Crock Pot Hodge Podge

Tonight’s dinner was born from several recipes that sounded good but I was missing one or two key ingredients from each.  I decided to just throw together what I had and hope for the best!

  • 1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
  • Onion (I used the Red Spring Onions still in my crisper drawer from last week’s box of produce.  I chopped up two onions and cooked them up with the ground beef.)
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (12 oz) jar salsa + water (filled the empty jar with water and dumped into crock pot)
  • frozen peas (I just poured in about 3/4 of a bag)
  • beans (I had intended to use a can of black, a can of kidney but found that I didn’t have them in my pantry after all.  I ended up using a mix of dried beans. Had to cook them for a few hours first, then throw them in the crock pot, which had already been cooking the rest of the meal.)

I am thinking that when it comes out, we can sprinkle some cheese on top, maybe add some tortilla chips?  I’ll let you know how it turns out!


What’s for dinner?

I’ve been a little lazy with my menu planning lately.  I have a magnetic calendar on my fridge.  I bought it a very long time ago when I found myself struggling to take care of three little ones and still get a healthy dinner on the table each night.  I was constantly searching for something to make at the last minute, always finding myself short an ingredient or two.  It was borrow from the neighbors or run to the store.  I was getting tired of bugging my kind neighbors and tired of daily trips to the store.  So, I bought this calendar, stuck it on the fridge and planned out a month’s worth of menus at a time.  It was really pretty easy.  I’d sit down with my binder full of favorite recipes and pick out some favorites.  It was easy to stick the recipes I knew would make leftovers onto days when Ed would take his lunch to work the next day.  Recipes that fed us without leaving leftovers were planned for days when Ed didn’t work the next day.  Days when I knew we’d be running around all day, home just in time to eat dinner and put the kids to bed?  Crock pot meal!  I loved my monthly calendaring.

About 8 months (or so) ago, I started getting my weekly box of produce.  I noticed my monthly meal planning slowly evolved to weekly planning.  I liked to wait and see what was in my box, so I could better plan to use it all up.  But in the past few weeks I’ve been busy on the weekends and find myself Monday mornings with no dinner plans for the week.  This was the case yesterday.  Mondays are easy enough… Matthew has a speech therapist who comes to work with him Monday afternoons from 4-5.  Perfect timing for me to have some quiet time putting dinner together.  Yesterday I went with a simple pasta.  I chopped up some spinach and mixed it in with the sauce and served broccoli and avocado on the side.  (I realize this was a lot of green, but I was just trying to use up what I had!)  It all worked out fine.  But still, here I am again wondering what will be for dinner tonight.  Since I know we have tae kwon do after school, it will need to be a crock pot meal so we can come home and eat quickly.

*On a side note, I am grateful that yesterday and so far today the weather has been cool again.  I find myself needing crock pot meals at least twice a week, but I tend to see crock pot meals as more of a winter thing.  Soups, chilis, casseroles… things to eat when the weather is cool and you want something warm and filling.  If anyone has any great ideas for meals to make in the crock pot over the summer – something that’s not so heavy – I’d love to have the recipe!  Or any other ideas of things that can be made ahead of time and quickly thrown together when we get home!*

Back to the point – so this morning I found myself digging through the pantry, looking for something to throw together.  I had a bunch of different recipes, but was missing one or two ingredients for each one.  Rather than make a trip to the store, I decided to just use up what I had sitting around and create my own recipe.  I hope it turns out good 🙂

While I was throwing things together, I thought it might be fun to create a new category on the blog – “What’s for Dinner?”  I can post whatever recipes I make for dinner that I think others might like to try.  Please, feel free to share recipes with me too!  I love to find new favorites!

Week 6 – Trying again

Wasn’t sure what to do this week.  Last week’s challenge was an utter fail.  Never did manage to try even one new whole food!  Sunday morning I was inspired and thought I might fit 2 new things in with dinner, but we had such a nice, relaxing day together as a family, we decided to go out for “Family Date Night” and had dinner at Chili’s instead.

I am trying to decide what to do for this week’s challenge.  I can redo last week’s and try to get the 2 new whole foods in.  Or I can try to do the challenge set up from, which is:

Mini-Pledge Week 6: No Low-Fat, Lite or Nonfat Food Products

By 100 Days of Real Food, on April 15th, 2011
photo credit:

Yes, you read that right. Next week’s mini-pledge is to avoid all low-fat, lite/light, and nonfat food products. And if my prediction is correct there are quite a few of you who need some explanation on why low-fat products are not considered to be “real food” or – yes, I am going to say it – ”healthy.” When I first learned that the whole low-fat campaign was pretty much a hoax I was absolutely shocked as well. For years I was right there on that bandwagon bingeing on everything from low-fat Snackwells cookies to fat-free flavored yogurt to low-fat ice cream. And as it turns out, according to Michael Pollan, “We’ve gotten fat on low-fat products.”

So here is next week’s pledge that officially starts on Monday:

Mini-Pledge Week 6: April 18 – April 24 – Do not eat any food products that are labeled as “low-fat,” “lite,” “light,” “reduced fat,” or “nonfat.”

Here’s a direct quote from Pollan’s book Food Rules that explains it all:

The forty-year-old campaign to create low-fat and nonfat versions of traditional foods has been a failure: We’ve gotten fat on low-fat products. Why? Because removing the fat from foods doesn’t necessarily make them nonfattening. Carbohydrates can also make you fat, and many low- and nonfat foods boost the sugars to make up for the loss of flavor … You’re better off eating the real thing in moderation than bingeing on “lite” food products packed with sugars and salt.

Another New York Times bestselling author, Mark Bittman, agrees in his book Food Matters. He says, “The low-fat craze caused millions, maybe tens of millions, of Americans actually to gain weight, because they were reaching for ‘low-fat’ but high-calorie carbs.” And right on cue directly from Pollan’s In Defense of Food:

At this point you’re probably saying to yourself, Hold on just a minute. Are you really saying the whole low-fat deal was bogus? But my supermarket is still packed with low-fat this and no-cholesterol that! My doctor is still on me about my cholesterol and telling me to switch to low-fat everything. I was flabbergasted at the news too, because no one in charge – not in government, not in the public health community – has dared to come out and announce: Um, you know everything we’ve been telling you for the last thirty years about the links between dietary fat and heart disease? And fat and cancer? And fat and fat? Well, this just in: It now appears that none of it was true. We sincerely regret the error.

So let’s put the low-fat craze behind us and move forward by embracing the right portions of real food and real food only. No more faked low-fat products where according to Pollan, “fats in things like sour cream and yogurt [are] replaced with hydrogenated oils” and “the cream in ‘whipped cream’ and ‘coffee creamer’ [are] replaced with corn starch.” And just to be clear this pledge applies to all reduced fat products including milk. When the fat is removed from dairy products likemilk some of the beneficial nutrients are lost with the fat as well. We just recently switched to whole milk ourselves, and I was honestly a little scared. I drank skim milk up until last year after all! But along with reducing our overall consumption of milk it has actually been a surprisingly smooth transition for us. And after learning the shocking truth behind what we’ve been told for so many years…I’ve never looked at another low-fat product the same again.

I find this challenge a worthwhile one, but I don’t think I am up for it this week.  I am making the change from 1% organic milk we’ve been buying at Costco to the raw, whole milk I can get from, the farm group that provides my weekly produce box.  I bought one gallon of the raw milk this week, just to try it.  I am happy to say that everyone likes it and pretty much agrees that it tastes the same as what we are used to.  So, I have ordered more for next week.  We have less than half a gallon left of the raw milk, which would not be enough to last us the week.  Plus, we still have some of the Costco milk too.  I will definitely take on this challenge, but I’d like to have the chance to get set up for it first.

My original title for this post was “Taking a Break”.  I was going to simply not do a challenge this week.  But now I realize I should just try again with last week’s challenge.  I can’t just give up because I failed, right?  Must get it right!

So – this week’s challenge is a repeat of last week’s!  Hopefully, I will do better this week, especially since I have the 2 new foods I want to try in the fridge already!

(In case you missed it the first time around, last week’s challenge is below.)

Mini-Pledge Week 5: April 11 – April 17 – Try a minimum of two new whole foods that you’ve never had before.

A whole food is something that has one ingredient and is not refined. Some examples that you’re hopefully familiar with are apples, potatoes, brown rice, whole-wheat flour and spinach. Some other whole foods that are a bit less common are as follows:

  • Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”)
  • Barley
  • Parsnips
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Steel cut oats
  • Papaya
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Bok choy
  • Swiss chard
  • Radicchio (pronounced “rah-DEE-kee-oh”)
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Watercress
  • Dates
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Pomegranate (and having the juice in a martini does not count!)
  • Fava beans
  • Lentils
  • Spelt
  • Pine nuts
  • Star fruit


Well, I did a lousy job with this week’s challenge.  I had the simple task of trying out 2 new whole foods this week and I tried NONE!  The spring onions are still in my fridge and I never did make it to the store to pick out item #2.  I guess, technically, the challenge doesn’t end until tonight, so there is still the chance I might have 2 new whole foods with dinner or lunch today.  Maybe.  If I am not lazy about it. 🙂

Yesterday’s produce box came with more red spring onions and some fava beans, which are completely new to me too!  Maybe I’ll try to do something with those tonight!  I’ll let you know!


Well, it’s halfway through Thursday and my challenge this week isn’t going so well – My Red Spring Onions are still in the crisper drawer and I still haven’t figured out what the 2nd new whole food of the week will be.  Yikes!

Dirty Vegetables

Oh my… I just don’t even know what to say about this except it is too darn funny.  Enjoy 🙂

Week 5: 2 New Whole Foods

The challenge for the new week, compliments of

Mini-Pledge Week 5: April 11 – April 17 – Try a minimum of two new whole foods that you’ve never had before.

A whole food is something that has one ingredient and is not refined. Some examples that you’re hopefully familiar with are apples, potatoes, brown rice, whole-wheat flour and spinach.

This seems like it should be easy enough.  My only problem is that with the weekly box of organic produce I’ve been receiving for the past 8 months or so, I’ve ended up trying lots of new things.  That leaves me wondering what this week’s two new things will be.  Well, one I know already.  In my box this week was something new to me: Red Spring Onions.  According to the newsletter that comes with the produce,

Red spring onions are the immature version of a dry red onion. They are harvested when they have started to form a bulb, but are still young and tender. Except for the reddish color skin that covers the bulb they resemble green onions with their hollow green stems. The size and shape of the bulb will vary depending on when they are harvested. These onions have a somewhat sweet flavor and do not have the sulphuric content that develops in mature onions.

Spring onions can be substituted for onions in uncooked recipes, and they can be used just as you would use green onions or chives. Both the bulb and the green stalks are edible. Try them in green salad, potato or pasta salad, or add them to omelets, mashed potatoes, or casseroles. They can be used in stir-fries, as a topping for baked potatoes or to give added flavor to fried rice. They will retain their color when grilled or roasted.

That sounds easy enough.  When I sit down later to plan out this week’s menu, I’ll be sure to include those somewhere.

The 2nd new whole food will be more of a challenge.  Everything else in the box I’ve tried before.  I guess I’ll have to go to the store and look around for something!  Any suggestions???