Eating In

Truth be told eating out is not as exciting as it used to be. Because I cook all day everyday I’ve become very accustomed to having my food the way I prefer it. So much so, that when I go out to eat I’m not as thrilled about my food because it’s not as good or how I would do it. Also, we have now become those people who are very particular about their food order. Can I sub this for that and please leave off the bun, dressing on the side, etc.

Well, to be fair I have had some really unexpectedly great meals out to eat and those always seem to come when I am fairly specific about my requests. Hmmm, maybe be an annoying orderer is worth it. I’m thinking specifically of a dinner Brian and I went out to together a month or so ago when I requested that the contents of a mushroom burger or wrap, not sure which, be put on a salad instead. That salad was made for me! It had portabello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, pesto, Dijon mustard, and balsamic. I’ve been recreating various versions of that salad since.

However, for the most part I’d say I prefer to eat in. There are plenty of recipes to experiment with out there that are just as good and better than what you would get eating out. All this came up because we went out to dinner tonight as a family. My food was ok, not amazing, and likely to make me feel not my best tomorrow. And little Lexi, the girl who knows no limits, could not resist a hot dog and fries. She will be a little off tomorrow as well. And funny little side note: Isabelle has outgrown the kids menu. Kid’s menus are always the same: hot dogs, burger, breaded chicken, or macaroni. Lame. I recently heard a thing that most other countries do not have separate menus for the children. “Kid Food” is a totally American thing. So, now, Isabelle prefers to order something off the actual menu that is a little more “real food”. I totally support her not wanting to eat the typical kid food. Her choice tonight? Southwest chicken salad. And with the exception of the little bit I ate she finished that thing! And she was full!

So, eating out is not as glamorous as it’s made out to be. It reminds me of some pretty great dinners we’ve had recently. Dinners that got a lot of yummy noises.

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First up is this one. I actually commented while I was eating this dinner that it was so much better than anything we’ve had in a restaurant. These tacos are made with my homemade tortillas. They have sautéed broccoli, beans, onion, and garlic with taco seasoning inside. As well, as a hint of cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and olives. Salsa, plain yogurt, smashed avocado, and a little cashew cheeze sauce on top. All those flavors! Next to them we had roasted green beans (my fave!) and cob corn (or corn cut off the cob if you are my husband, he just can’t get down with the corn on the cob).

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This dinner was a snap to prepare. The veggies come in a big fresh stir fry mix filled with chard, carrots, snap peas, broccoli and kale. I cooked up some onions and added the veggies with a homemade teriyaki sauce. Toasted cashews top the stir fry. That little tiny brown stuff next to the veggies is kaniwa. We found it on our most recent trip to the natural market I love so much. Apparently, this kaniwa stuff is related to quinoa and cooks the same way. We call it mini quinoa because that’s exactly what it looks like. Kaniwa and quinoa are both seeds and you definitely get that sense with stuff because of how little each one is. It tastes very similar to red quinoa.

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Stuffed pepper casserole! I used to get so excited to have peppers on hand and want to make stuffed peppers. Then I would make them and we would always struggle to eat them (they just tip over or have the stuffing spill out!). What’s more is that it never seemed like the ratio of filling to peppers was enough. I have learned! Now, when I get the urge to make stuffed peppers I tell myself, no, and make a stuffed pepper casserole instead. Same idea, easier to eat, more filling! Problems solved. I made this stuffed pepper casserole with beans, riced cauliflower, peas, kale, canned diced tomatoes, and, of course, the roasted peppers. Mine and Brian’s got the last bit of cashew cheeze leftover from the tacos above. Mmmm. I can still remember the warmth of this filling casserole in my tummy. Piping hot casseroles in colder weather, yes please!

I’d gladly take these dinners over what I ate at the restaurant today (a lettuce wrapped burger, in case you wondered). However, we didn’t go to the restaurant because we didn’t want to cook or didn’t have the time to. We went, purposefully, to spend time as a family doing something different and going to a new place. The girls look forward to doing these kinds of things and we don’t eat out very often. In the end it’s much less about the food and more about being together. (But darn those kid’s menus!)

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Double Dinner Bowls

I’ve got some dinner winners! Both are vegetable bowls with very distinct flavor differences. Veggie bowls are just so good and the easiest way to pack a variety of vegetables into dinner. And did I mention they are easy? Yes, yes I did. Brian is out of town for work this week which means I’m less inspired to make complicated dinners that the kids won’t appreciate any more than a simple dinner. At least if both Brian and I are eating dinner we can really appreciate all the work that goes into a more complicated dinner. The girls will either like or dislike no matter how much time I’ve spent making an awesome dinner.

Dinner number 1 is yellow pea dahl. This is one I’ve tried on the girls before and not had great reviews from them. This time around I didn’t add any of the Indian style spices but did a little maple syrup to sweeten the dahl slightly (well for them, mine was filled with all the spices: cumin, turmeric, curry powder, chili powder, etc.). These kinds of dishes are among my favorite. The flavors and the yellow peas are just a great combo.

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I served the dahl with millet and mixed veggies. This time around the yellow pea dahl was well received by the kiddos.

Dinner number 2 is broccoli noodle bowl with homemade teriyaki sauce. Isabelle said, “I feel like we’ve had this before.” Yep! It is one of my newer go-to recipes. The combination of the broccoli and the homemade teriyaki sauce is something I find myself craving frequently, not to mention the carrot “noodles”. I’m a huge huge broccoli addict. Raw, steamed, stir-fried, roasted I love it all the ways. In fact, I just realized since I’ve had a steady supply of fresh broccoli for a few weeks now I’ve eaten broccoli almost daily. Sometimes I have to remind myself to eat something besides broccoli since it’s what’s for dinner later!

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For the girls I do add a small amount of Korean sweet potato noodles to make this an actual noodle bowl for them. For me I, as usual, serve it all over a bed of greens with more teriyaki sauce. There is also some onion, garlic, edamame ,and celery cooked with the broccoli in the teriyaki sauce. Love that I get to eat this for breakfast! Broccoli for breakfast, way to start the day!

Outdoor Movie Fun

My lentil loaf dinner from the other day turned out to be a delicious consolation prize. God is good and my plans not working out was for the better since Brian had worked in the middle of the night and would have been very tired during our date night. It’s the same things I’m always telling my girls, you don’t know what I have planned so don’t be disappointed. And so God is continually reminding me of the same. Well, with my consolation lentil loaf dinner we had side salads and roasted yellow beans. Can I just say I would eat a mounding plateful of roasted green or yellow or purple beans if it was acceptable. Seriously, I didn’t want to share the yellow beans, they were so good.

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Lentil loaf is a favorite in our house. This version is adapted from Oh She Glows and has toasted walnuts, almond meal, celery, broccoli, onions, and garlic in it. Additional yum comes from the apple balsamic glaze on top and yep more onions.

Tonight’s dinner is tortilla soup. It’s one of those soups I didn’t have growing up and so coming into it late in the game I could eat it a lot. Our version is made with beans and vegetables instead of the traditional chicken. My favorite part is topping the bowls with the little extras: avocado, chips, lime juice, cilantro, more spices. I’ve tried a few different tortilla soup recipes and don’t have one that I prefer exclusively over the others. As long as the cumin and chili powder spice is there mixed with some vegetables, tomatoes, and broth I’m in.

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We attempted an early dinner because we are going to see an outdoor movie in the park (c’mon no rain!). There will be concessions but if you’ve been following me for any amount of time you know we will be bringing our own snacks. For the festivities I made some popcorn to mix in with out leftover baseball game popcorn (uh huh, I’m the mom that saves stuff like that) and cookies! I am having a love affair with cookies. I used to be a cake kinda gal and cookies on occasion but I’ve found it so much easier to make a healthy cookie so I’m all about the cookies. No bake cookies, raw cookies, cookie bars it’s all good. I pulled out an oldie but goodie recipe that I haven’ t made in probably a year. This recipe is so simple and I totally underestimate the simplicity. Almond meal/flour, coconut oil, honey, sea salt, chocolate chips. Done! That’s it! For these cookies I did elaborate on the add-ins with chickpeas and a small section with butterscotch chips and sprinkles (the girls will go gaga over that!). I’m also bringing carrots and peanut butter since I did a longer run this afternoon and don’t want to be hungry and tempted to eat so much popcorn.

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We Love Rachael Ray

The girls and I love the Rachael Ray Show. When we are at home in the mornings Isabelle watches the clock for 9 AM when the show comes on. During the school year she is so excited on the days she gets to stay home and can watch Rachael Ray. While there are a lot of segments in the show other than cooking, we watch for the cooking creations. Isabelle gets frustrated when she has a lot of guests and doesn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. The girls get pretty excited about what she is making and love to tell me about it and how good it looks. It also leads to them making menu requests of things she cooks. That was the case on Friday when we watched her make Vegetable Nachos. Lexi wanted it for dinner that very night. We comprised and I made a few nights later and without chips.

Our nachos were loosely based off her nachos. We used raw broccoli (they have a great chip like crunch), kale and cooked sweet potato as the “chips”. We followed the recipe for the thinned out refried beans made our own mixed vegetable toppings. And because it is nachos, we did top with cheese.

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Nachos, even without chips, were a huge hit. And the nice thing about this recipe is that you aren’t just filling up on chips and cheese it is loaded with vegetables and beans. Yum!

During a previous week we watched her make this pasta recipe which really spoke to me. Noodles with roasted cauliflower and a chickpea sauce sounds perfect (well except for the wheat noodles)! We modified by using raw zucchini instead of noodles and adding peas because, well why not?! The sauce in this is literally made of chickpeas pureed with broth, yum! This dinner was fast, plant-based, filling, and satisfying.

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We had gone to a birthday party so the girls were pretty full from party food (i.e. hot dogs and birthday cake). This dinner was a quick way to pack some vegetables in their tummies and was easy for me to make. The cauliflower had been roasted earlier in the week so basically I just had to make the sauce. Which was pretty much me defrosting the frozen chickpeas and mixing it all up. No biggie. Quick healthy food!

Thanks Rachael Ray for fast, satisfying, and healthy dinner ideas!

Vacation is Over

What is about the day after vacation that is so hard? Oh wait, I know. It’s that nobody gets enough sleep and there are a million things to be cleaned and put away while you are attempting to continue doing the normal every day things and the kids decide they do not want to get along since we are at home. All this vacationing has left me worn out. Getting up for a run this morning was tough! And then making it through the day was still tough. But the day is almost over and we have all made it.

We took our time coming home yesterday and stopped to hang out in Ocean Shores for a bit. Over the weekend we never actually made it into the city. Instead, we stayed at the beach house and headed down to the beach from there (and took naps! The kids were up until 11 pm, yikes!). The house we get is literally on the beach trail and you can sit out on the deck or in the living room or in our bedroom and see the ocean. The weather was amazing, better than it’s ever been and we took full advantage by not wasting our time driving to the city.

The weekend was a lot of fun. Brian and I escaped for a short run one of the mornings, which we don’t get to do often enough. I loved seeing the beauty of the ocean and was in awe of the view and the weather God placed before me. It was truly a gift. We managed ok with our modified menu and taco night only claimed one tummy, Lexi’s. That was probably more due to the s’mores she had at the campfire later that night than the tacos but maybe the combo wasn’t so great for her.

By the time we arrived home yesterday I was exhausted. I was fighting sleep the entire drive home. It was such a sunny pretty drive that I didn’t want to miss out and sleep. In order to even function the rest of the night I had to fit in a short power yoga session to get my heart pumping.

Nobody was very hungry for dinner since we had big lunches and snacked on the drive. Plus, despite having leftovers in the fridge we couldn’t eat any more fish or burgers or rice or beans. While this dinner was not as quick as I would have liked it ended up being perfect.

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Broccoli and cauliflower, lentils, kale, tomatoes, and hummus bowls. This dinner was simple and had none of the things we had been eating all weekend long.

Brian got to take those leftovers for lunch today. The girls had a veggie plate with some leftover baked beans (they turned out delicious by the way!) and strawberries. We went to the store before lunch so our fridge is again stocked with an abundance of produce, thank goodness!

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I’ve eaten a lot of lettuce over the last few days and did not want another lettuce salad for dinner. Because it was hot and I was worn I knew I wanted fresh produce for dinner, just not lettuce heavy. I made something I found on Pinterest once called Living Pad Thai. I didn’t use a recipe just grabbed fresh food from the fridge and shredded it or chopped it small and mixed together. We topped with a homemade Thai peanut sauce (or homemade teriyaki for the girls), peanuts, and red chili flakes.

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All those veggies are filling! The Living Pad Thai has carrots, yellow squash, purple cabbage, broccoli, onions, and kale. The family raved about this meal, pretty much every bite. =) The best part is there was so much leftover we all get to eat this for lunch tomorrow. Works out great for me since I’m taking the girls to the zoo and that’s one less thing I have to pack.

Speaking of packed lunches, I’m starting to get very nervous about packing a lunch for both Isabelle and Brian on the daily once school begins again. It’s a lot of work for me. The girls will be attending a VBS next week where Isabelle will stay all day and need to bring a lunch so I guess I will get some practice and face my fears!

And the Clouds Rolled In

When I made my menu, today was supposed to a beautiful sunny 77 degrees. Maybe it was early afternoon but by the time it was nearing dinner the winds had changed (or really just started) and the clouds rolled in. I had intended to grill and hang out in the sun with the girls maybe even let them run through the sprinkler. But today got away from us and we needed to make it to the store before dinner. Oh well, grilling in the wind and clouds didn’t sound as fun so I gave up my grilling plan for an easier dinner.

I’ve made this Teriyaki Noodle Bowl before for my breakfast and fell in love with it. It’s pretty easy to make and the homemade teriyaki sauce is so good, it pretty much makes the meal. The first time I made it I didn’t add noodles because it was just for me but tonight I used some sweet potato noodles (they are clear noodles that I got from the Korean store!) for the family. The noodle bowl has broccoli, celery, edamame, onion, garlic, and shredded carrot. Shredded carrot with sauce is my new obsession. I had never thought of using carrots as a noodle substitute until I saw it on Oh She Glows but I’m so glad I discovered it.

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Everyone’s favorite part happened to be the noodles (of course). Those noodles were filling, though, and Isabelle was a little too full to finish that bowl. These leftovers are going to make an amazing breakfast for me and lunch for Brian. Can’t wait!

Wheat Free for Me

I’m on a renewed wheat free kick. I checked out the Wheat Belly Cookbook from the library, mostly because the actual book was not available (long list of holds) and the cookbook has a brief overview of the concepts in the book. I’m already a believer in no grains so I think the abridged version is all I really needed. The book has some really great recipes, many of which I cannot wait to try (especially the whole section of wheat free baking!). Plus, there are so many that make me feel like I don’t need to give into the grains to feed my family. The recipes in this book don’t include any traditional grain flours, not just eliminating the gluten. So no oat flours, brown rice flour, etc. A lot of almond meal, coconut flour, ground flax seeds, and chickpea flour. I’ve never used chickpea flour so it’s on my to purchase asap list.

Fueled by my grain free reading I made tabbouleh for lunch substituting the bulgar for chickpeas. Izzy asked for some more chickpea salad sandwich filling so this just made sense.

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Next to the grain free tabbouleh the girls had watermelon and banana flavored yogurt (I just mash up some banana and mix into the plain yogurt).

For dinner it was Veggie Bowls! The veggies were grilled earlier this week and just waiting to be used: asparagus, broccoli, and yellow squash. I added onions, peas, brown lentils, and spinach to finish it off. These bowls were topped with a lemon tahini (or peanut butter in our case) dressing.

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In other news, I can’t seem to keep my fridge stocked full of produce! We are going through it so fast, my basket from Bountiful Baskets on Saturday is long gone! I won’t get another one for almost a month since we are going camping next weekend. Looks like I will be buying massive amounts of produce at grocery store prices.

Low Key Tuesday

Both of the girls had no school today, amazing! A free Tuesday when we were just gone all weekend was perfect.

I went on my longest run since the half marathon this morning. It was maybe 6 miles, I say maybe because I haven’t been tracking my mileage or even timing the runs. After all the training, I’ve been enjoying heading out with just a watch to know when I need to be back. That is how I used to run pretty much up until marrying Brian. I enjoy running for running and don’t enjoy the pressure of pace, distance, time, etc. Maybe once I’m feeling better about my running I’ll get back into competing with myself.

I didn’t even ask the girls what they wanted for breakfast this morning. Honestly, I was afraid of the response I would get and didn’t want to make anything particularly complex (or filled with grains/sugar!). Instead I mixed up some basic peanut butter banana smoothies and served alongside leftover oatmeal almond flour pancakes.

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Not beautiful but tasty.

After working outside for awhile this morning I came in to make them this broccoli carrot slaw salad. They really enjoy this salad and I like how easy it is and all the good stuff it’s filled with (broccoli, shredded carrots, a little onion, pumpkin seeds, mixed together with a bit of ranch and veganaise). Apparently, I gave them too much watermelon because they both couldn’t finish their lunch!

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Lucky for us we had some lentil walnut loaf in the freezer that we needed to eat. We love this lentil loaf (girls included). It is filled with lentils, walnuts, apples, celery, carrots, and oatmeal. The original recipe calls for raisins but we prefer a more savory loaf and omit the raisins and sometimes the apple. It was wonderful to not have to prep this today because while it is delicious it’s a bit of work to prepare. With it we had smashed potatoes/cauliflower. The idea here is to get the family eating mashed cauliflower but I add it into smashed potatoes so that the taste resembles potatoes more than cauliflower. Mashed potatoes is one of Brian’s favorite foods so we have it on occasion and I healthify it but don’t want to take away the essence. (BTW I gladly accept the mashed cauliflower substitute, no potatoes needed!) I roasted some okra to go with dinner and served everything with a green salad (yay for going to Costco and getting my super greens blend!).

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Seriously, the lentil loaf recipe is a huge hit. The recipe was one of the first vegan recipes I ever made and it convinced me that I could transition my family to eating vegan food regularly. Plus, lentils are cheap and much less creepy than ground beef (and probably if you buy the expensive ground beef you don’t want to make meatloaf out of it). My mom always made her meatloaf with bacon on top and that’s how I used to make mine. With the lentil loaf I don’t even miss the bacon, I think it would change the flavors too much (not to mention the vegan factor of it all, ha). Ok, I will stop raving about the lentil loaf but I am so glad there is some leftover in my fridge for tomorrow!