How I Eat, Dallas: Simple, Veggie Based Meals for Dinnertime Success
How I Eat

How I Eat: Simple, Veggie Based Meals for Dinnertime Success

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Dallas: Simple, Veggie Based Meals for Dinnertime Success

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Dallas from Day By Day Masterpiece. Dallas and I found each other’s blogs online a long time ago, and we actually met up for coffee when she was in grad school at Purdue, in my hometown of West Lafayette, Indiana. She’s so sweet and I can’t wait for you guys to meet her!

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I’m a 30-year-old newlywed who is building a business as an author, blogger, teacher and writing coach. No two days are the same and both my husband and I often get home in the evenings right around dinner time, so preparing ahead is key for us! My husband loves meat but I have gradually convinced him more and more of the deliciousness of hearty veggie meals. We generally eat meat only 1-2 times a week. Eating healthy, fresh food is so important to me, which is how I got into blogs like The Pajama Chef! My husband and I are also trying to save money to pay off student loans, so limiting our meals out has been a big help.

How I Eat, Dallas: Simple, Veggie Based Meals for Dinnertime Success

What meals do you plan?

  • Lunch
  • Dinner

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 21: I make all my own food and very rarely eat out.

What is your basic meal planning method?

I keep it simple– I use a whiteboard on our fridge.

How I Eat, Dallas: Simple, Veggie Based Meals for Dinnertime Success

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

One of my favorite things to do is throw a bunch of veggies, beans, maybe a grain like barley or some pasta, broth and spices into the crock pot in the morning, and then when I get home that evening a nourishing soup is waiting. I call this “Kitchen Sink Soup” and it’s a great way to use up leftovers or veggies on their last legs! (Note from Sarah: here’s a recipe for something similar if you need some measurements. But soups like this are SO forgiving!)

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

I love simple meals like scrambled eggs, salads, soups and veggie-filled pastas.

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

  • Meal planning whiteboard or chalkboard
  • Home meal delivery service (e.g. Blue Apron or HelloFresh)
  • Freezer or batch cooking
  • Weekend meal prep

Is there anything you would like to elaborate on from the previous question?

We only use Blue Apron every 6 weeks or so, as a special treat. It’s a fun date night to cook together and try new recipes! I like to make big dishes– crock pot soups, chilis, casseroles– and freeze a large portion so we always have leftovers ready to go in the freezer for busy days.

How I Eat, Dallas: Simple, Veggie Based Meals for Dinnertime Success

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

Little by little can really add up! You don’t have to jump into the deep end right off the bat. Even taking 15 minutes at the beginning of the week to sketch out a brief plan for your meals– even just one meal a day– can really help you feel so much more prepared and less stressed, not to mention healthier!

Anything else you want to add?

Thank you for asking me to participate! 🙂

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Dallas! I love your encouragement to start simple. Little changes can add up to big results! Freezing large portions of big meals (like chili) is so helpful. We do that too! I think I need to give Blue Apron (or something similar) a try for date night–you’re the second guest on this series who has mentioned that. Sounds so fun!! Please check out Dallas online–she’s a wonderful writer! And she also shares tasty treats from time to time. 🙂

Connect with Dallas on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more inspiration.

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How I Eat, Sarah: "Aim to Follow 80% of your Plan 80% of the Time" #mealplanning
How I Eat

How I Eat: “Aim to Follow 80% of your Plan 80% of the Time”

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Sarah: "Aim to Follow 80% of your Plan 80% of the Time" #mealplanning

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Sarah. Sarah lives in the Cincinnati area with her family. Our husbands were college roommates, and though we don’t see each other often, it’s always fun when we do. 🙂 I love chatting about recipes, food blogs, and more with her!

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I cook for my husband and my two small boys (ages 6 & 22 months). I am a stay at home mom which means I sometimes have time to prep meals ahead of time. But the reality is my youngest is screaming while I type this. We really like slow cooker meals, soups, and casseroles (easy clean up is our main concern). My husband’s family has a history of heart disease and he is trying to lower his cholesterol, so “Heart Healthy” meals are something we also try to make on a regular basis.

How I Eat, Sarah: "Aim to Follow 80% of your Plan 80% of the Time" #mealplanning

What meals do you plan?

  • Lunch
  • Dinner

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 19-20: I eat out once or twice a week.

What is your basic meal planning method?

It’s really more of a venn diagram of what’s on sale and what my kids are willing to eat. My husband will ultimately eat anything I make. I like to look at our activities for the week as well as the weather. Believe it or not, the weather really helps us with our meal planning. When it’s really cold we really like soups, casseroles, and slow cooker meals. When it’s warmer we enjoy grilling and eat more raw fruits and veggies, as well as things like chicken and tuna salad. As far as activities predicting the menu goes, I have choir rehearsals on Wednesday evenings and my oldest has swim lessons on Tuesday evenings. On Tuesdays we some version of “Taco Tuesday.” It’s fast, easy, inexpensive, and everyone likes it. On Wednesdays I make soup or a slow cooker meal. I can dig in before Hubby gets home and then he can feed the boys after I leave for rehearsal.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

  • Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • Brinner (Breakfast for dinner)
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

  • Home meal delivery service (e.g. Blue Apron or HelloFresh)
  • Freezer or batch cooking

Is there anything you would like to elaborate on from the previous question?

We just started using Blue Apron, so far we really like the food. It really helps on days that my husband doesn’t get home from work till 6:00 pm. I can feed the kids something then after we put them to bed, we can eat an adult meal. I also really enjoy cooking with him and having a meal with just us (date nights are expensive when you have to add a sitter).

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

Aim to follow 80% of your plan 80% of the time.

How I Eat, Sarah: "Aim to Follow 80% of your Plan 80% of the Time" #mealplanning

Anything else you want to add?

Our priority is our boys and the time we spend in the evenings with them. We really value authenticity over perfection and believe that our “good enough” is sometimes more than enough. We aren’t perfect and don’t try to be. Thank you Sarah, for asking me to be a small part of your new series. Love reading your blog and love that our lives have crossed paths.

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Sarah! I love your attitude of “good enough” instead of perfection! This is true in so many areas of life, not just the kitchen. 🙂 Great tip to do Blue Apron for a date night… that sounds like so much fun. I need to try those weeknight meals! That honey mustard chicken looks fantastic! Hope our families can get together soon.

Connect with Sarah for more inspiration on Instagram.

How I Eat

How I Eat: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Emily from A Nutritionist Eats. I’m so excited she was willing to stop by in the midst of her family’s transition from LA to Minnesota! She has two cute little girls and a healthy, simplified approach to eating–not just for adults, but for kids as well. I wish we lived close by–I think playdates together would be a blast. Read on to learn more about Emily’s simple, old-school approach to meal planning (that totally works! It’s very similar to my method, that I should share with you too.). She’s got great ideas, delicious recipes, and a fun new meal planning service launching soon. I think you’ll love hearing from Emily!

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I’m a Nutritionist and mom so I plan meals that are nutritionally balanced – and of course, family-friendly!

What meals do you plan?

  • Dinner

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 16-18: I eat out 3-5 times per week, maybe a few days for lunch or so.

What is your basic meal planning method?

In an ideal world, I check out what we have in the freezer and/or pantry and try to build a meal around that and I always start by figuring out what nights we need dinner – or what nights we’re going out/have something going on. I always have a huge list of recipes I want to try and test, so I’ll usually use weeknight dinners as an opportunity to test recipes that I’m working on. I also mix recipes that are super fast with ones that take a little bit longer – it seems like there are always nights when dinner needs to be on the table in 15 minutes.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

Panko Crusted Fish – This easy fish takes about 15 minutes and is SO tasty!

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

Easy Baked Ziti – My easy baked ziti is a super satisfying and comforting meal. And who doesn’t love pasta?

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

One Pot Mexican Quinoa – I love when meals come together in one pan or pot – less dishes and mess! This one is full of flavor and little ones will have fun topping their bowl!

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

I always (or hopefully!) have sprouted bread, eggs, pasta, and a jar of pesto in the cupboard, so I’ll often make fried egg sandwiches or pasta with pesto. In meals like this, the veggie might be as simple as baby carrots!

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

  • I use old-school paper and pen!

Is there anything you would like to elaborate on from the previous question?

I like to sketch out meals and grocery list on the same sheet of paper! It’s old-school, but it works for me! I think that’s the important piece too, find a method that works for you!

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

I would suggest to start simple, you don’t need to strive for perfection! Start by planning three dinners a week and some breakfast and lunches.

Anything else you want to add?

I’m launching a meal plan service soon – let me know if you need any help when it comes to meal planning or want to try it out for free! Read more about this service here… and get the yummy recipe for Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken and two meal ideas for it! (Sarah’s note: I think Emily’s meal planning service sounds AWESOME and fills a great niche… cook once, eat twice – simplified meal plans for busy families.)

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Emily! I love your approach to simple, balanced, healthy eating. You always inspire me to introduce new foods to my son. Your tips about feeding kids (that appear regularly in your Instagram stories, for my readers who haven’t met you before today) are always so helpful! Your oldest daughter is just a little older than my son so it’s great to see that example and get ideas.

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

Connect with Emily on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest for more inspiration.

A suspenseful debut novel from Jaime Jo Wright. Read on to learn more about The House on Foster Hill! #bookreview #reading
Reviews

Book Review: The House on Foster Hill

A suspenseful debut novel from Jaime Jo Wright. Read on to learn more about The House on Foster Hill!

A suspenseful debut novel from Jaime Jo Wright. Read on to learn more about The House on Foster Hill! #bookreview #reading

A description of the book from the publisher:

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious demise fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters, resurrecting painful memories and forcing a reunion with the man who broke her heart. Can Ivy unravel the mystery and find a renewed hope before any other lives–including her own–are lost?

As usual, my five point review:

  • Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was so suspenseful and full of mystery that it was hard to put down! Gah. Those are the best (and worst) books to read because you don’t want to do anything else but read! Haha. Unfortunately, that’s not really possible as an adult. Sigh…
  • While reading this story, I connected most with Ivy and her story. Her character was compassionate, compelling, motivated, and sad. But reading about her transformation throughout the novel was wonderful and even though she’s “just” a character in a story, I have high hopes for her future!
  • It was harder for me to connect with Kaine’s story. She, like Ivy, is no stranger to hardship. But–and maybe this is a reflection of our modern life–seemed to have a harder time dealing with her pain. She wasn’t very likable and I just felt there was too much going on with her story for me to feel for her. It was just… complicated.
  • One complaint I had about this novel was that there was SO MUCH going on. Romance. History. Suspense. Mystery. Thriller. Contemporary. Stalker. Murder. Trafficking. Genealogy. There was a lot to keep track of in the moment. Reflecting on the story now… I think it worked, but in the future the author may want to narrow her focus a bit because I could see how that could be off-putting to some.
  • All in all, I highly recommend this book if you like novels that take place in two different time periods and settings, or if you like mysteries/romances/historical fiction/contemporary fiction, etc. The House on Foster Hill is a fast-paced, intriguing read. It does have some Christian elements, but nothing too heavy or religion-focused. I liked that there was a definite creepy/mystery element that is, in my experience, rare in books from the traditional Christian fiction genres. Please check this out, and let me know what you think! 🙂

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!

How I Eat

How I Eat: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Polly: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Polly, one of the lovely ladies who runs Thriving Home. She does a little of everything including: photography, baking, repurposing furniture, sewing, deal-hunting, gardening, and bird watching (yes, bird watching). She regularly feeds crowds of hungry college students at her house and keeps her children (6, 4, and 1) busy outdoors. She’s a go-getter who isn’t afraid of a challenge. I think you’re going to love her tips on meal planning using freezer cooking!

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I cook for a family of 5. Kids are all under 6 years old. My priorities in the recipes I choose are: whole foods, easy, and tasty! Bonus points if they are freezer friendly.

What meals do you plan?

  • Dinner

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 19-20: I eat out once or twice a week.

What is your basic meal planning method?

On Friday or Saturday, I look at the week ahead to see what nights we are home. I then look in my freezer to see what I have to build around. From there I use my cookbook, From Freezer to Table, and Pinterest to build my menu plan.

How I Eat, Polly: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

Anything from From Freezer to Table!

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

Pasta with marinara. Grilled cheese. Pancakes. Peanut butter & Jelly. Mac and cheese. Quesadillas.

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

  • Meal planning whiteboard or chalkboard
  • Freezer or batch cooking

I have made freezer cooking part of my lifestyle. I almost always double a meal each week and freeze it (before cooking).

How I Eat, Polly: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

Take small steps. Don’t try to completely overhaul your norm or it won’t last. Simply try to plan a few meals a week at first. Double one meal a week and start reaping the benefits of freezer cooking. You’ll be hooked!

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Polly! Freezer cooking is such a game changer. I did a bunch before my son was born and it truly has become a habit! I love your tip to double one meal per week… starting small with these things is the way to go! Your cookbook is a great resource.

Connect with Polly and Thriving Home for more inspiration on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.