Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day 5

It seems that every day the meals get better and better! I was excited about the breakfast for day 5 since it was something I would normally eat.
Breakfast was a fried egg and tomato sandwich on an English muffin along with apple juice. It was delicious!! DH had some problems making the eggs! We always eat scrambled eggs, not because we particularly like them but because they are the only things we know how to make. If we go out to eat we always order scrambled eggs because we don't know what the others mean and we don't want to end up with runny eggs. DH had to Google how to fry an egg and he kind of overcooked them a little bit. They were still yummy and the cheese and tomato hid the taste of the burnt eggs! For next time DH says he will put the cheese in the pan with the eggs and fold it over. We will also probably use an egg ring or a biscuit cutter to make the eggs more circular-they were a little big for the bread which made it kind of tough to eat. We will totally be making these again! They were SO good and pretty cheap and easy. It only took DH about fifteen minutes to make breakfast-that's a pretty good time to make a hot, filling breakfast!

It was nice to have a break from drinking milk! The juice is actually frozen juice that is reconstituted. It's cheaper than buying bottled juice, but once again you run into the storage issues. When I was a kid I used to suck the syrup directly out of the package (Shhh...don't tell my mom!) and it was AMAZING but super sugary from what I remember. I think that the frozen juice contains a lot more sugar than regular juice-it definitely tastes that way. 
Our usual breakfast drink is water so we are getting more sugar and calories by adding in the juice. DH doesn't drink coffee and I drink tea on my way to work-not with breakfast. I like to have my glass of water with breakfast to hydrate (hydration is super important to me since one of my migraine triggers is dehydration and I don't want to end up in bed for a day from not drinking enough). I take my tea to work with me in a Tervis and switch between tea and water for most of the morning. I've noticed since I started this plan we've definitely been drinking less water and a lot more milk and juice. I know milk has calcium and is good for you, but at the same time I feel that water should be more encouraged! Water is practically free and super healthy for you! 

Total Cost: 1.43 per serving (2.86 for both of us)

I was surprised that lunch didn't ask us to use any dinner leftovers, but I was happy because that marinated beef was delicious! We chowed down and didn't have ANY leftovers! :) We still have a TON of leftover polenta (even after quartering the recipe)-anyone want some? 
Lunch today was a peanut butter and banana sandwich-a meal fit for the King (Elvis that is). It was quick to prepare and is something that anyone could make. This would be a good meal for my students who are living in a motel or living without electricity. It's also good for some of my kids whose parents don't provide them with meals-this is something they could make on their own pretty easily. 
To make the sandwich you spread the PB on the bread and top with sliced bananas-easy peasy! The recipe called for 2 tbsp of peanut butter per sandwich! It was actually a lot of it-it covered both slices of bread completely! Each person got one sliced banana on their sandwich-I had trouble making the whole banana fit on there. DH snuck a few slices off the cutting board to help me make it fit :)
 Finished Lunches! The side for the day was 1/2 cup of celery sticks and the beverage was milk (of course!). I was still full from breakfast, so I actually ate later in the day than I usually do. My kids were in the room while I was eating and they were making fun of my Elvis lunch-but a lot of them want to try to make these sandwiches at home so I'm calling it a win. I can see why Elvis liked these-they were delicious! This was such an easy lunch to make-I'll totally be making it again! The celery sticks were just meh-they weren't bad but they would have been better with some ranch dressing to dunk them in or some sort of flavor. Celery just doesn't have a lot of taste on it's own and it was pretty boring to eat them. I spent most of the afternoon munching on them (1/2 a cup doesn't sound like a lot but when it's celery it sure feels like a lot)! My kids kept complaining about the smell of celery, but they made no comment on the tuna from yesterday-just goes to show you how strange 8th graders are!

My mom wants me to point out that DH and I eat a lot less than most people do. I'm not a huge foodie by any means-honestly if there was a pill I could take that would keep me healthy and let me never eat again I would totally take it. I've been known to forget to eat and when I do eat I don't eat very much. I also tend to graze throughout the day rather than sitting down for 3 square meals-I have noticed that DH and I haven't been snacking AT ALL since we started this program. The meal plan provides healthy snacks, but we've never actually wanted them. DH and I just don't have big appetites so keep that in mind when we say we're full. Your mileage may vary-however I do feel that the meals are large enough for most people. It's also easier not to snack when you've had a balanced meal. DH and I were discussing our usual dinners and we realized we tend to make a lot of one item dinners-we don't make a lot of side dishes since that takes extra time. That means we miss out on the opportunity to hit more of the food groups with each meal and we have to eat snacks to fill in the gaps. With this meal plan we're getting all the food groups with each meal so our bodies don't need a snack to fill in the gaps! DH has already lost 2 pounds just since we started this plan-and we aren't even trying to lose weight (and that wasn't our goal!). He's pretty darn excited and he's loving this plan!

I'm loving the plan because he has been way more involved in the cooking and meal prep. Instead of me just deciding on dinner and making it we've been working together each night to make dinner and prep lunches! We've had some great conversations while we cook together and it's nice to have some help in the kitchen. Honestly, it makes meal prep more manageable (even when we're making something complicated) and the time flies by because we're talking and laughing. It really has been a great bonding experience for us. DH is also learning the kitchen better-where stuff is and what stuff we have! He does cook a lot, but it truly is my kitchen (since he travels so much). It's nice that he now knows where stuff is-hopefully he'll stop buying duplicates of stuff we already own!

Total cost: 1.92 per serving (3.84 for both)

This was the dinner I was most worried about! The main dish was oven baked fish and I HATE fish. A little tortuous back story to explain my hatred of fish: I've never really liked fish, but I could eat it for most of my life. It wouldn't be my first choice, but if I had to I would eat it. My freshman year of college my roommate brought home a blue betta she christened Delmarva. Somehow the fish became my responsibility and when she moved out at the end of the year the fish became mine. Delmarva lived for 3 whole years (a LONG time for a betta). I took excellent care of her and when I went home to see my parents I would bring her with me. She had a travel tank and would ride on my front passenger seat all the way home (they were only an hour and a half away at that time). One time I was cleaning her cage and she fell down the garbage disposal! Luckily my dad rescued her and she was okay! I LOVED that fish so much! My sophomore year of college I lived alone in an apartment and it got pretty lonely-it was nice to have a friend. However, cleaning her cage was disgusting! When you poured out the dirty water it smelled like raw fish-now every time I smell fish I think of Delmarva and it just turns my stomach. I do eat shrimp and crab (since they smell different) and the only actual fish I'll eat is my dad's tilapia that he makes (and only if my dad makes it-since he makes it super lemony and garlicky so you can't even taste the fish). DH and I have tried to make fish and I just can't handle the smell!

I know that I sound like a picky eater and I'm really not. I really will eat almost anything-and I eat a lot of food other people might consider strange. I am judging recipes for the blog pretty harshly since it's part of the project. I'm also open to trying new things-before this project I thought I hated salads and bananas but I've gained a new appreciation for both. Fish is really the ONLY food that I'm picky about, but I was willing to try it for the sake of the project. DH read some of the past entries and thought we sounded picky and we truly aren't AT ALL! 

DH handled the meal prep for this one-we used tilapia. First step was to coat the filets with lemon juice and then sprinkle onion power on the fish. We didn't have onion powder so we used dried chopped onion.
The chicken was breaded in a mix in a mix of hot sauce, milk, bread crumbs, salt and pepper.
The chicken was baked at 475 for 15 minutes. It was a pretty simple and easy dish!
Side dish was couscous and green peas. The couscous was mixed with the peas, water and some sage and allowed to soak for about 10 minutes.
Next step was to fry up the mixture with some oil and chopped onions. Another quick and easy side dish. 

Finished dinners! The green beans were just frozen veggies heated up. Honestly, the fish was okay-it tasted super fishy but I still managed to eat about half of it. There wasn't a lot of flavor that wasn't fish to it-I was hoping that the breading would kind of disguise the fish taste but I wasn't that lucky. The couscous was AWESOME! We added a touch of salt to it and it was delicious. I could even see making it for breakfast with some cinnamon sugar. The peas really added a little bit of sweetness to it-it was amazing. I ate all of mine! This recipe is definitely a keeper! I don't have much to say about the roll and the green beans. The roll was simply a dry dinner roll and the vegetables were nothing to write home about. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the meal-the fish wasn't as bad as I expected. I probably won't be making it again but it wasn't too terrible. I've now discovered that I like couscous-it's nice to have another new food in my toolbox!

Total cost: 4.56 per serving (9.12 for both) This was a very expensive meal-the fish alone was almost 5.00!

Overall I'm getting a little bit tired of this project. Between prepping lunches for the next day and making dinner we're spending an average of 1.5 hours in the kitchen each night-even with two of us cooking. For tomorrow's lunch we had to cook an entirely separate meal along with cooking up tonight's dinner. By the time we get home from work, get dinner cooked, get the kitchen cleaned up, get lunches prepared and eat dinner we aren't left with a ton of time-especially since I have to be in bed by 9:00. It's exhausting and annoying not to have time to get other chores done or relax. I'm tired of constantly thinking about food and cooking. I'm dying for a night off (which doesn't have to mean eating out-even an easy slow cooker meal would suffice). I don't know how my mom cooked every night when I was growing up-maybe it's because I have no love for cooking. I don't find cooking relaxing or enjoyable-it's just a necessary frustration. I feel like we're spending more time and money than we usually do, getting less done in the house and eating foods that aren't our first choice just for the sake of "saving money". I can't wait for my birthday since I get to go out to a restaurant! I'm honestly at the point where I'm just ready to scrap the whole project, but DH is still really into it so he won't let me. I think he enjoys cooking more than I do so it isn't as annoying for him. My cooking skills aren't awesome, I'm not terrible but I'm definitely not as good as my mom-I do feel like I'm learning a lot from the project and maybe as my cooking skills improve I won't hate the project as much as I do today.
Pain is another thing that's making me hate cooking-I've had a bad pain week and can barely stand when I get home from work-the extreme amount of cooking just makes me hurt worse and I get grumpy. Many SNAP recipients are disabled and while I'm by no means disabled my small amount of chronic pain shows just how hard it can be. Disability can be a huge barrier to healthy eating and just another one of the many factors that must be considered. It's really something I had never thought of before we started this project-since before we started I could plan meals based on my pain that day. Now that I'm not doing that I really notice how much pain affects my mood and my abilities in the evening. I'm also not letting my body rest as much as I usually do in the evenings (since I'm cooking) and I've been waking up in pain every morning-maybe it's a cycle? It's just another fascinating insight into the barriers to healthy eating-I'm excited for the weekend since it will be our first weekend on the project. I'm wondering if it will be easier on me when I don't have to work all day-it will be interesting to see! I'm excited by how much I'm learning and the insights I've made into food insecurity and the barriers to healthy eating-I'm just hoping the project gets a little easier! However, for many people food insecurity and government assistance is their life and they don't have the option of quitting their "project" so I won't either!

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