Monday, February 23, 2015

Family meals 3: guest blogger Becca

I'm so happy that today my friend (and fellow blogger!) Becca is sharing about the meals she makes for her family. Becca always has delicious treats and food to share, so I'm thrilled that you get to benefit from her creativity in the kitchen.Without further adieu....

My name is Rebecca, I live outside of Philadelphia in a little apartment with my husband and our dog. I'm a kindergarten teacher, and I tutor after school (for some reason I don't get enough of it during the day!). I am lucky enough to love my job, but when I have free time (ha) I like to read, bake, and be outside. I'm also lucky because I actually love cooking--everything from the planning to the eating--so preparing food for my little family is something that generally brings me joy instead of stress! My sister lives nearby and eats with us at least once a week, and she is a vegetarian. One of our closest friends also lives about two blocks away, and he eats with us regularly. While he doesn't have any dietary restrictions, his lovely fiancee is gluten-free, as well as some-other-stuff-free, so I'm becoming much more mindful as to how my favorite meals can be adapted to be meat-free, gluten-free, and more! I tend to view this as an exciting challenge rather than a nuisance, and it encourages me to try new recipes and ingredients. Thus, even though technically it's just me and my husband at home my cooking needs to accommodate other people and needs on a regular basis. 

I started meal planning very early on in my marriage. I'm a list-maker and a planner by nature, but we are also very social and have multiple busy nights every week so we need lots of flexibility. Usually on Saturdays I go through the kitchen, check for food that needs to be used up, and make a list of 4-5 meals that we want to eat throughout the coming week. I use Pinterest, food blogs, and cookbooks for my inspiration, although my husband would probably be happy with a steady rotation of tacos, chili, and tuna salad (much to my experimental chagrin). I jot those meals down and then make a list that includes all the necessary ingredients, plus some staples (for example, I always keep cans of tuna, frozen shrimp, frozen veggies, some pesto, rice, and pasta on hand so a quickie dinner is never far away, just in case). My goal is usually to try one new or interesting recipe per week, and the others are more familiar fare. Now that my sister is a vegetarian, I also try to incorporate one meatless meal a week.

Some meals that are almost always in the rotation (meaning we eat it at least every other week if not more often) are tacos, spaghetti (either with meat sauce or chicken sausage in red sauce), and chopped salad. We usually eat out once or twice on the weekend, but we also share meals with friends or family most weekends.So this week represented a moderately typical week for us, except for the fact that we didn't host any meals this week (although it wasn't for lack of trying--Westminster Seminary students apparently have a lot of studying to do. Shocker, right?). 

Included in my meal plan for each week are two nights of tutoring. On Mondays I go straight from school, and on Wednesdays I head back out mid-evening, so I plan meals for these nights that either A) Dan can make, B) I can make very quickly, or C) go in the crock-pot (or once in a while it's D) takeout). Also, Dan is taking a grad class Tuesday nights, so our Tuesday meal is disjointed at the moment. 

This week we ate: 

Monday - Chicken with mushrooms and onions, over mashed potatoes (this is an unusually involved dinner for a Monday night, but I had mushrooms that I needed to use up). This is such a comforting meal, with a hearty homemade sauce to pour over the meat and potatoes. 

Tuesday- salad with roasted veg for me, tuna melt for Dan. This is one of my favorite meals when I'm cooking for myself, and I made tuna for Dan when he got home from class. This week I roasted broccoli and sweet potatoes, and ended up taking the leftovers for lunch on Wednesday! 

Wednesday - takeout pepperoni pizza. It was one of those weeks.  

Thursday- Before school I threw together one of my favorite crock-pot meals: roast BBQ chicken. I combine barbecue sauce and whatever citrusy jam is available (this week it was orange marmalade, courtesy of an older British lady from our church), and poured it over skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs. Turn the crock-pot on Low, and voila! Delicious. However, Dan ended up getting wrapped up in something at his parent's house, so at the last minute I drove over there and we ended up having soup with them. Whomp whomp. I had planned to roast potatoes and broccoli to go with this meal, so I just saved them for next week. 

Friday- We had a potluck dinner with a college and career aged group meets one or twice a month for topical discussions. I shredded and reheated the chicken from yesterday to make BBQ sliders, and brought a tub of Trader Joe's spinach dip and a bag of pita chips. 

This week I also had prepped ahead of time homemade granola, whole-wheat pumpkin muffins, and a half dozen hardboiled eggs. This gave us breakfasts for the week, and for lunches we usually do leftovers, salads, or yogurt. 

As I said, I am lucky enough to love cooking, and the process of unwinding in the kitchen while a pot of tomato sauce simmers on the stove or garlic sautes in a pan is truly relaxing to me. Thankfully, it's a hobby/therapy that keeps us well-fed and happy!

How fun! Thanks so much, Bec! 

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