[Meatless March] Week 2

My secret weapon to eating healthy and mostly at home during the week is meal planning! I literally take my grocery store receipt every week and write what we are having for dinner on the back of it every Sunday (saving paper!).

Although, typically I start the process before going shopping for the week by looking at what we already have (i.e. red lentils) to narrow down my options. This also helps ensure I’m not wasting food.

Meal planning is great because I don’t have to go rummaging through my refrigerator and cabinets at the end of the workday, trying to figure out what we have to throw together. Which would probably result in frustration and a lot more eating out.

Already knowing what we are going to have for dinner also helps me eat a balanced diet. For example, if we’re having tacos for dinner, I’ll probably skip the burrito bar at work and stick with something like a salad.

Aside from taking inventory of what I already have to help me plan weeknight dinners, I also try to generally stick to the following guidelines:

  • I typically start thinking about what grain or starch we are going to have each night (i.e.: brown rice, quinoa pasta, corn tortillas, or sourdough bread)
  • Next I figure out the vegetable – the standard lineup in our house is organic peas (my favorite!),  green beans, broccoli, some kind of lettuce, and mushrooms (and occasionally peppers)
    • More often than not, I buy peas, green beans, and broccoli frozen because they last basically forever (even though we use them up pretty fast) and Trader Joe’s has relatively cheap, organic offerings
  • Last I decide what protein and fat I’ll use – mostly this is some kind of bean or lentil with cheese or avocado
  • I’m big on variety so I rarely repeat the same meal – or kind of meal (i.e.: pasta with tomato sauce and mac n cheese) in a week*
  • I also find it helpful to account for flexibility in your plan – I usually leave Fridays as a “date night” or “order in” night but if last minute dinner plan come up during the week, I can change our “out” meal to that day; eating what we would have had that night on Friday instead
  • It’s also helpful to always have one go-to healthy meal ready to whip up quickly
    • For us, this is usually quinoa pasta with some veg + olive oil and garlic
    • I saw in the documentary series Cooked that Michael Pollan has canned salmon, frozen spinach, and whole wheat pasta on hand to make a quick, healthy meal if need be
    • Some other options could include pre-made and frozen quesadillas with hummus (makes for such a creamy, yummy quesadilla!) and a can of pinto beans or even a simple veggie frozen pizza is a good option

This week our menu looks like this:

Monday: avocado toast with sliced tomato + a spinach and mushroom salad
Tuesday: potato tacos with guac and salsa verde + chopped tomatoes and pinto beans
Wednesday: mushroom ravioli with green beans
Thursday: veggie (onion, peas, peppers, and spinach) fried rice 
Friday: out or order in

Monday

  • We had some sliced sourdough in the freezer that I need to use
  • I bought avocado and was sure to incorporate it in two dinners (Monday and Tuesday) so nothing was wasted 

Tuesday

  • I’m using the last of the tomato from Monday on our tacos

Wednesday

  • I’m actually going to dinner with a friend but we have both the mushroom ravioli (already made from TJs) and green beans frozen and ready for Mike to easily prepare 

Thursday

  • Veg fired rice is a regular contender in our house because you can use whatever veggies you have leftover or on hand, which makes for a great end of the week meal

Friday

  • Breakfast for dinner is always another great option for Fridays as it is quick, easy, and flexible 

Whats Up Moms recently made a video about meal planning that is worth checking out for some more tips. 🙂

*this is just my preference though! I’m sure repeat meals work great for other people, particularly families with busy mamas and dads.

So simple (Mexican inspired) spaghetti squash

A few years ago our good friends Gary and April moved to Los Angeles. I still haven’t gotten used to not seeing them a few times a week and miss them terribly. One of my favorite things we used to do was bi-weekly Wednesday dinners. Every other Wednesday we alternated going to one couple’s house where the host cooked and the guest brought dessert. Dinners were casual and lovely. It was nice to have something to look forward to in the middle of the work week (plus, not having to cook every other Wednesday) and great to have a built in day to hang out and catch up.

If you have friends that live nearby, I definitely recommend starting this tradition with them!

Now (sadly!!) to see Gary and April we have to put in effort and planning but we have started a new tradition of visiting them in LA every year for 4th of July – which certainly doesn’t make up for all of the time we don’t see them but at least we have one weekend a year where we know the four of us will get together again.

During our first 4th of July visit, Gary woke up early and reserved us a perfect spot at their pool, complete with umbrellas and couches to lounge on in between dips. We spent the whole day outside, alternating between lazily laying around and splashing in the pool. We ate, drank, laughed, and played. It was perfect. But, after all of that time in the sun (and all of those beers!), we were beat and opted out of plans to go to a nearby street fair. Instead we stayed in and April made this AMAZING pasta dish that inspired my dinner tonight. In short, she added cooked bell peppers, garlic, onions, zucchini, asparagus and grilled chicken to pasta and tossed everything in olive oil and cilantro. So simple and so good! I love recipes that you can easily add and subtract to and from which is exactly what I did tonight.

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Spaghetti squash FTW
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#dinner

You’ll notice I used the left over black beans and corn from yesterday’s dinner and I’m sticking with my Herb of the Week, cilantro. Also, no cheese!!

I hope you try this dish and maybe even have it at your own bi-weekly dinner with friends 🙂


Mexican Inspired Spaghetti Squash

Prep time: 10 minutes – Cook time: 40 minutes – Serves: 2

Ingredients 

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 c black beans
  • 1/2 c corn
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs cilantro (garnish)
  • 2 Tbs green chilies (optional)

Directions

  • Cut spaghetti squash in half, scoop out seeds, bake hallow side down* for 35 minutes at 350 degrees
  • While squash is baking, sauté garlic in olive oil until translucent
  • Add black beans, corn, and green chilies – stir
  • Keep on low heat until squash is ready (you can also prep the spaghetti squash before and heat it back up in the sauce to save on time)
  •  When squash is tender to forks touch, “shred” it
  • Incorporate squash into beans and corn
  • Top with cilantro
  • Enjoy!

*I usually put a little bit of water in my baking dish to keep the squash from crisping up


#VegOut

♡ Ashley