Meal planning has been something I’ve been working on ever since Matt and I started living together (over a year now). For some reason it was really easy when I lived by myself. I just went to the store and bought what looked good. I didn’t really think about it, and definitely didn’t have a plan.

Recently I feel like I’m finally getting it down so that the whole process isn’t as daunting and doesn’t take as much time. I can put my menu and shopping list together in a couple minutes, and by the end of the week, we’ve successfully eaten healthy home-cooked meals without spending lots of money or wasting a bunch of food. Hooray!

Here are my 5 Tips for Meal Planning for 2 people:

1. Start a Pinterest board (or more) with recipes that look good. I have several: general meals, veggie-centric foods, paleo recipes, desserts & sweets, and drinks. Before I pin a recipe, I try to make sure and look at the ingredient list and process to make sure I have everything I need (like a crock pot) and/or the ingredients will be easy to find (Garam Masala for example). Every week I sort through these boards and look for recipes that stand out. I then print them out, put them in my recipe notebook, and make my shopping list.

2. Only cook 3-4 days a week. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was starting to cook for Matt and I, was cooking way too much. Most recipes make enough for 4-6 people, so we would have so much left over, and a lot of it went to waste. Also, I would get so worn out by Friday I wouldn’t want to cook anything and we would end up going out anyway. So now I start the week off with 3 cooking days, Monday – Wednesday. Thursday we usually have leftovers and Friday we’ll go out. Over the weekend we’ll use up any other leftovers and/or make another meal and/or go out. It all depends on what we made that week and how busy our schedule is.

3. One crockpot meal a week. A crockpot is a great tool. I use mine all the time to make stews, roasts, chili, etc. I love having a large amount of a single dish that I can eat for lunch, or we can use for another meal during the week. You have to schedule your time differently and throw it together in the morning instead of after work, but once you get that part down, it’s so easy.

4. Vary your protein. This is pretty obvious, but again, takes some planning and thought. One week I realized we ate chicken 3 days in a row… not very exciting. Now for the 3 meals I make every week, I split it up between chicken, beef and pork or sausage. One of those will be a crock pot meal, the other 2 will be roasted, grilled or baked. It’s much easier coming up with meal ideas when you have a variety of cuts to select from.

5. Keep your pantry and fridge well stocked. Here’s a list of my pantry and fridge basics, and some the veggies I make sure I always have on hand: pasta, pasta sauce, canned soup and chili, rice, soy sauce, a couple mustards, lemon juice, onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach or baby greens, eggs and a couple kinds of vinegar. I also keep bacon and ground sausage in my meat drawer. So worst case scenario: you have no leftovers and you can’t go out. Using these simple ingredients you can always throw together a healthy meal.

 

Speaking of throw together, last-minute meals, I wanted to share one of our all-time favorites I found on the Nom Nom Paleo blog: Baked Eggs with Meat (scroll all the way to the end of this post). It’s so easy and so delicious, I probably make this every other week, and always have the ingredients ready to go if need be.

Baked Eggs with Meat (adapted from Nom Nom Paleo)

oil/fat of choice

1 diced onion

minced garlic to taste

1 package mushrooms

1 bell pepper or any other veggie you have laying around like carrots or celery

1lb ground sausage

1 jar marinara sauce

1 bag baby greens or spinach

4-6 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a large, deep sauté pan, brown onion and garlic in your oil or fat of choice. Add mushrooms and any other veggie (NOT LETTUCE) and sauté with salt and pepper until soft and fragrant. Add sausage and brown by moving it around your pan. Stir in your marinara sauce and let it all cook together for a few minutes. Add your lettuce in large handfuls until it wilts.

Pour mixture into a square baking dish. Crack your eggs on top—one in each corner and maybe another 1 or 2 in the middle. Put your baking dish in the oven and set your timer for 8 minutes. Check the consistency of your eggs and bake until your whites are solid and your eggs are runny.

 

One last note: I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you, however I realize every house hold is different. I work from home, so I have access to my kitchen during the day when I get hungry. And Matt is home some days of the week which I know isn’t common for most of you. When he’s working on set, he always gets his breakfasts and lunches provided for, and sometimes even gets dinner. This has been part of my struggle with meal planning because our schedules are always in flux. I might cook more if he’s around home more, and cook less if he’s working all week.

I hope these tips help you! Please let me know if you have any other tips, notes or suggestions. I’m always looking to make this process better, easier, faster and more fun.

(photo above taken during our engagement session by our friends Lukas & Suzy Van Dyke)

Sheesh, this felt like the week that would never end. And then Boom! it’s Friday and I haven’t posted anything yet! *facepalm*

Things I found and loved this week:

We’re going pumpkin carving tomorrow at my parent’s house. I’m going to attempt some Dia De Los Muertos themed pumpkins based on these rad templates.

I tried Kabocha squash for the first time this week and it was delicious! Maybe my new favorite winter veg… Roast it like this.

This video cracks me up. The music choice is awesome, and the photography is actually quite beautiful. Amazing how their fur moves like that, although it makes me kinda glad Bubby is a cat and doesn’t drool.

Love these classic sculptures that have been given a modern wardrobe. Some of these guys are dead sexy.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Oct 03, 2013

I have a pretty big sweet tooth. Especially during one particular week every month, if you know what I mean. But now that we’ve transitioning to Paleo eating, I’ve had to adjust my baking. Thankfully Paleo is such a big trend these days, I’ve had a really easy time finding acceptable recipes for all my craving. My favorite find so far are the amazing Primal Chocolate Chip Cookies by The Food Lover’s Kitchen (pictured below). I’ve made them twice now and everyone loves them.

But I’ve been pinning some other sweet recipes over on my Paleo Eats pinboard for reference come the holidays… or you know, whenever that craving hits. Here are some autumn inspired recipes I’ve found and want to try soon.

No. 1 // Raw Vegan Cheesecake from The Spring blog

No. 2 // Paleo Pumpkin, Coconut, and Maple Custard Cups from Nom Nom Paleo

No. 3 // Sugar Detox Cinnamon Sweet Potato Ice Cream with Toasted Walnuts from PaleOMG

No. 4 // Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream” Bon Bons from Nom Nom Paleo

No. 5 // Grain-free and Refined Sugar-free Coffee Cake from The Nourishing Gourmet

No. 6 // Gluten Free Chocolate Cake with Fluffy Marshmallow Frosting by Elana’s Pantry via Babble

No. 7 // Plaeo Lemon Slice from Mammoth Kitchen

No. 8 // Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies from The City Sage

Do you have a go-to Paleo or gluten-free dessert recipe you love? Please share!

Paleo Pantry Basics

posted by Amanda // Food

Sep 25, 2013

We’ve been on the “Paleo Diet”  for over a month now, and it’s going really great. I’ve been learning a lot of new recipes and cooking a lot. However, one thing I really had to update was my pantry—on hand items that I can use for anything without resorting to non-paleo foods such as corn and soy. You wouldn’t believe how many items in your pantry contain those ingredients.

So here are my go-to Paleo Pantry staples:

Almond Flour // You can turn practically any baking recipe into a paleo recipe with almond flour. Now, don’t just substitute one-to-one… Google your recipe (ie. almond flour fudgy brownies) and go from there.

Coconut Aminos // We love asian flavors in our house, so not having soy sauce on hand was a major blow to my cooking. But coconut aminos taste almost exactly the same, and they’re paleo friendly! Score.

Fish Sauce // Now you have to really check the label on these. They like to sneak chemicals into fish sauce, but if you can find a pure one (fish and maybe some salt) then you can add a splash into practically anything. I use this a lot when I’m making meat marinades for an umami kick.

Coconut Oil // Use it just like olive oil (which is paleo friendly, but not good to use at high heat) or butter. It does have a slightly coconuty flavor, so don’t over do it, but for most things I can’t taste it. Honestly I wish I could find it in a pourable bottle. It’s annoying to use a jar.

Are there any go-to paleo staples you use?

Food and drink are some of the most important parts of your wedding… at least from your guests perspective. They’re spending a lot of time—and these days a lot of money—to be with you on your wedding day. It’s just good manners to provide delicious eats and free flowing libations in return as a show of gratitude. The problem is that catering can put you over budget in no time. Not to mention the alcohol.

There are ways to cut these costs like having an afternoon tea or brunch, but for this post I’m going to share some things I learned when we planned a full sit down meal for 120 guests. Scroll down all the way for our vendors and menus.

5 Tips for Planning the Food & Drink for Your Wedding

1. Venue vs Non Venue // Some venues force you to use their catering staff. Some let you opt out of this, but still charge you a fee (like $3000) and that doesn’t usually end up saving you any money. If you want to go the venue provided route, that is totally fine. It will save you time for sure, but I’m not so sure it will save you much money. And for the price, the food might not be the best or very exciting. We specifically looked for venues that allowed us to hire anyone we wanted. This allowed us to find a caterer who fit our budget and prepared food we loved.

2. Insurance // Most venues that allow you to bring in outside vendors for food and drink will want those companies to purchase an insurance policy. This is especially true for bar tending services. So if you wanted your aunt and cousins to cook a feast for you, that’s probably not going to work unless they are an actual food service company. Bummer! Make sure you double check with your venue and any catering services before you hire anybody.

3. Custom Menu // As you are browsing catering companies you’ll probably come across lots of pre-made menus to choose from. These are helpful for sticking within your price range, but can feel limiting and boring. Stuffed pasta shells, poached salmon, and steamed veggies… oh boy. If their menus look interesting but not quite right, go ahead and see if they’ll make you a custom menu. Mention your budget (total, or by plate) and anything you would really love to have (prime rib? cornish game hens? veggie jambalaya?). If you don’t get a good response, move on. Side note: Remember to think about dietary needs such as vegetarians and gluten free guests. You want to make sure no one leaves hungry.

4. Type of Dining // When you’re thinking about the menu and talking to your caterer you’ll need to decide what type of dinner service you’re going provide: buffet, plated or family style. Buffet might save you some money, but make sure there’s enough time in your schedule and space in your venue to snake everyone around to get food. Plated is elegant but usually the most expensive option because it requires more wait staff to take care of all your guests. That’s why we chose family style. It was the same price as buffet, but our guests didn’t have to get up and wait in line. It also promotes conversations between guests seated next to each other. We and our guests loved it.

5. Dishes & Glassware // Our venue didn’t provide this, and neither did our caterers or bar tenders. Coordinate with your staff to see how many of each type of dish, utensil and glass you’ll need, then start calling around. Matt hates renting stuff, so we actually  bought a lot these things—silverware, wine glasses, champagne glasses, tongs and serving spoons. In retrospect, we would not do this again. We had to store it for 6 months, we had to clean it, and transport it. We have started to sell some of it, but the pay back wasn’t worth the trouble in my opinion. A rental service will likely deliver on the morning of your event, and pick up all the dirty stuff at the end. We ended up using a rental company for the platters, a few tables, coffee cups, water and beer glasses, plates and chargers and I was so happy to not have to deal with all that on top of everything else.

What We Did // Our Vendors & Our Menus

Our Food // I LOVE our amazing caterers Savour This Moment. They’re a “farm to table” catering and event company and buy their ingredients at local farmer’s markets. They sent us a questionnaire that asked us what kind of food we liked, what our favorite vegetable was, what our favorite restaurants are, etc. From those answers they crafted a bunch of options for appetizers and entrees that we were able to mix and match. The best part? They asked what our budget was up front and made the custom menu fit into it so no matter what we chose, we never went over budget. Their final numbers included tax and staff costs which eliminated any guess work or questions. On the big day Marlene, Michael and their staff were professional and prompt and we got so many compliments on our food from our guests. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend them. I can’t say enough good things.

Our Menu // Passed appetizers: cheesy artichoke crostini (pictured above), blistered cherry tomato bruschetta (pictured above), shortrib mac & cheese grilled cheese, turkey meatball sliders with pear, goat cheese & arugula (pictured above) and bourbon & brown sugar & thai chili chicken wings. Family style entrées: herb roasted chicken thighs, tamari glazed flank steak, sage & brown butter brussels sprouts, rosemary & garlic mashed potatoes, and a bib lettuce salad with roasted beets, goat cheese and walnuts.

Our Drinks // We hired Catered Cocktails to man our bar. They were great—easy to coordinate with, worked well with our catering staff, was prompt and even added in a last minute sangria and picked up 200 lbs of ice! One general note about bar tenders is they expect to be tipped. Catered Cocktails let us choose whether they put a tip jar out on the bar or not. We chose to pay the $200 fee to keep the tip jar off the bar. I didn’t want my guests to worry about not having cash, or feeling obligated to pay. This was a personal choice though, and I appreciate having the choice. And a general rule of thumb is 75 guests to 1 bar tender. We hired 2.

Our Bar Menu // Beer: Stella Artois and Downtown Brown Ale. Wine: Fetzer Cabernet & Fetzer Chardonnay, and Sangria. Champagne: Freixenet Cava Gold. Other: assorted soft drinks, sparkling cider and iced tea.

All photos in this post are from our wedding in August by the wonderful Jasmine of Let’s Frolic Together. Check out her post and more photos here. And read my 5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Wedding Photographer here.

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Sep 06, 2013

It’s been a weird, intense week. 4 day weeks always mess me up. I love the long weekend, but I feel like I’m behind on everything come Tuesday. M left for NYC yesterday morning, and I was up for 24 hours working on a crazy project deadline. Still working on it actually… and probably will be all weekend. But I really can’t complain. I love what I do, and with M out of the house, it’s a perfect time to hunker down with Bub and get stuff done!

(taken at the laundromat at 11pm on Wednesday…. one of those weeks)

Here are 5 things I found and loved this week:

Clementine Daily // A new women focused blog from some of the coolest girls on the web! I’m excited to follow along with this new site and see what it has to offer.

Blurred Lines Parody // The real “Blurred Lines” is such a fun, catchy song, but I was so disappointed when I saw the music video.This is brilliant parody of both the song and the original music video. More of this please!

Our maps are wrong // This blew me away when I watched this during my West Wing marathon a few months ago. I love that it’s going around the internet again.

Nom Nom Paleo // My go to Paleo Blog. I’ve made so many recipes from here already! The blogger, Michelle also has a cookbook and an ipad app.

The Lonely Island – Semicolon // I stumbled across this yesterday and had a good grammar nerd laugh.

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It’s September, and as I eluded to at the end of last week, I’m pretty excited for fall. It’s been so disgustingly hot recently, I’m pining for my sweaters and boots and cold gloomy mornings. Anybody else feel this way? I know we’re not at all close to being over this heat… we’ve got the rest of summer (until Sept 21) and then the inevitable Indian Summer we always get here in SoCal until Mid October. So I’m going to try and enjoy this last month and spend lots of time by the pool. Come February I’ll be glad I did. (photo taken from the pool this past weekend)

Our Paleo diet has been going great! I read all about it over the course of last week, and cooked some delicious meals, if I do say so myself. We may have cheated a bit this past holiday weekend, but I’m back to the kitchen for this week’s meals. I’m loving experimenting with my new slow cooker too. I’ve made a traditional beef roast (pictured) and Kalua Pig that we cooked for 16 hours! Pretty freakin’ delicious.

I’ve started a new Pinterest board to help me visualize my ideal day. This is a concept I’ve taken from the Braid Creative girls. It’s a tool they use to help creative entrepreneurs figure out what they want to do, and how to do it. I’ve feel like I’ve gotten a bit stuck in my freelance path. I’ve been doing it for exactly 1 year, and it’s been a great learning experience and a lot of fun, but there are about 4 different paths I could travel down, and I’m having a hard time figuring out which way is best… so I’m sitting in the middle of the road. Not good! Follow along and maybe create your own “Ideal Day” boards. If you do, share them with me! Let’s help each other!

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Austenland is a new movie that just came out. My friend and fellow Austen-nerd showed me the trailer and we just about died in hysterical glee (you know I love Kerri Russell). Then we saw it was a book first and immediately had to buy it. I just finished the short novel, and it was great—charming and funny, albeit slightly predictable. Can’t wait to geek out and watch the movie next.

Most people do crazy diets before they get married and then relax and eat what they want after… well, M and I just couldn’t handle dieting before the wedding. I put the scales away and let myself eat what I needed to get through all the wedding planning. Now that the craziness is over, we both feel we need to clean up our diets and get healthy. So we’re going to try the Paleo Diet. I’ve been reading a lot about it, and will hopefully have some fun recipes to share soon. If you have done this diet, or are currently eating this way, send me your tips and recipes! (This photo was taken at the Portland Famer’s Market. I LOVED this market so much.)

It’s been great being home and getting back into our routines. Last weekend we clean up and started to organize all the gifts. I found some room in our tiny kitchen, but we’ll be moving most of it bit by bit from my parents house. I can’t wait to try out some of my new gadgets like my Kitchen Aid mixer (swoon) and my pressure cooker (I admit I’m kinda scared of that thing)! We’ve been married for 2 weeks, and it gets me every single day :] (This photo was taken when we got home from our week long road trip)

Hi, it’s Sarah from Very Sarie! A few weeks back Amanda did a post about challenging herself to make more meals at home. Kelly from Studio DIY had a suggestion to give quinoa salads a try, and I whole heartedly seconded that notion! Not only are there loads and loads of great recipes out there, once you get the hang of making it, it’s a great way to use up odds and ends of produce in your fridge, and you can make a big batch and munch on it for days. I buy big bags from Costco so I always have some at the ready!

When Amanda asked me to guest post for her, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do a round-up of some of my favorite quinoa recipes. There was only one problem though- most of the recipes skip over the most important step: actually cooking the quinoa- calling for “cooked quinoa” in the ingredients list.  Of course you can google “how to cook quinoa” and get all sorts of directions- and each way will get you a pot of cooked quinoa- but I’ve found some tricks that make the tastiest, fluffiest quinoa, which in turn makes your quinoa salads superior.

The best set of directions I’ve found are on The Kitchn and they are what I’m using here. The 2 extra steps you really need to know about though are 1) Rinsing (it gets rid of a coating that can make the quinoa taste bitter. Good for repelling insects in the wild. Bad for tasty salads.) And 2) Use broth. I’ve made quinoa plenty of times with just water, but when I have broth or stock on hand, I’m definitely using that. It makes the end result infinitely better. (Extra credit if you have homemade stock on hand!)

The toasting step does add another dimension of flavor, but if you’re really in a pinch for time (or just feeling lazy) it’s not critical. I’ve also found that the 15 minute cooking time is more of an estimate. I actually turn the heat off once I see that there is no more liquid bubbling up from the quinoa, but rather little puffs of dry steam. Sometimes it’s a little more than 15 minutes, sometimes a little less.To that point, I’ve found using a pot with a glass lid invaluable. With a quick glance, I can tell how my batch is doing without having to lift the lid and let precious steam escape. And as tempted as you may be to skip the last step of letting your batch stand covered in the pot for 5 minutes, don’t! It’s the critical step for getting your quinoa to be light and fluffy, instead of cooked but kind of soggy.

So now that you know how to make quinoa like a champ, what kind of salads will you try? How about a couple to get you started:
Honey Mustard Quinoa Salad
Charred Corn and Quinoa Salad
Asian Quinoa Salad
Greek Quinoa Salad

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Hey guys! It’s Emilee from Tasteful Tatters! Hope you are all having a great week and not missing Amanda too much while she’s away honeymooning =) Today, I’m going to chat with you about cooking for a man. Yes, that’s right. Now, if you know a little bit about me, you might be laughing knowing that I am a horrible cook and I have a firefighter husband who is a baller in the kitchen haha. But I do have some good tips for the newly married out there (because if you are already an awesome cook – you probably wouldn’t need this article anyways, right?)

Now, I was not raised in a home where family dinners were a huge deal and with 6 kids, most meals consisted of things that came out of a box and were frozen. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. However, this situation didn’t lend much to train a teenager in the ways of the kitchen. I had lots of little siblings and hot dogs were high on their favorite list – not spinach & feta cheese spanakopita.

So, with that said – when I married a youngest of 3 to a stay at home mom who is a dream in the kitchen (and so is his father, btw) I felt a little out of my league. Ramen was no longer an acceptable dinner option in my new husbands eyes.

1. Learn the basics… but then mix things up. For the first probably 4 months of marriage I made the same 3 dishes. It was good to build up my confidence, but then it just got boring and then I didn’t want to do it anymore. The point is to obviously feed your hubby – but you want to do it with a happy heart too.

2. Start a Pinterest board and pin things you think he might like. I started doing this a few months back. My board is named Fresh since my hubs likes to eat super healthy. I’ll always add pins to it, and right before we go grocery shopping, I’ll have him look at it with me to see if anything looks like something he’d want to try. He really likes it and sees it as a challenge. We usually will pick 1 or 2 and then we’ll cook those meals together. My hubs really likes this, it’s meals that he really enjoys and it’s like a game to him. Beat Pinterest!

3. Add meat to all your dishes. Unless you married a vegan or something – most men really love their meat. This was new concept for me (cooking wise) I’m completely content with some pasta and grilled veggies. I soon learned that that is not a meal in his book haha

4. Get them involved. My husband loves meat and to eat healthy, so he subscribed to a blog called The Civilized Caveman and he signed up to get their recipe emails, that way he’ll get weekly “manly” recipes delivered right to his inbox and any ones he really wants to try, he forwards to me. Part of the hardest part of cooking for a man is doing the research and grunt work for new recipes in the hopes that he’ll like it. This takes the guesswork out of it for you plus he feels good when HE finds a winner =)  (civilizedcavemancooking.com)  

5. Don’t do it alone. There are so many online resources out there for you. Some of my go-tos are allrecipes.com and http://myfridgefood.com/ If you have a great online resource, let us know if the comments so we can all share!

6. For this last tip, I thought it best to go to the source. The man. I told my husband about my article and asked his thoughts. His reply: cook naked. So there you have it folks. Maybe they aren’t so hard to please after all ;-)

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