Friday, August 10, 2012

I'm starving! What's for dinner???

That's usually what I'm thinking every night after I get home from work.  I don't know why, but car trips make me hungry. Even the 45 minute drive home from work I do every day is no exception. 

I used to be pretty great at planning meals for the week before I had to go on my allergy elimination diet.  Now, with all my restrictions, my cooking creativity has died.  On top of everything else, hubby had been working out of the area and wasn't home on weeknights for the past 6 months, so I had gotten very lazy at cooking meals.  Before the elimination diet, I was living off a diet of scrambled eggs and Annie's GF rice macaroni and cheese (Yes, Mom, I added veggies).  After the elimination diet started it dwindled to a Lara Bar or a handful of almonds. Now that the hubby is home, I find myself staring at a stocked pantry, fridge, and freezer with no idea what to do with it all.  This week I even went as far as making a menu on my menu board and I just don't have cooking.
I can't really eat out, so I HAVE to cook.

We all get in those slumps.  Our creativity has disappeared.  We get so caught up in everything else, that we are just too tired to care about anything.  It happens in every aspect of your life: work, home, relationships, and even in the kitchen.  Usually it's just a phase that we get over in a few days or weeks.  But what do we do in the meantime?  Live off frozen pizza, take out and drive-thrus?  That's not a good idea for your wallet or your waistline. 

It's times like these, that it's good to have a basic repertoire of easy, fail-safe, go-to recipes that we can make during the days and weeks that we've lost our mojo.  I'd suggest to gather a good dozen recipes that you and your family all love.  Make sure to include a few recipes that are easy to double or triple or even quadruple, so you can munch on leftovers for lunch and dinner throughout the week, or even package up and freeze for three weeks from now.

Even though this is a vegan recipe, meat lovers probably won't miss the meat.  The sauce is amazing, it has tons of colorful veggies (I like to add shredded carrots - raw or stir fry them with the other veggies), and it can be served hot or cold.  I will make a triple batch of the sauce using the full can of coconut milk and tomatoes (one 15oz. can measures out to around over 1.5 cups) and divide it into three equal portions.  I freeze two containers of sauce and then use it to make the noodle salad in the next couple weeks, or as a marinade/sauce for chicken.  This way, I eliminate partial cans of things in my fridge that get lost in the back and spoil before I use them up.  You can even just make a double or triple recipe of the entire recipe and eat it during the week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And because it's vegan, you can take it to a summer picnic and not have to worry about it spoiling in the heat.

This salad combines my love of sushi and my love of salads during the summer months.  Quick, easy and much cheaper than getting a similar salad at a restaurant.

This recipe is so yummy.  I usually swap out the breasts for boneless, skinless thighs (2 things per 1 breast).  I also will double the recipe (use the 28 oz can of whole Ortega chilies - way more cost effective than the small cans).  You could cook it in two dishes and freeze one, or jut eat it during the week and have some friends over for an impromptu dinner party!

My absolute favorite, easiest thing to make.  Since it's a crockpot dish, it takes less than 5 minutes to prepare.  Place a 5-7lb pork shoulder in the crockpot.  Add 2-3TBL liquid smoke and 2-3 TBL of red Hawaiian sea salt.  Cook on low for about 20 hours.  Remove fat, shred, add some of the juices to keep it moist, and eat.  On the first day, I usually serve it plain on top of steamed rice and shredded green cabbage. Makes me wish I was back in Hawaii at a luau eating kalua pork! The possibilities with the leftovers are limitless.  Add some BBQ sauce and make into sandwiches.  Pan fry in a skillet with some orange juice and spices to make carnitas.  Make into taco/enchilada/burrito filling.  Put it on top of a salad or in an omelet.

I make chicken like this or some sort of variation of this 3-4 times a month.  If you are short on time, skip roasting the lemon, and just add the juice of one full lemon to the dish.  Some of my favorite additions to this dish are more mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, olives, and chopped baby spinach.  To adapt to my diet restrictions, I omit the flour or use rice or almond flour and use coconut oil or ghee in place of the butter. I also like things with lots of sauce, so I tend to double the sauce, especially if I'm adding more veggies!

Make takeout quicker than it can be delivered!  This recipe makes cooking Chinese food so easy and it turns out better than the restaurant!  I like to use thighs, because they stay moister, and replace the sugar with honey.  You can use any swaps you need to make it more friendly for your dietary needs...raw almonds in place of the peanuts, coconut aminos instead of the soy sauce.  You can serve it on top of brown rice, shredded cabbage, cauliflower "rice"...whatever fits your tastes or dietary needs.

This is my second favorite dish behind mac and cheese.  Rice flavored with wine and a rich stock, peppered with bits of "goodies" and finished with creamy butter and tangy Parmesan cheese.  What's not to love?!?! Once you have the basic technique down to make risotto, you can add whatever sounds good.  Two of my favorite varieties are a ham and pea risotto, and mushroom  prosciutto risotto with grilled prawns.  With my elimination diet, I still eat risotto. I just eliminate the ingredients I can't have like butter and cheese, swap out the prosciutto and ham for some pastured bacon from the farmers market, and add some more veggies, like chopped up spinach or asparagus.  It's still flavorful and tasty, and if you actually stir the rice the entire 18+ minutes, it will come out so creamy, you won't miss the butter and cheese.

Fish tacos are one of my favorite dinners.  It's so quick and easy to make.  I just cook some white fish (like tilapia) in a skillet, flake it, add some lime juice,  pepper plant seasoning (or taco seasoning), and a can of diced green chilies.  Put in a corn tortilla or a taco shell and top with onions, cilantro, avocado, and shredded cabbage.  Yum!  You can also make fried fish tacos by battering and deep frying your favorite firm white fish.  Or you can do it the shortcut way and use pre-battered fish portions or fish sticks that you bake in the oven.  Just beware becuase many of those contain fillers and very little fish.

I love sushi so much, I could eat it every day.  I can't afford to go out for sushi all the time, so this is my compromise.  You can also make other kinds of sushi at home, just make sure you have found somewhere that sells sashimi grade fish if you plan on eating it raw.

I love to get out my giant 16 quart stock pot and make a giant batch of pasta sauce.  This is one of my favorite recipes.  I tend to make multiple batches of this recipe and freeze it in gallon ziplock bags full of sauce for the future.  I actually like to simmer my meatballs in the sauce instead of baking them.  I will usually make this sauce on my day off and let it simmer on low for several hours.  I also like to add a hearty red wine to the sauce when I add the tomatoes.  It adds a depth and richness to this sauce that is
legend-wait for it-dary.


I always have a bag of wild salmon filets from Costco on hand at all times.  They make a quick, healthy dinner in only a few minutes.  I will place 2 portions in a glass baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle on my favorite seasonings, and bake according to the package directions.  This can be served by itself with a side of rice and steamed veggies, on top of a hearty dinner salad, alongside of a simple spaghetti with garlic and olive oil and a crunchy green salad, or topped with your favorite salsa (grilled pineapple????) with a side of rice and beans. 

(Just so you know, some of these recipes were my go-to recipes BEFORE I started my elimination diet.  I'm 6 months into my elimination diet, and I'm just getting my cooking groove down..  There are a few things that I've been cooking on a regular basis that I haven't got around to sharing just yet.  They will come soon, I promise!)

No comments:

Post a Comment