Monday, January 23, 2012

meal planning (part the second)

Okay, so I walked you through my basics for setting up my meal-planning chart a week ago, and now I'm back to tell you about how I fnish it and execute. 

Some people only make a loose meal plan where they schedule dinners, but leave other meals and snacks up in the air.  I have tried this approach and it makes me feel a little out of control.  Plus it doesn't really help with the whole grocery purchasing aspect.  So, I plan everything.  Now whether I stick to that plan or not - who knows?  But at least I have a plan.  I have something to fall back on, or check in on when I feel that the week is spinning out too fast. 

Something else I have to contend with is the fact that my husband works a very irregular schedule (restaurant industry), and I have frequent night meetings as part of my ministry.  So, this week, for instance, I have something Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights.  This means I don't have four hours to make dinner on those nights.  Oh, and add to that a full week of office hours as well (except Thursday, my day off).  Sigh.  Now I'm depressed thinking about that.

Okay, back to menu planning.  Once I've got the dinners all scheduled in, I look at whether I have any lunch meetings planned for the week.  If so, then I'll think about the menu at the restaurant where we're going and try to get a loose idea of what I might eat, so the proteins stay balanced.  If I'm just going to be doing a quick lunch break at home I usually plan to eat a sandwich or a salad.  We don't have a microwave, so anything requiring a long heat-up time is pretty much out.  This salad is one of my favorites for a quick lunch. 

And then, finally, breakfasts and snacks.  I discovered several months ago that my body doesn't like grains in the morning.  They make me feel sluggish and foggy.  Before that I had been on a long kick of steel-cut oats (they help milk production), and then after that a long kick of buttered toast.  While both of these things are highly tasty and filling, they just weren't making me feel my best at the start of a long day.  I tend to eat the same thing every morning for long stretches of time (like a month or so) before I get sick of it.  It just takes the guesswork out of mornings and I love the comfort of a routine.  One thing I ALWAYS have in the morning is coffee and milk (as long as there is time to grind and brew it).  I believe I described my beloved Bialetti in a blog ode here.  I used to be a one-cup gal, and then I had a baby.  Now I drink two strong cups in the morning, with plenty of whole milk.  Since my epiphany about grains, I had been having apples and peanut butter for breakfast.  I recently discovered I have borderline hypothyroidism, so I'm trying to avoid goitrogenic foods (i.e. things that can aggravate this condition).  Peanuts are one of them!  So I guess it will be almond butter from hereonout. 

I also need to do a whole paragraph about eggs.  Since pregnancy and the Brewer diet, I have considered eggs a staple in my diet.  Especially when I can get my hands on pastured, free-range chicken eggs (hard in the winter since they are usually in moult), I eat a lot of them.  Since my newest epiphany about goitrogenic foods, I've been having two scrambled eggs every morning.  I know, I know - the cholesterol-phobes would have you think that's too many.  However, I had a lipid panel about a month ago as part of my ordination paperwork (you have no idea how invasive those questions are), and my numbers were perfect.  I have my own theories on why heart disease occurs, but I'll keep my quackery to myself for now!

I've been awfully tangent-y this morning, but it boils down to this:  scrambled eggs with coffee and milk for breakfast; fruit, nuts, cheese, crackers for snacks; salads and sandwiches (or maybe leftover soup) for lunch.  Amen. 

Here's my method for scrambled eggs:

2 eggs (try to get pasture-fed - the yolks will be an incredible color you've never seen before!)
splash of whole milk or cream
shredded cheese (optional)
salt and pepper

Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the milk or cream.  Mix up with a fork until it's a uniform color and texture.  Add the cheese to the mixture if you're using it.  Melt a teaspoon or two of butter into a small skillet over medium heat (I don't do non-stick.  Teflon scares me and I don't want it in my body). Once the butter stops bubbling, add the egg mixture.  Use a rubber spatula to stir continually until you reach the doneness you desire.  My husband likes them more runny, I like them more solid.  Add salt and pepper just before you put them on a plate and enjoy!

Friday, January 20, 2012

object permanence

While Vicki Jo has had a lot of variation on the "typical" developmental milestones (usually she just lags a bit on large motor - fine motor, language and social are all there!), there is one that has hit us full-force, just when they said it would:  separation anxiety. 

Like clockwork, when I place her in Dad's arms, she begins to whimper and reach her arms out to me.  He says that when I leave the house there's usually about ten minutes of dismay before she resigns herself to the situation.  We try to brush it off and just tell her that she's fine, but she won't be convinced.  I do feel kind of bad for poor Jeff, as he has gotten the cold shoulder pretty steadily for the last month or so.

My understanding of this emotional state is that she thinks that when I disappear from sight, I am gone forever.  She does not yet understand that objects or people can continue to exist when they are not visible.  "Seeing is believing," I suppose, is an easier way to summarize this.

So, with this latest development causing considerable angst in our household, I was very excited to see that Vicki's grandmother and great-grandmother had gotten her an object permanence box for Christmas!  The object permanence box is a Montessori infant material that addresses the very concept I described above.  You drop the small white ball through the round hole, and it reappears below in the tray.  The infant begins to understand that objects may disappear momentarily, but will continue to exist.  

I was unsure if Vicki would "get it," because she hasn't had great luck in fitting back together her peg or egg in a cup, and hasn't really shown any interest in another shape sorter we have.  But amazingly, she figured it out right away!  She watched me demonstrate a couple of times, then grabbed the ball straightaway and dropped it through the hole.  She seemed mystified as to its reappearance in the tray, but I think she is working out the concept as she does it more and more.

This Montessori stuff truly is revolutionary.  So grateful I've got family and friends who are willing to support my obsession with their gifts!

Monday, January 16, 2012

meal planning! (part one)

I go through various phases with meal planning all the time.  In theory, I love it because it helps me make a grocery list that is precise (especially with a little one, getting in and out of the grocery store in short order is a priority!), helps take the guesswork out of "what's for dinner tonight?", and keeps me on track nutritionally.  But that is all in theory, because I married a man who loves spontaneity and frequently takes me along for the ride.  So about half the time our plan is abandoned, the green beans go bad before I can cook them, and we eat Chinese on the living room floor.

And that's okay.  I learned to be alright with this long ago, and to love this side of my husband because he jolts me out of my rigidity.  Sometimes I can be a little too routine-bound.  I have trouble "thinking outside the box," I might say in a job interview. 

But I'm back to planning for the new year, because our food budget got a little out of control.  I'm trying to restrict meals out (or takeout brought in) to four per week (about twenty percent of total meals per week). 

Generally I just make a Word document and drop in a table with six rows and eight columns.  Days of the week go across the top and three meals and two snacks go down the side.  Sunday after church is always a meal eaten out or brought home with us, because the thought of cooking after my crazy Sunday mornings is totally repulsive - plus we're starving at that point.

After that I fill in the dinners.  I usually try to balance the proteins we have like this:  chicken a few times, fish a few times, red meat once or twice, beans or legumes once or twice.  Then I go to our list of favorites and just pick a few:

-  beef, black bean, or chicken soft tacos with tortillas, cheese, sour cream, salsa, avocado, lettuce (one of these days I just might share my homemade taco seasoning recipe with you!)
-  wholegrain pasta with ground beef and tomato sauce, salad with homemade dressing
-  my special chicken stirfry with veggies and brown rice
roast chicken and veggies and mashed potatoes, salad with homemade dressing
steak or salmon with vegetable, starch and salad with homemade dressing
-  pork tenderloin with apples, roast potatoes and cabbage

I fill in each night on the chart first, and begin to make my grocery list from those meals.  Next Munchee Monday, stay tuned and find out how I fit in lunch, breakfast, and snacks.  If you'd like to nab my meal planning worksheet, click here.  It's nothing fancy, but it does what it's meant to do! 

And as an added bonus, find my stirfry sauce recipe below:

Honey-Glazed Chicken Stirfry
2 T honey
2 T white vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
2 T orange juice
4 t soy sauce
1 1/2 t cornstarch

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  After browning 2 C vegetables in a very hot skillet with a little oil, remove vegetables and add 8 oz chicken (cut into strips).  Stir constantly until cooked through.  Add sauce and stir until thickened.  Add vegetables back into skillet.  Serve immediately over hot brown rice.