(Lemon Herb Chicken with Broccoli and Celeriac Fries— pic by Charlie)

First off — On top of her weekly Q&A article, Jamie has added new categories to the meal plan section. Take a look!

Meal Plan – Week #15 (Written by Jamie)

(Drew’s veggie prep this week – pic by Drew)

Meal Plan Diet Categories: Gluten-Free, Lactose/Dairy Free, Diabetes, Low Fat/Low Cholesterol, Cardiac, Paleo, Specific Carbohydrate, Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescetarian

Meals: (1) Portuguese Pork with White Beans and “Rice” / (2) Lemon Herb Chicken with Broccoli and Celeriac Fries / (3) Chicken and Veggie Stirfry with Ginger and Coriander and “Rice” / (4) Green Salad with Variations

Snacks: (5) Chopped Veggies (for dipping) / Balsamic Herb Dipping Sauce / Egg Whites / Naked Popcorn / Chopped cucumbers with dill dijon dressing / Coleslaw / Extra celeriac fries / White beans

(1) Portuguese Pork with White Beans and “Rice”

Hands-on time: 30-45 minutes // Time from start to finish: 45-75 minutes

(Gluten-Free, Lactose/Dairy Free, Diabetes Diet, Low Fat/Low Cholesterol, Cardiac Diet)

Chop pork country ribs in half (the cut is less important here than the other flavors; use what you have—I usually use whatever I can find in the “manager’s special” bin), and marinate in cabernet vinegar, balsamic vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, cloves (just a couple; they’re strong!), thyme, salt. 

This is a good time to prep your cauli rice (see below). I left the pork in the marinade for about 1.5 hours and it came out great. Doing this out of the fridge also lets the meat come to room temp, which is better for cooking (just don’t let it hang out here too long).

Remove from marinade and sear both sides in cast iron. 

Add the marinade (include the bay leaves, etc!) back in and finish by braising in the oven at 350F for about 10 minutes. (Maybe check at 8 minutes. Overcooked meat is no fun, and every oven is different.)

While the meat is cooking, dice ¼  a yellow onion. Saute for a few minutes in a medium pan with a little olive oil. Drain a can of white navy beans (don’t look at me, I didn’t name ’em) and add those to the onions. Turn the pan down to low. You want to warm the beans, not fry them.

When your meat is done, pull it out of the oven to rest. Spoon some of those juices over your white beans. They’ll be surprisingly sweet! 

For the cauliflower rice: 

Chop a head of cauliflower into florets or other similar-sized chunks. You’re about to food process them, so they really don’t have to be pretty. 

Steam them for about 15 or so minutes over a pot of boiling water. 

Make sure not to let the cauliflower touch the water while it’s steaming. This will introduce too much water and you will end up with mashed potatoes instead of rice. 

Once knife tender (but maybe not yet fork tender), pop ’em in the food processor and run in spurts until you have small rice-sized chunks. 

These don’t need to be cooked again before being eaten, just warmed up. 

I like to make several heads worth of cauliflower rice at a go and pull out a container each week for meal prep—doing this could cut down your hands-on time for this recipe to 15-20 minutes.

(2) Lemon Herb Chicken with Broccoli and Celeriac Fries

Hands-on Time: 30-45 minutes // Time from start to finish: 45-60 minutes

(Gluten-Free, Lactose/Dairy Free, Diabetes Diet, Low Fat/Low Cholesterol, Cardiac Diet, Paleo, Specific Carbohydrate Diet)

Slice chicken breasts in thirds (I cut the narrow end off and then split the thicker end into two long strips. You could also get out the cast iron pan and pound it the same thickness, but that feels like a step further than I wanna deal with on meal prep day.)

Marinate the pieces in garlic, basil, marjoram, parsley, thinly sliced lemon, water, and a dash of salt.

Chicken doesn’t need to marinate as long as tougher meats or bigger cuts; 20-60 minutes is plenty. You can leave it on the counter for this time so it’ll be room temp when you’re ready to sear.

While the chicken’s getting flavorful, I’d tackle the celeriac (see below).

When you’re ready, sear the chicken on both sides in a pan with a little olive oil, baste with marinade, add the lemon slices to the pan, then pop in a 350F oven for 5-7 minutes. (You’re just looking for the juice to run clear. Remember it will keep cooking when you take it out of the oven.)

While the chicken is cooking, steam the broccoli florets until a bright green.

For the celeriac fries:
Peel off the rough, dirty looking root coating—I use a paring knife. 

Chop into fry strips and toss with a little olive oil, garlic and onion powder. 

I air-fried these for about 15 minutes at 400F and 5 minutes at 450F, tossing regularly. You could also bake these if you got them going before the chicken.

(3) Chicken and Veggie Stirfry with Ginger and Coriander and “Rice”

Hands-on Time: 60-90 minutes // Time from start to finish: 60-90 minutes

(Gluten-Free, Lactose/Dairy Free, Diabetes Diet, Low Fat/Low Cholesterol, Cardiac Diet, Specific Carbohydrate Diet)

The time this meal takes is from all the veggie chopping. If you can get help with this, it’ll be appreciated. My family is most likely to spend time together when we’re all chopping veggies. 

Start with chopping chicken breasts into bite-size pieces. Marinate them in garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, coriander, Tamari gluten-free soy sauce, and rice vinegar.

Chop the broccoli, carrots, celery, and green beans and have at the ready. 

In a pan or wok over high heat, quickly cook the chicken in a little toasted sesame oil. This really doesn’t take long, due to their size, so don’t walk away!

Take the chicken off the heat.

Thinly slice a yellow onion (I used ½ an onion for 2 chicken breasts worth of food), and pop into the pan, still on high heat with a dash more toasted sesame oil until they’re translucent and fragrant. 

Add in the rest of the veggies and keep moving regularly to cook evenly. Add some more Tamari, garlic, ginger, and some lemongrass.

Fold in the chicken just before serving.

Hopefully you have some cauliflower rice already made to serve this with (see the Portuguese Pork for instructions), but it’s also great on its own.

(4) Green Salad with Variations

Base Hands-On Time: 10-15 minutes // Time from start to finish: 10-15 minutes + Variation  Time

(Gluten-Free, Lactose/Dairy Free, Diabetes Diet, Low Fat/Low Cholesterol, Cardiac Diet, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Vegan, Vegetarian)

We all get the salad concept, right? I mean, at its most basic. 

Start with greens of some kind. I vary between different blends of greens (one of my biggest time savers is snagging a box of prewashed mixed greens instead of getting the different lettuce varieties individually), but this week I went with a mix of baby spinach, baby chard, and baby kale. 

Add a layer of chopped veggies of your choosing. I like to cut the veggies on the smaller side. Drew usually helps with the prep and she does it a little different every time which is a great way to mix up the experience of having a salad, texturally speaking.

For Charlie, we keep the base veggies simple: carrots (she can only have a few), celery (again, only a few because her mouth goes numb when she has too many), and cucumbers. Occasionally some sweet peppers, too, when we have some, but they’re not Charlie’s favorite, so they’re mostly for visual appeal.

For the dressing:

I make dressings from scratch every time, and they’re always a little different. This time I was trying to hit a flavor note that would work with the salad by itself or with either of the variations below.

Whisk a good olive oil with cabernet vinegar, dijon mustard, freshly chopped garlic (or garlic powder, if that’s what you have), and add dried savory, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, dill, marjoram, sage, tarragon, and a dash of salt. 

Variation 1: Pinto Beans

Additional Time: 5 minutes

(Gluten-Free, Lactose/Dairy Free, Diabetes Diet, Low Fat/Low Cholesterol, Cardiac Diet, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Vegan, Vegetarian, …)

Rinse a can of pinto beans. 

Dice ¼ of a yellow onion and cook with a little olive oil until translucent and fragrant. (I did this when I was prepping for the white beans to go with the Portuguese Pork. I diced ½ an onion and cooked it, then took ½ out for my pinto beans.

Add the cooked onion to the pinto beans, add Mexican oregano, and toss together. Charlie can’t do spice, but if you can, I would add a bit of chili powder or even a dash of cayenne pepper.

Add to the salad!

Variation 1: Tuna Salad

Additional Time: 5 minutes

(Gluten-Free, Lactose/Dairy Free, Diabetes Diet, Low Fat/Low Cholesterol, Cardiac Diet, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Pescetarian, …)

Dump a can of high-quality tuna into a bowl and loosen it with a fork. I use the ones packed with water, and I drain them partially first—but not all the way; a little moisture is good.

Finely dice around ⅓ of a cucumber and fold into the tuna. 

Add olive oil, citrus champagne vinegar, dijon mustard, basil, oregano, and parsley. Mix well.

Add to the salad!

(5) Other bits and bob this week

Chopped cucumbers with dill dijon dressing (I keep the dressing on the side so Charlie can add right before eating)

Coleslaw (sliced carrots, celery, cabbage, sweet peppers) with oregano and parsley dressing

Chopped veggies for snacks (a couple of carrots, celery, and a lot of cucumbers—Charlie’s favorite!)

Hard-boiled eggs with the yolks removed (I save them and put them on my salads).

Extra celeriac fries and white beans that were extra from the pre-portioned meals.

Jamie’s Meat Marinades in their baths (pic by Drew)

This week we are tackling a few additions: diet coding for meals through the week, approximate meal cooking times, and mid-prep recording of more of the weekly process as we go. Expect more pics and info in weeks ahead!

What kinda things will we be covering? Oh like for example, how to break down and prep a celeriac root from bulb to “fry.”

(Process pic by Jamie)

…And how a meal goes from prep, to portion, to plate:

(Prep pics by Jamie & Drew, plated pic by Charlie)

…We’ll be talking about things like quality of produce and food budgets. Because where you shop matters (even if you stick to the same chain grocery store — for instance), and so does the longevity of the lifespan of your food, the amount of waste you can prevent, and the way the food behaves from first cooking, reheating, freezing, and repurposing.

This week, I’d like to tackle “where you shop matters,” and its trickle-down effects.

First off, as a reminder, we are not super rich-and-wealthy people. We shop at Safeway (like a lot of people.) Every once in a while, when we wanna really splurge on an out-of-country cheese (or odd produce articles like a celeriac root or cactus leaf), we will go to the “yuppy” Market. But 90% of our buying power has been at a chain grocery store (with occasional farmer-market additions.)

When we moved early this year from the far more “posh” of town to where we could get a bigger place still within our price range, we moved too from the posh neighborhood Safeway that had been my main base for over 15 years. As supply chains, and employment worsened we came to expect the assumed decreases in products and conditions of them at our new Safeway location. It was closer by a good 20 mins one-way, and juggling multiple jobs plus prepping and cooking an average of 12-14 meals a week for Charlie required all the time-saving we could make. The problem is, the produce — the bulk of Charlie’s meal contents — was coming in worse and worse condition.

…We thought the supply chain was not only stripping the amount of food (large bins empty week to week with last-minute pivots to ingredients needed on-the-spot), but also the age of the veggies once they got home. 1/4 a pre-bag-allotment of mini sweet peppers would be soft or already turned. Three carrots out of a bag of large carrots were already rotted. Fresh green beans were 1/3 unusable from the pre-weighed-out bag. It would take forever to find one or two onions that weren’t squishy, celery would go limp within days regardless of the storing in water trick, citrus was half the size it should be, the tomatoes were off even while in season, and often we’d have to sub out for Organic, pre-packed, or frozen options to get things like cauliflower at all.

…In short, the waste of food (and money) was adding up, but we assumed this was what everyone was experiencing.

…Until we needed to go searching for Celeriac root.

This took us to that super yuppy mecca store, right across the street from my old Safeway in the posh borough of town. And I have to say, my eyes ’bout popped out of my head as we wandered through the extremely lush, full, fragrant, and well-stocked veg piled high all around us. Of course, their food looked like this. But the thing is — the prices weren’t all that different. Sure, a few items were more, and their organic section was much more robust (and costly), but as we checked out with our few bulbs of celeriac (post-shopping for the rest of the week’s meal plans), we knew we needed to do some more investigation.

…Turns out, the Safeway directly across the street…the very same chain we shopped at weekly, was also lush and full, fresh and well-stocked. Because you would have to be to compete with what they have going on across the street. Because you would have to be to fulfill the expectations of the income range and lifestyle of the people who live near them both.

This is all to say — for want of a political diatribe here – Apparently, the “crappy” produce is “fine enough” for people (like us) over there, but totally unacceptable for the residents who reside here. This shouldn’t be the case, but it is, and there is just no denying it.

But, that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it.

No matter where you live, or what your income: if you have the means to drive or bus to shop in a “posher” neighborhood (even at a chain store), DO IT. The prices and values will be comparable (most of the time) to your not-so-great local-to-you equivalent. It may take extra effort and time — For us, it takes cross-town traffic and 40 driving minutes added into our already over-stuffed schedule every week. But trust me — location matters.

…From something so simple as the quality of an average cucumber:

(Guess which one came from the posher side o’ town – pic by Jamie)

…To the loss of ZERO product during this week’s -prep.

Every ounce of what you are eating matters, especially when you are knocking yourself out to hit drastic life-changing healthy eating requirements. This is a non-negotiable adjustment for Charlie’s physical (and our financial) health.

…Sadly, another lesson: learned.