Tag Archives: easy meals

Stocking your freezer for easy meals (without committing to specific recipes!)

freezer meal prep; meals

They say if you have healthy food on hand, you’ll eat it. But that’s not necessarily true. Faced with nothing but “ingredients,” it’s often tempting to just order pizza or go out.

meal prep; ingredients

And let’s be real: we’ve all chosen that road more than once! But if you keep those ingredients in an easy-to-use form, it increases your odds of actually cooking at home!  I’ve written before about 30 things I always keep on hand for easy healthy meals, but this post is going to focus on what I keep in the freezer, with some tips and how-to’s.

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20-day diet prep plan: Day 13 (Part 2) – The soup method

Easy meals; the soup method

 

Here’s another meal template that’s an easy way to get more vegetables in your life — and quick and simple to throw together, and a great way to use up leftovers.

Hopefully, you’ve bought your groceries, and read Part 1 – The hash method. The soup method is somewhat similar.

This time, you’ll need a saucepan. A 1-quart pan works nicely for one person. Scale up as needed.

Like the hash method, the soup method has a list…

Things I always have prepped and ready in the fridge, that are essential to this dish:

  1. Diced white or yellow onion (and/or whole green onion)
  2. Already cooked meat of various kinds
  3. Vegetables: a changing cast of characters – bell pepper, green beans, carrots, celery, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, spinach… They can be raw, or cooked leftovers.
  4. Zucchini, if you want to make zoodles
  5. Good quality chicken broth
  6. Possible add-ins: spaghetti sauce or marinara, salsa, eggs, lemon juice, herbs

If you haven’t already read about the hash method, please do read the section under the headings “About measurements, part 1” and “… part 2.”

Sorry: I don’t have how-to pictures for this yet, but it’s not tricky — you’ll get it!

Okay, ready to cook?

Step 1:

Heat your saucepan to medium (or medium-low, if your stove runs hot), add just enough fat (olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon drippings) to evenly cover the bottom. Add some onions, about a small handful. Leave that on the heat, stirring every so often, just enough to keep them from getting brown in some places but undercooked in others.

Step 2:

Meanwhile, dice or slice any veggies you’re going to use. A small handful after they’re diced is a good ballpark measurement to use. Add them after the onions have been in the pan for just a few minutes. EXCEPT: For spinach and zucchini noodles, don’t add them in until the very end.

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are done to your liking. If you think they’re drying out too much before they’re done, add about an 1/4″ of broth to the pan.

Step 2B – If you’re making zoodles:

How to make zucchini noodles (ignore the cooking part):

Place them in a paper-towel-lined bowl, to help absorb excess moisture.

Step 3:

Add the meat. A good guideline is for your meat to approximately equal the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. Then add enough broth to cover all the meat and veggies; it should come about halfway up the pan, in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring it up to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Step 4:

Now you can add anything else you want in it. Stir in a big spoonful of spaghetti sauce or salsa. Add a few pinches of your favorite herbs. If you want a mostly-clear soup, you can thicken and enrich it by first whisking a splash of lemon juice into one egg yolk, then slowly whisking this mixture into the soup.

Step 5:

Add the spinach and/or zucchini noodles (if using), and simmer for three or four minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Does it taste bland? Add salt and/or black pepper a little at a time, taste, and add more as needed till it tastes good. Sometimes a little splash of lemon juice helps the flavor, too.

And your soup is done!

Here are some soup combos I’ve enjoyed…

Simple chicken soup, with diced carrots and green onion.

healthy lunches: chicken soup

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Sausage or hamburger, green beans, carrots, and marinara make for a minestrone-inspired soup. A little shaved Parmesan on top!

quick easy minestrone

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Here’s a great example of using up leftovers! Leftover french onion soup from one day’s restaurant lunch + half a large burger patty from the next day’s restaurant lunch + a little diced squash + chopped spinach = one quick, easy, hearty soup.
easy lunch: onion soup + burger

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One day, I was lucky enough to have a little leftover steak; threw it in at the last moment so as not to overcook it. There’s also bell pepper and diced zucchini in there. The green blob is from a Wholly Guacamole mini — another thing I keep on hand for easy lunches.

easy lunch: leftover steak soup.

Some cooked, crumbled sausage, chicken bone broth, and assorted veggies; I don’t know what you call this soup, but it’s delicious!

easy soup: sausage and veggies

Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.

20-day diet prep plan: Day 13 (Part 1) – The hash method

how to make breakfast hash

 

A few months ago, I did a cooking demo for some friends of mine, and the theme of the class was, “Easy ways to get more vegetables in your diet.” Because the only other thing that ALL diets agree on (beside eat way less sugar, and no trans fat), is that we should all probably be eating more vegetables!

This sweet potato hash was the hit of the night! They all loved it, not just because of how great it tastes, but also because it is SO easy to put together. (One mom of three little ones said she made it for breakfast the next two days!) Another great thing about this dish is that it’s a great way to use up leftovers.

And it’s a simple, tasty way to get three or more vegetables on the table, in one dish!

About measurements, Part 1

The pan I’m using here is an 8″ nonstick frying pan. A well-seasoned cast iron one would work, too. Also, it’s important to note that I’m cooking for one here — as you probably should while you’re experimenting. But once you’re cooking for real, and if you’re cooking for more than one, just scale the measurements I give you up accordingly. Double them for two people, triple for three, etc.

About measurements, Part 2

I used to not EVER cook anything without a recipe, and always measured everything. Baking definitely requires that you stick to some important ratios, but dishes like the ones I’m going to show you today are a lot more forgiving. And part of what makes these dishes so quick and easy is that you don’t have to pull out the measuring cups/spoons, then scoop, pour, and level. You just get an approximate amount in the pan and — trust me — it’ll come out okay!

You may have some mishaps as you learn. But as my childrens’ first grade teacher Mrs. Maxwell often said, “It’s okay to make mistakes!”

That’s why you’re doing this food lab today. You’re going to test this method in small batches and get a feel for what works with your equipment, and for your taste buds. You may singe one batch or put too much salt in another; that’s okay. There are no food police patrolling your neighborhood. Make the mistake, learn from it, and move on! (Good advice for life, too!)

Okay: you ready?

So, you got your groceries bought, right? And you have your two or three already-cooked meats. And if you didn’t dice your onions up already, go ahead and do that. (How-to here.)

Also, prep one or two sweet potatoes according to my method here. But you can go ahead and cut all the way through the skin for a complete dice.

If it’s not already in bite-sized pieces, you might also want to chop your already-cooked meat. (Optional, if you want this to be a side dish, or you’re vegetarian.) Sausage, ham, pulled pork or carnitas, grilled or roasted chicken, cooked seasoned ground beef, smoked salmon — all legit candidates!

Things I always have prepped and ready in the fridge, that are essential to this dish:

  1. Diced onion
  2. Diced cooked sweet potato
  3. Already cooked meat of various kinds (optional)
  4. Baby spinach
  5. Other vegetables: a changing cast of characters – bell pepper, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms…

(See what that looks like in my fridge here.)

So, once you have those ready, you’re ready for the method.

Step 1:

Heat your pan to medium (or medium-low, if your stove runs hot), add just enough fat (olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon drippings) to evenly cover the bottom. Add some onions, about a small handful. Leave that on the heat, stirring every so often, just enough to keep them from getting brown in some places but undercooked in others.

hash-1-onions+spinach

(Sorry for the fuzzy pictures. I was actually cooking my lunch for this, and the dish goes fast, so there’s not a lot of time for second shots.)

Step 2:

Meanwhile, coarsely chop one or two handfuls of baby spinach, and dice any other raw veggies you’re going to use. (A small handful after they’re diced is a good ballpark measurement to use.) Bell peppers are a nice addition, and one quarter of a good-sized bell pepper should be about right. If I were adding other uncooked vegetables, I would add them after the onions were in the pan for just a few minutes. But if the only vegetables you’re adding are spinach and already-cooked sweet potato — as I am in these photos — wait until the onions are fairly translucent before adding anything else.

Step 3:

Add the coarsely chopped spinach. Salt it lightly — this helps break down the cell walls, and also flavors the spinach, which is sort of bland. It will begin to cook down quickly. Once it’s about half-wilted, add your meat. A good guideline is for your meat to approximately equal the size and thickness of the palm of your hand.

Today, I had one leftover chicken thigh, and one taco’s worth of carnitas, so I diced those to bite-sized pieces and threw them both in. Stir that around and let it warm for a minute or so.

Step 4:

Add your sweet potato, and leave it just until the potato is heated through, stirring once or twice, gently. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper — or another seasoning mix or herbs according to your taste. On this day, I added a little taco seasoning.

sweet potato hash

I often make this dish with sausage and/or bacon for the protein. In those cases, you really don’t need any other seasoning besides a lighter sprinkle of salt (since there’s a lot of salt in the meat) and black pepper to taste.

Another thing I like to do is serve this with a Wholly Guacamole Mini on the side. (This isn’t a sponsored post; but hey, WG, if you’re reading, let’s talk! 🙂 )

sweet potato hash - the hash method

Now, what makes this dish so versatile is that you can add any number of veggies and use various meats, and come up with numerous combos. Here are just a few I’ve done…

breakfast on vacation - eggs + hash

With diced breakfast sausage for the meat, chopped avocado, and a couple of fried eggs, this makes a hearty breakfast — or any meal, really!

 

hash with broccoli

Broccoli, broken into small florets, is another yummy addition. Chopped asparagus would be another nice option.

 

Is fat healthy? Yes - eggs + bacon for breakfast!

Here, the hash is in the background, and includes some bacon and mushrooms!

 

Whole30 Paleo breakfast: easy with make-ahead prep!

Sometime, I scramble an egg or two, chop that up and add it to the hash.

 

hash with chicken apple sausage

And yes, you can make it without sweet potatoes. In the photo above, chicken apple sausage is bringing a slight sweet note to the mix. Sliced avocado (in the background) adds some healthy fat.

 

hash with a side of green beans

As you can tell by all the eggs, I’ve made this for breakfast a lot, but with enough meat and maybe another side, it’s also hearty enough for dinner. Sausage and mushroom, show above. (Find this simple green bean dish here.)

I also sometimes make this with just the onions, bell pepper, and sweet potato; season with taco seasoning (or just a bit of cumin and ancho powder); and serve it as a side dish when the main dish is Mexican-ish.

So, I hope you’re inspired! Get out your frying pan, and start experimenting! I’d love to hear your comments or questions.

(Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.)

10 healthy lunches: my go-to meals when cooking for one

leftovers: taco salad - an easy way to eat healthy at home

I work from home and my kids are grown, so lunch is usually just me. Before I got serious about taking good care of myself, lunch was likely to be mac ‘n cheese or leftover pizza. Healthy lunches – not! (And I wondered why I was hungry again two hours later!)

Since starting to eat low carb several years ago then experimenting with the Paleo diet and Whole30 this year, I’ve taken to heart the idea that eating healthy is a form of self respect. But let’s get real: I still don’t want to do anything too complicated when I’m just cooking for one. Here are some of my go-to strategies for eating a healthy lunch with minimal prep but maximum taste! (There are actually 12 now, with some bonus links at the end.)

10 12 Quick, Easy, Gluten-free, Paleo and Whole30-friendly, Healthy Lunches

My summer mainstay: Variations on tuna salad

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

I’ve done a whole post on this one already. Basically, it’s a mayo-free tuna salad with a core set of ingredients, and the flexibility to switch out whatever veggies you have on hand or that sound good to you on any given day. If you do a little veggie prep every few days — just chop up some onions, peppers, cucumbers, etc. — this becomes super easy to throw together. Another meal prep tip: keep some chopped parsley in a baggie in the freezer. It’s key to the flavor of this salad, but once you realize what a fresh flavor it adds to anything and how easy it is to keep it stocked in the freezer, you’ll want to keep it on hand all the time. I do!

Click over to the detailed post; there are lots of photos and ingredient suggestions.

Salmon cakes

healthy lunches: salmon cakes with soup

I cook salmon for dinner once a week (for example, salmon with avocado salsa, herb-crusted salmon, or ancho-crusted salmon), and whether I plan for it or it just works out that way, there’s often a little left over. A little is all you need for salmon cakes! But if you don’t have leftovers, canned salmon works fine, too.

I’ve never measured — that’s part of what makes this kind of cooking quicker! — but I’m guessing I usually start with around 1/3 a cup of already cooked salmon. I mash it together with one raw egg yolk, some diced onion (already prepped, from the fridge), and if I have it and feel like it, I might add some diced celery and/or bell pepper, too. Stir in some cracker crumbs if you’re not gluten-averse, tapioca or arrowroot starch if you are, and let that sit for a minute or two. Heat and grease a small frypan over medium heat, then form your mix into one or two patties and fry briefly on both sides, till golden-brown and delicious! Sometimes it turns out more loose and eggy, like a frittata — no worries; it’s still good!

healthy lunches: salmon cakes with zoodles

The recipe for the “zoodles” shown above is here.

Getting creative with leftovers

Think outside the box of just reheating leftovers…

A stir fry is a great way to combine and use up leftovers! For example, last night’s pork chop gets chopped up and tossed with the leftover green bean and mushroom side dish to become a stir fry:

healthy lunches: leftover pork chop

 

Turning a main dish into a salad is another approach. Leftover taco meat becomes a taco salad:

leftovers: taco salad

That “dressing” is just yogurt, salsa, and a little homemade taco seasoning I keep on hand. You can find the recipe here, but again, there’s no need to measure; just eyeball it, taste, and adjust if necessary.

A desperate, “what’s in the fridge” day was the birth of my antipasto salad:

quick-easy-antipasto-salad-600x600

 

Lettuce wraps are another great template for lunch. Leftover hamburger or crumbled sausage can make an impromptu gyro wrap, if you have some cukes and tomatoes on hand:

quick easy lunch: gyro wrap - paleo, gluten free

 

My winter mainstay: soup

Some day I’m going to do a whole post (and maybe a cooking class) on my soup method, but here are just a few examples of the kind of easy-to-throw-together soups I make almost every day, once the weather turns cool. If you have some broth, some prepped veggies in the fridge, and little leftover meat, it’s not hard to turn them into a wide variety of healthy lunches, like…

Simple chicken soup:

healthy lunches: chicken soup

Sausage, spinach, broth, and marinara make for a minestrone-inspired soup. (Forgive the filter; I was an instagram newb!)

minestrone

Leftover french onion soup from one day’s restaurant lunch + half a large burger patty from the next day’s restaurant lunch + a little diced squash + chopped spinach = one quick, easy, hearty soup.

 easy lunch: onion soup + burger

And one day, I was lucky enough to have a little leftover steak; threw it in at the last moment so as not to overcook it. The green blob is from a Wholly Guacamole mini — another thing I keep on hand for easy lunches. (This photo makes me hungry again!)

easy lunch: leftover steak soup

Some cooked, crumbled sausage, chicken bone broth, and assorted veggies; I don’t know what you call this soup, but it’s delicious!

easy soup: sausage and veggies

Sausage and sauerkraut

I know not everyone likes sauerkraut, but if you do, keeping a jar on hand in the fridge along with some healthy sausages or hot dogs can be a great, super-quick lunch option! Sauerkraut has tons of Vitamin C, and may be beneficial to gut health.

Just slice the meat, fry it till slightly browned, add the sauerkraut and cook till heated through. Additions are optional.

In the pic on the left, I used gourmet, uncured, sugar-free hot dogs. I added some diced apple with the sliced meat, so that the apples cooked till slightly tender. Another day, I was using chicken and apple sausage, and added some chopped avocado right at the end. Both days I added a sprinkling of celery seeds and black pepper, but there’s plenty of flavor without them!

easy lunch: sausage + sauerkraut

I hope I’ve inspired you to think beyond reheated as-is leftovers and the usual boxed or canned options, to create some healthy lunches of your own!

Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.

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10 easy healthy lunches