How I Use Evernote for Meal Planning

Seven weeks after my headfirst dive into cooking and I’m still at it. I use Evernote extensively to keep it all organized, and it has been a lifesaver. Here’s how I stay organized through each step of the cooking process.

Storing and organizing my recipes

Every recipe I cook is stored in Evernote. I occasionally tag them with things like “quick” or write notes at the top, but for the most part it’s just nice to have everything all in one place. I can also add pictures if the recipe doesn’t provide one, which makes for a nice way to browse through recipes.

Some of my recipes in Evernote Touch
Some of my recipes in Evernote Touch

On the weekend I sit down and plan three meals for the week. In addition to planning nutritionally balanced meals, I’m often trying to use up some leftover ingredients from the week before. Being able to search my recipes quickly is great, I just search for “spinach” and everything using spinach pop up.

With the Evernote Web Clipper extension for Chrome I can save any recipe directly to Evernote. It saves both the text of the recipe and the URL, so I can always refer back to the original if I need to, but if it disappears or changes down the line I’ve still got my copy.

An enchilada recipe from a cookbook
An enchilada recipe from a cookbook

Cookbook recipes can be stored as an image, just snap a photo of the recipe and upload it to Evernote. The image is then processed and you can search by the words that appear in the image. I generally just get the recipe title and ingredients list, and then note the page number if it’s not visible in the photo. Then I can find the recipe easily when it’s time to cook.

Making a grocery list and shopping

Once I’ve decided what to cook for the week I sit down with the recipes and make a grocery list. Occasionally when I get to the store I hit a snag, like realizing there are multiple types of a certain ingredient. Evernote syncs my recipes to my phone, so I can pull up the recipe and figure out what I need. If I’m really in a bind and it’s an internet recipe I can pull up the original page’s comments and see if there are any suggestions for substitutions.

You can also save your grocery list in Evernote, but since my husband often does the grocery shopping and doesn’t have a smart phone I still do mine on paper. I also find it really satisfying to cross things off by hand.

Cooking Day

Google Calendar is my favorite way of keeping track of what I plan to cook when. If something unexpected comes up I can just drag and drop that day’s meal to tomorrow. It also provides a good reality check: if I have a day full of meetings I’m probably not going to have time to cook that Barefoot Contessa recipe.

I have a hybrid laptop/tablet so when it’s time to cook I put it into “tablet mode” to display the recipe and get to work. I can add notes or make changes to the recipe as needed and they’re automatically saved for next time. When recipes don’t pass muster (I’m looking at you, cheddar cheese stuffed chicken breasts) I just delete them. Goodbye, bad recipe!


Cooking, Recipes

Egg White Breakfast Muffins

In an effort to cut down on sugar I’ve replaced my yogurt and granola breakfast with egg “muffins.” They’re really more like a crustless quiche but they’re made in a muffin tin, and make a really good brain-dead breakfast with plenty of protein. You can make them with whatever ingredients you’ve got handy, and I’ve tried a bunch of different combos, including whole eggs, but the recipe below is my favorite so far.

Egg White Breakfast Muffins

Makes 8 egg “muffins”



  • 8 egg whites1
  • A handful of baby spinach, chopped
  • 2 mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese2
  • 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp pepper or to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisking with a fork, combine egg whites, spinach, and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Divide egg mixture evenly into eight spaces of a muffin tin (if not using a nonstick tin, spray with oil or cooking spray first). Top each cup with cheddar cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until just beginning to brown at the edges.


I find they come out best if I only fill the cups about half way. Beyond that they get very tall and puffy in the oven, and then collapse like a bounce house at the end of a carnival.


The muffins keep well in the fridge. In the morning just pop one in the microwave for a minute and you’re good to go. You can also freeze them, just make sure you allow them to cool before freezing to minimize the formation of ice crystals.


If you’re using whole eggs you may get more like 10 or 12 muffins out of the recipe, but here’s the nutrition breakdown using the above ingredients:

42 calories
1g carbohydrates
2g fat
6g protein
<1g sugar and fiber3

As a delightful surprise, these are toddler approved! I’m not sure how much longer we’ll go before she notices the spinach and starts to pick it out, but for now it’s a great way to sneak some veggies into my almost-two year old.

  1. If you don’t have another use for the yolks I really suggest eating them instead of wasting them, they’re good for you. []
  2. Full fat cheese works too, of course []
  3. you get a little from the veggies but not much []
Cooking, Recipes

Super Delicious Crock Pot Indian Curry

While I’m no longer cooking 4 new recipes a week, I’m still cooking a whole bunch. This Indian-style curry recipe is one of my favorites so far. Chopping all the ingredients is a little time consuming, but it’s a great slow cooker meal and very worth it. It also happens to be vegan! You can find the original recipe here. I’ve listed the quantities of stuff I use here, which vary slightly from the original.


  • Dash of olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • knuckle-sized chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic1
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • a big handful of green beans, cut into 1 inch lengths
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes ( 14.5 oz can)
  • 1 can vegetable broth (14 oz)
  • 3 big handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 can coconut milk

2014-02-22 10.15.36

First, heat some olive oil in a pan. Cook the carrots and onions in the oil until the onions begin to transluce (5ish minutes)

2014-02-22 10.25.58

Then add the sugar, garlic, curry powder, and serrano pepper. Mix everything well and cook until everything has a nice brown to it (another minute or two). Remove from heat.

2014-02-22 10.27.47

Put the green beans, potato, chickpeas, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, salt, pepper (both kinds) and bell pepper into your crock pot. Add the carrot-and onion mixture and stir everything up really well.

2014-02-22 10.36.14

Cook everything on high for 5 hours. When you’re ready to serve, add the spinach and coconut milk and mix well. You can serve this with rice, but since the potatoes have plenty of starchy carbs I usually skip the rice entirely.

  1. I use the stuff in a jar because I am lazy []

Understanding Sugar

I’ve started tracking the foods I eat, and this time around I’m paying a lot more attention to the balance of macronutrients in my diet. I noticed I was consistently way over my suggested limit of 24 grams (a number auto-selected by MyFitnessPal). I tried to modify my eating to keep it under target.

©Emilie Hardman
©Emilie Hardman

But once I started paying attention to sugar, it was everywhere. Not just in the sneaky sugary foods (store bought pasta sauce, bread), but also my favorite whole foods. A banana, hard boiled egg, and a bowl of vegetable soup were enough to put me over my sugar limit for the day and I hadn’t even had dinner yet. The one day I did manage to keep under 24 grams more than half my calories came from fat (MFP wants it more like 30%). Adding even a small amount of honey to tea blew the whole day in one go. So I asked a nutritionist friend of mine: what’s the deal with sugar? She told me that the 24 gram goal refers to added sugar, and not to worry too much about the sugar in fruits and vegetables.

So then I did a whole bunch of reading, and here’s what I came up with.1

The American Heart Association suggests that women have no more than 25g of added sugar in their daily diet. Added sugar refers specifically to “sugars and syrups that are added to foods during processing or preparation.” The linked report is quick to note that added sugar is not inherently evil. In fact, when used sparingly, added sugar can be a great way to get people to enjoy nutrient-rich foods that may not be very palatable.

As far as total sugar intake (including intrinsic2 sugar), the EU suggests limiting it to 90g out of a 2000 calorie diet. Since I’m on a 1200 calorie diet, that translates to 54g, no more than half of which should be from added sugar. Nutrition labels do not distinguish between intrinsic sugars and added sugar. For a number of political and logistical reasons, this is unlikely to change any time soon. Fructose and glucose are found both intrinsically and as added sugar, and are chemically the same whether they’re coming to you from a strawberry or slice of white bread.  But wait, if it’s all the same stuff why does it matter where it’s coming from?

To understand this I had to read a bunch about glycemic load and glycemic index. My understanding of it is limited, but foods with a higher glycemic index (often those with added sugar) cause a blood sugar spike (and crash) whereas those with a low GI release sugar into the bloodstream on a more gradual basis. Blood sugar spikes are generally not good for you. They cause stress on your body and are linked to a variety of ailments including type 2 diabetes. An apple has about 23g of sugar, whereas a candy bar has just a few more (27 for snickers) but the much higher GI of the candy bar means the candy has significantly higher glycemic load. Your body has a harder time dealing with the candy bar than the apple, not to mention the fiber and other nutrients present in the apple that the candy bar lacks.

The upshot of this is not that all sugar is evil. Sugar is something your body needs. But it’s important to keep an eye on how much sugar you’re getting and where it’s coming from. A banana in the morning before I run is fine. Three isn’t. Hitting up the candy jar at grandmom’s probably isn’t worth it. When I started paying attention to sugar intake I lost a few pounds immediately. Not stuffing my face with peanut butter cups, even if I have enough calories left in the day, has been the difference between frustration and feeling like I’m making real progress.

  1. I am not in any way formally trained in this stuff, this is collected from a variety of sources, and probably has some major errors. I’m trying to make sense of what is an overwhelming amount of information on the topic, gentle correction is appreciated. []
  2. I am specifically referring to the sugar found in fruits and veggies as intrinsic because I do not want to give the false impression that added sugar is unnatural or artificial. Added sugar comes from a variety of sources, many of which are totally natural. []

Dinner Week 3

Between illness and snow days it was not an inspiring week for cooking. We ate a bunch of leftovers, and actually managed to refrain from eating out, but I confess it wasn’t my best week in terms of healthy meals. Once again I have failed at photographing things. Honestly, they weren’t too photogenic.

Easy Skillet Tacos

Cooked Monday. Recipe from Southern Living.


Despite the word “easy” in the title, this recipe was written in a way that made it about 4 times more complicated than it had to be. I see absolutely no reason to remove the beef from the skillet, wipe it out, cook some onions in it, and then add the beef back in. Just sautee the onions in a small pan first and then add them to the beef. The layer of cheese on top was excessive (even after draining it’s still a greasy pile of ground beef) and I would have vastly preferred to just add a pinch of shredded cheese to each taco.

I probably won’t bother making this one again. There are better ways to make beef tacos.

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Cooked Wednesday. Recipe from


Turkey chili remains a go-to recipe. It’s easy, it’s filling, and it’s not particularly terrible for you (especially if you resist the urge to cover it in cheese). This particular recipe was new to me and I liked it a bunch. I’m not sure I get any  health points for using condensed tomato soup, but other than that it’s pretty inoffensive.

Garlic-Lemon Double Stuffed Chicken

Cooked Thursday. Recipe from


A friend of mine affectionately dubbed this “heart attack chicken.” Breaded and stuffed with cheese, it’s definitely not low in fat or carbs. My main complaint though is that it wasn’t particularly delicious. It wasn’t bad, but the cheese filling felt too heavy and a little flavorless. Next time I eat a chicken breast stuffed with cheese, I’ll stick to the stuffed goat cheese recipe in my Ina Garten book.

I forgot to cook a vegetable to go with this, which helped emphasize just how not healthy it was.

Sad Vegetable Soup Part 2

On Saturday I made another round of sad vegetable soup, this time using up a bunch of lettuce and very rubbery broccoli. I made one egregious error: I added the garlic at the beginning of sauteeing the onions. This, I later learned, produces a rather bitter flavor as the garlic burns. As a result the soup has a particularly bitter aftertaste that the first batch didn’t have. Lesson learned, wait until later to add the garlic.


Dinner Week 2

I didn’t take my own pictures this week, but I promise everything looked delicious. We had a snow storm, an ice storm, and my parents staying with us for two nights so there was a lot going on. It was tough to get all the cooking in but I managed to eek it out.

Baked Dijon Salmon

Served Tuesday,  salmon recipe and asparagus recipe from


RevolvingDork notoriously does not like nuts, but I followed the recipe as written for the topping. Surprisingly he didn’t mind the mixture of chopped nuts and breadcrumbs, and claimed it was the best salmon I’ve made. The breadcrumbs could easily be left out for a gluten-free meal.

Penne Pasta with Spinach and Bacon

Served Thursday, recipe form


I made this for lunch since we had dinner plans with family. It’s a nice light quick option and reheats well. The only thing I dislike about it is the number of pots/pans used: a skillet, a saucepan, and then a huge serving bowl to combine it all.

Crock Pot Chicken Marrakesh

Served Friday, recipe from


I made this as-written, and like many of the other reviewers I thought it came out too mushy and bland. I might try it again, but I think I’ll start with just the tomatoes / chicken / spices and add the veggies halfway through.

Sad Vegetable Soup

Served Saturday, recipe below

After two weeks of cooking I had various veggies odds and ends that were still good but wouldn’t be for much longer. It turns out these are great for pureed vegetable soup. I may be the last person on earth to learn how to make vegetable soup, but just in case here’s an outline of the process:

  • Round up all the sad vegetables in your fridge. I had a bowl each of greens (spinach, cilantro, and basil), asparagus, and broccoli. I added an onion for flavor.
  • Chop said vegetables into 1″ pieces and sautee them in a big pot with a bit of oil until the greens look bright green and the onion looks translucent.
  • Add 4 cups of broth (I used beef) to the vegetables, maybe a splash of wine, and bring to a boil
  • Add some salt, pepper, and any other spices you like. Simmer for about an hour.
  • Puree the vegetables in the blender

Pro tip: blend this in batches, filling your blender no more than 3/4ths full, and make sure there is room for air to escape so your blender lid doesn’t blow off. Place a dish towel over the lid in case anything escapes. After pureeing I returned the soup to the pot and fine tuned the seasoning and served it with brown rice.


Dinner Week

I’m taking two weeks to really focus on building good habits with my eating and exercising. Rather than obsess over the number on the scale I’m focusing on eating healthy, home cooked, from-scratch meals instead of eating out, and building up my strength and endurance.

I cooked four meals this week, three of them totally new to me. We had one restaurant dinner, one dinner at grandmom’s, and one night of leftovers.

Tilapia tacos with chipotle-lime dressing

Served Tuesday night, recipe from


Prior to this recipe the only fish I’ve ever cooked was baked salmon, and going into the store I honestly had no idea what tilapia even looked like. It looks like fish. Because it’s single-digit cold here at night this time of year, I baked the marinated tilapia chunks rather than grilling them. Since fish doesn’t keep well and the recipe serves 6 we invited a few friends over for dinner. It seemed like just the right amount of food for the four of us.

After reading a few reviews stating that the sauce was too hot, I cut the adobo sauce down to just 2 tsp. I fried the corn tortillas for a few seconds to warm them up before serving, and they were a huge hit.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Served Wednesday night, recipe from


The fish tacos called for shredded cabbage but only used a few leaves, and a friend suggested I make cabbage rolls with the rest.  I wasn’t sure what time RD was getting home I made them in the slow cooker instead, leaving them on high for 4 hours.

The hardest part for me was getting the leaves off the head without ripping them. Larger leaves are easier to work with so next time I’ll cook the cabbage rolls on the first day and then use the smaller inside leaves for the tacos. The rolls were delicious but a little homogeneous. Next time I think I’ll serve them with rice instead of adding rice to the stuffing, and make sure to cook some fresh veggies to go with them.

Thai Green Curry

Served Friday night, recipe from


I tried to cheat this one by using store-bought curry paste, and it came out really bland. I’m not sure if it’s the brand I used (World Foods), the quantity (3 heaping tablespoons), or if curry paste just isn’t something you should use from a jar. It wasn’t bad, just boring, and I think I’ll try another brand before I go nuts trying to find all the curry ingredients in the local Asian supermarket.

Stuffed Green Peppers

Served Saturday night, recipe from


I added lean ground turkey to this vegetarian recipe, and quadrupled the recipe as we were having friends over for dinner. It was very well received, and two stuffed pepper halves each seemed like the right amount of food. No side dish needed, this is a nice all-in-one meal.

Cooking, Family

Making Baby Food Pouches

Remember how I gave up on making baby food because it was crushing me emotionally? Well, these days I have a toddler brimming with teeth, and even a few molars in there. You’d think I’m well past the woolly world of pureed vegetables. You’d think that at 15 months, my daughter would be shoveling finger food into her mouth. And you’d be wrong.

Vegetables, she has decided, are not finger food. Vegetables are for throwing on the floor. I tried burying shredded broccoli in mac and cheese. She took a bite, chewed it, reached into her mouth, and pulled out the offending plant. She then handed it to me with a look that said “I think you lost this, here it is.”

Pouches of pureed vegetables (preferably with fruit mixed in) are the only way I can get most veggies into this kid. As a bonus, they’re fairly clean and she can self feed them. As an anti-bonus, they cost a goddamned fortune. Amazon’s Subscribe & Save brings the price down, but not nearly enough.


We saw the Infantino Fresh Squeezed system at Target, and I was intrigued by the idea of not having to mortgage our house to get Bitmap to eat some veggies. I also happened to be at Target for some post-miscarriage retail therapy, so I was totally into the idea of buying some stupid baby food thing I don’t really need. RevolvingDork was less convinced, but for $20 was willing to try it if it meant I would stop pouting at him. Oh and the reviews online were all very positive.

You guys, I am totally in love with this thing.

It is really weirdly satisfying to shove puree into little pouches with a plunger, and even more exciting to see Bitmap consume things like carrots and spinach. I’ve been making purees of pretty much everything. I’ll give her a store-bought pouch to sample, and if it’s a hit I will recreate it in my food processor. So far it’s great. She can eat them without my help, they’re relatively tidy, and oh thank god she is eating vegetables.

The pouches are disposable (though they do make a reuseable one), and they do cost a little more than I’d like. It’s still not a cheap way to feed your kid. But if I think of it as a bribe for eating vegetables it almost seems reasonable. And it’s still a hell of a lot cheaper than the store-bought pouches (most of which range from $1.25 to $1.90 per pouch).

Various purees ready to eat
Various purees ready to eat

I throw equal parts cooked veggies and applesauce/pearsauce into the food processor and blend until smooth. If you are a super amazing mom who loves her children more than her sanity, you will probably pick some organic produce from your hobby farm and steam it lovingly before smashing it for your child. If you are like me, frozen or canned veggies are totally fine. Also, it turns out pre-made applesauce is WAY CHEAPER than buying fresh apples and saucing them. Just make sure to read the labels on everything to make sure there’s no added salt / sugar.

A can of pears + a can of peas is enough to make 4 pouches of food. They’re around $1 per can. Four disposable pouches works out to roughly $1.30. So add that all up ($3.30) and the cost per pouch is $0.82. More than I’d like, but far cheaper than the store bought ones.

I also make some yogurt + fruit pouches, which I keep in the freezer and serve as smoothies. Either run them under warm water for a bit or let them warm up in the fridge before serving. We gave one to Bitmap this evening after she bit her lip. It cured her hysteria instantly.

She's gonna make it after all
She’s gonna make it after all

Here are some “recipes” that Bitmap likes. I use either fresh, frozen, or canned food as it’s available. Fresh veggies are great, but I won’t judge you if you’re too tired to do anything but crank the can opener. Smoothies are a good use for fruit that is looking slightly over-ripe. You may need to add a little water to get the consistency you’re after.

Strawberry Spinach Smoothie (makes 4-5 pouches)

1 cup greek yogurt
2 cups whole strawberries
1 cup steamed spinach (or kale)

Spinach Applesauce (makes 2-3 pouches)

1 cup steamed spinach
1 cup applesauce

Applesauce / Pearsauce and Veggies (makes 4-5 pouches)

1 cup steamed peas
1 cup steamed green beans
1.5 cups applesauce or pearsauce



In college I had a German friend who made feuerzangenbowle every December, and now it just doesn’t feel like winter without it. Feuerzangenbowle literally translates to “fire tongs punch” and is a mulled wine made with flaming sugar.

The sugar cone is a specially made zuckerhut, available through German specialty food stores, and it’s soaked in Bacardi 151. Then it’s suspended over wine that has been warmed and spiced with cinnamon sticks, oranges, and cloves.

As the sugar cone melts, it drips boozy caramelized sugar into the wine. If it starts to go out too early, you can pour a little more 151 on using a metal ladle. For the love of god, do not pour directly from the bottle.

I also made some peppermint sugar cookies, the recipe for which can be found here. I learned something important though: when a recipe says “fun for the kids” it really means “this will be tedious so have an army of slaves to help you.” Drizzling the glaze and decorating each cookie with candy cane crumbles took forever, which explains why some of the cookies lack decoration.

We threw a party for the sole purpose of drinking feuerzangenbowle, and went through about 7 bottles of red wine in all. Plus 4 or 5 cases of beer. Apparently we have forgotten how to throw a “small” party.


Batch Processing

Cooking in big batches and then freezing meals has long been the strategy of folks looking to save time and money, but it wasn’t until this week I finally sat down and did it.

A lot of the cooking strategies and recipes I’m using come from Don’t Panic! Dinner’s in the Freezer. It’s a good book on batch cooking and freezing. None of it is earth shattering, but it’s a good starting place for those overwhelmed by the thought of cooking. People like me. Cheap. Fast. Good. is also a good source for inexpensive recipes, and includes tips for the culinarily incompetent like myself.

I made a double batch of Buttermilk Herb Chicken from Don’t Panic and a triple batch of Shipwreck Skillet (beef dish) from Cheap. Fast. Good.

The buttermilk herb chicken is easy to prepare. You cut boneless chicken breast into single-portion chunks and then place it in freezer bags with the buttermilk marinade. There’s no cooking on prep day. When you’re ready to eat it (any time within the next 4 months) you thaw it out, discard the marinade, and cook the chicken on the grill or stove. It’s not an instant meal, but it’s a pretty low-thought meal when paired with some veggies (fresh, frozen, or canned) and instant mashed potatoes.

The beef skillet is a simple recipe that can be adapted to whatever vegetables you have on  hand. Because I made such a large recipe I used a wok rather than a skillet. Here’s my take on the recipe:

  • 3 cups of chopped onions
  • 3 lbs of ground beef
  • 3 cups of sliced carrots
  • 3 cups of frozen corn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 bullion cube
  • 2 cups of long grain white rice*

Cook the rice in your rice cooker along with the bullion cube, for tasty beefy rice.
Throw the onions into the wok then slowly add the ground beef, breaking it up as you go along.
When the beef is browned, drain off the excess fat. Return meat to wok.
Add the worcestershire sauce, garlic, and salt.

At this point, I set aside 1/3 the recipe for flash freezing. I wanted to freeze some without the rice so I could compare how it tastes with fresh vs frozen rice. Flash freezing is simple. Spread the meat and veggies out on a tinfoil-lined cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This will freeze everything enough that when you transfer it to a freezer bag it won’t all solidify into a giant block of ice.

The rice was mixed into the remaining 2/3, and half of that was flash frozen as well. I was left with 4 servings, two of which we ate for dinner and the rest we put in the fridge for lunch later this week.

In total I prepared 14 meals for two (28 servings), with an average cost of ~$1.25 / serving. A huge part of keeping the cost down is to shop loss leaders, and shop them hard. Most people don’t need 10+ pounds of meat all at once, but freezing it into single-meal portions makes it manageable.