Friday, January 30, 2015

What we ate in January

I finally don't feel like a stranger in the kitchen anymore after this month and it feels so good to get back in there and explore. I've not only been able to reclaim my kitchen and some old stand by meals that have become staples, but I'm so thankful that my little goober is letting me try a bunch of new recipes as well. This little guy likes flavors and spices and seems pretty happy with what I've been able to work out over the last month and I'm grateful to see COLOR and VEGGIES in our meals once more.

I'm feeling great and by cooking more from scratch the scale has been my friend so far as I've entered into third trimester land.  (I even got a high five from my doctor at my last visit for only gaining 2-3 lbs in a month which was my appointment goal and far better than the 8 or so that happened the month before!!)

The only snag has been my new work schedule which started a couple months ago. I work 8-5pm four days a week now and 11-7pm on Saturdays... and while I've finally adjusted to sleeping in a bit and not automatically sitting awake in bed at 4am, SCB still gets up at 5:30 am for work... and since he's a 7-4 pm kind of guy, he's normally home by 4:30 pm or 5:00 pm starving for dinner since he's in charge of making his lunch for the day... and I don't get home until around 5:30 with all the stupid stop lights. (I'm only about 10 miles away from my work, but it still takes me 20-30 minutes to get home because of all the traffic lights at 5 pm...sigh....)

Now I've always been a morning person. Sleeping in has always been 7, maybe 8 am max, even while pregnant... So this month I tried something new and I've been getting up at 6 am so I can prep, chop, or pre-do dinner so it only takes me 20-30 minutes to get in on plates by the time I get home... and THIS HAS BEEN A LIFE SAVER because we aren't eating at 7pm and when I'm tired from work and don't want to cook, its less daunting because all the prep-work has been done! It's just toss it in the oven, or cook it in a pan and everything is measured and assembled as much as humanly possible. 

So what have we been eating?
In an effort to really cook from scratch to save us some money, I've been going though some blogs and Pinterest to get a few ideas. I made a whole chicken in a crock-pot from one of my new favorite food blogs... 100 days of Real Food... It was pretty darn tasty. Now it wasn't like a rotisserie chicken from Costco since those are roasted and tend to get a bit crispy and awesome on top... but for cooking it from home in a crock-pot it was definitely a winner.

Since I bought two organic chickens from Costco earlier this month, we still have another whole chicken in the freezer which I plan to use next month to revisit a recipe I tried in December that I loved (a good spicy chicken enchilada soup).

So what did that roasted chicken become? After I took the chicken out of the crock pot, I shredded everything and made a really large chicken salad for dinner for me and SCB put his Chicken into some flour tortillas for an impromptu chicken taco dinner meal since he isn't big on salads as a main dish... but its nice that I can plan a salad for me as long as he can get some kind of taco fixings for him.

After dinner, I finished shredding the chicken and I decided to toss all the bones and skin back into the crock pot with the juices from the chicken and made some homemade stock in my crock pot. Since I've been looking for new recipes and cooking more, I found a few that call for some type of stock and if I'm paying so much already for a whole organic chicken, you can bet I'm going to get everything I can out of that expensive sucker... including stock.

The majority of the rest of the Chicken went into my homemade chicken enchiladas... which we paired with crock-pot re-fried beans...  Over all I found I preferred the enchiladas as leftovers... SCB asked me to leave them blander than normal... so I didn't put in the green chili's I normally would have.... and in my opinion it was sad unflavored event).... But it did make for a few lunches and dinners so the fact that it gave me a kitchen reprieve during the busier days of the week was welcomed... and it also helped that SCB did help me get through the leftovers as well because they were more suited to his "pallet" of blandness....

We also ended up using the leftover re-fried beans to make some homemade bean and cheese burritos for dinner for some busy nights since we had 3 hour pregnancy classes that started right after work almost, so a quick and easy became a nice motto for Monday night dinners.  Next time I make the beans I'm going to freeze half the batch since we tended to get sick of burritos before we could finish them off and ended up chucking some out... and in hindsight it would be nice to have some on hand to avoid opening a can of re-fried beans for just a side dish since SCB now thinks the can ones aren't that great anymore.

Some of the rest of the shredded chicken also made it to a couple of salads for me to take with me to work during the week too so it was $11 well spent for an organic chicken!

Later in the month I took some of that homemade chicken stock and made some homemade tomato bisque soup....

Now I will be honest... SCB will not eat tomato soup at all, let alone for dinner... So when I wanted to try this recipe out, I knew I was going to need to be creative. The week before I actually had made some homemade Broccoli Cheese Soup which was so tasty with homemade bread and yielded a HUGE pot that after leaving a couple portions for lunches for the week, I was able to freeze some containers of soup.. The soup was so good, SCB told me to make it a regular rotation. (Win!) So since I wanted to try the tomato soup recipe, I just pulled some broccoli cheese out of the freezer for him and I asked him to just try mine at some point during the meal... The verdict?

He will now eat tomato soup... because of that recipe... and I feel like I won an amazing battle in the kitchen because I LOVE TOMATO soup and now I can have it without making 2 separate dinners! Give a man a choice and a back up and you will be surprised what they will actually try! The best kitchen rule we ever made was if I make something and its too gross to eat, he always had permission to tell me the truth and go buy a $5 pizza from Little Caesars instead... and to this date, I think he's only had to do that 2 or 3 times in 3.5 years of marriage and one time I told him not to bother trying dinner cause I thought it was gross and made the pizza call myself!

What's great about both of the soup recipes is that they yield enough for us to have dinner that night and put around 4-6 containers of soup into the fridge or the freezer for meals and lunches (that's 4 total dinners worth)! With the baby coming around the corner, you can sure bet each time I make it I'm dating and labeling containers for quick dinners for the chest freezer.

Now not everything we ate was as complicated and totally from scratch or a brand new recipe.

Some of our favorite standbys made it back onto our plates. We made "korean beef" which is one of those meals that I enjoy and SCB tolerates since he's not a big Asian fan...

"Laura Pasta", which is always a favorite for SCB that I'm not too thrilled with but since he's a casserole man at heart I make sure to make it for him occasionally when he's needing a lunch time swap for his peanut butter and honey sandwiches ...(yup, most weeks he takes leftovers or peanut butter and honey sandwiches to work).

Tuna Melts became a Sunday staple tradition as I created a new house rule that SCB has to take care of feeding the family on Sundays to give me a day off since I feed the family the other 6 days out of the week...

Now the first week was a little hard on him because he expected me to help be his kitchen buddy and chopper... but now he understands how much I appreciate this "gift" on Sunday so he takes care of making them and I don't complain about eating them and they are always tasty on homemade bread :) especially when you get to sit on the couch while they are being made.

Shrimp Pea Pasta came back into action as another of hubby's favorite meals... (I swear I spread the pasta options out more throughout the month)... Its a pretty simple dish to make... Greek yogurt, peas, shrimp, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper...

Spinach Bites are always a hit and tend to make it into the meal plan at least twice a month and are great for lunch leftovers since I tend to use more onion and spinach than the recipe calls for to help stretch everything out and get a few more bites. (again, these become the main entree... if we want more than just the bites and milk for dinner, we heat up a baked potato or something).

Broccoli Fritters also get mixed in at least twice a month as a main entree. It helps that Broccoli is the one vegetable my husband never complains about eating and I have to thank his mom for that one!

Hubs also asked me to try and make a homemade Macaroni and cheese...  While it was pretty tasty, I didn't have sharp cheddar so I used the Colby jack we had in the house so it wasn't as cheesy but it made the cut and next time I make it I'll make sure we have some sharp cheese in the house!

To help keep me sane, I generally would do one week of meals that were different and required more prep and effort and I would follow it with a week of less cooking by doing a casserole type meal or a pasta that would yield more leftovers so I could rest up a bit. I found it really helped me to be "super and awesome" for a week and do more veggie centered dinners that took more time so the next week I could be lazy and get by with pasta and a couple of days of "leftovers"...

We did try one more new recipe and I loved it and SCB tolerated it... but agreed to eat it as long as their were "side" dishes like his favorite mash potatoes... or other things like Zucchini strings... but all hail Parmesan Cauliflower Bites!!!
Now I didn't have 100% of the correct spices, and it didn't seem to matter, but these were tasty goodness and it got another veggie into our home that I had pretty much given up on after a disaster with my last cauliflower recipe...

Mix in a few things like Meatballs, date nights, and some frozen fish and veggies from our freezer stash and you have a pretty good idea what we managed to eat and cook in January for dinner.

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