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  1. Sunday, April 14, 2019

    Week 620 Weekly Menu

    Hey, everybody. Time for some weekly meal planning!

    Week 620 weekly dinner menu: sweet potato burritos, shepherd's pie, pesto gnocchi, chili and breakfast for dinner

    MONDAY:
    – Sweet Potato & Black Been Burritos or Rice Bowls

    TUESDAY:
    – Shepherd’s Pie

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Pesto Gnocchi

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – Chili

    SATURDAY:
    – Eat out

    SUNDAY:
    – Easter Sunday! Ham, crispy rosemary roast potatoes, and spinach strawberry salad. Homemade rolls, too!

    Please pretty please share your own meal plans in the comments below! They are such a help every week for me and I know for others, too! Thank you and have a great week!


  2. Friday, April 12, 2019

    Meagan Francis, Co-Host of The Mom Hour Podcast, Talks Motherhood, Food and Her Most Versatile Recipe (Ep. 53)

    This Week for Dinner Podcast: Interview with "The Mom Hour" Podcast Co-host Meagan Francis (Episode 53)

    Today on the podcast I get the chance to interview my friend and colleague Meagan Francis. Meagan is co-host of the podcast The Mom Hour, an author, and an all-around thoughtful, inspiring person. Meagan and I talk about all kinds of topics related to parenting, from how motherhood has evolved to offer new career opportunities for women, the impact of social media on parenting, food values, cooking tips and more. Meagan also describes her favorite go-to recipe, one that provides a base for at least four other dinners every time she makes it. I hope you enjoy getting to know Meagan and walk away with feeling ready to get in the kitchen and cook, no matter how busy you are!

    Shownotes:

    Multi-tasker Pork Shoulder
     
    This pork shoulder can be prepared on one day and used for several more meals! Ideas for modifications in the notes below.
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • Boneless or Bone-In Pork Shoulder
    • A few swigs of your favorite oil
    • Herbs and spices, your favorites (Meagan's suggestion: minced garlic, salt, Mexican spice blend, sometimes oregano/thyme/rosemary depending on what you'll be using the meat for; garlic/salt and whatever mix you like!)
    • Liquid: Stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable), Beer, or Mix of water and orange juice
    • Optional: Limes or oranges halved
    • Optional: Sliced onions
    Instructions
    1. It's generally easiest to cut the shoulder up into fist-sized pieces, but not necessary.
    2. Drizzle oil into the bottom of a dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat on the stove while preheating the oven to 250º F.
    3. Rub the shoulder all over with your choice of herbs/spices This first go around can be mildly spiced because you can re-season the meat in all its incarnations.
    4. Sear all sides of the meat in the oil for a few minutes on each side until golden brown
    5. Add your choice of liquid to the pot. Meagan also likes to add oranges or limes, cut in half, to the bottom of the pot as well, and you can't go wrong adding some sliced onions either now or earlier, while the meat is searing.
    6. Put in the oven for 6-7 hours. You want the meat to be falling apart. If you don't have quite this much time, you can increase the heat to 275 or 300, but if you have less than 4 hours I'd recommend using a pressure cooker.
    7. When you pull the pork shoulder out it should pull across easily with two forks.
    Notes
    As Carnitas: Heat the shredded meat in hot oil on the stovetop or under the broiler in your oven until it's crispy-brown. Season with lime and cilantro. Serve with tortillas, onions, more lime and cilantro, queso fresco, pico, or whatever you like.
    Shredded as-is: Serve with rice/potatoes and a vegetable
    BBQ Pulled Pork: Mix meat with barbecue sauce and serve on buns as pulled-pork sandwiches.
    Meagan's Magical Mix: Roughly chop 2 sweet potato (skins on, natch) and roast in the oven at 400º F until nearly soft. Add to a hot, oiled skillet with shredded pork, lime, and cilantro and stir until you have a golden-brown hash. Serve with eggs over easy or medium. This is the Day 3 version of the recipe, the one Meagan's son Owen called an "almost 10!"

     

    It’s easy to listen to the show!

    • Via the web: Click the play button below!
    • Via an app: Search “This Week for Dinner Podcast” on your favorite podcast app (iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, Spotify, etc.).

    Other Stuff!


  3. Sunday, April 7, 2019

    Week 619 Weekly Menu

    Spring break is over and it’s back to the normal routine of life. Our oldest Cate went to visit her aunt in Singapore last week and came home with a stomach bug, as often happens after an international trip. I suppose the fates wanted her to get the full experience. So this week I’m trying to make lighter, vegetarian meals to soothe her belly back to normalcy.

    Week 619 Weekly Dinner Menu: Caprese Salad, Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burritos, Lentil Rice Bowls, and Breakfast for Dinner

    MONDAY:
    – Caprese Salad
    – Baguette

    TUESDAY:
    Sweet Potato & Black Been Burritos or Rice Bowls

    WEDNESDAY:
    Lentil Rice Bowls with Lime Tahini Dressing

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – Potluck Party

    SATURDAY:
    – Eat out after cello recital

    SUNDAY:
    – Breakfast for Dinner: Waffles, Eggs & Fruit (Birch Benders Paleo Pancake & Waffle Mix for me, normal waffles for everyone else)

    Your turn! Share those menus in the comments, plain or fancy!


  4. Monday, April 1, 2019

    Week 618 Weekly Menu

    Hey, all! It’s Spring Break for us and I apparently have entered vacation mode because I haven’t done the weekly menu yet! This menu may go straight in the garbage depending on how our staycation goes, but may as well throw something together!

    Week 618 Weekly Dinner Menu: Asian Chicken Salad, Turkey Burgers, Roast Chicken, Indian Pork Roast

    MONDAY:
    – Pat’s Asian Chicken Salad

    TUESDAY:
    – Homemade Turkey Burgers

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Eat out (mini trip to the desert)

    THURSDAY:
    – Eat out (mini trip to the desert)

    FRIDAY:
    – Eat out (mini trip to LA)

    SATURDAY:
    Roasted Chicken
    – Roasted Potatoes and Salad

    SUNDAY:
    – Indian Pork Roast 
    – Rice and Roasted Vegetables

    Please share your menus below! (I am so grateful week after week to have your ideas to inspired me!)


  5. Sunday, March 24, 2019

    Week 617 Weekly Menu

    Hey all! It’s menu time, let’s go!

    Weekly Menu #617: Pork chops, Asian Chicken Salad, Orange Chicken, Turkey Boursin Baguetts, Turkey Burgers

    MONDAY:
    – Pork Chops & Apples
    – Mashed Potatoes & Broccoli

    TUESDAY:
    – Pat’s Asian Chicken Salad

    WEDNESDAY:
    Orange Chicken
    – Rice

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – Turkey Boursin Baguettes

    SATURDAY:
    – Eat out

    SUNDAY:
    – Homemade Turkey Burgers

    Please share your own meal plans in the comments below! They are incredibly helpful for me and so many others! 


  6. Friday, March 22, 2019

    The Benefits of Food Routines (Ep. 52)

    Header for Episode 52 of the This Week for Dinner Podcast - Routine Eating

    Today on the podcast I’m talking about how routine has increasingly played a role in how I eat over the last year. One year ago I had to change my diet pretty drastically, doctor’s orders. I’ve seen all kinds of positive changes as a result. Once change that I hadn’t really thought about, though, was how my diet has become much more routinized, that there are foods that I eat pretty much every day. I read an article in The Atlantic last week that got me thinking about this topic, and now we have a podcast episode! Listen in to see how routine has helped me with more healthful eating and how it might be able to help you.

    Shownotes:

    It’s easy to listen to the show!

    • Via the web: Click the play button below!
    • Via an app: Search “This Week for Dinner Podcast” on your favorite podcast app (iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, Spotify, etc.).

    Other Stuff!


  7. Plant-Based Eating Hack #2: Finding Milk Alternatives…with a little help from your friends!

    Time for another plant-based eating hack, don’t you think? Okay, so, you want to start replacing dairy with more plant-based options. And starting with milk seems like a good idea. But then you go to the store and THERE ARE SO MANY MILK ALTERNATIVES that your head starts spinning, you grab your usual gallon of milk, and walk away in a cold sweat. Here’s the thing, finding milk alternatives is kind of hard for a few reasons. First, there are just so many to choose from. Second, if you do buy one and then hate it, suddenly you have a whole carton of “milk” that either you suffer through or end up wasting. Today I have a suggestion for finding milk alternatives that is not only helpful but fun. Gather your friends and do a milk tasting together!

    Alternative milk tasting party with friends in a kitchen

    Last week I hosted an evening with a group of friends and coordinated a milk tasting. I created a sign-up list with around 10 different types of milk alternatives. We all pitched in, brought one to share, then held a tasting. My friend Laura kept notes on people’s reactions to each product and we discussed our thoughts at the end of the night. We other delicious foods, too, much of it vegan and all of it vegetarian. Plant-based goodness galore!

    10 milk alternatives set up for a milk tasting party

    I wish that I could tell you there was consensus and that XX milk is the best one, but there wasn’t! Everyone’s tastes were very different and every single type of milk we tried had people who loved it and hated it. Which is why the milk tasting party became even more genius once we were actually doing it – since we do all have different tastes, it was really awesome to get together and try out so many different milks at once. We could figure out what works for our own tastes then go home and just buy that type of “milk” from now on. Plus, people could take home the carton of milk that was their favorite, leading to less waste!

    Line up of 10 different milk alternatives

    Even though we didn’t have strong consensus on the products we tried, I do think it’s worth sharing Laura’s notes. We tested the unsweetened versions of each “milk” since we were looking for a cow’s milk alternative for multiple uses. I neglected to put pea protein milk on the list, which I’m regretting because that one is supposed to be great. I’ll have to try it on my own (wah-waaaah). Take all these comments with a grain of salt because, as you’ll notice, many of them contradict one another. That might be the most surprising outcome of the night was how different we all taste things! Please note that where it says “my” or “I” in the comments below, those are quotes from my friends. Only the comments italicized and in orange are my personal opinion.

    • Hemp: favorite, I drink it every day; neutral flavor; can taste plant base; chalky; bland; watery; grainy
    • Flax: silkier; creamier; good texture; watery; neutral flavor; my new favorite
    • Oat: smooth; sweet; closest to milk; thicker; best so far (Jane note: oat is my personal favorite and what I use daily – I think oat milk had the highest approval rating of the night! Note: Most oat “milks” taste great, but the brand Pacific Organic is awful, do not buy that one! And Oatly is my favorite brand!)
    • Coconut: watery; dirty water; bad after taste (Jane note: I don’t love coconut milk that comes in a carton, and some canned coconut milks have a weird flavor to me. That said, Thai Kitchen’s canned coconut milk is FANTASTIC and that is what I use in oatmeal, coffee and for cooking.)
    • Macadamia: texture is good; bland; watery, like skim milk; really good
    • Almond: tastes like almonds; refreshing; fresh; good; fabulous (Jane note: my friend Chelsea made her almond milk from scratch, which is why it was so freaking awesome, but if you find a good brand I think the comments would still apply!)
    • Cashew: tastes cashew-y; good texture; sour; good but not great; my favorite that I use in coffee every day
    • Soy: taste like edamame; simple and easy; after taste; actually, better than I was expecting
    • Rice: too sweet; can’t believe it’s unsweetened

    A note on sugar content. Oat and rice milk both have naturally occurring sugars, although rice is higher than oat, and both rice and oat have less sugar than regular cow’s milk. Most of the other milk alternatives had 0 grams of sugar.

    Voila! Finding milk alternatives isn’t as bad as you think, as long as you get a little help from your friends. Have fun!


  8. Sunday, March 17, 2019

    Week 616 Weekly Menu

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We had a super fun and busy day, so just now sitting down to do the weekly menu.

    Week 616 Weekly Dinner Menu: Pesto Pasta, Mexican Rice Bowls, Egg Scrambles, Turkey Boursin Baguettes and Asian Chicken Salad

    MONDAY:
    – Chicken Pesto Pasta

    TUESDAY:
    – Mexican Rice Bowls

    WEDNESDAY:
    Roasted Vegetable Egg Scrambles

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – Eat out night

    SATURDAY:
    Turkey Boursin Baguettes

    SUNDAY:
    Pat’s Asian Chicken Salad

    Your turn! Share your food plans for the week in the comments below. Thank you SO much and have a great week!


  9. Friday, March 15, 2019

    Megan O’Rourke, Sustainable Agriculture Professor at Virginia Tech, Shares Her Thoughts on Organic Farming (Ep. 51)

    Episode 51 Podcast Header: Interview with Megan O'Rourke, PhD, on Organic Farming

    In episode #51 of the podcast, I get the chance to interview Megan O’Rourke, professor of sustainable agriculture at Virginia Tech. If you’ve been following my Eat Well, Heal the Planet posts this year, you know Megan! She’s our resident scientist, providing all kinds of great info around food, farming and the environment. In case you missed it, yesterday we published a post with a quick guide for mindful food shopping as well as Megan’s thoughts on the current state of organic farming. Today’s podcast interview builds on that article. Megan is a fantastic resource and I am delighted to share her with you! 

    Shownotes:

    It’s easy to listen to the show!

    • Via the web: Click the play button below!
    • Via an app: Search “This Week for Dinner Podcast” on your favorite podcast app (iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, Spotify, etc.).

    Other Stuff!


  10. Thursday, March 14, 2019

    A Quick Guide to Mindful Food Shopping Choices + Thoughts on Organic Farming

    For quite some time now I have purchased mostly organic food, my reasoning being that it was better for the environment and biodiversity. As I’ve started doing more reading about different diets and their impact on the environment, questions around organic food keep coming to mind. I turned to our resident expert, Virginia Tech sustainable agriculture professor Megan O’Rourke, and asked her what she thought about organic. That simple question led to several conversations, a podcast interview, and Megan writing her thoughts on organic for us, which I am sharing below in this post. The bottom line? Yes, organic has benefits, sometimes environmental. No, it’s not clear cut and as easy as saying that buying organic is the best choice. As with pretty much anything related to food and the environment, it’s complicated!

    As Megan and I talked, I asked her if it would be possible to make a quick reference guide for people who want to be mindful about what impact their food is having. Megan agreed and gave me an excellent list of things to think about. I turned it into an “If…Then…” list, which highlights a few values around food and some of the choices you can make to support those values. 

    Chart with "If, Then" statements, providing a quick guide to mindful food shopping choices

    Since there are no easy answers, for our family I’ve decided to concentrate on reducing our consumption of cow products (both meat and dairy), focus on more plant-based eating and buying our food as locally and seasonally as possible. Megan, as you will learn in her article below as well as in our podcast interview that will publish tomorrow, really likes to focus on buying food locally and growing foods that make sense for where she lives, thereby reducing the need for chemical interventions. As you look at the “If..Then…” list I encourage you to identify those values and choices that make the most sense for you and your family. If we are all making efforts where we can, we will make a difference! 

    Why organic? What is the real impact? Is there a real impact?

    By Megan O’Rourke, Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech

    There is a lot of confusion about organic agriculture, so Seufert et al. published a review paper in 2017 describing what science does and does not know about the real impacts of organic agriculture. They broke down the impacts into three broad categories: environmental, productivity, effects on farmers, and effects on consumers. They then subdivided these broad categories into 26 specific metrics of public interest and compared the relative impacts  of an acre of organic land to an acre of conventional land. Interestingly, the authors assert that we basically don’t know anything about 10 of the metrics of interest. These include effects on soil erosion, water use, pesticide leaching, and farm wages. In fact, we only have high certainty about a few things. Fortunately for consumers, most of our certainty revolves around organic produce quality, such as lower pesticide residues and higher phytonutrient, mineral, and vitamin content than conventional agriculture. Scientists are also pretty certain that organic land produces lower yields but higher profitability than conventional production, while improving the soil and providing habitat for wildlife.

    But, here’s the spoiler. While I am a sustainable agriculture researcher with lots of facts and figures at hand, I almost never buy organic myself. Why?  I have both rational reasons and emotional reactions to the current state of organic agriculture that guide what I do. Let’s start with the rational reasons. 

    With grocery store organic, I don’t really know what I’m getting. Grocery store organic is often far from the bucolic small farm dream we imagine. Organic produce is much more likely to come from a megafarm in California than from your local family farm, and these megafarms simply practice chemical substitutions. Any poisonous chemical derived naturally and approved by the National Organic Program can be used in organic production. For example, some heavy metals like copper, which accumulate in the environment, are used extensively in organic production. Other pesticides, such as pyrethrums extracted from chrysanthemums, are allowed in organic production while their synthetic cousins, pyrethroids, are not. Synthetic fertilizers are not allowed in organic production but organic fertilizer companies mine bat guano from Chile and ship it up to California. Bat guano has essentially the same chemical properties as synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. When it comes to organic meat, I find the rules about organic meat production unethical. Organic farmers cannot use antibiotics on sick animals without the animals being deemed nonorganic. This can cause animals to suffer and be culled early instead of being treated humanely (which, by the way, is allowed in European organic practices).

    Now on to my more emotional responses to the current state of organic. Perhaps one of my least rational reactions to buying organic produce is that I find it bourgeois. While I am solidly privileged middle class in reality, my gut feels like buying organic is spending money excessively. Furthermore, the scientific benefits of organic produce are not significant enough for me. For example, while organic on average has a higher nutrient content in side-by-side comparisons with conventional food, this health benefit pales in comparison to simply eating more vegetables and a greater variety of produce. Also, as a scientist, on the whole I trust the capacity of science to make life better for us. For example, there was a time when I was skeptical about genetically modified crops, but now after talking with countless farmers, I appreciate how GMOs (which are banned in organic foods) can improve farmer health and reduce their exposure to insecticides. I also think that pesticides used responsibly can be like tiny miracles. When we are sick, we go to the doctor and get medicine. When plants get sick, they need some medicine too. While pesticides can be overused, I don’t prescribe banning them. We use chemicals all the time to make our life better and easier, so why shouldn’t farmers be allowed synthetic products in their toolbox?

    Another issue I have with organic is the bureaucracy. Organic farmers need to pay money, keep extensive records, and allow regulators onto their farms to inspect every aspect of their operation. As a natural rebel, the idea of allowing a stranger to nitpick about my choices of production would drive me crazy. I’ve talked to farmers who can’t pass inspections because they used landscape cloth around their blueberry bushes as that was not considered organic enough. When my husband and I had a CSA farm years ago, we did not certify organic because of the cost and bureaucracy. If you have $5000 in gross sales or less you can claim organic; otherwise you cannot market with that label. We took the Northeast Organic Farmers Association “Farmers Pledge” to market under. We pledged to grow organically and to respect workers’ rights. The national organic standards say nothing about worker conditions, pay, or labor rights.

    For me, organic was great for learning about pests, which I love doing, but I will no longer farm organically at home starting this year. You can either stick to just growing what grows well in your area without spraying and watch your crops lose 50 percent plus yields, use organic chemical substitution, or use lots of physical barriers that create loads of trash (which only works for certain plants anyway). I now see no hope in growing an orchard on the east coast without spraying something. I saw total losses year after year. That’s my new challenge this year – to manage my new orchard well by picking a crop with as little pesticide as I think I can get away with.

    These are some of the reasons why I personally don’t buy (or farm) organic. For me, I would be most inclined to support organic if I perceived a substantial environmental impact, but I’m not convinced of this with the modern industrialization of the organic industry. If I were to prioritize my organic purchases to avoid pesticide residues, I would focus on organic versions of the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. (Click here for the Environmental Working Group’s 2018 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.) For me eating as locally as possible and eating less meat makes a bigger difference, so that is what I focus on. We all have different reasons that are important to us when considering what food to buy and give to our families – having information can help us make the best choices to support our values and also make a positive difference in the world. 

    Quick Guide to Mindful Food Shopping Choices

    For Your Health and the Earth’s

    • If you do not want GMOs in your food, then buy organic.
    • If you want to reduce your personal exposure to pesticide residues, then buy organic or at least buy “The Dirty Dozen” organically.
    • If you want the most nutritions versions of produce, then buy locally and seasonally.
    • If you want the highest quality, most delicious produce, then buy locally and seasonally.
    • If you worry about the working conditions of migrant farm laborers, buy locally.
    • If you want to help conserve biodiversity, cut out or cut back on dairy and meat (shift from beef to pork to poultry).
    • If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, cut out or cut back on dairy and meat (shift from beef to pork to poultry).
    • If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, cut out or cut back on dairy and meat (shift from beef to pork to poultry).
    • If you want generally nutritious food at the best price, buy conventional produce and cook (this is better than eating processed organic food).
    • If you want off-season produce, buy conventional produce (there are many fraudulent organic imports).