What’s Keeping Me Sane …

OK, so it’s October now and I don’t even know how we got here.  My schedule this school year is even busier than I had anticipated, and I’m truly having a hard time keeping up with everything that is going on.

Giant sun flowers in my sister-in-law's fall garden.

Giant sun flowers in my sister-in-law’s fall garden.

Between keeping up with all my usual ‘teacher paper work,’ my daughter’s after-school ballet classes  on Mondays (we get home around 5:45 p.m.), Tuesday and Thursday professional development sessions after school (till 5:30 p.m.), my son’s soccer practice on Wednesday nights (5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.), responsibilities as our local AYSO web master, Sunday afternoon soccer games for my son, and my need to correct papers and plan lessons on the weekends because … well, I like to have a little downtime during the week too … I have had NO time to plan any true meals. My husband is scrambling just as badly as I am, and we’re feelin’ it. He helps as best he can, of course, but being just as harried as I am … well .. not much in terms of housework is getting done around here.

As I write, the laundry is spilling out of the hamper and onto the floor. One untended load festers in the washing machine and one ‘finished’ load sits unfolded on the dining room table. The dishes sit piled up in the sink, counter and kitchen table, and let’s not talk about the state of the rest of the house.

I thought I was so prepared for the onset of our regular school schedule, and quite clearly, I wasn’t as prepared as I’d thought. I haven’t managed to make an official Meatless Monday meal to speak of (which is why you haven’t seen me write about one … *sigh*), and I’m going to admit that my vegetarian eating habits have not been very healthy. Lots of frozen meals like fries or veggie pizzas have been consumed. Oh and potato chips. Can’t forget those … and Oreos.

I do feel like often times, people try to frame vegetarianism/veganism as this little switch you make and that it’s really no more trouble than being on a meat-eating diet. The reality for me, anyway, has proven to be otherwise. There is a lot of prep work involved, and there are less ‘convenience-foods’ that are easily found, especially if you take into consideration things like cost and ingredients (e.g. pre-packaged veggie patties or other soy-based fake meat meals). Crock-pot meals aren’t as easy, either, as vegetables tend to go mushy if overcooked. When you leave the house at 7:20 a.m. and don’t come back till 4 p.m. at best (often later), it was much easier when all there was in the crock was a roast. Honestly, you could cook a roast with veggies in it for ever and it’s DELICIOUS. When it’s a pile of vegetables, you know what you’ll be met with is going to be a bunch of smushy mush or hard, chewy chickpeas (tried a crockpot falafel recipe — verdict is, don’t do it). Ew.

My son's soccer field, where I spend at least about three hours a week in the fall ... and again in the spring!

My son’s soccer field, where I spend at least about three hours a week in the fall … and again in the spring!

My idea was that I can’t possibly be alone in this issue, so I figured I’d just compile a list of the recipes that I’ve tried to help keep me sane. A friend of mine had a brilliant idea: Find one day a week in which you can afford to devote about 3-4 hours to just preparing meals ahead of time. Either to freeze, or things that can keep in the fridge for a while to be either heated up quickly or just immediately served out of the fridge. I’ve decided that Tuesday would be my day to get my stuff for the week ready. That’s the one day a week that I don’t have to worry about feeding all of us, and dishes aren’t bad because my husband carries the kids off to his brother’s house for a visit during dinner time.

Here’s what I worked on over the past few Tuesdays, and also some of what I bought for groceries that will be keeping me sane AND HEALTHY while remaining meat-free. Links to my (or others’) recipes are privided:

Tray of my favorite home made veggie patties!

Dr. MacDougal’s soups: Vegan, fast, and DELICIOUS. I’ve tried almost all of them, and they are really good. There are also many low-sodium versions of their meals too. The list of ingredients is also not nearly as scary as many other fast-cooking meals that you can find out there. I’ll say that it’s a little pricier than the conventional soups.

Home-made hummus: Including cleanup time, takes me about 30 minutes to make a nice big batch that will feed me and my hubby for lunches AND snacks. Fast, convenient, and super healthy. Plus very tasty. Can’t forget tasty.

Frozen home-made veggie burgers: This was last Tuesday night’s cooking night project. Made a big batch of these and froze them. Watched some reruns of old shows on Netflix while I worked on this project. Now I have a fast, delicious, healthy, filling meal to grab and feed me at any meal, any time! I love this topped with some chutney and a bunch of fresh veggies. Crunchy, tasty, so good!

Marrakesh stew: YUM! Spicy delicious goodness — as in heat spicy AND savory spicy, though you could easily tone down the heat by putting in less cayenne pepper than called for. I put the ingredients in a pot about an hour after I got home and let it all simmer. In the mean time, I did my laundry and worked on a batch of the veggie burgers. Between batches, grabbed bites and watched reruns of Big Bang Theory! Once finished with the home-made veggie burgers, I celebrated and rewarded myself by eating this. Even meat-eating hubby really enjoyed this and took leftovers into work for lunches. SCORE!

The simmering Marrakesh Stew. Spicy and delicious.

The simmering Marrakesh Stew. Spicy and delicious.

Thirty-minute awesome Pinterest find: The 30-minute pasta dish that my friends have been raving about was what I made on one of our crazy Mondays. I tweaked the recipe a bit by using whole wheat pasta instead of the regular, vegetable stock instead of water, and canned tomatoes flavored with garlic and basil. Really great! It wasn’t hard at all to whip this together even though I didn’t get home until pretty much exactly 5:45 p.m. I dropped my bags, threw the ingredients together and put them on the stove. While it cooked my son was happy to help make the garlic toast, and I put together a nice tossed salad. Filling, healthy, home-made meal.

Vegan ‘gyoza’ (different from the last ones I made!): These gyoza were different from the ones I made a while back (you can read about that here). Tried a new recipe, and I definitely liked these a lot better, but I will be trying yet another recipe soon. There are a couple things I would do differently with this recipe next time I make this: cut down on the soy sauce. It was way too salty with the amount that the recipe called for. I’d probably cut the 2 teaspoons down to one. I’d also double the recipe — I was hoping to have a LOT of leftovers, but instead I ended up using barely half of the won ton wrappers that I had bought. After eating, I had enough to freeze for about 2 meals. Not bad, but I like having TONS of leftovers so that everyone in the house can have some if they want … and so that I don’t have to think about making this slightly fussy dish for quite some time.

So, posting as regularly as I was over the summer is probably going to be out of the question for a while. I will, however, occasionally write about a few recipes here and there that I tried.

I’m determined to find at least one or two vegetarian crock pot recipes that will work, so hopefully I’ll get the chance to write about those before too long too.

Annnnd, I’m off. Laundry calls … YAY.

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