, 2-3 hot dogs, 1 cup of frozen broccoli
    • Prepare mac n cheese according to directions and put into quart-size tupper ware, add frozen broccoli, then chop hot dogs and put on top of mac n cheese. Broccoli will defrost in a few hours and then will heat up nicely in microwave for lunch. Or, if short on time, cook broccoli before putting in tupperware.
  • Dal with chopped cooked/boiled chicken tossed in at end, naan bread (we get naan near the deli with the pitas and wraps)
    • While I make the dal, I boil about 1/3 lb chicken per serving of dal and shred it and add it into the dal during the last few minutes. I serve the dal and chicken with rice.
  • 2 sandwiches, chips, apple. 
    • I’ll make ham and cheddar sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, mayo and mustard, but I’ll also do tuna sandwiches. Personally, I like egg salad sandwiches made with avocado instead of mayo, and PB&J’s and nutterfluff sandwiches. But apparently MSO is not cultured enough for nutterfluff… ha.
  • 12 chicken nuggets, 2 potatoes, salad
    • Yup, my grown-up MSO eats chicken nuggets. I cook the chicken nuggets and fully cook the potatoes in the oven (according to separate directions for each). I cube the potatoes and might even toss them in a pan with olive oil, S+P, chili powder, and dill. I toss the potatoes and chicken nuggets together, sometimes chipping the chicken nuggets smaller and mix with a little ranch dressing. I then pack a garden salad on the side. I give him chicken nuggets, he gives me the pleasure of knowing he actually ate a salad. All is fair.
  • 2 tuna sandwiches (half avocado, half mayo, with tomato and hot sauce and lettuce), carrots and dip, pretzels
    • Just like it sounds, 2 sandwiches again, since apparently one is not enough for a growing boy man. I take 7 oz canned tuna, quarter of an avocado, a tablespoon or so of mayo and a gooooood helping of hot sauce and mashed it all together. I then smear the tuna mix onto the toasted bread, add tomato and lettuce, and then put the top piece of bread on.
  • Tortellini salad with peas and chopped chicken, plus parmesan 
    • For this one, buy the frozen tortellinis and cook them up. Buy some chicken and cook it -boil, roast, fry, whatever- then shred it. Toss tortellini with chicken and peas and as much parmesan as you want. Top with a vinaigrette of lemon juice with S+P and olive oil. Or jarred Alfredo sauce, mayo with sugar and vinegar, anything really.
  • Pasta with red sauce, cooked turkey kielbasa/sausage, and parmesan, served with a salad
    • MSO gets kielbasa, I get him to eat a salad. Enough said.
  • Chicken, spinach, mushroom quesadillas
    • Super easy. Cook up some chicken, shred it and place it on half of a tortilla, cover with mushrooms that you sautéed lightly in oil or butter, spinach that you wilted, and LOTS of cheese. Fold the uncovered half of the tortilla on top of the covered half. Broil in oven for 1-2 minutes -do not walk away, or it will burn. I recommend placing tortillas on a baking sheet covered in tinfoil before even beginning to fill them. Once filled and folded, place baking sheet 4-6 inches away from broiler.
  • Beef burritos
  • Shepherd’s Pie
    • I love making shepherd’s pie and then saving a couple of servings to wrap in cling wrap and put in the freezer to pull out for fast lunches. I use this recipe usually, though I often swap out broth for red wine or beer, and double the veggies as well as put in whatever random frozen veggies I have on hand (I love to include peas and green beans and cauliflower, in addition to carrots and broccoli and lima beans). Also, I only get 5-6 servings out of it, not 8.
  • Mac n cheese.
    • 1 prepared box of Kraft mac n cheese, 1/3 lb ground beef cooked with 2 teaspoons taco seasoning, and 1 cup cooked broccoli.
  • Calzone with a salad
    • I loooove making these. Not exactly the fasted, but they are great to have on hand. I make the dough in advance, freeze it after the first rise, and then thaw it in the fridge the night before I want to use it and then, once thawed, I roll it out and fill it with toppings/fillings.
    • I use Bobby Flay’s pizza dough recipe. From one recipe, we get 4 calzones (4 meals, yay).
    • Make the dough, roll it out into 4 pieces (or roll out 1, freeze the other 3), and fill with a little red sauce, 4oz of fresh mozzarella hunks, and a diced medium-size tomato. Fresh basil and/or pepperoni are great to add here too. Fold over the dough and make into a calzone shape, pinching edges to seal. Place on greased baking sheet and bake in oven at 450F for 12-16 minutes.

Snack Ideas

  • Bumps on a log
  • Graham crackers spread with PB or Nutella
  • Cheese and crackers and pepperoni/beef jerky
  • Yogurt with fruit and chia seeds
  • 2 eggs bacon cheese bagel sandwich (cook 2 eggs (I like to scramble them), place on bottom slice of toasted bagel with cheese and bacon, top with top slice of bagel) – these taste pretty good re-heated
  • Bagel with cream cheese, hard boiled eggs, and peaches mixed with cottage cheese
  • Tortilla, PB, banana, honey (or Nutella) – spread a tortilla with peanut butter, diced a banana and sprinkle on top of PB, drizzle honey on top of, then roll up like a wrap/cigar.

For a fun dessert, that’s not too bad and at least has lots of fiber ad protein, try this:
Deep Dish Cookie Pie from Chocolate Covered Katie

Beef Burritos

Well, a lot has been going on here in the past few months. I had a job, then I didn’t, and now I kind of do. I was moving to California, then I wasn’t, and now I am soon moving to Nashville. I had a roommate, then I didn’t, and now I do again. I went to Florida and Oregon, my puppy grew up so much, and I am now on my church’s worship team and swim with the local master’s team.

I have no clue what I will be doing in 3 months, but I know that I want to learn to sew (I got a sewing machine for Christmas) and do a handstand by the end of this year. And maybe I will get closer to paying off my student loans (I guess getting a job would help).

While I apply to hundreds of jobs, I think I will also start blogging again. The night before I went to Oregon for Christmas, I made these beef burritos. I haven’t made “Mexican” food very often, but I wanted to try these because I like Rhee Drummond (Pioneer Woman, who made the recipe) more and more. Every time I make one of her recipes, it turns out great and the guys love it.

 

Pioneer Woman's Beef Burritos

 

Pioneer Woman’s Burritos
Serves 4

  • 2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 1/2 whole Medium Onion
  • 1 can (7 Ounce) Mexican Tomato Sauce Or Enchilada Sauce
  •  Salt And Pepper, to taste
  •  Cumin, Oregano, Chili Powder, Garlic To Taste
  • 1 can (28 Ounce) Refried Beans
  • 3/4 cups Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • 12 whole Burrito-sized Flour Tortillas
  •  Extra Grated Cheese, For Sprinkling
  •  Extra Sauce, For Drizzling
  •  Cilantro Leaves (optional)
  •  Optional Filling Ingredients: Mexican Rice, Sour Cream, Guacamole, Green Chilies, Pico De Gallo

Brown ground beef with onion and season to taste. Pour in sauce and simmer over low heat. Add water if mixture gets too dry.

Heat refried beans in a saucepan. Add cheese and stir in till melted. Keep warm.

Heat tortillas in microwave for one minute.

Spread a small amount of beans on each tortilla. Add meat. Fold over ends, then roll up. Place two burritos on a microwave-safe plate. Drizzle red sauce over the top and sprinkle with more grated cheddar. Microwave for one minute, or until cheese is melted and burritos are very hot. Serve immediately.

OPTIONAL: Fill burritos with any optional ingredients you like.

 

Strawberry Cake from Scratch, no mixes or gelatin

So this is late, like really late… But better late than never, right?

I made this cake for my significant other’s birthday… in August… Yes, I know it’s October.

The good thing is, I might have more time to post, now that I am no longer working a job that was extremely stressful for me and pretty much sucked the fun out of life completely. I have a job now, so no worries there, but it is a bit less related to my degrees. The trade in status is ok with me for now. I’m excited to hopefully get my health back. I am sure that making lots of cakes such as the one below will definitely improve my health, haha.

Strawberry Cake for an August Birthday

Strawberry Cake for an August Birthday

Strawberry Birthday Cake – no mix, no fake stuff
Adapted from Saveur

16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pans
2 3/4 cups flour, plus more for pans
1 cup crushed freeze-dried strawberries, divided (crushed to a powder)
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup milk
½ cup seedless strawberry jam
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1-lb. box confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Fresh strawberries for decoration

1. Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 9″ round cake pans; set aside. Whisk together flour, 1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk together milk and jam in a small bowl; set aside. Beat together sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and smooth, 2–3 minutes. In 3 additions, alternately add dry and wet ingredients to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with dry; mix until combined. Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth tops; bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of cakes comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes, unmold, then cool completely.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese on high speed of a mixer until smooth and fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Add remaining confectioners’ sugar and freeze-dried strawberries; beat until smooth. Place one cake upside down on a cake stand, and spread 1/3 frosting over top. Cover with second cake, top side up; frost top and sides of cakes with remaining frosting; refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Single Gal / Guy on a Budget: Healthy Meal Plan for a Week

Guess what? I was alone for a whole week… well, not entirely alone since I still had my friend who sleeps on my couch around (yay being in our early 20′s and the economy sucking), but my significant other was out of town for a while, so I cooked for myself for a week. I was pretty excited to try some new or unusual recipes (ie, not “meat and potato” meals). However, I was a little dismayed that I had trouble keeping prices under $50 for a week for myself. I am pretty sure the food tax in Virginia (read: LAME) and the prices in a big city kept things a little bit more expensive this time. For that reason, I am putting the $75 price tag on this single girl’s meal plan. Though, if you are shop right, have some items in your pantry already, or are just shopping cheaper places than me (costco, aldi, etc), you can definitely come in well under $75.

Let me know if you try this and how it works for you. I would love to hear your feed back!

Garnish with cilantro and serve with raita.

Curry with raita.

My smoothie, sitting on my window sill while I get ready for the morning.

Banana Oat Smoothie

Hummus Veggie Sandwich

Hummus Veggie Sandwich

  • OVERVIEW

    • Breakfasts – complex carb with a protein to carry you through, always with fruit, because I love fruit
      • Egg and cheese english muffin with berries and/or melon
      • Oat and banana shake
      • Oat and banana, pecan, blueberry pancakes with ½ cup yogurt of your choice
    • Lunches – easy to pack and transport
      • Wheat berry, arugula, beet, goat cheese salad with roasted chicken
      • Hummus, arugula, tomato, cucumber, red onion sandwich
      • Leftover curry with cucumber-mint raita
    • Dinner
      • Chickpea pancakes with tomato, feta, cucumber salad
      • Smokey Mexican beans and potatoes
      • Curry with cucumber-mint raita
  • PLAN OF ATTACK

    • Sunday

      • Breakfast – Oat and banana, pecan, blueberry pancakes with yogurt

        • This recipe makes enough for 3-4 meals, so make the whole thing today and freeze or refrigerate the rest so you have them later in the week

      • Lunch – Wheat berry, arugula, beet, goat cheese salad with roasted chicken

        • Make a big salad (3 servings) today and then divide into 2 meal-size tupperwares for lunch later in the week

        • As long as you’re planning ahead for the week, why not cut up the melon and toss with berries right now and store in a tupperware, so you have it for breakfast later in the week?

      • Dinner – Curry

    • Monday

      • Breakfast – Egg and cheese english muffin with berries and/or melon

      • Lunch – Leftover curry

      • Dinner – Chickpea latkes with tomato, feta, cucumber salad

        • Make extra latkes today and freeze so you can reheat them on Saturday… make the salad fresh on Saturday though, as tomatoes get weird the in the fridge and, sadly, Saturday is pretty far away

    • Tuesday

      • Breakfast – Oat and banana, pecan, blueberry pancakes with yogurt

      • Lunch – Wheat berry, arugula, beet, goat cheese salad with roasted chicken

      • Dinner – Smokey Mexican beans and potatoes

    • Wednesday
      • Breakfast – Oat and banana shake
      • Lunch – Hummus, arugula, tomato, cucumber, red onion sandwich
      • Dinner – Leftover curry
    • Thursday
      • Breakfast – Oat and banana, pecan, blueberry pancakes with ½ cup yogurt
      • Lunch – Wheat berry, arugula, beet, goat cheese salad with roasted chicken
      • Dinner – Smokey Mexican beans and potatoes
    • Friday
      • Breakfast – Egg and cheese english muffin with berries and/or melon
      • Lunch – Leftover curry
      • Dinner – *Eat out with friends! It’s Friday!*
    • Saturday
      • Breakfast – Oat and banana shake
      • Lunch – Hummus, arugula, tomato, cucumber, red onion sandwich (easy to pack for a Saturday adventure!)
      • Dinner – Chickpea latkes with tomato, feta, cucumber salad

Recipes

  • Egg and cheese english muffin with berries and/or melon

    • Ingredients

      • 1 egg (2 if you just worked out or just need more to hold you over)

      • 1 slice cheddar cheese, or 1 oz shredded cheddar

      • 1 slice ham

      • 1 whole grain english muffin, sliced and toasted

    • Preparation

      • Toast both halves of the english muffin, set aside

      • Fry egg in a skillet over medium heat until whites and yolks are cooked through

        • Use a metal ring to keep in a round shape, if desired

      • Place egg so that it is centered on the bottom portion of the english muffin, top with cheese and ham, then place top portion of english muffin to make a sandwich. Enjoy.

  • Oat and banana, pecan, blueberry pancakes with ½ cup yogurt of your choice (from Unprocessed People)

    • Ingredients

      • 2 cups whole oats

      • 1/2 cup blueberries

      • 1 tsp. baking soda

      • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

      • 1 tsp. cinnamon

      • ½ cup toasted pecans

      • 1 very ripe banana

      • 1 ¼  cups milk

    • Preparation

      • In a blender add the rolled oats, baking soda, and ¼ cup toasted pecans and blend into a coarse flour. Pour flour into mixing bowl. Add the mashed banana, vanilla, blueberries and almond milk. Mix well.

      • Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease pan with olive oil. (I don’t use butter or margarine but if you do by all means butter the pan!). I take a folded paper towel and place it on the opening of the olive oil bottle. Flip the olive oil bottle once over and grease the pan with the paper towel. These pancakes don’t stick!

      • Cook the pancakes on each side for about 4 minutes or until golden brown.

      • Garnish with toasted pecans and maple syrup. These pancakes also taste delicious smothered in agave nectar or honey.

  • Wheat berry, arugula, beet, goat cheese salad with roasted chicken

    • Ingredients

      • 1 ½ cups cooked wheat berries (click for how-to)

      • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (you can boil raw chicken breasts and shred yourself, or buy the pre-cooked shredded meat at the deli counter)

      • 2 large roasted beets, chopped (click for how-to)

      • 10 oz arugula or field green salad mix

      • 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

      • Juice of 1 lemon

      • 2 tablespoon olive oil

      • Salt and pepper to taste

    • Preparation

      • In a large bowl, toss together berries, chicken, beets, and arugula. Top with goat cheese.

      • To make the dressing, in  a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

      • Divide salad into three bowls or containers. Drizzle dressing over the salad portion you intend to eat immediately, save the rest of the dressing to pour over other two portions just before eating later in the week. Enjoy.

  • Hummus sandwich

    • Ingredients

      • Two slices bread

      • 3-4 tablespoons hummus (I like lemon hummus)

      • 2 tomato slices

      • 3 cucumber slices

      • ½ large carrot, sliced thinly lengthwise

      • 2 red onion slices

      • Small handful arugula

      • Toast two slices whole wheat bread (I like Ezekiel Bread)

    • Preparation

      • Spread hummus on one slice of bread, top with tomato, cucumber, carrot, and onion, then

  • Ingredients

    • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained

    • 2 garlic cloves

    • 1 tablespoon rosemary

    • 3 large eggs

    • 6 tablespoons water

    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour

    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

    • 1 teaspoon salt

    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

    • 4 – 6 tablespoons (or more) olive oil

  • Preparation

    • Blend garbanzo beans, garlic, and rosemary in your food processor to coarse paste.

    • Add eggs, 6 tablespoons water and extra-virgin olive oil; blend until smooth.

    • Add flour, cumin, salt, pepper, and baking powder and blend.

    • Pour batter into bowl.

    • Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Working in batches, drop batter by using a 1/4 cup measuring cup into hot oil.

    • Cook until golden, about 1 – 2 minutes per side. Using spatula, transfer pancakes to cooling rack to drain. Add more oil to skillet as necessary and allow to get hot before adding more batter. Transfer pancakes to a cooling rack.

  • Tomato, feta, cucumber salad (serves 1)

    • Ingredients

      • 2 roma tomatoes, diced

      • ⅓ of a large cucumber, diced

      • 1 oz feta cheese, crumbled

      • 1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar

      • 2 teaspoons olive oil

      • Salt and pepper to taste

    • Preparation

      • Mix together tomatoes, cucumber, and feta in a medium bowl

      • In a small bowl, whisk vinegar and oil and salt and pepper; pour over tomato mixture. Enjoy.

  • Smokey Mexican Beans and Potatoes from Food Opera (but I added cheese)

    • Ingredients

      • ½ onion, finely diced

      • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

      • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

      • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

      • ½ can black beans (or you could use baked beans, bortelli beans – whatever is the cheapest)

      • ½ can tomatoes (cherry, diced, whole peeled, again whatever is cheaper)

      • 1 egg

      • 1 medium potato, cubed

      • 1 oz shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

      • cooking oil

    • Preparation

      • Preheat oven to 350F. Place potato on a roasting tray, spray or lightly coat with cooking oil and roast for 30 minutes until golden.

      • In a frypan on medium heat, add a splash of oil and saute onion for a couple of minutes. Add spices and mix around the pan for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and beans and mix through. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened up. Crack an egg in the middle and place a lid on the pan until egg is cooked to your liking. Serve topped with roasted potatoes and cheese.

  • Groceries

    • Produce

      • 1 Pint blueberries

      • 1 Honeydew melon

      • 2-3 Bananas (you’ll want them ripe)

      • 10 oz Arugula

      • 1 Bunch cilantro

      • 2 inch piece ginger

      • 2 Beets

      • 4 Roma tomatoes

      • 2 Cucumbers

      • 1 cup of cauliflower florets

      • 1-2 Carrots

      • 1 Red onion

      • 1 White onion

      • 2 Medium potatoes

      • 1 Bulb garlic

    • Frozen

      • 1-2 Bags frozen broccoli (5-6 servings)

      • Whole grain english muffins (I get Ezekiel Bread)

      • Whole grain sandwich bread (I get Ezekiel Bread)

      • Peas (1 ½ cups)

    • Dairy/Meat/Deli/Refrigerated

      • 1 Dozen eggs

      • Firm tofu (slice and freeze what you don’t use to defrost and put in future smoothies)

      • Block of cheddar cheese (so you can slice or shred it, depending on recipe)

      • Yogurt (I like the Organic, Plain, Seven Stars yogurt OR plain Chobani)

      • 4 oz Goat cheese

      • 2 oz feta

      • ½ gallon milk

      • 1 container hummus (I like lemon hummus)

      • Chicken, pre-cooked (3 servings), or 1 lb uncooked (boil, roast, or fry yourself)

    • Dry Goods

      • Wheat berries(about 2/3 cup, uncooked; or 1 ½ cups cooked)

      • 1 15 oz can black beans

      • 3 15 oz can diced tomatoes

      • 3 15 oz can chickpeas

  • Pantry Staples that I am assuming you already have

    • Old-fashioned oats

    • Pecans

    • Olive oil

    • Baking powder

    • Rosemary

    • Cumin

    • Garam Masala

    • Turmeric

    • Coriander

    • Chicken broth

    • All-purpose flour

    • Rice

Vegetable Curry in the Slow Cooker

So I am not a big meat-eater… I mean, I eat it without a problem nowadays, and if you put some good pulled pork BBQ in front of me, I might just forget there are things called manners, but at the same time, planning meals without meat doesn’t phase me and isn’t something I have to try to do. And, when you put me and a grocery budget in the same room, meat is the first thing to go because it seems so non-essential to me.

Here’s the problem. I am now grocery shopping for two. No, I am not pregnant. I am shopping for one small, fit female (me), and one hunk of a guy. Yeah, as you can guess, when that hunk came home and looked at the fridge, and realized that I had only planned one meal with meat for the week, and that he had just inhaled all of it in one sitting, he got the saddest, crushed look on his face. You’d have thought I just killed his puppy… I tried to explain that I had made sacrifices too, that I had had to put back my beets, granny smith apples, my grapes, AND my wheat berries, but for some reason that did not console him. He then looked up, smiled, and said something like, “well at least you got deli meat for sandwiches, right?” ::crickets::

Wow, I completely forgot that he really likes eating meat! How did I do that? He was sweet though, and murmured something about how I have been shifting my life to his, he should adjust his to mine too. It’s not like he hasn’t been changing his lifestyle for me though… Man, I gotta get better about making decisions not just for me…

Have you ever done something like that? Forgotten the preferences/needs of someone important to you?

Anyway, here’s one of the meatless meals that is a staple at my house. Below, you can see I have mixed in brown rice to it for my lunch at work, just to add some more calories to hold me through  ’till dinner (I had packed cheese slices and apple slices in the other compartments, just in case you were wondering.)

Curry for lunch at my desk

Curry for lunch at my desk

Everything is mixed in the slow cooker and will be ready when I get home.

Everything is mixed in the slow cooker and will be ready when I get home.

Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry
Adapted from The Lemon Bowl
Serves 4-5 hungry people

  • 3 cups cauliflower – cut in florets (I used frozen)

  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts – quartered (I used frozen, and defrosted them before quartering)

  • 1 sweet potato – peeled and diced

  • 1 red pepper – diced

  • 1 medium onion – diced

  • 2 (15 ounce cans) chickpeas – drained

  • 15 ounce can tomato sauce

  • ½ cup light coconut milk

  • ½ cup chicken broth

  • 1 tablespoon cumin

  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (or to taste)

  • 1 tablespoon turmeric

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne – optional

  • 1 cup frozen green peas

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • plain yogurt, cilantro, sriracha and scallions – optional garnishes

 

Place vegetables, chickpeas, tomato sauce, coconut milk, chicken broth and spices in the slow cooker and heat on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours.

Before serving stir in green peas to warm.

Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Serve over brown rice or grain of choice (or on own) with yogurt, cilantro and scallions, or sriracha.

Yummy, Fast, Healthy, Budget-Friendly Breakfast Shake

Why is it so hard to take the time to wander around a national park or to sit and read a book or journal a little?

You’d think that, with all the free time I have (I work 40 hours/week and have a 45 minute commute each way, but I do not have a family or any obligations really), I’d be happy to do those things -they are relaxing, enjoyable, and cost nothing.

Instead, I find myself wanting to do activities that promise to energize me, but usually end up numbing my mind and/or draining me -watching popular TV shows is not relaxing (it does distract from the real world, but that’s not the same as relaxing or centering), heading to a yoga class can be pretty expensive and requires scheduling, and going out for a meal is definitely not cheap and, for me, can be an extremely stressful event. Most actitivies that seem like they would be a good way to chill, actually end up being time wasters and don’t lead me any nearer to peace. And although yoga or a nice run do help, I still have to actually schedule them, which often requires some planning and an effort to “beat the clock.” It’s easy for me to try to schedule a yoga class or a run into my day in between work and cooking dinner and cleaning the house -it’s one more thing to fill my planner/iCal app, but it’s sooooo much harder for me to leave an entire day open to do “nothing” but explore, unplug, and let myself wander.

If I try to give myself space to just “be,” I end up feeling guilty or anxious that I am spending my previous 2 days a week (Saturday and Sunday) on something not productive for myself, such as doing laundry or prepping meals for the week, or running all of those errands. I actually find that I have to schedule or plan time to do something when I want to just “be.” That seems so wrong to me. It doesn’t seem like it should be so difficult to relax and have spontaneous time. When I want to relax and just breathe, I schedule a yoga class, a massage, or long run.

I want to stop feeling like my weekends are so precious, like I need to be productive during them, and like I need to do as much as possible in them in order to optimize them. Of course, things like grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, and getting my car’s oil changed are not things I can ignore forever, but I would like to stop feeling harried by such tasks on my weekends.

Until recently, I think I assumed that everyone felt this way. But apparently not. Some people have learned to cope with the stress in better ways than I have, or naturally don’t struggle with perfectionism as much as I do. The main reason I have realized this is the examples that some of my newer friends have been to me. They live in the moment much more than I; their ability to roll with the punches and their lack of need to plan and analyze every possible option for their future is inspiring. They don’t go into things blind, nor do they act foolishly, but I admire the way that they do what they can in the moment and try to waste as little time and effort as possible so that they can actually live.

If you’re still having trouble relaxing, and you need a quick meal that is easy to grab-and-go while you transition to a less hectic mindset (or you just want an easy, yummy, healthy smoothie), try the recipe below.

How do you handle your time on the weekends?

Do you feel the need to “binge” on entertainment to make up for the work week?

Do you feel guilty about not attending to chores?

Or have you made peace with enjoying life and balancing all of its demands?

My smoothie, sitting on my window sill while I get ready for the morning.

My smoothie, sitting on my window sill while I get ready for the morning.

Oatmeal Banana Breakfast Smoothie (Meal replacement)

Serves 1

  • 3/4 cup milk (I use organic whole milk, you can use any type though)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 3-4 ounces firm tofu (I use 1/4 of the 14oz nasoya package)
  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • *some options to mix things up* cocoa and more honey, chocolate syrup, frozen berries, nut butter

Blend all ingredients together in your favorite blender until smooth. Pour into tall glass and enjoy.

Power Cookies and Kitchen Relationships

Sharing a kitchen with multiple people can get a little hectic. Each person has their own style that they have figured out and gradually tweaked over the years based on their experiences, their needs, and their goals. When you put two people in a kitchen, there’s definitely a learning curve as they figure out who excels in what, what methods should be adopted, discarded, or adapted. Entirely new techniques might be experimented with.

What I am finding is, no matter how many people’s kitchens I get used to and how many other cooks I begin to adapt my style to, I have to explore and find a new, unique balance of what works with new person. And no matter how much advice I follow or models I try to emulate, someone else’s partnership is never going to be a perfect model for my own.

Please enjoy these power cookies and join me in the effort of figuring out life as a 20′s something…

An eager hand reaching for a power cookie.

An eager hand reaching for a power cookie.

Power Cookies
From 101 Cookbooks
Makes 18 cookies (2 cookies = 1 serving for me)

2 cups rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 cup whole wheat  flour
2 teaspoons ground anise
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

one 15-ounce can white kidney, great northern, or navy beans, rinsed & drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and place a rack in the top third. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Pulse the oats in a food processor (or blender) until they resemble a raggy flour. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the flour, aniseed, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest and salt.

Pulse the beans and olive oil in the food processor until they are creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and pulse until smooth. Scrap down the sides of the bowl once or twice along the way.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until the ingredients start to come together. Sprinkle the dates across the top of the batter and stir until everything just comes together.

Place the sesames seeds in a bowl. Make each cookie with a scant 1/4 cup scoop of dough. Roll each scoop of dough into a ball then coat it with sesame seeds. Set each ball on the prepared baking sheet and with the palm of your hand flatten the dough just a bit (see photo). Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving at least an inch or so between each cookie – they’ll spread a bit, but not much. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the sesame seeds around the bottom start to get golden.

Healthy Pantry Meal OR Pot Luck Dish: 3 bean salad, yum!

It was sometime in my early teens when I realized that the moment I think, “I don’t need to hear this -I don’t have a problem with this,” is the moment I need to start listening.

I remember sitting in church, listening to Pastor Joel talk about something probably like lying, or stealing, or even being nice to a mean boss, and starting to tune out ‘cus the topic didn’t apply to me, when it hit me that it is the issues we don’t know about or refuse to acknowledge that pose the largest problems in our lives. If I am not aware of something, how can I improve it?

Similar thoughts have been coming across my mind lately. I vacillate from thinking “this is unnecessary” to “How did I miss this persistent distortion?” Little things, like that I have so internalized a diet mentality in small, sneaky ways, that I do not even realize that avoiding big spoons, large dinner plates, and cereal bowls at all costs (in favor of teaspoons, salad plates, and berry bowls) is a bit unusual, and that most/all of my friends went for the big spoon and the cereal bowl when I served a peach-blueberry cobbler last week. Sometimes, when I re-embark on breaking myself of odd/damaging habits that I have picked up over the years, I begin by telling myself that I don’t really have any of those habits remaining. But soon enough, if I talk to the right people, I get out of my denial and off my high horse, and find that they are indeed there.

One thing I know is that, wherever I was the last time I tried breaking old habits, I was not in a place where I could safely face what I see when I return to the task/quest of bettering myself. Each time I get to a new, safe place, I find new things that need to be left behind or unlearned. And, as cliche as it sounds, I can usually find something positive and much better to put in its place.

Well, now it’s time to share this yummy recipe, which should definitely be in your repertoire. I know it’s pretty much all from the pantry, but I looooove eating it in the summer. I eat the whole thing as meal sometimes… oops. I just love it! So does my mom -maybe that’s where I got my love for vinegar-y things from. -Nah, she definitely gave me my sweet tooth, as well as my habit of eating half a cookie only to come back 20 minutes later for the other half.

 

Lunch today!

Lunch today. Yes, it’s in a re-used almond butter jar =).

 

3 Bean Salad

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can kidney beans, drained

1 can wax beans (yellow), drained

1 can green beans, drained

*optional* 1 can of chickpeas or 1 1/3 cups cooked edamame (shelled)

 

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper for the dressing.

In a large bowl, mix together the three beans (or 4, if you go with the optional ones), then pour the prepared dressing evenly over the beans.

Chill or serve room temperature and enjoy!

 

 

 

Overnight, Easy Breakfast: Muesli for Busy Working Gals (and Guys)

As told by iPhone: My Morning Muesli

I looooooove muesli. It’s delicious and easy and is a full meal in a bowl. And it’s a breakfast food, my favorite kind of food! I want to share with you my current favorite muesli recipe, which I am making every night before I go to bed so I can take it with me to work as I rush out the door to catch the shuttle to the metro (yay public transportation?). At least I get to read on my commute, instead of getting angry at the car in front of me. I am not sure I will ever get used to living in such a big city, or at least, ever want to actually stay here long-term. Lots of new things to experience still, including how to figure out this thing called the “real world.”

With a new/first job comes a new schedule. For me, the majority of finding a new schedule that works for me is figuring out how much food I should pack and when I should eat it. This may not sound terribly complex, but it is for me. Do I make mountains out mole hills? -Maybe… But to me, figuring out what meals to pack and when is an integral piece to eating intuitively. For me, eating intuitively implies that I am going off of hunger cues and fullness signals, appreciating each bite, not feeling guilt, and being in a peaceful enough state with myself that I can feel what kind of food my bodies needs for nourishment at that time, as well as know what the rest of my day holds in order to avoid being in a place where I cannot fulfill my body’s needs.

So, since I am a morning person and I find that I consumer about half my of food intake before noon, I have been eating a banana before working at 5am, drinking homemade chocolate milk (milk, honey, cocoa powder) around 6:40am after working out, and then eating homemade muesli (that I prepped the night before) at my desk at work around 8:15am while I read the morning’s news. Not long after, maybe 10am, I have a small snack (today was an apple and almond butter), then at noon I typically have a sandwich, a veggie, a piece of fruit, some cheese, and maybe some hummus. By then, I am pretty satisfied, and will have a piece of dark chocolate or a dried date to finish my meal. Typically, I am fairly full until I get home around 6pm, and eat whatever leftovers happened to by in my fridge from the weekend.

Believe me, it took a long time for me to feel comfortable eating all of that before noon. I was so afraid I was overeating. But I found that I get hungry early in the AM, and if I just let myself eat then, I am not nearly as hungry in the evening and I end up eating the same amount in total for the day no matter if I eat most of it in the AM or try to spread it out during the day. Ultimately, I like not experiencing great hunger and, in a way, distress, when I try to evenly distribute my snacks in my schedule. It’s much more pleasant to allow myself to eat when I am hungry and trust that my body wants to be healthy and work properly just as much as I do.

My Current Favorite Muesli Recipe

1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use Seven Stars organic yogurt)
1/4 cup orange juice
2/3 diced fruit, fresh or frozen (blueberries, pineapple, strawberries, mango, whatever)
2 tablespoons slivered almonds or any other nut
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until well combined and let sit in fridge overnight. Enjoy chilled.

*You can add honey or other sweetener, or use sweetened yogurt, if you prefer