As a part of the Spring Fling Challenge, many in the Lean.Green.Kitchen community have been making an effort to enjoy one #realmeal each day. For some, this is just a part of their every day lifestyle and has been a chance to show off their daily work, while others have struggled with pulling something together each day. In today’s post I am reaching out to those struggling with my four step guide to #realmeal success. Hopefully it will provide a little structure, which always helps when people are making changes to their daily routine. And to show off the structure, we’ll use the very delicious example of a Salmon Veggie Pasta recipe. Sounds good to me!
FOUR STEPS TO A #REALMEAL
Step 1. Planning
The number one thing that has helped me put #realmeals on the table night after night has been a weekly meal plan. I wrote all about it on this post: Plan Your Meals. Each weekend I write out the days of the upcoming week and look at the calendar to see what the evenings have in store. Then I think about what I have in the refrigerator that I need to use and what fruits and veggies I’ve seen at the farmers market (or in my farm box) and with all this information I come up with meals that I can handle on each of the nights.
There are often nights with very little time between activities and dinner, so I plan crock pot meals, breakfast for dinner and make ahead meals if necessary. I love using Pinterest for meal inspiration, and sometimes will just type ingredients right into Google if I can’t think of anything. We also like routines, so our family pretty consistently has Taco Night on Tuesdays and Pizza Night on Fridays. I try to cook chicken, salmon and beef once each week and we usually have leftovers from one of those to make into something new another night. My daughter eats very little meat, so we usually have nutrient-rich side dishes, though sometimes I just open a can of beans to fill up her plate (she loves beans!)
Step 2. Prepping
Having a meal plan is great but means nothing if you don’t follow through. The real commitment comes when you buy the food necessary for the meal plan. This is what seals the deal for me. If I have the food in the house, then we are a go. I shop at the farmers market on Sunday and the grocery store on Monday for the week. Then it is all about the prep work. This is what allows us to eat before eight-o-clock at night. Each day I am looking at the meal plan to see if there are things I can do to make the next few nights meals go faster. This often includes taking meat out of the freezer, placing not so ripe avocados into a brown bag for quicker ripening, and making dressings, marinades and sauces.
It is VERY VERY VERY helpful if you read the instructions of any new recipes you are making to get a sense of the timeline needed to put it together. There is nothing worse than coming to the end of making something only to realize the last line says, “serve over rice” and you haven’t started any rice. Not that this has ever happened to me. Twice.
I know of many people who successfully prep lots of food on the weekend, including veggie chopping, hard boiling eggs, cooking grains, and even roasting/baking meats and making casseroles. I encourage people who are struggling with meal prep to try this option. If I worked outside my home I think this would be a must do, but I have the luxury of doing daily meal prep while I’m making my lunch throughout the week. However you choose to implement it, the more you can prep, the easier getting your #realmeals to the table will be!
Step 3. Preparing
Some of us love to cook, so preparing meals is not a mental hassle, but that’s not the case for everyone. I encourage you to look at preparing your meals as an adventure or a gift depending on what gets you excited. Embrace your inner scientist and follow recipes or embrace your inner artist and follow your intuition while you cook. If you have other people around, create opportunities for them to help – make a list of mini tasks that will get the job done quicker and dish them out. If you go into an evening with the plan and the prep done, making the actual meal is very do-able. Turn on some music and work it!
Step 4. Presenting
If you have planned, prepped and prepared your #realmeal you may find yourself feeling a real sense of accomplishment, and rightfully so. I encourage you to celebrate your efforts by putting a final thought into how you are presenting the food. This starts with clearing off the dining room table and sitting at it to enjoy your meal. Making beautiful food only to go eat it on a plastic plate while watching television is depressing to me. Go enjoy some conversation or have a quiet moment if you are eating alone. Pour yourself a tall glass of water, use a napkin in your lap and enjoy your food.
In the culinary world we use the term, “plate your food” to describe the process of presentation. Think about mixing the colors, building height, adding toppers to make you and your meal guests feel like they are receiving something special. Because they are.
Here is a quick and easy recipe we can use as an example:
Salmon with Spring Veggie Pasta
Planning: Create grocery list to include ingredients.
- Frozen Wild Salmon
- Whole Wheat Pasta Noodles
- Parm Cheese Block
- Spring Peas
- Spring Onion
- Butter, Olive Oil (evoo), Avocado Oil
- Savory Seasoning Mix, Dried Dill, Garlic Powder, Salt and Pepper
- Purchase ingredients.
- Place salmon in the refrigerator to thaw.
- Shell the peas.
- Grate the Parm.
- Season the salmon with savory seasoning blend, dill, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Drizzle with avocado oil (or evoo or butter). Broil under lo-broil for 10 minutes.
- Boil noodles as directed.
- Dice spring onion and sauté in large sauté pan with avocado oil, butter, or evoo. When softened, add in spinach, peas and a little dried dill and sauté some more.
- Take sauté pan off heat and add cooked noodles. Toss with zest from the lemon, salt and pepper to taste and grated Parm cheese. Add a little pat of butter or splash of avocado oil or evoo to add flavor and make the pasta less sticky.
- Place pasta into a serving dish and top with broiled salmon (chunk it up with a fork). Top with a little more Parm cheese, a squeeze of juice from the lemon and fresh dill if you are really fancy. Serve with other seasonal nutrient-rich side dishes and/or a hunk of yummy bread to help slurp it up!
Here’s what it looked like for lunch for leftovers:
Is this helpful? What’s the hardest part of getting #realmeals onto your table each night?