5 Easy Take-Out Meals to Make at Home

There’s a little under a week left of Eat in Month, and I’m pretty excited about February getting here. But, I’m not letting EIM keep me from any fun.

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I hadn’t seen my friend, Dana, in awhile, so when she IMed me the other day about getting dinner, I was initially really excited. Then, I remembered I was still in EIM. But my sweet friend offered to just have me over for dinner instead.

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She made this delicious chicken-creole dish. It was comforting and had just the right amount of spice to it. I’ll have to ask her for the recipe.

Has anyone else been doing entertaining “in” for EIM?

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With one week left in Eat in Month, or if you are trying to slow down on your take-out splurging, I thought I’d share some TCL recipes/non-recipes you could whip up to re-create take-out in the comfort of your home.

5 Take-Out-Like Meals to Make at Home

(Most are recipes, one is a non-recipe…which is more like a tip/idea post)

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1. Easy Pizza Night – the most commonly ordered take-out in our house

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2. Tangy Tamari Tempeh Noodles – a favorite for lunch or dinner

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3. Easy No-Marinade Chicken Fajitas – simple and made without pre-packaged seasoning

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4. Whole Health Noodle Soup – reminds me of the noodle bowls I used to order during lunch all the time

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5. Chana Masala – this should keep me away from the Indian buffet a bit longer

I was hoping to re-create some common take-out dishes to share the recipes with you guys, but work has been swamping me. But, even if I can’t do it for EIM, I’d like to try to re-create some take-out meals anyways. So, hopefully, I’ll be able to post them one day soon. Any requests?

Hope you’re all having a great week!

On Spiders & Menu Plan Success

Spiders and menu plan success? Yes, they are both in this post…

Today started off with a creepy scare. The coffee was brewing as I headed out my front door to take Bailey out to do his morning business. As I was walking out the door, I suddenly noticed a spider right in front of my face. I backed up just in time, which was lucky because I literally would have walked right into it had I kept going. I brought Bailey back inside, got a large envelope and swept (ok, threw the envelope at) the spider to the right of me and quickly withdrew. I was standing there trying to figure out where the spider went when I felt something fall on my head. It was rainy out, so I assumed it was a drop of water because that’s what it felt like.

I got a second envelope and swept around at the open air in front of me to ensure I had removed all traces of spider web…and hopefully, all traces of the spider, too. For some reason, I decided to look up at the bottom of my front porch to see if there was a lot of water accumulated and if I may get hit with another droplet. To my dismay, I realized that there, in fact, no water above me. So what the heck just fell on my head anyways?! I shrieked and ran to the bathroom in a panic. I pictured a large, hairy spider crawling around on my head and frantically checked myself in the mirror. I didn’t see any spiders, but I was still flipping out. I bent over, took my hair out of the clip that was holding it up, and shook out my hair. No spiders.

To make a long story short, it’s now the end of the day, and I haven’t seen any spiders. Let’s hope that it was water that fell on me earlier…that’s what I’m telling myself at least since I haven’t seen any indication it was something else.

But, enough about today, let’s backtrack…I wanted to tell you how I did with my meal plan from Monday. I know a lot of you guys are good with meal plans, but I am not. I was pretty worried I wouldn’t be able to stick to the plan hubby and I came up with.

Here’s how we actually did…

We did have those burgers like we planned on Tuesday. I decided to not take a picture of it, but it was good.

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On Wednesday, I made my mom’s beef stroganoff. Someone requested this recipe once, so I think I’ll post it. *Update – the recipe has been posted – click here to view* I’ve been eating this dish since I can remember, so it’s definitely a winner. We had steamed broccoli for our veg.

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On Thursday, I cheated on Eat in Month. My company invited me to small lunch get-together. I forgot to mention in my original list of rules, but I decided to make exceptions for work-related events. It’s one thing to challenge yourself…it’s another to be unprofessional or miss out on an opportunity with your team. We ended up going to a restaurant that specializes in Southern cooking, so I got the fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and beets. Since that was pretty much what we were planning to do for dinner, we decided to change plans. Hubby grilled chicken breasts, and I made a rice pilaf (from the box) with some steamed cabbage. It was simple, affordable, and it tasted great. I was pretty happy with Thursday.

On Friday, I fell off the wagon again. This time I don’t have a good excuse. I actually just decided to cheat (on Eat in Month and the meal plan). I left home in the morning in a rush and got to work a little later than I wanted. I ended up leaving work in a rush, too, thanks to a phone conference that ran over by 20 minutes. I drove through rainy, rush-hour traffic to get to an important event – Zumba instructor auditions. Two years ago, it was my turn on stage. Tonight, it was my friend Shamecia’s. She did fantastic, but she hasn’t found out yet if she made it. Whether she makes it or not, we headed out after auditions to celebrate her hard work. We each got beer flights and shared 3 different things: chicken fingers & fries, a Philly cheesesteak and sweet potato fries, and Margherita pizza (no picture again).

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And as for tonight…dinner was inspired by Chinese New Year’s. My friend and I were hoping to find something fun to do for the holiday. I considered going to get dim sum, but I think I’ve cheated on EIM enough so far. I had heard about some events going on this weekend to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year’s, but when I searched for them, I didn’t find anything. So, I just invited her over for a simple stir fry. It’s not authentic, but it tasted good.

Anywho, I hope everyone else doing Eat in Month is doing better than I am!

I have quite a few recipes queued up now, so I just need to figure out which one to post first. Any requests?

Reader question: Did/will you celebrate Chinese New Year’s? What did/will you do?

Meal Plan in Action

I woke up at my parent’s house to this awesomeness…

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a handwritten note from my mom. She woke up before 5 am this morning to get ready for work and still prepared a pot of coffee for the family. I didn’t care as much about the coffee, but I did love the note. She used to write us notes all the time growing up, and I miss them.

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Mom got some samples of the new Starbucks Blonde coffee, so we had that with breakfast.

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Sis woke up in the mood for cooking. She made us waffles using the waffle iron she got for Christmas two year ago.

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She found a special recipe online for extra-fluffy waffles. The trick is whipping egg whites and then folding them into the rest of the waffle batter. From the looks of the waffles, I think she’s onto something.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve had from-scratch waffles. Actually, I don’t think I’ve had them since the last time Sis made them.

I asked my dad to tell me about his early life again over breakfast. He’s told us the stories hundreds of times over the years, but they never get old. I guess part of the reason is because I never really knew my grandparents, and they’ve all passed, so I like to get to know them through my parent’s stories. And every time dad tells a story, I learn another gem of information. For example, recently, I learned that my grandmother’s favorite color was light turquoise (like TCL-blue!) and that she studied fashion design at the Moore College of Art & Design. She even designed and sewed her own clothing. I wish she was around still so we could have sewing sessions together and talk fashion.

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My sister decide to make lunch for us, too.

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She made ginger-soy chicken with rice and one of her specialities…

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Miso soup {with onions and potatoes}.

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It was all delicious, and I ended up eating too much. But, I did save room for dessert.

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My sister {who actually hates most vegetables} has recently fallen in love with winter squash. She made us roasted acorn squash with maple syrup and butter for dessert.

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I know it sounds a little odd, but it was actually good and made for a great dessert. I told her she could save any leftovers to make a squash oatmeal for breakfast like this one I made awhile ago. Sounds weird, tastes great!

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As for all that menu planning talk from yesterday…interestingly enough, hubby suggested we work on a meal plan on our car ride home. I don’t think he actually read yesterday’s blog post, but maybe he did. Either way, I agreed it was a good idea, so we worked on a draft on our way home.

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I don’t love it, but it’s a start. I’ve realized that sometimes I don’t menu plan because I don’t think I’ll do a good enough job…so, I just do nothing at all. But, I suppose a so-so menu plan is better than none at all, right? Plus, perhaps menu planning is like most things – it gets better with practice? I like to think so.

What are your menu/meal planning tips? I loved the one Jackie left the other day saying to use categories or themes. My family (mom, dad, sis) actually likes to do that when they menu plan, and it definitely seems like a great idea. And reader Dione suggested having lazy/easy dinners and freezing batches of food. Hubby and I were actually just talking today about how we used to eat easier meals back in the day and that we should start doing so again. And I’m a big believer in freezing food – especially soup! Any other ideas, guys? Share your meal planning tips in a comment.

EIM Eats & Menu Planning Ideas

EIM Eats

We’re enjoying a relaxing weekend with my family, which means lots of down time with lots of good food, too.

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We had eggs, biscuits/rolls, bacon and my fave – my dad’s potatoes.

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Do you make your dog sit away from you when you eat? We do. We usually make him go on his bed, but when he’s at my parent’s house, we just make him sit away. I definitely had to give him the “I’m watching you” sign a la Meet the Parents. I think he knows what it means, too.

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Sis and I wanted to spend some QT with my mom for her birthday, but she didn’t really want to do anything except hang out around the house. It’s been forever since I had the chance to just veg-out, so today, with nothing to do, we ended up watching TV. We got caught on the Investigation Discovery channel. Man, that channel really sucks you in…just like Lifetime! lol

We heated up leftovers from last night for a quick lunch with some fresh-cooked veggies.

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For dinner, we had dad’s chicken noodle casserole with steamed broccoli & carrots, and a biscuit.

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Menu Planning

I will be the first to say that I suck at menu planning. I think it’s because I’m always so busy running around, that I find it hard to sit still long enough to think through the week and actually plan something out. I also find that I like to decide on dinners based on what I feel like eating that day. I know – excuses, excuses.

Anywho, I think menu planning can be very effective for not only Eat in Month, but every day living. I keep meaning to start doing it, but I usually only make it a week or two before falling back to my slacker ways. So, since I can’t offer any advice on meal planning, I turned to one of my favorite resources – you guys!

I asked for your personal and recommended sites and blogs (via my Facebook wall and yesterday’s post) for meal planning and here are some you shared:

Do you have any more meal planning sites/blog posts to add? If you’re a reader without a blog, you can just share your meal plans and/or tips in a comment if you want (here or on my Facebook wall). :)

Work Day: Pizza Night

I’m thinking of starting a new series for my fellow workers out there to feature meal ideas you can put together after a long work day. You know the one – when you pulled another 10 hour/no-lunch-break kinda day or when you maybe just have a slew of meetings. I’m talking about having the type of day that leaves you feeling like a zombie but still wanting something (anything!) to eat that tastes good, is (maybe? hopefully?) good for you, and most importantly – doesn’t take a lot of time and/or effort.

While I prefer things to be made as much from scratch as possible in general, sometimes it’s better to use some pre-prepped foods than to eat out or order take-out. The meals I’d like to feature would be sort of semi-homemade but TCL-style, which means I’ll take help from the store, but I’ll do it as close to the source and with as natural as possible ingredients/products. And since I actually did work 10 hours today with only a 30 minute break, the only name my zombie-brain can come up with for this new series is “Work Day.” I know…so genius. But the overall concept is an easy meal after a long work day using as natural as possible ingredients. Any other name ideas for the series?

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I had a craving for pizza today, and hubby agreed it sounded like a good idea, so I asked him to pick up ingredients to make pizza at the house (since I was working late):

  • pizza dough
  • sauce
  • cheese

Gotta love a short shopping list.

Anywho, pizza night is definitely not a revolutionary idea, but I thought I’d share some photos/tips from tonight’s dinner anyways to show you how I make mine…and if nothing else, as a meal idea for my fellow Eat in Month-ers. I’d also like to gather some tips from some of my most knowledgeable friends – you guys! ;)

I’m not very good at making pizzas at home, but especially since we’re doing Eat in Month, I had no choice but to suck it up and try. I’ve never actually made a pizza entirely from scratch, though I have bookmarked a couple pizza dough recipes. I’d also like to try to make a sauce from scratch, but homemade pizza dough and sauce were not happening after my long work day. So, we took some help from the store.

A couple tips on ingredients:

  • Dough: You can get little-processed pizza dough if you know where to go: many grocery stores sell freshly made pizza dough. Trader Joe’s has a nice one for only about $2. And sometimes your local pizza shop will sell you a ball of their dough if you don’t mind making the extra tip and/or paying a little more.
  • Sauce: Many stores have special pizza sauce: some of them even have grocery-store-prepped sauce with the dough in a refrigerated section. I know hubby got both the dough and sauce for tonight’s pizza from the same section near the cheese counter.
  • Cheese: We used to use shredded, but we’ve recently started using buffalo mozzarella. Both are good options.

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I love using corn meal to help keep the dough from sticking to things.

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I also like using a baking stone. I think it helps to bake the stone before you put the pizza on it to help get the bottom crispy and help ensure it cooks through (early runs at homemade pizza yielded raw centers). If the pre-baked stone trick doesn’t work, you could also try baking the crust by itself before adding toppings.

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I literally just spread some corn meal on this baking stone, baked it for about 10 minutes in the oven, added the dough (which I stretched out with my hands – I didn’t feel like getting the rolling pin dirty), smeared on some marinara sauce, added cheese, added seasonings, and baked.

The pizza seasoning definitely helps add flavor. Oh, and be sure to check out the dough package for baking tips since they can vary from type to type. If you get dough from your local pizza shop, you can try asking them for tips.

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By the way, do you like my crooked crust? lol. I kind of like how homemade things can take on a wonky kind of look.

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I added a quick spinach salad with green bell pepper, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive for a veg serving.

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As for the pizza…the center was cooked through (woohoo!), and though it wasn’t nearly as good as our fave local pizza shop, it hit the spot.  

What are your tips for making a quick pizza at home?

Eat in Month Stress Eating Challenge

Not gonna lie…Eat in Month was a bit of a challenge for me today (I know, I know…it’s only the third day! Whatevs.).

Things started this morning when my I’m-used-to-sleeping-in-thanks-to-vacation a$$ didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t snooze too long, but I barely had enough time to down a quick bowl of banana oatmeal. But hey, I managed to eat in, so I’m taking it. I tried adding some almond butter to breakfast for staying power, but I was still pretty hungry by around 10:30am. I managed to wait till after noon to dig into lunch (which, by the way, was packed in about 4 minutes as we were rushing out the door this morning). I had a turkey sandwich on Great Harvest High Fiber bread with some BBQ chips. Simple does it.

I had snacks packed for the rest of the day in case I got hungry, but I ended up too stressed to think about food. I was playing catch up from being on vacation (email inbox h*ll – know what I mean office people?), plus I had to review an important document with about 50 people for an hour and a half for the last part of the day. It was a little nerve-wracking, especially since I didn’t 100% understand the subject matter, but I made it (I have 3 more of these meetings later this week, though…ack!). And then there were the multiple databases and excel files…but that’s another story for another day (who am I kidding, you guys don’t care about that, so that story will likely never be told…hehe).

By the end of the day, I was thinking I could use a cocktail and a stop at the local BBQ joint…till I remembered that we couldn’t go (d*mn you Eat in Month!). Boo! Luckily, hubby had researched some dinner ideas and proposed we turn our leftover pot roast into shepherd’s pie. And since I’m a big fan of shepherd’s pie, I thought that was a great idea.

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Here’s a preview photo of the finished result. it’s a goodie!

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And here’s a little something-something-else – a preview of a breakfast recipe I played with while I was on vacation.

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Anywho, stress eating challenges or not, I still made it through another day of the EIM challenge! And the best part (besides rising to the occasion and sticking with the challenge) may have been thinking of all the money I saved by not eating out. Had I eaten out any of the meals today, I may have spent an additional $3 for breakfast, $8-10ish for lunch, and $15 for dinner. I’m not sure exactly how much all today’s meals cost, but they were definitely cheaper than my estimated eat-out expenses!

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At the end of a stressful day, do you prefer to eat out (or order take-out) or do you prefer cooking at home. Sometimes I think cooking is a great way to de-stress…sometimes I just want something easy and tasty without the effort. What about you?

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