August 10, 2013

Thursday Meal Planning

Thursdays have become one of my favorite days of the week. For starters, it's this close to being the weekend (which I surprisingly still look forward to even though I'm not working anymore). And Thursday afternoons, Lola and I trek over to St. Louis Park to pick up our weekly crop share delivery. And then Thursday nights I happily sit down with a pile of cookbooks and magazines and do our meal planning for the next week.

I love meal planning. Although it sometimes takes on a life of its own. As I've told you a zillion times before, I get completely overwhelmed with all of the recipes floating around out there. The cookbooks. Pinterest. Random tweets I try to remember. Things I've heard people talk about. Things my mom has been making. There are a lot of possibilities.

I get on major tangents. Like this week, I grabbed a piece of paper and started jotting down Fall recipes that I came across and didn't want to forget. I have multiple pieces of paper like this that honestly I lose track of: random foods particularly good for Lola, toddler snack ideas, Summer-esque recipes, things that I think would be particularly blog-worthy, things to make for certain friends. I really must come up with a better system. The former 9-to-5-er in me tells me I should create a spreadsheet but...that doesn't feel inspiring. So for now I'll pretend that I'll actually keep track of my random pieces of paper and use them.

But this week, the menu was really crafted around the veggies that came in our share: zucchini, eggplant, summer squash, basil, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, dill, cilantro, watermelon, and a couple of tomatoes.

It's like a game, menu planning. Strategizing how you'll use what you have or what's in season. Working with a budget, so being smart about making things that utilize at least some similar ingredients. Figuring out what we want to eat and making sure most of it is Lola-friendly (particularly that she can chew it with her two little bottom chompers and two barely-there-incoming uppers). Making sure that the week looks balanced for Lola nutritionally.

Meal planning is working for us big time. There are no questions about what to make early in the am when she's demanding her first square. We have what we need in the house to make lunch (a big challenge I learned since being home all day). We have enough snacks in the house. We all each much better because of it.

It's all good.

This week, I'm most excited for the chicken salad I'm making for our lunches with yogurt and tons of fresh herbs, the fish tacos with homemade tortillas and salsa, and Thursday's tomato toasts (thick grilled slices of Rustica bread rubbed with garlic, ripe tomato, and topped with serrano ham and manchego). Oh, and the brown rice pudding that I'm going to make for snack time. And the cheese crackers.

This week is going to be a good week.

August 8, 2013

Can't Be Beat Beets

One of the things that I'm loving about our crop share this summer is that I get to make vegetables that Zach doesn't like without feeling guilty about it.

Take beets, for example. Zach hates beets. He thinks they taste like the earth (um, yes, they do, but in a great way). So, I never made them much before even though I loved them. I just felt like a jerk serving them for dinner when I knew he hated them.

But because we get beets fresh from the farm and I have no control over getting them, I'm loving it.

So I made sure I got the most out of the latest bunch of beets. I went through my cookbooks, my Pinterest boards, my mental list of beet recipes and landed on this Martha Stewart one: Roasted Beets with Mint Yogurt Sauce. It's a perfect summer veggie recipe. The vegetables are roasted and adorned with a light, healthy, super flavorful sauce. It feels kind of special, but it's so easy. And so healthy.

I never had much luck roasting beets before. I mean, they turned out fine, but they were never stellar. They always seemed to get dry and chewy on the edges. The method MS outlines worked perfectly. The beets got roasted in a baking dish in the oven with foil covering them. And then after they cooled a bit, I easily wiped the skins off with a paper towel and cut them in big chunks, leaving tender, beautiful jewel-like pieces.

And then the yogurt sauce: yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, and mint. Four of my favorite ingredients.

For a while, I was actually hopeful that Zach would actually like them. But no.

And Lola? Another no. But hers got rinsed off and blended into her smoothie the next day. So, ha.

And hey, there were more for me. So there was that.