Hello friends! As the title suggests, I’m beginning a journey towards a more healthy version of myself. This isn’t my first such journey, but it’s the first in which I’ve begun with such a heightened awareness of my strengths and weaknesses. And so I begin, and I plan to move forward in small steps to help this become a more permanent healthy lifestyle.
I began last week with some food changes. Small ones really, nothing major. I have a history of disordered eating, not a severe one fortunately, but more of a warning shot. So I know that if I don’t approach food very carefully I can find myself with more anxiety than I need, and making poor decisions for my long term health. I’m starting with the goal of moving most of our family’s diet to being home prepared. This is fairly challenging due to the amount of time we spend running hither and yon, but necessary for both health and budget reasons. I tend to get stuck in a rut when it comes to food though, and then I want to eat out just for the variety. To curb this particular challenge, and to make things easier when we rush in the door late at night I’ve begun to dabble in preparing foods ahead of time.
Unfortunately, our family is one of very particular eaters. We don’t eat many casseroles (actually, I can only name one: lasagna), stews, meats with heavy sauces, or many other things that lend themselves to freezer cooking or crock pot meals. We do eat a lot of items that are very simple one ingredient things, so I’m making it my goal to do as much prep work on those as possible ahead of time. Starting with meat. We’re a family of unabashed omnivores, and we have some form of meat in just about every meal. I buy most of my meat in bulk at Costco, so this time when we brought it home I decided to go ahead and see what I could do to make meal times easier. It all started with a couple of more or less free hours and a lot of meat. Roughly 10 pounds of it.
My plan was as follows:
- Brown one package of the ground beef (about 1 1/3 pounds), split in half, and freeze for recipes.
- Bake 4 chicken breasts, chop finely, and freeze in individual portions for chicken salad.
- Cut 4 chicken breasts into nugget size pieces and freeze for home made nuggets, stir fry, or putting with pasta.
- Make meatloaf and salisbury steak with the remaining 2 2/3 pounds of ground beef.
- Freeze remaining 4 chicken breasts (2 individual packages) as is.
So I started with the cooking, as I figured I could do the rest of it easily enough while the cooking was happening. I was also cognizant of the fact that the toddler was not going to let this go on forever.
Or even very long.
Meat browning in the big skillet, chicken breasts in the oven (400 degrees, roughly 20-25 minutes) and working on chopping the nuggets. This took me about 45 minutes from turning the oven on to putting the raw chicken into the freezer. I froze the nuggets in bags containing 2 chicken breasts each which is exactly enough to feed the four of us.
On to meatloaf! I use a very simple meatloaf recipe. I use the same recipe for Salisbury steak and usually meatballs as well, simply adding different sauces.
1 1/3 pound of ground beef
About a half cup of breadcrumbs (plain)
roughly 1/2 to 3/4 cup of milk
small pinch of salt
small pinch of pepper
2 shakes of garlic powder
2 shakes of onion powder
Large pinch of dried parsley, crumbled fine
A couple shakes of Worcestershire sauce
Mix all these together and you have a pretty well seasoned batch of meat, that makes a good blank palate for whatever meal you’re turning it into. For meatballs I roll it into 1 inch balls, then bake for about 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.
When I do meatloaf I typically do them in muffin tins to make for easy individual servings. Fresh they cook for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, frozen it tends to be 45 minutes plus. Either way check the temp, it should be at least 160 degrees at the center.
For Salisbury steak I have a super easy recipe that’s been a huge hit. If I’m feeling fancy I start by browning fresh sliced mushrooms while I prepare the meat as above. I form the meat into hamburger style patties, and once the mushrooms are done sauteing I move them out of the pan and cook the patties until they’re done through. Once the patties are finished I move THOSE out of the pan, and dump in some cream of mushroom soup. I know, I’m cheating, it’s horrible. BUT it’s easy, and Geekling gets excited about the fact that the meat has mushroom sauce on it. I add beef broth to the soup, just enough to get a gravy like consistency, and then once that’s achieved I add both patties and mushrooms back to the pan, make it all nice and warm together, and serve it up. It’s one of the few ground beef things that both boys will actually eat happily.
All in all at the end of the day I had nine meals for the family with some of the stressy prep work taken care of, plus 5 servings of precooked chicken for chicken salad lunches for myself.
Next step I’m going to tackle is figuring out how to do more healthy lunch preparation for myself, to make sure I eat good food at a regular interval, and premake lunches for the boys and Happy Daddy to easily grab on the way out for adventures, so stay tuned!