Meal Plan 09/25/2017 - 09/29/2017

Last week hit me like a ton of bricks and I cried more times than I'd like to admit. I am determined to tackle this week with more preparation, and more intention, in an effort to, I don't know, make it through seven days without sobbing. Dare to dream, right?

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Monday: Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa for Meatless Monday. My sister sent me this recipe last week. I'm skeptical but also it took five minutes to throw together so even if it sucks it kind of wins based on convenience and nutritional value. 

Tuesday: Spaghetti! I made a double batch of beef ragu for the freezer so I just need to pull a bag out and defrost it while the pasta cooks. Tuesday is our busiest day this week so I'm feeling extra smug that I've got a nutritious meal prepped and ready to go already. 

Wednesday: Peanut Butter Pork. My slow cooker is getting a workout this week. It must be autumn. I'll serve this with zoodles or maybe some cabbage sauteed with garlic and onions. 

Thursday: Leftovers! 

Friday: Dishevelled Josephs (hat tip to Sarah for making me laugh every time I make Sloppy Joes). If I'm feeling ambitious, I'll make pretzel rolls.

What's on your meal plan this week?

Tortellini Sausage Soup

This soup is hearty and full of veggies. Serve it with crusty bread and it's a full meal soup. The tortellini and sausage make it satisfying and flavourful, while the veggies add a boost of nutrients so no salad is needed (I become firmly Team No Salad once the lovely summer veg is gone).

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups assorted diced vegetables (I did 1 onion, 3 stalks celery, 3 carrots, and a large handful of green beans)
300g smoked turkey sausage, sliced (I cut mine in half and then did 1/4" slices for half moons)
1 - 796mL can crushed tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups water
1 - 350g package tortellini (I used rainbow four cheese)
2 (packed) cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
grated parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

Directions

Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium-high heat.

Add assorted diced vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and onion is translucent (approximately 7 - 10 minutes).

Add sausage and cook for another minute or two until it starts to brown slightly.

Add tomatoes, stock, oregano, and water and bring to a boil.

Add tortellini, and cook, stirring occasionally, per directions on package (usually 6- 8 minutes). In last minute of cooking, add spinach and parsley.

Top with grated parmesan cheese and serve with crusty bread.

Serves 8.

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How to Make Simple Roast Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

If there's one thing I learned while living in England, it's that Sundays are for roast dinners. Roast chicken is a meal that intimidated me (it felt so grown up!) but once I mastered it, it quickly became a staple in our home. So crank your oven, crack open a bottle of wine (wine is a necessary part of Sunday roast preparation so don't skip it. Look, I don't make the rules, I just follow them,) and get ready to fill your kitchen with feel-good-food smells.

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled and sliced into eighths
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 apple, roughly chopped
1 lemon, washed and cut into sixths (leave the skin on! You're going to get lots of beautiful lemony flavour from the skin)
olive oil
salt and pepper
small bunch fresh rosemary (or thyme or other herb of your choice), finely chopped
1 (2 - 2.5kg) roasting chicken
4 - 6 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F.

Mix onion, carrots, squash, apple, and lemon in large roasting pan. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add rosemary (or your favourite fresh herb), salt, and pepper, and mix well.

Give your chicken a quick rinse and pat dry with paper towel. Place on top of veg in roasting pan. Rub 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil into skin. Place garlic in chicken cavity. Season chicken liberally, inside cavity and out, with salt and pepper.

Roast in preheated oven for 90 minutes, until juices run clear and meat thermometer registers 170F. Baste chicken periodically with cooking juices (I usually do it at 45, 60, and 75 minutes). I also give the veg a bit of a stir whenever I baste the chicken to make sure they're not sticking to the bottom and getting too golden. (Hi, I am my parents. I refuse to call things burnt. Things are just varying stages of golden.)

Remove roasting pan from oven and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Remove lemons, carve chicken, and serve with roasted veg. In a perfect world, I'd pair this with steamed broccoli or salad to add a green component but real talk: sometimes green things do not find their way to our plates.

Simple Roast Chicken and Veg

How to Make the Best Macaroni and Cheese

My mom has made the same macaroni and cheese since my siblings and I were little kids. Macaroni and cheese night was the best night. Looking back on it now, macaroni and cheese night was probably a "stretch the pay cheque until grocery day" meal or a "I cannot give a single more eff" meal for my mom but to us kids it was a special treat. I will never forget the day my dad tried to make mom's macaroni and cheese. My mom was in the hospital giving birth to either my little sister or brother so my dad was taking care of me and my older sister. He made my mom's macaroni and cheese but decided to give it a little flair in the form of onions, green peppers, black pepper, and olives. Have mercy. I'm still not over it.

Mom's Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

3 cups dry elbow macaroni pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 heaped tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (I use whole milk because I am sinful but you can use 2% if you want a lighter sauce. If you use skim milk I will give you side eye so hard.)
1 teaspoon mustard (pro tip: don't use grainy mustard if you plan to serve this to a picky child or they will ask you why you put "nuts" in the cheesy pasta and you will die a little inside.)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional but it really enhances the cheesiness so I don't recommend skipping it unless you've got vegetarian concerns.)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I use old cheddar and it is decadent but regular cheddar is fine too.)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare macaroni per "al dente" instructions on the bag. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in medium-sized saucepan. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until butter and flour are combined well and the mixture has begun to smell a bit nutty, about 90 seconds - two minutes. If the roux starts to darken, turn down the heat.

Add the milk slowly, whisking vigorously. I usually add the milk cup by cup, taking time to whisk and thicken the sauce between cups. Cook until sauce is thickened to the consistency of runny yogurt. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

Now! This is important. If your sauce came anywhere close to a boil, it is too hot to stir in your cheese right now. Your cheese sauce will curdle. You will cry. Your macaroni and cheese will not be as good as my mom's macaroni and cheese. It is worth your time to sit and wait and be patient for five minutes. Go make a cup of tea. Take a few deep breaths. Come back in five minutes.

Right! We're back. Stir grated cheese into your sauce, reserving about 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top. Taste and season with salt and (white) pepper. Mix sauce into pasta, spread into a casserole dish, top with grated cheese, and bake for 15 - 25 minutes until bubbly. Enjoy!

If you're not serving a toddler and want to fancy things up a bit, skip the melted cheese on top and make a nice crunchy topping from a couple tablespoons of melted butter and about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs. If you want to get really decadent, you could also mix some crispy fried bacon bits and green onions into the panko mixture. Just don't bring that nonsense around me or my older sister.

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Instead of reheating the leftovers in the oven, I like to scoop the mac and cheese into a saucepan and reheat on the stove with a bit of extra milk to prevent the pasta from drying out.