Helping Hands

Tasty and healthy meal assistance

A little help from the store can go a long way to making quick work of dinner. I’m a big fan of portioned proteins for easy freezer storage and easier use for making the right number of portions at a given time. This shrimp and kale dish was elevated with a simple sauce using onion, garlic, a little stock and a roasted eggplant and tomato spread from Trader Joe’s. The spread while low in calories, was packed with flavor that easily added to this quick dish. This took 10 minutes to make and additionally, I made enough to freeze. You can always double this portion for a family of 4 or to have additional portions to freeze for easy meals during a busy week. Check out the recipe below.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb of shrimp

2 cups fresh kale

1/2 cup of fresh mushrooms sliced

1/2 cup of onion

1/4 cup of chicken or seafood stock

1/4 cup of eggplant spread

1/2 tbsp avocado oil (or olive)

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of water


Directions:

  1. Rinse and kale and add to a skillet with a pinch of water over medium heat. Add onion and stir.
  2. Slice mushrooms while kale cooks and add mushrooms to the pan. Season and reserve a little of the powders for the shrimp. Cook for 3-5 mins.
  3. Add the eggplant spread and stir in. Add stock to deglaze the pan. Cook for 2 minutes and add to a plate.
  4. Add oil and let it warm. Add shrimp and seasoning and cook for 2.5 minutes before flipping and cooking for the same time.
  5. Top greens mixture and enjoy.

Planning for Meal Prep

Meal prep made easy

Its that time a year where meal prep is critical, or as the kids say, clutch! I am a big fan of giving myself variety through meal prep and dinner bowls are not only cost effective, but offer variety. At a lofty $3.50 per serving, these beans, greens and grains bowls are tasty and cost effective. I made enough for the week, to share and to freeze. The trick is to break it into the basics.


Grains: I like to explore new seeds and grains and for these bowls I used a quinoa, bulgur wheat mixture for some varied nutrients. This served as the base for the bowls and a side for a couple of other meals.


Greens: As a Southerner, I love a good pot of greens. I made huge pot mixing kale, turnips, collards and mustards with a bunch of garlic and onion. It should be cooked until tender which is usually 20-30 minutes with the pre-chopped bags I used.


Proteins: Stewed black beans with fire roasted tomatoes are a great addition for vegetarian bowls or chicken fajita bowls (adding optional avocado). I also baked fish and sautéed two chicken breast for varied bowl options. 


Tip: Cut onion ahead of time and freeze it. I dice, slice and finely chop onion and store it in small freezer bags to have on hand. I do the same with bell pepper! This made it easy to caramelize onions and peppers for the chicken fajita bowl option.


Cooking:

  1. Start with the greens. With 1 1/2 diced onion and a head or two of minced garlic, add it to a large pot with a cup of water. Rinse a large bag of greens and add to the pot. Preheat the oven for the fish.
  2. While that cooks, start the grains, following the cooking instructions on the bag or your usual method if using a favorite. I used half stock, half water for some extra flavor and a few cloves of minced garlic.
  3. Stir greens and season well with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powders and cayenne. Start stewed tomatoes on stove top and cook down for a few minutes before adding a cup of water and a can of beans. Season well. 
  4. Bake fish of choice with some fresh thyme and lemon and a drizzle of avocado or olive oil. While that bakes, season a sear the chicken breasts (or thighs).
  5. Optional: use pan from chicken to caramelize onions and peppers for the chicken fajita bowls.
  6. Remove fish from oven and turn off stove tops. Let food begin to cool before adding to storage containers.
  7. Freeze or share additional portions.

Back to Normalacy

 

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After thanksgiving and being in two weddings in the past 3 weeks, I’m getting back to my healthy. That means more soups/gumbos and salads to combat the wonderful indulgences that the holidays and weddings provide. 

Since I knew what was coming, I had already planted my winter crops and am excited to cook my first mustard green harvest. I’ve also already stocked my freezer with different soups and stews over the past several months, so the work is already done.

My salad crops of arugula, mixed greens and mustards are also nearing harvest. Growing is pretty easy and you can pretty much harvest any young greens for quick salads. 

I’ve been trying my hand at growing everything from tomatoes and peppers this spring and summer to now garlic and turmeric. If you are interested in growing some of your own food, I’d encourage you to start with herbs or indoor micro greens. Both were great starts for me and after conversations with my local farmers, I’ve since expanded to other things and built simple boxes for my crops. Growing can be work depending on how much you are doing, but it’s been so rewarding to eat things I’ve grown myself.

To prepare these greens, I just rinsed, chopped and sautéed them in olive oil with garlic for 5 minutes; simple and tasty.

I’m considering a short spring growing series. What do you think? 🙂

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 Bit Of Cleansing

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Happy New Year to you readers and your families! With the new year upon us and everyone focusing on diets, cleanses and new beginnings, I decided a cleanse with my homemade juice blends, cabbage  and eating my frozen servings of soups, stews and gumbos was a great way to go. I am a huge fan of cooking in bulk and freezing dishes for easy meals when you’re too busy or too tired to cook; in my case, I just wanted easy. This method can also help stretch your budget if you’re like me and still recovering from holiday spending. This has been a week of gumbos and soup with the cold weather, and a variety of fresh juice blends. I brought out my beloved juicer to make veggie and fruit blends. I’ve been on a citrus kick with the many sick bugs floating around the workplace  and green blends with kale and spinach. I’ve gotten produce from the farmers market and Southside Produce, looking for Louisiana items when I could. Since I’ve been sharing the juices themselves in my excitement, it’s only fair that I share a recipe or two. If you do not own a juicer, you can always whip out a blender and strainer or blender and the nut bags to help strain out the pulp. Please share your thoughts and as always, enjoy!

Note: Yes, I amused myself with the names. Each juice has a shelf life of 1-3 days to maximize the absorption of the nutrients and should make 16 ounces depending on the size and juice in the ingredients.

Color Me Orange

Ingredients:

  • 6 peeled carrots
  • 1 peeled medium grapefruit
  • 2 oranges
  • glass pint jar or (16 ounce) container

Directions:

  1. Peel carrots and cut off each end. Set aside for juicing.
  2. Peel citrus by slicing off both ends to stabilize the fruit. Cut the skin off of the fruit in a circular motion, removing the skin and pith (white stuff/inner peeling).
  3. Place the container or jar under the juicer. Add carrots to  juicer and push through until juiced, then juice citrus. Top jar and place in fridge until ready to drink.
  4. If using a blender, process the carrots until smooth then add citrus to the blender. Push the mixture through a strainer or nut bag into the container.

Applelation

Ingredients:

  • 6 peeled carrots
  • 1/4 of a pineapple
  • 1- 1 1/2 gala or Fuji apple(s) (depends on size)
  • 1 orange

Directions:

  1. Peel and cut off both ends of the carrots. Set aside.
  2. Peel orange by slicing off both ends to stabilize the fruit. Cut the skin off of the fruit in a circular motion, removing the skin and pith (white stuff/inner peeling).
  3. Cut off both ends of the pineapple and cut off the spiked skin. Cut the pineapple in half and then each halve in half. Store the other portions for other juice blends
  4. Cut apples in half and then cut each halve in half. Remove seeded center.
  5. Juice carrots into the container, then juice the pineapple and apple quarters.
  6. If using a blender, follow the steps from the previous recipe.
  7. Store juice until ready to use.