Tag Archives: salad

Dinner in 10: 5 Quick Meals for Busy Weeknights

15 Mar
Image sourced from diligogames.blogspot.com.

Image sourced from diligogames.blogspot.com.

Ever gotten home itching for dinner … only to see that it’s 8:30, nothing’s cooked, and your stack of takeout menus looks awfully appealing?

We’ve all been there! And while I’m a big advocate for meal planning when you grocery shop to avoid these kinds of “Egads! What the heck can I eat??” moments, time crunches, schedule shifts and last-minute snafus are inevitable. Who knows when you’ll have to stay late at the office, attend a last minute meeting, or hit traffic on your way home? And with a growling stomach, it’s a wonder we don’t have an epidemic of hangry* Americans on our hands.

Image sourced from etsy.com. Yup, that's me at about 5 pm every day.

Image sourced from etsy.com. Yup, that’s me at about 5 pm every day.

* Hungry + Angry. You know what I mean. 🙂

For these nights, I’ve whipped up this list of 5 Quick Meals for Busy Weeknights. Don’t worry, they aren’t just PB & J (well, one of them is — with a twist!); instead, they’re hearty, healthy meals that you can put together in about 10 minutes flat. Wallet-friendly, healthy food in less time than it takes to wash your hair. Win.

Tex-Mex Egg Scramble: Spray a microwave-safe cereal bowl with Pam or other cooking spray. Crack two eggs into the bowl, mixing lightly with a fork. Add 1 tsp of salsa, a sprinkle of chili powder, and a dash of garlic salt. Microwave in 40-second spurts until mostly cooked through. Scramble again with the fork and microwave for one final 20-30 second stretch. Serve over salad greens with a sprinkling of Mexican-blend cheese.

Deluxe ABJ: Toast two slices of whole-grain bread. Spread one slice with 1-2 tbsp almond butter. Spread the other slice with 1 tsp peach or strawberry jam. Sprinkle the almund butter slice with ground flax seed meal, and slice 1 banana to add to the sandwich.

Spicy Tuna Wrap: In a small bowl, mix 1 drained can of albacore tuna with 1-2 tbsp mayonnaise, a dash (to taste!) of Sriracha chile sauce, a dash of garlic salt, a dash of ground black pepper, and 1/2 tsp parsley. On a whole grain wrap, spread tuna mixture; top with chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. Add a slice of cheddar or Swiss cheese (optional). Roll into a wrap or burrito as you prefer.

Quesa-Quicka: On a whole grain tortilla, sprinkle 1/4 cup Mexican blend cheese. Add 1/2 cup drained and rinsed black beans. Mash the beans slightly with a fork. Top with 1-2 tbsp salsa of your choice, chopped tomatoes (optional), and 1/2 a chopped jalapeno (also optional!). Fold in half. Toast under a preheated 500° F broiler for 5 minutes, or until tortilla is brown and cheese has melted, flipping once. Cut into wedges and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Microwave Croque Monsieur: Toast a piece of whole grain bread. While the bread is toasting, set aside a slice of Swiss cheese. Spray a microwave-safe bown with cooking spray. Add 1 tsp water and 1 whole egg. Cover with Saran wrap or other plastic wrap. Microwave in 30-second spurts until the egg appears cooked to your liking. Place slice of Swiss cheese on toast; top with fried egg. Season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of Sesame oil for an Asian twist on a classic French sandwich.

The possibilities for quick meals are pretty much endless, but these are among my favorites when I’m feeling like a hungry-hungry-hippo at the end of a work day. What are your quick and easy go-to meals for busy weeknights? If you folks are vegan (i.e. no tuna, cheese or eggs, as I make liberal use of in these recipes), what are your solutions for quick meals? Happy eating!

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Budget Eats: All Your Salad Base Are Belong to Us.

30 Aug

I’m going to nerd myself out a little bit and link here to explain that ridiculous post title. Enjoy. Or just shake your head with a smile on your face. (Please?)

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There’s a rumor going around that fresh fruits and veggies are way too expensive for the average budget chef to afford. As a result, those of us with tighter wallets are preconditioned to believe that produce is out of our proverbial price range. (How’s that for alliteration? English teacher FTW.) Huge sad, indeed.

However! There’s always a balance to strike. First, frozen veggies are frozen at the height of their freshness, resulting in a solid alternative that’s slightly friendlier to one’s budget. Second, if you balance fresh and frozen produce, as well as focus on buying what’s in season (fun fact: apples are WAY more expensive if you feel like buying them in February), you can fill out your diet with the nutrients your body needs.

Note: For some quick info about which veggies are prime during which seasons, check out this link from the wise folks at Fruit & Veggies: More Matters.

With that in mind, I was inspired to write this Budget Eats post about one of my favorite meals: A great big, veggie-laden salad. The reasoning for that title, however, is two-fold: First, this IS a wallet-friendly way to nosh upon nutritional goodness in salad form. Second, this is a “base” recipe — a simple, tasty and aesthetically pleasing salad that you can top with any sort of protein and other fixins that you choose. I’ll have recommendations and tips posted below the recipe.

Simple Salad Base — Serves 1-2. (Easily multiplied for 3, 4, or more!)

You’ll need:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 5-10 baby carrots, or 1-2 large carrots, peeled
  • 2-3 roma tomatoes, or 1 large tomato
  • 1 “wild card” veggie of your choosing (green peppers, red onion, mushrooms), sliced or diced according to your preference
  • 1/4 a head of lettuce — I recommend Bibb, Romaine or Red Leaf.
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh herbs to garnish, if desired (basil and chives are muy delicioso)

Here’s what you do:

  • Prep your cucumbers: Peel if they’re waxed. Split the cucumber in half length-wise. Cut each length into half moon shapes, about 1/4 inch thick. (You can decoratively peel these, or run a fork down the sides of a peeled cuke for extra texture.)
  • Slice carrots on the diagonal, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  • Slice tomatoes — if roma tomatoes, slice into small rounds (between 5 and 8 per tomato); if a larger tomato, cut into wedges.
  • Slice or dice additional veggies according to taste and preference. Add ALL veggies to your serving bowl, along with a sprinkling of salt, pepper & fresh herbs, if desired. Toss gently and set aside.
  • Wash lettuce leaves; dry using a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. (Wet greens + dressing = no dressing on your greens. Oil and vinegar are not friends.) Tear or chop gently into bite-size pieces. Add on TOP of your other veggies and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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  • When serving, toss the entire salad gently. Dress and top with additional toppings as desired. Nosh upon the veggie goodness.

Why place the lettuce on top and wait to toss? It keeps the lettuce from wilting under the weight and moisture of other veggies.

Fun toppings for Salads — Vegetarian:

  • Chick peas, crumbled feta, and Greek dressing
  • Grilled marinated tofu (see this post on tofu scrambles for tips on how to prepare the tofu), crispy wontons or Asian noodles, sliced oranges and Sesame or Ginger dressing.
  • Black beans, salsa, grilled corn, a sprinkle of cumin and chili powder, and Ranch dressing that’s been spiked with taco seasoning.
  • Ricotta Salata cheese (thicker, grate-able ricotta), vegetarian pepperoni (such as Smart Deli), pepperoncini peppers, and thick, crusty croutons.
  • Hard boiled eggs for a bacon-free cobb salad taste.

Fun Toppings for Salads — Meat Included

  • Grilled chicken, marinated with balsamic vinegar, lemon and rosemary; parmesan cheese; and a simple oil & vinegar dressing.
  • Thinly sliced grilled steak, grilled corn on the cob (sliced off the cob), and bleu cheese crumbles.
  • Canned salmon or tuna, mixed with mayo, dill & a drizzle of lemon juice to make salmon or tuna salad. (Add a few squirts of Sriracha chili sauce for extra oomph!)
  • Indian-inspired  Chicken salad — 1 diced cooked chicken breast, 1-2 tbsp mayo or Miracle Whip, chopped cashews, golden raisins, and curry powder to taste. Add sliced apples for extra crunch, and serve with grilled Naan bread.
  • Antipasto-style: cooked tortellini (spinach or cheese are great), sliced salami and prosciutto, small chunks or balls of melon, mozzarella cheese (shredded or cut into chunks), and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Serve with breadsticks and a lovely glass of Chianti.

Next time on Budget Eats (for real this time): How to make a big ol’ pot of stew, soup or chili and save / freeze individual portions. Happy eating!

Here, Chickie Chickie: Rotisserie Chicken Chef’s Salad

27 Jun

It’s a bird! (No, it actually is a bird.) It’s a plane! (It’s … just “plane” good? Oif.) It’s … our friend the rotisserie chicken, back for the first of many meals-using-its-chickeny-goodness recipes.

Courtesy of ifood.tv. Just imagine a Superman cape photoshopped onto this bad boy.

An earlier post discusses how to shred the meat for mass consumption / multi-recipe-usage — check it out for ideas. I’ll also be posting several other recipes, including quesadillas, an outrageously good cast iron skillet pizza, and more. Stay tuned, my friends.

For now, this Chef’s Salad is a simple summertime dinner, or a nice-size lunch to share with company. It’s also a great way to use up random veggies, cheeses, or lunch meats on your fridge. What up with that.

Oooh-WEE. You know this guy wants some Chef’s Salad.

You’ll need:

  • Shredded meat from a rotisserie chicken (enough to feed 2-4 people; the serving sizes are up to you)
  • Sliced deli cheese (I used provolone, always a classic)
  • A smattering of veggies — I used tomatoes, cucumbers & carrots, but this is a great time to use up other leftovers! I’d also think about:
  • Green beans (quickly blanched, then dropped in an ice bath to stop the cooking process)
  • Broccoli (same process, unless you prefer yours raw)
  • Hard-boiled eggs, diced up
  • Sliced deli meat (I know ham is a classic; perhaps your salad can go meat-lovers-style?)
  • Romaine lettuce (though green leaf, bibb, and even iceberg can work really well)

Here’s what you do:

  • Rinse, pat dry, and tear lettuce leaves into bite-size-ish pieces. You’ll want enough lettuce to cover the bottom of your serving platter. Arrange said leaves along the bottom of your platter.
  • Cut most of your veggies into bite-size chunks. This also applies to hard-boiled eggs, if you’re using them. If you’re adding green beans, keeping them whole has a really nice effect to it. (Almost a salad nicoise, for my fellow French-speakers / Francophiles out there.)
  • Stack 3-4 slices of the deli cheese, and cut them into strips. Do the same with your lunch meat, if you’re using any.
  • If you like, season the shredded chicken by adding a bit of freshly chopped parsley (for color and that tasty clean flavor), a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of black pepper and a dash of garlic salt. Short, sweet, and to the point.
  • Arrange each individual item in a “stripe” that crosses your platter. You should end up with a downright aesthetically pleasing series of rows of your favorite ingredients. 
  • Serve with your Homemade Croutons, and whatever dressings you like. I’d try a simple drizzle of red wine vinegar and olive oil, or an easygoing Italian (like me! Haha, and we’re done with the jokes now). Can’t beat it.

Salad noms. The diced carrots add some cute color, no?

Salad Noms: Homemade Croutons

23 Jun

Chatham Village croutons, those little nuggets of crunchy goodness, are delicious (like, crack-in-crouton-form delicious), delightful, and … de-expensive. Last time I checked, those bad boys were selling for more than $7 on Amazon (yes, apparently you can buy groceries on Amazon. Thank you, Google, for that fun fact). As much as I love me some crunchy crouton goodness, buying them from the grocery store feels silly and impractical (budget-wise) when I can, just as easily, make them myself.

So, I did! And you will, too. Here’s what you need for Herby Croutons:

  • 4-6 slices of day-old bread (brand, type, grain = all up to you. I used a loaf of Pepperidge Farm “Light Style” wheat)
  • Olive Oil
  • Cooking spray
  • Dried herbs (I used basil, thyme, and parsley)
  • Garlic salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the slices of bread into cubes, about 1/2″ x 1/2″. Size and shape are really up to you.

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    Stack ’em and use a good knife for easy chopping.

  2. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray (I use Giant brand Canola Oil spray), and arrange the cubes on the cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake them for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

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    All lined up for their glamor shot, pre-tanning session.

  3. When they’re done and slightly cooled, toss them in a mixing bowl with a drizzle or two of Olive Oil. Meanwhile, mix together the garlic salt, pepper, and a smattering of dried herbs to your liking. (The herbs should equal about 2 teaspoons in total.) I used my mortar and pestle to crush the dried herbs, which releases their essential oils.

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    Just before I crushed ’em to bits.

  4. Toss everything together in your mixing bowl until the croutons are well coated with your herby-herb mixture.
  5. Enjoy! With the herb combination I used, these croutons are especially good on Caesar or chopped salads.
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What a bunch of cuties. All for approximately 50 cents.

Do you guys like adding croutons to salad, or are you strict anti-carb adherents? Have you made your own before, and what did you use to season them? How about the bread?