Tag Archives: quick

Antipasto salad

antipasto salad

quick easy lunch; 5-minute antipasto salad

Some of my favorite dishes come about as a result of being short on options. This antipasto salad that I had for lunch a couple days ago was one of those — a super quick, easy lunch!

It starts with me standing in front of the open fridge, thinking – Let’s see, what’s on hand? Mixed greens, Genoa salami, mini peppers, a block of Parm. Hmm, I could make an Italian salad out of that. Cut the salami in quarters, slice the peppers very thin, toss that together in a bowl. Shave in some Parmesan, using a vegetable peeler.

This Creamy Italian Dressing would have been nice, but since I didn’t have it on hand, I put 1 T. of red wine vinegar, 2 T. of olive oil, and a tiny squirt of dijon mustard in a baby food jar, and shook that up. Then decided some salt and pepper would be good, too, so added a few dashes of each, and shook it again. Instant vinaigrette!

instant vinaigrette for quick easy salad

Poured that over the salad, and tossed in some pine nuts. These add a bit of crunch and a little bit of sweetness. (If you like olives and have some on hand, that would be a good addition, too.)

Bonus: it’s Paleo-friendly, Whole30 compliant (without the Parm), sugar-free, gluten-free, and low carb!

Pretty quick, easy lunch — and doggone good for five minutes and on-the-fly! So good, in fact, it will be showing up as a side dish at dinner tonight. 🙂

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quick, easy lunch; 5-minute antipasto salad

Bacon-ranch cucumbers

quick easy paleo snack: bacon ranch cucumbers

quick easy paleo snack: bacon ranch cucumbers

 

Talk about a quick, easy Paleo snack: Three ingredients, and NO cooking of any kind!

On top of which, two of the ingredients are BACON! and this fabulous, easy, Paleo Ranch dressing. Which — trust me — once you try it, you are gonna wanna keep in your fridge at all times!

If you don’t like Ranch, homemade mayo would work well, too.

Already-cooked, chopped bacon is another thing that — IMHO — should always be on hand in the fridge. Especially since the best, easiest way to cook bacon means cooking a whole big batch up at a time is no more trouble than cooking a few pieces.

So, if you have those two things on hand, and you have a cucumber, you can whip this bad boy up in no time flat! Perfect for a snack, appetizer — or maybe just lunch! You could package the three ingredients separately, and pack them with an ice pack for a work lunch, school lunch, or picnic.

Oh you wanna go a little fancier? Sure, add some finely diced tomato, or some snipped chives or dill. Pump up the protein with a little smoked turkey or chopped hard boiled egg.

But for instant gratification, those three ingredients will do just fine!

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Gyro wrap (gluten-free, mostly Paleo)

quick lunch from leftover hamburger - gyro wrap

Some of my best — and easiest! — lunches are born out of “what do I have in the fridge and freezer today?” This Gyro-inspired wrap is one of them.

I usually have already-cooked sausage or seasoned hamburger in the freezer, crumbled and divided into quarter-pound servings, in individual sandwich baggies. I also try to always keep romaine in the fridge, and now that I’m no longer doing a strict Whole30, I also keep plain Greek yogurt in the fridge. (Use dairy-free yogurt for Whole30 or strict Paleo.) And I always, always keep diced onions at-the-ready. All that’s needed to round out this lunch is tomatoes, cucumber, and a little dill.

No measuring involved; these directions are for one serving: Just put a “plop” of yogurt in a small bowl or ramekin (I’d guesstimate that’s about 2 or 3 tablespoons), add a pinch of dried dill weed, and a generous dash of garlic salt. Stir those together and set aside.

easy lunch: dill yogurt sauce for gyro

 

Defrost and warm up the ground beef or sausage. (Here’s a short video showing how I season the hamburger as I cook it.)

Dice some cucumber, tomato and onion.

Next, lay out three medium-sized heart-of-romaine leaves — or similar sized lettuce leaves, or other gluten-free wrap of your choice. (Have you tried this gluten-free flatbread recipe?)

Then layer them with a smear of the yogurt sauce, one third of the heated meat mixture, and top with the diced vegetables according to your taste. Top with more yogurt sauce, if desired.

quick easy lunch: gyro wrap - paleo, gluten free

 

The reason for putting some sauce on the bottom is that the juices from the meat will mingle with it and create a more complex sauce. The extra yogurt on top stays cold and provides a contrast to the warmer contents below.

Of course, you can tweak this suit your leftovers: use guacamole in place of the yogurt mix and swap out the cucumbers for your pepper of choice for gluten-free taco wraps. Swap mayo (and/or ketchup, if you allow it) for the yogurt mix, and sub pickles and/or mustard for the cukes, and you’ve got an American burger wrap. What else could you come up with?

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your leftovers! It opens up a lot more possibilities for quick, easy lunches!

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quick easy lunch - gyro wrap, paleo, gluten-free

Very veggie tuna salad

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

Making healthy food more convenient is the way to kick the convenience food habit! But I can’t deal with the kind of meal prep that requires having 12 different casseroles in the freezer to drop in the slow cooker. What works for me is having a lot of different ingredients and meal components chopped and/or cooked, so they’re ready to be thrown together at a moment’s notice, for quick, easy meals — not just dinner, but also super easy lunches, since I work from home.

Lately, I’ve been on a tuna salad kick. It’s a perfect lunch for summer – no cooking needed! I do sometimes do the super-simple version of throwing a packet of tuna, a bit of homemade mayo, and some lemon pepper together and eating it on romaine hearts. Might even throw in some chopped celery and/or pickle, if I feel like a little something extra. But lately, I’ve been doing variations on a tuna salad dressed with oil and vinegar, rather than mayo. And this is a great way to work in lots of veggies, too!

This would work great for a lunch to pack for work, school, or a picnic, too.

The core recipe is:

1  2-to-3 oz. package of tuna

about 1/2 c. of diced onion (but you can eyeball* it)

1 T. of lemon juice or rice vinegar

2 to 3 T. of olive oil (use 2 if the tuna is packed in oil; 3 if it’s packed in water)

1/4 c. chopped parsley – again; just eyeball* it

1/4 to 1/2 avocado

1/2 t. kosher salt (or 1/4 t. regular salt)

1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper – or more to taste

a pinch or two of dill – optional

*”Eyeball it” = just throw in an amount that looks to you like it would fill a measuring cup of that particular measurement. If you’re not comfortable doing that straight away, measure it out and pay attention to what that looks like, and remember it for next time. This saves you the few seconds of getting out a measuring cup. (And saves some space in the dishwasher.)

This is where my meal prep comes in handy. I always keep a container of already-diced yellow onion in the fridge, and a container of already-chopped parsley in the freezer. I squeeze fresh lemons every few days and keep a bottle of that in the fridge. If you’re cool with the pre-squeezed stuff that comes in a bottle, I won’t judge! I also keep tuna packets in the fridge, so the tuna is already cold when I add it to the other salad stuff. When I buy a bunch of parsley, I chop it all and put it in a baggie in the fridge. It stays a nice green and is super easy to grab what you need and toss it into any dish.

Avocado is something that’s best cut up at the last minute, but thanks to the acid in the dressing, the avocado won’t turn too brown if you need to hold this for a few hours.

Then add the other veggies of your choice, and stir it all together gently. It’s best if you can let it chill for a couple hours or so, but I rarely think ahead that far! Whenever you’re ready to eat it, taste it first and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add more salt if it’s just overall bland; more lemon/vinegar and/or pepper if it needs more zing!

Here are some of my variations…

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

This has been my standby combo for years: to the basic core recipe, I add some chopped bell pepper — also something I keep ready in the fridge — and some chopped tomato. (Tomatoes should always be kept at room temp for best flavor, so those can’t be stashed in the fridge.) Measurements aren’t important; just add it till it looks like an amount you’ll like.

Lately, I’ve been trying to live without nightshades — a family of plants including potatoes, tomatoes, and all peppers except black pepper. (Not because these veggies are bad for you! But some people have a sensitivity to them, and I’m experimenting to see if they have any impact on how I feel.) So here are a few nightshade-free tuna salad variations.

nightshade-free tuna salad

Here, I used diced cucumber to replace the crispy texture of the bell pepper, and pine nuts to fill the role of the sweetness of the tomatoes. It turned out quite nice!

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tuna salad with ranch dressing

And here’s another slight variation on that: still with cucumbers, but I’ve also got some diced celery, chopped celery leaves, and homemade paleo Ranch dressing added to the mix. Oh, and half a hard-boiled egg — another thing to keep on hand, if you like them.

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mayo-free tuna salad variation

Another alternative for those avoiding tomatoes: blueberries! I know, it sounds weird, right? But don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! The blubes have a sweet-slightly-tart flavor that makes an excellent sub for tomatoes.

Pretty easy lunches, huh? I hope this gives you some inspiration: with some of your favorite pre-diced veggies in your fridge and a couple other staples on hand, you can mix up any number of variations of your own favorite salad, and it really just takes a few minutes.

These could serve two people for a light lunch; especially if you serve something else with it. I must confess, though, that most days, I polish it all off on my own!

easy lunch - all gone!

 

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Easy-peasy appetizer: salami & mango

paleo or whole30 appetizer: salami & mango

This is a super-easy appetizer, perfect for any casual get-together. And you don’t have to be doing Paleo or Whole30 to love it!

We have some great friends we’ve known for ages, and we have a collective birthday dinner every April. We’ve done this every year, starting before we all had kids — more than 24 years ago!

Usually we go out, but sometimes we pull together a collective gourmet meal, and with the hubs and I doing Whole30 this month, eating at home is always easier than eating out, so we invited everyone over.

We all chipped in on some pricey but oh-so-amazing steaks from Whole Foods, which my hubs grilled up to absolute perfection. I made a spinach salad with strawberry poppy seed dressing. Joni brought a dish of baked asparagus with tomatoes and sundried tomatoes — sprinkled with Parmesan for the rest of them, served without for us Whole30-ers. And I didn’t miss the cheese at all; it was delish! Cindy brought a tasty selection of fresh fruit for dessert; I made some banana ice cream to go with it. (The Kitchn has a recipe that just uses bananas, but I added some coconut milk and a splash of vanilla. Toasted pecans were a nice topper, too.)

For the appetizer, I threw together this incredibly simple dish. It sounds like a weird combo, I know — I got a skeptical look from at least one person when I described them — but the combination of the salty salami and the sweet mango just works! 

Here’s how you do it.

First, cut the cheeks off a mango. I find the kind with yellow skin is usually smoother than the red/green skinned kind. They’re sometimes called “champagne mangos.” Whatever.

This video shows how to cut a mango; you just need to watch from 0:39 to 1:14 –

Then, leaving the skin on, cut very thin slices diagonally, not cutting through the skin, as shown in the video. He used a spoon to scoop them out; I use a knife.

paleo appetizer: slicing the mango

You want your slices really thin; about 1/16″ of an inch. 1/8″ will be too thick, because it’ll be harder to get the salami to stay folded.

Then taking one salami slice at a time, add a couple slices of mango, put a small smear of guacamole or smashed avocado next to it — this is the glue the holds it together — then fold it over.

paleo appetizer: salami assembly

Repeat with the remaining slices. You should be able to get about a dozen pieces out of one mango, maybe more.

Alternatively, you can just lay out slices of salami and mango and let people assemble their own, skipping the guacamole, if you want. Easier yet!

To make sure this is Whole30 compliant, look for sugar-free salami if possible, with minimal processing and chemicals.

It makes a beautiful plate, and the contrast of flavors is quite happy! It would also be at home on a brunch or luncheon table. And it’s so super-simple, I sometimes have it for an afternoon snack. Try it; I think you’ll be hooked, too!

paleo or whole30 appetizer: salami & mango

Paleo snack attack: Salami & Avocado

paleo/whole30 snack: salami + avocado
paleo snack: salami + avocado; also Whole30 compliant

These were born out of mid-afternoon Paleo snack desperation! Two hours to dinner and I’m starting to get low-blood-sugar-stupid. So I rummaged around in the fridge, and this is what I came up with: a bit of ripe, creamy avocado spread over some organic salami and folded over into a mini “taco”. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cultural mish-mash, but if the salami is sugar-free, you’ve got a Whole30 compliant, Paleo-friendly, super-quick snack!

If I were to pretty these up, I might leave the salami flat and sprinkle some minced red onion or chives on top of the avocado, but — as I said — this plate was born of desperation! (And later inspired another easy Paleo snack or appetizer: salami with mango.)

Foolproof, easy, 4-ingredient mayo

breadless-blt-27s-cu-400
homemade mayonnaise: paleo/whole30 mayo ingredients
I’ve been meaning to try to make my own mayonnaise for ages, because it seems impossible to find a mayo that’s both sugar-free and not made with canola. Most, if not all, canola is genetically modified. And sugar in mayonnaise?! Yeah, you’d be surprised. Read labels next time you go to the store.

But I thought homemade mayo surely had to be tricky. Perfect temperatures and/or timing, danger of the emulsion breaking, that sort of thing. Turns out… nope! I tried this recipe and method from The Healthy Foodie, and it’s so easy it’s ridiculous! Worked the first time, and every time since then. All that’s necessary is a stick blender, and a jar that’s the right size. It might also be just as doable in a normal blender, but I haven’t tested that.And, yes, for those who care: this is Paleo, and Whole30 compliant.

Perfect for my gluten-free, grain-free “BLT’s without bread“! A super-easy, low-carb Paleo snack or meal. Quick, too, if you have already-cooked bacon on hand — and you should!

I go crazy for these when good tomatoes are in season! But they’re still pretty tasty when the only decent tomatoes available around here (<sarcasm> yay, winter in Kansas! </sarcasm>) are grape tomatoes.

Plain ol’ mayo needs no herbs, but if you want to bump up the flavor a bit, add a pinch or two of your favorites. I’ve included my suggestion in the ingredients list….

Easy homemade mayo recipe

  • 1 large egg, taken straight out of the fridge (no need to bring to room temp)
  • 1 cup very-light-tasting olive oil (NOT virgin), or other flavorless oil of your choice
  • 2 – 3 teaspoons lemon juice, rice vinegar, or other pale vinegar of your choice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon salt (start small; mix; taste; adjust if necessary)
  • Optional bonus: flavor it with a pinch of dill and a few pinches of fresh chives – YUM!

Put it all in your carafe or jar, blend holding the stick still till the mayo-in-the-making reaches almost to the top of the oil, then move up and down a few times till all oil is incorporated. Yeah, it’s that easy.

Here’s the original mayo recipe, with detailed instructions. This works great in the beaker/carafe that came with my blender (below), but if you’re just using a glass jar, the size of the jar matters, so I recommend looking that up in the original recipe.
Note: when freshly made, it tastes kinda oily. If you’re going to immediately blend it into a salad dressing or slaw mix, that won’t be a problem. But if it’s going to be a star player, a chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight will be a good thing.
P.S. My old Braun stick blender (also called an immersion blender or hand blender) went kaput this week, so I just ordered a new one from Amazon – Cuisinart this time. I consider it an absolute essential in the kitchen! The price goes up and down on Amazon, so if you want one and it’s currently over $45 — and you’re not in a hurry — put it in your cart and leave it there. They’ll send you an email if the price goes down!

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Thinking of going Paleo?

Check out my 20-Day Countdown to a New Way of Eating!

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Mealprep: 40 recipes to stock your freezer and free your mind!

Tacos-1

One of the best ways to eat healthy is to eat at home more. But for any busy person, this becomes a real challenge when it’s 4:30 and you have no idea what to make for dinner. Prepping some ingredients and/or dishes ahead of time to stash in the freezer can save the day. Not only does it save you cooking time, it also saves you brain effort at the very time of day your brain is most overtaxed!

Sure, these mean a little more work on the weekend — but you can do it at a leisurely pace, when you’re rested and not rushed. Which I’ve found makes cooking so much more enjoyable!

NOTE: not all of these are real food/Paleo/Whole30.

Mealprep: taco kit from The Kitchn
A week of dinners in the freezer, from The Kitchn. Recipes for: Baked Manicotti – Freezer Taco Kits – Twice-Baked Potatoes – Chile & Sausage Oven Frittata – Cranberry Pork Chops – Chicken and Wild Rice Bake. (Also includes side dishes, not listed here.) You can also find this same list of recipes with additional notes on how to turn prep day into a Freezer Meals Party.
Mealprep: stocking the freezer

Here are tips for stocking your freezer with precooked and seasoned meats, which gives you more versatility than already-assembled dishes. Includes instructions (but not exact recipes) for twice-baked potatoes, two different ground beef mixes, a teriyaki marinade that you can use on any meat, poultry or seafood (lots of sugar in it, though), and shredded chicken plus broth. Also has a few nifty tricks for neater packaging.

ingredient prep, + why i like it better than meal prep

For the past several months, I’ve gotten into the habit of ingredient prep. This works really well for me! It’s less labor-intensive on the front end, and more flexible at go-time! (I was originally inspired by this post by Mel Joulwan at Well Fed.)

Mealprep from Pioneer Woman

Here’s Pioneer Woman’s freezer cooking post. Not a lot of healthy stuff on the list, but I do love her tip for grilling whole chicken breasts and freezing them to have on hand for dozens of uses. I count about 11 main-dish recipes on her list, skipping the carb-laden ones.

Mealprep: chicken breasts
I also like this method for an easy way to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts, from Small Home Big Start.
Mealprep from New Leaf Wellness

Eight healthy freezer crockpot meals in 75 minutes, from New Leaf Wellness. Well, really four different meals, double batch of each. Beef Roast and Carrots – Chicken Fajitas – Mexican Chicken Soup – Garden Veggie Soup with Ground Beef.

Mealprep shopping lists

10 meals in 1 hour – super organized and detailed; even includes shopping list! Really just five recipes; double batch of each. Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken –  London Broil – Quick Taco Soup – Orange Glazed Pork Chops – Creamy Italian Chicken

Mealprep - more shopping lists

10 meals in 1 hour, take 2; the no-bake version; includes five warm weather recipes that are cooked either on the grill or in the crockpot—no oven required!

More about the method…

Here are a couple resources that aren’t recipe lists, but more of a how-to go about mealprep and make it work for you.

From Mealime: Meal Planning: The Definitive Guide to Planning Your Meals Stress-Free. This is an exhaustive collection with tons of tips — how to plan, how to shop, how to cook, etc.

Mealprep - the non-planned approach

A planned/non-planned approach. No recipes here, but some pointers for stocking your freezer with ready-to-go meat and cheese portions, then how to plan meals the weekend or night before, taking into account your schedule, the weather, and what’s in your fridge that needs to be used up.

 

And here are a few ingredients to have pre-cooked and ready in the freezer:

And a few things to know about food safety and quality:
Mealprep: freezer recipes