Eat In Challenge - We Did It!

The Eat-In Challenge ends today. I was wishing a little bit for a Starbucks run when Nick went to the hardware store (yes, that is our usual agreement), but I held my composure and endured. We did end up stopping for sushi this past weekend after the race, but since we were allowed one "cheat," we still made it.

Here are some of the tricks and tips we used to keep on track:

  • Make sure that you have easy breakfasts on hand, but breakfasts that still taste good. I stocked up on soy yogurt, had cereal for ohmygoshimrunningsolate mornings, pre-portioned frozen fruit for easy morning smoothies, and had a variety of freeze on the weekend, thaw overnight, bake in the morning items: cinnamon rolls, scones, and bagels.
  • Have a lunch that you want to eat. Most of the days when I would typically have gone out to eat were days when the lunch that was packed from home just wasn't that appetizing. This month, I made sure that I packed something that I really wanted, so I looked forward to lunch and didn't want to run out for a sandwich from Panera. This does involve some planning ahead to make sure you have lunch menu items at home.
  • Make the stuff you are craving at home. Panera has this chicken salad sandwich with grapes and almonds in it - and it is divine. I love it. But since it was eat-in month, when we had a bit of turkey leftover after making stock (yes, we bought another turkey, but that's another post), I made a turkey salad with grapes and almonds. Craving gone.
  • Have a plan. I've been posting our meal plans weekly. We normally come up with this before we grocery shop so that we make sure we have everything we need for our recipes at home. This eliminates having to run to the grocery after work, or worse, while we are making dinner. 'Cuz ya'll know at that point, you start thinking that it would just be easier to pick up dinner instead of the missing ingredient.
  • Stock your pantry. You don't have to go crazy, but if you have a few items that you can use in a pinch to come up with something just in case, it will make it that much easier to stay at home than to go out.
  • Freeze as you go. You are cooking at home, so why not make a few more servings and just freeze them away (even easier: in an oven safe pan for easy reheating). Then on nights when you know you'll be at the office late, or you have yoga class, or whatever that excuse is that makes you want to go out to eat, you can just pull out the freezer meal (preferrably the night before to thaw in the fridge) and reheat. This doesn't work for everything, but baked pastas, soups, chilis, etc. are all great candidates for this technique. We usually make the 6 servings that the typical recipe calls for, eat two for dinner, freeze two for a dinner later, and have two set aside for lunch.
What are some of your tips for making eating at home easy?

last weekend

This weekend was such a fun weekend. It was the first weekend this year when Nick and I both were feeling well, but the highlight was the Rolex 24 in Daytona Beach. I never really thought I would get into Nascar or car racing, but it really is such a good time to go watch the races live. I think some of the speed and intensity is lost when it's broadcast on television. Plus, the atmosphere is actually quite nice. It's pretty judgement free, fun and family friendly.

The Rolex race in particular, being a 24 hour race, also offers some fun extras that we certainly took advantage of.

First, we watched the start of the race from the Grandstands. It's basically two races in one since there are prototype cars and GT cars, but they race together on the same track.

Outside the Grandstands

Grandstands from the Infield

Next, we headed to the infield where all the fun was through the tunnel that goes under the track.

Heading into the Infield

Under the track in the tunnel

My first taste of PBR

We checked out team garages, where we saw a sad Ferrari.

We also checked out older winning cars they had on display.


Next we headed to the Chili Cook Off. Our favs: Carolina Catfish and Yes Deer.

Our vote for Sportsmanship

After we stopped to watch a bit of the race, we ended the evening with a ride on the ferris wheel, which gave us a 360 view of the track.

Sunset from the infield

My fav car, #7. He wasn't doing very well.  

Ferris Wheel

View of Grandstands from the Ferris Wheel

Afterwards, we stopped off at the sushi restaurant near our apartment and grabbed a couple rolls and warmed up from the race with some hot sake.

Sunday was a lazy day to catch up with some housework, hang out, prepare some stuff for the week ahead and of couse, watch the NHL All Star game. I hope you all had a great weekend. 

Week 4: Eat In Month

We're almost done with Eat-In Month and we've made it so far! This week will be pretty easy to stay in because as we have been cooking all month, we have been saving small two-serving sizes of some of the meals that we have been making during Eat In Month and freezing them. So this week will be a lot of thawing and reheating, but little cooking. Which is actually easier than running out for dinner. - and provides us with a week to clean out the fridge and freezer.

We did leave Saturday as TBD because we are planning on going to the Rolex 24 Hour Race at the Daytona Speedway, so we may use that as our one legal cheat night and grab something on our way there.

Brunch - Waffles with Fruit
Dinner - Chicken Tikka Marsala, Brown Rice and Broccoli

Breakfast - Bagels with Cream Cheese, Smoothies
Lunch - Turkey Salad Sandwiches
Dinner - Steak Salad (with steak leftovers from our tenderloin roast)

Breakfast - Cereal, Smoothies
Lunch - Slow Cooker Chicken Chili Leftovers
Dinner - Pork Roast, Salad, Roasted Potatoes

Breakfast - Bagels with Cream Cheese, Smoothies
Lunch - Italian Wedding Soup (which Nick made last week when I was a sicky)
Dinner - Fried Chicken, Sweet Potato Fries with Avocado Dipping Sauce

Breakfast - Cereal, Smoothies
Lunch - Pork Roast, Roasted Potatoes
Dinner - Pasta Rustica leftovers, Garlic Bread

Breakfast - Bagels with Cream Cheese, Smoothies
Lunch - Any misc. leftovers still in the fridge
Dinner - Pizza (with any of our leftover veggies)

Breakfast - Eggs, Toast and Bacon
Lunch - Any misc. leftovers
Dinner - TBD

Stay tuned next week to see if we made it and get some of our Eat-In tips!

Week 3: Eat In Challenge

We're halfway through the Eat-In Challenge, where you eat at home (or eat food from home) for all of your meals. This week is week 3 of the Eat-In Challenge and I am glad to report that we have not gone out to eat. I am craving a little Starbucks, though.

This week's meal plan was mostly planned last week.

Breakfast - Cinnamon Buns
Lunch - Leftover Linguine with Clam Sauce
Dinner - Flame Steak with Salad

Breakfast - Cinnamon Buns
Lunch - Leftover Chicken Tikka Marsala, Rice
Dinner - Slow Cooker Turkey Chili, Bread

Breakfast - Smoothie, Cranberry-Clementine Scones
Lunch - Leftover Chili
Dinner - Grilled Chicken Salad with Cranberry & Slivered Almonds

Breakfast - Smoothie, Bagel with Cream Cheese
Lunch - Turkey Salad Sandwiches
Dinner - Avocado Pizza

Breakfast - Smoothie, Cranberry- Clementine Scones
Lunch - Leftover Avocado Pizza
Dinner - Tenderloin Roast, Salad, Mashed Potatoes

Breakfast - Smoothie, Bagel with Cream Cheese
Lunch - Leftover Steak, Mashed Potatoes

Breakfast - Eggs with Toast, Bacon
Lunch - Salmon & Cream Cheese Crackers, Sliced Apples
Dinner - TBD

Week 2: The Eat In Challenge

So, Week 2 and I'm glad to report that we have not gone out for food. We mostly stuck to our meal plan, although we did have some lighter meals just because Nick had been feeling under the weather. Also, we traded out Teriyaki Salmon for some snow crab legs because they were on sale this week. We'll make the salmon (frozen) later instead.

This week, I guess he's feeling better, because his meal requests were varied and frequent. I almost have two weeks planned already!

Breakfast - Waffles
Lunch - Leftover Pasta Rustico
Dinner - Steak with Red Pepper Risotto, Broccoli

Breakfast - Potato Bagel with Cream Cheese, Smoothie
Lunch - Chicken Salad
Dinner - Burgers, Mac & Cheese, Coleslaw

Breakfast - Potato Bagel with Cream Cheese, Smoothie
Lunch - Leftover Enchiladas
Dinner - Chicken Pot Pie, Stuffing

Breakfast - Potato Bagel with Cream Cheese, Smoothie
Lunch - Leftover Pot Pie
Dinner - Turkey Cranberry Ravioli, Cheesy Cauliflower

Breakfast - Potato Bagel with Cream Cheese, Smoothie
Lunch - Mac & Cheese, Coleslaw
Dinner - Pork Chop with Cranberry Compote, Salad

Breakfast - Potato Bagel with Cream Cheese, Smoothie
Lunch - Leftover Chops, Veggie
Dinner - The Saccameno's Linguine with White Clam Sauce (recipe coming soon!), Salad

Breakfast - Eggs, Crispy Potatoes, Bacon, French Bread Toast
Lunch - Leftover Linguine
Dinner - Chicken Tikka Marsala, Brown Rice, Cheesy Cauliflower

Beer Review - Bitches Brew (Dogfish Head)

We recently came across this beer at Whole Foods. We were so excited since Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale is probably one of my favorites of all time but I rarely can snag more than a 4 pack a year since it is sold in such limited quantities since it's seasonal *boo-hoo*, so I was thrilled to try another beer from Dogfish Head.

Yes, it was New Years, so we did, in fact, drink this out of our fancy wedding champagne glasses.

By the way, have you seen Brew Masters on Discovery? It's a pretty interesting show following Dogfish Head's beer making process. I was pretty tickled that they started this show, because I love their beers and it's been fun to see their behind the scenes conceptual process (and their antics of course!). Their first episode looked at how they make Bitches Brew - a collaboration with Sony for the re-release of the Miles Davis record of the same name. The concept for the beer, as explained on the show, was to have a fusion of a dark (Stout) and light beer (Tej), similar to how the record combines African and American music styles. The tej beer is a traditional Ethiopian brew using honey and gecho sticks and leaves.

The beer itself is very dark in color, as expected considering the 3 parts stout. But unexpectedly, the flavor is not heavy, syrupy or oppressive as it is with more common dark beers. I suspect that by combining the dark beer with the light beer, it lightened it's flavor enough to make it a quite drinkable dark beer. It has a bold, slightly sweet flavor, but is surprisingly light in mouth feel considering the color. You can also taste the gecho - I suspect this is where the woodsy flavor comes from. The flavors definitely hit you on the front end, but they don't linger too long - which is a plus in my book. Ours was sold in a 1 pint bottle, which was perfect when split between Nick and I. It has only 9% alcohol by volume, which is pretty low for Dogfish Head, but pretty high for a dark beer. This also makes it fabulous for drinking.

One other thing that helps this beers drink-ability is the carbonation. It is carbonated since it's beer obviously, but it's not so overly carbonated like some other beers. For me, this is a two-fold blessing. First, because it is that much nicer to drink and secondly, because it saves the sofa. Nick, not a fan of highly carbonated beers, holds his thumb over the top and shakes them to release the excess carbonation to make them easier to drink. Usually this works out okay; however, sometimes this leads to a beer explosion and it spews beer all over the place. And beer stains. (Thank You Dogfish Head!)

Be prepared for the price though, our one pint bottle cost about $15. Dogfish Head beers in general cost more than the average beer ($10-$12 for a 4-6 pack around these parts), but for a reason - these are not average beers. Personally, I would rather pay for one glass of a good beer than drink 3 glasses of a not so fabulous beer.

We thought of what foods we would pair it with if we have the opportunity to purchase this brew again and have thought to do something meaty, but spicy. Ribs came to mind, but the sweetness in the beer wouldn't go well with a sweet BBQ rib, so we were thinking a spicy dry rubbed rib, charred a bit on the grill or smoker. I think the combination would be fabulous. The spice would contrast the sweetness in the beer and the char would compliment the woodsy flavors in the beer. Click on this link to see Dogfish Head's recommendations.

Eat In Month Challenge

So, here's the deal. Diana at The Chic Life has challenged anyone who wants to join in with her on her Eat In Month Challenge. The premise is pretty simple: All your meals must come from home. The idea is to make things at home in order to save money. Check out all the rules on her site.

Honestly, it seems pretty easy at first glance, Nick and I usually eat dinner at home since we are big proponents of sweatpants and well, it's frowned upon to wear those in public. And we usually take leftovers for lunch. But the more I thought about it, I started thinking about the bagel I got one morning when I ran out of cereal. I remind myself of the morning I was too lazy to clean the coffee filter and went out for a cup. The sushi we picked up at the grocery store because we were too tired to cook. It adds up.

The rules of the challenge were not really as stringent as I feel I would have them for it to actually be challenging for us. Sooo, we've added a couple of our own to really make it tough.

1. No prepared grocery items (from the sushi bar, cafe, bakery, etc.) excluding breads.

2. No store prepared frozen meals. (Making ahead meals and then freezing at home is okay though!)

I'll try and post as many pictures and tips as I can as we go through the month,  and I'll keep you posted if there's any cheating. If you are interested in signing up to take part in the challenge, just click the button at the top of the post to go to Diana's website to sign up!

Here's our meal plan for the week:

Breakfast - Clementine Cranberry Scones, Coffee
Lunch - Apples with Crackers and Cheese, Salad
Dinner - Green Enchiladas

Breakfast - Smoothie, Coffee
Lunch - Green Enchiladas
Dinner - Coffee Crusted Steak, Artichokes and Macaroni and Cheese

Breakfast - Clementine Cranberry Scone, Yogurt, Coffee
Lunch - Grape & Almond Chicken Salad, Crackers, Apples
Dinner - Rustico Pasta

Breakfast - Smoothie & Coffee
Lunch - Rustico Pasta
Dinner - Cranberry Walnut Grilled Chicken Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Breakfast - Yogurt & Granola, Coffee
Lunch - Enchiladas or Chicken Salad
Dinner - Teriyaki Salmon, Brown Rice, Veggie or Salad

Brunch - Eggs, Bacon, and Crispy Potatoes
Dinner - Jalapeno Pyrohi with Caramelized Onion