Many of you know that I have highly recommended e-mealz.com in the past. And some of you took my advice and tried it...and didn't like it. Now, I completely understand that e-mealz is NOT for everyone. But, in thrashing it about in my brain I began thinking..."Why doesn't it work for everyone?" Well, I have come to the conclusion that in order to enjoy e-mealz like I do, you may have to...gasp...lower your standards! Yep, there I said it. I have low standards! :) Well, at least when it comes to menu planning and complete strangers planning it for me. If someone is going to hand me a week worth of meals and yet they have never met me, then I can assume that not all seven meals are going to suit my family's taste. I mean, come on, even the menus I plan don't suit all of my family! You have to see e-mealz as a GUIDE. It offers you suggestions, ideas, a framework from which to launch a menu. You have to be able to look at the ingredients for a meal and say, this works for me, and this doesn't and here is how I can make it work. OR...if there is nothing about the meal that works...I don't make it! You get two weeks at once when you sign up so you get 14 meals to plan 7 from. For me, I am not necessarily looking for 7 meals in a week to plan. I figure at least one meal a week may be frozen pizza or nuggets from Wendy's. Or I might have a standard meal of my own I want to use...like chili or soup night. SO, I typically hope to find 5 meals I like out of 7 (or 14 that first week.) Overall, you have to be able to tweak it to suit your family (like omitting mixed veggies from a casserole, or changing peas to carrots, or putting in whole wheat pasta for regular...). And you have to accept that not every meal will work. AND...if a menu is disappointing for more than two weeks...change plans. I found I like the WalMart regular menu and the Weight Watchers Wal Mart plan. Though e-mealz says you can only change once in a three month period, I have actually changed twice before without trouble.
It is also necessary to assess your goals. For me, I felt that for $5 a month, it was WELL worth the investment to come away with some new meal ideas. I mean, again, low standards served me well here. You figure in three months you will get about 90 meals. I merely hoped to come away with 15-20 recipes from that that I would make again. To me, those are good odds. And indeed, that has been pretty much right on. I love having a plan each night, even if I don't ever want to make that meal again. Dinner for that night was served. Move on. Try the next thing. Eventually something comes up a HUGE success and I highlight that one to have again...and again. According to Dave Ramsey (financial guru) e-mealz is a good budgeting idea. It plans meals for you meaning you can grocery shop once for all you will need without running back and forth to the store. And here is another reason some may not like e-mealz...it is based on economical meal planning. If you are a gourmet cook who uses organic menus you may not like e-mealz. They plan most meals based on time and money considerations. The average mother of a family uses soup and pasta and hamburger a lot. It is economical. Expect to find that in e-mealz. There is a good variety every week...but it is not gourmet! Sorry.
So, having said that...here are a few of my favorite recipes from e-mealz. I don't feel it is enough to hurt their business but rather hopefully enough to pique your interest and if nothing else, give you some dinner ideas that have been a hit here!
Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin (6 servings at 4 points each)
Combine 1T minced garlic, 2T brown sugar, and 2tsp Montreal steak seasoning (you can find this in spice section). Cut 1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin into 1" slices and dredge in mixture. Heat 1 1/2T light margarine in a large skillet over MEDIUM heat. Add pork, cook 5-6 minutes each side or until 160 degrees inside. Remove pork and add 1/3 cup red cooking wine(marsala or sherry works well) and 1 1/2T light margarine to skillet. Simmer one minute and pour over pork slices. DELISH!
Apples and Onion Chicken Bake (6 servings at 6 points each) try this...it is awesome.
Saute 3 medium thinly sliced apples (I used granny smith) and 2 large yellow onions, also thinly sliced in 2T light margarine 10 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a 9x13 sprayed baking dish. Combine 1/4t salt, 1/8t pepper, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs, and 1t dried thyme. Pound thin 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast. Then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture. Lay the chicken on top of the apples and onion. I sprinkle any remaining topping over the chicken. Drizzle 2T melted light margarine over chicken. Bake uncovered at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is done.
Chicken Parmesan (6 servings at 5 points each)
Combine 3/4 cup italian breadcrumbs and 1/2tsp salt in a shallow bowl. Dip 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts that you have pounded thin into 3 beaten egg whites (or I used egg beaters) and then into breadcrumb mixture. Heat 2tsp olive oil in a SPRAYED skillet and add chicken. Cook until browned but it doesn't have to be cooked all the way through...just most of the way. It will finish cooking in the oven and you don't want to dry it out. Place chicken in baking dish and cover with 14 ounce can of tomato sauce (or I used diced fire roasted tomatoes that I pureed). Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1 1/2T parmesan cheese. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. (Since we didn't saute chicken all the way until cooked, cut open a breast and make sure it is white all the way through. Mine was plenty done in 25 minutes.) I put this atop 2 oz cooked whole grain angel hair pasta with a little garlic powder and light margarine. DELISH!
Almond Crusted Tilapia (6 servings @ 6 points each)
Process 1/4 cup almonds in a processor until finely chopped. Combine with 1/3 cup flour and 1/2tsp salt. Dredge 6 tilapia filets into flour mixture. Heat 2T olive oil and 3Tlight margarine in large skillet on MEDIUM heat. Cook filets for 4 minutes on each side. Remove filets from skillet. Add 1/2 cup sliced almonds to skillet and toast for one minute and sprinkle over fish. (I would have added a little garlic powder to this or minced garlic I think though it was good without it.) I served this with long grain rice.
Pumpkin Walnut Pancakes (6 servings at 7 points each)
Combine 2 cups all purpose flour, 3T brown sugar, 1T baking powder, 1/2tsp salt. (I also added pumpkin pie spice...maybe 1-2 tsp to give it more flavor). Combine 1 3/4 cups skim milk, 3 eggs beaten, 3/4 cup canned pumpkin , and 2T oil. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together. Make pancakes (I assume you know how!). Sprinkle with 6t chopped walnuts if you desire...we did NOT desire! Serve with sugar-free or light syrup.
Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Pancakes (6 servings at 4 points each)
Prepare 6 servings of Aunt Jemima Original Pancake mix (I used a recipe from my cookbook, used whole wheat flour and omitted the white sugar.) Stir in 1tsp cinnamon and 4T brown sugar. Prepare pancakes!
Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin (6 servings at 4 points each)
Combine 1tsp pepper, 1T olive oil, 1tsp onion powder, 2T worcestershire sauce and 1T minced garlic and rub over 2lb pork tenderloin. Place in sprayed baking dish and COVER. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until 160 degrees inside. HELLO EASY!
Beef Pie ( not a WW menu meal)
In a skillet, brown 1 lb. ground beef and 1/4 cup chopped onions. Drain. Add 1 can mixed veggies , drained(I omitted this) and one can diced potatoes, drained and 8 oz Velveeta, cut into chunks. Mix well and pour into 2qt baking dish. In a skillet melt 2T butter. Add 2T flour and 1/2tsp salt. Stir with a whisk until blended, cook until bubbly. Gradually add 1 cup water and stir constantly. Cook until thickened. Pour over meat mixture. Press a can of crescent rolls together (or buy the new sheet thingys) and cover meat mixture with rolls. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.
SO there you have 8 meals! That should get you started and convince you that e-mealz does have something to offer. I mean, if all I got were these 8 meals (and there are more) then I'd be thrilled to have paid the $15 for it! OKAY...off my soap box now. Seriously, hope you try and like the recipes! Love, M.