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Featured/ Life/ Meal Planning

How I Meal Plan

One of my favourite things to do is to meal plan. I know, how dorky right? There’s something about meal planning that is so calming to me. I look forward to when new grocery flyers are available, I like planning ahead to what meals would work best on what day, and I LOVE thinking of new recipes to try during the week. I’ve shared a brief glimpse of how I meal plan in this post back in 2016, but let me give you a detailed look at my meal planning process:

Thursdays: The new weekly flyer for Safeway comes out, so I sit down and start making my grocery list. I do my weekly major grocery shopping at Safeway because I find that the quality of the meat and produce are consistent, the cashiers are friendly, efficient and knowledgeable (there is NOTHING worse than a fumbling cashier taking his/her sweet time with my groceries while I have a fussy toddler with me), and I like picking up a coffee for myself and a banana bread for the toddler at the Starbucks before we start our shopping. During the week, if we run out of one or two items, my husband or I will take the toddler on a walk to the Save-On Foods by our house and pick up the random items there.

I use the Flipp app to view the grocery flyers. I like that the app has “previews” of the flyers a day before they come into effect. The Safeway flyer comes into effect on Thursday, but it is available on the app on Wednesday, so I could do all of this one day in advance if I was on the ball!

On my grocery list, I’ll list the basics that we need to buy every week (milk, bread, eggs, avocados, bananas, etc), then I’ll write down the meats that are on sale that week that I want to buy – chicken thighs, steaks, ground beef, etc. Whatever is on sale and that I know I have a recipe for, it goes on the list. Then I’ll write down all the other things in the flyer that I don’t buy when they are regular price but are on sale this week – things like cantaloupe, grapes, chips, etc.

Then based on the proteins that I have on my grocery list, I go through this blog, my brain, my Pinterest board, photos of recipes that I’ve saved, etc and think of meals that I can make using those proteins. Once I’ve selected the meal that I wanted to make using that protein, I go through the recipe and add any other ingredients in that recipe that I need to buy onto my grocery list.

Fridays: This is the day that I usually do my grocery shopping. I have every second Friday off of work, so on those days, I like to go after breakfast with my toddler and that basically makes up our morning outing before her noon nap. On the days that I work, I go after work or sometimes it gets pushed to Saturday mornings. I prefer Friday mornings though because the grocery store is much quieter and relaxed.

My weekly meal plans run Friday-Thursday. In other words, if I grocery shopped on the Friday morning, the meal that evening is the first meal planned using that morning’s grocery haul.

My weekly meal plan also takes into account work schedules as my husband works shiftwork. His schedule is roughly five days on, five days off, and the five days that he’s on is split into day shifts and night shifts. When my meal plan covers weekends when he is off and I’m also off, I will plan for more involved recipes. Those are the days where I trial new recipes or make more complicated recipes as he is home to take care of the toddler so she’s not distracting me in the kitchen. On the days when he’s on day shift and coming home around 6:30pm-7:30pm for dinner, I usually make quicker meals or my go-to, often-made meals that I can do with my eyes closed. On those days, my favourite meals on this blog are often made, such as the Shepherd’s Pie, the Bolognese, the Swedish Meatballs, or the Vietnamese Braised Pork and Eggs.  On the days that he’s working nights, his shift starts at 7PM but he sleeps until about 3:30PM-4PM and leaves the house around 5:45PM. On those days, I’m basically with the toddler all day by myself so once again I gravitate towards the easier recipes or my go-to’s as mentioned above. Then there are the weekdays where I’m working and he’s at home. On those days, if it’s in the summer, he will grill steaks or kabobs with some veggies for our dinner after I get home to take the toddler off his hands. In the winter, I would have provided him with instructions on a slow cooker meal that he would have prepped earlier in the day, such as this ribs recipe.

I write out all my planned dinners in my personal planner.

And just to dispel the thought that I am superhuman and have homemade meals every day – not true! Life happens sometimes or I forget to defrost something the night before or I fail to meal plan properly and we have nothing to make into a meal – that’s when Skip the Dishes comes to the rescue or we head out to Boston Pizza. I think any mom can attest to the fact that no matter how picky your toddler is, the Bugs ‘n’ Cheese kids’ meal at Boston Pizza is always a surefire hit.

As you can see, I only meal plan for dinners. Breakfasts and lunches basically consist of the staples that we always have on hand – avocado toast, eggs, sandwiches, salads, leftovers, etc.

That’s my meal planning process in a nutshell. Does anyone else meal plan in detail like this?

(Cover photo: Free Stock Photo courtesy of picxclicx.com)

Featured/ Vietnamese Recipes

Vietnamese-Braised Chicken

Vietnamese Braised Chicken

I’ve decided to break my pasta recipe streak and post a Vietnamese recipe instead. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything Vietnamese. After I made this for the first time and showed the process on my Instagram stories a couple days ago, I received a few requests for the recipe so here it is!

Braising is a common Vietnamese method for preparing meats, and it just means that the meat is seared or browned on dry high heat, and then slowly cooked in a liquid over lower heat. My mom made a version of this often when we were kids but she used chicken drumsticks. Normally Vietnamese-braised chicken is made with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks, but I don’t like chicken skin all that much so I decided to use chicken breasts instead. Using bone-in, skin-on chicken would give you more flavour and moist chicken, so feel free to use whatever you want.

The chicken doesn’t need to marinate for long – I had it sit in the fridge in the marinade for about 15-20 minutes while I cleaned the kitchen and made my lunch for the next day. You’ll be using that marinade as the liquid to braise the chicken in later so all that flavour will have plenty of time to soak in during the cooking process as well.

Viet braised chicken marinade

This recipe calls for Coco Rico which is a coconut soda that you can find at any Asian food store. I always have a few cans in my pantry as I also use it in my Braised Pork and Eggs recipe. If you don’t have Coco Rico on hand, you can use coconut water as a substitute.

Serve the chicken with some jasmine rice and a simple vegetable. I served mine with rice and sliced up some fresh cucumbers as my vegetable. I drizzled the glaze on the rice, cucumbers, and chicken, and the meal was a perfect combination of hot fluffy rice, cold crisp cucumbers, savoury chicken, and a slightly sweet glaze.

Give it a try and enjoy!

Vietnamese braised chicken

Vietnamese Braised Chicken

Print Recipe
Serves: 2-4 Cooking Time: 50

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp canola oil or olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp chicken bouillon (like OXO)
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 can of Coco Rico

Instructions

1

Combine all the ingredients except for the Coco Rico. Add the mixture to the chicken and let marinate for about 15-20 minutes.

2

Heat up the canola oil in a deep pan over high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserve the marinade, and sear the chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.

3

Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the marinade and the Coco Rico. Let the chicken slowly cook in the sauce for about 30 minutes. The sauce will thicken up into a nice glaze.

4

Turn the chicken once or twice during the 30 minutes so that the sauce will evenly soak into the chicken.

5

Serve with rice and drizzle the delicious glaze onto the rice and chicken!

Canadian Recipes/ Featured

Orecchiette with broccolini and Italian sausage

Orechiette with broccolini and Italian sausage

Upon review of my recent posts, I have come to realize that I have a pasta problem. My last five posts have all been pasta recipes. Pasta is such a crowd-pleaser in our home that it’s my go-to meal for most weekdays. If both my husband and I are working, then I will whip up a pasta dish when I come home from work. If my husband is on days off and I’m working, then he’ll BBQ steaks or kebabs (is it kebabs or kabobs?) with grilled veggies and potatoes. On weekends when I’m off work I do more involved recipes, such as something Vietnamese or roast beef or roasted chicken or I experiment with new recipes for content on this blog.

Since we are eating so much pasta, I like trying different types of pasta to mix things up a bit. My favourite is the mafalda corta that I mentioned in my bolognese recipe.  Penne and bowtie are okay, but I’m not a fan of spaghetti or linguine. If a recipe calls for a longer strand type of pasta, then my absolute favourite is pappardelle. For this recipe, I decided to try orecchiette because I like the way it sounds and because I found a bag of it at Save-On Foods one day. (I’ve never seen orecchiette at Safeway).  Orechiette comes from the Italian word ‘orecchia’ meaning ‘ear’ and ‘etta’ meaning small because ,well, the pasta is shaped like small ears.

I added broccolini to this recipe because like most moms, I’m trying to get my toddler to eat more vegetables. It didn’t work, by the way. She just picked out the pasta and sausage bits and left all the broccolini on her plate. Oh well, at least I got more vegetables in my diet. Broccolini is similar to broccoli, but it has smaller florets and long thin stalks. It’s almost like a broccoli / asparagus hybrid. It has a sweeter flavour than broccoli, is super high in Vitamin C, and is so versatile in recipes. I’ve sauteed broccolini with beef or chicken in an Asian stirfry before, but this time, I decided to boil them and add them to this pasta. You can find broccolini in the produce aisle of your grocery store, and they are often packaged in a tray and wrapped in plastic, like this:

broccolini

For some added protein and flavour, I used a package of Johnsonville mild Italian sausage. If you aren’t feeding your kid this, I would recommend buying the Johnsonville hot Italian sausage. I think that would add more flavour to it.

And as always, remember to use real Parmesan cheese and grate it yourself!

 

Orechiette with broccolini and Italian sausage

Orechiette with broccolini and Italian sausage

Print Recipe
Serves: 4-6 Cooking Time: 45 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 package of Johnsonville Italian sausages (I bought the mild flavour)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 - 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 500 g bag of orecchiette pasta
  • 1 package of broccolini, trimmed and cut into small florets and 2-inch stalk pieces.
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, with extra for serving

Instructions

1

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the Italian sausages with a fork (so that they won't explode!) and place them on a foiled sheet pan. Roast for 20 minutes in the oven, turning once, until just cooked through. Slice them into 1/2 inch coins and set aside.

2

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot or dutch oven (I used my Le Creuset dutch oven). Add the sausage slices and saute for 5 minutes until the pieces are browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, red wine, tomato paste and salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil and then let simmer on low heat while you prepare the pasta and broccolini.

3

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.

4

In the last 3 minutes of the pasta cook time, add the broccolini pieces in with the pasta and finish off cooking for 3 minutes.

5

Drain the pasta and broccolini and add to the tomato and sausage mixture.

6

Stir in the Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.