The Week Made Easy

Oh dear friends.  When it feels like winter is still going– cook.  Or bake.  Or shake.  Just get you’re a** moving, somehow, someway.  I swear, if we have one more gray/rainy/snowy day here in the North East, I just may scream… (And yes, I know that technically the calendar says that it’s spring, we just haven’t really felt it yet here in Massachusetts…).

So I took advantage of the motivation that the afternoon sun bestowed upon us last Sunday (the first sun in what felt like months!), and got my butt to the grocery store and then schlepped all 9 (yup, you read that right!) packages up the stairs, and put everything away.  I was afraid that’s all the energy that I’d have, but thankfully I still had the cooking bug (or maybe it was more of the “getting ready for the week” bug) and got to it.

My Mom has always suggested that I do a little bit of cooking on the weekends and freeze stuff, so that I can just come home and have dinner ready on the fly. But the truth is, most weekends these days I barely want to make a sandwich let alone make a meal plan and then spend all day in the kitchen cooking.  This weather has me just wanting to hibernate under the covers in my flannel pj’s, as if we were still in the middle of winter.

What’s been bugging me about this lack of sun is that, at least for me, it  = laziness the last couple of weeks, which means that SHL and I have been figuring dinner out at the last minute, and it usually results in something not so great.  It’s not like I’m eating burgers and fries for dinner every night, but even if I have a black bean burger, I haven’t prepped enough to have a veggie or salad on the side, so after dinner I’m rummaging around trying to figure out what else we have in the house to eat.   Amy’s frozen meals are great once in a while if you just need to grab something quick, but I don’t want to start relying on them.

So I made some notes and printed out some recipes of some things that I thought would be great to have on hand for the week, and then headed home from the store with a plan in mind.  While I then spent the next several hours in the kitchen, I think you could also easily just do 1-2 hours of prep work if you didn’t have all day, and still have it save you some time during the work week.

Here is what I made:

The old stand-by Taco Chili Mac ‘N Cheese.  You just can’t go wrong.  (And if you’re vegetarian then maybe tofu would be good in it?  I use very lean ground organic turkey). Put it in batches for the week; the good news is you can freeze it or it can last a little bit in the fridge, too.  Just pull it out for lunch or dinner and top with cheese (if you so desire) and scallions and warm it up.  I’ve shared it a million times but who says that I can’t share it a million and one times?  That’s just how good this is: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2014/12/one-pot-cheesy-turkey-taco-chili-mac.html.  I’m sure that there are other great meals also to be found on Skinny Taste’s website www.skinnytaste.com. 

Homemade cilantro-lime-ranch salad dressing.  People either love or hate cilantro (it’s actually a genetic thing.  To my Mom, it tastes like soap!).  We love it.  I made this with SHL in mind because he goes crazy for cilantro, but to make it a little bit healthier, you could add in some more Greek yogurt and cut down on the mayo. I found this one on Pinterest, courtesy of Family Fresh Meals (www.familyfreshmeals).  You can find the dressing recipe here: http://www.familyfreshmeals.com/2013/07/homemade-cilantro-lime-ranch-dressing.html.  I’m thinking that you could use it not just on regular old salads, but on tostados with beans and veggies too!  Or why not dip your carrots in it?  Or put it on a sandwich?  The options are endless!

Cowboy Caviar, also on www.familyfreshmeals.com:  Similar to the recipe that I made last summer, this one includes Italian dressing but combined with black beans (you knew that there’d be a recipe in here somewhere with beans, right?), corn, tomatoes, avocado, and our beloved cilantro again, and this is such a hit (don’t be scared if you don’t like cilantro.  Just add in another herb that you do like!).  http://www.familyfreshmeals.com/2014/08/cowboy-caviar-recipe.html. And did I also mention how great red onion is?  Serve with carrots or tortilla chips (I like organic baby carrots or Way Better snacks–http://gowaybetter.com/).

Tortellini.  Need I say more? This is a Pioneer Woman’s recipe (www.pioneerwoman.com) that I saw on Instagram (it pays to follow your favorite chefs online), and when you’re craving comfort food, who doesn’t want pasta?  I went easy on the cream and cheese and just tried to add in more veggies (carrots, peas, etc.).  Compared to my whole wheat pasta, the spinach and cheese tortellini was a real Sunday night treat!  http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2014/03/tortellini-primavera/.

Remember I told you about the website “Simple Green Smoothies?” (www.simplegreensmoothies).  Well this one is courtesy of them, via my friend M who couldn’t sleep one night a couple of weeks ago and sent me some of her best make-ahead smoothie recipes.  I had never tried avocado in a smoothie before and was surprised by just how delicious this one is!  I had also never frozen smoothies ahead of time, either, but I wanted to give it a try, so I put a few batches in the freezer for those mornings when I know I just won’t have time to juice.  The truth is, I find it much more filling than a juice, so a smoothie is a nice alternative on those days when you want to feel full longer.  http://simplegreensmoothies.com/green-smoothie-recipes/skinny-mint-green-smoothie.

2 cups almond milk (unsweetened)
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (I halve this because the mint is pretty strong otherwise)
2 bananas
1/2 avocado
4 medjool dates (pitted)
2 tablespoons cocao powder
* optional: cacao nibs sprinkled on top

Pre or Post Workout Energy bites courtesy of my friend C’s Mom. I’ve been craving chocolate recently.  In order to try to get off of the sugar bandwagon after my birthday festivities this month, I’ve been slowly trying to decrease the cravings by just having these on hand in case I really feel like I need a little energy before a workout or just a little something sweet (I’m actually thinking about detoxing from sugar for a week or two, which I did kind of by accident a couple of months ago and then it all went down the tubes with my birthday, but I felt pretty great while not eating it).  While my friend sent me the recipe in a text, I also found it on Pinterest and on the website Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One (www.stopmeifyouveheardthisone.com).  And here is the recipe: http://stopmeifyouveheardthisone.com/2013/08/08/how-to-healthy-banana-oatmeal-chocolate-chip-cookies/.  Oats, almond butter, bananas, and dark chocolate chips are easy enough to just blend together in a bowl, but this time I decided to also add in some unsweetened shredded coconut, chia seeds, and cinnamon.  Bake @ 350 for 15 minutes and yum!  You could take out the chocolate chips or add in dairy-free chocolate chips or basically tweak it however you like (peanut butter instead of almond butter, flax seeds instead of chia, etc.).  The idea is instead of eating a packaged cookie or a piece of candy, you know where your ingredients are coming from and it’s not processed junk.  And while I could live off of peanut butter, I’m beginning to find that almond butter is pretty great too!

Tonight?  I’m making the Barefoot Contessa’s omelet for two with a side salad (I use less butter and just a splash of milk and would use sweet potatoes, if SHL would let me). Please tell me that you ♥ BC as much as I do!  www.barefootcontessa.com.  Because breakfast for dinner is pretty great, isn’t it?  http://www.barefootcontessa.com/recipes.aspx?RecipeID=365&S=0 xoxo.

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