Meal Planning Struggles
My first week at dinner meal planning (and executing it) was a work in progress. To recap for any of you who missed my post last week on Vegetarian Weekly Meal Plans, I'm starting to plan my dinners out 1 week ahead to get more organized around dinner so I'm not trying to figure out dinner 10 minutes before I make it.
This week, some parts worked, and others didn't. The biggest challenge for me was, and continues to be, all those moving parts that never stay still. Our internet and cable went out, inconveniently between 3pm and 8pm and I couldn't access the recipes I'd chosen. The whole town was affected, and I would have had to drive over to California to get internet on my phone. This is what roughing it in the mountains looks like today, lol. Luckily, I had shopped for the ingredients (thanks to my planning!), so I made up something on the fly with them that I felt might come close. The result was a new recipe I plan to make regularly. Problem solved. I'll share it with you in the coming week.
Then my back acted up. I have a bulging disc that impacts my sciatic nerve, and let's just say it's painful enough to choose icing while lying down over prepping and cooking dinner. That would have been a perfect night for soup, but I hadn't made it yet. Lesson learned: make a double batch of my next soup and freeze it for evenings like this.
Favorite Meal From Last Week's Menu
All that said, the week went much better than it would have without any plan at all. And as feedback on the recipes from last week, all the ones I've made were delicious, and ones I'll make again. But the biggest standout so far was the Orange Orzo Salad with Almonds, Feta and Olives by Cookie + Kate. I nixed the almonds because of food allergies, swapped out the orzo pasta for spicy roasted cauliflower, and added segments of a sumo citrus, since they're in season. The result was raves from the table – even from Carnivorous Maximus. (And yes, I'll be posting this one too!) A friend of mine, MJ at MJ's Kitchen, also made it, swapped out the pasta for brown rice, and received the same raves.
So let's get our menu for next week going – I have some great low-carb vegetarian meals for us this time! But first some tips. Some are the same I shared in last week's post, some are new.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself for Weekly Meal Planning
- What kind of meal planning system will you use to outline and document your meal plan? It should be simple and somewhere handy – like on the refrigerator. I'm investigating what's out there over the coming weeks, but right now I document my menu on my blog, obviously, but start with a spreadsheet to plan it out.
- How many dinners do you need to plan for this week? Will you dine out with friends one night? Are you traveling for work?
- What kind of dinners do you need this week based on your and your family's schedules? Plan the easiest meals for the busiest days. If the kids have soccer practice one day after school, and you're the family Uber, make a dinner that's already prepped and ready to go, or one you cooked ahead and all you have to do is warm it up. Casseroles are perfect for this. So are soups.
- What do you have in your refrigerator that you want to use up? Make a list.
- What can you prep ahead, say on Sunday? Set a goal of doing enough prepping ahead of time to pull dinner together in under 30 minutes when you get home every evening. It's a huge stress relief to not have to start from scratch every night, especially when you get home exhausted and everyone's hungry!
Note: Check out this link for more meal planning tips, and go to this link for 4 common mistakes we all make in meal planning.
M O N D A Y
Baked Falafel + Spicy Moroccan Sauce (Baked in a Muffin Pan!!!)
by The Wimpy Vegetarian
I love chickpeas in any form, but don't like to fry my food. Falafel is typically fried, and I wanted to try my hand at some that would be baked. They don't have the crispy texture you get from something fried, and are closer to little meatballs, but the flavor is all chickpea falafel. And these Baked Falafel are served with a Spicy Moroccan Sauce.
Prep Ahead: Make the falafel balls ahead, cover and keep chilled in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Make the spicy Moroccan sauce up to 1 week ahead and keep in the refrigerator. And if you plan to make the next two recipes, cook up enough beans for them all. If not, it's nice to have chickpeas on hand to add to soups, salads and casseroles for extra protein. For tips and troubleshooting problems with cooking up a batch of chickpeas, this is the all-time most popular post on my blog on various methods of preparing chickpeas.
Recipe Note: This falafel recipe calls for chickpeas soaked overnight, and ground up without cooking. But I've also made this very successfully with completely cooked chickpeas. If you do this, eliminate the baking soda in the recipe.
Omnivore Tip: Double the recipe and make half of the the falafel with 3/4 pound ground pork or turkey in place of the chickpeas.
T U E S D A Y
Simple Chickpea Bolognese
by Minimalist Baker
Chickpea Bolognese is one of my favorite ways to use chickpeas, and this one caught my eye this week. I have a recipe for it in my cookbook, Simply Vegetarian, too – although my version is more traditional with milk. Minimalist Baker's version looks not only gorgeous, but incredibly delicious by roasting the chickpeas in olive oil, spices, herbs, Panko breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese. And I love the low-carb idea of nixing wheat pasta noodles for carrot ribbons!
Prep Ahead: Make the sauce ahead of time, and store in the refrigerator, but don't roast the chickpeas until you're ready to make dinner. Roasted chickpeas often don't stay crispy in the larder, and you want that crunchy texture! As for the carrots, you may be able to make them ahead of time too – I personally haven't tried it. I'll let you know!
Omnivore Tip: Whenever I make Chickpea Bolognese, I always have a version with ground beef or turkey meatballs to make everyone at the table happy.
W E D N E S D A Y
Chickpea Stew with Saffron, Yogurt and Garlic
by Heidi Swanson found on Food52 Genius Recipes
During the winter, I make soup once a week or so, and store it in jars. Sometimes I freeze part of it for those days when I don't feel up to cooking. I've made a number of Heidi Swanson's recipes, and have always loved them. This Chickpea Stew is next on my list. The combination of yogurt, saffron and garlic sounds fantastic to me. If you're interested in other chickpea stews, this Italian Chickpea Stew and Charred Eggplant and Chickpea Stew are family favorites.
Prep Ahead: No need. If you already have chickpeas, this soup takes 15 minutes to prep and another 15 minutes to make. But if you want a dish that you can drudge home after work, warm up, and slump with onto the sofa, this is it.
Omnivore Tip: I plan to serve this with roast chicken for Carnivorous Maximus and big leafy salad with oranges.
T H U R S D A Y
Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowl with Lime Peanut Sauce
by First Mess
Spaghetti squash is so flexible, and is easily swapped in for pasta in many dishes. Squash isn't super low-carb but it's much lower carb than traditional pastas. If you have an Instant Pot, it's the fastest way imaginable to cook a spaghetti squash whole. Otherwise, just follow the directions provided in this recipe for a Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowl. I'm already planning on doubling the Lime Peanut Sauce – I have a feeling it'll go great with a lot of things.
Prep Ahead: Make the Lime Peanut Sauce ahead.
Omnivore Tip: I plan to serve shrimp sautéed in garlic, lemon, salt and pepper over it for Carnivorous Maximus, with a little extra Sauce.
F R I D A Y
Quinoa Cauliflower Patties
by Sprouted Kitchen
Cauliflower is my favorite vegetable because I can do so many things with it, and it's mild flavor goes well with almost anything. I've made lots of veggie-patties, like these Spinach & Garlic Chickpea Pancakes (really a burger), and these Crispy Black Bean Burgers. In summer, I make these Zucchini Fritters and Corn Fritters with Avocado Mango Salsa, but I've yet to make them with cauliflower. That will change this week. In fact, I might not even wait until Friday to make these Cauliflower Patties.
Prep Ahead: Make the dressing and cook the quinoa ahead of time. You should be able to make the patties a few days ahead too, and just keep chilled in the refrigerator. I plan to try it, and will let you know!
Omnivore Tip: Carnivorous Maximus will want some meat in here, and I'm thinking of frying up some bacon and crumbling it into the mix, or I might sauté some shrimp, finely chop it, and add it to the mix instead.
If you make any of these dishes, I would love to see how it turns out for you!! Take a photo and put it up on Instagram – just don't forget to tag me @wimpyvegetarian.