Work-Week Day Meals

31 Mon, 2011 § 2 Comments

I am a fan of planning, especially when it comes to food; otherwise I am left standing, staring blankly, in the kitchen…usually snacking while I debate over options.  If it is unplanned, to-go lunches we are talking about, I end up rummaging in haste the morning of…& likely do not take enough nourishment with me.  You do not want me hungry; ask Dave.

My lunch planning is two fold:

1.  Create a flexible yet solid daytime meal outline, meaning I list my options/desired meals even if not the exact day I will have these.  I also try to account for weekend preparation at this point & dinners I want to make extra for leftovers.

2.  Plan & prep the night before.

This week, some of my options include

  • dolmas salad
  • buckwheat groats
  • roasted beets, sweet potato
  • leftover lentils
  • leftover chili
  • bok choy with chickpeas
  • lentil-walnut burgers
  • leafy salads
  • fruit

This includes breakfast, snacks & lunch, which to me are interchangeable; I have become someone who does not have to have breakfast foods for breakfast.  Sometimes leftovers are just too perfect, & it is what my body wants.  I might have something small, like a protein smoothie or simply lemon water, for a bit of energy before leaving the house; if I bike, I usually eat after the ride to avoid feeling sick.  I am also ok with most things at room temp or just warm but do not care for piping-hot leftovers.

On Sunday, I made barley & tossed ingredients for deconstructed dolmas & could have made the buckwheat groats as well, but waited until Monday morning to simmer these, stirring a little molasses in at the end of cooking.

*Quick note on grains: I like to switch them up & eat a variety.  By buying bulk, I can get only what I need at a time.  Though I have my favorites, I try to alternate each time I visit the store.  Instead of your usual oats, try buckwheat groats or farro.

Back to Sunday.  I premixed my buckwheat porridge mix-ins by toasting 3/4 C pistachios then tossing them with 1/8 tsp all spice, 1/8 tsp nutmeg & 1/4 tsp cinnamon.  This will keep ~1 week.  The night before I dish my cooked groats into my tiffin; in the morning I add some nuts, dried apricots from the fridge I chopped in advance & a spoonful of pomegranate seeds [also de-seeded over the weekend].

Mid-morning snack: check.

Over the weekend, we had a big batch of chili waiting in the slow-cooker.  This meant our post-bouldering starvation would be satisfied with [vegan]chili dogs AND leftover chili would serve as delicious, hardy lunches during the [snowy]week.  Big batches can always be frozen for later consumption too.

Dave was also really smart in his planning & bought an extra tilapia fillet he baked with our fishy, Sunday dinner, so he could make himself a fish sandwich for lunch.

We have ample greens & legumes for salads, veggies to roast when making dinner throughout the week — including kale chips for snacking — & seasonal fruit like oranges from our CSA & a good-sized bundle of apples I snagged.

As for the Deconstructed Dolmas, it is quick to throw together & yummy.  I am anxious to deconstruct further.

Rinse & add 1 C pearled barley [or grain of choice] to 2 C boiling water; reduce heat, cover & simmer 30 – 40 minutes until cooked & water absorbed.

Cool slightly & toss with remaining ingredients:

  • 5 grape leaves, patted dry, rolled & sliced thinnly
  • 1/3 C currants [soak in hot water to soften if they are hard]
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 C walnuts, toasted & chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • dash of red pepper flakes, optional

~

Do you plan your meals for the week?  Do you have to prep in advance?  What delicious, packable meals do you enjoy during the work/school week?

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Pack It Up

30 Sun, 2011 § 1 Comment

A few years ago, Dave heard how many times we could circle the earth with the amount of plastic to-go utensils thrown away in the U.S. alone; so he immediately gifted us each with a set of To-Go Ware.

Made from durable, sustainable & naturally antibacterial bamboo, we loved these utensils right away.  They hold up & are lightweight, which comes in handy for biking.  Our set included a fork, knife, spoon & chop sticks wrapped up in some type of sustainable woven cloth; now the holders are made completely of recycled plastic.  Unfortunately I think I threw my fork away! 😦  Dave let me borrow his, but I need to get a replacement.

Over the years, the rest of our lunch-packing components have followed suit, becoming less wasteful.  Usually we pack our food in our smaller, glass containers.  These can get heavy though, so I found cute, little stack-able tins — or tiffins — at World Market.  They are perfect!  A bit small though for someone who eats every couple hours, so I still need a mini glass container some days.

Another thing I have started stuffing in my lunch I grabbed when I bought microfiber cloths for the kitchen: a bright, coral microfiber cloth.  A set of two small [about the size of a regular wash cloth] cloths were only $1 & are the perfect substitute for using napkins or paper towels to clean up.  I should probably pick up another set to swap out between washes.

We also need to get more of these great little zip-up sandwich & snack bags from LoveForEarth.  She was nice enough to send me a complimentary one when I referred my mom to her for produce bags.  [More to come on this later.]  A large sandwich fits snugly, & it is ideal for holding energy bites of nuts, dried fruit, crisps, etc. throughout the day or while hiking or bouldering.

My last trick before leaving the house is to throw a tea bag into my thermos cup.  I fill it with hot water at work & enjoy it as I start my day.  I think it is really important to have a cute or nice coffee/tea mug or thermos; this way you will want to actually use it rather than throw-away paper cups.  Mine isn’t super cute, but it is special; it’s Dave’s from Yellowstone.  I have seen these really cute “non paper” cups all over the place…they might be a bit heavy for biking though.

Tonight I prepped snacks & lunches, & it seems we are definitely set for the week.  I will share these with you tomorrow & hopefully get more ideas from you.

~

Do you pack your lunches?  How do you pack?

Keepin’ It Clean

27 Thu, 2011 § 4 Comments

Convenient.  Gets the job done.  Disposes of the messy evidence.

No wonder we have a hard time letting go of paper towels.  We are trying though.  They are probably one of the biggest waste contributors & likely the easiest to give up —

because the alternatives work even better.

Inexpensive microfiber cloths are easy to find — I found a pack of 5 for $5 at Family Dollar — these stay in the kitchen, readily available when the moment hits.  They have worked great & obviously absorb even better than a paper towel.

Something that is not as seamless to get rid of are garbage bags/liners for the trash can.  It means we will be hauling the container out, but we have yet to make a trip out there since becoming more mindful of our waste…though we forgot to put it in the closed closet & even if you have a perfect little pup…if you leave the garbage out, she is going to string it all over the house get in it…

Not having a liner means wiping out the garbage can more often, but I don’t mind having a cleaner, more sanitary pail anyway.

Speaking of sanitary, I have never been a fan of sponges or replaceable scrub-brushes.  They sort of gross me out.  I have always used 100% cotton-yarn, handmade dishcloths.

My mom crocheted some for me when I first moved out & taught me to make them myself; I have also learned to knit them.  This cute flower-shaped one was actually crocheted by my grandma.  I love the way they work & the fact I just throw them in the wash to clean them.

I recently grabbed a set of Twist sponge blossoms for a little extra scrubbage, which gross me out less than typical sponges; though honestly I have only used it once.  You can wash it in the top rack of your dish washer.

Hand-washing dishes has changed quite a bit for me.  I realized we used wasted a lot of water with our usual method, so now I do what I have always had a hard time doing: fill the sink — even the rinse side which is something I learned from my father-in-law — I have always dreaded reaching into “dirty” dish water.  Oh well, I got over it.  I also almost always keep the stopper in to catch water when we wash our hands, rinse pots, pans, etc. & just place dishes in to soak [before adding it to the dishwasher] rather than constantly running the faucet to rinse.  I have even been holding onto a recipe for our own dishwasher detergent, which I will share as soon as I run out of our current.

Something I will share now to make up for all the dirty talk:

If you are unaware, I love chickpea flour.  When Ashley made Chickpea Bake, I had to try it.  I love the texture; it’s dense & most.  I left the curry out & did not really care for the garlicky flavor though, so I tried it again with my own twist & loved how it toyed between sweet & savory.

Here is my Cinnamon Basil variation, but check out her original recipe too.

  • 1 1/4 C chickpea flour
  • 1 C unsweetened almond milk
  • 1T unsweetened applesauce maple syrup
  • 1T safflower oil coconut oil [I melted the oil in my ~9×9 baking dish then poured it into the rest of the ingredients to mix.  I had my oil; the pan was greased!]
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1t curry
  • 1/2t garlic
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • few shakes of garam masala
  • 1 – 2 tsp basil [1 for subtle & sweeter; 2 for a stronger savory flavor]
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Combine dry ingredients; combine wet ingredients.

Mix together until just combined.

Bake at 375* for 30 minutes. [Ashley’s baked for 40 minutes but mine didn’t need that long, so check at 30.]

~

Have you ever baked with chickpea flour?

What are your favorite cleaning/waste reduction methods in the kitchen?

Needles & Chips

26 Wed, 2011 § 4 Comments

I do not have it rough by any means, but I have felt a bit drained this week: Monday it was from boredom; today, simply a tad hectic.

Monday was my last day at my first job in Flagstaff.  I did not know it was my last day until an hour after I clocked out: one of the woes of working for a temp agency.  This did not come as a surprise as it had been days since we had accomplished our goal; however, I have had a very difficult time accepting I am not going to be following up with my customers & have no way to pass these on to [former]fellow associates.

Today, only two days later, was my first day at my new job: one of the perks of working for a staffing agency.  I did however only learn about this position at 10:00 this morning & needed to be there at 1pm if I wanted it.  I was very interested.  See why I’m a bit frazzled today?  I am rather excited about this position & will tell you more as I learn more myself!

For now, I want only two things:

&

I debated not even posting, but I’m curious how everyone’s week is going & would love your “decompressing” tips. 😉

~

Have you made it over the workweek hump?

What do you do to relax & center yourself during the week?  What is your comfort food?

Minimalist Kitchen

26 Wed, 2011 § 5 Comments

Our kitchen does not look bare but is defined by its restraint according to Dave.  This statement quickly became clear as he noted the obvious enthusiasm I exude when stepping into a kitchen supply store.  It does take much restraint to not leave with arms full of fun & ingenious goods.

There are special devices for slicing each type of fruit, a utensil for every conceivable dish & numerous other clever tools that could surely be put to use in nearly any kitchen.

I could easily fill our kitchen with gadgets & various odds & ends but have decided all I really need to get the job done is quality cookware, a few basic tools & a good set of knives.  My weakness is dishware & photo props, but the few I have acquired or generously been gifted by my sister have been second-hand.  Re.Used.

I have found new uses for items, like this cute little tart tin I had once turned into a magnet.  Now it holds freshly ground sea salt on the stove for accessible pinching while cooking — & because of the magnet, it does not budge!  Ok, so this was Dave’s idea — how crafty is he?!

I also recently went through every drawer & cabinet, analyzing its contents, searching for items we truly did not use.  The only thing I came out with were replaceable rims to our Magic Bullet cups.

I guess I will donate these, though I cannot imagine anyone would want just the rims.  Perhaps they are recyclable?

~

As we are trying to reduce waste & live simply, it is difficult for me to grasp the 80-20 notion.  I have heard the average household only uses 20% of the stuff filling their home; so in theory you could get rid of 80% of your belongings.  I cannot imagine this is accurate as it does not ring true for us; but perhaps this is because we purged much of our belongings during the big move & do not buy a lot of extra things.

I would love to hear what your thoughts are on the 80-20 concept!

Reduce, Recycle, Rot

25 Tue, 2011 § 9 Comments

We are pretty mindful consumers.  We eat seasonally, locally when possible, we do not have a lot of extra stuff & try to recycle — even in SLC, which did not make it easy.  Recycling drop-offs were not convenient — & glass drop-offs nearly non-existence — so some weeks were better than others.  Recycling is amazing in Flagstaff though.  Our complex even has two dumpsters reserved just for recycling.

As we have been able to separate our garbage & utilize recycling more, we have realized most of our trash is compost able.  It seems a waste to let it just sit in a landfill.

I have been inspired by a recent article in Sunset & am striving to create a zero waste home.  Obviously zero is not possible, but I am really throwing myself into reducing the amount of waste we transfer.  This means analyzing our day-to-day & being much more critical of our purchases.

I am tackling this room by room, starting with the kitchen.  Rather than inundating you with a lot of details at once — plus I am still initiating changes — I am going to be sharing a few of these at a time.

REDUCE

Our garbage can has become our recycling bin [with the stickers] & our true garbage can for waste is the little guy on top, which sits in the spare bathroom just off of the kitchen.

Making our garbage can so small is forcing us to be incredibly mindful of what goes in it.  No one likes taking the garbage out: the more slowly we fill it = the less often we take it out = the less waste we contribute.

RECYCLE

Recycling is great but still creates waste.  If there is a feasible change we can make that means zero waste over recycling, I don’t see why we shouldn’t make it.  If you have recycling, keep a list of what you can & can not recycle near your bin [our list hangs above it in the closet].  This is more efficient because you do not have to guess & you are constantly being reminded of what is waste & what can be reused.  You can obtain this list from the agency responsible for collecting & processing your recycled items.  We cannot recycle glass in our dumpsters; so under the recycle-able list, I keep the page of glass drop-off locations.

ROT

I found a cute, ceramic, one-gallon compost bucket that now sits on our counter.  We easily fill it in a day.  Now, we just need to find a useful source for our compost.

~

Decreasing our waste was not the only inspiration I found in January’s Sunset.

I was also inspired to finally try a green I have wanted to cook with for a couple years now:

[source]

Dandelion Greens

Winter Greens & Mushroom Pasta

Dandelion greens are “super cleansers, rich in purifying chlorophyll, & helpful for reestablishing healthy intestinal flora.”  [Terry Walter, Clean Food]  They also boast several medicinal properties.

Dave commented how good this smelled when I was sauteing the vegetables.  Once a hater of mushrooms, he has come around & even craves them occasionally.  I made sure to go light on the greens in his portion; because dandelion greens are naturally bitter, I did not want to over-whelm him.  This dish is composed of one of my favorite combinations: leek, mushrooms, garlic, truffle oil [which I drizzled on top in place of olive oil] — you just can’t go wrong!  We also replaced the ricotta with mozzarella Daiya.  I did not find the greens too bitter & loved what they added to this dish.  Rice spaghetti varied the texture perfectly.

If you have not tried dandelion greens yet, this dish is a great introduction, granted you like mushrooms, leek, etc.

~

Are there recycling services available in your town?

Ever cooked weeds? 😉

Start the Work-Week Right

23 Sun, 2011 § 7 Comments

You know I am crazy & will sometimes wake at 4:30 to get a workout in before catching the bus.  Some mornings this does not happen though, so I like to fit a lunch workout into my day.   I might go for a short run, hit the climbing gym for an hour, fit in a playground workout at the nearest park or just go for a walk — my deodorant has been keeping up too. 😉  Even if I do get in my 4:30am workout, I love breaking up my day with movement & fresh air during my lunch break…even if it just means walking around downtown.

During your lunch break or in between classes consider doing any of the following:

  • Go for a run
  • Find the nearest park or school & do a workout using the playground equipment.  Sometime I will do a full HIIT [high intensity interval training] workout; sometimes I just jog there & do sets of pull ups & hanging knees raises.
  • Walk around the block or window shop if you work near any quaint, local shops.
  • Is there is a gym nearby?  Drop in for a class you have never taken or lift weights.
  • Bike to/from work/school to relieve some of the stagnant feeling of sitting at a desk all day.
  • Balance your day out with a yoga class.  Check for lunch or specific weekday specials at a nearby studio.  There is a studio downtown offering $5 drop-in on Wednesdays I cannot wait to try this week.
  • Make a date with your camera.  It will get you moving a bit & switch up your mindset by stimulating those creative juices while you walk around.

[David Finch]

Whatever you do, love your body & love yourself by moving.

I promise it feels so much better than sitting in the break room.

~

How do you spend your lunch break?  Ever make it an “active” hour?

Where Am I?

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