Monday, 31 March 2014

Menu For the Week, Food Rules, and Bolognese Sauce

The weekend is usually the time I try to get some of my food prep for the upcoming week done.  Traditionally, my husband took last night’s leftovers for a hot lunch.  I now try to get ahead on my meals, so I can send my husband back to the city with at least 3 or 4 lunches.  That means planning my meals a week in advance (something I do regardless of cooking ahead), a lot of slicing and dicing, simmering, stirring and searing!

The menus for this week:

Roast pork, homemade apple sauce (canned last season), roasted beets, sweet potatoes and carrots, steamed broccoli, and a little gravy.
Cilantro pesto pizza with sautéed onions, tomatoes & mushrooms  plus a regular tomato sauce pizza with sautéed onions, diced red peppers, mushrooms & tomatoes and of course, a new broccoli salad I want to try out.
a vegan Bolognese sauce that I found at, to go on whole wheat linguine plus a mixed green side salad.
Hot pork sandwiches and lots of steamed mixed veggies
Lentil and mushroom sloppy Joes served on whole grain pita buns
& a mixed greens salad.
Leftover Day
I can’t wait to eat this week!

As an aside, if you are looking for suggestions, here are some things I put in my 14 year old daughter’s packed lunches:  PB & J sandwiches made on whole grain bread (currently I am weaning her off of Kraft peanut butter while switching out to an organic peanut butter… shhhhh), spinach, red pepper and diced chicken wraps, quinoa cups and a side salad, a slice of leftover pizza plus some broccoli with dip. I also add in home baked muffins, blueberries with a tich of organic evaporated cane sugar, some roasted unsalted cashews, and of course a thermos of the green tea she so enjoys.  I know she would rather eat the crap her friends have in their lunches, but that won’t be happening as long as I am in charge of lunches!

Over all, I have always had a pretty decent diet and have made sure that my family eats well too.  My mom did pass on many nuggets of wisdom like eat your veggies and don’t buy the sugary cereal like Lucky Charms and Honeycomb.  My favourites were, if you are hungry there is fresh fruit in the fruit bowl or fridge or you can make yourself a sandwich or if you are thirsty, there is milk, water, and juice and if you don’t want any of those, you aren’t really hungry/thirsty.  These were her replies when we said we were hungry or thirsty but were actually rooting for junk food like pop and chips.  Yes, even though my mom really didn’t enjoy cooking, she was sensible and wise enough to understand that good health for her family started with (mostly) whole food and made sure that we always had sit down meals with plenty of veggies and fruit on our plates, limited our intake of cookies, cakes and the like.  Much to our unhappiness as kids, chips, cheezies and pop were heavily curtailed and I remember that our Friday night movie snack was generally popcorn, albeit with lots of melted butter.  Yes, my mom’s food rules certainly started me out on the right track.

I took these food rules with me when I left home.  They came with me to university, they came with me when I got my first job, and they came with me when I started my family.  But over the years, I have improved my knowledge base, adding more food rules as I went.  These include NO MORE processed cheese slices or margarine, eat MORE veggies at dinnertime; include MORE veggies and fruit at lunchtime; change your milk from 2% to 1% and ultimately, down to skim. One of my biggest additions was, if you cannot pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it or at least try not to eat too much of it.  I am referring to the ingredients on the labels of “made for me” foods.  This rule naturally minimized my intake of a lot of processed foods which was certainly a step in the right direction for good health.  These rules carried served me well for the past 20 years and I have now continued to fine tune and improve my food rules while travelling on the next leg of my food journey, which of course, is to eat cleaner; eat more plant-based meals, drink more water, and when I do eat animal products, my goal is to source the best possible sources that are organic and humane.

All that being said, my current journey to eat more plant-based foods has brought me back to learning how to cook all over again. I even have to use recipes.  It takes a conscious effort to ensure my pantry and fridge is stocked properly and that I am ready to cook with my new-to-me ingredients, all the while, making sure that I can make it as "family friendly" as possible.  No more auto-pilot for me in the kitchen.  A meal that normally takes me 20 minutes to prep, takes so much longer from planning to execution.  Thank goodness for the internet and my eldest daughter Sara for finding information, tips and recipes!  Slowly, but surely, I am building a repertoire of “family approved” meals.  It is challenging enough to embark on a lifestyle change journey for myself, but to drag my family along is another story altogether.  This is especially true since they have not willingly signed on to the trip!  Suffice it to say, I am breaking them in slowly and have taken meals like Shepherd’s pie, lasagna, and sloppy Joes and have cut back the ground meat in half and supplemented with lentils and/or the store bought veggie ground meat.  This has been going well and generally well received... mind you what they don't know about, they can't complain about!  I call this tactic "hidden healthy" and has served me well through my children's "picky eating phases".
On Saturday, I made my FIRST 100% pasta meat sauce with absolutely NO meat.  It is completely vegan!  I tried the sauce when I made it on Saturday and thought it was AMAZING.  There is just a little variation in texture, but otherwise, I could be convinced there is meat in it.  I will let you know how it goes with the family. Tuesday is Bolognese Sauce on linguine night.  I think I will garnish the plates with finely diced sautéed celery and raw red & yellow peppers to “distract” them from the slight texture change of the meat sauce.  Wish me luck!

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