Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Once a Month Meals

So after I had a baby and went back to work at 6 weeks, we spent a lot of time trying to get into a recipe of batch cooking.  We tried to find good recipes, to come up with shopping lists and prep plans and finally I just broke down and paid for Once a Month Meals.

So I would like to post a review that is basically all of the questions my husband asked me to try to figure out why we were paying for this service:

  • What are you getting?
    • You get: 
      • A menu plan that you can swap out the dinners you don't like for ones you do 
      • A shopping list
      • A prep list (things you need to do to be ready to batch cook)
      • Cooking instructions (what order to cook everything in) 
      • Freezing instructions 
  • Can't we do this ourselves?
    • The only things we were successfully able to do ourselves was create a menu plan (which was not very creative) and a shopping list.  Even keeping the cooking instructions organized was complicated because everything came from different sites.  
    • Batch freezer cooking resources for vegetarians that understand protein are few and far between.  All the lists on Pinterest of freezer meals to make are just chicken and beef with different sauces.  
    • Batch freezer cooking for the crockpot vegetarian recipes are downright impossible to find.  
  • Isn't this really expensive?
    • Really expensive becomes relative.  $16 a month saves us from ordering takeout or going out to eat, which we do more than we used to, and from eating more expensive frozen dinners from Trader Joe's or the grocery store.  Basically, the cost of OAMM is the same as one emergency takeout dinner.  
  • Isn't it still a lot of work?
    • Yes - you still have to do all of your own prep and chopping and assembly for freezer meals.  It's a ton of work if you follow the site the way it's written, which is one twelve hour day and a ton of prep work the night before.  That is a lot of work that I can't do with a toddler.
    • If you do the custom menu and select mostly "easy assembly" meals, you can cut the prep time in half.  I have twice now prepped and assembled meals in 2-3 naptimes and post-bedtime cooking stretches.  
  • How much food does it make?
    • So this is the downside.  We have found that the portions are a little light, probably because the site isn't designed to build you a dinner that will allow you to have two servings for leftovers the next day.  
    • Each menu makes a set number of dinners, lunches, and breakfasts.  It winds up being something like 16 dinners I think, which is less than half of a month, but we find that with a few routine quick cook meals, like fish, and then our usual dinner out at least once on the weekend and our weekly pizza night, making even as few as 6 dinners a month has been enough that we always have reserve in the freezer.  
  • Are the recipes good?
    • There have been a few duds, but for the most part we have liked a lot of the stuff we have made and have either ranked it "definitely make it again" (tonight's spicy seitan flautas) or "do we really have to eat the second one of this?" (tempeh mushroom stroganoff).  The only downside really is that if you've already made two of something, the other one is lurking in the freezer.  
  • How do you fit it in the freezer?
    • Timing, excellent Jenga skills, and not hoarding your freezer meals.  I tend to save freezer meals for a rainy day and our freezer was PACKED.  We started to eat the freezer down more routinely and not only has it made an actual noticeable difference in our lives, it means that by the time another month rolls around we are ready to batch cook again.  
    • You can treat it more as a make-one-freeze-one idea, so save 3-4 of the meals you make in the fridge to eat the week after your once a month cooking day.  
The thing I will say is the most awesome is over the summer, when we had something like 2-3 weeks worth of CSA that we had done nothing with, I created a menu to use up all the eggplant, zucchini, sweet potato, etc. and we took care of all of the produce we had.  

If you are on the fence about signing up, I would definitely recommend giving it a shot and see how you like it.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gestational Diabetes - Dessert

It's been almost a month since I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and it's definitely been interesting.  I'm learning all kinds of things about what foods I can tolerate and what I can't.  One of the biggest concerns is whether or not I'm getting enough calories total, which is a huge challenge when you are eating a significantly lower number of carbs.  I'm making up a lot of the difference with fats and I'm getting probably more protein than I ever have since becoming a vegetarian.  There are two meals that definitely suck the most - breakfast, and dessert.  I'm sure there are psychological reasons why it's bad to be upset I can't have dessert and that means I'm a sugar addict but I'm 35 weeks pregnant and sometimes just need some ice cream.  

So far, I've found two desserts and one sweetish bedtime snack that agree well with me.  The key with all snacks is to make sure you are getting enough protein.  So here are mine:

Chobani Indulgent - we have both the mint chocolate chip and the raspberry flavors.  They have only 14g of carbs in a serving, and my snacks need to be under 15, and they have 7 grams of protein.  

Homemade banana almond butter ice cream.  This one is definitely an occasional snack, because the carb count and sugar count are pretty high, but it's certainly helpful to kick an ice cream craving.  

14 Wheat Thins with Trader Joe's White Stilton With Apricots.  (Photo from here.)  This cheese is delicious and the dried apricots make it feel gloriously sweet and indulgent.  The cheese itself has 5g of carbs, so I don't eat it for my regular daytime snacks.  For bedtime, I need to make sure my snack is a little more filling so I feel okay going a little over the 15g carb limit.  

I've also been eating a lot of cottage cheese with homemade applesauce, but since that is easy to pack into small mason jars and take to work, I simply eat it there.  Making your own applesauce is very easy and delicious.  I like chunkier applesauce, so that's what this recipe is for.  Leave the peels on the apple for convenience and fiber.  

- 4 apples
-A tiny bit of water, like maybe a couple tablespoons

1. Chop apples into 1-2 inch pieces 
2. Put apples, water, and cinnamon into a pot on medium-low heat.  
3. Occasionally stir and break up the apples.  When delicious, remove from heat, put in jars.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Somedays, it doesn't help to be barefoot.

One of the downsides of being eight months pregnant is that it really hurts to be on your feet for extended periods of time.  It's always kind of bugged me to spend long stretches in the kitchen without shoes, because my feet don't have any support and my legs start to wear out, but now, it feels like I can't stand for more than 30-45 minutes or so.  So tonight, the 4-5 hours we've spent cooking and prepping food for the week has been interspersed with a lot of breaks, and things got a lot better once I went and put on my sneakers.  Hopefully the end result of this will be that almost every meal for the week is good to go and we don't have to do a lot of prep work to have delicious, healthy meals.

I haven't posted in awhile, mostly because I haven't come up with many new recipes and because Pinterest basically serves most of the purposes for which I started this blog (a way of cataloging my favorite recipes, etc.)

Anyway, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes this week and while there are plenty of posts and blogs out there, since I have a high chance of having GD again with subsequent pregnancies (the jury is still out on whether this kid gets a sibling, ever), I figured it would be useful to me and perhaps to others to compile recipes.  I haven't met with the endocrinologist/diabetes educator or learned to test my blood sugar yet, but a few friends gave me some advice so for the past few days I've been eating low-carb, upping my protein, and eating 3 small meals and 2-3 large snacks.  I've been tracking everything on My Fitness Pal and trying to figure out how doable being a vegetarian with GD is.  I only have 8 weeks to go in my pregnancy, so if I do end up needing to eat meat to get the nutrients I need and not overload myself or the baby with sugar or salt, I will do so.  (There is very little I won't do to avoid having an 11lb baby, it turns out.)

So here is my meal plan for this week:
Sunday: Burgers and Zuchinni Fries - I used whole wheat bread crumbs and had my burger bunless, with a side of greek yogurt (the black bean burgers from Costco are pretty spicy so the yogurt cuts the flavor.)  I recommend not using panko, or running the panko through the food processor first.
Monday: Lentil Tacos (I'm trying this recipe) on whole wheat tortillas (I buy the whole wheat ones from Costco)
Tuesday: No Noodle Zucchini Lasagna 
Wednesday: Kale Quinoa Salad with Roasted corn and Lemon Vinagrette - I'll probably skip the corn on this one.  My lemon vinagrette is just lemon juice and olive oil and some garlic and salt.  You can add mustard if you want it to hold together better.
Thursday:  Stir fry with tofu and all of the vegetables from our CSA and a side of brown rice.
Friday: Fish with a side of rice and...something with lima beans.

Something that helps me a lot is to make rice and quinoa in advance, because during the week, it's hard to remember to start the rice cooker as soon as one of us gets home from work so that the rice is done at a reasonable time.  (It's possible they make rice cookers that stay warm for hours for exactly this reason but ours burns stuff if it's beyond the time.)

I also made some cookies and chocolate chip bread to use up the 8 very large zucchini that came from our CSA (we went with the Jones Family Farm for any Baltimore locals and it's been great).  Mr. Barefoot approved of the cookies and pronounced them "pretty edible, in fact good."

What are you eating these days? Any low-carb, high protein suggestions for me?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

Our Christmas Eve tradition is to make an outrageously elaborate meal, just the two of us.  Something we have never made before and probably won't make again.

What is this one?

Now, before you roll your eyes and are like, "um, you've never made a lasanga before?" Let me elaborate.
We will be making our own pasta.  Our own cheese.  And our own tomato sauce.  There is some debate as to whether to use canned or fresh tomatoes for the tomato sauce, but I'm leaning towards canned because they are likely fresher than out of season imported tomatoes.  I'll report back how it went.

What are you doing?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Menu Plan

I thought I would share our menu plan for this week, since I know coming up with weekly meal plans is challenging for some folks and sometimes inspiration is nice.  This is actually just pulled from our "Menu Planning" master Google Doc, which is the best system we've come up with for sharing our menu plans and keeping recipes in one place.

This morning, I prepped all of the veggies, etc. for this week and it only took a couple of hours to prep everything and saute up the onions/peppers for the chili and for the enchilada filling.  I made the sweet potatoes in the crockpot while I did that, so all I'll need to do on Tuesday is put them in the oven or microwave to warm back up, and then top them with homemade cinnamon marshmallows.  Mostly, this week just required chopping onions and peppers (and I used frozen) and some garlic, but was pretty easy, so if you are wary of menu planning, I would recommend it.

Week of 11/17/13

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thanksgiving Awaits

Today I made marshmallows for Thanksgiving using this recipe.  I added two giant tablespoons of cinnamon and cut the vanilla in half, but they smelled really good and I'm going to test drive them on sweet potato casserole this week.

It seems like every year I go a little crazy and try to make something elaborate from scratch that I could just buy at the store.  One year I made my own stuffing bread, one year it was my own crescent roll dough.  I actually still make my own some of the time because it's much easier to work with.  This year I'm planning on making little brie-cranberry-crescent roll muffin cups, so I'll let you know how it goes.

Are you making anything from scratch? Is anyone having a very Pinterest Thanksgiving? I feel like soon I won't be able to log in without seeing a million pins of roasted turkeys wearing pilgrim hats on a bed of cranberries or something.


I'm making this crepes recipe right now and it's delicious.  These are my most successful crepes yet. I made them in the food processor and started by sifting the flour in the food processor.  They are lump free, spreading easily, and not sticking to my crepe pan.  Today's fillings are nutella, almond butter mixed with nutella, and goat cheese with Italian herbs and seasoning.   I wish I had apple and brie.

Other crepe filling ideas?