Meal Planning

Lentil Stew with Spinach, Sausage, and Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Hello friends! Hope you’re all surviving the heat. Late July/early August is always rough here in North Carolina. With that said, you’re probably looking at the post title and thinking, Who makes stew in July? Well, I do. I was wishfully think about the crisp, cool days of fall, my favorite season, and I just happened to have a few random items to use up that worked for a stew. So I decided to pretend it was a beautiful fall day and ignore the oppressive heat outside. Besides, I’m one of those weirdos who has no qualms about eating soups and stews all year long. Anyway, hope you enjoy it!

*Apologies for my sad, dim photos. Hopefully I’ll have a kitchen with more natural light in the future!


Lentil Stew with Spinach Sausage, and Sweet Potatoes 

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 lb sausage of your choice
  • 1.5 medium onions, chopped
  • 2-3 tsp minced garlic
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes cut into 1 in pieces
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Quick note on ingredients: I used a mix of chicken stock and broth because I didn’t have enough broth, and it turned out fine. As far as sausage, I used Trader Joe’s Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage, but whatever sausage you prefer or have on hand would work. Finally, I used spinach as my green because it’s what I had. Other greens would work just as well. Make it your own!

Instructions:

1. Heat oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through if you’re not using pre-cooked sausage.

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2. Add onions and cook 3-5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add garlic during the last minute of cooking the onions.

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3. Add broth, sweet potatoes, lentils, salt, and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for about 25 minutes.

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4. Add spinach and continue simmering, partially covered, for 5-10 more minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and lentils are tender.

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5. Allow stew to cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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Pros and Cons of Blue Apron

*Please note that I have no affiliation with Blue Apron, and I did not receive any gifts, money, or any other type of compensations for writing this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


I recently tried out Blue Apron, a meal kit service that delivers ingredients and recipes to your house, and I wanted to share my experience. Fun fact according to their website: French apprentice chefs wear blue aprons, which have become “symbols of lifelong learning in cooking.” What a perfect name for the company! Anyway, on to the pros and cons of Blue Apron . . .

Pro: Delivery. I was a little worried about the meat, fish, and poultry staying at the correct temperature while it was sitting on my porch, but everything worked out well. The food arrived on time and was kept fresh in its packaging. Bonus points: you get to keep the super cold icepacks inside. I definitely plan on reusing those.

Con: Packaging. There was SO much packaging. If you’re environmentally conscious, be prepared for the amount of waste. Some of it is recyclable, but I still ended up throwing a lot wrappings in the trash.

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Pro: Less food waste. In contrast to concerns about the package, the ingredients are perfectly portioned so that you don’t end up throwing out a bunch of cilantro or something because the recipe called for a tiny amount.

Pro: Recipe cards. The recipes cards are great! They include a brief intro about the dish and list the ingredients, estimated calories, and estimated cooking time on the front.

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Pro: Recipe cards (continued). The back of the cards include step by step directions with pictures! I love having these cards so that I can make my favorite meals again.

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Pro: High quality, fresh ingredients. All of the ingredients I received for each meal were fresh and delicious. I was especially pleased with the quality of the proteins. The labeling was great too because I had never used some of the ingredients before.

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Con: Prep and cook time. The meals I received from Blue Apron took forever to prep and cook. Ok so by forever I mean about an hour. But I really don’t have an hour just to cook dinner during the week. The estimated cooking times are way off in my opinion (unless you’re a professional chef or something). It’s more of a weekend cooking project if you’re an amateur like me.

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Pro: Trying new things. The Blue Apron meals had me trying all sorts of new things. I tried recipes from different cultures and regions that I’ve ever cooked at home before such as the Southeast Asian dish featured in this post. I also tried new ingredients and cooking techniques. For example (see below) banana leaf-steaming cod. I never would have thought of that or tried it on my own if it wasn’t part of Blue Apron. 

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Pro: Presentation. The Blue Apron meals definitely consider presentation in addition to taste. The recipe cards include brief instructions on how to plate the meal. It was a fine dining experience here in the Pinkerton household.  🙂

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Banana Leaf-Steamed Cod with Spice Rice, Yu Choy & Coconut

Pro: Variety. I didn’t get pictures of every meal I tried for the few weeks I tested it out, but I wanted to share a couple more of the meals I made. Please see the meals below. It’s also important to note that you can specify what types of meals you do or don’t want in terms of dietary preferences. For example, you can let Blue Apron know that you don’t want any meals with red meat or you only want vegetarian dishes, etc. I didn’t put in any special restrictions because Derek and I eat a little bit of everything.

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Chicken Charlemagne with Roasted Root Vegetables & Parsnip-Potato Mash

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Shrimp & Pineapple Fried Rice

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Crispy Brown Butter Gnocchi with Meyer Lemon & Brussels Sprouts

Pro/Con: Price. The price issue depends on how you look at it. The 2-person plan costs about $60/week and includes 3 meals which comes out to $10/meal per person. Considering the quality of the ingredients and cost of delivery included in that price, it’s really not bad at all. It’s still cheaper than eating out for those meals. However, I suspect most people are like me and spend far less than $10/meal per person with grocery shopping and meal planning. I spend about $80-90/week on groceries to cover all of our meals except for the 2 that we eat out each week, so spending $60 on three dinners doesn’t make sense for us financially.

Con: Subscription. Word to the wise– Blue Apron is a subscription. They will automatically continue to send you food weekly unless you opt out, and you must opt out of the deliver at least 1 week in advance. This is how I ended up doing Blue Apron for 3 weeks instead of 1. It’s my fault for not checking into it more closely, but it can definitely be a little tricky. According to the website, you can go up to 6 weeks without a delivery.

Pro: Fun. If you like to cook, Blue Apron is really fun. I especially enjoyed cooking the meals on the weekends when I had more time. I loved trying out new foods and techniques, and it was exciting to receive everything you needed to cook without having to go grocery shopping.

Final Verdict

Though I truly enjoyed the experience, I will not be subscribing to Blue Apron. From a financial standpoint, it does not make sense for me to use the service often. I was also scared off by it being a subscription. I’m afraid I would forget to decline the meals and end up spending way more than I intended. I do, however, plan on reactivating my account every few months to try it out again for 1 week. The ingredients are seasonal, so I’d love to try it in the spring, summer, and fall; it’s just not something I want to have to do every 6 weeks.

Reader Question: Does anyone else have experience with Blue Apron or another meal kit delivery service? Is there a company that you like better? I’m always looking for new suggestions. 🙂

Wedding Weekend #2 and This Week’s Meal/Snack Plan

Hope you had a great Halloween! Derek and I had another fun, busy weekend that included another wedding. I guess we’re at that age now? Weird.

My parents and brother came into town on Friday afternoon to go to a family friend’s wedding on Saturday. My brother Jared was the best man in the wedding, so he headed straight to the rehearsal, but my parents came over for dinner. We caught up and ate Chinese food while we waited for trick-or-treaters. We only ended up getting one trick-or-treater, but it was a nice, relaxing way to spend Friday night.

The next day we headed to the wedding ceremony, which was at Duke Chapel. Duke Chapel is absolutely stunning and definite must-see if you visit Durham.

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One of the stain glass windows inside Duke Chapel.

It was a sweet ceremony, and everything looked beautiful.

The reception was at Angus Barn in Raleigh. There were floating candles on all the tables, gorgeous rose and hydrangea flower arrangements, and a roaring fire in the fireplace.

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Inside the Angus Barn’s pavilion. Isn’t it gorgeous?

It was oh-so-cozy. As one can expect from Angus Barn, the food was delicious as well. We had a blast dancing, and Jared did a great job with his best man speech.

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My mom and me.

I’m definitely a romantic so I love weddings, but I especially enjoyed this one. I’m also thankful for another chance to spend time with my family. Can’t wait to see them at Christmas!

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Love my family. From left to right: Jared, my mom, Derek, me, and my dad.

Anyway, onto this week’s meal plan! As I mentioned in my last confessions post, I am trying to incorporate more snacks to keep me from getting too hungry. I’ve listed a few of my snack ideas for this week below the meal plan.


Meal Plan- Week of 11/3

Monday: White Chili + Raw Veggies with Ranch Dip

Tuesday: Turkey Meatballs + Sweet Potato Tots + Salad

Wednesday: Maple Glazed Salmon + Couscous + Broccoli

Thursday: Curry Chicken + Brown Rice + Green Beans

Friday: Dinner Out

Saturday: Brunswick Stew + Bread

Sunday: Meat Loaf “Muffins” + Red Potatoes + Salad

Snacks

  • Cottage cheese and oranges
  • Raw broccoli and baby carrots with ranch dressing or hummus
  • Peanut butter and an apple
  • Crackers with cheese and an apple slice

These Are My Confessions . . . Part II

Back when I first started Brown is the New Pink, I made a post about my confessions and goals. I figured that after 6 months it’s time for an update and some new goals.

The first time I wrote about my confessions, I set three goals for myself:

  1. Eat more whole foods.
  2. Exercise more.
  3. Identify my all-or-nothing thinking and come up with alternative thoughts.

Overall, I’ve been eating more whole foods and definitely exercising more. Up until 2.5 weeks ago I was running 4 days/week training for a half-marathon. Sadly, the half marathon didn’t pan out due to injuries, but I’m still happy with all of my exercising. I also think I did a good job of sharing my training plans and meal plans on the blog. Finally, I’m still working on my all-or-nothing thinking. While I mentally noted thoughts when they occurred, I never actually wrote them down. Something to keep working on!

Now that I’m keeping up with eating whole foods and exercising (most of the time), I want to make some more specific goals. With that said, these are my confessions . . . part II.

(Yes, it is necessary for me to post the corresponding Usher music video every time I write that.)

I let myself get way too hungry.

This is a big issue for me. I tend not to snack between meals, and I’m starving by the time I eat the next meal. I think that if I eat healthy snacks I will be less likely to overeat during meals or to get hangry.

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I always choose cardio over strength training or yoga.

I’m pretty good at keeping up with cardio, but I am not nearly as consistent with strength training. Though I actually love the way I feel when I strength train regularly, I don’t enjoy it as much as cardio. I honestly just find it boring, but I probably just need to find something that works for me. I also enjoy yoga, but practicing it puts me out of my comfort zone. It’s a totally different kind of exercise for me, but I think I would definitely benefit from practicing it consistently, especially given my recent overuse injuries.

I often reward myself with food.

Survived a rough week of work? Celebrate with Mexican food. Finished everything on my to-do list? Wind down with a piece of chocolate. I love food, and I tend to associate it with joy, success, and love. While I will continue to enjoy food and cooking, especially as part of special celebrations like holidays, I need to find other ways to reward myself on a day-to-day basis that don’t involve empty calories.

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So what am I going to do about these confessions?

  1. Eat 2 healthy snacks (with fiber and protein) everyday. I’ll post snack ideas on Brown is the New Pink and include snacks in my weekly meal plan posts.
  2. Strength train at least 2 times per week and do yoga 1 time per week. Instead of a half marathon training plan, I’ll post weekly workout recaps to keep myself accountable with this goal.
  3. Find new ways to reward myself that don’t involve food. I’ll post ideas on the blog and incorporate personal examples of new rewards in my future posts.

4 Bridges Training {Week 9} + Meal Plan

Less than a month until race day! Last week’s training was just OK. As I mentioned in my Week 8 post, I’ve been having some trouble with plantar fasciitis. I ended up lowering my mileage substantially last week. I ran 2-3 miles on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, and I ran about 5 miles today. I’m still experiencing some pain, but it’s definitely improving. I started doing some Runner’s World yoga classes, and it seems to be helping. I’m glad I rested some last week. I’m going to attempt to get back to my normal mileage this week and see how things go.

On a good note, I finally have a gym membership again! Derek was able to get me an inexpensive gym membership at UNC since I am the spouse of a student. We worked out together 3 times last week. I am SO sore, but it feels great to lift again.

I’m keeping things pretty simple on the food front this week. The latter part of the week is forecasted to be cool and rainy – perfect for breaking out the crock pot. I’m really excited for next Sunday. Derek and I are having friends over to watch the Panthers game, which of course means delicious food is in order. Also, I promise to share a recipe this week. I’ve been really bad about that lately. I keep forgetting to take pictures while I cook. Whoops!


 

4 Bridges Half-Marathon Training – Week 9

Monday: Yoga + strength

Tuesday: 4.5 miles

Wednesday: 3 miles or cross-train

Thursday: 4.5 miles + strength

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Cross-train for 50 minutes

Sunday: 10 miles (Double digits!!!)

Meal Plan- Week of 9/22/14

Monday: Homemade Hawaiian/Veggie Pizza + Salad

Tuesday: Turkey Meatballs + Sweet Potato Tots + Green Beans

Wednesday: Maple Glazed Salmon + Couscous + Broccoli

Thursday: Provencal Beef Stew

Friday: Dinner Out

Saturday: Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas + Salad

Sunday: White Chili + Cornbread + Snacks + Beer

4 Bridges Training {Week 8} + Meal Plan

Whew! Another week of training down. Last week went pretty well. I shifted all of my runs back a day because I was too exhausted from traveling to run on Tuesday. I’m back on track after my long run (8 miles) today though.

Unfortunately, I’m starting to have a lot of trouble with my right foot again. I have very high arches, which makes me prone to plantar fasciitis. If you don’t know, plantar fasciitis is a common problem among runners that causes pain in the heel and underside of the foot. The pain is especially bad with first steps in the morning. Fortunately/unfortunately I am quite familiar with plantar fasciitis, and I know what helps me. I wear orthotics, but it might be time to break out the old night splint. I also need to increase my stretching and start icing my heel at night. If the pain doesn’t subside some, I will cross-train more this week to give my foot a break.  It’s a bummer, but at least I know what to do about it.

On a good note, I’m back to posting my meal plans. I’m going to try to post a recipe on Brown is the New Pink soon. It’s been a while!


4 Bridges Half-Marathon Training – Week 8

Monday: Yoga + strength

Tuesday: 4.5 miles

Wednesday: 3 miles or cross-train

Thursday: 4.5 miles + strength

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Cross-train for 50 minutes

Sunday: 9 miles

Meal Plan- Week of 9/15/14

Monday: Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Sandwiches + Homemade Sweet Potato “Fries” + Salad

Wednesday: Maple Glazed Salmon + Couscous + Broccoli

Thursday: Slow Cooker Chili

Friday: Dinner Out

Saturday: Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Sunday: Leftovers/Wing It

4 Bridges Training {Week 5} + Meal Plan

Another week of training down! I can’t believe how fast time is flying. The race on October 19th will be here before I know it.  I completed all of the runs for Week 4, but I didn’t do any strength training or cross training last week. Whomp, whomp. I’m definitely more of a cardio person when it comes to exercising, whereas Derek prefers strength training. I’m hoping he can help get me motivated to complete my strength and cross training this week. Maybe I’ll get him out for a run this week too.

If you’re interested in my training posts/meal plans from previous weeks please see the following links: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4. On to week 5!


4 Bridges Half-Marathon Training – Week 5

Monday: Strength + stretch

Tuesday: 4 miles

Wednesday: 2 miles

Thursday: 4 miles + strength

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Cross-train for 40 minutes

Sunday: 6 miles

Meal Plan- Week of 8/25/14

Monday: Trader Joe’s Curry Simmer Sauce Chicken + Naan + Green Beans

Tuesday: Quinoa “Fried” Rice

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Meatball Subs

Thursday: Chicken Fajitas + Black Beans

Friday: Dinner Out

Saturday: Beef Kabobs + Brown Rice

Sunday: Leftovers/Wing It

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