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3 Easy Weeknight Dinners

Posted: May 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Dinner, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

After a few weeks of a lack of moderation, I’ve come back to a healthy focus. That’s what healthy living is about – finding moderation, and course correcting when you’ve been a little bit too loose with yourself. For me this means:

1) 1 hour of exercise at least 5x a week (if not all seven days). Ideally, it would be 350 minutes of exercise per week, and a combination of low, moderate, and high intensity.

2) Planned dinners (and leftovers for lunch) I eat most of my meals at home, but planning my meals ahead of time ensures that I have food on hand for making dinners, and that I make balanced choices ahead of time instead of getting hungry, cranky, tired, and making less than healthy choices.

3) Happiness boosters! I find that when I’m living the healthiest, I’m not just focusing on food and fitness, but about making a point to spend time with friends, doing fun things, and doing new things. It helps fill an emotional hunger and keeps me satiated with my food choices.

Here are some of my dinners over the past few days:

1. Spicy Moroccan Fish Stew from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Mine had cod, shrimp, and rather than couscous, I served it over some bulgur pilaf. I also added in a handful of edamame and frozen corn. This only got better the next day for leftovers – I ate all the fish during dinner, but the shrimp kept quite well the next day, and the flavors really had a chance to mellow. I’ve been having really good success with this cookbook.

2. Carrot Salad with lemon dressing and parsley, Israeli Cous Cous (Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend), and a ground beef saute. For this dinner, I sauteed some onion and frozen bell pepper mix until soft and slightly browned, and then added in the ground beef with some oregano, salt and pepper. This is one of those mish mash meals that didn’t quite go as planned (I was going to make turkish meatballs) but tasted good just the same. The carrots were from my Farm Fresh to You box.

3. Grilled Pork Loin, with Roasted Baby Potatoes, and Spinach Salad with Tomatoes, Grilled Asparagus and Lemon Dressing. After going on a long walk this afternoon, I stopped by Bi-rite market to look at all the BEAUTIFUL produce. I ended up grabbing some spinach, asparagus, and (I-know-they-are-out-of-season-but-I-wanted-them-anyways-tomatoes). This meal was so simple to put together. As soon as I got home I put the potatoes in the oven to roast at 450. I then grilled the asparagus and set them aside. I put together the salad, made the dressing. Then I grilled the pork for about 10 minutes – getting a good sear on both sides, and deglazing the pan with a little white wine. At the end I broiled the potatoes for about 5 minutes while I let the pork rest. Then tossed the asparagus into the salad, dressed it, and served everything up!

A little note on accountability: After struggling for the past few weeks to get things under control, I met with my health coach study group. At the end of our meeting, we each set goals for ourselves for the week, and shared what we wanted to be held accountable for. My goals for the week are – daily exercise, avoiding eating until stuffed, and doing one new and exciting fitness activity.

Today’s Exercise: 10k steps (walking to work + 1.25 hour walk through the castro/mission)

Grilled Halibut, Baked Yams and Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Posted: April 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Dinner | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I’ve done it! I’ve gotten out of the rut. I thought I was losing myself for the past few weeks: a lot of sitting, a loss of will to walk, to exercise, or simply to move.

It didn’t hurt that the weather is lovely and the city looks like this:

So yesterday, I walked. I walked from home to Dolores park, around the Mission, over through the Castro, past the Wednesday farmers market where I pushed past the desire to buy everything, and on to Duboce Park, a lovely green filled with dogs and children and various people, somewhere in the city I had never been before.

I visited three independent bookstores – the Green Arcade, Bibliohead and Isotope comics. Even on my days off I can’t escape books. At Green Arcade I found myself talking to a skateboarding graffiti artist who had such incredible recall about street art and graphic artists that I thought to myself what a pity that someone like this should have ended up using meth instead of say, getting into Harvard or MIT.

And I walked on over to Hayes Valley, up and down the streets and past the desire to enter Miette and La Boulange, and I kept on walking, all the way to Rainbow, where I experienced an incredibly pleasant “coupon-less” day, where the lines were short and I could make my way around the store picking up my parsley and my orecchiette pasta from the bulk bins, and some strawberries, and then wait in line for all of five minutes before walking on, over to four barrel for a cup of coffee to sustain me for the walk home. Dinner was a small bowl of pasta with chimichurri sauce, and a little bit of grilled turkey tenderloin which I had made for Devon.

*      *      *

And then today I went ahead and  walked again – over to the Castro, to Bi-rite to pick up some food, and home again – a little over four miles. It’s not back to where I was, but I’m hoping that it will keep me moving. To respect myself for making the right choices, I opted for a healthy dinner:

Grilled Halibut, Baked Yams and Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Tonight’s food was simple, fresh, and colorful. I baked the last of the garnet yams from the farmbox, with a little bit of salt and pepper in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. I marinated pacific halibut in some soy sauce, ginger, rice wine vinegar and fish sauce. I cut up cucumbers and tomatoes (yes, I broke down and bought a tomato pre-season), and poured on some rice vinegar and olive oil. And then at the very end, I gave my fish about 3 minutes total in the griddle pan, and dinner was served.

I was going to stew some strawberries and rhubarb for dessert, but I’m not particularly hungry anymore, and I’ve been making due with a mug of mint tea with mint leaves from Celia’s garden, and pouring through my copy of Nigel Slater’s Tender, Volume 1.

One Pot Salsa Chicken with Mock Caesar Salad

Posted: April 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Dinner | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

It’s been a busy weekend: Devon’s mom came to visit for two days and we had lovely food at Tartine (morning buns), the Slanted Door (imperial rolls, chicken claypot, and halibut with spicy gingered fish sauce), and Cheeseboard Pizza (pizza and salad of the day). At the bookstore, Alice Waters was here to sign copies of her new book ‘In the Green Kitchen’ on Saturday. And then on Sunday I hosted food trivia when Cynthia Nims came to talk about her book ‘Gourmet Game Night‘.

For the past few days I’ve been coming home from work exhausted. Which is, of course, the case for most people in the real world. I admit that the recent dinners have been a little bit neglected – pasta with butter and parmigiano and grilled asparagus on Sunday night, and nothing but a bowl of pea puree yesterday. Tonight I vowed to eat well. I settled on One Pot Salsa Chicken with Mock Caesar Salad. Which took me all of half an hour. I started the chicken dish right when I got home, and the salad came together while everything was cooking. Dinner was well received.

This salad was inspired by Canal House Cooking, Volume 3, although I forgot to actually take the book home with me, so it’s more loosely what I remember from the recipe, and limited to what I had in my own kitchen. This makes about double the amount of dressing, but the leftovers easily go in the fridge for another day.

Mock Cesar Salad:

1 clove of garlic

1 tablespoon anchovy paste

1 teaspoon Maille whole grain mustard

juice of one lemon (I used a Meyer)

salt and pepper

about 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

1 medium romaine lettuce, washed and chopped

In a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic, anchovy paste, and mustard into a smooth paste. Add the juice of a lemon, season with salt and pepper, and pour in the olive oil. Transfer to an old jar, and give a really big shake. Just before serving, pour half of the dressing on the lettuce, grate on the cheese, and toss. I didn’t actually have enough parmigiano, so I supplemented with a tiny bit of Saxon Creamery Big Ed’s, a hard cheese that I picked up at Rainbow.

One Pot Salsa Chicken:

In my big Le Creuset pot, I put some olive oil and sauteed three cut up chicken thighs (about a pound of meat) on medium heat giving them a good seal. I like them to crisp up a bit, and let them fry for about 3 minutes on each side.

Now for my seasoning – I won’t lie, I rarely measure when I’m tired. I added about a tablespoon of cumin (several really good shakes of my new supply from Rainbow grocery), some freshly ground black pepper, and a good pinch of sea salt. By which I mean, almost enough sea salt to sustain an ocean-based ecosystem, because rather than being intelligent and shaking it into my hand, I shook it directly into the pot. After spicing, I gave the pot two more minutes of cooking.

I then added one can of pinto beans (no salt added) including the liquid, and a jar of Trader Joe’s Salsa Authentica. I also added 3/4 cup of bulgur wheat, turned the heat down to low, and simmered for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the bulgur to fully cook.

Weekly Meal Planning

Posted: April 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Dinner, Lunch | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

[Happy photo of the day: Pepper, getting a belly rub.]

For the past few days I’ve been making more concerted efforts to plan my meals so that I know what I’m going to eat for dinner before 4:30 pm. Cutoff time of doom. So at the beginning of the week I sat down with a big stack of magazines and cookbooks to gather some ideas for some good home made dinners.

Sunday Night: Curried Red Lentil Soup.

I decided to make myself some lentil soup. In a medium soup pot, over medium heat I added a few tablespoons of olive oil, and a small pat of butter. I sauteed 1/2 a red onion, the white part of a leek, about 1/2 a link of chorizo that was in my freezer, and 3 small roughly chopped carrots in the pot, for about 20 minutes, until everything was starting to get brown and soft.

At that point I added 1 cup of red lentils, and 1/2 cup bulgur wheat. I added in a pinch of red pepper flakes and a small knob of ginger. I then added four cups of water, brought it to a boil, and then turned it down to simmer for 30 minutes. Stirring every ten minutes or so.

At the end, I lightly toasted a tablespoon of curry powder, and added a tablespoon of tomato paste. I added this into the soup, and a can of light coconut milk, and a heaping teaspoon of sea salt. It’s lovely when you put the salt in, because it goes from a very boring dull soup, to something absolutely delightful. I let everything simmer on low for about 20 more minutes, until I couldn’t wait any longer to eat. I topped my bowl with some chopped cashews and grated coconut.

Lunch next day:
This soup only got better on day two. I also brought some fennel and celery salad, with fresh parsley, dill and lemon dressing.

Monday Night: Grilled Chicken Pita Salad adapted from Sunset Magazine’s “30 Fast and Fresh Weeknight Dinners” from this months’ issue. Devon’s mom gave me a subscription to Sunset this year, and it’s grown to be one of my favorite magazines. I grilled a chicken breast and the asparagus on my griddle pan, got the bulgarian feta and kalamata olives from the cheese shop on 24th, and made my own pita chips by popping a pita in the oven at about 400 for 8 minutes. Easy peasy.

Lunch the next day:
I brought the second chicken breast that I grilled, and a few of the leftover spears of asparagus, extra cherry tomatoes, and a lemon. I also brought an apple for snack.

Tuesday Night: Braised Swiss Chard, and Mac + Cheese Ever since trying Tori Ritchie’s braised swiss chard with cannellini beans, I’ve been meaning to go back and recreate this recipe. I did it last night as a nice complement to some Annie’s Mac and Cheese which I’ve been craving for weeks. I didn’t put the cannellini beans in this batch, and I used spring onions, carrots, and chard from my farm box.

No leftovers today for lunch, because I have the day off!

Matzo Ball Soup

Posted: April 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Dinner | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Today was a rainy day off, so I sat in my house cleaning and decided that it was a perfect day to make some rich chicken stock for some Matzo Ball soup. I broke every single passover dietary law yesterday at the Edible Art Contest, so I decided that I was going to make up for it with tonight’s dinner.

Around noon, I went to Drewes’ and got myself about 3 pounds of frozen chicken backs. Sure, I could have roasted a chicken, and then used the carcass, but chicken backs give the nicest flavor, and Drewes’ carries bags of the bones specifically for stock making at only 99 cents/pound. It’s a bargain!

When I got home, I wanted to refresh my stock making skills, so I decided to head to the You-tubes, to watch this episode of Alton Brown (part one and part two). People forget how handy Youtube is for learning kitchen skills. You can look up an Yiddish bubbe making kreplach, or any culture’s grandmother making their traditional foods. Seriously, try it, it’s fun!

And so after 20 minutes of Alton’s best advice, I dumped the chicken backs into my big Le Creuset, added a few carrots, a few stalks of celery, a quartered onion, a big handful of parsley, about 10 Szechuan peppercorns, and covered it all with cold water. I brought it to a boil, and then simmered the golden brew, uncovered, for about 5 hours. At which point I made my matzo balls, unceremoniously, with Manischewitz mix. Well, Manischewitz mix made with some tasty Tomales pasture raised eggs. I dumped them in the strained stock, and then served it with the 5-hour stock carrot and some fresh dill.

It’s not my grandmother’s, but it was a pretty good consolation. If you want to make everything from scratch, I’d highly recommend Deb’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup on Smitten Kitchen.

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