Balsamic Orange Roasted Fennel

Balsamic Orange Roasted Fennel lined up on a cutting board and ready to serve.
Balsamic Orange Roasted Fennel lined up on a cutting board and ready to serve.

There’s a bit of magic that happens when vinegar and sugar meet with heat and are allowed to glaze over. Thick syrupy goodness drizzles into every crevice of the food, and a light crust even forms on the outside. The interplay of sour and sweet and the different textures that form over the food bring a complete mouth feel to the party, and allows a simple vegetable to stand up and shout a little bit.

The fennel in this dish is already sweet, but it doesn’t do such a great job of standing up on its own. The Balsamic Orange Marinade that becomes a glaze in the oven supports the fennel and helps it achieve that greatness. Even when paired with the strong flavors of a marinara, this side dish does an amazing job of standing up on its own on a plate. I like to serve this with a bit of Parmesan cheese on the side. This also pairs well with a softly cooked egg (whether boiled or fried or poached). Just serve the egg on top of the fennel and then slice in to the egg to make a lovely sauce right there on the plate.

Ingredients

4 small fennel bulbs

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup orange juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small sprig rosemary, dusted

1 pinch crushed red pepper

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Make It!

1. Preheat your oven to 350F

2. Remove the fennel fronts from the bulbs and reserve for another use.

3. Cut each bulb into eighths or smaller. If you only have large bulbs available, use fewer bulbs and cut them smaller.

4. Combine the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk in some olive oil. Toss the prepared fennel in the vinaigrette. These can sit in the marinade for the day covered, in the fridge, if desired.

5. Line up the marinaded bulbs on a sheet pan. Place in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the fennel is browned and soft but not mush.

Quick Start Guide

Ready to get started meal planning? Here’s the short version to get you started. Ready?

Login. Your username and password will be sent to you in an email within 24 hours of your payment processing. If it’s been that long, you might check “Purchases” in your inbox or your SPAM folder. Head to http://app.insertmealhere.com and give the program your credentials. Welcome!

Your Recipes

A preview of the recipe collection, which is always customized to the user.
A preview of the recipe collection, which is always customized to the user.

The {IMH} Meal Planning Board journey starts with recipes. To add your first recipe to your collection, click the “Recipes” button. On the top left, you’ll see a link to “Add a Recipe.” Click the link, and enter your recipe in the form. Check out a full guide to the Recipe Collection for more details. Or, take a tour here with this Facebook Live.

Your Plan

A simple, sample schedule.
A simple, sample schedule.

Your Meal Plan is based on the recipes you have in your Recipe Collection. Now that you’ve added a recipe, you have the ability to add it to your plan. Click the form on the left to select a day and a meal to add the recipe to your plan. Click save. Select the “Schedule” up at the top menu to see your recipe in action on your meal plan.  I’ll take you through this step-by-step  in this Facebook Live too.

Your Shopping List

A sample shopping list, sorted by store section, based on a meal plan.
A sample shopping list, sorted by store section, based on a meal plan.

Now that you’ve got a recipe and a plan, you can build a shopping list. Click the “Shopping List” link at the top menu and select “Add New Shopping List.” Tell the {IMH} Meal Planning Board the day you plan on going shopping and the last day covered by your shopping trip. The program will pull all the ingredients in your recipes into a new list. To sort this list by section, click “Sort by Section.” Want to watch a video all about this? We did a Facebook Live right here.

Of course, there’s a fair bit more to the {IMH} Meal Planning Board this. But, this will help you dive in and get you started. Check out more in-depth information here.

Simple Sunday: Bento Box Lunch Prep

A sample Bento with meatballs, roasted fennel, cashews, tomatoes, dried cherries, sun dried tomatoes, and the ever-present egg.
A sample Bento with meatballs, roasted fennel, cashews, tomatoes, dried cherries, sun dried tomatoes, and the ever-present egg.

 

Meals outside the home can be difficult. Between dietary requirements, getting the food where it needs to go, and catering to likes and dislikes, preparing a meal meant to eat away from home can be a chore. The chore becomes harder when you focus on real food, and stocking cans of soup or buckets of ramen at work to heat up in the microwave aren’t good options for you.

Enter what we call the “Adult Bento Box.”

These beauties are inspired in part by the Japanese Bento Box, which has a little bit of everything. Although I love Japanese food (and other Asian cuisines as well), they’re not my favorite. But, there’s no reason the concept can’t be used for other flavors. My Bento Boxes are usually built on a leftover of some sort, be it a meat or a vegetable, and have small things added to them. I keep nuts, sundried tomatoes, and a small bit of a somewhat fancy cheese in the house just for these purposes. Herbs, green onions, and other veggies like carrots or fennel fronds also stick around to be added to these boxes to add flavor and texture.

For this week, I’m keeping my leftovers fresh by basing the Bento Boxes on a roasted fennel we made up on Saturday night. Monday’s Bento will have a Quinoa meatball in it, a few fresh cherry tomatoes, a handful of cashews, some chopped parsley, a boiled egg, a couple of dried cherries, and a couple of sundried tomatoes.

Meatballs, roasted fennel, and an egg ready to go for a lunch.
Meatballs, roasted fennel, and an egg ready to go for a lunch.

My meal plan this week includes a roasted eggplant salad tonight followed by some spinach dumplings tomorrow night. These, along with an egg, the fennel, and some pantry items, will be used to keep my Bento Boxes fresh all week long. With just a little bit of effort, leftovers are made new and fresh all week long, and I get a lunch full of wholesome, real food easily prepped the night before or even a few days in advance.

The Shopping List

A well-designed meal plan can keep you organized and keep you on track for any meal-related goals you may have. But, when you head to the grocery store, you have t know what to buy, and how much, in order to successfully implement your plan.

Enter the Shopping List.

A sample shopping list in action. This list is built off a meal plan.
A sample shopping list in action. This list is built off a meal plan.

When your plan is set up, click the Shopping List button on the main menu and start building your list based entirely on your plan. Click the “New Shopping List” button on the top left of the screen. Now let the program know the day you intend to go shopping and the last day the shopping trip will cover in your plan. Click “Save,” and take a preview of your shopping list.

Build your new shopping list with your parameters.
Build your new shopping list with your parameters.

Controlling Your Shopping List

Keep your shopping list organized with the controls at the bottom of the list.
Keep your shopping list organized with the controls at the bottom of the list.

From here, it’s all about control. Use the controls at the bottom of the list and next to the actual items to edit your list. At first, your shopping list will be sorted by alpha. However, you can also sort your list by Section. But, before you do, you’ll need to add Store Sections and Add Items to those sections. Start by “Adding a Store Section.” Common sections may include produce and the butcher. Your sections may be based on what you buy or where you shop: for example, our favorite grocery store has a bulk section, and we don’t buy much from the middle, so we call this “Condiments,” in our controls. When you have your section(s) set, you can add items to your sections. Click “Add Item to Store Section,” select the section, and type the item as it appears on your list. Yes, this process is tedious, especially at the beginning. But, it goes pretty quick. And, each week, you’ll find yourself adding fewer and fewer (if any) items to sections. Sort your list by section using the link at the top left: “Sort by Section.”

In our house, there are certain items that need to be purchased every week: milk, eggs, bacon, and yogurt are the main ones. We add these to meals, eat them as snacks, drink them, and just generally think having them around is a good idea. Click the double-circle icon next to any item to add it to your repeating items list. This item will show up every week, whether it’s in a recipe or not. To review your repeating items, Click the “Repeating Items” in the controls.

Each item itself can be controlled as well. Delete items you already have in the pantry (salt comes to mind) with the trashcan icon. Use the check mark to edit an item, to say increase or decrease the quantity based on what’s already in the pantry. And, as mentioned above, have an item show up every week by clicking on the double circle icon.

Need a new list, or a list for just one day? Click on “New List” and set your parameters, and go!

You can make a new Shopping List by using the controls or the link on the top left of the list, whichever you prefer.
You can make a new Shopping List by using the controls or the link on the top left of the list, whichever you prefer.

 

 

 

 

 

Ready to head to the store? Don’t forget to take your list with you. You can use the list right inside the Meal Planning Board. Or, use the “Print this List” link right next to the “Shopping List for…” title at the top of the list for a clean, printer-friendly list. Head off to the store confident you have everything you need right in front of you, and that nothing will be left behind at the store.

Jalapenos in Fish Sauce

Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that really just make things better. Years ago, we lived next door to a gentleman who taught us to finely slice or chop jalapenos and put them in fish sauce. The jalapenos can be pulled out and put on top of food to spice it up. Since they’ve sat in the fish sauce, they mellow out and bring a level of umami to the party they don’t have otherwise. The Fish Sauce itself can also be used sprinkled over rice (or anything else) or added to a recipe that calls for Fish Sauce.

Jalapenos in Fish Sauce, with more ready to go.
Jalapenos in Fish Sauce, with more ready to go.

Part of the beauty of this little sauce is how simple it is. The jalapenos can be replaced for nearly any pepper, from milder Aniheims or Poblanos to spicier Serranos all the way up to Thai Bird Chiles and Ghost Peppers, if you really want to add the spice. I love the flavor and the spice level of jalapenos, so I stick with them.

Sliced JalapenosIngredients

  • 3 – 4 jalapenos, sliced in half, seeds removed, and then thinly sliced. Full rings or chopped jalapenos work as well
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Make It!

Combine ingredients in a small mason jar. Adjust the amount of each ingredient to ensure the jalapenos are covered, and there is a generous but not overwhelming portion of sesame seeds in the jar. Shake well. Allow to sit for 20 minutes or so before using. This can also be stored in the fridge and used instead of hot sauce.

This recipe is available as a public recipe in the {IMH} Digital Meal Planning Board. Start your meal planning bliss today!

Quinoa Meatballs

Whew. It’s been a while since we posted a recipe. This one became a fast favorite as soon as we made it: Quinoa Meatballs. We got the inspiration from similar meatballs at Wholefoods, already prepared. Though they were tasty, the ground chicken that was used to make them was too dry for our liking. With a prescription for ensuring to include fat in my diet, opting for low-fat options just isn’t a good idea for me. So, we re-vamped what we ate.

The base recipe is pretty simple, with a ratio by volume of 50/50 ground pork to quinoa. It’s not an exact science, so if the ratio is a little off, not to worry. But, do err on the side of the meat being the higher ratio. Finely diced vegetables and a bit of parsley add flavor. And a couple of eggs add depth and richness as well as bind everything together.

These meatballs are pretty easy to change-up. Make it Asian with ginger and/or galangal. Simmer the meatballs in a lemongrass and coconut milk broth for a Thai influence. Go to Italy by adding rosemary and oregano to the meatballs themselves and serve them with a lovely marinara. Or head to Northern Europe with a cream broth. Toss in some nettles, borage, savory, or even spinach for extra greens. With a little imagination, these little meatballs can carry flavors from anywhere.

These rich, full meatballs are adaptable to other meats as well – ground chicken or turkey if you’re concerned about fat content, beef, lamb, bison, or a combination of meats. Just keep the ratio of ground meet to quinoa at or close to 50/50, and don’t forget the eggs. Keep in mind too the fat content of the meat itself is important. A leaner meat will result in a dryer meatball. Especially if the meatball is dry, you’ll want to serve the meatball smothered in a sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste

Make It

Combine ingredients together with hands or other preferred method (if using a small kitchen appliance, keep in mind the heat from the appliance may melt the fat in the meat). Roll meatballs to desired size (I recommend about 2 tablespoons per meatball). Brown on all sides in a skillet on medium-high heat and transfer to a 350F oven for 10 -15 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve on their own, smothered in something delicious, or with a dipping sauce on the side.

This recipe will be available as a public recipe on the {IMH} Meal Planning Board. Start your meal planning bliss today!

Your Meal Plan

What’s a Meal Planning Board without a plan? The heart of the program rests inside the Schedule. The recipes in your Recipe Collection build up your Plan, and your Plan will build your Shopping List. Friday isn’t quite over year. Let’s go through this feature, shall we?

Add your Recipe to your Meal Plan by selecting the date and meal you want to eat the food.
Add your Recipe to your Meal Plan by selecting the date and meal you want to eat the food.

First thing’s first: getting a recipe on to your meal plan. Head to the recipe you want to put on your plan. On the left hand side, select the date and meal the recipe should be on your plan. Then click “Save.” You’ll head back to your Recipe Collection automatically. Click on “Schedule” to see your plan in action, as it starts to shape up.

A sample, simple schedule with dinners for a week.
A sample, simple schedule with dinners for a week.

Your plan can be as detailed or as simple as you like. Here, you can see a simple plan that shows dinner for a week. Our own meal planning is centered around dinner, with leftovers building up lunches as well as subsequent dinners. In this sample Plan, the Bride’s Mole is built off of a roast chicken from the previous week, and the Cubanos on Friday are built off of the roast from Friday.

Scroll through weeks by clicking the "Next," and Previous" week buttons.
Scroll through weeks by clicking the “Next,” and Previous” week buttons.

You can do quite a bit more in your Schedule than take a look at what’s laid out for the week. Skip ahead to the next week or back to the previous week by clicking on the “Next,” and “Previous” buttons.

View all the recipes for a single meal.
View all the recipes for a single meal

 

 

 

 

Or take a look at a single meal by clicking on the specific meal. Whether you have one recipe, 10 recipes, or something in between for that meal, all the recipes show up in one spot for easy reference while cooking.

 

 

 

Remove an unwanted recipe from your plan.
Remove an unwanted recipe from your plan.

When you need to make a change, you can delete a recipe from your Plan by  clicking on the trash can next to each recipe in your plan. But, before you click that delete button, if you’re just trying to move the recipe to another day or meal, drag the recipe from the old to the correct location in your plan.

Your Customized Recipe Collection

Fridays are all about features. Each week, we’ll highlight a different feature of the {IMH} Meal Planning Board. Is there a feature you want to know more about? Leave a note in the comments or shoot us an email. This week’s feature is the Recipe Collection. It’s a place for all of your favorite recipes to call home. Click on “Recipes” to head to your collection.recipe list

 

What good is a list thoadd a recipeugh without items in it? Click on the “Add a Recipe” link at the top left to go to the form to add your recipe. Try not to be too scared here. I’ll walk you through all this white. The title is perhaps the most important, because it can’t be changed later. Each box is a place to put the corresponding description. Number of servings will become important in the near future with an upcoming feature that’s in testing. The “Component Title” is itself a neat little feature: this allows you to add multiple components to a single recipe (such as a chocolate drizzle that goes over a cake). It’s all one recipe, but, there are a couple of different components. This will keep them separated for you. Ingredients have to have a name in the “Ingredient” column. I know I never put a quantity or measure in “salt and pepper” in my savory recipes, as it’s “to taste,” (I put that in the “instructions” column – see below).

 

Perhaps my personal favorite aspect of the recipe collection is the source information for each recipe, down at the bottom of the form. This lets me know where I got the original recipe from, be it a website, a book, or a friend. It’s also a great research tool when diving in to multiple, similar recipes, as the true source can be traced.

When your recipe is entered, click on “Save.” You’ll head to a screen that will allow you to tag your recipetag list so you can find it later. Here’s the tag “Ham” in action, to your right. You can also add notes on this screen. Click on “Save” again, and you’ll head back to your Recipe Collection.

 

When you’re in your Recipe Collection, click on a recipe to view it. The recipe below is a simple gallette I cobbled together one night. In here, you can see how the recipe is tagged and diets that it fits inside of (when applicable). You can also add the recipe to your plan. Just give it a date and a meal and click on save. Add a new tag right from this screen as well. You can also edit the recipe (except for the name; remember when I mentioned to pay attention to that, yeah, not potato is forever spelled wrong in this recipe – a fix to that will be coming at some time in the future).recipe card

The recipe itself appears to the right, with ingredients and instructions all right where you’d expect them to be. Underneath the recipe is a section for notes. I use these to make notes on things I might want to change as I’m testing and using a recipe. Eventually, if and when I use the same changes multiple times and am happy with them, I’ll incorporate the note in to the recipe itself.

Whew that was quite a bit. I love keeping all the recipes we try, and the ones that are and have become family favorites, in one spot. I don’t flip through dozens of cookbooks anymore to try to find that one cucumber soup I made that one time. I also don’t have to hope a blogger didn’t take down a recipe that used to be up in favor of publishing it in a book that I haven’t purchased (yet). I keep the original source right there in the recipe, and get to keep all my notes. Though the cards don’t get stained by the food they make, which I admit I kind of miss, they’re always legible and grease stains don’t smear out ingredients.

*Note: all screenshots are from version 1.0.3, which was released in July of 2015. As the Meal Planning Board evolves, the exact look of the program may change slightly, though the functionality will remain the same. Rest assured that we’ll update with new screenshots when there are major changes.

Notes

What’s in a note? A reminder for the next time? A request from someone else? Small breadcrumbs left behind to be found and taken advantage of later.

Something crucial to recipe writing and development. Something the {IMH} digital meal planning board has a built-in solution for.

Recipe writing can be a long, difficult process. Adjust the chocolate in a recipe just a bit, and you end up with something fudgy and wonderful or a dry mess. Or perhaps your favorite flour substitute simply doesn’t work with the specific mix of ingredients in a particular recipe. No more forgetting! Keep track of your recipe use and development by adding and editing notes to the items in your collection.

Adding or editing a note to a recipe in your digital meal planning board is simple. Just Click on “Add Note,” at the top of any recipe, make your notes, and click “Save.” The note appears at the bottom of the recipe, as in the image above. When you come back to the recipe later, edit the not by clicking the check mark right by the note. Keep your old notes and add to them or remove irrelevant information.

add notenote

It’s your recipe. Keep it customized to you.

Now get out there and #conquerdinner!