Saving Dinner: Menu Plan for Pete's Sake!

Menu Plan for Pete's Sake! 
by Leanne Ely, C.N.C.

When you choose to not plan, you choose to live in an unprepared state. Think about what that means for a minute. Being unprepared means chaos, confusion and regret. Living life in a state of perpetual unpreparedness is highly stressful. Why do we do this to ourselves?

In the kitchen and in the food department of life, being unprepared translates to not having the food you need to cook and feed your family and yourself well. Unprepared means unhealthy, expensive and wanting in nutrition. And when you consider that 70% of all disease is lifestyle-induced (by making poor choices in food, drink, not exercising, smoking and being stressed out), it's astounding that we are surprised when handed a less than healthy diagnosis from our doctors. We have got to take responsibility!!

Here's the thing, menu planning isn't sexy and glamorous. However, it's necessary and one of the easiest ways to get a grip on your health. The simple art of menu planning is too often passed up by "adventure seekers" (the unprepared) living on adrenaline and the thrill of the hunt. You know what I mean, right? Hunting for something to throw together for dinner at the very last minute. Hunting for a fast food place to get your whining children and cranky spouse fed. Hunting for a place to park at the grocery store at rush hour, hoping to score an already cooked rotisserie chicken to feed your family.

This kind of hunting is not feeding your family the way you want to. It's stressing you out, neglecting your health and not helping you with the body clutter you may be sitting on.

Instead of being hunters, we need to be gatherers. Gatherers always have food because they have a plan. They use menus. They make grocery lists. They gather their groceries, they chop, they cook and they feed. It's deliberate preparedness that gives them a sense of calm and peace. Yes, preparedness is that powerful and when applied to all things food-related, it will revolutionize your health, your well-being, your finances and that of your family's as well.

The beginning place is a menu plan for the week. Pull recipes as necessary, make a list for the grocery store and then implement your plan. It's that simple.

Don't put this off. There's too much at stake to be so capricious with your health. Do it today.


Here's a few recipes I thought you might enjoy.

Steak and Potato Stir Fry

Serves 4

1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 pound lean sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into strips
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Pepper to taste
3 cups diced, par-boiled russet potatoes
1 large onion, sliced
1 large tomato, sliced

In a wok or skillet over medium-high heat, saute garlic in the oil for a minute or two; add steak strips, vinegar, and pepper; stir-fry until beef is nicely browned (about 3 minutes); add potato and stir-fry until potato begins to brown around the edges; add onion and tomato and continue to stir-fry until tomatoes have softened, onions are translucent, and potatoes are cooked through.

Per serving: 352 Calories; 18g Fat; 24g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 69mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain (Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates. Points: 8

SERVING SUGGESTION: Add steamed asparagus and steamed baby carrots.

Italian Pasta and Bean Bake

Serves 4

1/2 pound Penne pasta
8 ounces canned no salt added diced tomatoes
1 (16-oz.) can low sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained
13 ounces canned/jarred low sodium pasta sauce--your favorite
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
2 ounces shredded low fat Cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain and return to saucepan; add tomatoes, beans, Italian seasoning, pasta sauce and 1 cup of the cheeses.

Transfer mixture to a 9- x 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with remaining Mozzarella cheese; bake, uncovered for 25 minutes; remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining Cheddar cheese; allow casserole to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.

Per Serving: 461 Calories; 9g Fat; 22g Protein; 72g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 27mg Cholesterol; 112mg Sodium. Exchanges: 4 Grain (Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 1 Fat. Points: 9

SERVING SUGGESTION: A big salad tossed with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette (see recipe).

DO-AHEAD TIP: Allow fish to sit in buttermilk for 5 to 10 minutes.

Buttermilk Oven Fried Fish
Serves 4

Water/Oil Mixture
1 1/2 pounds medium red potatoes, quartered
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 firm-fleshed fish fillets
1 cup crushed cornflakes
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
Pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Paprika to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 baking dishes with water/oil mixture.

Place quartered red potatoes in one baking dish; lightly spray with water/oil mixture and place in oven.

Pour buttermilk into a shallow pan; add fish; set aside while you prepare the breading mixture.

Place the next 6 ingredients (cornflakes through ginger) in a large zipper-topped plastic bag; seal bag and shake to combine; add one fish fillet at a time and gently shake to coat; place in baking dish.

Sprinkle coated fish with paprika and bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. DO NOT TURN FISH DURING THE BAKING PROCESS.

Serve fish with the roasted red potatoes and enjoy.

Per serving: 378 Calories; 2g Fat; 47g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 100mg Cholesterol; 243mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 1/2 Grain (Starch); 5 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 0 Fat. Points: 7

SERVING SUGGESTION: Add steamed green beans and steamed baby carrots.


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Copyright (C) 2010 www.savingdinner.com Leanne Ely, CNC All rights reserved.

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