Tag Archives: cooking

My Favorite Recipes for Meal Prep

Spending a couple hours of the weekend doing meal prep and planning out dinners pays off big time during a busy week. Below are some of my favorite recipes for meal prep that help me put together quick, weekday dinners.

Do you find yourself running out of time to make healthy, home cooked meals during the week? Or just not wanting to cook by the time dinner comes? I do. So I started meal prepping on the weekends so I could stop relying on prepackaged, frozen food and takeout for dinners.

Check out my tried and true meal prep recipes that keep us eating well at home.

Hidden Veggie Meat Sauce

Hidden Veggie Meat Sauce

Hidden Veggie Meat Sauce is a large batch recipe that’s my go-to for those “I don’t want to cook” nights. It’s also great for the “I forgot to thaw something out” nights, because you can freeze it flat and thaw it in a sink of water. Warm the sauce, and toss it with cooked pasta or gnocchi to have dinner on the table in no time.

Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal is one of the recipes I make the most. My 5 year old loves these “muffins” for breakfast and has no idea that they’re actually really good for her. Full of oatmeal and flax seed – and naturally sweetened – baked oatmeal freezes really well and is super easy to reheat for an easy grab-and-go breakfast.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled pork cooked in your slow cooker is an easy way to get a jump start on dinner for the week. Get the recipe for slow cooker pulled pork plus 3 ways to use it – tacos, sandwiches, and gnocchi. That’s 3 different meals from cooking 1 pork roast. Serious meal prep win!

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce is rich and creamy, but contains no dairy. It’s actually vegan! Roasting tomatoes, onions and garlic in the oven until they’re super soft and tender creates a depth of flavor that you can’t get any other way. Use this sauce on pasta, tossed with pan-fried gnocchi, or as pizza sauce.

Roasted Garlic

Roasted Garlic

Roasted garlic is a meal prep secret weapon. I know – it’s not a meal – but having a jar of roasted garlic on hand will make anything you quickly toss together taste like it’s been slow cooking all day. Smash up roasted garlic cloves and mix into butter for THE BEST garlic bread. Toss mashed cloves into potatoes, rice, quinoa, or any cooked grain to up the flavor.

Slow Cooker Roast Chicken

Slow Cooker Roast Chicken

Did you know you can roast a whole chicken in your slow cooker? This was a game changer for me. I love having shredded, cooked chicken on hand for using in salads, sandwiches, and pastas. Or just having a super juicy, tender chicken for dinner. This completely replaced stopping at the store for a rotisserie chicken after work.

Meatballs

Meatballs

Meatballs were one of the frozen foods I was relying on a lot before I started meal prepping, so it became the first thing I wanted to make myself. This recipe makes 3 dozen meatballs that freeze perfectly and can be reheated in 10 minutes. Toss with store-bought BBQ sauce, a jar of Alfredo sauce, or my roasted tomato sauce for a super quick meal.

Roast Veggies

Roast Vegetables

Roasting veggies in the oven is a great way to get more vegetables in your diet. Keep them in the fridge and you have a simple, easy meal or side dish when tossed with cooked pasta, rice, or quinoa. Bonus: Cooked produce takes longer to spoil, so you’re more likely to eat up all those veggies you bought.

Do you prep your meals ahead of time? What are your favorite recipes for meal prep? Let me know in the comments below!


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, I make a small commission. 

Meal Prep: The Next Level – Stocking Up

This is part 2 of my meal prep series. Check out part 1 here.

When it comes to pulling together a quick dinner, I’m nothing without my freezer stock. Meal prepping this way allows me to always have some of our family’s staples on hand.

When I first decided to get serious about meal prep three years ago, I began our freezer supply with meat sauce, meatballs, and mashed potatoes. These were items that we were eating a lot of, but I was buying them all pre-made at the store. 

STOCKING UP 

Meal prep bulk cooking is some work to get started, but after a few rounds, you’ll figure out your priority items and find your groove. Then you just keep slowly adding to the list of items you want to keep on hand and, over time, you’ll end up with a super helpful stock of homemade foods that you can use at a moment’s notice. 

I have a chest freezer in my garage where I keep most of the items listed below. If your freezer access is limited to the one attached to your fridge, you can still do this, but you’ll need to adjust your meal prep according to the freezer space available.

Apple Cider Applesauce
Apple Cider Applesauce
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Meatballs
Meatballs

OUR (mostly) FREEZER SUPPLY

It’s taken a good year – and then some – to build up a freezer supply of go-to meal options for our family, plus a couple of dishes for the pantry and fridge. Here’s what’s consistently in stock in our house: 

Whew! That’s a lot. Let’s break this list down. 

For the: 

I make these in large batches. Two pounds of meat for the meat sauce, 5lbs of russet potatoes for the mashed potatoes, 3lbs of apples for applesauce, 3lbs pounds of meat for the meatballs – you see where I’m going here. I want to get at least 4 meals out of one cooking session. We’re a family of 3, but I make our staples in large quantities so there’s plenty to freeze. 

For the: 

These recipes all make more than we can eat at one meal. I freeze the rice and oatmeal. The roasted tomato sauce is good for 7-10 days in the fridge. For the roasted garlic, I pop the cloves out of their skins and into a small jar that I keep in the cupboard with my spices. (See instructions in this post.) 

For the: 

  • Chocolate chip cookie dough 
  • Bread, baguette or ciabatta 
  • Sliced or cubed raw chicken

I freeze these, but do a little work before they hit the freezer. The cookie dough I make according to the recipe. Instead of dropping it on to a cookie sheet for the oven, I cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop the raw dough on to that. Put it in the freezer overnight. Once they’re solid, remove them from the tray and into a zip-close freezer bag to store.

The bread gets sliced up when it comes home from the store, before being put into a zip-close freezer bag and then into the freezer. Thaw in the toaster or under the broiler depending on preferences for easy rolls, garlic bread, etc.

The raw chicken I also cut up right after I buy it. Slice boneless, skinless chicken breasts into cubes (for nuggets) or strips (for fajitas, stir fry, or chicken tenders) and then put into a zip-close bag to freeze and eliminate one more step for you to do the day of cooking. 

FREEZE IT FLAT

A lot of the dishes that go into the freezer I put into zip-close freezer bags and freeze flat. (See the “freezer, flat” note on the main list above.) The flat part is key here, as you can then take the bag from freezer, into a sink full of cold water, and have it mostly thawed in 15 mins (20 mins for the chicken). You can then easily break the food up a bit in the bag, put it in a pot, and anything still slightly frozen will quickly thaw once you turn on the burner and start cooking. 

HOW MUCH DO I FREEZE? 

It took some experimenting, but for us, 3 cup portions of a sauce or 2 cup portions of a side dish are good for 1 family dinner + 1 leftover meal, which I use as my lunch for the next day. The raw chicken I freeze in approx 1 pound packages. 

WHAT ABOUT WHOLE MEALS?

I do make a larger portion of any meal we like and freeze the leftovers for an additional quick meal option. (Mac and cheese falls into this category, as do burritos, lasanga, and enchiladas.)

I also take large casseroles – like lasagna – and divide it into 3 loaf pans or 2 – 8×8” pans while I’m assembling it instead of doing a giant 9×13” dish that will take us a week to eat. 

TIP: If you do this in disposable aluminum pans and freeze them, you’ll always have something on hand when you want to bring a meal to a friend or relative. 

WANT TO JOIN ME? 

Want to do you own freezer stock, but this looong post has your overwhelmed? Here are the basic steps: 

  1. Determine how much freezer space you have. 
  2. Come up with the top 2-3 meal items you’re buying pre-made from the freezer section of the store that you want to make yourself. 
  3. Find recipes for these items.
  4. Set aside 2-3 hours for prepping and cooking. 
  5. Shop for ingredients and anything you need for freezing (bags, containers, etc.) 
  6. Get cooking! 
  7. Divide food between freezer bags/containers, label well, and put everything in the freezer, laying it flat if possible. 
  8. Repeat these steps every week or two, adjusting as needed, until you have your own handy pile of homemade dinner items stocked up! 

Meal Prep to Make Dinner Easy

Spending a few hours in the kitchen doing meal prep one day a week saves time and gets dinner on the table faster for days to come.

It starts the way all bad habits do. Slowly. Quietly. Until one day you realize – this is a problem. 

That’s how it went with our meals: a bagel on my way to the office, a frozen meal from the store for lunch, take-out dinner from a restaurant. If I did cook, it was something thrown together using mostly processed foods. The majority of the fruits and vegetables I was buying ended up getting tossed. It was definitely time for a change. 

Letter board saying "I wish I was the person I thought I could be when i bought all this produce."

Challenge Accepted

In January 2017, I challenged myself to take on Epicurious’ #Cook90, where you cook every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner – at home for 30 days. (Read about my #Cook 90 experience.) It forced me to start planning out meals and writing weekly menus. And doing that led to the realization that if I started cooking when I got home from work, dinner wasn’t going to get on the table until 7pm or later. And in a house with a small kiddo, that’s too late.

I took a step back and considered what would make the cooking part go faster. Could I prepare things ahead of time? And if so, what?

I enjoy cooking and like to spend time in the kitchen each night, so while it’s fine once in a while, I don’t want the majority of our meals to be made ahead of time and either frozen or refrigerated to heat up later. I want to cook with fresh ingredients the night I’m going to eat them.

Doing It My Own Way

I get asked quite often about how I meal prep. To look at the outcome of my weekend kitchen time, the results seem a bit random. Here’s a couple of examples from my Instagram Stories:

Meal prep ideas and options with containers of mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, cooked quinoa, diced tomatoes, cucumber sauce, and diced mango.
Meal prep ideas and options with containers of mint simple syrup, mint and lemon yogurt sauce, chopped tomatoes, roasted veggies, and parsley, mint, lemon and olive oil.

For me, the purpose of meal prep is to (1) help weeknight dinners come together quicker, and (2) provide me with flexibility. Taking the time to meal prep makes me my own prep cook

I set aside 2-3 hours every weekend to meal prep. I start by planning out our dinner menu for the coming week, and then base my meal prep on what would help speed up cooking the dishes for that week’s menu.  

What veggies need to be chopped for each dish? Can any sauces be made ahead of time? Does anything need to spend a lot of time in the oven? If so, can I make that dish in advance? (e.g. Make the pan of enchiladas or lasagna over the weekend so I only have to bake them the night we’re going to eat them.) 

Sample Menu and Prep Work

Here’s an example of how I meal prep for dinner all week.

Over the weekend: 

There definitely doesn’t seem like a meal anywhere in all that effort, but here’s how it comes together. 

Meal 1: Pasta with peas and garlic bread

That night: Cook pasta. Heat up some frozen peas. Make some garlic butter and spread it on the bread. Broil the bread until the butter is bubbly and starting to brown.  
From the meal prep supply: Toss the roasted tomato sauce with the cooked pasta and peas. Stir in ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese and heat on low until everything is hot and cheese is melted. Mash a few cloves of roasted garlic into 2-3 Tbsp softened butter to make the garlic butte

Meal 2: Chicken fajitas

That night: Slice a couple of chicken breasts into strips and cook in a skillet with taco seasonings. Warm up tortillas.
From the meal prep supply: Cook the sliced onions and bell peppers in the skillet with the chicken. Serve cooked chicken and veggies with warm tortillas, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, and any other fixing you’d like.

Sliced chicken cooking with onions, peppers, and spices for using in fajitas
{Chicken strips cooking with sliced onions and peppers and taco seasonings}
Chicken and veggies in a flour tortilla
{Fajita meat and veggies folded into a flour tortilla, ready to eat!}
Meal 3: Grilled bratwurst with rice and veggies

That night: Make a pot of white or brown rice. Grill sausages.
From the meal prep supply: Heat up half of the roasted veggies and fold them into the cooked rice. Drizzle with a little olive oil. 

Meal 4: BBQ chicken with mashed potatoes and corn

That night: Grill some chicken, basting with your favorite store bought BBQ sauce. Heat up frozen corn.
From the meal prep supply: Warm up the mashed potatoes. 

Meal 5: Veggie Pasta

That night: Cook pasta.
From the meal prep supply: Heat up the remaining roasted veggies and toss with hot, cooked pasta, 1-2 Tbsp of butter or olive oil and the remaining ½ cup of Parmesan cheese.

And that’s dinner Monday-Friday!

Chances are pretty good that there are leftovers from the week’s meals, so a meal of leftovers becomes Meal 6. I often do a sandwich night (PB&J! Grilled cheese!) for Meal 7 to give myself a night off from cooking. 

What I like about this method is that nothing is locked in. Swap steak or shrimp for the chicken in the fajitas. Or make BBQ pork chops instead of chicken. Use any frozen veggies you like. 

This is about getting a home cooked meal on the table quickly and easily. And if I can do it, you can do it. 🙂 

Do you meal prep? What are your tips and tricks? Share them in the comments below!

Apple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

This side dish comes together quickly with the oven doing most of the work for you. Bacon, apples, and a dose of apple cider vinegar turns an otherwise boring veggie into something completely crave-able. These Brussels sprouts will have you making this fall veggie during all the other seasons!

Ingredients

16 oz Brussels sprouts
1 small onion
1 apple
4 slices bacon
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

Give the Brussels sprouts a good wash in cold water. Cut off the bottoms, then cut the Brussels sprouts in half – lengthwise. Place onto a metal sheet pan

Dice the onion. Peel, core and dice the apple.

Add both the onion and apple to the sheet pan with the Brussels sprouts. 

Cut the bacon into small pieces, around the same size as the onion.

Add to the sheet pan. 

Drizzle the Brussels sprouts, onion, apple, and bacon with 2 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss well to coat everything. 

Brussel sprouts ready for the oven

Put the sheet pan full of Brussels sprouts into the hot oven.

Roast veggies for 25 mins, tossing a couple times during baking.

(You can keep cooking them 5-10 mins longer if you like your Brussels sprouts super caramelized.)

Remove veggies from oven.

Toss with apple cider vinegar and remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. 

Enjoy! 

Tips on Apple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

  • Using a metal pan is important here, otherwise the Brussels sprouts won’t caramelize. You can use a 9×13” pan with high sides if you’d prefer, just be sure it’s metal. 
  • Feel free to leave the peel on the apples, if you prefer.
  • Use your favorite apple in the recipe. I use a Gala apple, but a Granny Smith or Macintosh apple would be delicious as well.

Drink Pairing

Apple Cider Sangria

Enjoy this dish with another fall favorite – Apple Cider Sangria!

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Apple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Apple Bacon Brussels Sprouts


  • Author: Katy McAvoy
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 40 min
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

Bacon, apples, and a dose of apple cider vinegar turns an otherwise boring veggie into something completely crave-able.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 16 oz Brussels sprouts
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 apple
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Instructions

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

Give the Brussels sprouts a good wash in cold water. Cut off the bottoms, then cut the Brussels sprouts in half – lengthwise. Place onto a metal sheet pan

Dice the onion. Peel, core and dice the apple.

Add both the onion and apple to the sheet pan with the Brussels sprouts. 

Cut the bacon into small pieces, around the same size as the onion.

Add to the sheet pan

Drizzle the Brussels sprouts, onion, apple, and bacon with 2 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss well to coat everything. 

Put the sheet pan full of Brussels sprouts into the hot oven.

Roast veggies for 25 mins, tossing a couple times during baking.

(You can keep cooking them 5-10 mins longer if you like your Brussels sprouts super caramelized.)

Remove veggies from oven.

Toss with apple cider vinegar and remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil

Enjoy! 

  • Category: Vegetables
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Brussels sprouts, Brussel, vegetable, bacon, side dish, roasting, roasted veggies, holiday sides

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Apple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, I make a small commission. 

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Rich and creamy, this roasted tomato sauce is also vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. Try it on pasta, gnocchi, or as pizza sauce! It’s a favorite in our house and often part of my weekend meal prep.

Ingredients

8-10 roma tomatoes
1 large onion
4-5 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 to 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth (if needed) 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

Slice tomatoes into large chunks. Place in a 9×13” metal pan with high sides.

Peel onion and chop into large pieces, roughly the size of the cut tomatoes.

Add onion to pan.

Peel cloves of garlic and either smash cloves with knife or cut each clove into 2-3 pieces.

Add garlic to pan, as well as olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

Toss together until tomatoes, onions, and garlic are coated with oil and spices. 

Place pan in 400 degree oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing veggies occasionally. You’re looking for the tomatoes, onions, and garlic to be super soft. (I like to roast mine until some charred edges appear on the tomatoes and onion in the pan.)

Vegetables chopped for roasted tomato sauce and ready for the oven.
{Before roasting…}
Vegetables done roasting and ready to go into the blender.
{After roasting!}

Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. 

Your roasted tomato mixture should have lots of liquid in it. If you’re tomatoes weren’t juicy and the veggie mixture is thick, stir in 1/2 cup of broth. 

Place the mixture into a blender, and puree on high until a creamy consistency has been reached. (If you’re mixture is too thick to blend, add another 1/4 cup of broth.)

Add salt/pepper to taste.

Store in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

Tips on Roasted Tomato Sauce

  • Use your roasted tomato sauce within 7-10 days. 
  • Any tomatoes will work here. You’re looking for 4 cups of large tomato chunks.
  • This sauce is delicious on pasta or pan-fried gnocchi.
  • Make sure you’re roasting the veggies in a metal pan. They’re cook just fine in a glass dish, but won’t achieve the caramelization you’re looking for.

Mix Ins

Mix ins for Roasted Tomato Sauce

Looking to add something to your pasta dinner? Toss the noodles and sauce with any combination of the following: thawed frozen peas, cooked mushrooms, caramelized onions, cooked bacon or sausage.

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Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce


  • Author: MittenGirl
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 40 min

Description

Rich and creamy, this roasted tomato sauce is also vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.


Ingredients

Scale

810 roma tomatoes*
1 large onion
4-5 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 to 1 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth (if needed)


Instructions

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

Slice tomatoes into large chunks. Place in a 9×13” metal pan with high sides.

Peel onion and chop into large pieces, roughly the size of the cut tomatoes.

Add onion to pan.

Peel cloves of garlic and either smash cloves with knife or cut each clove into 2-3 pieces.

Add garlic to pan, as well as olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

Toss together until tomatoes, onions, and garlic are coated with oil and spices. 

Place pan in 400 degree oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing veggies occasionally. You’re looking for the tomatoes, onions, and garlic to be super soft. (I like to roast mine until some charred edges appear on the tomatoes and onion in the pan.)

Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. 

Your roasted tomato mixture should have lots of liquid in it. If you’re tomatoes weren’t juicy and the veggie mixture is thick, stir in 1/2 cup of broth. 

Place the mixture into a blender, and puree on high until a creamy consistency has been reached. (If you’re mixture is too thick to blend, add another 1/4 cup of broth.)

Add salt/pepper to taste.

Store in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

  • Category: Dinner

Keywords: tomato sauce, roast, roasted vegetables, veggies, pasta sauce, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, meal prep

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Roasted Tomato Sauce

Apple Cider Applesauce

Full of fresh apples and warm spices, there’s no substitute for homemade applesauce. The addition of apple cider creates a deeper apple flavor in this apple cider applesauce.

Ingredients

12 apples (I love Gala)
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup apple cider
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 1/2  tsp vanilla
juice from half of a lemon (about 1 tsp)

Peel and core the apples. Chop into thin slices. 

Place apples into a large pot. 

Stir in remaining ingredients, making sure apples slices are evenly coated. 

Cook apples over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft. Approximately 25-30 minutes. If the liquid cooks down too much, stir in additional apple cider, 1/4 cup at a time.

Using a potato masher, carefully mash the apples until they are no longer recognizable slices.

Cook up the apples!
{Cook up the apples!}
Mash up the apples!
{Mash up the apples!}

Stir the applesauce and continue cooking until desired consistency is reached. 

Remove from heat and give the apples one final mash to break up any remaining larger chunks. 

Cool and enjoy!

Notes on Apple Cider Applesauce

  • This is a chunky applesauce. If you prefer a smooth applesauce, swap the potato masher for an immersion blender or puree apples in a food processor or traditional blender. (If using a traditional blender, puree in small batches.)
  • You can use apple juice or water in place of the apple cider. It will make for a lighter color applesauce and you may need to add more brown sugar. Be sure to taste your applesauce and adjust according to your sweetness preferences.

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Apple Cider Applesauce

Apple Cider Applesauce


  • Author: MittenGirl
  • Prep Time: 15 minss
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 45 mins

Description

Full of fresh apples and warm spices, there’s no substitute for homemade applesauce. The addition of apple cider creates a deeper apple flavor in this apple cider applesauce.


Ingredients

Scale

12 apples (I love Gala)
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup apple cider
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 1/2  tsp vanilla
juice from half of a lemon (about 1 tsp)


Instructions

Peel and core the apples. Chop into thin slices. 

Place apples into a large pot. 

Stir in remaining ingredients, making sure apples slices are evenly coated. 

Cook apples over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft. Approximately 25-30 minutes. If the liquid cooks down too much, stir in additional apple cider, 1/4 cup at a time.

Using a potato masher, carefully mash the apples until they are no longer recognizable slices.

Stir the applesauce and continue cooking until desired consistency is reached. 

Remove from heat and give the apples one final mash to break up any remaining larger chunks. 

Cool and enjoy!

  • Category: Snacks
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: apple, cider, apples, applesauce, fall, spices, cinnamon, homemade

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Apple Cider Applesauce

Week Four of #Cook90… and DONE!

Epicurious issued the #cook90 challenge to cook 3 meals a day for 30 days in January and I decided to accept. (Read: Why I’m Going to #cook90.) But now it’s the end of the month. Which means, I did it!

Done!

img_9032Post-dinner on January 31 and that’s a wrap! I’d love to claim “where did the month go?” but I can’t. This challenge was surprisingly difficult. I even missed some of those pre-made foods – after all, they’re tasty! And I buy them because there are some things that I just don’t want to make myself. (Bring on the Trader Joe’s potstickers!)


Lessons Learned

So what did cooking and Instagram-ing so many meals in one month teach me?

  1. Weekend prep is KEY. There is no getting around it. Coming home on a weeknight knowing there’s roasted veggies, washed and chopped lettuce, and cooked chicken in the fridge, makes dinner seem less daunting. Pasta, sandwiches, wraps, and tacos can all the made from those ingredients in less time than it would take me to decide where to call for takeout.
  2. Meal planning is a must. To keep from getting bored with everything I’ve cooked on the weekend, a meal plan with pre-determined variations is necessary. It also helps in dealing with the inevitable leftovers.
  3. The freezer is my friend. Much of my weekend meal prep goes into Ziploc bags and into the freezer so I can easily thaw sauces and sides in minutes. This has helped keep the variety up and the leftovers to a minimum.
  4. A lot of people like pictures of food. I am still surprised when complete strangers leave encouraging comments on my Instagram posts. It’s oddly motivating and definitely appreciated.

img_9033 img_9034 img_9035

Goal Reached

When I started this challenge, the goal was to get back to truly enjoying cooking. Last weekend, after sampling some fresh-from-the-oven blueberry banana bread I declared out loud “I love cooking.” It was completely spontaneous, and definitely told me that this little experiment has been a good one.

Upkeep

Now comes the really hard part – keeping it up. At least in some capacity. While I have no doubt that some pre-made food will sneak back into rotation, my new goal will be to keep up some version of the weekend prep and planning for as long as possible. Who knows, maybe I just spent 30 days creating a new habit!

Recipes from this week:

Week Three of #Cook90

Epicurious issued the #cook90 challenge to cook 3 meals a day for 30 days in January and I decided to accept. (Read: Why I’m Going to #cook90.)

22 days down. 8 to go.

Cooking Ahead Wins Big

This week saw big shifts in schedules for us as husband’s work had him gone several nights and I began taking an online class two nights a week. Everything we’re eating on the nights I have class comes straight from the freezer supply of pre-cooked-by-me dinners, giving me lots of motivation to keep up the weekend prep cooking.

Eat and Repeat

In trying not to constantly repeat dinners, I’m noticing meal planning getting progressively harder as we move through the month. Apparently we’re creatures of habit when it comes to eating. But I’m also dipping hard into our freezer stockpile, which lends itself to repeats. But meatballs can be turned into lots of things and we love burritos, so maybe repeats are OK.

img_8876 img_8875 img_8874

A Cooking Challenge

img_8873One of my favorite people recently began an autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet to help ease some of her symptoms. It’s super restrictive, but I’m determined to make it as painless as possible for her. So this weekend I cooked her an AIP-friendly lunch. There was no sugar, wheat, dairy, eggs, nightshades, nuts or additives to be found. I enjoyed the creative challenge of creating a menu that was healthy, delicious and met AIP diet standards. We dined on sage and garlic rubbed pork, sweet potato and apple puree, and salad with avocado and a ginger-basil vinaigrette. Italian sodas made with a blueberry vanilla reduction, and mango banana granita for dessert rounded out our meal.

Onward to Week 4

After conquering the first week of eating a home cooked dinner before night classes, I feel confident we can do it again. I’m heading into the last stretch of this challenge, and if I’ve made it this far, I can do another week. Right…?

Recipes from this week:

Recipe: Tomato Rice with Black Beans

  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 – 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

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Drain all liquid from the can of tomatoes into a measuring cup. Add enough water to yield 2 cups of liquid. Pour into a small pot. Add the rice, garlic powder and onion powder. Stir and following cooking instructions on the package of rice.

While rice is cooking, in a small pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent.

In a bowl, combine black beans, cilantro, tomatoes, cooked onions and garlic, and cooked rice. Stir in cilantro, salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Week Two of #Cook90

Epicurious issued the #cook90 challenge to cook 3 meals a day for 30 days in January and I decided to accept. (Read: Why I’m Going to #cook90.)

14 days down. 16 to go.

Celebrating

img_8711Day 8 (Sunday) was a birthday celebration, so a special dessert was in order. Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes are quick to put together, and use ingredients that are always in my pantry. Easy! Turns out, not so much when the cake sticks to the ramekin and the whole thing turns into a puddle of lava before you can get it out of the dish. #fail. Oh well. It tasted delicious, even if it wasn’t pretty.

Buying Ingredients

For the second week in a row, I’ve noticed #cook90 leading to a change in my grocery shopping. Instead of coming home with mostly pre-made food, I bought mostly ingredients, including two bags full of produce. In our world, this is a big deal. Pretty sure there was a week in December when the only produce that made it into our house was a bag of apples, and those were turned into pie…

Bonus Prep Day

On Day 12 (Thursday) we woke up to find our world coated in ice and just about every area school closed. For my office, it meant a work from home day. So I used the day to cook up two big pans of roasted veggies since I could get emails and other work done while the oven did the cooking. Those veggies are now getting tossed over salad greens, folded into tortillas or topped with eggs.

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The Freezer is my Friend

While cooking this week didn’t feel any easier than last – especially when it came to my motivation – I was reminded almost every day that weekend prep to fill the freezer is the only way I’m going to make it through the #cook90 challenge. Cooking prep for this weekend includes: another chicken in the slow cooker, a carrot/parsnip mash (so I can attempt to get more veggies in the kiddo), re-stocking the baked oatmeal supply, and a huge batch of waffles.

Onward to Week 3

The upcoming week is going to get tough with some major schedule shifts on the horizon. Hopefully #cook90 will keep me focused on cooking at home instead of resorting to pizza or takeout. Fingers crossed!

Recipes from this week: