Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Holy Hades, Batman!

Just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any hotter or more miserable, it goes and gets even hotter and more miserable. I'm seriously contemplating setting up a kiddie pool in my living room!

Last night dinner was very simple, a quickly grilled steak, couscous pilaf and some sauteed veggies. Tonight I couldn't even handle that, wound up making hot dogs for dinner, ugh, I'll be tasting those for days to come, yucky!

I am still having so much trouble keeping basic ingredients in the house, between my crazy work schedule and having no time to shop, and my crazy offensive lineman 14 year old who would eat a block of cheese or drink a gallon of milk if left alone with it for any time. Again tonight I was rushing to the grocery store to shop 10 minutes before it closed. Making the meal plan is the easy part for me, getting to the store, finding everything I need, and having it all fit in my budget, that's my biggest problem right now.

Tomorrow night's dinner plan will be Farmer Sausage, Cabbage and Apples baked in the crock pot, with perogies cooked up fresh after football practice. Thursday night's dinner will be the Lentil Soup that I made a few weeks ago with rice and chorizo sausage that O loved so much. If I wind up actually making these, I will post the recipes. It's supposed to cool off tomorrow for a few days, but if it stays this hot, neither of us will want to eat anything hot, so I'll have to rethink my plan, again. I'm hoping it cools off enough to bake up some muffins to freeze, as well. It's been so long since I've had some fresh, homemade baking, and paying $1.75 for a muffin at the organic bakery up the street just feels crazy, especially when I know I can make them better for cheaper. I'd like to experiment with some carrot-apple muffins with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and maybe a good lemon-blueberry muffin.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Well, I did wind up making the pizza after work last night, at 11:30 at night, tired as hell, but O was, as usual, huuuuuungry, even though I brought home a chicken burger for him. He really enjoyed last night's pizza, asking me what was on it. Here's how I made it this time:

Quick Pizza
1 lb whole wheat pizza dough (bought from the Italian grocery)
1/4 cup Hunt's tomato sauce I use Hunt's because it's easy to find and cheap, use whatever you have in tomato sauce terms
1/2 tsp each fennel seeds, basil and oregano
1/4 large white onion, sliced thin
1/4 large red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out pizza dough to desired thickeness (1lb will give a thick round pizza, a thinner 11x7 pizza, or two thin pizzas on cookie sheets.) Spread tomato sauce in thin layer, sprinkle on herbs, top with vegetables and cheeses, except parmesan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, top with parmesan cheese.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rethinking my meal plans

Been eating a bunch of sandwiches or eating from the buffet at work lately, my work pants aren't fitting too well, and O has somehow managed to put on 10lbs after a week of football practice, so it looks like I'll be doing some (shudder) low fat cooking for the next little while.

With that in mind, dinner tonight will be... Pizza (yeah, but it's homemade, so it won't be that bad)

I bought a lb of whole wheat pizza dough at the local Italian specialty shop last night (I went for tortellini and spent $30, better than usual, though!), and have some feta, ricotta, mozza and a little tub of mini-mini bocconchini, along with a leftover hot italian sausage and lots of veggies to put on the pizza, so it should be yummy.

Breakfast today was Shreddies with milk and a bit of sugar. Still not sure what lunch will be. My appetite is pretty low lately, while O is never full, so food has not been the happiest subject for me this week. I think I will leave it up to O to make himself something healthy and filling, I'll grab some soup at work before the crowd comes in.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wednesday's Plan

Yet another football practice tonight (2 days into the season and I'm worn out, and I'm not even playing!) Tonight's dinner will be a quickly grilled or seared round steak with the quinoa salad leftover from last night's dinner. I'm not getting too fancy at all today.

Breakfast will most likely be very, very simple, toast and an egg. The lunch I have planned is a peanut-butter sandwich with grated apple and carrot and a dab of honey mixed into the peanut butter, along with some veggie sticks and dip, but I'm not really feeling that right now.

We're going to go to the Y for some swimming and much needed air conditioning, then I'll see what I feel like when we get home. Maybe a pita pizza, or some hot dogs. I know I've vowed not to buy any more food this week, other than milk or eggs, but I'm not sure if I could stand another sandwich this week, and I sure as hell can take anything heated up for lunch. It's supposed to be over 40C this afternoon (for any Yanks out there, in Farenheit that's "Ohmygoditsfreakinghot" above.)

Greek Quinoa Salad

I made one of my standard, fall back recipes last night for dinner, the Greek Quinoa Salad, this version had black beans and no olives, cause I couldn't find any in the cupboard. O wolfed his bowl down and went back for seconds, as usual.

1 cup quinoa, uncooked
rinse in cool water in a strainer for at least a minute, to remove the bitter saponin layer, allow to drip dry a bit. Put it in a pot with a tight lid with 2 cups water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the endosperm has uncoiled in a spiral and all the water has been absorbed. Fluff and let cool.

When cool, add to quinoa:
1/4 small red onion, chopped
1/2 english or 1 regular cucumber, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 tin black olives, sliced
1/2 cup to 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tin chick peas, rinsed well

juice of 1 lemon
3 times as much extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
1-4 crushed garlic cloves
whisk well to blend before adding to salad.

This makes a large salad that would serve at least 6-8 people as a side dish, or 3-4 people as a main dish. I make this for O and I and then we have at least one leftover lunch, or a really, really filling bedtime snack. This makes a really great side dish for fish, or chicken breast, but it's complete enough to eat as a meal by itself.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Recipe for Cheesy Veggie Chowder

Here's the soup I made last night, a variation on my standard recipe, using what I had on hand. This one turned out fantastic, the whole apartment smelled fantastic when we came home from football. This is what I used for this batch, but it's an enormously variable recipe.

1/2 white onion (yellow onions are fine, I just like the sweetness of the white onion)
10 chopped baby carrots (again, whole carrots would be fine, use 1 or 2, I just couldn't find the peeler)
2 stalks celery, chopped, with leaves (the leaves have the most flavour)
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 small head of broccoli, chopped
1 russet potato, chopped (any potato is fine, russets are starchier and thicken soup nicely) 2 cups chicken broth (veggie broth is fine too)
1/2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried basil

I put the above ingredients in the crock pot on high for 4 hours (the time it took to get ready for football, attend the practice and get home, the timing worked out great.)

When we got home I added:
1 cup whole milk (give or take, I don't measure these kinds of things)
and then blended it all with the wand blender. If the soup seems too thick for you, add more milk, I added more at the table just to cool it off. After the milk, I added:
150grams old cheddar, grated (again, I didn't measure, I used about half the block, you can add more or less to taste) and
1 tsp salt

This soup will take just about any cheese nicely, and you can vary the flavour of the soup by varying the veggies and cheese you use. I like to add chopped, fresh spinach to this, in winter you could use cauliflower, cabbage, sweet potatoes, etc. Blue Cheese, Gouda, Swiss or any kind of smoked cheese is nice in this too. Potato, mushroom, onion, broccoli and swiss cheese is a really nice fall combo. Zucchini, tomato, spinach or other greens with mozzarela is a nice summer kind of dish. There are pretty well an infinite amount of variations, I just start with a base of onions, carrots, celery and potato in chicken broth, and add the dairy at the end to prevent curdling, everything else is variable.

And now introducing Plan C

It's still so hot around here, the meals I had planned for the week seem so heavy so now I'm revising the meal plan for the week again.

Last night I did make the veggie chowder, as planned, but didn't wind up making the Quinoa salad. O was not nearly as hungry as I feared he would be, so the soup was enough. He made himself a cheese melt later on in the evening, not the best choice, given his current weight (310 as of last Friday), but he'll burn loads of calories this week, so I relented.

I decided the Spanish Rice Casserole in the crock pot would just feel like lead in my stomach this week. We had it for dinner last week too, and, even though it's one of O's favorites, I thought I'd make the Quinoa Salad for tonights dinner, much more of a hot-day kind of meal, and it's portable. I was starving by the end of practice last night, it was too hot to eat much during the day, and will probably be just as hungry tonight. Turns out that it's not O I have to worry about feeding this week!

For lunch today I didn't plan ahead well, and wound up picking up something at the little lunch store in the overpass. I've promised myself I wouldn't, it's a great little place and they do have healthy options for quite cheap (today's lunch was a turkey on whole wheat sandwich, milk, satsuma and a sesame snack) but it's still an unecessary expense, I can just as easily pack up my lunch at home, with a little effort. O wound up finishing the loaf of bread last night, I didn't think we'd go through it so fast, so I'll have to put another one on in the bread machine as soon as I get home. Hopefully O has finished the dishes like I asked (not much luck on that one, he's pretty sleepy after practice last night, and has 4 more this week, yeesh!)

Later on tonight, if it's cooled down enough, I will hopefully make some apple-carrot muffins. I don't have a recipe, I'm wanting to do some experimentation on good, high-fibre muffins to freeze. Tomorrow, I had to do lots of housework and pick up a rotisserie chicken, but given how hard it is right now even to just tidy up, winding up with me out of breath and dripping with sweat at the least effort, I might just ditch that plan, get down to the air-conditioned Y for some exercise and put together a composed salad with what I have in the fridge and cupboard.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It all happened so fast...

One day I had the world's pickiest toddler, the insanely-food hating pre-schooler, the 6 year old who wouldn't eat anything green because the girl who sat next to him in grade one told him green food is all poison, next day I have a teenager who will eat, quite literally, anything. A football playing calorie consumption machine who eats cereal out of a mixing bowl and will ask me things like "Mom, can I eat a loaf of bread?" with a straight face.

I spent years teaching myself how to make delicate little dishes to tempt my little food snob. I thought I had this stuff down pat, and I felt pretty good about myself. Now I'm having to learn new skills. Namely, how to keep enough food in my kid to keep him from, oh, say, defrosting a ham for himself cause he was "huuuuungry".

Today I found a great recipe for a leftover pasts frittata. A few years ago this would have been a lifesaver, but I realised I won't get to use it for years to come because leftover pasta is a mythical entity around here. I'll go to bed confident that tomorrow's meals are taken care of, and wake up to discover that my hungry teen has eaten a pound of pasta, or half a chicken, or the fixings for all next weeks lunch, in pieces, first 1/2 lb of sliced deli meat, then maybe a 1/4 lb of cheese, then the whole loaf of bread, and maybe a 1/2 cup of pesto to wash the whole thing down. Funny how he's always thoughtful enough to leave me the vegetables, though!

I'm going to have to figure out a whole new way of cooking, if I'm going to keep up both fed and sane, until O's insane growth spurt comes to an end (7 inches since Christmas! where will it all end!) I'm going to have to figure out how to fit in a daily grocery shop (almost always necessary) with food prep, and my work time, O's homeschooling time, and, maybe, wishful thinking, a bit of a life for myself!

One thing that is has to come to an end is all the take out food, subs and pitas, frozen pizzas, greasy spoon breakfasts, and potato chips for dinner that we've been doing lately. I've gained 15 lbs in the last few months, after fighting so hard for so long to lose 25 of my hypothyroid pounds.

Well, on to Plan B

It's so freaking hot out right now, and I'm soooo tired that we wound up just eating a bagel for dinner last night. I had a horrible day earlier, just trying to get a 4 litre of milk. The local grocery store is not the most careful with it's stuff and I twice bought milk that was spoiled and had to return it. To make matters worse, the front door of our building was vandalised last night and so I couldn't go back in through it, and had to circle the building to go in the back door, and the elevator is out again, so I had to walk 5 flights of stairs 3 times, just to get the damn milk. With the humidity, it was about 44 above out, that's 111F, yikes. I wound up dripping in sweat and had a 20 minute heart palpitation attack (I get these if I'm overheated, my heart beats about 280 beats a minute.) All together, it just wore me out, so much for my vow to get more active this week. I wound up fast asleep for 4 hours and dinner is no where to be seen.

So, Plan B for today:

Bump todays menu to tomorrow, start the bread in the bread machine as soon as I get home from work at 3pm or so, and start the soup in the crockpot at the same time. I will try to make the quinoa salad when we get hom from the practice, but I have a feeling that bread and soup will be enough.

For tonight:

We'll have the packaged asian salad I bought yesterday, and a mocha ricotta mousse for dessert to pump up the protein a bit. So far today I've only been able to manage a couple of bowls of raisin bran.

Planning for a crazy, busy week

O starts his football practices this week, with at least 4-2 hour practices a week for three weeks. I work as a manager in an event-driven restaurant, so I can adjust my work hours to fit my life, to a certain extent, but with all the hiring I have to do in the next two weeks, and the upcoming concerts, it's going to be a pretty tight fit.

We've been eating so bad lately, between my hectic schedule and the heat wave we got going on right now, we've been eating way too many hot dogs and potato chip dinners, not to mention the cost of take out and convenience food is killing me. I've gotta get back on track with my meal planning and home cooking, and here's where I will be trying to kick my butt a bit to keep me on track.

It's supposed to be at least +35 almost every day this week. I don't have air conditioning in my 5th floor apartment, so I'll be putting all my ingenuity into figuring out how to make breakfast, lunch and dinner without turning on the oven, and, hopefully, the stove. I'll be making heavy duty use of my bread maker, crock pot, and toaster oven, and we'll probably be having some antipasti and dip meals this week.

So, here's the plan so far:

Monday - I'll be at work early (for me, 9am) and at work all day. O has to be at football practice by 5 pm and needs to be as hydrated as possible and needs to have a large meal after every practice to prevent cumulative fatigue. Tomorrow night I plan on making a Cheesy Vegetable Chowder in the crock pot, a large batch of Quinoa Greek Salad and a loaf of Semolina Country Bread in the bread machine, and save enough leftovers for Monday nights dinner. This is a standard fall back meal for me, I'll post the recipes during the week.