Not Every Meal Needs to be Difficult …

… but hopefully every meal is delicious.

This morning I made a very simple meal, using my 5 quart slow cooker. I won’t give a specific recipe, because you can vary to fit your tastes this almost infinitely.

I lined the slow cooker with a plastic liner (which I think is one of the greatest creations because it makes cleanup effortless.)  I added one cup of red wine.  If you prefer, you can use white wine. Or beer. Or apple cider. Or orange juice. Or cola. Or any stock. Or water (if you want to be boring.) Then I added 2 pounds of baby carrots, which I had partially cooked in the microwave for about seven minutes. I peeled and cut an onion into wedges, and threw it on top of the carrots, along with three cloves of garlic (crushed and minced.) I laid a pork roast on top of the vegetables, and placed eight small Yukon Gold potatoes (skins on) around the meat.

I sprinkled Penzey’s Mural of Flavor on the pork, place the cover on the slow cooker and at 11am I turned it on low. It was done at 5pm.

You can vary this however you want. Use beef, venison or chicken instead of pork.  Instead of carrots, use green beans, pea pods, or bell peppers (they will not need to cook for the full six hours.)  Instead of onions, use chopped leeks. Add Brussels spouts. Add tomatoes. Add jalapenos and season the meal with a Southwest-style seasoning. Instead of potatoes, use turnips or cauliflower.

This is how my meal turned out:

So What Does Everyone Else Eat?

The meals in this blog are generally evening meals, our family dinner. Assuming our 16 year old son is at home (not always the case), we all eat the same thing.

Breakfasts are a different matter. I like eat a very robust breakfast, while my wife’s is smaller. And when it comes to eggs, I like more eggs for breakfast than she does and I have different preferences for what I add to the eggs. Our son, who likes to sleep as long as possible before arising for school, eats in the car or when he gets to school. Consequently, breakfasts are frequently more “made to order” for each of us.

I’m not going to give specific recipes for these pictures, just a description of the ingredients and their nutritional data.

Here is what I had for breakfast:

That is three whole eggs in one tablespoon olive oil, with sauteed jalapenos and sweet mini bell peppers and three tablespoons of natural peanut butter and 1/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries folded into it. (This is for the peanut butter lover.)

Calories:    733
Fat:            60.2g
Sat fat:       11.4g
Chol:          625mg
Sodium:      370mg
Carbs:        18.9g
Fiber:           5.2g
Protein:      30.4g

My wife enjoyed this breakfast:

Two whole eggs, sauteed mushrooms (4 ounces fresh) and one tablespoon shredded cheese. No olive oil, just cooking spray.

Calories:    192
Fat:            12.8g
Sat fat:         3.8g
Chol:          425mg
Sodium:      186mg
Carbs:         4.7g
Fiber:          0.6g
Protein:     15.3g

Our son, the late-riser, enjoyed this meal on the go:

Okay. It’s not gourmet. It’s not overwhelmingly healthy. But it isn’t bad. He likes yogurt, the fiber bars are good and filling, and the pop tart? Well, yeah, the pop tart isn’t healthy. This gets him out the door and started.  When he gets the lunch I pack for him, it gets a little healthier:

These meals take a little time to prepare (about 10 minutes.) I get up earlier than I need to so that I can make this meal, but I do have a few shortcuts. For the eggs, I saute the veggies the evening before so in the morning, I just need to warm them in the skillet and add the eggs. The lunch is simple to put together because I prep the veggies and fruit the night before, and only need to assemble the sandwich fresh in the morning. (Again, planning and organization are the key to enjoying life.)
We try to start our days with a meal together and end our day with another meal together. Life is too hectic to ignore the opportunity to start the day with a filling meal and some time with the important people in your life. It is relaxing to sit down to a nice breakfast and is quiet with only our dog whining a little (hoping that something will fall to the floor.)
Getting up a half hour early is worth it. I hope you are able to take the time to enjoy your meals, too.

The best laid plans …

Yesterday was the final beerfest of the season. My wife and I attended and poured beers that my Brewing Science students made on March 3. The event went very well. In one respect, it was MUCH better than the brewfest in February, because this time I did not lose my Fitbit!

We try to plan our day carefully when it comes to meals. My wife and I had planned to eat at a local restaurant only three blocks from the brewfest site. We were going to be at the venue early, set up, and go eat, so instead of eating a lunch, we had a simple breakfast in mid-morning. We arrived at 2:30pm and quickly unloaded. The brewfest didn’t start until 4pm so we had plenty of time to enjoy a meal.

And then we found out the restaurant doesn’t open until 5pm. (The joys of small town life!)

We were looking forward to our meal at the little place, and consequently, we did not bother to pack any snacks. Not smart. The brewfest was offering food, but bags of pretzels and popcorn were not going to work.

So we worked our table and poured a lot of beer. We even had a chance to sample some locally produced beers and wines. (My wife’s favorite wine was Parallel 44’s Frozen Tundra, and my favorite beer was a toss up between Titletown Brewing Company’s Busted Nut and O’so Brewing Company’s Dank.) And we waited for the event to end. We waited impatiently. When the clock hit 8:00, I had my gear disconnected and loaded in the van in eight minutes and were on the road. By now the place we were going to eat was open, but the quiet leisurely lunch was not an option anymore so we just drove home and stopped at a pub near our house.
That greasy bacon-cheese burger and the mound of steak fries was sooooooo good!

And this morning, the scale suggests that I gained 3.4 pounds since yesterday. So what happened? It was a combination of a few things, all striking at once. Our food choices were not a good as if we had cooked them at home, and everything was heavily salted. I drank very little water yesterday, and for four hours I was essentially standing still just pouring beer. Lack of large muscle activity, combined with low water intake and a high sodium infusion resulted in a lot of fluid retention. (almost two liters of water.)

I am not worried about that gain, because we all know it is temporary. But my point is that you can make careful plans for every meal of the week and sometimes your plans will fall apart. All you can do if that happens is to get going and get back on track. Every day is a new day, and a new chance to redefine yourself.

Don’t let yesterday’s problems pollute today’s attitude.

And when you are in an unplanned situation and do not have your usual meal choices, choose something really good and enjoy every bite.