Category Archives: Meal Plans

Meal Plan 6/16-6/21

I did a little dance when I unloaded our Local Box this week. We got okra, peaches, basil and two kinds of tomatoes. It doesn’t get much summery-er than that. Rami and I made short work of the tomatoes and ate those in a sandwich already. The summer peas aren’t far behind– they’re made up in a salad in the fridge and I’ll be eating them as soon as I publish this post.

Here are the ingredients I’m working with:

Peaches – Caskey Orchards
Okra
Assorted Summer Squash – Massey Farm
Basil – My Father’s Farm
Mango – G&S Groves
Valley Girl Tomatoes – My Father’s Farm
Juliette Tomatoes – Hillside Farm
Summer Peas – Just Peachy Farm
Spring Onions – Acadian Family Farm

Here’s what I’m making:

Thursday: Tomato Sandwiches, Fresh Black-Eyed Pea Salad

 

Friday: Stewed okra and tomatoes, buttermilk biscuits

Saturday: Summer Squash Soup, sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper, peach cobbler (I’ll probably toss the mango in with the peaches)

Sunday: Vegetarian Penne

Monday: Picadillo (South American hash made with venison, onions, tomatoes, garlic, etc.), Tortillas

Tuesday: Leftover awareness night!

Breakfast: We’re on a toast and cream of wheat kick, embellished with homemade jams galore from the spring canning season and ATX Foodswappers

Meal Plan 6/9 – 6/14

Is there anything sadder than tossing a slimy, spoiled head of lettuce into the trash? Of course there is, but that’s not keeping me from wallowing in culinary pity. I forgot my cooking at home last week because of all the food blogging activities in Austin (ironic, right?) and now I’m  dreading cleaning the uneaten, spoiled food out of my kitchen. Last week’s peaches on the counter are more brown than peach, and I can’t tell whether the beets in my crisper have farm dirt on them or something else. I’m procrastinating the monumental food-toss-clean-out by listening to music by The Moldy Peaches, and by looking forward to the week ahead.

We’ve got new, non-moldy peaches, blueberries, and two kinds of tomatoes in the kitchen, and I’ll be able to get cooking with those just as soon as I make a little room. Here’s what’s in the Local Box this week. Thanks to Stephanie for putting all the hyperlinks for the farm websites.

Peaches – Caskey Orchards
Blueberries – Berry Best
Yellow Onion – Gundermann Acres
French Carrots – Gundermann Acres
Large Cucumbers – Acadian Family Farm
Valley Girl Tomatoes – Fruitful Hill Farm
Golden Cherry Tomatoes – Acadian Family Farm OR Tecolote Farm
New Potatoes – Gundermann Acres
Red Beet Bunch – Acadian Family Farm

Here’s what I’m planning to cook:

Thursday: Homemade tortillas with picadillo, a traditional South American hash made with venison, onions, peppers and squash.

Friday: Potato Chickpea Curry, Rice, Carrot Halwa

Saturday: Picnic! We’re having our favorite tomato sandwiches, potato salad, icebox pickles, and molasses cookies. Hopefully Rami will make sun tea. He learned how a few weeks ago and since then our large mason jar has had a new flavor of sun tea in it every few days!

Sunday: An informal group of food bloggers and tweeters, including me, are meeting at SWAD on north Lamar for a late lunch at 2 PM. There’s no invitation or formal guest list, so please join us if you want to! There are 8-10 of us planning to go so far.

Monday: Vegetarian Borscht, beer bread, peach crisp

Tuesday: Leftover Awareness Night!

Picnic at Northwest District Park

Picnic Food

Rami and I stayed close to home for this weekend’s picnic, at Northwest District Park in the Shoal Creek neighborhood of Austin. This park is one of my favorites in the city, and it’s the perfect place for families to hang out on Memorial Day Weekend.

Northwest District Park Sign

Northwest District Park has lots of picnic tables, a pool, a pond, basketball courts, and a large playground. It’s a huge park, with two entrances: one on the east side of the park at 7000 Ardath Street, and another on the west side of the park at Shoal Creek Blvd. between Dover and Pinecrest Blvd. The park has many grassy lawns and paved walking areas shaded by tall trees.

One of the best things about picnicking at Northwest District Park is its abundance of picnic areas. Like many of Austin’s parks, Northwest has three large, reservable picnic areas with many tables. However, it also has several more secluded picnic tables tucked around the park.

 

We chose this one to set up our picnic since it was situated in the shade of a pecan tree and overlooked the playground.

Our menu for this picnic was our favorite yet.

  • Mint sun-tea from Zhi Tea: fill a large mason jar with water and add two teaspoons of tea for each six ounces of water. (I used a large tea filter like this to hold the loose tea.)
  • Peanutty Carrot Tea Sandwiches: these are a wonderful alternative to plain PB&J. We skipped the raisins and used Confituras marmalade in the recipe. Yum!
  • Corn Radish Salad with Jalapeno Dressing An awesome spicy salad that uses radishes! I’m going to play with this recipe again for next week’s picnic since we enjoyed it so much.
  • Strawberries and Blackberries: sadly, local strawberries are gone for the season, but the blackberries from Wheeler Farm were super sweet!
  • Summer squash bread with beet-pecan sandwich spread.
I loved the corn radish salad and the blackberries. Rami’s favorite thing was the peanutty-carrot sandwich spread and the iced tea. And see the mint leaves garnishing the berries?? I grew those in a flower-pot outside my house! 😀

One thing that’s not coming across in these pictures is the ridiculous number of bugs swarming around us and our food. I got 13 mosquito bites while I was plating the food and taking this picture!

Because of all the bugs, Rami and I ate in record time and hightailed it outta the park. We spotted an egret at the pond as we left, just before the sun set.

Meal Plan 5/26-5/31

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I am in a great mood today for many reasons. The top three are (1) the week is halfway over, (2) we get the day off on Monday! and (3) Rami’s and my first wedding anniversary is on Monday!!!!!! It seems like just a few months ago that we were planning our wedding in Iowa. I smile every single time I see a lemon because they remind me of our marriage, and I’m planning to make some lemon bars over the weekend so we can relive that part of our wedding day. 🙂

Rami and I were talking today about whether either of us was surprised that the first year is nearly over, and while neither one of us doubted that we’d still be married after one year (whew!) we both agree that the year has gone by really quickly. It’s also a little shocking to be married for a year because that’s something that grown-ups do. Even at 26 years old, I am surprised when I have moments that define me as a grown-up.

Still, grown-up I am, and that means making a menu plan. Even on wedding anniversary week! Here’s the produce I’m working with from the Local Box:

Here is what I am planning to eat and cook:

Wednedsday: we went out to Chuy’s for dinner. Creamy Jalapeno is my friend.

Thursday: venison meatloaf, pickled beets, lettuce salad, baked sweet potato

Friday: Corn Radish Salad, Zucchini quick bread, pickled beets

Saturday: Picnic: Corn Radish Salad, Peanutty Carrot Tea Sandwiches, Beet-and-Pecan Tea Sandwiches, Basil Goat Cheese Tea Sandwiches

Sunday: Leftover Tea Sandwiches, Pesto Pasta Salad on a bed of lettuce

Monday: Blackberry Peach Cobbler, Roast Chicken with beets and carrots, Lemon Bars

Tuesday: Leftover Awareness Day!!

Breakfast: oatmeal! I am doing really well at eating breakfast at home lately. Three times this week!

Picnic at Montopolis Youth Sports Complex

The second weekend in our picnic adventure took Rami, Barclay and me to far east Austin. We stumbled upon the Montopolis Youth Sports Complex when we were looking for Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park on Saturday night.

After a jaunt east on Airport Boulevard from I-35 and a winding drive through the Montopolis neighborhood, Rami and I found ourselves at 400 Grove Boulevard, the address registered with Google Maps for Guerrero Park.There is a parking lot and some trailheads that lead into Guerrero Park at that address, but the more obvious landmark there is this lovely sports area. Montopolis Youth Sports Complex has a few baseball fields with concession stands and bleachers, a batting cage and a small playground. We counted six picnic tables at the park, situated near trash cans at the edges of each playing field.

There are lots of tall trees at the park, and most of the recreation areas around the baseball fields are in full or partial shade. It’s obvious from the manicured lawns and clean trails that the Montopolis Sports Complex is well cared for, and it’s probably very busy during baseball, softball and tee-ball seasons. However, Rami and Barclay and I were the only souls there at dinner time on Saturday night. The solitude at the park was great! We enjoyed our whole meal uninterrupted and Barclay was able to run around on his long lead and explore the park.

The menu for this week’s picnic featured tons of local veggies in various salad preparations. We were gluten free except for some pita bread and vegan, since I forgot my bacon-laden potato salad at home:

These salads were a really easy picnic menu since I was able to make most of them ahead of time during the week. I don’t know what I was thinking packing pickled beets on a picnic. They taste awesome, but the magenta beet juice threatened to stain our orange picnic blanket with every bite! Rami did a smart thing and packed a few paper napkins so that we could wipe down our dirty plates before we packed up to head home.

The wax beans and green beans from Acadian and Tecolote Farms were the standout ingredients in this week’s picnic. I used these fresh treasures in place of canned green beans in my favorite four bean salad recipe.

Four Bean Salad (serves 6)
One bunch fresh green beans
One bunch fresh wax (yellow) beans
15 oz. can garbanzo beans
15 oz. can kidney beans
Two green bell peppers, seeded and ribbed
Red or purple onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup red wine or cider vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation: trim ends off of green and yellow beans, then snap beans into bite-sized pieces.Bring a scant inch of salted water to a boil in a large saute pan. Add fresh beans, cover and cook for about five minutes, until beans are tender. Drain the beans and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, open and drain canned beans. Chop the bell peppers and onion into small pieces.  In a small bowl, whisk together oils, vinegars, sugar, salt and pepper. Put all the beans, onion and pepper into a large salad bowl and pour dressing over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Meal Plan 5/18-5/25

It’s officially summer at our house. The students are mostly gone from the university where I work, and Rami’s teaching schedule is wrapping up, too. That’s not to say we won’t be busy for the next few months; summer for us doesn’t mean  a break so much as a shift in the usual routine. Last weekend was the first of several picnics we’ll be taking, and starting next week we’ll be spending every Wednesday night together watching “So You Think You Can Dance.” (Seriously. We love that show.)

The local food scene is starting to shift into summer gear, too. I’m seeing more and more tomatoes at the markets, and the grocery store in my neighborhood had “local” blueberries from far south Texas this week. I’m psyched about all the new flavors the warm weather brings.

This is what we’re getting in our Local Box this week. Thanks so much to Stephanie over at Eating Out of the Local Box for all the farm links in this week’s line-up.

Red Beet Bunch – Tecolote Farm
Salad Mix – My Father’s Farm
Summer Squash – Texas Natural
Green Beans – Acadian Family Farm
Sweet Potatoes – Homestead Farm
Kale – Green Collier
Heirloom Tomatoes – Bluebonnet Hydroponics
Mango – G&S Groves
Fennel – Fruitful Hill Farm

Here’s what I’m making:

Wednedsay: Four bean salad, Grilled goat cheese and tomato sandwich
Thursday: Summer squash tacos
Friday: Red lentil and sweet potato stew
Saturday: Picnic: Pickled beets, Shaved fennel salad, Sliced tomatoes with salt & pepper, homemade wheat bread
Sunday: Lettuce salad with garlic vinaigrette and leftover roasted beets
Monday: Death by garlic pasta
Tuesday: Pancakes, scrambled eggs, mango banana smoothies
Breakfast: I’m going to try making a root vegetable omelet based on this recipe and see if it reheats well throughout the week.

Hunger Awareness Project: Snacking on a SNAP budget

Could you make 30 days of snacks out of $16 of groceries? Here's what's snacking on days 22 & 24 of my plan: Cucumber Raita with Radishes and Cucumbers

This is the first in a series of three posts I’ve written for the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance Hunger Awareness Project. I recently joined the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance and we’re all working together with the Capital Area Food Bank to help raise awareness about hunger in Central Texas.

For this first post, I’m focusing food education for kids by making healthy, easy snacks on a tight budget– just $16 for two kids’ snacks for the month. $16 is the smallest amount of support the government provides to food stamp recipients, and it’s possible that this small sum could make the difference between a family’s kids eating snacks after school and going hungry.

My snack menu features six easy recipes that I imagine children might enjoy preparing and eating. No cookies here. These snacks are all fruits, veggies, whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil. The total cost of all the ingredients for my month’s worth of snacks was $16.02 at HEB, a grocery store on the bus route home from my job. I bought organic eggs, popping corn, and yogurt; the rest is conventional.

Grocery List
32 ounce bag popping corn, $1.99
4 ounce bottle olive oil, $1.79
16 ounce bag of dry chickpeas, $1.09
32 ounce bag carrots, $.88
small bag of radishes, $.99
two, 8 ounce packages of plain greek yogurt, $2.84
one cucumber, $.50
Garlic powder (no salt added– just plain garlic), $1.50
Ground cinnamon, $1.13
Five small apples, $.85
1/2 dozen eggs, $2.50

Shopping for these ingredients made me highly aware of what a sacrifice it can be to cook with high quality ingredients. For example, that tiny bottle of olive oil was twice as expensive as a mid-sized bottle of canola oil. Garlic powder costs three times as much as garlic salt. And organic, free range eggs cost $1.50 more than their factory farmed counterparts. Choosing to cook with these good ingredients meant that I could afford dry chickpeas, but not canned. And I had to settle for five tiny, Red Delicious apples instead of my favorite Pink Ladies or Cameos.

Even though shopping for the ingredients was a bummer, I like the snack recipes I created. I think I would have enjoyed eating all these things as a kid, especially the popcorn and the deviled eggs. (Mom? What do you think?) Here are the snacks I prepared with my $16 of groceries. In my instructions, I did my best to keep everything kid-safe, but since I don’t have kids, these are educated guesses.

Apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon: Grown-ups should slice apples, kids can sprinkle with cinnamon. Step-by-step instructions.

Popcorn: This one’s super easy. Pour 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels into a plain paper lunch sack. Fold the top of the bag over three times, then cook for 90 seconds in the microwave. Eat the popcorn plain, or sprinkle with garlic powder or cinnamon. Detailed, step-by-step instructions.

Popcorn is an inexpensive, healthy snack for kids. Just put 1/4 cup of popcorn in a paper bag, close the top and microwave for 90 seconds. No need to add butter or oil, and it costs less than $.15 for two servings.

Carrot sticks with chickpea hummus: Grown-ups should slice carrots into sticks. Kids can make hummus by using a fork to mash together in a bowl 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, a little olive oil, a tablespoon of water and a heavy sprinkle of garlic powder. The Kid Can Cook has an ingenious, kid-friendly method for making hummus, too.

Roasted chickpeas: Kids can use a paper towel to dry 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, then toss the chickpeas in tablespoon of olive oil with some garlic powder. Grown-ups should spread chickpeas in an even layer on a cookie sheet, then bake at 450 for 30-40 minutes until chickpeas are crunchy.

Confetti deviled eggs: Kids can help crack and peel hard-boiled eggs, and grate one radish and 1/4 of a carrot. Grown-ups should cut eggs in half and scoop out yolks. Kids can mix together the egg yolks and most of the grated veggies, and then spoon the yolk mixture back into the egg halves. Garnish with remaining veggie “confetti”.

Shredded veggies provide lots of color and texture in this simplified deviled egg recipe. Kids can help peel eggs, grate vegetables and smash together the yolk filling. I used a sprinkle of garlic powder instead of salt for extra oomph.

Cucumber raita with radish and cucumber slices: Kids can grate half a cucumber and mix it with 8 ounces of yogurt and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Grown-up should slice the remaining cucumber and radishes. Raita tastes best if it sits in the fridge for a few hours before serving. (This dish is pictured at the top of the page).

By using these simple recipes and staggering snacks throughout the month, I stretched $16 of food into 62 servings of snacks. You can see there’s a whole lot of popcorn on the menu, and lots of chickpeas. I tried to alternate these inexpensive snacks with more luxurious offerings like the cucumber raita and deviled eggs.

Do you think the snack plan I laid out here is realistic for a single, working parent to carry out? And would kids really eat these things? How would you stretch $16 to help feed your family?

Find out more about the Capital Area Food Bank and the Austin Food Blogger’s Alliance Hunger Awareness Project here.