It’s been a few weeks since I planted my first little seeds. An interesting few weeks, I might add! Surprisingly, many of the seeds sprouted quite quickly, within just a few days. The first to sprout were the lettuces, but sadly, these were also the first to die. I was out of town for a week so a friend was tending to them while I was away, which makes it hard for me to document exactly what might have gone wrong, but my gut tells me that I put too many seeds in too small a container.  I think, in fact, this may have been the case with a few of the other seeds that have come and gone already.

No worries! We are learning as we go, right? I haven’t lost a bit of hope [yet]. I decided to transplant the seeds that have grown successfully into deeper containers packed with more soil (why was I so stingy the first time around?). Transplanting was scary because I was sure I was killing everything, but to my delight they have started to grow taller and stronger in their new digs. Cool!

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Broccoli Transplant – Stronger Than Ever

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Cauliflower Transplant – Stronger than Ever

One set of seeds was giving me pause, the peppers. After two weeks, they hadn’t quite sprouted, but I could see two tiny stems poking through. Although somewhat worrisome, I decided to leave them in their original container. I figured if they were growing, they weren’t strong enough to undergo upheaval just yet.  They’ve been the longest, slowest hold out of all the seeds, but instead of panicking I just hung back and watched. Sure enough a few days ago, little leaves started to spring forth. Really, it was remarkable to see. Now, there are three full-on stems with leaves and another two stems popping through. Just goes to show, you’ve got to be patient.

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Peppers – Slow but Steady

Finally, I decided to simply replant all the other lost seeds. I opted for larger containers, more soil, and less seeds, planting them more deliberately spaced apart from each other so they don’t grow on top of one another and compete for root space. As for those egg cartons? Booo! Way too small. Or at least, too small for long term growth. I need these mini plants to thrive for 6 weeks inside (or, now 3 anyway) so I’m hoping to give them enough space to sprout and thrive for the next few weeks, then they’ll go right into the ground in early May. Guess-work at it’s finest, folks!

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Lettuces – Take Two

I’ve tossed the books aside at this point. Too much conflicting or incomplete information. I’m going with my gut here. Which, according to Oprah, woman should always trust their gut. So, wait and see if this round of Gut-Gardening is at all successful. And maybe say a prayer or two while we wait.

Happy Gardening!

Emily


For this weeks meal, I decided to get jazzy and customize a few things. Did you know you can do that on Cooking Planit? Well, you can. First, I was inspired by the Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia recipe because a) it’s one of THE absolute easiest ways to prepare fish at home and b) I totally love the homemade tartar sauce that goes with it. So, quickly I knew “Tartar for Two” would be a tasty start. I felt I needed another vegetable to go with it. Something quick and easy that didn’t require cooking. Phil’s Zippy Butter Leaf Salad was the perfect add-on. I knew it had tons of flavor, but minimal prep work. Sold.

All I had to do was click on the orange Actions button to add the meal and the individual recipe to my Meal Creator (see how the tray drops down?), rename it and save it. Cool, eh? Building your own meals is that easy.

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My custom meal will hang out in my cookbook until I’m ready to make it, so I can build custom meals days or weeks in advance. Once the time comes, I can click the Actions button again, this time to select “Add to Groceries” and voila, just like that, my shopping list is made. I can easily remove any ingredients I already have on hand, like salt and pepper. I can even add other things I need, like dog food or paper towels, so everything is on one list. More cool, eh?

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The awesome thing about this meal plan is that I had almost all the ingredients on-hand already, so I only needed to pick up five things at the store, which took no time at all. A few produce items and the fish. This is exactly why I am such an advocate for building up your pantry. I realize that for new cooks shopping for so many ingredients can feel really overwhelming and expensive, but the more often you cook at home the sooner you will start to benefit from having more staples on hand. Things like breadcrumbs, capers, mustard, oils and vinegars last for ages and go a long way so you can use them over and over again to make countless dishes.

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Grocery List

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Pantry List

I should also mention that while at the store, I realized I only wanted to cook 2 servings of fish. So, when I started cooking, I selected 2 servings instead of 4. Cooking Planit does all the math for you then, so you don’t have to fiddle with adjusting the recipes. Nice!

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Now here is where it gets really exciting, at least I think so. I’ve talked a lot about the “mis en place” approach we use, to help you prep all the ingredients before you start cooking so everything is ready to go when the action kicks in. Well, the other great thing about this organization method is that it allows you to do all your prep work earlier in the day, which is what I chose to do here. The steps are organized so that I made everything that didn’t need cooking earlier in my day. The tartar sauce, the dressing, prepping the asparagus and chopping the lettuce. That meant, all I needed to do come dinner time was crust and bake the fish, season and roast the asparagus, and toss the lettuces with the dressing. How helpful is that for pulling together dinner fast on a busy night?  Here’s a look at some of the prep work in action.

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Tartar Sauce Fixin’s

Remember that tartar sauce I mentioned?  Oh my, it’s so easy and so good.  Slightly tangy and a little sweet, it would be perfect with just about any fish dish.

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Favorite Tartar Sauce

Here’s a little tip, since I knew I was prepping ingredients ahead of time that I’d need to refrigerate until dinner, I mixed them up right in the containers I would store them in. That way, no clean up and easy storage.

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Asparagus, Snapped

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Vinaigrette, Ready to Shake

Here’s another little tip – put all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a container with a tight fitting lid.  Screw the top on tight, then shake it up really well. This will help emulsify the oil and vinegar more easily than a whisk, and it’s the perfect storage solution. Two birds, one stone!

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Vinaigrette, Shaken

Check out all this beautiful deliciousness. Dressing, tartar sauce, lettuces and asparagus all prepped and ready to go when cook time comes. I’m hungry just looking at it!

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Prep Work, Ready!

Once it was time to start cooking, I didn’t have to scroll through the meal all over again to find where I left off. Instead, Cooking Planit has this hyper-link on the very first screen of prep mode that will skip all the prep work you’ve already done and take you straight to the start of cook mode. Um, amazing, yes?!  I think so!

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From there, my first step was to pre-heat the oven. Since both the asparagus and the fish cook in the oven, I had to make an executive decision about which temperature to use. The recipes aren’t widely different, 350 vs. 375, so I chose the higher temp. I knew the fish would cook slightly faster than it would at the lower temperature in the original recipe, so I just decreased the timer slightly.  Also, since the bottom of the oven is hotter than the top (even though heat rises, the heat source is at the bottom so it wins out), I made a point to swap the tray of fish with the tray of asparagus mid-way through to help them cook more evenly. Make sense? Again, improvising gets easier the more you work with Cooking Planit and the more often you cook in general.

While the fish and asparagus were finishing up, I dressed the lettuces with the vinaigrette and got out my plates. A short 10 minutes later, I plated everything up and served the hot food hot and the cold food cold. It all looked so refreshingly gorgeous, I had to pour a few glasses of wine just to round out the meal. What do you think? Looks delish, yeah?  It tasted great, too.

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Dinner is Served!

 

As I do with every Meal of the Week, I promise that you can make this meal and it will look just as lovely and taste just as great. See for yourself! For the complete experience from grocery planning to cooking instructions, click here.

Happy Cooking,

Emily

 

 

 

 


This fantastic Meatless Monday meal, Tex-Mex Tastes, is sure to put you in the mood for Cinco de Mayo festivities that are just around the corner. These veggie-friendly recipes were shared with us by our blogger friend, Lauren Walz, a.k.a. Gourmet Veggie Mama. If you haven’t made your own tortillas before, try them now.  They really couldn’t be easier. As for the black bean soup, it’s hearty and full of flavor, but best of all, it’s also really good for you as it’s loaded with tons of fiber and low in fat. Get the kids in the kitchen to help out with this meal too. It can be a whole family affair!

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Black Bean Soup, Homemade Tortillas, Green Salad with Vinaigrettte

Happy Cooking!

Emily



Everyone loves burgers, and the best part about the timeless sandwich is that it’s really a blank canvas to whatever flavors you happen to be in the mood for.  If the sound of Greek flavors like fresh dill, tangy yogurt, creamy feta, spicy red onion, sauteed spinach and tender artichokes make your mouth water, you must try this meal, Fun with Greek Flavors. Look how light and charming this meal looks. Perfectly spring-like and delicious!

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Turkey Burgers with Lemon-Dill Yogurt and Artichoke and Spinach Pearl Couscous

 

Per usual, I pulled up the meal on my iPad and gathered all my ingredients. The smell of dill alone put me in the mood immediately!

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Ingredients

This meal has quite a bit of chopping, so I got started on all that prep work first. Good thing because once I started cooking the couscous, the artichokes and the burgers, my hands were pretty tied. No time for last minute chopping in this meal!

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Mis en Place

Some of the fresh ingredients go into the deliciously zesty Lemon-Dill Yogurt sauce.

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Lemon-Dill Yogurt

The rest gets added to the ground turkey for juicy and flavorful turkey burgers.  YUMS!

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Burger Fixin’s

Once Cook Mode begins, I start by simmering the Pearl couscous (tiny little bubbles of pasta – your kids will LOVE them!), and sauteing the artichokes and spinach with garlic and onions.

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Artichokes and Spinach Sauteing

Before cooking the burgers, I made sure to press little dents into the center of each patty. This helps prevent them from seizing into balls when they cook.

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Burger Patties – Remember to press down the center

The thing about turkey burgers is that they need to be cooked all the way through, unlike a beef burger where you might be able to serve that less than well-done. Keep the temperature at medium heat and cook for about 5-7 minutes per side until cooked through and nicely golden brown. If the outside seems to be browning too quickly, lower your heat.

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Golden Brown Goodness

For final plating, Cooking Planit reminds me to combine my artichokes and spinach with the pearl couscous, stir in the feta and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then, I spread some of the lovely lemon-dill yogurt sauce on the “bun” (I opted to use mini pita rounds instead) and finish with some sliced tomato. Ready to dig in!

Give this meal a try for yourself. I can’t wait to see how delicious your version looks. Remember, I love pictures, so post in the comments, email me at ewilson@cookingplanit.com, or share with us on Facebook.

Find the complete recipe and other features, like click-of-the-button grocery planning, here.

Happy Cooking!

Emily


I love eggs. Scrambled, poached, sunny-side up, in an omelette, in a quiche, on a sandwich or a pizza, layered in a breadcrumb crust, as a binder in juicy meatballs, tempered in a creamy custard, whipped to make sweet meringue or folded into an airy mousse. Eggs are undoubtedly one of the most versatile and useful ingredients you can find in your kitchen. Hungry yet?  Try one of our awesomely delicious egg recipes today!

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