Meal Planning

2 Sep

Hi! Happy Labor Day Weekend to ya! What are your plans?

If you found your way here from Clean Eating Chelsey– welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by! You can read more about me and this lil blog in the “Cooking for Who?” tab above!

I am spending the evening babysitting, and since the 2 year old girl I’m watching is already in bed, I have spent my time meal planning for next week. Meal planning is something that I don’t do enough (maybe once a month?) but absolutely adore. When I plan out our meals, I am more motivated to cook, I eat wholesomely, and I spend less! I am going to be starting my student aide position at the middle school next week, and figured now is the perfect time to start planning and prepping ahead for our meals.

My approach to meal planning:

  • Cater your meals to your schedule In my plan, I made note of anything I have planned after work- that way I can prep components of the meal ahead of time.
  • Flip through your favorite cookbooks, or surf your favorite blogs.  I have a difficult time racking my brain and picking meals that I know I’ll enjoy. Reading a few cookbooks- especially looking at the mouthwatering pictures- help me pick out our delicious meals.
  • Prep ahead of time- take some time on a Sunday afternoon to prep ingredients that you know you are going to use for your week’s meals. I am going to be making 3 (yes, 3!) lentil dishes, and I plan on making a big pot of lentils on Monday to speed up cook time during the work week.
  • Make a grocery list- this one is obvious, but having a list with you at the store, and sticking to only the items on the list, will save you moola! I predict we will only need to spend $40 on groceries this week!
A few of my favorite bloggers have written posts on their approach- check ’em out!
Do you meal plan?  Have any tips for me?

Guest post @ Clean Eating Chelsey

1 Sep

EDITED TO ADD: I fixed the link to Chelsey’s site, I just tried it and it wasn’t working! Oops!

Hi! How’s your Thursday going? When the post goes up I’ll be babysitting my friends 3 year old daughter- she’s adorable! 

Chelsey of Clean Eating Chelsey recently asked if anyone would be interested in writing a post on becoming gluten free. I told her I would, and my post is up! 🙂 Check it out now, over at Clean Eating Chelsey!

Let me know what you think, and have a great night!

-Ashley

Weekend in Photos

28 Aug

Hello, and happy Sunday! Yesterday we headed home to celebrate my youngest sister’s 12th birthday, and this morning our day started early. John went golfing and I completed my long run for the week. (I’m training for the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon on October 16th.) 

I just got an iPhone with birthday money on Friday, and have been loving the Instagram app. So much so, I’ll just let the photos speak for this weekend’s events. 🙂


My weekend was filled with delicious food and great times with my family. We are so lucky that everyone is just an hour away, and we have the time to visit! 

Oh, by the way, I got both of those books for $20 at Borders- they’re going out of business. I almost squealed when I saw Skinny Bitch! 

How did you spend your weekend?
Do you use Instagram? If so, follow me @ashveg!

How to make the most of a tiny kitchen

25 Aug

Happy (almost)Friday! Any fun plans for the weekend? We heading home Saturday to celebrate my youngest sister’s birthday! 🙂

I have been living in an apartment ever since I moved out of the dorms before junior year. My first apartment was a two bedroom that I shared with my friend Shea. The kitchen was tiny. My second apartment was a one bedroom, my first place on my own. This kitchen was itty bitty. During my student teaching, I lived in a newly renovated one bedroom, with a really nice kitchen. New appliances, beautiful countertops, track lighting. But it was small. Apartment kitchens are generally small, since they are trying to maximize living space. But goodness, something a bit more spacious than a walk in closet.

John and I currently live in a two bedroom apartment. It’s the perfect size for us, but guess what? The kitchen is terribly small. My counter space is about 4 square feet. Once the fridge door is open, you can’t get into the cabinet across of it. I store my pots and pans in the hallway closet. It’s bad, but I’ve made it work for the past few years. I’d figure I’d share some tips on staying sane in a tiny cooking space.

  • Maximize your space. We have limited drawer and cabinet space, so I bought a giant white crock for all my cooking utensils, which I keep on the stove top. I bought a cheapie metal shelf from target, which I spray painted to match our place, and use it to store cookbooks and my huge ball jars of oats, quinoa, rice, chickpeas, and lentils. I store my spices in the tiny drawer next to my stove, since they wouldn’t all stay organized in the cabinet. I used to get so frustrated with my oven mitts laying on top of jars that I stuck tiny little hooks inside my doors, and now they have a place! I also decided to buy an over-the-door basket for saran wrap, parchment paper, etc. It’s been the perfect solution for me.

Shout out to Mama Pea! Congrats on becoming a NYT Bestselling Author! 🙂

  • Organize your food. I use Ball Jars to store almost everything. Beans, nuts, grains, spices. I decided to use cheap plastic tupperware for my flours, since they are wide enough for me to fit my measuring cup into, but I prefer Ball Jars. Not only are the adorable, but affordable! I found the perfect 3 section plastic container for all my small food items- xantham gum, extracts, stevia. 
  • Clear your counters. I store my blender under the counter in a cabinet, which makes a huge difference. I use a 3 tiered fruit and veggie basket, which allows for more work space. We keep our toaster and coffee maker on the tiny counter between the oven and fridge, they fit perfectly. I also keep out cooking oils and balsamic vinegar, and our small 3 bottle wine rack.
  • Clean as you go. We have a two sided sink, thank goodness- but one side is dedicated to our drying rack. Whenever I’m cooking a more involved meal, or baking anything, I make sure to clean bowls, measuring cups, whatever it is, as I go along. If I don’t, my countertop is covered in dirty dishes by the end of it, and I get frustrated! Cleaning as I go also gives me more room to cook!
Fortunately for us, our lease is up October 1st, and we are going to rent a beautifully renovated house, with a (relatively) HUGE kitchen! I can’t wait!  I’m sure I will dedicate a post to our new digs when we get settled.

What are your tiny kitchen tips?

Xiao (shee-ow) China Grille

24 Aug

Hi! How has your week been? So far so good over here!

On Sunday my family came up to to visit and we went to Xiao China Grille for a late lunch. An old co-worker of mine started cooking there awhile ago, So I had heard of it but had yet to try it out. It seemed like the perfect time to do so on Sunday, something for everyone to enjoy!

The atmosphere was awesome, very contemporary and infused with Chinese design. My mom, my sister Lyndsey, John, and I all ordered a drink. I started with the Thai Herb Mojito, which was incredible!

The flavors were so fresh! My mom had a Pomegranate Martini, John ordered a bottle of Founder’s Centennial IPA, and Lyndsey ordered a glass of White Zin. 

Unfortunately, there weren’t any appetizers for John and I, since they all contained fish or meat and were already prepared ahead of time. No worries though, our entrees definitely filled us up!

I had the Braised Tofu with Shitaki Mushrooms, and John ordered the Buddasan. Mine was delicious, and I didn’t get to taste John’s. The five spice tofu looked great though!

His:

Hers:

Aren’t those peas adorable?!

It was a great lunch, shared with fantastic people! Thanks for coming to visit, fam! 🙂

(Please excuse the blurry photos, my sister Shelby let me use her iPhone, since I forgot to stick my memory card in my camera.)

Birthday Guacamole

21 Aug

Hello! How’s was your Sunday? Mine has been spectacular- it’s my birthday! 

Yesterday we got together with John’s family to celebrate my birthday, his mom’s birthday, and his sister Lindsay’s birthday! We had planned on having a big picnic at the local metro park, but unfortunately, within an hour of our arrival, the rain started coming down. We got to eat, but I didn’t get any pictures. I made my “famous” guacamole, Mama Pea’s hummus, thai veggie burgers (yum!), GF peanut butter chocolate chip dough balls. I also made a peanut butter chocolate pretzel pie from Manifest Vegan. SO GOOD! Since we left early, I have tons of leftovers, including about 7 avocados worth of guac I made. HAH!

Ashley’s Guacamole

Serves at LEAST 12 people

-13 ripe avocados (they are ripe when the skin turns black and they give when you squeeze them a bit)
-1 tbsp chili powder
-1 tbsp cumin
-1/2 tsp cayenne
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 cloves minced garlic
-1 tb lime juice
– 1 medium red, yellow, or white onion,diced
-2 diced tomatoes
Additional add ins: corn, jalapenos,garlic salt subbed in for the garlic and salt.

Mash the avocados, then mix in everything else. Easy!
I’m off to finish my birthday the right way, by polishing off the peanut butter pretzel pie and watching Limitless with John. I hope you all have a splendid Sunday evening as well! 🙂

Committing to Blogging

16 Aug

hello! i’m back after another long absence. i hate that i can’t seem to keep a normal blogging schedule.  i have time for it,  i’m just not committing. i have a pretty big problem with commitment, except of course when it comes to relationships – you’re the only one john! 😉

for instance, we had planned on racing the half ironman distance in next month’s triathlon festival up in tawas bay. we talked it up for months, but when it came down to it, neither of us signed up or started training in time. finally, at the end of last month, we realized we couldn’t prepare in only 2 months, and scrapped the idea.

ditching the half ironman didn’t sit right with me, so i began searching for a race i could sign up for this year. i was looking for one that would give me enough time to train, and still challenge me. i felt guilty for putting of the half ironman for the second year in a row (we had plans to do the same exact race last year, too!), and i needed to commit to something. lucky for me, the detroit free press marathon and half marathon are on october 16th, which is just enough time for me to prepare for the half. i’m super excited because the only other half marathon we have done was a trail run this past may.  it was killer, we finished in 2:40, but so much fun! i’m excited to see how much faster i’ll be on the road, and i’ve heard that the race is awesome! 🙂 unfortunately, john won’t be running with me because his ankle isn’t allowing him to run, but he’ll be there to cheer me on!

so what i’m trying to say, is that i am committing to blogging starting today. i love writing these posts, and responding to your comments! i love the food blogging community in general, such a genuine group of individuals. 🙂

a few weeks (months?!) ago i put out a call on facebook for requests on the blog, and i got quite a few! thanks!

reader requests

-granola bar recipe

-guacamole! 

-indian food recipes and cooking techniques 

-health food stores 101 : what to buy and why!

all this is coming up in the next few weeks- expect the guacamole recipe before the weekend! thank you for reading, and for your support. have a great rest of your tuesday!

do you have a hard time committing to things?

if not, how do you keep yourself committed? 

Heather’s Restaurant (Bay City)

31 Jul

hi! how was your weekend? we spent ours up in the “thumb” of michigan with some friends, and just got home this afternoon. we had a blast, but overindulged just a bit (oops.) 

whenever john and i travel, we pack food, knowing that whatever everyone else is going to be eating ain’t gonna cut it. we packed lots of food, but not enough breakfast stuff. when we headed out this morning around 11 am, i asked john if he thought there would be any vegetarian restaurants in bay city, about an hour from where we were staying in caseville, mi. he laughed at me. after a quick google search on my phone, i discovered heather’s restaurant. heather’s looked really cool, and seemed to have something for everyone. there are tons of vegetarian and vegan options, as well as meat and dairy. i was so excited when we arrived, it was so stinkin’ cute!

i loved the antique decor, and the enormous black board for daily specials!


after debating between breakfast or lunch, i decided to go with the grilled banana-coconut oatmeal that was on special. it was delicious, and i couldn’t even finish the bowl. even better, because now i get to relive the deliciousness tomorrow morning. 

john went with a black bean burger + a side or red potatoes. the square bun and patty totally remind me of wendy’s. haha!

he loved it, and ate every bite. the cracker sticking out of the guacamole is made in house, i didn’t try it, but he said it was good! 

of course we had to get dessert.  john rolled with a chocolate chip cookie, which i forgot to take a picture of, and i got a slice of the raw apple pie to go. i just ate the pie while typing this up, it was so good!! the only way it could have been better is if there was a scoop of vanilla coconut milk ice cream on the side. 😉

we will definitely be back to heather’s whenever we are in the bay city area again. this place has delicious and healthy food, complete with fantastic service, and an awesome atmosphere. 🙂

have you discovered any new restaurants lately? what did you think? 

(Almost) Homemade Gatorade

28 Jul

i’m back! life got a little crazy, but i am ready to start blogging again! i missed it!

a few weeks ago at kroger, i saw santa cruz organic juices on sale, 4 for $5. what a steal! i picked up 2 bottles of lemonade, and 2 bottles of strawberry lemonade, with the intent to make a healthier sports drink. i finally got down to business today, and the results are delicious! this was incredibly easy and cheap! i do feel a little like sandra lee, considering it’s semi-homemade. hehe.

before we get to my version, let’s talk about gatorade.

gatorade was invented in 1965 at the university of florida, where researchers discovered electrolytes and carbs needed to be replaced during activity for optimum performance. i’m sure gatorade was much more natural and healthy back then, but now ingredients include high fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, and artificial colors.  gatorade is trying to hop on the health food bandwagon now, and has released gatorade natural. still,  i would rather make my own and save money, plastic, as well as know for sure what im refueling with. 

i have fiddled with homemade sports drinks in the past, but this time i did a little research. here’s what i found:

  • the two key components to any sports drinks are electrolytes and carbohydrates.
  • adding salt = instant electrolyte, sodium!
  • potassium, another electrolyte, is beneficial, as it helps the body maintain fluid balance.
  • oranges contain a decent amount of potassium, and the peel packs quite a punch- reduces cholesterol, aids gastrointestinal health, and fights cancer!
with all this new information, i came up with a quick throw together recipe for our own “gatorade.” we can call it “hippie-rade.” hah!

hippie-rade

ingredients
32 ounces juice, any kind, fresh or bottled.
3/4 cup orange juice, fresh or bottled.
4 cups water
3/4 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange

method
1. find a large container. in my case, it was the growler john purchased at arbor brewing at the beginning of the month.
2. combine all ingredients. 
3. that’s it- go get your sweat on and drink up!
taste test!
delicious! let me know if you try this! 🙂

Al Fresco

6 Jul

happy wednesday!  i hope you all had a great 4th of july, and a great week so far! 

john and i just finished dog sitting & house sitting for a family i babysit for, and we took full advantage of the space.  (hi faith and sharon!) i absolutely adore having a kitchen larger than a walk in closet and being able to eat outside on the deck is fantastic. the hot tub isn’t too bad either…

i was seriously lacking motivation to cook for the past week or so, but that all changed on sunday night. i had bought this gf pizza dough mix when i went grocery shopping and was so excited to get my ‘za on!

i followed the directions on the box, it was pretty hard to knead. the dough was extremely sticky, i probably added a half cup of bob mill’s GF flour to it to keep it from sticking. i greased the pan really well, but when this bad boy popped outta the oven, he didn’t want to pop out of the pan.

amanda and i tried to lift it out, but no dice. we ended up eating it with forks, straight out of the pan. classy! 

the pizza tasted really good, the crust could have been better, but i was thrilled considering i haven’t had pizza in so long! i topped it with pizza sauce, pineapple, fresh basil from their garden (!!) tomato, and broccoli. we all enjoyed it!

amanda and i managed to polish off this bottle of wine that faith and sharon left for me, it was good! not sure how we guzzled it all down. 😉

such a gorgeous sunset to end a perfect outdoor dining experience!

on the 4th we grilled out with some veggie burgers and corn, john was the grill master.

john made some potato salad and i made the guacamole. everything was delicious.

amanda’s plate, before she loaded up on sides.

my plate, which was identical to john’s.

the aftermath. (this picture is perfect, thanks amanda!)

what did you do for the 4th? i’m sure we aren’t the only ones who ate one too many scoops of potato salad! 😉