Saturday, March 12, 2016

Weekly Menu: Mid-Week Meal Cheats

This week was a yummy one. I'd eventually like to return to some sort of post-baby normalcy which allows me to truly plan our meals for the coming week and stick to it, but alas, that time is not now. My current planning is 2-3 days ahead, which is still pretty manageable, now that the weather allows me to walk into town with the pram instead of relying on Steve to drive me everywhere. We've even been able to get back to a pretty good food budget, because I'm no longer in the manic aftershock of a new baby and I don't have to rely on convenience foods and ordering in anymore.

In light of trying to get my pre-baby-body back (and then some, because I got WAY out of shape in the 8 months we lived with my in-laws), we've been veggie heavy in our meals recently. Someone (ahem, we won't mention any names) found that his suit trousers were a bit snug, so he's on board with the veggie meals. I'll be honest, when we got married two and a half years ago, I never in my wildest dreams thought that Steve would be happy, nay, excited to eat a salad. Say whaaaaat? You heard me. I done converted the boy. Hallelujah. The icing on the cake? While out shopping in Windsor on Thursday, someone I was speaking to made a "you don't look like you just had a baby!" comment. If that's not the best pick-me-up for a new mum, I don't know what is. And it's totally a motivation to keep working toward my goal.  

A few of these recipes would be great for Meatless Monday, or for Fridays (we are in Lent, after all). The one thing they all have in common, is being quick 1/2-hour-or-less meals for any day when you don't have ages to slave over the stove. 

Shrimp Stir-Fry
Loaded with veggies: cabbage, bell peppers, celery (great for crunch if you don't have bean sprouts! Slice it thin on a diagonal), broccoli and egg noodles. And sustainable shrimp, of course. I toss it together with my no-longer-a-secret stir fry sauce (which also doubles as an all-purpose Asian dipping sauce). Recipe below!

Left: my stir fry sauce recipe ; Right: a few of the groceries I picked up at Wing Yip!

Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Kale Curry
Technically, it's a Madras curry, and it was a huge hit. I used the Madras curry sauce from Aldi, and I'm a big fan because it has a little container on top of the lid with dry spices in it, so that you can layer the flavours during cooking like a proper curry. It was really spicy (in a good way) and the only real additions I made were a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of honey (the tiny touch of sweetness balanced the spice perfectly). Steve was sceptical of a vegetarian curry, as he'd never had one before, but he actually woke up the next morning and had another bowl for breakfast. I had a bowl cold for lunch yesterday and found that the leftover guacamole I made when we had chicken fajitas (spoiler alert) was a fab alternative to the yogurt I usually love to dab on my curry but currently can't eat due to my dairy-free conundrum. If you want to whip up a bangin semi-homemade vegetarian curry, the recipe is below! 

Dressed Up Ramen
I love Korean ramen (Ramyun, actually), and it's a whole different animal from the Maruchan and Cup Noodles that you might be used to. First of all, the broth flavours aren't just 90% sodium, and they pack a real flavour and spice punch. I like to dress it up with the addition of fresh veggies and maybe a hard boiled (or poached-in-broth) egg for some protein, and garnish with spring onions (scallions), coriander and a tiny drizzle of sesame oil. If I'm lucky enough to have made it to an Asian supermarket recently, I might add extra Kimchi to my kimchi-flavoured ramen, or some fish balls to the seafood flavour ramen. We stopped in at Wing Yip in Croydon earlier this week, where I picked up a massive bag of baby boy choy for under £2, I stocked up on some pantry staples, and I bought a block of my favourite silken tofu. Tesco carries some imported Japanese and Korean ramen in their international foods aisle, so it's worth a look if you have one nearby. My personal favourite is Shin Ramyun, but I tried a new Kimchi one I hadn't had before this time around. 

Chicken Fajitas
I'm actually kind of mad at myself for saying the words "chicken fajitas," because fajita actually means skirt steak. Boom. Sorry to drop that knowledge on you, because everything you ever knew about Tex Mex has just been flipped on its head. But I digress...

We're big fans of Taco Tuesday in this house, but with its red meat, sour cream (I usually use Greek yogurt, but you get where I'm going with this) and cheese, they're not all that healthy. This time I made a bold spice rub and grilled my chicken in a griddle pan, and our condiments included sautéed onions and peppers, homemade 30-second guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce, finely chopped red onion, and coriander (cilantro). That's it. Well, and the tortillas. But I mean, it's a big step up in the health department from your average taco night. I tend to pile mine up into a salad and ditch the tortillas altogether, claiming that I deserve more of the guacamole because it's the "dressing" for my salad. Haters gonna hate.

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