One thing that I'm really trying harder to do this year is meal planning. It's something I've preached much (in my life as a counseling dietitian) but practiced little, mostly because I really enjoy spontaneity in the kitchen.
And for years I've been blessed with well-stocked grocery stores so close to my kitchen that I could practically reach their shelves without leaving my stove.
Not to mention ample free time. That helps.
However, as life has gotten busier, balancing baby and work and blog and baby and exercise and friends and hubby and baby and baby and baby (you parents of infants know how it is) our weekday meals have taken a bit of a nosedive.
Suddenly the grocery store that is so close is still not quite convenient enough to pull something healthy and delicious together when at 6 pm everyone's tummy is rumbling, baby is having a sleepy meltdown and the kitchen is still a mess from LAST night's dinner plus the present day's earlier meals. Phew.
So I've been committing to post-it flagging/pinning delicious recipes as I find them, and using my meal planner app to plan four or five breakfast, lunches, dinners each week.
You can access this meal planner through the Recipe Box tab at the top of my blog, or bookmark this link: http://foodess.ziplist.com. Yes, I do get a very small kickback from the ads on those pages when you access it through my site (thank you so much, those who do! Helps keep me going!), but I swear that is not my motivation for sharing it - it's really a totally brilliant tool, with a "Recipe Clipper" that lets you grab recipes from anywhere on the web, plug them into your calendar, and then it generates shopping lists for you for the week. Genius.
Even when I find recipes in my print magazines to try, I just hunt them down on the magazine's website and "clip" them. And for my own recipes or ideas, I can manually add ingredients to the shopping list. It also syncs with their iPhone app.
Can you tell I really really love it? Explore it for a few minutes, I think you'll love it too.
Anyhoo, this was not a New Year's Resolution - I started in December and have really kept it up. It's not actually labour intensive, when I've already been flagging recipes in books and magazines and pinning them online as I find them. When Sunday rolls around, I just pick a handful and off I go. It makes a week of nutritious, inspired meals easy to accomplish.
This Cashew Chicken was on our menu this week. So easy, so tasty.
In doing my advance planning, I've also managed to cook with more interesting grains - instead of rice, I let a 50:50 mix of quinoa and amaranth soak up all the yummy sauce from this dish.
Do you plan your meals in advance or just wing it?
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 1 cup chicken stock or water
- 1 tbsp + 2 tbsp cornstarch (divided)
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut in bite-sized pieces
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 baby bok choy, quartered
- 5 green onions, chopped, green and white parts separated
- 1 cup raw or roasted cashews
Make the sauce: in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, use a fork to whisk the stock with 1 tbsp of the cornstarch until no lumps remain. Whisk in the soy and hoisin sauces, then the garlic. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, toss chicken pieces with remaining 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
Heat the oil in a large skillet or a wok over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken and cook in a single layer until golden on both sides and no longer pink inside. Transfer to a clean bowl, and repeat with remaining chicken, placing second batch in the bowl when cooked through.
Add the bok choy and white part of green onions to the same skillet; cook until the stem of the bok choy is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Return cooked chicken to skillet along with the sauce, the green onion tops and the cashews. Cook until sauce thickens a bit, and everything is heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve with rice or another grain (I used a quinoa/amaranth combination).