Dinner Time

Family Dinners:it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of my childhood (may explain my deep love for food).  It was a rule at our house to be home in time for dinner, no excuses.  As a child I HATED having to leave the neighborhood tree house to go home for

“Is this corn hand-shucked?”

dinner.  As a teenager, I HATED having to leave my friends to go home.   But as soon as college hit, I could not WAIT to get home to a fresh cooked meal.  And as I’ve become more and more removed from my angst filled adolescent/teenage years, I find myself longing for those family dinners again, where we’d sit down to a homemade meal.

I think my mom is the biggest advocate out there for family dinners, and for good reason.  They helped keep us together as a family, and they helped keep us healthy.  There are many reasons to install family dinners in the home to be sure….But it’s hard!  As I try to start the tradition in my own home, I find how hard it is to keep on top of meal ideas,  to keep the pantry stocked of necessary ingredients, to find the time to cook, to find the SPACE to cook (think of the smallest countertop you’ve ever seen.  Half that.  And you’ll have an idea of how big my counter is….city living does have its cost) and perhaps the hardest of all, to make dishes, which bridge the gap between healthy but still tasty.  I admire of you out there who have learned how to do this. 

I’m a novice when it comes to family meal planning but I have found a few tricks that help make planning a bit easier:

  • Make a dinner calendar–   Whether paper or electronic, write it down.  (Paper template can be found here)  It’ll be one less thing your brain has to remember and figure out at the end of the day. A SMART PHONE WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIEND TO ACHIEVE THIS.  Create a calendar entitled “Dinner”.  Calendar in the meals you want to eat on the days you want to eat them.  In the “notes” section write ingredients you’ll need to buy.  Copy and paste recipes into the notes as well.  This also allows you to be flexible with your planning. If you run out of time for a meal one day, simply reschedule the dinner for another day.
  • Buy ingredients ahead of time–       Find a day that works well for you to go to the store and go, shopping list in hand which includes all the ingredients you’ll need for the week.  It’s easier to stay in line with your plan if you know you have ready ingredients at home. 
  • Don’t try to be a Julia Child–    Don’t overwhelm yourself with too complex a project.  Stick to the basics. Find recipes that work for you.  And then if you want, incorporate new dishes into your cooking repertoire.
  • Set an Attainable Goal–    Whether individual or a family goal, set a goal to eat together “x” amount of times a week.  Re-evaluate after a month of dinners.
  • Meatless Monday–      Don’t forget to eat meatless on Mondays! 
  • Blog/Write About it–     I love reading my friends’/family blogs about their experiences!  Love seeing their pictures, and reading their recipes. They are inspiring to me. You can be that inspiring as well.  Cooking a delicious, beautiful meal is fun. And it’s even more fun if you document it! 

Once the habits are formed and a routine is set, I hear it’s a lot easier to stay on track.  But these are a few steps I’ve found helpful in my efforts.  Good luck to us all!

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Coconut Curry Vegetable Soup

Well, it’s official. My first sick day of the season.  Congested, achey, coughing, wheezing, the works.  I’m terrible at being sick mainly because I’m terrible at laying in bed all day; especially when a sunny, snowy mountain is taunting me through my window.  Strap on the skis and let nature do the healing?  It’s yet to be decided. But in the mean time, to appease my restlessness I decided to mix up a pot of my favorite go-to soup. I’m ashamed I haven’t posted any soup recipes to date but today, I right my wrong.  This recipe is a tasty, easy-to-make crowd pleaser.   Coconut milk gives this curried soup the right amount of creamy sweetness that will leave you and your guests begging for seconds.

Although a classic vegetarian recipe, if you prefer your soups with a little more gusto, feel free to add one chicken breast, shredded.  Also, try substituting the rice called for in this recipe, with any other grain you are trying to clear out of your pantry. Try barley for extra fiber. Try lentils for extra protein.  Not kidding, from start to finish, this takes 20 minutes.  That is hard to beat when preparing a healthy, filling, homemade meal.

Coconut Curry Vegetable Soup
(not necessarily in that order)
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 package (16oz) frozen stir-fry vegetables –if you’re feeling ambitious use fresh veggies
  • 1 can (14oz) vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup uncooked instant brown rice
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce1 can (14oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
*Makes 4 servings
1.  Combine vegetables and broth in a large saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  
2.  Stir in rice, curry powder, salt and hot pepper sauce.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 8 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring once.

3.  Stir in coconut milk; cook 3 minutes or until heated through.
4.   Remove from heat; stir in lime juice and serve.

TIP 1:  For a lighter soup with less fat and fewer calories, use lite unsweetened coconut milk.  This is found in the international of any supermarket.

This is the difference between regular and lite coconut milk. Lite coconut milk contains 50% less fat than regular coconut milk

TIP 2: Double this recipe.  Eat to your heart’s content and freeze the remaining half for an unexpected sick day, or a day you don’t feel like cooking.

Say Hello to your New Best Friend: Quinoa

As many of you know, I recently celebrated my 25th birthday, which was great.  I was able to enjoy a lot of my favorite things, including a whole chocolate Bundt cake from Corner Bakery.  If you’ve never tasted it, I’d recommending staying as far away as possible, for once that decadent, rich, chocolaty goodness reaches your lips, you’ll never be satisfied with regular chocolate cake ever again.  However, to offset the fatty, sugary goodness of the cake, my friend made a delicious, fresh tasting Mexican quinoa salad.  So I snagged the recipe to share it with y’all to make and enjoy.  It makes a lot, like, a lot.  So half, or even quarter it if you’re just cooking for one or two people.

Before I divulge the recipe, let me tell you a little bit about the miracle grain that is quinoa (Keen-wah).  It’s perhaps the easiest of all grains to make, prepare, and digest.  It has the same protein level as a glass of milk. It has high levels of B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and vitamin E.  It’s GLUTEN-FREE which means if you or anyone in your family suffers from Celiac disease, this little guy is a great alternative.  It’s ideal endurance food. So if you’re training for a race load up on the stuff; it’s a power food that packs a punch: will keep you nice and full, longer than pastas will.  And it’s a great source of fiber. 

Something to note: when preparing quinoa be sure to rinse before cooking.  Quinoa produces an outer toxic coat (to protect it) that gives it a somewhat bitter flavor.  You’ll be able to tell it’s sufficiently washed when there are no more soapy-like bubbles streaming off of the grain.  Most grains produce a toxic coat, so it’s always best to wash your grains before preparing.  With that being said, here is the tasty recipe:

 MEXICAN QUINOA SALAD

  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa & 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 c. sliced green onion
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn (thawed)
  • zest from 2 limes
  • 1/2 c. queso fresco or jack cheese

DRESSING:

  • 3-4 limes (for juice)
  • 1/4 c. white wine or rice vinegar
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 c. cilantro
  • 1 Avocado (optional)

Cook quinoa according to package directions, using the 2 can of chicken broth as a substitute for water. (You may need to add water to make enough liquids to the recipe, just  like with rice. For every cup of quinoa, you add 2 cups liquid) Let quinoa cool in fridge (for at least 1hour) Once cooled, in large bowl, add quinoa and salad ingredients together.

In blender, add ingredients for the dressing and pulse until mixed together.  Pour over salad.  Refrigerate for 1+ hours and serve. Add extra cilantro, avocado, and lime wedges as a garnish.