Posted by: thewoobdog | August 27, 2012

Maybe I’m Finally Getting the Hang of This

The hardest part about adding in activity this summer (weight-lifting/cardio and Zumba) has been getting home so late and still having to figure out dinner.  My dearly beloved has been SO supportive and helpful and has been doing a lot of the dinner prep over the summer to give me the time and freedom to start getting back in shape, but now he’s teaching three nights a week again (in addition to working all day), so it’s time for me to step back up to the plate and get this thing figured out.

Since I work from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day, I usually don’t get home from working out til close to 7:00 (three days a week – the other two weekdays I go straight home).  Going to the grocery store midweek is not an option, so if I don’t plan ahead and go to the store on the weekend we not only have no dinner planned, we have no food to cook.  I can usually scrape together something from the cupboards, but those meals never have any healthy veggie components because those are always lacking if no grocery run has been made.  My goal – now that I have gotten used to taking the extra time to work out (baby steps, baby steps – can’t do everything all at once and expect to stick with it) – is to start planning our meals on the weekend and doing as much of the cooking on Sunday as possible.  This is hard because usually by the time the weekend arrives, I have laundry and cleaning and all the chores one has to do as a homeowner, and all I really want to do is sit on my butt and relax after a hard work week, so I try to get the various “stuff” done Saturday so I can relax Sunday.  This new plan will either fill my Sunday with grocery shopping and cooking, or further fill my already-busy Saturdays, so it’s going to be a massive act of willpower at first until I get used to it and it becomes the new normal.

I’m pleased to report that I’m off to a rollicking good start – I found a recipe in the back of a new cozy mystery book I read (A Brew to a Kill, by Cleo Coyle) for carnitas, and the author gives a wealth of potential meal ideas originating from the one base dish, so my goal for the weekend was to make this recipe (let’s not mention the part that it was my goal for last weekend, too, which was obviously a big fail).  I dragged myself to the store yesterday and picked up the necessary ingredients (and the pork roast was big enough that I was able to cut it up and freeze half for future use), then made the big pot of carnitas (they cook for about three hours, all told) that will provide dinner for the entire week (see below for why this will not be a boring repetition of the same meal five nights in a row).

While the carnitas were finishing braising, I made a pot of spaghetti sauce (my first time making it from scratch – recipe also provided in book).  The recipe called for deglazing the carnitas pot with a little bit of red wine, so after I took the meat out I dutifully deglazed (I ended up using more wine, since my pot stickings were a bit stubborn, but red wine’s good for you, right?).  The little deglazed bits made the sauce so incredibly delicious – they added this smokiness that’s out of this world to this sauce that was nothing but onion, garlic, oregano, and canned tomatoes, and the depth of it now is astonishing.  I was originally going to use it on spaghetti, but now I think it would actually be better in a baked ziti or something because it’s so rich and complex.

Anyway, the carnitas (so delicious – it was all we could do to not cram them down our throats last night because they smelled so amazing) and spaghetti sauce are now in the fridge, waiting to provide dinner for the whole week as follows:

  • Spaghetti and/or baked ziti (might make both, on different nights, since there’s quite a bit of sauce), with a nice fresh spinach salad (note: I use Dreamfields pasta, which is lower-glycemic)
  • Carnitas in soft corn tortillas with fresh cilantro, broccoli slaw, avocado, and tomato
  • Black beans and rice with carnitas, bell peppers, onions, cilantro, avocado, and tomato to garnish (could make this into burritos if I had flour tortillas, but I don’t, and the beans will provide most of the protein here; the carnitas will be part of the garnish rather than a main component)
  • Porchetta sandwiches (carnitas shredded on crusty italian bread w/ fresh spinach and banana peppers) and fresh spinach salad

You just cannot imagine how excited I am that dinners for the week are fundamentally done except for basic assembly each night (and simple stuff, like cooking a pot of pasta or rice – could have done yesterday but I ran out of time). Kudos and mad props to Cleo Coyle for the recipes and all the ideas – I had my doubts about cooking recipes found in the back of a mystery book, but everything turned out amazing.  Granted, the carnitas aren’t the healthiest meal in the world since they are made from a fatty pork shoulder, but stretching them out all week in the various meals means the portions are nicely limited to reasonable amounts. 

So. Excited.

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