Monday, February 11, 2013

Meal Planning

Oh man did I make something extra delicious last night!  The Coach and I have always been big fans of Chinese food and in the past few years he's turned me in to a Thai food-lover as well.  It's weird to think that when I met the Coach in college, I was one of the pickiest eaters out there and wouldn't go near anything spicy and the mere mention of bacon made me queasy.  Yeah, you read that right, I hated bacon for a very long time.  Then I grew up and realized that it might be the single best food ever.

Anyway, last night I made a paleo version of pad Thai, adapted from The Clothes Make the Girl, one of my favorite paleo recipe sites.  Per usual I made some tweaks here and there, but the real secret to this dish is her "sunshine sauce", which I can see using as a topping for just about any protein/veggie combo for a quick stir fry.  A couple of things before I get to the recipe:

First off, this recipe calls for cooked chicken which I didn't have so I quickly sauteed 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs in some olive oil with salt and pepper on med-high heat, making sure not to move them around too much so that they would develop a nice brown crust.

Secondly, this recipe also uses spaghetti squash which I hate cooking.  I know it's the go-to for many paleo dishes but I just HATE cutting it in half.  I feel like I am simultaneously ruining my knife and risking severing one of my fingers.  I have used this easy microwaved spaghetti squash recipe from Nom Nom Paleo, which involves just cutting the squash in half, drizzling with olive oil then sprinkling with salt and pepper, and nuking cut side down for 8-12 minutes.  This cuts down on roasting time, but I still hate dealing with yucky innards and this does not eliminate the risk-taking slice job I still have to undertake.  My sister Nora suggested microwaving the whole squash first to soften it up enough to cut more easily but that just seems like a lot of work for something that for me often ends up in a big mush anyway.  Solution? A while back my mom gave me this nifty tool to julienne vegetables:
It's just like using a vegetable peeler but the end result is spaghetti-like strands that hold up much better than spaghetti squash to hearty sauces, in my opinion.  I don't remember where my mom got mine but if you Google "julienne peeler" you can find many options on Amazon and other sites.  I prefer using it with zucchini or carrots, but any semi-sturdy veg would do. 

That being said, go ahead and use spaghetti squash if you're in to that.  I used 3 large (or 4 small) zucchinis julienned with my peeler instead, and steamed the strands in the microwave for 4 minutes.  Alright, back to the main show.

Paleo Pad Thai
1 batch sunshine sauce, see below
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons low sodium tamari (aminos, soy, etc)
2 teaspoons plus 1 teaspoon cooking fat
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup snap peas, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked spaghetti squash
4 cooked chicken thighs, diced

Add 2 teaspoons of cooking fat to a pan over medium heat (I used sesame oil to enhance the Asian flavor but olive or coconut oil would work just fine) and scramble the eggs with the tamari.  You want them just shy of done as you're going to add the eggs back to the main dish at the end where they'll cook a bit longer.  Once done, take the eggs out and set aside.

Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan and increase the heat to med-high and add the diced onions and snap peas, saute for 2 minutes.  Then add the eggs, cooked chicken, and spaghetti squash (or julienned zucchini in my case) and mix to heat through for a few minutes.  While that's cooking, move on to the sauce...

Sunshine sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons tamari (aminos, soy, etc)
1 tablespoon ginger (I buy ginger, peel it, freeze it, then grate it with a microplane right in to the bowl)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (I like Sunbutter; no sugar added, or you can add another nut butter of your choice)
1/4 cup coconut milk

Place everything in to a bowl and whisk it together, then add the sauce to your pan and reduce heat to medium.  Stir everything together and allow the flavors to mingle for a few minutes.  Voila!

SO delicious!  The combination of sunflower butter and coconut milk makes this so creamy, it's very hard to stop eating it.  That picture above was of my first helping, unpictured is my second helping and the bites I kept stealing from the pan.  Holy yum, if you like Thai food then make this stat!

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I thought it might be helpful to some of you to talk about how I meal plan for the week.  It's taken me a while to perfect this, but I now have a system that ensures I have a strategy for having healthy meals all week without any last-minute stress.

I prefer to do one big shop over the weekends, and supplement as needed during the week with quick trips to the supermarket.  I rely heavily on my iPhone for all my menu planning--I have a bunch of categories in my bookmarks that include any recipe I find that I want to try (categories include Entrees, Sides, Soups, Crockpot, and Other).  Once I try a recipe, I either star it and move it to the top of the list, or delete it.  I probably have a dozen cookbooks but I find that I rarely use them and rely more on Pinterest, blogs, and cooking shows (and then searching for those recipes online) for inspiration.  The Coach will tell you that I'm a tad bit obsessed with looking up recipes.  Guilty as charged.

Before I go to the supermarket, I decide what I'm going to cook each night.  I try to make meals that will make enough leftovers for the Coach to eat for lunch the next day, and I take in to account if we have dinner plans during the week or appointments that will make me less inclined to cook.  I usually anticipate cooking Sunday-Thursday, and wing it for the weekend, although I often end up cooking at least 1 weekend night too.  I write down what I'm going to make each night in the notes app on my phone:

I really don't know what I would do without my iPhone, mostly because I literally have hundreds of recipes saved...anyway then I generate a shopping list based on what each recipe needs.  There are literally hundreds of grocery apps but I use and love ShopShop--it's free and easy, and allows you to keep multiple lists so I always have a Weekly List and a BJ's list going.  And no, I have no affiliation with that app, it's just the best one that I've found :)

The best part of this app is that it will keep every item you've ever entered so after a while it's easy to make a list because you just have to select what you want.  You can also email or text the list so that you can send your husband to the store when you don't want to go, so that's obviously awesome.

So that's how I do it!  Being this systematic might seem a bit intense, but I've found that this is what works best for me.  I always have a plan so I'm never stuck wondering what to make for dinner at 7PM.  It helps that I love to cook and my husband loves to eat, so we're a pretty good team.  Hope this is somewhat helpful to someone out there, and that I didn't scare anyone with my hyper-organized ways :)


  1. Your meal plan for the week sounds fab. I want to make that pepperoni concoction. You are a champ - my picadillo is cooking as we speak. Raisin, capers and cumin, oh my! (Major nerd)

  2. I just roast the spaghetti squash whole b/c I agree with the dangerous slicing situation. Take a fork and poke a billion holes in it and roast 40 ish minutes at 375.