Friday, January 20, 2012

Giving Up Kraft Dinner: Life Change Check-In

From her Canadian perch on the Atlantic coast... EcoYogini

Two weeks ago Andrew and I decided that instead of the typical "New Year's Resolutions" that always make me feel guilty and inevitably fail (mostly because I forget about them), we carved out one small lifestyle change (and I art-ed about a few Life Journey stuffs I wanted to realize).

Pre-made meals (such as zoodles, Kraft Dinner, frozen pizza) only ONCE a week. 

Previous to that we were averaging about four of these bad boys a week, and my dry compost pile (and ridiculous amount of gross preservatives and unhealthy nutrition) was piling up. It was just so much easier to have a meal in 10 minutes (KD) than 45min. That and a few other obstacles (check out the post for details) meant it felt like a daunting task.

Surprisingly, these past two weeks have been a fabulous success! We stuck to our 1 pre-made meal (ordered pizza on Sunday) and we've survived. A few things that I feel have helped so far:

  • Sitting and chatting about this life change together. Sometimes I get excited and make all these changes or plans without consulting Andrew. As a result, they often feel like "my" goals or plans, placing the onus solely on myself. I feel burdened, stressed and guilty and ultimately it fails. This time we sat down around coffee (fair trade organic!), chatted about what we'd BOTH like to change and made a decision together. 
  • Meal planning. So far each Sunday we've sat down and planned what we'd like to eat for the week. Then (after some coffee) we head out to the market and grocery store to purchase what we need. 
  • Choosing some easy meals and some more involved meals. Tonight we had chicken quesadillas. Easy peasy that I used to make during my undergrad. 
  • We make our meals together. I can't emphasize enough how much easier cooking healthier meals can be when I have a cooking partner. We both take on important roles and do our fair share of the work. Then we thank each other for the lovely meal. :)
It went well enough that I thought I'd share one of my favourite recipes of this week with you!

EcoYogini's Ginger Beef (modified from Chef Michael Smith's "Chef at Home" recipe)

cubed beef (if you can find grass fed beef that would be ideal- confession, we didn't...:S)
1 knob of ginger, thinly sliced
1 cup of organic beef broth (or broth you made yourself! we are not that crafty yet, small steps!)
1 jar of orange marmalade (again, if you made this yourself that is seriously fab)
1 cup of orange juice
1 tbsp of 5 spice powder
1 clove of garlic, chopped.
Kosher salt

Prior to searing, salt the beef (Andrew used Kosher salt). In a large-ish pot (we used our awesome Green Pan dutch oven-y thingy), heat the pan and using tongs sear the beef (Andrew flips them once to sear two sides: "It's a lot of beef").
Take the beef out and put it aside.
Add the ginger with the beef juices (ick) until it softens, then add the garlic.
Re-insert the beef and add the liquids (and marmalade and the spice powder).

Put on a tight fitting lid and let simmer for about an hour.

Serve with rice and veggies of choice! It tastes so deliciously like yummy spicy citrus. We had enough left over for my lunch today as well. Here's to hoping this meal planning, sans boxed healthy eating lasts past the one month mark!


Alli said...

Congrats! Sounds like together you will make it work! It is very important to do it as a team when you have a partner! You can help to motivate each other to keep you from falling back into the box! :) Diego and I do it often trying to keep from eating out all the time. Thanks for the recipe! Sounds very tasty!

Laura said...

Whoo! Good for you! It's nice your husband is on board. Mine is willing to make the change, but he doesn't help cook or prep, so get excited about that factor! How do you feel about crockpot meals? I haven't done any in quite a while, but they are on the menu plan for this next week. My kids seem to think that 4pm is the bewitching hour and therefore it's as though all hell breaks loose while I'm trying to make supper! I always keep a pound of ground beef in the freezer to make homemade "hamburger helper" if it's really a tight night. Otherwise, we're eating cheese and crackers yet again. :)

Eco Yogini said...

@Alli: thanks!! it's true, together we can create meals that I'd never try on my own. :)

@Laura: I feel lucky- sometimes he even makes all of supper for me :) We did have a slow cooker meal last week (pot roast, which he basically put together in the morning). I don't mind them, but i really am not a fan of all ingredients in one pot (like stew). But we have a crockpot recipe book and will hopefully try a few other things in there.

I know that having a successful meal planning system now will help once we have children (which will require a definite adjustment!)

Green Bean said...

Good for you! I've got a similar goal - working on changing how my kids snack. It is a little more work but after reading more and more about industrial food, even organic industrial, well, GROSS!

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Good for you ! One thought about the time factor (since YEAH, if you have a 10 minute choice vs a 45 minute choice, I'd take the quick one too!) is to pre-make some stuff that you can easily turn into dinner in a pinch--I tend to cook a big pot of brown rice that can then be turned into or added to any number of things, even if it's just pouring pasta sauce over it or dumping it into a pot with some broth and veggies and calling it "soup." (Which is, I guess, exactly what it is.)

Here's where I display my ignorance: is Kraft dinner the same thing we Yanks refer to as mac-and-cheese? (Do you notice we call it "mac-and-cheese" when it's powdered from a box, and "macaroni and cheese" when it's homemade and real? Or is that just me?) Because if you get a hankering for it, you could make a really easy homemade version, a basic bechamel sauce with cheese and seasonings melted into it, and it would probably keep for a few days...

Homemade "pizza" is also incredibly easy--you can use pita rounds, or naan, or any flat bread product (including, I suppose, pizza crust!) and put whatever you want on it. And no one has to argue about toppings.

(If you have found yourself a man with whom you AGREE in terms of the perfect pizza toppings, you are One Lucky Woman. Sigh...)

Eco Yogini said...

@Green Bean: ahhh snacks would be challenging! I look forward to reading about that :)

@Jenn Greenmom: hahah, yeah i wondered for a minute if Kraft Dinner was actually called something else in the states- it's mac-and-cheese by the Kraft company. And sadly, I ADORE KD.... :S
We actually made a yummy mac and cheese frmo scratch last weekend (w white wine and about a pound of cheese lol). It lasted as leftovers for DAYS. I was considering sharing that recipe here, but it's actually pretty intense to prepare and cook...

I like the idea of pre-making rice, we've never made it to brown rice due to the time it takes to cook, but maybe pre-making is a nice solution.

I also have this fabulous flatbread recipe (from Smitten Kitchen- the honey-thyme flatbread) that is SO easy to make, I'm hoping to try some pizza that way.

Thankfully Andrew is very accommodating to my weird food restrictions and fussy-ness. We always get what I want on pizza :)


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