Easy Meal Prep

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Prepping ahead goes a long way toward helping you stay on budget and curbing the need for take out under the notion of “I don’t have any thing easy to cook at home.” It’s helpful to always keep a couple of quick cook options stocked in the freezer whether leftovers from a large batch of beans or meat sauce, or pre chopped veggies and seasoning that can be added to your protein of choice. Seasonal vegetables like squash, zucchini and potato can last for several months in the freezer and make an easy breakfast, lunch or dinner meal in a pinch. I’ve added sausage and have also smothered it with onion and garlic to go with chicken. It can also be seasoned a variety of ways to keep things interesting.

A quart size bag makes 2 to 3 servings and a gallon would make roughly 6-8 servings. It’s best to chop and freeze it in your preferred quantity. You can always add bell pepper and/or onion (green, white or yellow) to your mix for added flavor. Personally I prefer a higher ratio of the squash and zucchini to the potato for a higher fiber, lower card ratio.

After thoroughly rinsing the veggies, I chopped roughly a cup to 1 1/4 of squash and zucchini and a 1/2 cup of potato. when adding the onion and bell pepper, add only a cup of the first two veggies to make sure the quart size bag has space.

As some of you may have seen last week, I am attempting to add a videos to support these post. That will be a work in progress :). Please share your thoughts and happy prepping!

A New Take on Salmon

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While I enjoy a nice tuna or  salmon fillet, I’ve been itching to try the canned and pouched varieties with an inspired twist. Both varieties of fish are great sources of omega 3s and vitamins such as the B complex, selenium and magnesium which means they are great sources of antioxidants which fight oxidative stress in the body and helps defend the body from chronic disease. Fish is recommended to be consumed at least twice a week to get the best benefits from these powerful sources of nutrients and lean proteins.  I started with salmon cakes, as an alternative to the traditional crab cakes and served it on a bed of arugula and mixed kale greens and cucumber from my local farmers market. Of course I was proud to add a few tomatoes from my own back yard. J To top things off I used a little lemon juice and black currant balsamic vinegar, though any preferred variety will work with this dish. Check out the recipe below. Please l note that no salt was used because of the wonderful addition of capers and Kalamata olives in the salmon cakes; however if you are not as fond of them as I am and prefer salt, a small pinch will do. Share your thoughts and enjoy!

 

Salmon Cakes

Serves 2

 

Ingredients:

1 5oz can of boneless skinless pink salmon

2 tsp capers

5 kalamata olives chopped

2 tbsp. green onion chopped

½ tbsp. flour of choice

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp olive oil

2 cups of salad greens (mixed or preferred choice)

1 cup of sliced cucumber

½  cup tomato

1 tbsp. dressing of choice

1 lemon juiced

 

Directions:

  1. Open and strain liquid from the can. Add to a small bowl.
  2. Rinse and chop green onion. Chop pitted Kalamata olives. Add both to bowl
  3. Add capers and pepper to the bowl and the juice of half a lemon. Mix well. Add flour and mix well.
  4. Add oil to a medium skillet over medium heat.
  5. While it heats, form two patties and once hot add to oil. Cook for 2 minutes or until it starts to brown then flip and repeat on the other side. Turn off heat. (It may break and if so, the other browned side will help bind the patty back together.)
  6. Rinse salad greens, cucumber and tomato. Slice cucumber and tomato and add to plates. Add cakes then a drizzle of lemon juice and dressing.
  7. Enjoy!

Not Your Average Pasta Salad

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I’ve been exploring gluten free dishes and pastas to better support friends and family with gluten sensitivities. Simple is best and adding great flavor is what makes it great. Pasta is a simple dish that can be dressed up many different ways and for this dish I went Greek with a dash of North African flavor. I was also excited to use some produce from my own backyard. I have been growing sweet peppers, tomatoes and of course fresh herbs such as rosemary and green onion. This was easy to pair with baked chicken that I seasoned two ways (lemon rosemary and garlic and herb) for some variation this week. Check out the recipe below and be sure to share your thoughts.

Gluten Free Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup of dry gluten free elbow pasta

1 cup sliced tomato

1/2 cup sliced sweet peppers

1/4 cup green onion

2 tbsp. harissa

2 tbsp. chopped kalamata olives

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tbsp. fresh rosemary

1 tbsp. garlic infused olive oil

Directions:

  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. 
  2. Rinse vegetables and herbs. Slice tomato; cut peppers in half and remove seeds before slicing thinly. Chop rosemary.
  3. Boil pasta for 8-9 minutes. Chop whole olives or used canned, by straining liquid.
  4. Once boiled, add to a bowl, then add remaining ingredients.
  5. Mix well and enjoy.

Semi Homemade

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What’s in your pantry? It is always good to keep items on hand for easy, semi-homemade meals. I keep staples like canned beans, diced tomatoes (roasted and plain), olives and others in stock for quick and easy meals that are easy on my budget. I picked up some ricotta and arugula ravioli and pasta sauce to make this dish. This dish took ten minutes to make and is packed with nutrients and vitamins. Though I prefer to make my own pasta sauce, I enjoyed this three-cheese tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s and added some fresh greens and herbs. In the future I would likely add some mushrooms for added nutrients red pepper flakes for heat. Check out the recipe below. 

Ingredients:

1 pack of ravioli

1 jar of pasta sauce (of choice)

1 1/2 cups of fresh spinach

1 cup of arugula

1 tbsp. fresh Parmesan 

2 tbsp. fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. Rinse and chop basil. In a large skillet, add sauce, basil and greens and wilt over low heat. 
  3. Add fresh ravioli and boil for three minutes.
  4. Add ravioli to sauce and grate in fresh cheese. 
  5. Enjoy. 

Lessons in Kitchen Mishaps

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So I did something I haven’t done in years; I burned a creation that I just knew would be mouth-watering delicious. I even shamefully ate it partially cold at lunch, afraid that it might smell a little scorched. While trimming my tomato plants, repotting herbs that I started indoors, and working on my spinach trellis, I lost track of time and my inspired dish suffered. Though my spicy stewed coconut chicken dish was not perfect as intended, the ginger basil fried rice was it’s saving grace as that had my full attention. It was also a good reminder that time waits for no one, so neglecting to set a timer thinking “this won’t take long” is a recipe for scorched food. I sufficiently learned my lesson. This is a pretty inexpensive dish, using chicken legs as a base which adds lots of flavor while being wallet friendly. Even the fried rice required little using items already on hand. If you’d like to try a non-scorched version, check out the recipe below.

Spicy Stewed Coconut Chicken 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pack of chicken legs (4 count)

1 can diced tomato

6oz coconut milk

6 cups of water

2 cups of chicken stock

1 cup of chopped spinach

1 cup diced onion

3 cloves of grated garlic

2 tbsp. fresh basil

1 tbsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. fresh ground peppercorn (or coarse black pepper)

1 tsp. cayenne (optional)

1 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

  1. Bring water and stock to a boil in a medium pot. Rinse and add chicken legs, garlic powder and ground peppercorns or pepper. Boil for 18 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken and cut from the bone before adding back into the pot. Add diced tomato (with liquid), coconut milk, basil and cayenne. Grate in garlic or mince well and add.
  3. Peel and dice a small onion and add to pot. Cook for 10 minutes on simmer, then rinse, chop and add spinach. 
  4. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Enjoy with plain or fried rice.

Ginger Basil Fried Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked white or brown rice (preferably a few days old)

2 eggs

2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce

1 small carrot grated or in slivers

1 tbsp. sriracha 

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. grated ginger

2 cloves of sliced garlic

3 tbsp. chopped basil 

1 tbsp. oil (olive, avocado or coconut oil)

Directions:

  1. In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Slice garlic and chop basil while oil heats.
  2. Add garlic and basil and stir to infuse in the oil. Add rice and stir occasionally, lightly browning for 5 minutes.
  3. Grate ginger and add to pot. Peel carrot and grate or peel into slivers with a potato peeler.
  4. Move still browning rice to one side of the pan and add the eggs. Mix in well with the rice.
  5. Add soy sauce, sriracha and sesame oil and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Enjoy.

Alternative Side Dishes

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I love every kind of potato there is, but every now and then I like to try something new. There’s always those close cousins that get ignored like butternut squash. Since squash is in season, I decided to try preparing it in a different way. This would also be great as a replacement in sweet potato casserole or in a standard potato hash. This made a great side to baked chicken and sautéed greens and is easy to prepare ahead. You can always change up the chicken with different seasonings if you want to make enough for the week. Check out the recipe below.

Mashed Rosemary Butternut Squash

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash (~2 cups)

1 cup of water

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. fresh rosemary

½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste 

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and add water to an oven safe baking pan.

2. Cut the Squash in half and roast for 1 hour or until tender (fork should go in easy).

3. Let cool for 20 minutes, then scoop out and discard seeded center. Using a spoon, scoop out squash and add to a bowl. If the skin is too soft for scooping, peel each half with a knife.

4. Mash squash until smooth and add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Satisfaction and Comfort

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I’ve gotten on a kick making bread at home, really just to see if I could. I’ve been surprised that it something that can be done in an hour and even better, that I can  add things like flaxseeds, oats and chia seeds mostly to my hearts content. While baking it was a fun experience, making an open-faced turkey, avocado and tomato sandwich sealed the deal. This was a quick and easy meal that was both filling and satisfying. And there is just something to be said about fresh baked bread. 🙂

Using a teeny tiny avocado, I reserved half for an easy guacamole later in the week and cut slices out of the other half. I mashed a slice for more of an avocado butter to spread on the bread, added the tomato and turkey and the remaining slices on top. This takes all of 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Ingredients

3oz of Turkey

1/2 small avocado

1/2 medium tomato

 1 slice of bread

Salt and pepper to taste 

  1. Warm a slice of bread. 
  2. Cut an avocado in half while it warms and remove the pit. Store one half and cut the other half into slices.
  3. Mash one to two slices on the bread and smear like butter. Add a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Slice 2 to 3 slices of a tomato and add to bread. Add a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Add smoked turkey and top with remaining avocado and red pepper flakes.