This Week’s Menu: Breakfast, Lunch and Leftovers

Melissa D'Arabian's slow cooker pork carnitas
Melissa D’Arabian’s slow cooker pork carnitas

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lunch here at Casa Aloha is easy to sum up: 97% of the time it’s leftovers. YaYu takes leftovers for her lunch at school almost every day, and Brett and I also try to eat what’s leftover in the fridge for our lunches as well. If there are no leftovers, Brett will fix himself something like celery with peanut butter, or a sandwich of some kind. I might have some cheese and fruit these days, or a bowl of soup and fresh vegetables of some kind.

Brett almost always has a bowl of oatmeal every morning with either yogurt or soy milk and some fruit. For YaYu, he makes different things, like eggs and bacon or taquitos or maybe a bowl of rice with some leftover meat on top – anything that’s hot and filling. He’s had to be a little more creative lately, and there have been more frequent repeats now that she’s not eating any dairy. Either Saturday or Sunday morning, YaYu fixes herself a big bowl of ramen, always with added greens and some other kind of protein. I’m currently rotating through three different breakfasts: Greek yogurt with berries and a sprinkle of granola; a fried egg and fruit (and sometimes a slice of bacon), or a whole, fresh papaya and a spoonful of peanut butter. I used to always have cereal for breakfast, maybe an English muffin with peanut butter and jam, but what I’m having these days is working well – I’m rarely hungry before lunch.

Our only rule about breakfast has always been: anything goes. The girls used to get things like pizza or stuffed peppers or waffles with berries and whipped cream for breakfast, but that’s when I was cooking for the three of them. YaYu doesn’t care for pancakes or french toast or bagels and such, and I can’t have them any more, so those things don’t get made or offered these days. That’s not a bad thing – on the whole we’re all eating healthier at breakfast now.

Anyway, here’s what’s on our dinner menu this week. Almost everything is guaranteed to produce plenty of leftovers 🙂 :

  • Tuesday (this evening): Valentine’s Day Dinner: grilled lemon chicken; sliced cucumber and tomato salad; French bread for Brett (YaYu will be at a Kiwanis dinner)
  • Wednesday: Tuna noodle casserole; fresh fruit (tuna salad for me)
  • Thursday: Roast chicken; stuffing; gravy; steamed broccoli (no stuffing for me)
  • Friday: Asian chicken salad
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs, bacon, toasted English muffins, fruit (no muffin for me)
  • Monday: Slow cooker pork carnitas; tortillas; shredded cabbage; tomatoes

Our food stocks are starting to get low, but Brett and I are doing our big monthly Costco shop on Thursday. We’ll pick up cucumbers, tomatoes, bok choy, papayas, bananas, and broccoli if we see it at the farmers’ market this week.

Also, to make the lemon chicken I marinate boneless, skinless chicken thighs all day in a mixture of 1/3 cup lemon juice, 3 TBSP dried basil, 1 TBSP olive oil, and 2-3 cloves minced garlic. It cooks quickly when we grill because the lemon juice partially “cooks” the chicken and makes it very tender. The marinade is also great with chicken wings.

This Week’s Menu: Not Much of a Baker Anymore

Yellow butter cake with vanilla buttercream
Yellow butter cake with vanilla buttercream

I used to love to bake, but these days, not so much. The main reason is that it’s hot here, and running the oven only heats things up when we’re trying to stay cool. Frosting melts in the heat, and baked goods spoil quickly Besides, there’s no  longer a houseful of people to eat what I bake, even more so now that I cannot have starches and carbs are limited.

Orange bundt cake with orange glaze
Orange bundt cake with orange glaze

I still bake things from time to time though, depending on the weather. We’ve been having cooler weather for the past couple of months, so I’ve been dragging out my mixer more than usual lately. Mostly I’ve been baking cakes, but I’ve also made some fruit crisps, cobblers and brownies. For many of the cakes, I’ve been using a box of cake mix as a base, and then adding to it to make something special. When I can find cake mixes on sale for $1 or $1.25 each (a great price for here; they’re usually $2 – $3) I’ll buy a few to keep on hand. A devil’s food mix becomes a triple chocolate bundt cake, a yellow mix turns into a butter cake or an orange bundt cake with orange glaze. My frostings are always made from scratch – a fresh buttercream is a snap to make.

Triple chocolate bundt cake
Triple chocolate bundt cake

And, I don’t get any of it! Sad!

Here’s what we’re having this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches; coleslaw (no sandwich roll for me)
  • Wednesday: Tofu and broccoli with spicy peanut sauce; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Thursday: Grilled chicken & apple sausages; couscous; sautéed greens; grilled zucchini
  • Friday: Slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs; steamed rice; fruit
  • Monday: Lumpia (Filipino-style spring rolls); sautéed bok choy; steamed rice (no rice for me)
Beautiful cauliflower at last week's farmers' market
Beautiful cauliflower at last week’s farmers’ market

Lots of rice this week – YaYu will be very happy! I love that our rice cooker can do as little as a cup of rice. That’s enough for Brett and YaYu, and leaves some leftover for her lunch the next day.

We’ll be picking up lots of bok choy tomorrow at the farmers’ market, as well as greens, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, papaya and bananas. If cauliflower is available again this week, I’ll get some more of that and will fit it in some where.

If anyone would like the recipe for any of the cakes, let me know and I’ll put it in the comments.

This Week’s Menu: So Far, So Good

builtburgerLet me start out by saying that I feel terrific! I can’t believe how much better I feel without starches/carbs in my diet. Seriously, I had no idea the change would be this dramatic, and happen so quickly.

At the end of last year I developed Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), and ended up on medication; I have a gastro endoscopy scheduled for next week. The medication made a difference, but I still was suffering at night, once it started to wear off, and the pain often woke me up and kept me up at night. But, while I’m still taking the medication, the nighttime symptoms have completely disappeared! I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep every night since I dropped the carbs (by the way, I have no symptoms for anything more serious than GERD, and the doctor doesn’t think it’s anything more than a condition of aging, but ordered the endoscopy just to make sure).

The best part for me though is that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I’ve been fine going without rice, or bread, or any other starch. Who knew? I think this is a diet adjustment I will have no problems following.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening: All natural beef Polish sausages; sauerkraut; steamed green beans; onion rings (none for me)
  • Wednesday: Mabo nasu made with tofu; steamed rice; sautéed bok choy
  • Thursday: Chicken, pineapple and green pepper skewers with pineapple-mandarin sauce; steamed rice (the recipe calls for fish, but I’m substituting chicken. Also, no rice for me)
  • Friday: Grilled hamburgers; onion rings (no bun or onion rings for me; I’ll have tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Snacks for dinner: deviled eggs; deli roast beef; cheese & crackers, fresh vegetable tray; fruit (no crackers for me)
  • Monday: Spaghetti with marinara; grilled Italian sausages; sautéed greens; garlic bread (no pasta or bread for me)

There turns out to be more beef than usual for us this week, but that’s temporary. We’ll need to pick up cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, and bok choy and other greens at the farmers’ market this week. Otherwise everything is in the pantry, fridge or freezer.

This Week’s Menu: A New Challenge

Kalua pork & macaroni salad
Kalua pork & macaroni salad

YaYu put her foot down last week, and said no more dairy. She has never really cared for milk or other dairy products – OK, she loves ice cream – but ate them in limited amounts whenever they were included something I prepared. Her doctors have suspected lactose intolerance over the years, but never really gave us a firm diagnosis, and only suggested she take Lactaid. Recently though she has become more uncomfortable than ever after consuming anything dairy, and last week said she was done with it – no cheese, no milk, no yogurt, no ice cream – nothing dairy.

So, I am going to have to change the way I cook and what I cook. It’s going to be quite the challenge as YaYu is somewhat of a picky eater, and turns up her nose at many dishes the rest of us enjoy, even if they don’t contain any dairy. But, I will do my best. I’m open to any suggestions and ideas any of you have. She LOVES spicy food.

WenYu is still with us for a few more days this week, so I’m still making a couple of dishes that contain dairy. YaYu loves cheeseburger pie enough that she said it was worth taking Lactaid, and she won’t be home for Friday’s dairy-rich soup and sandwiches.

Here’s what we’re having:

  • Tuesday (today): Pork & pepper stir fry; steamed rice
  • Wednesday: Cheeseburger pie; tater tots; coleslaw
  • Thursday: Kalua pork; macaroni salad; steamed rice; cucumber salad
  • Friday: Tuna melts; clam chowder; carrot sticks (swim team spaghetti dinner for YaYu)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs; bacon; English muffins; fruit
  • Monday: Potstickers; steamed rice; Asian-y coleslaw

We’ve used up all of this month’s food allowance other than a few dollar (which will be spent on eggs tomorrow), so everything will be made from what we have on hand. We thankfully have plenty of produce on hand, so we don’t need to go to the farmers’ market. And, with WenYu leaving, leftovers will begin appearing on the menu again.

This Week’s Menu: Christmas!

Christmas ham
Christmas ham

I know it sounds like a cliché, but I’m honestly having a hard time grasping that Christmas will actually be here in less than a week. I’ve mostly been focusing on WenYu’s homecoming, and thinking about what it’s going to be like cooking for five again.

For one thing, leftovers are no longer an issue. We don’t have any! With Meiling at home these past 10 days, we’ve been lucky to save something for YaYu to take for her lunch, and Brett and I (and Meiling) have had to scramble here at home to come up with our own lunches.

We’ll be having two big meals this coming week, a turkey dinner tomorrow evening to celebrate WenYu’s homecoming, and then ham on Christmas Day. Both meals will thankfully provide plenty of leftovers to be used going forward. And, in the past, we’ve always had an assortment of hors d’oeuvre for our Christmas Eve celebration, but this year we’ve decided to pick up some tasty items from Pono Market in Kapaa. I’ll still be fixing part of the meal, but my evening should be a bit more relaxed than it’s been in the past.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Stuffed peppers; garlic bread
  • Wednesday: Roast turkey; mashed potatoes; gravy; stuffing; roasted asparagus; biscuits; cranberry sauce
  • Thursday: Hot turkey sandwiches; cucumber-dill salad
  • Friday: Turkey divan casserole
  • Saturday (Christmas Eve): Pono Market lomi lomi salmon; PM fried chicken; mashed potatoes; gravy; coleslaw
  • Sunday (Christmas): Honey roasted ham; baked macaroni & cheese; roasted asparagus; dinner rolls
  • Monday: Farfalle with spinach, peppers, and ham

We won’t be needing much from the farmers’ market this week other than some cucumbers and bananas, and maybe some broccoli if we can find it (I have frozen to use for the turkey casserole if I can’t find fresh).

Happy holidays to everyone!

This Week’s Menu: No Turkeys Here

King Ranch Casserole
King Ranch Casserole

In years past this week’s menu would have been crowded with dishes celebrating all things turkey: roast turkey with all the sides, turkey divan casserole, turkey pot pie, hot turkey sandwiches, turkey soup and so forth. Just the thought of many of them makes my mouth water – I love turkey, and doubt I would have passed it up on Thursday.

But turkey on the menu will have to wait. There’ll be none of it for us this week other than Brett’s turkey dinner at the Hukilau Lanai. It will appear though when all the girls are here next month; in fact, I’m planning to make a full turkey dinner the day our last little bird, WenYu, arrives home. Meiling has been calling every week to ask what I’m going to fix when she’s home, and she has asked specifically for turkey and all the traditional leftover meals.

By the way, I haven’t roasted a turkey since we’ve been here on Kaua’i. It’s been too warm/hot, and the oven has to stay on for too long. These days I cheat by buying a roasted turkey breast from Costco. They’re delicious, and one provides us with at least five meals.

Turkey or not, once again we’ll be continuing to work on getting the freezer emptied, and using up what we have.

This week we’ll be having:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Pasta with pesto; grilled Italian sausages (vegan meatballs for me); grilled zucchini; garlic bread
  • Wednesday: Vegetable fried rice
  • Thursday: Thanksgiving dinner at the Hukilau Lanai
  • Friday: King Ranch casserole; salad (There are a zillion variations of the King Ranch casserole, but this one is pretty close to how I make it). I’m not sure yet what I’ll be having.
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Tofu & broccoli in spicy peanut sauce; steamed rice. I use brown sugar or molasses instead of honey in the sauce, and don’t freeze my tofu – I boil the cubes for about 6-7 minutes, which helps them keep their shape.
  • Monday: Grilled chicken; vegetable lo mein, sautéed greens

I think I am finally ready to head back to the farmer’s market. We need carrots, peppers, limes, greens (kale & Swiss chard), cucumbers and bananas, and will pick up anything else that looks interesting and affordable.

This Week’s Menu: The Freezer Purge Continues

Getting better - at least we can easily see what we have now.
Getting better – at least we can easily see what we have now. The frost is getting worse though.

We are starting to make a dent in our freezer stash, but we still have a ways to go. I organized everything (or at least tried to) in our garage freezer this past weekend so I have a better of idea what’s out there, and I think we’re looking at maybe another three weeks before it can be turned off for defrosting.

One of YaYu’s classes this term is a culinary course. The class focuses on cooking, both preparation and technique, and students, working in teams, prepare a different dish each week. They are also tested along the way on their developing skills – YaYu has become quite proficient with a knife! I took home economics back in high school, but the course she’s taking goes much deeper than anything we ever did in the kitchen. Students who finish the entire culinary pathway leave school with the skills to work in a restaurant kitchen, or continue on to culinary school to develop their skills even further. We have been letting her do more in the kitchen here, and this week she’ll take over for a couple of the meals.

One item didn’t get fixed last week (butternut squash ravioli) because we ended up with a ton of leftovers that needed to be eaten, so it will appear first on this week’s menu. Otherwise, we are having:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Butternut squash ravioli with Alfredo sauce; garlic bread, grilled asparagus
  • Wednesday: Pad Thai with chicken; cucumber salad
  • Thursday: Slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; steamed rice (tofu for me)
  • Friday: Breakfast for dinner (some kind of pancakes)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Barbecue pulled pork sandwiches; coleslaw (vegan barbecued ‘pork’ for me)
  • Monday: Grilled fish tacos with mango salsa; saffron rice

We’ll need bananas, mung bean sprouts, cucumbers, bok choy, and zucchini from the farmers’ market this week. Otherwise, everything else is what’s on hand in the freezer, pantry and fridge.

For YaYu: Allez cuisine!

This Week’s Menu: Back In the Kitchen?

I think we can still find all these vegetables at the farmers' market
I think we can still find all these vegetables at the farmers’ market

I am going to make my way back into the kitchen this week even though I’m still on “light duty.” Brett has done a fantastic job preparing our meals these past couple of weeks, as well as making sure that leftovers get used up and there’s no food waste, but I think he’s ready now to let me pick up the cooking again, or at least parts of it. According to the physical therapist, it’s OK for me to start resuming activities, but not anything that requires prolonged standing, or any bending.

Since it’s the beginning of a new month, I’ve decided to try adding limited amounts of cheese back into my diet. I’ve done alright with small amounts of Parmesan, and want to try out small amount of softer cheeses and see how it goes. That means no grilled cheese sandwiches yet, or macaroni and cheese, but I will add a small amount of cheese to my serving of the enchiladas that are planned for this week. I continue to have no interest in adding meat back into my diet for the time being.

This week we’re having:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled cheeseburgers (Boca Burger for me and no cheese); garlic fries. YaYu made the fries in her culinary class last week, said they were delicious, and wants to make them for us!
  • Wednesday: Vegetable yakisoba
  • Thursday: Green chili seafood enchiladas; refried beans; Spanish-style yellow rice
  • Friday: Pizza for Brett and I (YaYu has another cross country spaghetti dinner)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Mango-mustard tofu; steamed rice; cucumber salad (the recipe calls for chicken but I’m substituting cubed tofu)
  • Monday: Grilled chicken kebabs; vegetable kebabs; bulgur pilaf (no chicken for me)

We’ll be looking out for vegetables that we can use for the kebabs this week at the farmers’ market (cherry tomatoes, zucchini, etc.) as well as some more mint for our mojitos, but otherwise we’ve got everything we need on hand.

I’m still a bit sore (the PT kicked things up a bit) but am looking forward to easing back in cooking again. We’ll see how it goes this week, and how much I can do. I’ve got the best back-up help though!

This Week’s Menu: KP Duty

Slow cooker Thai-style pork stew
Slow cooker Thai-style pork stew

Brett will officially be on KP (“kitchen patrol”) duty this week. I saw my doctor yesterday and have been put on bed rest with heat applied to my back, given pain medication, and I’ll start a round of physical therapy next week to get rid of what apparently is a nasty knot of nerves and muscle in my lower back. What I won’t be doing is standing in the kitchen to cook (or wash dishes), at least not for the next few days.

Brett has been doing a great job getting dinner on the table, and made a delicious balsamic pork roast on Sunday and chicken adobo yesterday. He and I put our heads together yesterday afternoon and came up with a menu that he feels comfortable tackling this coming week (with some help from YaYu). None of the recipes are too complicated, and we included an extra night of leftovers because they seem to have been accumulating faster than usual.

Hopefully I’ll be back on my feet and back in the kitchen soon. The new pain medication is already making a difference, and I know the therapy will help as well. In the meantime, Brett’s got the KP duty.

This week we’re having:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Grilled lemon chicken thighs; quinoa salad; grilled zucchini (‘chickenless’ nuggets for me)
  • Thursday: Pizza for Brett and me; YaYu has her cross country spaghetti dinner tonight
  • Friday: Leftovers again (not sure when the cross country meet will be over)
  • Saturday: Tuna noodle casserole
  • Sunday: Slow cooker Thai-style pork stew; steamed jasmine rice; cucumber salad (not sure yet what I’ll have)
  • Monday: Spaghetti with marinara and meatballs (vegan meatballs for me); garlic bread; steamed broccoli

We’ll need to get parsley, limes, zucchini, cucumbers and broccoli from the farmers’ market this week but otherwise we have everything we need on hand.

Keeping my fingers crossed and thinking good thoughts that I’ll be cooking again next week!

This Week’s Menu: Almost Vegan

Falafel in pita bread - yum!
Falafel in pita bread – yum!

I’m in my eighth month now of not eating dairy, except for some sprinkles of Parmesan cheese, maybe once or twice a month. I’ve gone eight months with no beef, chicken or pork but still enjoy seafood occasionally. And, I eat eggs, but maybe only a couple of times a week, or in an otherwise vegan baked good. I guess I’m an “almost vegan,” or a “not quite” vegan. Or maybe I’m a “flexitarian,” the term Mark Bittman came up with for those that mainly follow a vegan diet.

I occasionally eat some commercial vegan products these days, such as Gardein’s Meatless Crispy Chicken nuggets and Meatless Classic Meatballs (I can find both at Costco), vegan Italian sausages and hot dogs from Field Roast, Morningstar Farm’s breakfast sausage patties, Amy’s vegetarian chili, and Boca’s All American veggie burgers. I use them mainly so I can eat the same meal as the family, rather than having to fix myself something different, although that still happens from time to time. But, often I just skip the meat or a substitute altogether, and serve myself before the meat is added to a dish. I’ve so far not used vegan “cheeses” mainly because I think they taste awful, or other vegan meat substitutes like the “meatless beef tips,” “meatless chicken strips,” or “meatless bacon” I’ve seen at Safeway and other natural food stores (or products like Tofurky sliced “meat” for sandwiches). I just don’t miss meat or cheese so much that I’m clamoring to find substitutes for everything. I understand that many others like, enjoy and use these vegan products, but they just don’t do anything for me. I’d rather focus on whole grains, vegetables and fruit than finding a substitute for meat.

I’m lucky as well that my family enjoys vegetarian or vegan meals, and doesn’t complain when I do something like substituting crumbled tofu or a ground “meat” substitute in a recipe. They’ve been a fountain of support, and helped make it easier for me to stick with the dietary changes I’ve made this year.

Anyway, here’s this week’s menu, which turned out to be mostly vegan or easily adaptable:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Mabo nasu (eggplant) with steamed rice; sliced cucumbers. I’m substituting crumbled tofu for the ground pork in the mabo nasu.
  • Wednesday: Chicken pad thai (no chicken for me), and cucumbers again.
  • Thursday: Bubba’s Burgers (I’ll have a taro burger)
  • Friday: Baked ziti casserole; garlic bread; grilled zucchini (pasta with marinara for me)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Killer Noodle Salad with grilled chicken (no chicken for me)
  • Monday: Baked falafel in pita with cucumbers, tomatoes and yogurt sauce; tabouli salad (no yogurt sauce for me)

We’ll be shopping for tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, parsley, and mung bean sprouts at the farmers’ market tomorrow. For the first time we’re going to skip buying bananas because they’re been ripening faster than we can eat them (and it’s too hot to bake banana bread).

Last week’s menu came off without a hitch until we got to last night – it was too hot to fix tostadas and no one felt much like eating anyway. Fingers are still crossed that this week’s comes off as planned.