GISHy Meal Plan.

GISH, what is GISH? Simply put for the newcomer it’s a week long international scavenger hunt. For a full fledged GISHer its a whole week wrapped in weirdness and chaos but above all; fun. So much fun that many of us go through withdrawals afterward because we aren’t doing/planning something weird.

In the weeks leading up to the hunt the burning question from the newbies is always; what do I do to get prepared? The typical response is to gather supplies. A prepared GISHer needs dryer lint, googly eyes, yarn, cardboard, paint, hot glue and a stormtrooper costume if you have one (I told you it was weird). Myself I prepare by gathering art supplies, setting out the first aid kit and making a meal plan. GISH brain usually sets in on day two, meaning I have to remind myself to stay hydrated, get some rest and eat. Meal planning and prepping assures that I eat but also gives me a sense of control in the mayhem which keeps my mental state in good standing. This post is only about the meal plan, the prep work and cooking for hunt week can be found here. Don’t worry I’ll repeat the link at the end.

That time Misha asked me to learn something new.

Alrighty – That’s why I meal plan, so now lets talk about how I meal plan. I try to pick meals and ingredients that can be prepared ahead of time without sacrificing quality. These meals don’t require any fancy skills or baby sitting, unless of course there is a GISH item to make a five course meal – I don’t see the need. Additionally these meals don’t rely heavily on processed foods, those can be great time savers it’s just not something I like to do.

Here is my meal plan for this years hunt ( I usually don’t plan this far in advance but I wanted to share) . Feel free to follow it to the letter, or use it as a rough guide adding and subtracting meals in a way that suits your needs. I also understand that not everyone has the same finances, some have likely already poured their monthly food budget into googly eyes. Again – this is what works for me and how I like to get ready for GISH.

Other meals I have done in the past; sheet pan chicken fried rice, Vietnamese noodle bowls, hot dogs with store bought sides, mushrooms steak with gravy, spaghetti and cobb salad.

To save time when I’m at the store, and to ensure I don’t overlook anything, I write my list in the same order as the grocery store. I typically shop the day before the list drops.

Veggies

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Stir fry veggies, I usually get a bag from fresh produce but feel free to get frozen veggies
  • Cilantro
  • Head of romaine (or already shredded lettuce)
  • 2 Large white onions
  • Couple of shallots but a small sweet onion works too
  • Jalapenos
  • Limes
  • Any taco topping preferences like avocado, or pico
  • Depending on what looks good I’ll grab some fruit and veggies for snacks.

Meat

  • 3 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2, 1lb each, flank steaks
  • 1lb ground beef

Dairy

  • 8oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 16oz Mexican cheese blend
  • 16oz Ricotta cheese
  • Sour cream for tacos

Non-perishables

Obviously these can be picked up whenever, many of which might already be in the pantry.

  • 1 large can of Enchilada sauce
  • Stir fry sauce (I like to make my own)
  • Marinade for carne asada (I make my own, but I’ll tell you how to doctor store bought)
  • Corn or flour tortillas (enough for tacos, enchiladas, and carne asada)
  • Linguini (fresh or dry, fresh will cook faster so sometimes I spring for that )
  • Lasagna noodles (fresh or dry)
  • Big jar of marinara
  • Italian seasoning
  • Taco rub, not a seasoning packet cause gross
  • Instant rice
  • 2 cups of chicken stock/broth, unsalted is best
  • From the freezer section I will also pick up a few frozen burritos, a pizza and Klondike bars. Cause you know ice cream.

If it’s not already obvious I am a planner at heart. At this point you might have a pretty good idea of where I am going with meal prep. If you are still curious, and as I mentioned above, the post with all the prep work can be found here. Otherwise I hope this was helpful with preGish preparations, even if you just said “oh snap I gotta get googly eyes”.

Bonus Content
If you feel like you just need a little help getting organized, I have a meal plan and grocery list printables in my Etsy Shop.

That time Misha invited me to high noon tea.

GISHy Meal Prep

Still with me cause here is where it gets crazy? Just joining catch up by taking a look at my GISHy meal plan. Alrighty – I am gonna walk you through each day and what I do.

Saturday – Pizza night

It’s the first night, my head is usually spinning as I try to get a grasp on all the Damnit Mishas the next week has in store for me. Pizza night, whether it’s frozen or delivery, it’s a simple way to kick off the hunt.

Prep

I know it’s nuts to take a chunk of time away from the hunt but I usually do the prep Sunday morning. Saturday is out of the way with a pizza night and it gives me time to think about the items I’ve claimed. There of course is some wiggle room in the timeline this is just what works best for me. Starting Sunday morning also makes sure the meals will be fresh for the week ahead. I worked very hard to put this in the order that I think will flow best, it’s obviously not iron clad so yeah – do whatever you want.

I like to start with the vegetable prep first.

  • Shred the head of lettuce and store in the fridge.
  • Chop the cilantro (about a cup and a half). Store about 1/2 cup of it in the fridge for later, and place the remainder in a gallon ziplock bag.
  • Slice the lime into wedges for squeezing over tacos or putting into gin and tonics, store in the fridge.
  • Before moving on to the messy stuff this is a good time to slice up any fruit or veggies you may have gotten for a snack. Orange slices are always nice.
  • Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and put them into a container with a lid.
  • Finely chop the shallots, place in a small ziplock, then tuck them in with the tomatoes. Toss em in the fridge.
  • Chop both of the white onions. Put half in with the cilantro and set the other half aside.
  • Remove the seeds from the jalapeno, chop and add it to the bag with the onions and cilantro.

Next I like to move on to the sauces and marinades.

  • Make the stir fry sauce if you are doing so. I like to use lime juice, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, ginger, garlic and a little brown sugar. A container with a tight lid makes it easy to shake the sauce and mix it.
  • If making your own enchilada sauce now is the time. My husband prefers the canned stuff so that is what I do.
  • Next I make the carne asada marinade. I typically use all kids of citrus juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, lots of spices and then pour it over the onions, cilantro and jalapenos. If you got premade, be sure to doctor the sauce by incorporating the onions and what not.

Finally I move on to the meat.

  • Cook and shred 2lbs of the chicken. Add Italian seasoning to half of the shredded chicken and store it in the fridge.
  • Using the other half of the shredded chicken assemble the chicken and cheese enchiladas. Save some of the Mexican cheese for tomorrows tacos. These can be stored in the fridge or freezer, just be sure to pull them out mid week so they can thaw.
  • Finally rub the remaining chicken breasts really well with the taco seasoning and a little oil. These can be grilled, sliced and stored now or cooked off tomorrow.
  • Slice one flank steak for stir fry. I usually season it with salt and pepper before tossing it into the fridge to chill before dinner time.
  • Put the other flank steak in the carne asada marinade. Smush it around real good and place it in the fridge. This is always best if marinated two days.
  • Remember that second onion that got chopped? Brown the ground beef in a skillet with the onion. Break the meat up with a wooden spoon. While it cools cook the lasagna noodles and, yep, assemble that lasagna with the mozzarella and .ricotta and giant jar of marinara. This can also go in the freezer getting pulled out mid week.

I can usually do all of this start to finish (including clean up) in less than 3 hours. This gets all the heavy lifting out of the way before the hunt gets into full swing.

That time Misha asked me to fish for a compliment.

Sunday – Stir Fry Beef and Veggies

Stir fry the sliced flank steak with the sauce and veggies of your choice. Serve over white rice and call it done!

Monday – Chicken Tacos

It’s chicken taco night! I know it’s not Tuesday but it’s also not a normal week. If you haven’t already done so, cook the chicken and slice it. Assemble the tacos with the shredded lettuce, tortillas and whatever other toppings you may have scored. Squeeze of lime and your done.

Tuesday – Carne Asada

By now your brain is getting really GISHy but that’s okay cause that flank steak is gonna be so tender. Reserve the marinade and toss that steak on the grill. While that is happening bring the marinade to a light simmer. This makes the most fabulous sloppy sauce, sometimes after we slice the steak we will dip in in the sauce real quick. Assemble those tacos with sliced steak, lettuce (I know it’s not traditional but it holds the sloppy sauce), cilantro, s and whatever else.

Wednesday – Chicken Pasta in light sauce

Pasta is a comfort food anytime, but it’s especially nice mid hunt week. Start a pot of water for the pasta, don’t forget to season it. In a heavy dutch oven heat a generous tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Once the olive oil is shimmery add the tomatoes and shallot. Stir until the tomatoes start to break down and get wrinkly, this happens pretty quick since they were sliced in half. Add the chicken broth and cook until the sauce reduces by half. Toss in the shredded Italian seasoned chicken to reheat it. Meanwhile cook the pasta and add that in with the chicken. Toss in a splash of pasta water if the sauce isn’t lose enough to coat everything, it’s not gonna be a heavy or thick sauce. Taste and season as needed. This is also a prime opportunity to use up fresh basil that has been growing like a weed all summer.

Psst – pull the meals in the freezer out.

Thursday – Chicken and Cheese Enchilada

Bake it at 350C until it’s heated all the way through, cover them with foil if they look to be getting to dry. This is the home stretch, lets not burn dinner or complicate things now.

Friday – Lasagna

Rinse and repeat from Thursday. Bake at 350C until it’s heated all the way through. If the edges start to brown cover the pan lightly with foil.

Saturday

You have made it to the last day – it’s Saturday. Saturday is usually leftovers or take out or a nervous breakdown; one time it was a pizza made to look like the celling of the Sistine Chapel.

I’m always exhausted, pushing that last bit out, but at the same time so immensely proud of myself and my team. There will be no doubt that we made a difference, infused the world with a little more kindness and did a lot of weird stuff. Well the first week of August, not only do you know what I’ll be doing but you now know what I’ll be eating.

Want to know more about GISH? Have a GISH story to tell? Try my meal plan and love/hate it? Let me know in the comments.

Bonus Content
Something else I do that I find immensely helpful. I set out all the containers I’m gonna need with sticky notes that say what goes in what. Then I use the notes to label the shelves in the fridge. I’m super short and it helps me to find what I might not be able to see shoved to the back.

5 things to make with Zucchini

Here in southeastern NC we are starting to see spring weather; the trees are blooming, robins are frolicking and allergy meds are being dispensed. It’s also time for me to start planning my spring plantings, most importantly the garden. With the backyard getting more shade these days I don’t have as much space as I used to, so I stick with a small herb garden and some tomatoes.

However one year I recall making a dreadful mistake of planting to much zucchini. My garden looked like a submarine flotilla and for whatever reason the only technique of consumption I had was to sauté them with onions, that got old.

Although I’m not gonna be planting zucchini again anytime soon, I don’t want y’all to get stuck in the same position as me. So here are my 5 favorite things to make with zucchini, and it’s not bread cause that stuff is just gross.

Zucchini fries are the absolute bomb. There are a zillion variations, but I like them rolled in parmesan cheese and herbs, then baked or broiled. Crispy cheesy on the outside and juicy on the inside – what’s not to love about that?

Roasted veggie primavera is a great comfort food. I prefer to roast squash, red onion, red peppers and asparagus in addition to the zucchini. Bring it all together by tossing the vegetables with a short pasta like penne and velvety sauce. Finish that with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. It’s a delicious weeknight meal or phenomenal side to a grill chicken breast.

One word – fritters. Preparation takes some time and patience but it’s worth it in the end. The secret is to get as much of the moisture out of the shredded zucchini as possible. After salting and allowing some of the moisture to draw out I will pile it in the middle of a big flour sack towel, gather and twist, using the leverage to squeeze out nearly all of the water. Fluffy crispy fritters every time.

I’ll admit to not actually fixing this next one myself but spiralized zucchini noodles with a good tomato sauce and garlic bread is terrifically simple, and everything is better with garlic bread. Pre-spiralized veggies can be purchased at the grocery store frozen and often fresh, making this speedy week night meal to bring together. Oh and don’t forget the parmesan cheese, since that seems to be theme here.

Although these are all good ideas, vegetable tian is hand down my favorite way to use summer vegetables. Olive oil, fresh herbs, zucchini, red onions, eggplant and tomatoes baked at a low temp until it’s sweet like a vegetable jam. Serve this with slices of crusty bread for scooping it right out of the baking dish.

There you have it my overzealous zucchini planting readers, stuff to do with zucchini that isn’t gross (zucchini bread) or boring (sautéed with onions).

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

MixTape!

With both of us working from home I moved my desk out to the dinning room table. Being in the main part of the house during work hours is distracting, but not with out it’s rewards. Like my record collection!

Here is what I’ve been listening to lately.

2001 A Space Odyssey soundtrack; I know that’s an odd choice but with it’s eerie haunting sounds it can be big pre-coffee mood.

In keeping with soundtracks, currently spinning is James Bond Greatest Hits, circa 1982.  That’s right Goldfingaaaahhhhh at max volume with accompaniment by yours truly.

I have quite a bit of my parents collection and they were hippies, with a capital long hair and patchouli.  Into the fold that brings the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Crosby Stills and Nash, and who doesn’t love some Elton and his yellow brick road.

I started my jazz/blues collection by buying a lot off ebay, 30 records for $30 and free shipping.  Some artists I knew some I came to really enjoy.  Recently on the table Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman.  I have so many of their records and honestly love each of them.

Occasionally I do pick up newer artists that have started to reembrace the vinyl age.  I’m obsessed with Honey, Honey’s sound.  I have “3” on vinyl and listen to it often.

So that’s what I have been listening to in the last week or so.  I’ve also slowly started adding my collection to DiscoG so you can find me there, username ElizaN,  if you want to see more.  Happy Listening.

5 Things to Early Spring Clean

The post holiday season always puts me in the mindset for early spring cleaning. Typically I make a huge list of everything that needs a deep clean, refresh, or good purging. Completing the list is a huge endeavor and going into this new year I seem to be busier than I expected. So I narrowed it down to my top five efforts. Much of this is done and the post probably would have been more significant two weeks ago, but don’t judge – just enjoy.

I might be projecting a bit but – Clean out your nasty fridge! At this point, I have either adopted a healthier new year’s lifestyle resolution or forfeited back to sweatpants. There is either kale languishing in the crisper or freezer burnt ice cream next to the corn. Either way, it likely could use a good cleaning. I take everything out of the fridge, wipe down all the surfaces and reorganize it. Compost anything that has left the building and recycle empty containers.

Winter clothes. As I sit here clutching hot tea and wondering if the heat is gonna shut off anytime soon, it seems like the wrong time of year to get rid of winter clothes. It’s not, and here are two reasons why. First; by now I know if I’m going to wear something. My rule is, knowing how it fits now and looks would I buy it again. If the answer is no – out it goes. Second; Consignment shops are still taking cool weather items. Sell that lovely sweater that hugs the muffin top a little wrong.

The makeup horde drawer. There was no reason I made this an early spring cleaning priority other than it needed to be done. Much like the fridge I took everything out, wiped all the surfaces clean, and organized my stash, tossing old stuff or colors I didn’t care for. I also found an interesting deposit of a pink shimmery gold powder in the corner of the drawer that I have no idea where it came from.

Ceiling fan. This is another one of those for no reason other than it really needs to be done. We use our ceiling fans in the main part of the house year-round. I think when I’m not looking the dog floats up there and lives his fluff on them. So so so gross. Vacuuming the dust helps with my allergies so I try to tackle the fans before hay fever season (okay so I guess I do have a reason to do them for early spring cleaning).

The last thing I tackled – digital storage. Even with the pandemic minimizing events and gatherings I still seemed to take a ton of pictures this last year. (that’s code for my dog is cute). I also have a terrible habit of taking screenshots to remind me of something, forgetting anyway and not deleting the screenshot. Deleted unwanted useless screenshots, memes, and blurry photos. Then I make a copy (or move depends on my mood) everything over to my external drive after making sure they have made it to the googly cloud.

So that’s it. That’s my master plan to take over the world by dusting one ceiling fan at a time.

Picture of the dog for attention and to demonstrate the truth behind how I mange to fill my phone up so quick.

Spoiler Alert – I’m a terrible introvert.

North Carolina has moved to Phase 2. This means, for those of us that are ready, self isolation can start coming to an end gently making way for social activities. Before self isolation I thought I was a perfectly good introvert. I was going to clean closets, detail my car, learn the accordion, brush up on my very remedial Japanese, make fancy dinners and the list went on. Being someone that worked from home and didn’t tend to go ‘out and about’ it felt like an introvert paradise.

Spoiler alert – I’m a terrible introvert.

It was novel at first. I straightened up a closet, tackled a yard project even started that book languishing on my night stand. Then work slowed down so I lost some structure there, the husband was home everyday continuing to blur the lines between days. Meal planning brought no joy because the stores were struggling to keep their supplies consistent. My muscle memory wasn’t capable of assimilating anything new so the accordion became confusing. Things that brought me joy just didn’t, not anymore.

I sat down at my sewing machine on a Saturday, one of my most favorite things to do; play in my fabric stash and create something new. We needed fabric masks, I found a pattern that I liked, spent time selecting and cutting fabric. I was gonna make something and it was gonna be awesome, surely this would cheer me up and add purpose to my day. I finished, proudly looked at my new fabric masks in polka dots, stripes and peacock feathers – I felt worse, so much worse. I was frustrated I didn’t feel better, frustrated I had to spend time sewing for a pandemic. I didn’t want to sew because of a pandemic, I wanted to sew because I wanted to sew. I was devastated and felt lost.

I don’t even know how to explain the weeks that followed, I was just kinda going through the motions feeling like a terrible introvert. I’m very thankful for the relationship with my therapist. We talked about integrating the new normal, being okay with going with the flow and (what turned out to be most important) being kind with myself. I jokingly called it being mindful to be mindful. Mostly just oodles of conscience reminders that I’m resilient, flexible and can do hard things (cause this is hard).

I’ve not perfected it, and I’m sure I’ll wreck it a few more times – otherwise it wouldn’t be a process. I’ve been enjoying time with the neighbor ladies, we sit outside keeping a social distance appreciating each others company. Giggled myself into hysterics over some really strange but informative scientific research about bats. Amused myself with puzzles, new cookbooks from different regions and reading my first graphic novel.

For the first time in a while I feel content.

Bow ties, chicken thighs and a tradition dies.

This dog! Who would have thought he would look so cute in his bow tie. Okay so I never doubted it. He needs a red plaid one for Christmas.

Newest revelation in the kitchen; chicken thighs. No seriously, I’ve never been a fan until recently. Now I’m nearly obsessed with them and finding the perfect way to cook them. I have done BBQ sauce on the grill, lemon buttery BBQ baked, skillet sweet and sour, and a few other disasters, I mean experiments. So far my favorite is cooking them in a skillet with a honey lime sauce. It’s sweet, tangy and juicy. Totally perfect. Once I feel like I’ve nailed it, I’m gonna share!

Speaking of changing things up and trying something new, we have always done a Thanksgiving dinner at our house. In recent years this has become more difficult to coordinate and, if we are being honest, personal reasons to much to endure. This year we are joining a local church body to deliver Thanksgiving meals rather than eating one! Not looking for any validation just encouraging others that’s it’s okay to break tradition once in a while, they can always be revisited later.

Weirdness, Gishness and DragonCon

I had a terrific and busy summer filled with exceptional friends and big adventure. I wish I had blogged as the summer went but, I guess I was so excited to be in the moment that I forgot in a weird way.

Speaking of weird I went to Charlotte with my friend Jennifer to see Weird Al Yankovic’s Strings Attached show. The word phenomenal isn’t even enough. He is tremendous, a complete showman with costume changes, running through the audience, sitting in some ladies lap, he even rode a segway across the stage. All of this while being backed by a 40 some piece orchestra and his band. I had fun can you tell.

Shortly after that it was time for the annual GISH scavenger hunt. If you’ve paid attention in the past then you know it’s always chaos coupled with merriment to yield some pretty strange scavenger hunt ‘finds’. I think my favorite item this year was fishing for a compliment, mostly cause I liked the cheesy pick up like we used. “If you were a box of crayons you’d be the giant name-brand one with the buily in sharpener”. Oh man! HA!

Once I finally got my house back in order (a week long scavenger hunt takes it’s toll) it was time to get ready for DragonCon. This was my second time attending and I had a blast. My husband and I stayed in a host hotel putting us in the thick of the excitement and rabble-rousing. Favorite panel; gosh it’s hard to pick but i think the Farscape one. I fan girled so hard over – not Ben Browder – but Brain Henson. Cosplay is always fun, I worked really hard on my RamboBrite outfit, and probably harder painting a nerf gun gold and red glittery. Although I’m probably most proud of the last min 80s prom costumes I put together, even bleached those jeans!

Binge Cleaning, Doggy Noses, and Satisfied Cravings

I love a successful task master cleaning sessions. We are expecting company in a few days and what’s the best way to get ready; make sure they don’t have to look at my filth! Well as long as they don’t look on top of the fridge or in the garage. So yep – that was how I spent the weekend.

However, the one thing I can’t seem to get ahead of is dog hair. Boomer has been doing nothing but shedding the past few weeks, and I do mean nothing. He is adorably lazy just like a pupper should be. He also likes to insert himself in all activities, here I am trying to take a picture of the new run to send to my husband, but wait – dog nose.

Time and again I’ve said I want to take a foodie tour of Wilmington exclusively eating shrimp tacos. It’s shrimp and it’s tacos, how can this ever be a bad thing. My current favorite is Fish Bite’s blackened shrimp tacos with a side of their Thai sauce. Here I even indulged in zucchini fries.

Buggos, Doggos, and Avocados

It’s been a pleasant week so far here in SE NC. Not too warm and the breeze is pleasantly swift most afternoons. So much so that teeny tiny praying mantis have been blowing out of the trees and onto the deck. I’ve found them on my clothes, the dog and in the planters. Isn’t it just adorable.

Speaking of critters; our new pup Boomer is curious about everything. We decided a trip the Carolina Beach marina might be fun for him. The marina has walking trails, a campground, and a little strip of “beach” which is where we went. I don’t know how he managed to muster up the volume, but he tinkled on everything. Every blade of grass, a random stump, some rocks, dead crabs, a rouge seashell or two …. all of it. I think he liked it.

Food post! I’m always reluctant to partake in a fad, it’s not that I’m a rebel with a cause don’t follow the masses person, I guess I’m just hesitant to change my routine for something new and unknown. Like avocado toast… it just kinda sounded gross to me especially since having only recently deciding I liked the “dragon eggs”. Sure enough, it’s tasty! Mashed up avocado, slathered on toasted sourdough bread, itty bitty tomatoes and a generous sprinkling of everything bagel seasoning. Drool.