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Follow Me on My Journey

I used to have one requirement for the food I ate, it had to be tasty. Now that I am trying to become healthy, my requirements have changed a bit. It must be low-fat, low-calories, less meat, more veggies, no carbs, no rice, no pasta, cheap, take less than 20 minutes to make, and be the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. This perfect food does not exist. If it does, please let me know!

The most difficult thing for me while learning to eat healthy has dealt with lunches at work. I did not want to give up my free time on Sundays to prep lunches, and it was difficult to give up the fast food I had grown to love so much. However, over the past few months, while learning to meal prep, I have discovered I really enjoy trying the new recipes. Not only have I discovered a new hobby, it lead to me creating this blog. Every week, I try something new, and every week, I discover something I did wrong that could have been done better. But I realized, I never document which ones I liked, or my suggestions of improvements, so I never try the recipe again. While I may discuss other foods I found I enjoyed, or did not enjoy, my main focus is going to be on lunch prepping.

My journey to healthy eating has been a long one, and I have a long way to go, but I have learned a lot along the way. I started this blog to document mistakes I have made and what I have learned from those mistakes. And I appreciate any comments and suggestions that would help me on my journey. Please check back weekly for my latest lunch prep attempt.

Coming soon, Adult Lunchables…

Summer Squash and Corn Chowder

Canning At Home:

Since quarantine started several months ago, I have been getting fruits and vegetables delivered from the farmers market, rather than going to the grocery store. However, I have been piling up on more than I can use, so I have been coming up with ways to prep them and store them for later use. I have been making food in bulk and canning and freezing them. I am new to canning and learning things as I go, and have followed instructions for most of the food I have canned. However, I began thinking I can just can anything I want and it’ll stay good in a jar until I am ready to use it. Turns out, that is not the case.

One of the farms around here grows squash. Like, a LOT of squash. Zucchini too. Sometimes, it’s one of the only vegetables they offer that can be cooked easily on it’s own as a side dish. So I get some EVERY week. Of course, after several months, we got tired of eating roasted squash twice a week and I found I had more in my fridge than any normal person should have. So I found this tasty recipe for Summer Squash and Corn Chowder. I pulled out my gigantic stock pot, made seven large jars of corn chowder, and sealed them up in my power cooker, using the same instructions as a jar of salsa or sauce.

As for the soup itself, when eaten freshly cooked, I thought it was delicious. It was creamy, full of two of my favorite veggies, and a nice change from roasted squash. My family thought it lacked meat, since I didn’t add the cheese or bacon. They suggested pouring it over chicken in the crockpot, letting it simmer, then shredding the chicken. This is an interesting idea that I would like to try one day, once we are ready to eat squash again.

How I F*d Up:

After the jars sat in the cabinet for a week or two, I noticed a bit of separation. I didn’t think much of it, as a lot of things separate and need to be shaken before opening. So I gave one of the jars a little shake, and seeing that it looked creamy again, placed it back into the cabinet. A few days later, I saw it looked a bit off, and started to worry about feeding my family dairy that has been on a shelf. I had originally assumed it was fine, since there are a lot of canned soups in the store with dairy, but had grown concerned that I had done it wrong. I figured I would just dump it out in the morning, just to be safe.

The next morning, in the kitchen with my daughter, she mentioned seeing some fruit flies in the house. I thought that was odd, as we’ve never had fruit flies in the house before, but didn’t have a lot of time to investigate at that moment. I just shrugged it off, thinking they would go away, and went about my day. Later that afternoon, I went to dump the soup. When I opened the cabinet, I got hit in the face with what smelled like days old vomit and realized I’d found the source of the fruit flies. It seems when I shook the jar, it created some kind of noxious fumes, which built up in the jar, puffed the lid out, and leaked all over the inside of the cabinet. I immediately pulled the jars out and hoped to get it all dumped before anyone realized what happened. Upon opening that first jar, a horrendous odor exploded from the jar into the kitchen. You know that smell of a dead possum on a country road in the middle of August? Yeah, this was worse. I didn’t have a dead possum, I had 7 jars of rotten milk. Then I heard my boyfriend yell from across the house “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL???!!!!” He and the kids jumped up and opened all of the windows while I finished dumping the soup. We ended up ordering pizza while I spent the time I would have used cooking to deep clean the cabinet. Once the pizza was ordered and I got the kitchen cleaned, it was time to feed the cats. This is when we noticed two of them were missing. During the panic, one of the kids opened the window without a screen and they’d gotten outside. Which meant I had to run around in the yard to catch these indoor only cats and bring them back indoors.

After everything calmed down and we’d had dinner, I did a google search. I found this article about things that should never be canned from home, including dairy, meat, and several other things that’s pretty important to know before you start canning. Basically, if something isn’t shelf safe before canning, it won’t be after canning either.

Suggestions For Improvement:

Proper instructions should be used before canning anything. Don’t just assume that sealing something in a jar will magically make it shelf safe. Any food item that doesn’t have specific instructions for safely canning from home should be vacuum sealed and frozen, rather than attempting to can.

Homemade Jalapeno Cheddar Beer Brats

Dinner:

Meal prepping doesn’t always mean making a thousand frozen breakfast burritos and take-to-work lunches. Sometimes, meal prepping can include vacuum sealing your favorite chicken recipe in a bag to freeze for convenient worknight dinners. Lately, I have been packaging dinner size portions of my favorite meals in bulk amounts and freezing them for later use. I have also been using my power cooker to can salsas, sauces, and jams to preserve the massive amounts of fruits and veggies I am getting delivered from the farmers market faster than I can eat. I can then heat them up easily on busy weeknights for dinner. While it is essentially reinventing the wheel, as most of these things are already conveniently pre-packaged at the grocery store, my wheels are healthier, free from fillers, and uses better quality ingredients.

This past weekend, with the extra time on my hands due to teleworking and quarantine, I decided to make my own beer brats using the recipe I got here, doubling the recipe to make several batches. All I needed was a giant chunk of pork shoulder, a bunch of veal, some seasonings, beer, and hog casing. Most of this was easily available from the grocery store, but I had to go downtown to a local butcher shop for the hog casing. I threw in some extra jalapenos and shredded cheddar cheese I had that needed to be used and hung the results on my pan hooks to dry. Once they were dry, I vacuum sealed them up in dinner size portions, dropped one portion into the Sous Vide for dinner, and froze the rest.

How I F*d Up:

There really wasn’t much of a f* up with this one. If anything, the cheese (considering I just threw in half a bag of shredded cheddar I had in my fridge) was completely undetectable, with the only effect being that I upped the calorie count. However, even without tasting the cheese, the brats came out amazing, and should freeze and cook well later.

Suggestions For Improvement:

While there was a few areas of improvement, as there always is, the results, came out delicious, considering I didn’t know what I was doing and was just following instructions I googled. I ended up finding out there is so much to sausage making that classes are offered on the subject, including specific protein to fat ratios and special cheeses to withstand the temperatures. If I’m going to continue making sausages, I may look into one of these classes one day.

I did not buy enough casing for all of the stuffing. I doubled the amounts of ingredients, including the length of hog casing, but it still wasn’t enough and I was left with a lot of extra stuffing. I ended up vacuum sealing a bag of just stuffing and will now have to go back to the butcher shop for more casing and go through the stuffing process over again. I’m pretty sure the casing can be stored and used later, if too much is bought, so it’s better to have a bit extra than to have not nearly enough and have to go back for more.

If cheese is going to be added to sausage, make sure to get the right kind of cheese that won’t melt away and disappear completely, or just don’t bother with the cheese.

Chicken Tikka Masala & Basmati Rice

Eh:

Apparently, meat and grain covered in sauce is my new thing. It’s super simple and, by changing meat and sauce type, can be very versitile. That being said, this particular variety was just okay. The jar of premade tikka masala sauce I used said medium heat, but this had to have been one of the most bland meals I have ever tasted, outside of that one spaghetti sauce I got from Costco.

I grilled about 10 chicken breasts on a George Foreman grill and cooked a huge batch of basmati rice in a rice cooker. Then I just threw it all together in a bowl, topped with enough tikka masala sauce to cover the chicken and rice when mixed together, and served with premade garlic naan. It was very easy and looked and smelled delicious.

How I F*d Up:

I did not try this meal until Thursday, but my boyfriend and roommate ate them every day and didn’t say anything about it until I asked. Whoever made this sauce is the one that F*d up by forgetting to put flavor into it. Other than the bland sauce, the chicken and rice part were great. The chicken was still juicy on Thursday and the rice held up well.

Suggestions For Improvement:

Considering that I am working from home until further notice due to quarantine, I really do have a lot of extra time on my hands. Using the extra time to make things homemade would allow for adjusments of seasonings to personal taste. If I try this meal again, I will either make the sauce homemade so I can adjust the seasonings myself, or I will try a different, more flavorful type of premade curry sauce.

Also, the meat/grain/sauce combo really needs some grilled veggies. This would add flavor, variety, and nutrition to the meal. I think this meal would go great with some sauted zucchini and squash, either on the side or mixed in.

BBQ Meatballs & Quinoa

Easiest Lunch Ever:

This is probably the easiest meal I have ever prepped, although maybe not all that healthy. I had a giant bag of costco meatballs in my freezer and several bottles of BBQ sauce in the pantry, which all needed to be used. I figured I’d just throw it all together and call it a day. I cooked a pot full of quinoa in the rice cooker, added frozen mealballs, and topped with a good bit of BBQ sauce. I didn’t make the BBQ sauce, I didn’t make the meatballs. I didn’t even heat the meatballs up, as they will thaw in the fridge overnight.

How I F*d Up:

Well, I really didn’t with this one. It was delicious as is and all of it was eaten by the end of the week. If I had to nit-pick anything, it would be the lack of variety and veggies. Processed meatballs and bottled BBQ sauce really isn’t healthy. The only complaint from the boyfriend was that a week of quinoa for lunch everyday was too much quinoa.

Suggestions For Improvement:

Cutting back on the portion size of meatballs, BBQ sauce, and quinoa, and adding some kind of steamed or roasted veggie on the side would have provided more variety to the meal and made it healtheir. It would also have cut back the amount of quinoa eaten throughout the week.

Unless trying to use up a bunch of frozen meatballs and BBQ sauce, making homemade meatballs and sauce could be a healthier option, and would probably be even tastier.

Adult Lunchable v2.0

I’m the only one that liked it:

I had initially planned to keep it easy and do another week of Adult lunchables using the two extra hams I bought and froze last time I made them. Then I realized this was the same week as Easter dinner and a weeks worth of ham leftovers. That’s entirely too much ham for one week, so I deided to change it up a bit.

For this weeks box, I used salami, pita, grape tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, 3 different varieties of cheese, and 4 different varieties of hummus. I did not label what was what, so it was a bit of a mystery box regarding the cheese and hummus. I figured this was a good change from the usual ham/celery/carrot combo I usually do, especially since last weeks celery got weird really quickly. I liked to spread the hummus on the pita, top with cucumber slices, and call it a “healthy pizza”. Unfortunately, I am the only person that liked this meal.

How I F*d Up:

The only issue I persnally had with these boxes was the variety of cheeses. The smoked cheddar had the taste and texture of smoke flavored wax and the other looked like it started sweating after a day or two. However, some of the comments/questions I heard from my family included: “I ate it at 8am, I’m starving”, “What’s with these little tomatoes, they taste weird”, “Why is this hummus sweet?”, “What’s wrong with this cheese?”, “This is a nice snack, what’s for lunch?” and those are the only comments I actually remember. There were multiple comments each day one of these meals were eaten.

I did initially plan for these boxes to count as lunch, but when I posted the picture online, I got a lot of comments questioning if this was a snack. Many people said this wouldn’t be enough food for a meal. I agreed with them at the time, never admitting I had intended on this being lunch. While I did find it filling enough to count as lunch, my boyfriend very much agreed with those on the internet that said it was only a small snack. But maybe if he’d eaten his little tomatoes and cheese wax, he would have gotten fuller. To be fair, though, nobody ate the cheese wax.

Suggestions for improvement:

While these meals are versitile and can be changed, some type of filler needs to be included. Thick sliced ham adds substance to the meal, making it more filling, but thinly sliced salami is not filling enough, so something more filling needs to be added.

When trying new cheeses, use only one kind of new cheese, while the majority of the cheese used are known favorites. If the new cheese is liked, it can be added in the future, but if it is not liked, it doesn’t waste as much.

Make sure all the foods used in the meals are liked by everyone eating the boxes. A lot of food will be thrown away, and people will complain about not getting full, if they do not like half of the food included.

Sauteed Shrimp and Salad

My New Favorite:

After taking some time off to be lazy while quarantined, I am finally writing the blog I promised weeks ago.

This sauteed shrimp and sausage is my new favorite meal prep. It was super quick to make, tasted delicious, and stayed good the whole week. I found the recipe for this from someone in a Facebook meal prep group. This recipe only requires 3 ingredients and some seasonings; 1 smoked sausage, 1 box of frozen Green Giant Simply Steam lightly sauced vegetable mix in Antioxidant Blend, and 1 pound of shrimp. Season the shrimp to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder. Slice the sausage and saute both the sausage and vegetables in a pan until vegetables are soft and sausage begins to brown. Add the shrimp for the last 5 minutes of cooking and saute until shrimp is cooked. I served this with a side of steamed basmati rice.

The salad had potential. It is made of mixed greens, pecans, strawberries, feta cheese, and Skinnygirl poppyseed salad dressing. I made 3 of these salads with the intentions of rotating between the salads and shrimp meals, so I won’t get bored with eating the same meal every day.

How I F*d Up:

There was no F* up with the shrimp and rice. The meal stayed moist and delicious through the week. Nothing got weird and the rice did not dry out. It was delicious and I will absolutely be doing this again.

However, the salad was way too sweet. It had a lot of potential, but it was hard to eat more than half of it as the berries and salad dressing made the whole salad too sweet.

Suggestions for Improvement:

For the first time, I have no improvements for the shrimp and rice dish. It’s delicious as it is and any alterations could potentially mess up, rather than improve, a great dish.

While the salad has potential, it needs something salty to counteract the sweetness. Adding diced grilled chicken helps to tone down the sweet taste, adds protien, and helps to balance out the salad as a meal, while still being healthy.

Turkey Wraps & Tuna Lettuce Wraps

Tried and True:

My boyfriend loves turkey wraps and insists he could eat them for every meal. Because of this, I have made this meal enough times to work through any bugs. However, despite how quick and easy they are to make, I just can’t bring myself to eat nothing but one food for the rest of my life. So when I make his wraps, I like to make something else for myself. This week, I made tuna wrapped in butter lettuce leaves. I also added a few breakfast boxes and a salad to rotate with the tuna wraps so I will have more variety throughout the week.

For the turkey wraps, I used sliced cracked black pepper turkey, a handful of shredded cabbage, a sprinkle of fat-free shredded cheddar cheese, and a drizzle of ranch dressing. I added celery sticks and peanut butter on the side. We have eaten so many of these wraps, I just cant eat anymore. However, he may love these wraps more than he loves me.

My tuna lettuce wraps were super simple and even easier to make than the turkey wraps. The smaller compartment is canned tuna, drained, and mixed with a little light mayo, salt, and pepper. The other compartment is about 4 butter lettuce leaves. I put a bite of tuna in each leaf, wrap it up, and eat.

The salad is a simple grilled chicken caesar salad. Romain lettuce, shredded parmesan cheese, topped with chicken grilled on my George Foreman, and a cup of light caesar salad dressing on the side.

I made two different breakfast boxes. Half of the boxes have two hard boiled eggs and mixed nuts. The other half has fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt topped with frozen mixed berries and a hard boiled egg on the side.

How I F*d Up:

This is probably one of my most successful weeks since I started meal prepping, but I’ve made it enough times to know, and fix, any issues. In the past, I have noticed the wraps will get soggy by the first day, if assembled in advance.

I like to make ants on a log, and as much as I normally hate raisins, it adds a needed touch of sweetness to the celery and peanut butter. However, last time I attempted ants on a log for meal prepping, all the celery was stuck together in a gooey clump when it was time to eat it.

While the meal prep containers are leakproof, in that they won’t leak into your lunch box, they aren’t leakproof between individual compartments. This means that when the frozen berries thawed out, they created some juice on top of the yogurt. The yogurt was still delicious, no problem there. However, the juice leaked into the other compartment and I found my egg floating in a mixture of yogurt soup and dyed purple. I ate it anyway, but it had a slight hint of blackberry flavor and it was kind of weird.

Suggestions For Improvement:

If I am going to be eating the wraps myself, I package the meat and lettuce seperate from the wrap and assemble before eating. However, since my boyfriend doesn’t notice all the wilted veggies and soggy wrap, I go ahead and wrap it all up when packaging if he’s the only one eating them.

If there is a way to package ants on a log so they don’t stick together, I don’t know what it is. To get around this, I simply used celery sticks and a cup of peanut butter for dipping. I may mix raisins into the peanut butter next time to add that bit of sweetness.

Make sure all compartments containing any liquids are spillproof from spilling into the other compartments. Yogurt topped with mixed fruit can be packaged into mason jars to prevent spillage.

Sesame Tempeh Bowls

Not a Fan of Tempeh:

This week, I bought new meal prep containers and found a bunch of old containers in the back of my cabinet. I used the variety of containers to pack a variety of foods, and I am glad I did. This allowed me to pack more than just the usual main dish and two sides. Being able to pack a couple of salads allows me to have more variety so I’m not struggling to eat the same thing every day, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of extra time to throw together a few salads and some snack containers. For breakfast, I made ten Bacon And Egg Cups With Avocado (not pictured), lunch was eight Sesame Tempeh Bowls/, and five salads with mixed greens berries, goat cheese, and, and fat-free poppysead dressings. I made a five snack boxes with veggies and ranch dip, and five boxes with pretzel crisps and hummus. All together, this should have been enough food to feed myself and any meals or snacks my kids may have wanted to eat, and it was all very quick to make compaired to some of my past meal preps. Most of it is still in my fridge. The Pretzel crisp boxes went quick, but I cannot eat the Sesame Tempeh Bowls. However, the salads are delicious and would be even better with a few pieces of grilled chicken.

How I F*d up:

Tempeh is gross. Maybe some people like it, but it is just not my cup of tea. I didn’t know what it was, but thought I’d give it a try. Never again. This recipe also did not use nearly enough sauce. That wasn’t so much my mistake, as I followed the instructions exactly, but I noticed when I put it all together it didn’t have a whole lof of sauce. I should have taken a few minutes to make some more sauce. The tempeh had a decent coating of sauce on it, but there was no sauce to spread around on the rice or broccoli. Since the broccoli is simply tossed into the bowls as is, without sauce, it is super bland. Also, I do not think that jasmine rice reheats very well. It becomes a bit crumbly and has a weird texture. More sauce would have potentially covered this up, but without enough sauce, it was just plain, weird textured leftover rice.

The bacon and egg cups with avocados have a lot of potential, but I did not follow instructions. I had this brilliant idea to make them in 4 oz jars instead of a muffin tin, so I could just put a lid on them to take them to work. This did not work as I’d hoped. I even asked the creator of the recipe about trying it in a jar and was advised to cook the bacon first. I did not do that. I should have done that. I was trying to save time, as I always do, and just shoved entire thick slices of bacon into the bottom of the jar and stuck them into the oven. This is when I realized it is supposed to be a thin layer of bacon at the bottom. The bacon did not crisp up, but the jars did fill up with bacon grease. I shrugged it off, drained the grease, and topped the bacon with the avocado mixture and raw egg, and baked for the recommended time. The next morning, when trying to eat one, I realized I had a giant squishy piece of bacon covered in goo. I will be trying this recipe again, following proper instructions.

Suggestions for Improvement:

Next time, I’ll go with a traditional sesame chicken. I liked using homemade sauce, as It was quick and easy to make, using ingredients I already had in my pantry. Next time, I will use real chicken and make a lot more sauce. I also prefer basmati over jasmine and I think it reheats better. As for the broccoli, using fresh broccoli, oven roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil, instead of frozen, will give it a better texture and more flavor, if it doesn’t have any sauce on it.

I am definitely going to try the bacon and egg cups again, but will be following the instructions. I also still have a few other ideas for it involving the sous vide. I want to try pre-cooking the bacon in the oven and layering it on the bottom of the jar, then topping with the avocado and egg, and putting it the sous vide. Or layering the bottom of the jar with the avocado, blending the eggs until smooth and pouring into the jars, then topping with cooked bacon crumbles, and cooking in the sous vide. I am going to try these different methods and record my findings later.

Healthy Egg Salad

Tastes Like Disappointment:

When prepping lunches, I try to find a balance between being healthy and tasting good. I don’t want to spend hours prepping a meal that turns out to be inedible. And, of course, it won’t help if the meal is so bad that I end up picking at my lunch, then binge eating junk later. So I try to take meals I like and find healthy, altered versons.

For this meal, I used this Heathy Egg Salad recipe. It uses plain non-fat Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, dijon mustard and fresh dill for a touch of zing, and celery for a bit of crunch. I made the egg salad exactly according to the recipe. For serving, I used pita bread instead of whole grain bread, and for toppings I only added arugula, both stored seperately to keep from getting soggy. I thought I had found a great balance between healthy and tasty.

The Zesty Mediterranean Quinoa Salad was pretty delicious. While a bit heavy on the onion, I will be making this again.

How I F*d Up:

While plain non-fat Greek yogurt probably would have gone great with the previous weeks Waldorf Salad, as fruit and yogurt tend to go well together, it did not do anything for egg. The egg salad itself was bland and tasteless, despite the added dill and mustard. The yogurt seperated quite a bit overnight, so instead of being thick and creamy, it turned a bit watery and runny, despite mixing before stuffing into the pita. Lesson learned, plain non-fat Greek yogurt is not always an acceptable substitution for mayonnaise. There was such a small amount of mustard added, there might as well have not been any added at all.

In attempt to cut back on some of my food costs, I decided to try cheap pitas. However, you get what you pay for. Pita’s is not something you want to cheap out on, especially if you plan to stuff it full of runny egg salad. The pita was extremely thin, so shoving it full of egg salad soup caused it to get soggy and start falling apart before I was done eating. Putting a layer of Arugula into the bottom of the pita before pouring in the egg salad helped to give it a protective layer, as well as adding to the flavor.

Suggestions for Improvement:

The two biggest improvements to this would be to use light mayonnaise instead of greek yogurt and using quality pitas. While light mayonnaise will add in a bit more fat and calories than fat-free greek yogurt, it will taste much better, while still being more healthy than full-fat mayo.

Waldorf Salad Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Salad Would Have Been Better:

For those of you who don’t know, Waldorf salad is fruits and nuts covered in mayo. Don’t ask why I thought that sounded good, I don’t know. The picture was pretty and a box full of fruit sounded healthy. I must have missed the part where it was covered in mayo. I used the recipe from here, which includes turkey (or chicken), apples, celery, grapes, walnuts, mayonnaise, salt, and Bibb lettuce leaves. I used quality chicken and cooked it in the sous vide so it would be nice and tender. I used fresh apples I cut myself, rather than the precut mushy ones. I used the freshest, non-squishy grapes I could find. I even remembered to package the leaves seperately so they wouldn’t get soggy. I followed the recipe exacly and made sure to do everything just right. I included mixed berries and a halo on the side to make this box as fruit packed as I could.

How I F*d Up:

Mayonnaise does not go on fruit. I don’t care what my Waldorf salad loving dad thinks, it just doesn’t. As I ate my lunch, I just kept thinking about how healthy this box would be if it wasn’t covered in mayo.

Being that this meal was basically a box full of fruit, with about 3 small pieces of diced chicken, it wasn’t very filling. After eating my lunch, I felt like I had just had a light snack. It was all I could do to not eat my own left arm off out of hunger before leaving work. My family had dinner early every day this week. But, on the plus side, I did loose 5 pounds this week alone, despite being overloaded with mayonnaise. Must have been all the starvation.

Suggestions for Improvement:

Being mostly fruit, it would probably taste a lot better, and be healthier, with plain fat-free greek yogurt in place of the mayonnaise. However, this meal needs something of substance to make it more filling. So using less fruit and more chicken, as well as putting it on a pita instead of lettuce leafs would make this meal more satisfying. So basically, a chicken salad pita would be better. But if you do go with the classic recipe, use something filling on the side so your co-workers don’t have to deal with the hanger.

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