The new thing in the food blog world is over sharing weekly meal plans.  It takes the every popular WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday) and expands it into WIAFD (What I Ate For Dinner) or WIAFDAWLAIYC (What I Ate For Dinner All Week Long As If You Care).

I have to confess . . . I care.  I like reading these posts.  Cooking dinner has become such a chore lately and I find myself preparing the same meals over and over as well as stressing all day over what I’m going to make and then tossing stuff into the oven last minute.

Trying to get dinner on the table with Sweetey Petey running around the house like a mad banshee was hard enough . . . with a new baby in the mix it’ll be nearly impossible without a plan.

So I made a plan.

Excel

I created an excel spreadsheet with spaces for meal plans, suggestions for daily protein and lists of the healthiest fruits and veggies that I think we should be eating on a regular basis.  It gives me the option of listing seven meals and crossing off food as we eat it.  As I get rolling with this system hopefully I can flip back through previous weeks to see that we haven’t eaten broccoli in a while or have been seriously carrot deficient or have eaten way too much spaghetti squash and not enough butternut.  Can one eat too much spaghetti squash???  I’m not sure they can, but you get the idea.

I’m also using this as a way to test out some of the cookbooks in my massive collection.  Most weeks I will just add a few new recipes so as not to overwhelm myself and the best recipes will be added to our family recipe binder.

This past week I tested out The Working Stiff Cookbook.

Woring Stiff Cookbook

I picked this up on clearance at a used book store many many moons ago . . . you know, back when I worked.  Out of the house that is because I clearly still work I just no longer get paid for it.

So here’s my week worth of dinners, in no particular order.  Food in purple and bold are recipes from the cookbook.

Meal 1: spaghetti (squash) with portobellos, prosciutto and cream with pan fried tilapia

Spag Squash RW

Tilapia RW

Meal 2: chicken breasts with artichokes and mushrooms over gluten free orzo pasta with steamed carrots and no sugar added apricot jelly 

Chx Artichokes RW

Meal 3: frittata rustica with Paleo coconut flour “cornbread” and roasted asparagus.

Frittata RW

Meal 4: butternut squash soup with salad topped with hard boiled egg, blackberries, parmesan cheese and leftover sliced chicken breast

Soup and salad RW

Meal 5: Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with leftover butternut squash soup

Sammy and Soup RW

Meal 6: Pulled pork and coleslaw (good friends made this meal and dropped it off to us)

Pig Title RW

Meal 7: burgers on gluten free bagels with homemade guac and GMO free corn chips and leftover steamed carrots with no sugar added jelly

Hamburger

There was supposed to be a salmon recipe from the cookbook as well, but I got lazy and bumped it for the easy grilled sandwich and leftover soup night.  I’ve bumped the salmon recipe to another week instead.

So . . .  what did I think of this book so far?

I give it a C+ and here’s why.

The spaghetti with cream sauce reminded me of a favorite dish my mom used to make when I was a kid.  So I will probably make mom’s dish instead of this one.  It’s simple yet decadent, although with heavy whipping cream as a main ingredient I wouldn’t suggest you make this dish every week.

The chicken breast was good . . . but I was not a fan of the artichokes.  I think it was the white wine sauce.  And the artichokes.  I don’t think I like artichokes, which stinks because they are good for you – iron rich and help ease digestion.  I have a recipe for artichoke meatloaf that I do really enjoy so for now I think I’ll stick with that to get my artichokes in.

The frittata was an excellent way to use up the eggs we’ve amassed since all seven of our chickens are now laying.  And breakfast for dinner (brinner) is always a win in my book.  This recipe is easily customizable with different veggies and cheeses as well.  But (yes, there’s a but) while it was good I recently made some omelet muffins that are a similar concept but were better.

The butternut squash soup was delightful and much easier to make than I would have thought.  The spices (ginger, coriander, cinnamon and clove) lent a sweet side to this dish which I enjoyed but I do think the soup could have used another layer.  Perhaps replacing some of the water with homemade chicken stock and maybe adding in an herb.  I think sage would be nice here.  Once I add a few things I think I’ll add this soup to our recipe binder.

My two complaints are one, while the recipes were good they were maybe a smidge “meh” and two, the recipes take longer than the book claims, especially those that need to be reduced like the artichoke and mushroom sauce (90 seconds my arse) and the soup.

We’ll see how the salmon recipe fares and for now I think the book will stay in my collection (I’ll revisit it again someday.)  There’s an interesting recipe for steak cooked in a paper bag I’m curious to try.

– Joanna

Question of the Day: How do you feel about artichokes?  Yay?  Nay?  Meh?  Do you like reading these sorts of posts?  It took too long to put together for me to make this a weekly thing right now but it was fun and I may do it again in the future.

Girl Reinvented.  Let’s talk about it.

Girl Reinvented

This is the first book review I’ve written in a long while.  This is also the first (non children’s) book I’ve read in a long while.  Don’t get me wrong here, I love to read.  Love to read.  I majored in it in college even.  My Husband and I have four bookshelves filled to capacity with books and more books stored in the garage.  Granted some of these are college textbooks, but they still count.  A book is a book.  This doesn’t even take into account all of Sweetey Petey’s books which are too numerous to count, especially at the early hour I’m penning this.  Sweetey Petey loves to read too.  Mike rarely ends a night without donning his headlamp and cracking open a book snugged up in bed.

This Midwestern family loves to read.

So why has it taken me so long to dive back into the pages of a good book?  Simple.  Life got in the way.  Or, more relevantly, my idea of life got in the way.  I rarely sit still long enough to appreciate a quiet moment, my mind always a whir with what needs done next, what project needs started or finished, what laundry needs folded, what playroom needs picked up.  It’s a trait in myself I’m working to change, thanks to Ann Moore . . .  but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Reading a book, and a book purely for fun at that, seemed so self indulgent recently.  I have responsibilities after all.  A home to create and maintain.  In light of this anti-mindfullness mindset I’ve grown into, you may be wondering why I chose to read this particular book.  That’s simple.  I know Ann.  Okay, maybe not so simple since I only sorta, kinda know Ann.

Don’t worry, Ann doesn’t use words like sorta and kinda in her book.

I’ve been reading Ann’s blog Cooking Dangerously and Ann has become an internet friend.  We’ve exchanged gifts, tweets, comments, direct messages.  Ann has even named one of our chickens!  Really that makes her as close to family as a Canadian internet friend can get.

So I “know” Ann.  But it’s more than that.  I look forward to her blog posts and find her witty, interesting and most of all unique.  She provides content and an individual point of view that is shockingly refreshing in a blogosphere full of food bloggers spouting the same dry run of the mill garbage over and over and over again.  Yes, I know kale is good for me.  Oh I can bake it into chips?  You don’t say?

Ann is modest enough not to shove her book in your face.  I’m rather modest myself (clearly I’m writing this BEFORE the picture I’m posting of my butt scheduled for May 8) but if I had not only written a book, but a book that you could find on Amazon in actual book form (self published e-books don’t count so don’t even try to tell me they do), you’d better believe your buttokis I’d be telling the world every danged day.

Don’t worry, Ann doesn’t use words like buttokis and danged in her book.

Ann and I were quite far along in our internet friendship before I even knew she had written a book.  She mentioned it in passing, I searched for it, couldn’t locate it (she penned it under her maiden name) and I had to ask her.  After that, I was obsessed.  I knew, just knew, I had to read Ann’s book even if it was about clowns, which I hate.  I hate clowns.   Fortunately it wasn’t about clowns.

To avoid any potential feelings of guilt over a just for fun, just for me purchase,  I used funds from my Midwestern Bite Amazon associate account, ordered Ann’s book and waited . . . impatiently . . . for it to arrive.

I’d like to interject here and say, for the official record, I promise any future book reviews WON’T take me this many paragraphs to actually get into, mmmm K?

Don’t worry, Ann doesn’t use words like mmmm K in her book.

I read Ann’s book within a week.  I’m sure a lot of you are thinking it took you a whole week?  I can read a book in a day!  Yes, well, I could too back before I was seven months pregnant and with a toddler underfoot so don’t judge.  A week is good for me thankyouverymuch.

And don’t worry, Ann doesn’t use words like thankyouverymuch in her book.

Here’s what the book jacket has to say about Girl Reinvented:

“Tabitha Mahony has always been that polite, smart, heavy girl who flies under everyone’s radar, until one day an unfortunate low-rise jeans incident brings her the kind of publicity no one is looking for. Rather than taking the challenge in stride, Tabitha begins to question the personality she has developed over the past sixteen years. What has she really gained from being who she is? She only has one crazy loudmouth friend, she has zero prospects in the guy department, her mom is too busy and her brother is too stoned to notice her … mostly she just feels miserable all the time. She wonders if she could instantly become someone new if she decided to. Could you? What would you do differently? Would you ask out that crush? Confront that pretty little sour-faced girl in the tennis skirt? Get drunk? Chase that dream? Yeah, so would she.”

First off I’d like to reiterate that Girl Reinvented is a quick read.  That’s not to say short.  That’s not to say lacking in content.  It’s quick because you want to find out where the track leads you.  Much like a train ride, you just can’t get off till you reach your destination.  Sure, there may be a few stops along the way (it’s 346 pages after all, you aren’t going to get out of this one without at least a few bathroom and snack breaks) but you sit back and absorb the scenery flowing past you.

Scenery.  That may have been my favorite aspect to this book.  Ann Moore paints a vibrant visual picture, her words and comparisons conveying not only imagery, but feelings as well.  Through her it is easy to see what the characters see and feel what the characters feel.  If they turn their head, you turn your head.  If they jump out of a plane, you jump out of a plane.

Yes, there was jumping out a plane.  I’ll get to that.

Right off the bat I was able to relate to the main character Tabitha.  No, I was not overweight.  Other than a minor falling down the stairs incident, no I never had a soul barring embarrassing moment in front of the whole school.  I even had a few prospects in the guy department and more than one loud mouthed friend.  But feelings of isolation?  Feelings of not always belonging?  Feelings of unachieved aspirations?  Uncertainty?  Yes.  I’ve had those.  Haven’t we all?  While reading this book it was easy to slip back into the tumultuous days of high school and recall those feelings we’ve all felt at some point in our lives.  No matter what social group you fell into, high school had its rocky moments.  That’s just how it’s meant to be.  A learning experience where you start to really find yourself.

And that’s just what Tabitha does.

Girl Reinvented is classified as a Young Adult Romantic Comedy.  As such, your first question may be but hasn’t it all been said before?  A guilty pleasure of mine has always been high school TV dramas.  Gilmore Girls.  One Tree Hill.  Dawson’s Creek (I can’t believe I just admitted that).  Edgemont.  Felicity.  You get the picture in picture.  One complaint I have about this genre, however, is the repetition.  Oh, someone had a pregnancy scare?  No way.  Someone had a drug problem?  Huh.  That’s new.  Somebody was cheated on?  Gasp.  You don’t say.  Young adult entertainment is clearly a subject that has been fully explored in all forms of media.

What surprised me about Girl Reinvented, was, in fact, the surprises.  Yes, there was a popular kid picking on an unpopular kid.  Yes, there were teenage crushes.  There was even a catfight.  These are standard predictable young adult fare.  But there was also jumping out of a plane.  Say what?  Yup, I didn’t see that coming.  There was also Irish dancing.  You heard me.  Irish dancing.  There was an entire descriptive presentation of breast augmentation.  I just reeled the boys in now didn’t I?  I thought as much.  I almost skipped ahead in the book just to find out what Tabitha’s scandalous presentation would be about (I managed to refrain) and once I got there all I could think was, say whaaaaaat?

Ann Moore definitely threw in a few curve balls I didn’t expect, leaving me to wonder as I read what else she had up her sleeve.  Where would she take Tabitha, next?  I won’t spoil it for you.

Tabitha aspired to be a writer and Ann Moore included a few of her literary attempts within Girl Reinvented.  I will admit I had a hard time getting through these passages.  I cringed on more than a few occasions and immediately wondered if my own young writing was as forced as Tabitha’s.

All together, Girl Reinvented was a fun read and made me want more.  More Ann Moore.  More books.  More.  More.  More.  Since reading Girl Reinvented, I’ve breezed through Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple and started The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (don’t fret, there are no clowns in this particular circus – I confirmed before I started).  I’ve checked in with my Facebook friends for book recommendations, Googled book clubs both local and internet based, joined Goodreads and stopped in at the nearest library to peruse the Fiction shelves.

Ann Moore made me realize I had missed reading and missed it something fierce.  My love affair has been rekindled and my priorities have been shifting.  So what if the laundry doesn’t get folded till tomorrow.  So what if the playroom is a mess, it’s not like it would have stayed tidy for long anyway.  I’ve got characters to immerse myself in and plots to be drawn into and imagery to fill my pretty head.

And with that, I’ve got some reading to do before the toddler wakes up and we read Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go for the bazillioneth time.  Goldbug!  Or as the boy says . . . GOOOOOAL DUG!

But before I leave you, how about I give you something?  How about I give you Girl Reinvented?  If you want to read it too, all you need to do is comment and tell me so.  No Rafflecopter to mess with, just leave me a comment, and one of you will read this book on my dime.  Well, The Husband’s dime.  The giveaway runs till this Saturday at midnight after which Sweetey Petey will draw one of your names, most likely from an Easter egg.  The winner will be announced next week.  You’ll e-mail me your address and your book will be shipped straight from Amazon right to your front door.  Or back door, depending on your UPS driver.   Ours sometimes picks the detached garage which is less than helpful.

Oh, and this giveaway is open to US residents only.

Have a great week all and I hope to see you back here for a quick DIY nursery post and some chip talk.  Chip talk?  What kind of chip talk you ask?  You’ll have to wait to find out.  I don’t want to spoil that for you either.

– Joanna

Question of the Day:  Do you want to win this book?  Then tell me so!!!  Oh, and if you win and you’d rather have the kindle version, I’m sure that can be arranged too.  The Husband would probably even prefer that since it’s cheaper.