I’m doing a six week challenge as you may remember. So, I required myself to actually do some meal planning. Nothing fancy. I’m not following a formal diet. Just a better plan for what to eat. No sugar. More veggies. Kid approved.
Because I figured a bunch of you are in the same boat as me, I’d share a few things which have worked.
First of all, you know I’m sort of obsessed with every Pioneer Woman recipe I try. I’ve written of my love for her before. For Christmas, my stepmom got me the four pack of all her cookbooks. I’d resisted paper cookbooks because I could find most everything on line. However, they have changed my life. I love them so. It’s all right there. Pictures and ingredients on one page that can get splattered with food and not fall into sleep mode like my phone.
I will try not to inundate you with those recipes, though I have to start with my ultimate fav.
Veggie Chili! I know you meat lovers may poo-poo this notion but it is crazy yummy.
I’ve served it for two parties in the past two months too and it’s been a smash hit. Plus my kids love it. I serve it with skillet cornbread. The only modifications I make is removing one of the bell peppers (I can’t possibly add all three). I also pull the jalapeno but you could keep it if your family likes spicy – my kids are mixed and there’s plenty of heat with the chili powder. Highly recommend the cojita cheese to top it and I also set out sour cream for those who want a dollop.
It serves a ton so we get two meals out of it. I usually have fresh meals Sun, Mon, and Tues, and then serve leftovers (people’s choice) on Wed. Also, I committed to bring lunch at least twice a week to save money and eat better, and this is an easy one to bring.
On Sunday, I try to prepare at least two dinners, so I’ve prepared several of these “make ahead” ones from Real Simple. (I prefer PW chicken noodle soup to this, big surprise.) Far and away, the kids favorite thus far is cottage pie.
I do make several key modifications so (1) I can eat it (I don’t eat beef or pork, though I will cook it), and (2) it’s not as heavy. First, I half the potatoes. The first time I tried it, the whole thing was potatoes. Typically, I use six new potatoes. Also, I don’t use all the milk and butter in the mashed potatoes. I just mash them like I usually do with a little milk and butter and lots of salt and pepper. Finally, and my favorite change substitute ground turkey for the ground beef. The kids don’t care, it’s healthier, and I can eat it! The star of this dish is the butternut squash.
My work out buddy turned me on to a tortilla-less skillet enchilada recipe my kids devoured this week. You can make it ahead but it’s also quick to cook the night you want to serve. Sauté a pound of ground turkey (or beef) and an onion in a splash of olive oil. Once it’s browned, add one chopped zucchini and one chopped squash. (My edits: I add more than a pound of ground turkey and I only use zucchini because we prefer it.) Add your seasonings – cumin, paprika, sea salt and ground pepper, and a splash of chili powder. Cook for about five minutes. Then dump in some frozen corn (recipe says half a cup, I use more) and a drained can of black beans. Top that with 12 – 20 ounces of enchilada sauce. If you like it juicer, use more. Also, I use green enchilada sauce but my friend uses red.
Top with, your choice, grated cheese (I use cheddar, it calls for mozzarella), cilantro, corn tortilla strips or chips, green onions, or sour cream. Or, if you’re like me, you might throw it all on. The kids went back for seconds and I’m having leftovers for lunch today.
And I’ll just mention this as a meal planning bonus, even though I’m a non-beef eater, I make pot roast once or twice a month. I’ve traditionally cooked it in the crockpot with carrots, potatoes, and onions. But this time, after I browned the pot roast in my skillet, I sautéed onions and celery in the same skillet, and threw all that in a roasting pan. Then I tossed in my potatoes and carrots, covered them with 2 cups of warm water mixed with onion soup mix, and cooked it in the oven. My family FAR preferred the oven version. It was a decent sized round roast, and I cooked it for three hours at 310 degrees, and then, because we had a basketball game, I turned the oven off and left it in for another hour and a half. When we came home, the roast was perfect and all the boys went back for seconds!
So give it to me, ladies? What’s your favorite make ahead meal? How’s your meal planning going? What do your kids love that’s healthy?
Photos courtesy of Pioneer Woman and Real Simple, links above.