I've finally gotten my cooking mojo back, and that's good because Mr. B was starting to take pre-packaged frozen meals to work. Not that there's anything wrong with that in a pinch, but over time, not great for your health. I know, because I used to survive on them while doing Weight Watchers, before I knew how to cook.
We all have momentary (monthly) lapses in our inspiration. I love to cook and even more, I love stocking our fridge each week with healthy whole foods: ingredients, snacks, an instant salad bar, homemade condiments, convenience foods. That's what gets me back on track and keeps me going - the assurance of having delicious, homemade food available. Then, I take a moment to sit in gratitude for the abundance of wonderful ingredients that are available to us. I am aware that not everyone has this luxury.
Sticking to my template of weekly ingredients, I plan proteins, vegetables, greens, starches, and sometimes a condiment and/or a sweet treat. If I'm really organized, I use my meal planning steps. If it's Sunday afternoon and I'm feeling rushed, I dress down my meal plan and launch into super simple mode, meaning I head to the store and look for the best looking proteins and vegetables and buy a minimal amount of items (it helps if you don't go to the store hungry).
If I'm tempted to go overboard, I remind myself that I don't have a solid plan, so just get a few things to make two meals and then reassess after that. If I can prep two meals, one for Sunday night (with leftovers for Monday lunch), and one more (plus a batch item if possible), this gives me time to plan out the rest of the week without veering off track with our food. My goal is to start the week with some meals in the fridge. If I don't, it's harder to get into the food prep groove after that, and easier to get a case of the f**k its. As I've learned, it just makes for a stressful week of unhealthy eating and going off budget eating out.
KEEP IT SIMPLE. Roasted or grilled meat. Roasted vegetables. Baked potato or squash. Greens & salad makings. Pot of beans/rice/oatmeal/soup. Batch breakfast item (like eggs). I always get onions and garlic, and sometimes fruit. Don't worry about recipes and lots of details at this point.
Take your loot home and if you want, look up some recipes. This may slow you down, as you will find that you don't have all of the ingredients needed. Don't worry. You don't need all of that. Use what you have or make it up. It's all a formula.
- Protein + fat + flavorings (herbs & spices)
- Vegetables + fat + onions & garlic + salt & pepper + herbs/spices (roasted)
- Steamed veg
- Salad bar
- Baked potatoes
- Hard boiled eggs
- Pot of something: beans, rice, soup, oatmeal
- Veggie or meat patties (zucchini or turkey or...)
This week, we had:
Mustard-crusted salmon (wild caught in Alaska by Mr. B). Inspired by Slim Palate's Pistachio-Crusted Salmon via Nom Nom Paleo.
Turkey patties. I make these almost weekly, or some kind of meat or veggie patty, like zucchini cakes. They're a great batch breakfast item, but they're versatile so you can eat one as a snack with some veg or two for any meal. It's a grab-n-go item. I rotate ingredients so that I don't get bored.
You can make it with sausage ingredients like sage, thyme, red onion, apple, and fat. This week, I used turmeric, chili powder, and a Spanish spice blend that I got in Orange County at Savory Spices. I've been using it so much, it's almost gone :(. I also added in onion and parsley.
Mix all ingredients in a big bowl and scoop out 1/4-1/3 C amounts onto a plate and flatten. Heat up oil in a pan on medium and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
Chicken drumsticks. This is a modified version of Nom Nom Paleo's Damn Fine Chicken. With the same ingredients, I used a different method. I've made it per the instructions before, and it didn't turn out as crispy as I'd like.
- Marinate the chicken in a rectangular baking dish, so that the marinade distributes more evenly among the chicken pieces (vs. a bowl). Leave to marinate for a few hours.
- When you're ready to cook, heat up the cast iron pan in the oven as it preheats to 400 degrees, and turn on the stove top to medium high.
- Once the oven is ready, pull the pan out (careful - it's super hot!), place it on the stovetop and lay the drumsticks in the pan to sear on each side for a few minutes to get the skin crispy, setting the marinade aside to use for a pan sauce.
- Finish the chicken in the oven, keeping it in the pan, for about 25-35 minutes. I used a meat thermometer to check the temperature after 25 minutes, and cooked for about 10 more minutes until the thermometer registered 180 degrees.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour the marinade into the pan, along with 2 C chicken stock. Cook the the liquid down, reduce it to about half, and then add 1 tsp of arrowroot powder (or any other thickener, optional) into 2 TBS of water and pour into the pan sauce. While the sauce cooks, wash the pyrex pan and put the cooked chicken pieces in it.
- Pour the pan sauce onto the chicken and garnish with fresh scallions or parsley (optional).
Time saving tip: prep the marinade the night before or in the morning. I put the marinated chicken in the pyrex dish with the lid in the fridge and it was ready to go when I started making dinner.
Greens (swiss chard, kale, mushrooms, cannellini beans and Applegate Farms Turkey Bacon), roasted asparagus and garlic, salad bar (salad greens hand shredded (saves time!) and washed in a salad spinner), ready for consumption at any time. You can also just add prepped greens to any meal.
- Cook turkey bacon on both sides until just browned (it's pre-cooked, so it doesn't take long. Set aside and chop into small pieces.
- Wash and pat dry all greens.
- Cut the leaves off of the swiss chard stalk and separate. Slice up the chard stalks, along with onions and garlic. Chop greens.
- Heat up a pan with oil (you don't need to clean the pan after heating the turkey bacon), add spices like turmeric, chili powder, curry, garlic powder into the fat and mix - this is called "tadka" or "tempering," an Indian cooking technique. Once evenly mixed, add onions, cook for about 5 minutes or until almost translucent. Add chard stalks, cook for 10 minutes.
- Move all of these veggies to the side of the pan and add mushrooms. Cook for about 7 minutes. Mix all ingredients together and stir in the greens. Then add a bit of liquid (I used chicken stock). Continue to stir all of the greens and veg together until greens are wilted. Add in turkey bacon and canned and rinsed cannellini beans (optional). This greens mixture makes a meal unto itself with greens, protein, and carbs.
Crispy green beans:
- Wash and prep by cutting off ends and cut pieces in half and add to a big mixing bowl.
- Zest one lemon onto the beans.
- Add 3 TBS of fat.
- Chop and add fresh garlic (as much as you want - I added an entire bulb).
- Sprinkle some crushed red pepper flakes.
- Toss all of the ingredients and spread onto two lined cookie sheets.
- Cook for 25 minutes (or until desired doneness) on 400 degrees, mixing half way through.
Time saving tip: prep beans ahead of time (possibly in the morning) and leave in the bowl until you're ready to cook dinner.
Loaded sweet potatoes inspired by Holistic Squid.
- Scrub potatoes and poke holes in them.
- Cook at 400 for about an hour. Let cool (time saving tip: do this the night before. Put them in the oven right after you take your dinner out, set a timer and let them cook while you eat. Store overnight in a container in the fridge and complete the next steps the following day. I also cooked the bacon in the oven the day before as well).
- Cut slits in the potatoes and scoop the insides out and into a mixing bowl.
- Add 1-2 TBS oil or melted butter, shallots or scallions, and anything else you like (I shredded a bit of parmesan).
- Stir by hand or with a mixer.
- Add mixture back to potato skins and heat in the oven until desired temperature is reached.
- Add freshly chopped parsley or scallions for garnish (optional).
I cut these in half and stored in a container in the fridge, creating multiple grab-n-go sides or meals.
Turmeric sticky rice: 2 C rice, 4 C chicken stock, 1 tsp coconut oil, 1 tsp turmeric. Cover pressure cooker and bring rice to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 45 minutes. I put on a timer for 35 minutes, then turned off the stove and let cook for 10 more minutes before taking the pot off and putting under cool water. It turned out perfectly with just the right amount of crust.
Sunshine sauce. This is one of my favorites from Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed Cookbook. It's a great alternative to a dairy-based sauce and equally as creamy. It's similar to peanut sauce, except it uses sunflower butter instead of peanut butter. You can dip veggies in it, use it as a sandwich spread, or dollop some on greens or a turkey or veggie patty.
What did you cook up this week? If you're feeling unmotivated or uninspired, remember that you're worth cooking for. You put loving time into your meals and you're rewarded with good health. Keep it simple, dress it down, and start with baby steps: just a few ingredients.