chik'n strips

Omni meal plans

I’ve been keeping up with weekly meal planning for almost a year now – with random weeks off due to travel/holidays/etc..  But for the most part, it’s been a very successful technique in keeping our food budget in check. 

I thought it would be way more expensive once we started including meat, but it hasn’t been too significant of a difference because the marginal increase in animal protein is balanced by the fact that we all eat the same thing (thus, a decrease in overall ingredients).  One meal as opposed to three.  At least for dinner.  I pack Kyle’s lunches and they do contain wheat and dairy and (until we run out entirely) nuts, since he’s not nursing and out of the house when he eats them, it’s no big deal.  Otherwise, we are a communal diet family. 

I slipped up a bit this week because I had some mad tempeh cravings, but otherwise here are the allergy friendly dinners we shared.

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Salmon burgers over a huge salad with TJ’s Caesar dressing.

I called and left a message with Trident Seafoods about their facilities and they called me back and were so helpful!  They are all peanut and tree nut free, and one of their two facilities is sesame and free and the other is not but they still clean it thoroughly between the use of sesame products.  The customer service rep showed me where to look up the ID number of the product (on the bottom of the package) to determine which facility it was made at.  We happened to get a package from the sesame free facility!  And since the package is already labeled as gluten free, we are in the clear.  Win! 

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Kale, quinoa and tempeh Caesar salad.

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I can’t get enough Caesar dressing lately.  TJ’s makes a non-dairy version that’s pretty great.  Unfortunately, it’s not vegan, but at least P was spared one allergen (the tempeh is soy, of course).  From now on I’ll probably nix the tempeh or use chicken instead, but since we are on a budget, I didn’t want to let the tempeh that’s been in our fridge for the past month go to waste.  I’ve been eyeing it for far too long and I finally caved.

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It was so good, but not worth the poor eczema flare P had as a result.  I had thought eating it at dinner and waiting 12 hours overnight wouldn’t be too bad, but I think it takes longer to clear out of my system.  At least in that amount.  🙁

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Home-made Chipotle bowl.

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For the rice, I mixed corn, cilantro, and lime juice into brown rice.  For the chicken, I cooked two breasts in the crock pot covered in salsa for 8 hours on low.  It shredded in 5 seconds and made for minimal hands on work.  Kyle demanded a repeat of this meal immediately, so I suspect it will be a regular.

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It was seriously easy so that’s fine by me.  I served the chicken and rice with romaine and avocado.

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I’ve made this broccoli salad previously (both times adding quinoa).  Just as good this time (I had two more huge servings and the leftovers for lunch the next day).

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I actually made us two separate meals this night because we didn’t have very much GF pasta after P ate dinner (his appetite keeps surprising me!).  So Kyle had wheat pasta with this pesto (frozen from our summer produce) and I had the (above) mish mash.

Since you probably can’t tell, it’s TJ’s pasta with kale and roasted veggies topped in an avocado/nutritional yeast sauce.  Despite appearances, it was delicious.

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Kyle’s dad was in town on Friday night (Valentine’s Day) so our romantic dinner was re-scheduled for Sunday.  I made a stew with veggies, kale, rice, and sausage.

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Saturday was P’s first birthday party, so we treated ourselves to sushi that night.  No pics because I devoured it superfast.  Avocado inari is my fave.

And here are a few more meals that I photographed from the previous week but never shared…

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Pasta with marinara and home-made lentil “meatballs”.  I made extra pasta for Kyle’s lunch the next day, as well as extra GF pasta for me & P.

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He loves pasta with olive oil or chicken broth.  Frankly I can get him to eat anything with chicken broth.  It’s how I shoved brown rice and squash down his throat just yesterday.

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This was a Sonoma “chickn” salad made from Beyond Meat chicken-free strips.  I love their products so much.  They are getting “beefy crumbles” soon which should be interesting.

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I basically tweaked the Whole Foods version of the Sonoma salad that first introduced me to Beyond Meat’s product – mayo, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, celery, salt & pepper.

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Served atop a salad (or on a sandwich the next day).

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In addition to Caesar I’m really into mayo these days.  It’s all about the condiments, baby.

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Rosemary and lemon chicken and red potatoes with mixed veggies.  We all ate this one, no alterations needed.

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Spoon Fork Bacon’s shaved brussel salad with quinoa instead of pretzel bread and bacon instead of pancetta.  So good we made it again for P’s birthday party.

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Brown rice, broccoli, and organic chicken sausage.  I wasn’t too keen on the sausage, to be honest.  The flavor was fine, but the texture weirded me out. 

So there you have it – an assortment meals for our omni family.

Catching up on last weekend

After a week of saving money on home-cooked meals a la plan, I opted to splurge for the weekend.  Lazy me.

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I was working though, so it was my treat. 

I snacked on chex and chocolate crunchfuls.  The crunchfuls are made with pea protein.  I got them in a sample pack a long time ago.  I reviewed the plain ones here.  The chocolate ones are better but still have a definite pea flavor going on.  I could get used to it (and didn’t really mind it that much), but if you’re looking for a cereal that’s got high protein that’s disguised in the flavor, this is not that.

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For breakfast I had the extra pancakes from this batch. 

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These were banana pancakes (I finally branched out from the raspberry studded ones).  And I’m happy to say these were enticing enough to keep me from venturing downstairs to buy the cafeteria french toast. 

[Full disclosure: I got a pre-op lung transplant patient on Saturday morning which meant everything was go-go-go until the patient went to the OR, so I really didn’t have a spare second to hit up the caf]

Such a day.  Moving on.  Dinner. 

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Takeout from The Veggie Grill.  Hooray!  I used LAbite.com (it’s the only company that works with VG) and it was pretty cool to track my order through each and every step.  I saw them receive it & process it.  It told me when the driver arrived at the restaurant & left the restaurant.  And then it showed me the driver’s route on a map…right to my doorstep. 

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VG has new items on the menu, so as much as I wanted my standard order, I branched out and got something new.  I decided to try one of their home-style plates, which are combo platters of comfort food.

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This is the “Crispy Chickin’ Plate” which comes with fried chickin’, cauliflower-mashed potatoes, porcini mushroom gravy with fresh rosemary, and steamin’ kale.

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I transferred it to a plate, poured on the gravy and the dressing and went to town.

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Good gravy, I was in love.  The potatoes were awesome and the mushroom gravy was wonderful.  I added more after taste testing it (since my previous gravy experience from RFD wasn’t as pleasant). 

The fried chickin’ was exactly what it looks like.  Breaded outside, fake meat inside…total vegan comfort food.  But that’s what I was in the mood for.  I don’t crave these things very often, but it’s nice to have a healthy(ish) meatless option for such instances.  This would be a great dish for someone new to veganism, too, because it’s a great transition option.  Vegan food can be fun too! 

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In my head, the steamin’ kale salad balanced out the greasy nature of the meal.  It had a ginger-miso dressing with roasted sesame seeds and basically tasted just like a seaweed salad.

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On the side I got mac ‘n cheese (as did Kyle), which I saved for later because I was too full from my combo plate at the time.

It’s impossible not to get the mac ‘n cheese at VG, but to be honest, the quality of the dish has kinda fallen in the past year.

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The sauce wasn’t uniformly mixed throughout the noodles, so some were totally dry and then randomly I’d get a big saucy section.  I had to add my extra mushroom gravy to it because some of the sauce-less parts were really bland.  I’m not gonna lie, this disappointed me and I’m hoping they straighten the problem out soon because I don’t want to stop ordering this dish, but I will if I get another batch like this.

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We also split an order of the Sweetheart Fries.  Usually I adore sweet potato fries, but these were so-so.  They were a little soggy and needed salt.  I had some, but Kyle had most of them.  I didn’t really like the chipotle ranch they came with either.

For Kyle’s dinner he got the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ burger

I love Veggie Grill.  It’s definitely one of my favorite quick eateries for vegans.

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For work the next day, I had Yogi Granola Crisps on the way to the hospital (blueberry flax for the win). 

Cereal for breakfast.  And the All Hail Kale salad for lunch.

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As per usual, I added blackened tempeh.

It was so nice having this to look forward to for the whole start of the shift.  I freakin’ adore this salad. 

After work I came home to make the easiest thing I could manage.

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Toast, avocado, WF tempeh salad, lettuce, tomato.

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Course two was a hummus + avocado + tomato spread that I heaped into lettuce cups.  I used roasted red pepper hummus for this and added a dash of salt, and boy was it delish.  With some carrots on the side, it was the perfect way to close out the day.

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Weekend done and done.

Saturday take-away

Working on the weekends isn’t too bad when the days are mellow and the weather is mediocre (I swear I heard the phrase “June gloom” six hundred and fifty three times yesterday).  Having interesting patients helps too…

My shift flew by and as 7 pm approached I texted dinner plans to Kyle. 

me: Veggie Grill take-away tonight?

kyle: yes.  what do you want?

me: Baja Fiesta salad, add chik’n, dressing on the side

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Done and done.

I got this same order last time so I knew it would hit the spot. 

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This time I had my camera to take photos of my Baja Fiesta salad at home (as opposed to my cell phone for sub-par pics).

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Chopped romaine, papaya, avocado, roasted corn salsa, quinoa, cucumber, cilantro, tortilla strips and a ginger-papaya vinaigrette (plus the chillin’ chickin’ I added on).

I love their ginger papaya vinaigrette, but I also squeezed some lime juice in for an acidic punch.  It complements the avocado.  :)  

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I also dumped some extra quinoa on top because I like carbs

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Obviously none of these tweaks were necessary, and getting the salad how it’s intended in the restaurant is perfectly delicious.  I’m just unable to leave anything be once it enters the kitchen.  Cookbook recipes included.  Anyone else have this problem?

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Kyle got the All Hail Kale salad, which is one I’ve been eyeing for some time now.   I’m glad he got it so I could scope out how it looks. 

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It has marinated kale and red cabbage, roasted corn salsa, agave-roasted walnuts with a ginger-papaya vinaigrette (you can add blackened chickin’ or tempeh for extra).  Kyle got it with blackened chickin’ and a side of sweetheart fries (aka sweet potato fries).

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He said it was really good.  In fact, he was talking about it all night…so I’m not sure what he was expecting, but clearly it was way better than he was anticipating.  I don’t think I need to say how the fries were.  They were obviously outstanding. 

The Veggie Grill is definitely becoming a staple take-away in our lives.  It’s such an easy option – fast and fresh – plus I adore that they are bringing veg-friendly fast food to the masses.  I will support that.  They recently opened a new restaurant in The Grove, too.  Expand and dominate a la Starbucks!  Now if only they would open up their next location on the I-5. 

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After dinner I had a lot lot lot of dessert.  I lost track of the number of rice cakes I had, but I know that the peanut butter jar was left feeling significantly ravaged. 

Packing for 24 hours and multiple layovers

The art of packing food is my specialty.  Much like making my daily work eats (tutorials here), packing food for traveling is a bit of a craft.  Some may find it easier to buy meals at the airport rather than go through the hassle of taking extra baggage through security.  Personally, I’m not one of those people.  I don’t care if it adds 25 pounds of dead weight that I have to schlep by plane, train, and automobile, for me it’s SO worth the energy.  The cost to benefit analysis probably differs depending on your diet and distance, but knowing I won’t have to pay exorbitant prices for crappy food (with limited vegan options) is worth it.  Peace of mind for a peaceful stomach. 

Tips:

  • BYOB (tea bags and empty water bottles) – The way I get around the liquid law is filling up my klean kanteen at the fountain (for free) once I’ve made it through airport security.  Also most places will give you free hot water (some charge 25-50 cents).
  • Skip the salt – Flying causes bloating and there’s no reason to add to that.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I already feel gross within a second of boarding a flight.  So I generally try and ditch the pretzels and salted nuts and drink plenty of fluids.  And get an aisle seat 😉
  • Pack way more than you think you’ll need – This is the same as how I pack for work.  If I have too much stuff, fine, it’s not like I have to eat it all in transit.  Having extra bars and snacks is hardly a disaster.  Being hungry and unprepared, on the other hand, is totally miserable and leads to bad choices due to less than stellar options. 
  • Produce produce produce – Is there anything more portable than fruit?  No.  Apples, bananas, etc. are all naturally ready to bring on the go. 
  • Nibble mindfully – Because of time changes, my body never really knows what’s going on and I end up doing more snacking than eating full meals.  Rather than snack the whole trip long, I make sure I am truly hungry and not just bored.  [In other words, bring lots of magazines, books, movies, crosswords, etc. to keep your mind preoccupied so you aren’t using your mouth instead]

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Veggies, hummus, bread, nuts, dried fruit, cereal, apples, orange, oat bakes, dark chocolate squares.

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Snack central.  Seriously, I have no editing skills.  Just wait ‘til you see everything hidden in that bag:

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Probars, Corazona’s, Larabars, Clif bars, Luna bar, KIND bar, Artisana cashew squeeze pack, Attune bar, Love Grown granola, Udi’s granola, dried fruit

And my latest raw obsession too…

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kaia foods makes really yummy raw foods including sweet things like granolas, as well as savory things like these sprouted pumpkin seeds

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The good news is that I will have plenty of bars leftover to throw in my bag.  So when I’m struggling in Paris, I will have backup options and then some. 

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Hummus and dip-ables (carrots, celery, bread).

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Produce in zoom.  The salad is pretty much just romaine, carrots, corn, and avocado…with Trader Joe’s faux chicken on top. 

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I’ve had these before and they are pretty good.  They remind me of the same “chik’n” that The Veggie Grill makes. 

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It’s soy based with vital wheat gluten too.  It comes with some seasoning on it, which lends itself to a Mexican flavored meal.  Hence the Chipotle-salad-esque meal.  

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I only kept the soy meat separate for commute purposes…it will be added on top once it’s time to dig into the greens. 

Now about those “oat bakes”…

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I decided microwaved “bakes” were a smart portable option instead of oatmeal.  So I turned to Ashley, the queen of breakfast bakes.

The first one I made was a spin on her ba-nilla bake

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I have to say, almond extract is quite an interesting ingredient!  I’m going to have to get some of my own soon (my mom shocked me by having it in her cupboard, but I should have known she’d have it).

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Where my recipe differs from hers is my grain and milk choices.  I opted for oats instead of buckwheat.  I also skipped the almonds and replaced the almond milk with soy.  Since there was almond extract in the bake already, I decided on soy milk.  I also threw in golden raisins and dried cherries because I think tart dried fruit goes so well with vanilla.  Otherwise, it was pretty much the same recipe.

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Mixity mix. 

Ba-nilla Oat Breakfast Bake [serves 1]

*adapted from this recipe

  • 1/4 cup whole rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup quick oats
  • 1T chia seeds or 1 flax egg [1T ground flax meal + 2.5T warm water, whisked] or 1 egg white
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/4 cup soymilk
  • 1T maple syrup
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1.5 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t almond extract
  • 1/4 t baking powder

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Here it is after just 2 minutes in the microwave.

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This photo steamed up the camera lens, but you can still see how it’s like a baked good as opposed to a bowl of oats. 

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The ease of this is so mind blowing.  Now, I haven’t tasted it yet, but I did lick the spoon, so I am pretty sure it’s going to rock. 

The second “oat bake” I made was my own recipe using up the second half of the banana and whatever I could find in my parents’ kitchen.

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Frozen blackberries?  Sure, why not! 

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Nuts & Berries Breakfast Oat Bake [serves 1]

  • 1/4 cup whole rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup instant oats
  • 1/4 cup soymilk
  • 1T chia seeds or 1 flax egg [1T ground flax meal + 2.5T warm water, whisked] or 1 egg white
  • 1/2 banana
  • 2 T crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1.5 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t baking powder

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Once they had cooled I packed them up in tinfoil. 

I’m pretty sure I’m covered in the food department.  Now, hopefully I won’t get to Spain and realize I am missing my toothbrush or something. 

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Adios amigos! 

Out with the old, in with the new

My latest quinoa salad was fantastic, and the best part was that it yielded way more than I expected!

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What’s a girl to do? 

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This was an everything but the kitchen sink everything in the fridge kind of salad…including a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book. 

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It had leftover broccoli, leftover sweet potatoes, leftover quinoa, and a new product too!

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Quorn Naked Chik’n Cultets do have trace amounts of egg whites, so they aren’t vegan.  But I had never seen them before and they were on sale, so why the heck not?

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Here they are in all their frozen glory.

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And here they are after a few minutes in the micro.  They are easy peasy, I’ll give them that!  It may even outweigh the laundry list of ingredients.

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I then added the diced chik’n to the top of the salad beast (seen above).

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If you thought I was exaggerating about the salad’s contents, think again:

  • spinach
  • mixed lettuce
  • steamed sweet potatoes
  • steamed broccoli
  • raw sweet peas
  • avocado
  • leftover quinoa
  • Quorn chik’n

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Eaten outside with the sunshine beating down on me.  Pure bliss.

It was so good in fact, that later that night I had the rest of the quinoa for dinner. 

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I know, I know, you’re probably rolling your eyes going AGAIN!?!  Lately I’ve been pretty good about avoiding food ruts, but when I find a good thing, some times it’s hard to deny myself. 

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Even if it is something as contradictory as fake chik’n and a wholesome clean quinoa dish.

Now the leftovers are all gone :(  Please sir, can I have some more!?