unlike the freshman 15, The Fresh 20 is not about weight gain. it's an online meal plan that i recently heard about from alyssa. she'd been following the plan for 3 weeks and was describing how she logs in each friday to get the next week's meal plan complete with shopping list and prep guide. my first question was, "why would you pay for that when you could just create your own mealplan for free?" well, it's $5 a month - $1.25 per week's meal plans essentially. and the more she talked about the pros, the more i was intrigued. because though i say, "why not do it for free yourself?", i've been TALKING about meal planning for about 2 years now and have not done it once. well, that's not true - one time i sat down to do it and realized that i dislike most of the meals that i even make.
i signed up THAT night. and our lives have completely changed for the better.
okay - that sounds so dramatic but i'm completely serious. i make meals that have a only a handful of ingredients. is there a spice in the recipe? if it's not already in my pantry, i skip it. onions and garlic? i don't need to put those in since i don't like onions and that garlic smell stays with me for days. fancy ingredients? that recipe is not for me (see proof here). and half the days of the week, i forget to thaw the meat so i don't want to make dinner. or i let meat go bad in my fridge - a serious waste of food. essentially, i hate making dinner but i do want to eat.
enter The Fresh 20. 20 is the number of ingredients that you need to buy for the week (though there are 20 pantry staples that they assume you have on hand). they incorporate seasonal fruits and veggies so that you don't have to break the bank to buy asparagus in the middle of winter or something like that. also, while there is always one fish recipe (good for your brain!), they give you an idea for a substitute if you're anti-fish. (but we love fish and just didn't know how to cook it differently) then, they give you a prep guide so that you can chop all the veggies or cook all the rice or quinoa that you'll need that week and store it til you're ready for it. easy to do on a saturday or sunday afternoon. the meal plans are enough for 4 which is great for us because that means leftovers for tim's lunch the next day.
i got my first week's shopping list and it looked fairly straightforward. it took me awhile in the store to find all the right ingredients but my shopping was done for the week! meal #1, make bbq chicken (in the oven), then save half of it in a container for meal #3. i probably used more spices this first week than in all my years of making dinner combined. the first meal was bbq chicken with a warm corn orzo pasta salad. it was awesome. there was also salmon in there and there always seems to be one vegetarian meal on the last meal of the week (because how long is that meat going to stay good in your fridge, right?).
then week 2 - kind of a mexican theme to the week (because if two of your 20 ingredients are black beans and tortillas, more than one meal needs to use those) and it looks a little harder. in fact, the first meal had tomatillos in it. i didn't even know what tomatillos were. my initial feeling to this first recipe (chicken chili verde) was that i didn't want to make it BUT i needed half of the chili to add to my mexican lasagna on meal #3 so i googled a photo and went to find them at the grocery store. for the chicken chili verde, i had to fry the whole tomatillos, chunks of onion, and garlic in olive oil then BLEND them in a BLENDER until smooth. this is WAY too hard for the likes of me. but i did it. and it worked. and it actually wasn't that hard at all. a revelation!
week 3 was this past week. an italian theme. looking at the recipes, i was like, "i don't want to make any of these." (creamy basil polenta with an italian sausage ragu, tilapia with red pepper, caper, and mushroom sauce with brown rice, turkey scallopini with ricotta and spinach linguini, etc) Polenta? that sounds awful. red pepper, caper, and mushroom sauce? yuck. what is crazy is that i still went an bought the ingredients and made all the meals. because The Fresh 20 had not yet let us down. tim and i were loving the food and could not believe how good we'd been eating (the kids are a different story - after years of bland food, everything is too much flavour or strange looking). AND while the polenta wasn't my favourite, it WAS edible with the ragu. the tilapia with the pepper/caper/mushroom sauce was my favourite recipe that i have made so far. The Frech 20 comes through again!
so yes - next week will be week 4 for me and i'm love love loving it. that said, it's not as easy as i had first thought it to be. the first week was easy enough but many recipes are very involved right before serving which is always hard with kids. last night, i was boiling pasta, browning turkey cutlets, and trying to zest a lemon with avery hanging on my legs and ben rolling around on our teeny kitchen floor. then i had to get the turkey off the pan, and cook red pepper, spinach, and garlic while making the ricotta sauce which was lots of measuring spices and squeezing lemon juice. these things are definitely more difficult with the kids going squirely. by the time i sat down to dinner, my pasta was cold and neither child would eat more than one bite. so there's always those nights...HOWEVER, if i'm alone in the kitchen, most of the meals only take about 30 minutes to cook completely which is awesome. it means that i can wait for tim to get home to hang out with the kids and still eat at a decent time. we've been eating at 5:30pm most nights which gives us time for a walk to the park or to play with the kids before their bedtime at 7pm. (and really, my kids didn't eat many of my old meals either.)
this week's menus includes Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Roasted asparagus in balsamic brown butter and Spicy Mango Shrimp with coconut sauce and brown rice. who knows? after years of categorizing myself as a non-foodie, one of these days, i could surprise myself!