Crappy Dinner Party (It’s A Good Thing!)

I am #blessed to have the most fabulous neighbors. When we moved in almost seven years ago, my immediate next door and kitty-corner neighbors welcomed us with enthusiasm. Since then our families have played together, eaten together, traveled together and spent Christmas Eve together.

However, we are a busy bunch, and it can be difficult to find time when we can all come together. Between high stress jobs, kids’ activities, and family commitments, weeks and sometimes a month or two can go by before we can see one another. For a couple of years we’ve been talking about the concept of the Crappy Dinner Party, wherein everyone pitches in whatever they have in their fridge (no shopping allowed!) and the host family does no cleaning, no fussing and no elaborate anything. The point is to allow us to spend time with one another without stress. I’m happy to say that this Sunday my family hosted the Inaugural Crappy Dinner Party. I made some vegetarian tostadas from a meal kit service that I was planning on making anyway. Catherine brought turkey taco fixings that she was making for her family that night regardless and some drinks for the kids. Tom brought gin (because, COCKTAILS) and grapes and veggies. I threw some buttered noodles in there for the kids. We cut up a watermelon. I didn’t even wipe up the crumbs from the dinner table from the previous night BECAUSE CRAPPY DINNER PARTY RULES ARE NOT TO BE BROKEN. We used paper plates (that we composted, please don’t yell!) and it was probably the most relaxed dinner party I’ve ever had in my life. And this was with 6 kids and 5 adults!

Some integral people in my friend zone were missing, as I threw the dinner idea together somewhat last minute. Deanna had to work (so she sent her husband and kids), Shawn and family had plans, and Erika (a new friend to me but a dear friend to my friends so obviously she’s on the list!) couldn’t come, but here’s the thing: now that we’ve started this it’s going to happen more frequently. Once you release the pressure of cleaning and putting together an elaborate spread, it becomes a joy and not a burden. Catherine has already planned the next one at her house.

How do you host your own Crappy Dinner Party? Let me summarize the rules for you:

  1. DON’T CLEAN YOUR HOUSE. Move some piles if they get in the way of eating but otherwise hands off.
  2. NO GROCERY SHOPPING. Make what you have, even if it’s beans and rice.
  3. EVERYONE BRINGS SOMETHING THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE. Even especially if it’s gin.
  4. ENJOY YOURSELVES.
  5. REPEAT again and again because it’s fun and you realize your friends just want to see each other, even if the house is messy.

Do you have your own Crappy Dinner Party rules? Let me hear them!

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Vegetarian Wild Rice Salad

wild rice

Last week when I went with my 12 year old “up north” I had a wild rice salad at the lodge that I thought was pretty good. I liked the textures, with the chewy wild rice and the crunchy water chestnuts. I wasn’t crazy about the honey mustard dressing, but I loved the addition of grapes. This was a true “midwestern salad”, I’m not afraid to admit. I decided I would try to remake it but with a different dressing and the addition of some other favorite add-ins.

One thing I love about wild rice (which actually isn’t rice at all) is that it has far more nutrients than white rice. In one cup of cooked wild rice, there are 7 grams of protein and 35 grams of carbohydrate, including 3 grams of fiber. It’s lower in calories than white rice and the protein it contains is higher quality because it has more of the essential amino acids.

Here is the recipe I came up with, with the help of a different recipe from my local grocery store chain.

VEGETARIAN WILD RICE SALAD

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked wild rice (about 1 cup uncooked). I like to put some Better Than Bouillon in the water to create more flavor.

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon Fine Herbs (or your choice of favorite dried herbs)

1/3 cup sliced green onion

1 (8 oz can) sliced water chestnuts, drained

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups sliced red seedless grapes

1 cup nuts of your choice (I used a mixture of cashews and sliced almonds)

Instructions:

Make the dressing by mixing the mayonnaise, milk, lemon juice and herbs together in a small bowl.

In a larger bowl, combine In larger bowl, combine wild rice, green onion, water chestnuts, salt and pepper. Stir in mayonnaise mixture until blended. Refrigerate, until cooled. Before serving, fold in grapes and nuts. Take to your next potluck. 

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Maybe A Portobello Patty Melt For Dinner Tonight?

Ever since I cut down on my red meat consumption, I’ve really missed one of my favorite splurges: the patty melt. Maybe they taste good going down, but then reality sets in. Indigestion, the meat sweats, that brick-in-my-gut feeling. So when I saw this recipe I just knew I had to try it.

I made these Portobello Patty Melts last night for dinner, and they were GOOD. Like, really good. A few things I did differently: instead of caramelizing the onions for 40 minutes, I did it for about 20. Also, instead of roasting the portobello mushrooms for 40-45 minutes, I put them in a pan with the marinade and sautéed them with a cover on until they were ready. It saved about 20 minutes which is huge when you have a hungry family.

My daughter hates mushrooms so she opted for a grilled cheese but my husband and I really liked them. I can’t wait to have them again. Maybe next week?

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Maybe It’s Monday (Again) And We Need An Easy Dinner Idea: Fettuccine With Asparagus

This crazy family of mine. They want dinner. Every. Single. Day. Like I mentioned last week, we usually do #MeatlessMonday as a way to eat a little healthier and do something nice for the Earth.

Maybe today I’ll just post this super easy but elegant looking Fettucine With Asparagus recipe I found this weekend. This is what I plan on making tonight for my hungry family.

Maybe you’ll make it too, and come back to tell me how it was?

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Maybe Some Rice Noodle Salad For Dinner Tonight?

Maybe allergies are kicking my butt. I woke up yesterday with my ears completely clogged and everything sounded like I was underwater. I generally just didn’t feel great. So after I got home from picking up the 12 year old from school and it was time to make dinner, I was thankful I had planned on making this simple Rice Noodle Salad With Cucumber, Peanuts, and Basil. It took about 20 minutes from start to finish and there was absolutely no cooking involved. If you’re lucky, you have a kid that likes to cook and will make the dressing for you while you sit comfortably. This would make for a perfect summertime supper when it’s just too hot to turn on the stove. The recipe also fits with our Meatless Monday plans, which I would say we adhere to about 90% of the time. Going meatless once a week can reduce your risk of preventable diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce our carbon footprint. Plus, it’s generally cheaper to make a meatless meal. Win/win!

Asian Noodle Salad Meatless Monday

The original recipe came from Redbook Magazine but I made some changes to the recipe and adapted it, so here’s my version:

Rice Noodle Salad With Cucumber, Peanuts, and Basil

THE SALAD:

6 oz pad thai rice noodles

1/4 medium purple cabbage

1/2 sliced english cucumber

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

4 scallions, white and green parts sliced

1/2-1 cup fresh basil and cilantro, chopped

1 cup chopped peanuts, cashews or almonds

Sesame seeds

THE DRESSING:

1/4 cup lime juice (I love buying Santa Cruz organic bottled lime juice. It’s just so much easier)

3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp garlic powder

HOW TO:

Pour hot water over noodles to cover and let sit for about 5 minutes, until softened. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, cut all the veggies up into thin slices, place the nuts in a baggie and whack them with a rolling pin to “chop”, and whisk together the dressing ingredients. Assemble the salads, drizzle dressing over the top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. ENJOY!

NOTE: If you want more protein in your salad, it would be very easy to add rotisserie chicken, tofu, shrimp or any leftover meat you have. Maybe it’ll become a new family favorite.

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Fats, Carbs and Protein For The Win

I have always struggled with my blood sugar. I am infamous in my family for getting, shall we say, cranky if my blood sugar dips. I regularly get a little lightheaded upon standing if it’s been too long since I last ate, and there have been times when I have gotten sweaty, shaky, and nauseated from waiting too long to eat.

I always just thought that this was how I was built. I couldn’t understand it when people told me they regularly skipped meals. I couldn’t fathom how that was even possible. In my recent studies to become a Nutrition Consultant, I’ve been learning a lot about blood sugar irregularities, also knows as dysglycemia. Because of regular blood tests, I know that everything else is functioning normally, and so far my low blood sugar issues haven’t caused any damage. BUT, left unchecked, high or low blood sugar can lead to all kinds of problems. We all know diabetes is a huge problem in our country, and chronically high blood sugar can (and probably will) lead to a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis somewhere down the line unless you get it under control.

The good news is there is a lot we can do with our nutrition to help stabilize our blood sugar. Last week I started a concerted effort to make sure every single snack and meal contained a healthy fat (think nuts, avocado, fish, whole fat yogurt, olives, olive oil), a healthy carb (like those found in sweet potatoes, sprouted grain toast, or an apple), and high quality protein (again, nuts and fish and yogurt, but also chicken, legumes, a hard boiled egg, or hummus). Plus for each meal, lots of non-starchy veggies. I also have been giving myself a snack a couple hours after breakfast. I used to try to just hold out until lunch, but would find myself literally counting the minutes until 11:00 a.m. Ever since I’ve made these changes, It has made a HUGE difference in my hunger levels. It used to be that every afternoon between about 2 pm and dinner time, I would be ravenous. Normally that’s when I would inhale too many crackers because my blood sugar was low and simple carbs were what my body was begging for. But for the last week my blood sugar feels quite stable. I can wait until 12:00 or 1:00 for lunch now that I’m having a snack. And that period between lunch and dinner is no longer excruciating (because I’m nourishing my body with what it needs earlier in the day). I’ve been on vacation with family and have been so much more flexible in when we eat our meals because I’m not feeling like I might pass out if I don’t eat rightthisverysecond.

I don’t know if my weight will change, and quite frankly I don’t care. I like the fact that I feel healthier, more flexible about my eating schedule, and less cranky. I’m sure my family will enjoy those benefits as well.

So, if you feel like maintaining an equilibrium with your blood sugar is an issue, try this method. It takes a bit of planning, but it is worth it. And please check back in with me and let me know if it works for you!

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Healthy Breakfast Recipe: Pumpkin Waffles

The third healthy breakfast recipe I want to feature this week is one you can make ahead of time and keep in the freezer until you are ready. We regularly make extra batches of waffles and pancakes on the weekend to pull out on busy weekday mornings. These waffles are gluten-free and paleo friendly (even though we are neither in our household). To add a bit of extra protein to your breakfast, I would suggest a serving of chicken breakfast sausage. I really like Applegate. Their chicken apple link sausage only contain Chicken, Dried Apples, Water, Honey, Salt, Spices and Parsley. 3 links are 120 calories and will add 9 grams of protein to your meal.  They are pricey, but because I eat mostly vegetarian and my husband does his own thing for breakfast, we use them sparingly.

If you don’t have a waffle iron, you can use this as pancake batter instead.  Enjoy!

pumpkin-waffles

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