What we ate: August 2015

what we ate: august 2015 I started a tradition at Budget for Health by sharing various meals I’ve made and loved each month. This has been a fun post to write and it’s been a form of accountability because I want to lead by example when it comes to meal planning that is easy, budget friendly, and healthy. Be sure to check out what we ate in prior months.

Meals at home

steak, shrimp, baked potato, and veggies

Frank
Our grass-fed cow has been named Frank by friends who have enjoyed our share with us. We had steak twice this month and it was marvelous both times. We also grilled burgers with friends and made enough to have leftovers the next day and made homemade crockpot barbacoa again. Seriously, you need to make it if you haven’t yet.

breakfast hash, salmon, chicken stir fry, taco bowlSalmon
Aldi usually has wild-caught salmon for a good deal so I keep a bag of individually-frozen 4oz filets in my freezer. They thaw in minutes when you run cold water over the packaging and only take 2-3 minutes per side to cook in a frying pan with some coconut oil. I mixed some black bean garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand) with a little apricot preserves and we served it alongside roasted asparagus and beets.

Breakfast bowls & taco bowls
I shredded sweet potatoes in the food processor and fried them up with other veggies we had. As for the breakfast bowl; I mixed a little rice with ground meat seasoned with homemade taco seasoning then topped it with a fried egg and some avocado.

Stir fry with rotisserie chicken
I make the easiest crockpot rotisserie chicken, shred it, and keep it in the freezer for days when we need an easy and quick meal. I cooked veggies we had on hand (bok choy, various peppers, and broccoli) in sesame oil, fried a few eggs to mix with a little rice, and added the shredded chicken.

Pancakes & eggs
We’ve been using this recipe for homemade pancakes when we decide to make them. I skip the added sugar, use gluten free flour mix, and I add plain whey protein powder because I’ll make extra for Nora to enjoy. Most of the pancakes get blueberries but I always make a handful of chocolate chip pancakes because they’re so delicious with peanut butter on top.

hot potHot Pot
We tried hot pot last month with some friends but we had it again with a friend who is from Beijing and apparently that’s where hot pot is famously known. This dinner was so fun because we got a history lesson and learned so much about our friends’ culture while enjoying the meal together. In the background is big pot of boiling broth and you eat the meal in stages: first meat (we had lamb and beef), then veggies, then noodles. I passed on the noodles because I was full by the time we finished the meat and veggies.

Mexican lasagna
Dave loves Mexican and gets so geeked when I make this. It’s ridiculously easy and takes little time to put together.

Meals away from home

Nashville
We made a spontaneous trip to Nashville to visit my sister and brother-in-law with my parents, sister, and grandma. Nora did so well in the car and we only stopped one time both ways (a 9-hour drive!). We did a big grocery trip when we got there so we wouldn’t be eating out the whole time. One dinner was homemade pizza with my mom’s crust recipe and another night we packed our own picnic to enjoy with some wine at Arrington vineyards.

We didn’t eat out much but we did try two new restaurants I hadn’t been to before. Mcdougalls near Vanderbilt’s campus had some great chicken tenders; they were so moist and tender. Warning: it’s not a healthy choice so go for the experience and avoid it if you don’t want fried everything. We went to Loveless Cafe for breakfast and I got an omelette with all sorts of veggies and their homemade biscuits topped with homemade fruit preserves.

Korean BBQ
Our awesome neighbors were on Nora duty so Dave and I could sneak away for a date. We tried out a Korean restaurant and loved it! I got bibimpop (rice, lots of veggies, steak) and Dave got something similar to sweet and sour pork. We got a handful of sides that came with our meal like kimchi, marinated cucumbers and asparagus, edamame, and spicy eggplant.

Qdoba
This restaurant is a great way to get a healthy meal with guaranteed leftovers. Since the fajita veggies and guac are included at Qdoba, I make sure my burrito bowl is loaded!

Spaghetti dinner
We attended a spaghetti dinner fund raiser for a friend’s husband who is going through chemo. I can’t remember the last time we ate pasta but it was for a good cause. To avoid a blood sugar roller coaster I passed on the dinner roll, grabbed a salad, and only took a little pasta and corn which was shared with Nora.

What are some fall dishes you’re looking forward to making?

Make extra pantry staples and freeze in small portions

Make extra pantry staples and freeze in small portionsOften when you see my monthly “What we ate” post, you’ll notice that the meals I make are partially pre-made. By pre-made I mean I cooked part of the meal beforehand so it makes meal prep easier when it’s actually time to make dinner. Here are some examples of how I make extra pantry staples and freeze them in small portions:

Rice
We really don’t eat rice often since we aim to get most of our carbs from vegetables and fruit but I still buy the giant bag of rice from Costco and keep it in my pantry. I make 6-8 batches of my famous chicken curry stew at a time and freeze it along with quart-size Ziplocs of rice. Since our church pumps out babies faster than we can keep up with, I’m able to pull out a bag of stew and rice from the freezer and not have to make one batch at a time on demand. We use rice in our homemade burrito bowls so I’ll occasionally pull out a bag for myself. It’s so much faster heating up frozen rice on the stove compared to waiting 40 minutes for it to finish in the rice cooker.

Beans
The same concept applies to beans. They are a starchy vegetable just like corn, peas and potatoes and I count them as a CARB not a protein. Yes, they contain protein but in 1/2 cup you get 6 grams of incomplete protein and 24 grams of carbs (4x more carbs than protein) so be careful with the portion size or you’ll end up with way more carbs than you need in a meal. I enjoy the texture beans give in our burrito bowls so I’m okay with having a little in there. I buy a bag of dried beans, cook a huge batch in the crockpot, and freeze them in 2 cup portions in Ziplock bags (lay the bags flat to freeze for easy storage).

Shredded chicken
If you haven’t tried to make a whole chicken in the crockpot, put it on your menu this month. It’s ridiculously easy if you can get over touching a raw chicken and really, you only touch it long enough to sprinkle the spice mixture over the top. Most whole chickens come with the gizzard, neck, and other innards in a little bag they stuff in the hollowed part of the chicken so you don’t even need to dress it yourself. Once I get all of the meat off the bones I shred it up and freeze it flat in quart-size Ziploc bags. This makes for really easy dinner prep! The same can be done with taco meat (made with homemade taco seasoning of course!).

Chicken broth
After you make your rotisserie chicken, throw the carcass back in the crockpot- bones, skin and all, to make some delicious broth. I got this chicken stock recipe and the recipe for the chicken from 100 Days of Real Food. I freeze the broth flat on a cookie sheet in quart-size Ziploc bags so it makes for easy stacking in the freezer.

Tomato paste
When’s the last time you needed an entire can of tomato paste? My chicken curry stew only calls for 2 Tbsp per recipe so I’m left with a lot leftover. My mother-in-law gave me the genius idea of freezing the paste 2 Tbsp portions using a melon baller. Just portion and freeze on parchment or wax paper and then store in a ziplock bag until needed.

What do you freeze in bulk?

What we ate: July 2015

I started a tradition at Budget for Health by sharing various meals I’ve made and loved each month. This has been a fun post to write and it’s been a form of accountability because I want to lead by example when it comes to meal planning that is easy, budget friendly, and healthy. Be sure to check out what we ate in prior months.

Meals at home:

image

Hello Fresh

We tried another round of Hello Fresh meals since two friends of mine signed up with my referral code (7X7WG5 in case you want to give it a try) which made this box only $20 for 6 meals (3 meals with two servings each). In order from top to bottom:

Fusilloni with beef, homemade marinara, and ricotta
Pan-seared mahi mahi & herb citrus salad with cous cous and caramelized bell pepper
Lemony basil chicken with artichoke hearts and crispy broccolini

Each dish tasted phenomenal but besides the chicken, the other two dishes were really carb heavy so we just didn’t use all of the pasta or cous cous. If you read my article on balanced eating, you know we aim to get most of our carbs from produce. We’ve made the fish taco recipe three or four times since we tried it in the first box we got. I’ll have to write up a post just for the avocado crema recipe so your world can be changed the next time you have tacos!

balanced saladCold dinners
Some days it’s just too hot to use the stove or oven (we are cheap and don’t use our air conditioning) so we opt for cooler dinners. For example, our big ol’ salads often make an appearance and another example is the picture below: leftover stuffed pepper, chicken salad with homemade mayo, and cherries.

stuffed pepper, chicken salad, cherriesPotlucks
We have a potluck with friends at least twice a month so for one I made shredded BBQ chicken and brought watermelon to another since the main dish was provided. Our friends bring great dishes to potlucks so we enjoyed things I don’t normally have like corn fritters, Korean-style pork belly, curried chicken salad, marinated vegetable salad, and even some Chik-Fil-A chicken 😉

Salmon burgers
Costco has wild caught salmon burgers at a great price and they make for a really easy and quick meal so we made them as part of our dinner twice this month. I wish they wouldn’t used process oil (canola) as an ingredient but there aren’t any other fillers. We had corn on the cob and threw the salmon burgers on a big salad with healthy fats like avocado, walnuts, and my easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Meals away from home

Farm life
Friends of ours invited us over for dinner on their 70-acre farm. They baked eggs from their own chickens with peppers and onions from their garden in a giant cast iron skillet. We had salad with everything from their garden and dessert was a homemade cherry crumble one of their sons made. I didn’t carry my phone with me for the farm tour but Nora really enjoyed feeding the ducks and chickens.

Grillin’ out
Eleven out of 31 days were spent sharing a meal with friends and/or family. A good chunk of those days involved burgers and steak from our beef share and brats. Sorry they were all too good that it slipped my mind to take a photo before devouring any of these meal.

Family visits
Dave’s sister, her husband, and our two nephews came to visit and we spent part of the day at the zoo and the rest at my parent’s pool. My mom is a wonderful host and grilled BBQ chicken and had a bunch of delicious summer sides like broccoli salad, corn on the cob, fresh fruit, and more. We had the same meal the following weekend when my sister came to town for a short visit.

Qdoba
We set aside a small amount each month for restaurants/entertainment. One of the nights we made a trip to Qdoba. I got a burrito bowl with chicken (protein), rice, beans, double fajita veggies, lettuce, salsa (all fall under carbs), avocado, and cheese (fats). We often make our own burrito bowls for dinner so this meal is a favorite.

What are some favorite dishes you’ve recently had?

How I keep track of items in my deep freezer

How I keep track of Items in my deep freezerOwning a deep freezer has been GREAT. Did you see the 180 pints of organic blueberries I got for only $15?? There was a mega sale at a nearby wholesale market so I stocked up. I kept 60 pints for myself to freeze and friends did the same with the rest. The cheapest I can find blueberries “on sale” at my local grocery store is maybe $1 per pint so I’m very thankful we have the space in our freezer to stockpile produce in addition to the 1/4 beef share we bought this summer and split with friends.

180 pints of blueberriesI have a 7 cubit foot freezer but since it’s a chest freezer and not a stand up freezer it can get annoying to dig through and find what I’m looking for.

Here’s how I keep track of items in my deep freezer:

I make a list
I make lists for so many things. Currently I have 11 or so lists on my notepad app in my phone. A list for groceries, expenses, long-term to do list, article ideas, gift ideas (because I never remember what’s on my wish list when Christmas or my birthday roll around), books people have borrowed from me… Another list I don’t keep in my phone but rather on the side of our fridge upstairs is a running inventory of what items are in our deep freezer. It’s nothing special and it looks like this:

* Salmon- four 4-ounce servings
* White fish- six 6-ounce servings
* Blueberries- 8 gallon Ziplocs
* Strawberries- 2 gallon Ziplocs
* Tomato paste- 1 gallon Ziploc of 2 Tbsp portions
* Chicken breast- ten 4-ounce servings
* Rotisserie chicken– 2 cups shredded
* Ground beef- 6#
* Other beef items from our cow share…
^ I wrote down all of the cuts of beef we got from our cow, how many we have, and how much each one weighs. I even wrote the weight with a permanent marker on the package to make things easier when I’m searching for the exact piece I want.

deep freezer contentsWhen I’m writing up my meal plan for the week, I can take a look at my freezer list and work with what we have on hand. This way, food isn’t sitting in my freezer forever because I forgot about it, it helps me get creative with meals, and I don’t have to buy more items on my weekly shopping trip. For example, we invited some friends over for dinner and I planned to make Mexican lasagna but later realized we didn’t have that much ground beef left. Rather than spending more money, I decided to change the menu to fish tacos since we had plenty of fish in the freezer. When I take something out of the freezer, I update the list on the side of my fridge. Like I said- my list isn’t fancy but it sure is a helpful timesaver and money saver.

As for organizing my deep freezer, I got this idea from my mom: use boxes and recyclable bags. I don’t want to pull out all 8 gallon bags of blueberries each time I need to get something out of my box o’ meat so I keep them together in a big recyclable bag so I can pull the entire bag out, grab what I need, and put the bag back. No reorganizing or shoving little items out of the way one at a time. I also freeze everything flat in a ziplock. For example, the carcass from my rotisserie chicken makes a lot of broth. I pour it in a Ziplock, freeze it flat on a cookie sheet, then store the bags upright like a filing system in a shoe box. This way I’m not trying to stack things on top of each other.

How do you keep track of what’s in your deep freezer?

What we ate: June 2015

what we ate in JuneI started a new tradition at Budget for Health by sharing recipes I made and loved each month. This has been a fun post to write and it’s been a form of accountability because I want to lead by example when it comes to meal planning that is easy, budget friendly, and healthy. Be sure to check out what we ate in prior months.

Meals at home:
hello fresh meals

Hello Fresh
We tried Blue Apron last month and wanted to compare it with Hello Fresh. Using a friend’s referral, we got to try our first box for free! I have to say that the meals from both companies were delicious but I liked the Hello Fresh selections a little better, especially the Tempura Fish Tacos with Avocado Crema & Cabbage-Radish Slaw. Dave and I agreed that they were the best fish tacos we’ve had.

The other two meals were Bloody Mary Chicken with pancetta, pickled onion, & tomato-horseradish vinaigrette and Lebanese beef skewers with herby quinoa tabbouleh.

If you want to sign up to try Hello Fresh, use my referral code (7X7WG5) to get $40 off your first box. That’s 3 meals (6 total since there are two servings per meal) for only $20!
various meals we ate in June

Photo above:
1. Salmon burgers with roasted brussels sprouts and corn
2. A monster salad with hardboiled egg, ham, walnuts, avocado, kalamata olives, organic greens, broccoli slaw, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
3. Grilled sirloin steak from our beef share with mixed veggies cooked in butter and avocado

barbacoaBarbacoa
If you haven’t tried barbacoa, start with this recipe. It was really easy to make in the crockpot and the meat just fell apart when I pressed down with one fork; no shredded needed!

Burrito bowl & Breakfast
These don’t need much explanation since they show up every month in my “What we ate” series. We love eggs, veggies, avocado, sweet potato hash or homemade hash browns. Burrito bowls are just some ground beef with homemade taco seasoning and your usual taco fixins.

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Meals away from home:

BBQ and kayaking
High school friends came to visit and we took them kayaking and then to a favorite BBQ joint downtown. I got a reuben sandwich and sweet potato fries. They have an amazing homemade cookie ice cream sandwich but we showed some self-control and passed.

Local fundraiser
We supported a local food rescue organization and attended an event that was sponsored by many local restaurants. We had all sorts of great food

Homemade pizza
I brought my mom’s homemade pizza crust recipe and we build our own pizza with friends.

Mexican with family
Dave and I tried this restaurant for our anniversary and loved it so we brought my parents and sister so they could check it out. My mom insisted that we come back to this place again because our meal was so good! Nora was just gifted her own Elmo from my family so he joined us for dinner.

Nora and my sister

Indian food
Our friend wanted us to try out an Indian restaurant down the street that he really liked. My meal of braised goat with vegetables and a curry sauce was hearty and flavorful. It reminded me of beef stew but with Indian spices instead of bay leaves and thyme like I usually throw in mine.

Sushi
Our local grocery store has a sushi deal on Wednesdays so I picked up some for dinner and surprised Dave. We enjoyed it at a picnic table while Nora played on the playground area. I miss the raw stuff but I was a compliant pregnant woman and got shrimp instead.

Anniversary trip
I got a wood-fired personal pizza for our lunch. It was a thin crust pizza with fish, roasted corn and red peppers, avocado, and a cilantro aioli sauce drizzled on top. We got a burger from Culver’s for dinner and shared a small fry. The next morning we went to a Southwestern breakfast joint multiple friends told us to check out. My meal was homemade cornbread with a poached egg with chorizo and homemade hollandaise sauce on top and a tiny side of fruit. We packed sandwiches for lunch on the beach and I enjoyed shredded beef tacos for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.

We spent a day with Dave’s family before and after our anniversary trip. The first day we grilled burgers. I made my burger like a salad so I could enjoy an extra fruit kabob instead of a bun. Our final day with family was Dave’s 28th birthday. We made our favorite salmon dish and grilled brats. The sides were broccoli salad, fruit, and a heavenly piece of Dave’s birthday dessert: brownies topped with a chocolate gnoche frosting and crushed Oreo’s… with a scoop of ice cream, of course.

What great eats have you enjoyed lately?

Salad ideas that are delicious AND balanced

salad ideasI usually share dinners in my “What We Ate” series since breakfast and lunch are usually the same thing with slight variations. Eggs and veggies cooked in butter or coconut oil for breakfast, and our usual lunch. I didn’t start packing what I call our “monster salads” until last summer when we tried out Whole 30. It was one habit that stuck from that season and I’m thankful for it.

I’m a creature of habit and have been using the same salad dressing most of the time. You really can’t go wrong with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It’s so easy to make and literally takes one minute to put together. The toppings we usually have go really well with it but I did take a week off when we were in a cobb salad kick with homemade bleu cheese dressing. Another topping we love and I got my neighbor hooked on is roasted butternut squash. If you haven’t tried it on a salad yet, get on that.

As for toppings, I make sure the salad’s got protein, fat and carbs (I usually refer to this combination as PFC. The protein, fat, and carbs we use vary week to week but in the photo below this is how it breaks down:

monster saladProtein: Eggs & tuna
Fat: olives, balsamic dressing (on the bottom so it doesn’t make the salad soggy), the homemade mayo mixed with the tuna, and avocado. I put half of an avocado in our salads and leave it in the skin on until it’s time to eat lunch in order to prevent browning.
Carbs: greens, bell peppers, beets, bok choy

Below are a bunch of photos I’ve taken of different salad’s we’ve had. Add them to your go-to list of salad ideas. Can you identify the protein, fat, and carbs in each one?

salad varieties IMG_0364 What is your favorite salad combination?

My typical grocery list

my typical grocery listI’m not ashamed to say I’m a creature of habit when it comes to eating. Most of the time we have the same foods in our home and occasionally change things up. It makes meal planning easier when I have a list of go-to meals I know how to make by memory and I know how long it takes to make them.

I think it would be fun to browse through people’s pantry/freezer/fridge to see what they have. I’d like to say it’s because I want to get more ideas but really I’m just nosy. I shared with you what’s in our fridge, pantry and freezer so this grocery list shouldn’t be a surprise. I use the notepad app in my phone to keep a running list of groceries and I add to it as soon as I notice we’re running low. This has saved me from making an extra trip to the store because I forgot to add something to the list.

It seems like most people prefer to make a grocery list according to where items are in the store but I like to list things I need by protein, fat, and carbs since it’s how I plan our meals. Some items are on the grocery list weekly like salad greens, avocados, and more perishable items. Pantry staples make an appearance once a month or so since I get a better deal by buying bulk. If everything was low in my home that I regularly use, this is what my grocery list would look like:

Protein:
Beef (we split a beef share with friends)
Frozen cooked shrimp
Canned tuna
Canned chicken
Eggs
Full-fat Greek yogurt
Salmon burgers
Protein powder
Whole organic chicken

Fat:
Avocados
Olives
Nuts
Peanut butter (note: ingredients = peanuts & salt)
Feta
String cheese
Butter
Olive oil
Coconut oil
Coconut cream
Full-fat traditional yogurt

Carbs:
Bananas
Sweet potatoes
Canned beets
Carrots, broccoli, celery, & cauliflower for dipping in hummus
Hummus
Salad greens
Brussels sprouts for roasting
Cabbage
fruit in season (this summer: blueberries, peaches, apricots, plums…)
Oatmeal
Raisins
Frozen veggies
Ezekiel bread & wraps

How do you set up your grocery list?