Tag Archives: healthy living

Weekly Menus: Week of 5/12/2013

Gentle Readers, sometimes one must say “uncle.” Last week, in the midst of an extremely busy period, I failed to post the blog as promised. I heard no roar and outcry, and instead opted to grab an extra hour of sleep, thus doubling my total. I wish that last were a math flub. Life is busy, incredibly so, and I’m always looking for another way to stretch time and do one more thing.

My favorite food critics: The Practical Cooks Junior

My favorite food critics: The Practical Cooks Junior

So apologies for anyone who was counting on the Chorizo Hash Recipe, it’s coming your way soon. Confession: I am human, extremely so, and trying to manage an awful lot while spending time with my kids and trying to stay healthy. Sometimes I succeed, other times I don’t.

Life on the road is challenging. Quick calories are often the only choice.

Life on the road is challenging. Quick calories are often the only choice.

However, as the Jrs and I celebrate Mother’s Day today, fresh off a week where TPC’s Mom (and TPC’s Dad, a hero in this story) watched the kids while I traveled, I am reminded of what actually matters. Thanks to all for making this journey count.

My not glamorous breakfast of choice.

My not glamorous breakfast of choice.

And now, courtesy of input from the team, the weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 5/12/2013

Weekly Menus: 5/12/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 5/12/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 5/12/2013

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Fish and Greens
At the suggestion of The Youngest TPC Jr, it will be salmon. Possibly with a citrus glaze, beside couscous and greens.

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Monday: Salad
Detox begins again. I actually ate a number of delightful kale salads in Las Vegas, much to the merriment of my burger eating compatriots.

Tuesday: Quinoa with Chickpeas
From The Eldest, no idea why this popped in her head, but let’s go with it.

Quinoa with Beets, Chickpeas, and Dill

Quinoa with Beets, Chickpeas, and Dill

Wednesday: Meat loaf and Mashed Potatoes
On occasion I like to be extremely traditional. Let’s see how the Jrs take to it.

Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
A family classic, we will be working on biscuits and grits again soon.

Fluffy little buttermilk biscuits!

Fluffy little buttermilk biscuits!

Friday: Vegetable delight
Fridge cleanup, and I’m thinking Mediterranean as the tying element.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Raleigh perhaps? Time to explore new ground!

Working on a series of food travel adventures. Post a comment below for areas you’d like to see covered! Nominate your town or a place you love to eat. I’m listening.

Send your lattes, questions, and good wishes 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 Wednesday, this time I mean it, Chorizo Hash Recipe!

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An Ode to Fat: Vegetarian and Beyond

Gentle Readers, it is not a well-kept secret that The Practical Cook is overly fond of food. As such, I’m naturally skeptical of any kind of diet craze. At a basic level, I don’t want to give up any category of food. Full respect for people who have found they live better by doing so and maintaining it.

Beef Filet Charring in Bacon Fat

Beef Filet Charring in Bacon Fat

But don’t look for me to go all Paleo or heaven forbid, no-fat. So while I do not judge, I will tell you this: even as a youngster during the height of the “Snackwell” craze, I thought that was crazy. How can foodless foods be satisfying?

The Practical Cook’s Ode to Fat: 3 Reasons to Love It

1. It fills you up. I’ve never understood eating certain things low or no-cal when the point of eating is fuel and being full. In my experience, avoiding this only leads to eating more.

Avocado sliced in the halfshell.

Avocado sliced in the halfshell.

2. It’s necessary to live. I didn’t say you had to eat 3 meals a day at KFC, but stop thinking of fat as the enemy! You are not at war with it.

Sartori Salad with Apples and Walnuts

Sartori Salad with Apples and Pecans

3. It tastes good!!! I will fully admit being the person who eats the fat on steaks and chops when no one is looking. And sometimes when they are. It tastes like sunshine.

Sunflower Yellow Egg Yolk from Farm Fresh Egg

Sunflower Yellow Egg Yolk from Farm Fresh Egg

A Few of My Favorite Fats: Walnuts, Avocados, Cheese (OMG, I heart cheese), Peanuts/Peanut Butter, Olive Oil (the good stuff), Eggs, Bacon Grease, Liver, Salmon

Clusterfluff is shorthand for ice cream peanut butter crack.

Clusterfluff is shorthand for ice cream peanut butter crack.

That is obviously not an exhaustive or even completely coherent list, but you get the drift. I eat a lot of salad, and I prefer olive oil and balsamic over commercial dressing, but I don’t skip the olive oil (or the egg when available). And before anyone heaps health advice on my head, know that while eating this way (again, see a lot of salad and exercise), I’ve dropped many many points off of my lipid panel.

Now is the time to come out of the closet. Raise your hands with me and proclaim your love for fat. The comment area is below, and the line forms here.

Send your high-calorie foods, deep thoughts, and general 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!)

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On Sunday, it’s, wait for it, Weekly Menus, Travel Edition!

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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Walnuts Edition

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook does not change her cabinet stores wildly at the hint of every new food trend. Remember when nuts were forbidden fruit? And then they were okay, in small doses. Apparently walnuts will turn you into a genius, and that brings us to today’s post.

The Practical Cook buys walnuts in bulk!

The Practical Cook buys walnuts in bulk!

I love walnuts, and thankfully The Practical Cooks Junior do, too. When they outsmart me, as they do repeatedly, I sometimes regret my snack choice. But I digress. Here’s how to bring more walnuts into your world.

One Ingredient, Three Ways: Walnuts Edition

1. With Apples. For those who feel walnuts have an inherent bitterness, pairing them with apples brightens both ingredients. Great in a parfait, on a salad, or just tossed together in a bowl as a simple, balanced snack.

Apple Walnut Parfait!

Apple Walnut Parfait!

2. For Dessert. Try it in place of pecans in your favorite pie, in chocolate chip cookies, or as Moroccan French Toast.

Morrocan French Toast

Moroccan French Toast

3. In Oatmeal. Pair walnuts with blueberries and a drizzle of maple syrup for a high-impact breakfast with protein.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal in a Bathtub-Sized Bowl

Steel-Cut Oatmeal in a Bathtub-Sized Bowl

Walnuts are a great way to add some protein to a sugary breakfast, as a trail mix component, and as a grab and go snack.

What’s your nut of choice? Are you a walnut fan? Post a comment below!

Send your squirrels, recipes, and queries 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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Tomorrow, The Practical Cook opens up the confessional booth. Tune in to find out.

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Surviving the Salad Bar: 5 Practical Tips

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook adores a salad bar, but does not adore the typically gloppy dressing choices at the end of it. My work salad bar is fantastic: beautiful greens, interesting options, rotating items. However, they have the thickest dressings known to mankind at the finish.

The Practical Salad

The Practical Salad

For real, do not bother eating a salad if you put the equivalent of a Big Mac on top. Just eat the Big Mac and be happy about it! So what’s a Gentle Reader to do? Read on.

The Practical Cook’s Top 5 Tips to Surviving the Salad Bar

1. Use oil and vinegar if you can at all tolerate them. Learn to love balsamic vinegar, it is the get out of jail free pass of the salad bar. I like to douse with a healthy dose of chopped egg (not so much cheese, which I’m finicky about on salads), a splash of olive oil, and a goodly amount of vinegar. You don’t want the salad to be fat-free, or you’ll starve, but do you really love ranch that much?

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.

2. If you love ranch that much, thin it. Fine, I know many a ranch lover out there, including Complicated Veggie Medium and The Youngest Practical Cook Junior. Most ranch dressings are super thick on the bar, but you can thin with either lemon juice (often available) or one of the lighter vinegars. Consider putting your dressing on the side. Bonus, less dressing equals a cheaper salad.

Eat the rainbow (salad)!

Eat the rainbow (salad)!

3. Fill your bowl 2/3 full of greens at the start. This is key, go heavy on the greens at the beginning, and you’ll not have as much room for the less than ideal toppings. Again, I am not vetoing egg, cheese, nuts, avocado, etc., but keep your ratios in check.

Quinoa and tofu add substance to this Whole Foods salad. I thinned the Thai dressing with lemon juice.

Quinoa and tofu add substance to this Whole Foods salad. I thinned the Thai dressing with lemon juice.

4. Eat the rainbow. Even if you put just one of each color of thing you see on your salad, you’ll be surprised how quickly and colorfully it adds up. A simple rule of childhood works wonders here.

This salad is overdressed. I usually ask for 1/3 as much dressing as they want to add. High lettuce content is good, though!

This salad is overdressed. I usually ask for 1/3 as much dressing as they want to add. High lettuce content is good, though!

5. Pack a snack. I love salads, really I do. I eat them most days at the office paired with soup, but I almost always have a trail mix snack in the wings. Salads for lunch keep you from having a serious heavy meal crash, but they will not keep you going through drive-time traffic, in my experience. If you don’t want to gnaw off your arm on the way home, plan ahead.

Trail Mix

Trail Mix

Are you a lunch salad fan? What are your tricks for avoiding paying a mortgage at the salad bar?  Post your comment below! Inquiring minds want to know.

Blog challenges, ideas, and questions can be emailed 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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Up next, On the Road to One Pull-up: The First Challenge.

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The Art of Dining Out: Field Research

Though the primary theme of this blog is Practical Cooking, the ideas have to come from somewhere. In addition to idle daydreams about the perfect meal, the Practical Cook is a firm believer in research. I regularly check out cookbooks from the library, subscribe to two cooking magazines (it was three, RIP Gourmet), read cooking blogs, follow cooks and food writers on Twitter, and eat out with gusto.

Just the other evening, with the help of Complicated Vegetarian, TPC ordered almost the entire menu at an Indian restaurant that was recently opened by a passionate home cook. One more dish and an order of chapati arrived after this picture was taken.

Vimala's Curryblossom: One of Everything (Almost)

Vimala's Curryblossom: One of Everything (Almost)

And please meet the new love of my food life, uttapam. It’s like a cross between dosa and idli in texture and thickness, close cousin to the Scallion Pancake tradition in Chinese cooking, and topped with coconut chutney (sorry coconut haters, I love the stuff).

TPC's New Food Obsession: Uttapam

TPC's New Food Obsession: Uttapam

Earlier in the week, it was time for pizza. This slice is called “The Bermuda Triangle,” and comes topped with pineapple, pickled jalepeños, and feta cheese. It was like like a flavor face-punch. And so easy to replicate at home.

The Bermuda Triangle: Pineapple, Pickled Jalepenos, and Feta

The Bermuda Triangle: Pineapple, Pickled Jalepenos, and Feta

Out with the kids, Mexican. One day I’ll get organized and make tamales at home, but for now, I’ll dine out. The lesson learned here—my eldest likes both refried and ranchero style beans. So I can mix it up at Taco Night!

Spinach Tamale with Ranchero Beans and Rice

Spinach Tamale with Ranchero Beans and Rice

Dining out provides a great opportunity to:

  1. Try new dishes in relatively small quantities. This works great for kids, too. We pretend there just aren’t chicken nuggets on any menu. Be sure to offer them a taste of your dishes, even if they’re spicy or unpronounceable.
  2. Eat something you don’t want to make at home. For me, that’s anything fried and some desserts. Fried due to the mess involved, and because fried is crispier in a commercial setting. Desserts because I just can’t be left alone with an entire German Chocolate Cake, pan of brownies, or full-scale Banana Pudding.
  3. Enjoy the company of other people and the pleasure of being served. Remembering that there is joy to be found around the table is very important to appreciating all your meals more.
  4. Order something you’d never attempt to make at home. Even the bravest of us have limits. For me, it’s best to leave la lengua to the taco truck, and the incredibly complex authentic Chinese to the experts.
  5. Research new ideas. Chefs have good ideas and passion. Pay attention to the flavor combinations, the use of unfamiliar ingredients, and what you do and don’t like about your meal. Take those lessons home.

Clearly, I’ve got certain biases baked in here. I do try to skip chain restaurants in favor of Mom and Pop shops whenever possible. I tend toward cuisines from food traditions other than the one in which I was raised (but I will walk a mile for fried chicken, hush puppies, and pecan pie). And I attempt to balance price ranges—every day cannot be a white tablecloth restaurant day for Team Practical Cook.

When we eat out as a family, we try to do it on days where it can be an enjoyable experience for everyone. It’s important for the young ones to learn how to eat out with confidence, how to order, and how to behave. If they can’t do it that day, order take-out instead.

Most of all, enjoy your food. Slow down, taste it, and really think about what you’re eating. To quote Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune (in quite a lively interview in the NYT): “I’m always very clear about what I’m hungry for, and what I’m not hungry for.” What great clarity to have and to strive for.

Coming up tomorrow, Fried Rice Recipe, featuring leftover Chinese take-out rice.

Share your field research! Post a comment, send an email (practicalcook at gmail dot com), Tweet (practicalcook).

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