On the Menu for the Week {Getting Back Into the Routine}


Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4

Eggs over medium with sour cream & green tomatillo salsa at Flying Biscuit

Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Jambalaya Mix with bell pepper, onions, and sausage

Buffalo chicken crack dip {corn} quesadillas

Ginger & cumin marinated tomatoes

Cool as a cucumber salad

Chicken satay with peanut sauce

Spinach and garlic butter steak pinwheels

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Tips for Preparing a Multiple Course Meal

The other day, I prepared a four course Mexican-inspired feast. Throughout my four hours of cooking, I wrote down a few valuable tips for maximizing efficiency and minimizing time and stress when preparing such a big meal.

  • Take the lid of your trash can and move it close to your work stations.
  • Read through all of your recipes first so you know how long each thing takes.
  • Set out items that need to be at room temperature {for example, I needed room temperature cream cheese for my Mexican chocolate cheescake}.
  • Likewise, plan ahead for items that need to be defrosted. For last minute defrosting, place item in a Ziploc bag and place in a bowl of warm water. Do this early on in the cooking process so you don’t have to rush the defrosting. Rotate water every 5-10 minutes.
  • Set up separate stations with all of the ingredients needed for each recipe.
  • Check each recipe to see what ingredients you need for more than one. For example, I used red onions for my watermelon feta salad and my enchilada casserole, so I chopped enough for both at the beginning.
  • Likewise, do the same steps at the same time. For example, open all your cans and then put the can opener away.
  • Roast vegetables {like the red pepper I used} in tin foil to minimize clean up.
  • Be comfortable with a mess. Clean up as you go but realize the kitchen will be a wreck until you’re done.
  • That being said, clean your cheese grater right away. Nothing is worse than trying to pry dried cheese off a grater!
  • Think ahead to what you can make with leftovers. Red onions and black olives from a Mexican casserole and feta from a watermelon feta salad can be made into a simple Greek pasta.

Check out Timing a Multi-Course Meal like a Pro for more helpful tips!

Source: westelm.com via Lauren on Pinterest

on the menu for the week

though it’s half-way through the week, i thought i’d share the meals i’m making this week in hopes of inspiring you to prepare homemade healthy dishes to last you all week. as per usual, my meals are a combination of my go-to favorites {tomato chickpea soup}, spontaneous, random combinations {like my salad mixes}, anddd whatever happens to be on sale in the seafood section of harris teeter {catfish nuggets!}. what are you cooking this week?

vegetable shrimp rice based on this recipe

carrot ginger soup

creative salad mixes {feta, walnuts, chickpeas, green olives, pepperoni}

tofu stir fry with feta & zucchini

broiled cajun catfish nuggets {broil with olive oil, garlic, cajun seasoning; serve with a wedge of lemon}

tomato chickpea soup

the butternut squash is back

photo credit: thatisyummy.wordpress.com

Or, as they would say on Friends, squatter nut bash.

The delicious recipes I’ve tried:

And the ones I can’t wait to try:

And especially:

giving myself a break

My friend’s version of cooking is taking two random ingredients and combining them. For example, canned green beans get paired with frozen meatballs and corn gets tossed in with sauteed chicken sausage. I always tease her about it, but I gotta say- it’s not bad!

Most of the time, I love whipping up fresh, unique dishes, like spiced chickpea tomato soup or marinated caprese salad. But on the days I don’t have the time, energy, or motivation to make a  Tuscan chicken casserole, I should take inspiration from my friend- being satisfied with simple, easy combinations. Maybe it’s no colorful wheatberry salad, but hey, it’s also not McDonalds!

So I’m giving myself permission to buy a packet of Old El Paso Taco Seasoning instead of making the seasoning from scratch. Or even easier, buy Amy’s Southwestern Burritos. Stock up on Green Giant’s Just for One Broccoli & Cheese Sauce. Toss a few Bird’s Eye Voila! meals-like Garlic Chicken or Pasta Primavera with Chicken- into my cart. Sip Trader Joe’s Organic Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup.

Just not all the time….because seriously? Why is the first ingredient in taco seasoning maltodextrin?

tofu combos x 100

photo credit: abetterbagofgroceries.com

Tofu is just about the easiest dish to whip up and it’s incredibly versatile.

A carton of extra-firm tofu costs abut $1.50 and makes 3-4 servings (that’s just $.50 for an almost complete meal!)

Here are a few ideas for mixing it up:

  • Marinate with my favorite combo-soy sauce, garlic, olive oil, and rice vinegar. Saute with zucchini, onion, and peppers and sprinkle with feta
  • Marinate in balsamic vinegar, which turns into a crispy glaze when sauteed
  • Toss with Trader Joe’s masala sauce for an Indian feel or Island Soyaki sauce for a Hawaiian feel
  • Throw on top of Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend for a hearty meal
  • Marinate with Italian seasoning [marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, basil] and tomato sauce for an Italian spin (duh!)
  • Cut into strips and saute with homemade fajita seasoning [chili powder, salt, paprika,  crushed chicken bouillon cube, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, cumin]. Layer on top of a warmed tortilla with melted cheese for a Mexican meal.
  • Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and bake
  • Saute with Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce, coat with ranch dressing, and eat as a spicy “chicken” wrap

7 vegetables, 11 recipes: part 5

Here’s yet another recipe you can make with the 7 vegetables I mentioned before (red pepper, orange pepper, yellow pepper, onions, garlic, zucchini, yellow squash).

Rainbow Veggie Chili

Photo credit: AllRecipes.com

 

I love using this recipe as a base.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chili beans in spicy sauce, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, and onion. Cook 5 minutes, just until tender.
  2. Mix tomatoes with liquid, tomato paste, black beans, corn, and chili beans in spicy sauce into the pot. Season with chili powder, oregano, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

The last time I made this recipe, I added sweet potatoes, which were a great addition.

Bon appetit!

7 vegetables, 11 recipes: part 2

Ready for part 2 of my little food series on using leftover produce?

Toss last night’s sauteed vegetables into a skillet with pre-marinated tofu- I use soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, and olive oil and leave it overnight. Heat until warm and pour in jarred masala sauce (I like the TJ’s kind, big surprise there!). Enjoy with a grain- TJ’s Harvest Blend is hearty and unique.

Voila, meal #2!

7 vegetables, 11 dishes: part 1

I used to stress out about using up all my produce before it went bad. So I developed a set of dishes based around several ingredients so that I could finish my produce without eating the same dishes night after night.

Take, for example, my favorite combination of vegetables: garlic, onion, red pepper, orange pepper, yellow pepper, yellow squash, and zucchini. I have these items in my fridge at all times and I never get sick of them because I always mix up my flavors.

Off the top of my head, here are a few dishes I could make with these vegetables:

fajitas, tofu stir fry, pasta with marinara and vegetables, ramen, vegetable soup, a panini, quiche, chili, grown up mac and cheese, shepherd’s pie, pizza

Say on night #1, you want to whip up chicken fajitas. Saute the vegetables with seasoning- I like to add cayenne, pepper, salt, oregano, cumin, etc. Put half of them in tupperware for the next day. Sprinkle a whole-wheat tortilla with grated cheese and top with vegetables, baked chicken, black beans, sour cream, salsa, and avocado.

So what might you make for lunch tomorrow? Stay tuned!

best meal of my life

As usual, I’m supposed to be doing schoolwork, but I find myself blogging…or tweeting…or checking blog stats haha.

I made the best meal ever the other night, so I wanted to share my joy with the world.

It was so simple, and I’m just hoping I can recreate it!

1. Drizzle olive oil and soy sauce over 2 pieces of chicken tenderloin. Garnish with onions and garlic. Bake at 375 until the chicken is cooked throughout. Cut into small pieces.

2. Cook spinach-ricotta ravioli (I like TJ’s) according to package.

3. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large skillet. Throw in chicken & onions, ravioli, and sun-dried tomatoes (jarred or homemade). Saute over medium for several minutes.

4. Toss with a scoop or two of ricotta.

5. Eat from a bowl. Side note: my sister and I obsessed with bowls. We never eat off plates. We think they’re impractical. All meals should be served in bowls!