Tag Archives: healthy eating

Weekly Menus: Casserole Edition, Week of 11/3/2014

Gentle Readers, another week flies past, and it’s ever closer to one of my very favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. Bring on the yams and stuffing/dressing/cornbread pudding. Truth be told, I have rarely met a casserole I wouldn’t eat. Not all of them are works of brilliance, but when you add a can (or box) of condensed soup to something, I’ll likely consume it. I’m not proud, I’m Southern, and that’s just how it is.

Mexican Squash Casserole

Mexican Squash Casserole

But I digress. I’m in a health challenge with a friend in preparation for the season of cookie eating (to quote her, we need to be at top form so we can bathe in mashed potatoes in the holiday season with a complete lack of guilt), so my casseroles are going to have to be contained to sides and veggies right now. I look forward to more entree development as the season progresses.

Yes, that is squash casserole on top.

Yes, that is squash casserole on top.

So here the list of weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 11/3/2013

Weekly Menus: 11/3/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 11/3/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 11/3/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Salad Delite
Spelling intentional. I wish to hearken the days of cottage cheese consumption during the 1970s. That’s how I feel rolling into my yearly cholesterol check for work. This will be an everything in the fridge salad, and I actually look forward to it. (I may avail myself of the Whole Foods salad bar, which means adding squash casserole on the top–yum.)

Shredded beets and two cubes of tofu, yes please. Whole Foods Salad.

Shredded beets and two cubes of tofu, yes please. Whole Foods Salad.

Monday: Tuna Melts
We delayed eating these as we ran short on time before Halloween (the answer was veggie corn dogs, cut up in small bites so as not to muss our makeup).

We use the force . . . of the microwave for a quick meal before Trick or Treating.

We use the force . . . of the microwave for a quick meal before Trick or Treating.

Tuesday: Chicken Marsala
It’s a good week to make a simple but fancy dish. Goes great with rice or mashed potatoes and, wait for it, green been casserole. If you’ve not tried the condensed portabella mushroom soup from Trader Joe’s, along with their fried onions, now is that time.

Trader Joe's Portabella Mushroom Soup

Trader Joe’s Portabella Mushroom Soup

Wednesday: Pasta with Broccoli
Perhaps with the addition of veggie Italian Sausage? I’ve been pondering a hearty pasta meal and haven’t decided on my favorite combo yet.

Thursday: Beans and Rice (or Spinach Quesadillas)
We are always worn down by Thursday, so simple and hearty is the call of the day.

Friday: Meatloaf and Mashed Squash
We have some delicata squash calling our collective names. I could turn it into a casserole with a few dried cranberries and a crushed walnut topping. I do love this season.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Delicata Squash Ater Being Attacked by Wild Dogs, or Rather, The Juniors

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Delicata Squash Ater Being Attacked by Wild Dogs, or Rather, The Juniors

Saturday: Dine Out!
We have a date with one of our favorite local chefs and her Wii. It’s been too long.

Snack of the Week: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

Snack of the Week: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

I would love to hear your favorite casserole combos. Shoot me a Tweet or post a comment below. It’s wide open and ready for your call.

Send your condensed soups, fried onions, and 1950s recipes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday–Weekly Menus with Tapas Bonus Recipes!

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Weekly Menus: It’s Finally Fall Edition, Week of 10/20/2013

Gentle Readers, wow, what a week. I managed to sit down to eat 3 or 4 actual meals in the span of a week–the rest were food grabbed on the run. Not to downplay the awesome that is Barcelona, but work travel is not the same as leisure travel. Being immersed in a different food culture always makes one think about their own.

Ham and cheese with a side of cafe con leche from Tapa Tapa in Barcelona.

Ham and cheese with a side of cafe con leche from Tapa Tapa in Barcelona.

Barcelona is driven by local, fresh, and reasonable portions. It’s a great concept, and one to which I subscribe. One of the best things I ate all week was this humble croqueta, which was akin to a mildly cheesy chicken pot pie in croquette form. We found it by turning down a side street in a non-touristy neighborhood famed for its cakes. (Guess what in that sentence prompted me to hop off the tour bus.)

My favorite from the week: a chicken, vegetable, and cheese croqueta from El Canalla.

My favorite from the week: a chicken, vegetable, and cheese croqueta from El Canalla.

In a random chance, I also had a rather interesting conversation about sustainable food with someone high up in one of the major international food corporations. We talked about Michael Pollan and the tension between profit and sustainable, especially as pertains to meat. I don’t envy him his job.

Fresh ingredients fill the markets in Barcelona.

Fresh ingredients fill the markets in Barcelona.

But I digress. Look for inspiration from Barcelona appearing in posts for the next few weeks. I respect a culture that is not fussed about diet crazes and every new trend. Barcelona has strong foodways that are built to be flexible and incorporate new traditions. I love that. Visiting always makes me want to go back again.

Eggplant fries with honey and lime from El Canalla. OMG good.

Eggplant fries with honey and lime from El Canalla. OMG good.

Which means my menus for the week are:

Sunday: Leftover surprise
I’ll be eating whatever TPC’s Mom left in my fridge. Surprise! Sometimes, even oatmeal or cereal is enough after traveling.

Monday: Tapas!
Figs and cheese? Tomato bread? Prosciutto and melon? I’m not sure what I’ll combine, but it will be small bites of whatever is in the store.

Fig filled with marscopone and jamon from Cervezeria Catalana.

Fig filled with marscopone and jamon from Cervezeria Catalana.

Tuesday: Spinach Quesadillas and Beans
Simple and direct, one of our favorite easy meals. We’ve got a lot going on this day.

Wednesday: Bratwurst and Pierogie
Just add Brussels sprouts.

Thursday: Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage in Brown Butter Sauce
One of my favorite easy meals courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Served with a green salad, and you’ve got a multi-colored delight for dinner. It’s worth browning some sage in butter–it’s just fun.

Friday: Nachos!
Using up the last of our leftover veggie chili, I’m pouring it over chips, topping it with cheese, and serving it up with a side of guacamole.

Saturday: Deep Fried Everything
This might be our N.C. State Fair Day, and we have a long list of things to eat. Apple fritters, corn, fried okra, and whatever the “it” thing is in deep-fried. We are so ready.

Ironically, I never saw this brand of water in Barcelona, but saw it promptly in NYC upon landing.

Ironically, I never saw this brand of water in Barcelona, but saw it promptly in NYC upon landing.

Have you been to your state fair already? What should we find and consume? No deep-fried goodness too strange. We’ll try it on video even. Post your challenge below!

Farewell Barcelona, see you next time.

Farewell Barcelona, see you next time.

Send your winter squashes, your mad carving skills, and your airline miles to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Road Salad: A How-To-Survive Guide for Eating While Traveling

Gentle Readers, it’s a good thing I love my job and the travel that goes with it, because business travel is not for the faint of heart. Yes, it’s a great opportunity to see the inside of conference halls across the globe. Yes, I adore seeing colleagues I work with constantly and remotely. Yes, I even get to eat meals sometimes. But for all of you who travel as part of your job, or as part of your life, you know that cocktail nibbles do not a healthy diet make.

This Tower of Bacon was featured in a recent party I threw for work. Though there is parsley present, it is not a salad.

This Tower of Bacon was featured in a recent party I threw for work. Though there is parsley present, it is not a salad.

When I can, I bring my running shoes. When I can’t, I throw towels down on the floor and do yoga. There’s always a way to bring a little zen into the schedule. I have a friend who only stays in hotels with pools so he can swim. Make it work for you. Eat fruit and veg when you can, and salads are a great way to do that.

Fried Squash Blossoms on a bed of shaved zucchini. Totally counts as a salad.

Fried Squash Blossoms on a bed of shaved zucchini. Totally counts as a salad.

Road Salad:

1. Take control of your salad destiny in both portion size and toppings. You can order salad almost anywhere, it’s what happens next that can destroy the mission. If you only like one type of salad and it’s way high-cal, order the smaller one. If you’re crazy for greens, go big and limit the toppings. Make it work for you. Small and dense salads can be perfect in a grab and go situation on the road. Just limit the dressing and save the calories for something you want to eat.

Small but mighty, this salad features halloumi cheese and veggie kebabs (with a side of masala chai for kick). From Samovar Tea House, San Francisco.

Small but mighty, this salad features halloumi cheese and veggie kebabs (with a side of masala chai for kick). From Samovar Tea House, San Francisco.

2. If you’re tired of leafy greens, try the beet salad, or the caprese, or even fruit! Expand your mind to include a broader range. Another great choice is a main that is served over a bed of greens. May not be in the salad column, but totally counts.

Greek yogurt with dates, honey, fruit, and basil and mint, plus walnuts. I dream of this sometimes. Also from Samovar Tea House in San Francisco.

Greek yogurt with dates, honey, fruit, and basil and mint, plus walnuts. I dream of this sometimes. Also from Samovar Tea House in San Francisco.

3. Don’t fear the protein. Be it egg, fish, meal, or fowl, or legumes or nuts for that matter, add some lasting energy to your salad. If you are doing fruit salad, get yogurt or cheese. Balance in the force. You’ll stay full longer. This is not about starvation, this is about nutrition with some enjoyment.

Lunch salad from Chevy's Mexican with avocado and steak. Yes please.

Lunch salad from Chevy’s Mexican with avocado and steak. Yes please.

My favorite trick: a Peppermint Patty as a conclusion. I’m not a huge mint person, but mint makes me think of brushing my teeth, which signals that it’s time to stop eating. And chocolate = winning. Feel virtuous about your salad and have a sweet to conclude. You’ll feel satisfied and ready to face the canape again, I promise.

Rare tuna on a bed of greens. Perfect light entree.

Rare tuna on a bed of greens. Perfect light entree.

Send your green leafies, good ideas, and food challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus, Busy Family Edition

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Weekly Menus: Week of 6/30/2013 Confession Edition

Gentle Readers, today’s post is about habits. For better or worse, we fall into them. Today, having gotten used to not blogging after a week’s hiatus, I almost forgot to post this. That’s how quickly a habit can change. Equally true are good habits. I never ran a step in my life that wasn’t required by a class or a rabid animal until I started attempting fitness a few years back.

My Third Race: 5k to Benefit Wounded Warrior Project!

My Third Race: 5k to Benefit Wounded Warrior Project!

Now I feel itchy if I don’t try to run. Slow as I may be, I’m still faster than the couch.

For my confession: I’ve fallen out of the habit of going to the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. I miss it. I know there are ingredients waiting for me there. It’s easy to go into neutral and coast. I want to fight that. So I’m confessing here. Next week is another chaotic ride, but I’m going to do better.

Celebrate your independence from hothouse tomatoes! Bring on summer!

Celebrate your independence from hothouse tomatoes! Bring on summer!

It’s easy to survive on Peanut M and M’s, but I need more salad. It’s great to go out to eat and try new things, but I miss my kitchen. I think  it’s time to host a dinner party or a tea (or perhaps a lemonade and cookies function in honor of the heat). The Jrs and I can wear party dresses and I can remind myself why I love food.

My Life on the Road: Unicorns and Chocolate

My Life on the Road: Unicorns and Chocolate

So back to better habits, which can form as easily as the bad ones. Thanks to everyone for riding this ride with me. I appreciate your feedback and support. It makes all of this possible.

My dinner twice last week. Chicken and waffles!

My dinner twice last week. Chicken and waffles!

Without further adieu, this week’s menus are:

Weekly Menus: 6/30/2013

Weekly Menus: 6/30/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List is:

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/30/2013

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/30/2013

Which all translates to:

Sunday: BLT Salad
After being mocked for eating a low-bacon to lettuce ratio, I’m hitting the test kitchen for this one. Stand by.

Whole Foods Salad Bar, I love you.

Whole Foods Salad Bar, I love you.

Monday: Wings
I may make them, I will eat them. But I’m not going to skimp on the celery and the carrots. I crave food found in nature right now after weeks upon weeks of insanity.

Tuesday: Veggie Burgers
Tis the season for grilling out. I actually like these as well. I know it’s a bit of a cheat, but I’ll make the sides from scratch, and there will be fruit on the side.

Wednesday: Dine Out(side)!
We’ve got plans, and I look forward to them. More on this as they emerge. Team TPC is doing some exploring.

Thursday: Not Dogs
Can you tell I’m on a veggie kick? I was also challenged to find new ways to use TVP. I’m thinking about this, and it reminded me to make a batch of hot dog chili with the stuff. It’s a particularly Southern thing, more sauce that foodstuff, and perfect vegetarian junk food with slaw on a not dog.

The iconic hot dog who applies condiments to itself.

The iconic hot dog who applies condiments to itself.

Friday: Carbonara
We’ll have bacon in the house, and this meal is a great end to the week. Comforting, filling, and a reminder that we’re home.

Saturday: Dine Out!
We are hitting up a new country, let’s find out which one. I’m voting Korea.

Does summer change your habits for better or for worse? Confess here, I’m listening and probably guilty of the same. Post a comment below.

Send forgiveness, questions, and vine-ripened tomatoes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Up next, The Whole Food Salad Bar, A User’s Guide.

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Weekly Menus: Summertime Edition

Gentle Readers, when did summer become busier than the school year? Lots of fun in the queue, but my calendar is openly weeping. Combined with the heat and training for upcoming 5k for Wounder Warrior Project, and I’m more focused than ever on efficient, seasonal, light eating.

Meze platter from Bosphorus: endless variety, light and amazing.

Meze platter from Bosphorus: endless variety, light and amazing.

My friend and food muse, SassySpice, teased me the other night about my fruit obsession, but it’s true–healthy transportable water, with some sugar, that’s what it is.

Fruit: The Cookie Antidote

Fruit: The Cookie Antidote

Plus, I’ve done some serious field research recently courtesy of my fellow pig fan from the Left Coast, Chinese5Spice. No regrets, but this week must be simple food one can eat outdoors or after a trip to the pool.

Pork Belly Buns from Lucha Tigre: Run Don't Walk (Cucumber makes it healthy)

Pork Belly Buns from Lucha Tigre: Run Don’t Walk (Cucumber makes it healthy)

Which means this weeks weekly menus are as follows (and yes, apparently I tried to sneak an extra day into the week there, good job me):

Weekly Menus: 6/16/2013

Weekly Menus: 6/16/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List (complete with another round of ingredients for another birthday party!):

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/16/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/16/2013

Which all translates to:

Sunday: Salad
I am going to unapologetically combine a field research trip  (bulk bin cereals) to the Whole Foods with a raid on their salad bar. I really crave this. Upcoming post on tips and tricks on what you get there–please post yours in the comments!

Better to top your salad with a little barbecue than a lot of ranch.

Better to top your salad with a little barbecue than a lot of ranch.

Monday: Fish and Quinoa
This meal serves both TPCs Jr, one who loves fish (The Youngest) and one who loves quinoa (The Eldest). High protein, light, and infinitely variable, I highly recommend you give this one a try. Serve with either a hot green veggie or a cold cold salad.

Salmon and Arugula over Quinoa: It rocked

Salmon and Arugula over Quinoa: It rocked

Tuesday: Hummus and Falafal
You can make hummus from practically anything, and it’s usually way better than any commercial product, and in consumable quantities. I’m either going to do a blend of chickpeas and edamame, or use white beans and lime. Leftover chips or toasted (aka, getting stale) bread as an accompaniment.

Wednesday: Pasta and Salad
It’s carbonara time I think. Or perhaps diced fresh veggies and a light lemon sauce.

Not Quite Pasta Carbonara with Spinach

Not Quite Pasta Carbonara with Spinach

Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
We’re in high biscuit production mode here. They make a great portable breakfast, toast and reheat well, and I want to be that old lady who can whip out light and fluffy biscuits without breaking a sweat. Game on.

Inspired by Rise in Durham's Fried Green Tomato and Pimento Cheese Biscuit. Yes, it was that good.

Inspired by Rise in Durham’s Fried Green Tomato and Pimento Cheese Biscuit. Yes, it was that good.

Friday: Leftovers in a Quesadilla
Sounds more purposeful this way, don’t you think? These were a huge hit last week, so we’re going for Round 2.

Saturday: Dine Out!
This will be pizza, as we celebrate another birthday with friends. More cake, more festivities, and another pack-up to travel.

Carrot Cake Decorated with Care by TPCs Jr.

Carrot Cake Decorated with Care by TPCs Jr.

What’s on your table this summer? Post your comments below, including your tips and tricks for the Whole Foods Salad Bar (which seems to be a shared addiction). Or Tweet my way. I don’t bite. Unless you’re bacon.

Send cold foods, good ideas, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Wednesday, by popular demand: Jeepney in NYC Reviewed!

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Smoked Salmon Salad: A Recipe of Sorts

Gentle Readers, sometimes life requires hitting the reset button. After weeks of being on the road, meal after meal out, it is time to detox. The good eating habits were taking a beating, and the chocolate chip cookies were being consumed in grosses. When that happens, I have to stop and smell the carrot sticks.

Smoked Salmon Salad, now with pea pods!

Smoked Salmon Salad, now with pea pods!

I don’t really like carrot sticks, which makes it that much more effective. However, I do love salad. So I’ve been eating one most days for lunch. This one is exceptionally tasty, borne of what was on hand. Great blend of salt and crunch, tied together with a little smoke. Special thanks to SmokerNinja and family for the leftover salmon that anchors this creation.

Romaine lettuce prep!

Romaine lettuce prep!

Smoked Salmon Salad

a serving of leftover smoked salmon (prefer hot smoked over cold for this)
romaine lettuce
1/2 avocado, diced
sugar snap pea pods
crunchy rice noodles (in the Asian section of the grocery store, near chow mein noodles)
Caesar-Romano Dressing (or something light and fruity, your choice)

Avocado sliced in the halfshell.

Avocado sliced in the halfshell.

Toss in quantities of your choice. I was low on romaine and used a lot of pea pods. It was pretty fantastic. Smoked salmon adds depth, but leftover cooked salmon would work as well. Don’t skip the crunchy noodles, they are our current favorite salad topping.

Trader Joe's Romano Caesar Dressing, I Heart You

Trader Joe’s Romano Caesar Dressing, I Heart You

So what’s in your salad bowl? Share your ideas in the comments box below!

Send your bacon, your lettuce, and your vine-ripened tomatoes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, Weekly Menus!

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Telling the Truth About Food: Picky Eater Updates

Gentle Readers, do you hide vegetables? In the dark of night, do you puree spinach and put it in brownies? I am frequently asked how I get my kids to be brave eaters. If you have kids, you know there’s no getting them to do anything, any more than one can coerce an adult.

Tofu Matchsticks

Tofu Matchsticks

However, the question remains, how do I avoid the “chicken finger pandemic” (a phrase from a NYT article of yore, I can’t remember who coined it)? There are lots of answers to that, but today I’ll answer the sub-question, do I lie to my kids about food? No, I don’t.

My theory, if you hide things in food, you break trust. If I want TPCs Junior to try something, I always ask, do you trust me? If they do, they’ll try it. I don’t want to break that by sneaking something they hate with a big reveal later. They are welcome to hate things, they just have to say why.

Beautiful presentation, but beware, those are hazelnuts.

Beautiful presentation, but beware, those are hazelnuts.

This has become exceptionally important since they became vegetarian. They know I still eat meat. I eat it in front of them on occasion. The Youngest often asks “is this meat?” I always respond, no, I would tell you and give you a choice. What if I didn’t?

Brussels sprouts with pecans, a vegetarian delight.

Brussels sprouts with pecans, a vegetarian delight.

Perhaps I’m exceptionally passionate about this because I’m allergic to shellfish. The last thing I need is someone sneaking a little into a dish just to test it.

Vegan Shrimp from The Loving Hut in Milpitas, CA. Couldn't eat it.

Vegan Shrimp from The Loving Hut in Milpitas, CA. Couldn’t eat it.

I encourage all the parents of picky eaters (and really, we all are at a certain level, food is deeply personal) to treat your eaters with respect and trust. There is no “it’s yucky,”–ask why, how, what could be different. Try again. Be honest about what you don’t like.

Gummi Bears to the Rescue

Gummi Bears to the Rescue

The Juniors know I don’t like gummi things, hazelnuts, and sweet drinks. The Eldest shares my aversion to Nutella, the Youngest eats it with glee. They know I support their eating choices, that food is fuel, that you can stop when you’re full, and that I might challenge them to cook something better if they don’t like what’s on the table.

The beet salad on arugula with goat cheese was a big hit with Team Practical Cook.

The beet salad on arugula with goat cheese was a big hit with Team Practical Cook.

Trust. It starts with owning up to what’s on the table, and soldiering on even when they complain. I’m rewarded by a 7 and 5 year old who can discuss the nuances of goat cheese and the merits of Cuban versus Singaporean food. They don’t even mind waiting a second while I shoot a picture of their plates. 🙂

Thus ends the lecture. What’s your stance on truth in eating? Share your comments below!

Send your questions, deep thoughts, and doughnuts to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Friday: Sweet vs Savory.

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