30-Minute Healthy Steak Bibimbap Bowls

The hubby is a big fan of Korean food, and particularly the popular rice-bowl dish, bibimbap. And really, what’s not to like? You’ve got meat, veg, grain, and egg all in a single dish…topped with spices that bring heat, sweet, sour, and tangy all at the same time.

Usually, though, whenever the hubby had a bibimbap craving, we’ve gone out for it, as I assumed that it would be too difficult to try to assemble at home. But once I looked into it a bit more, I found that a (slightly Westernized, slightly simplified) version of bibimbap was pretty darn easy, and have since incorporated it into our normal meal rotation.

The key to this dish is that you have to be comfortable mutli-tasking in the kitchen and having several components going at the same time. As such, it’s best to read through the entire directions list first, so that you’re fully prepared to move from step to step.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup uncooked brown rice per bowl
  • Frozen Spinach (thawed and drained)
  • Shallot, chopped
  • Garlic, chopped
  • 1 steak (any type) (you’ll want roughly 3-4 oz of uncooked steak per bowl)
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Sugar
  • Sesame Seeds (Toasted, if you can find them)
  • Green onions, chopped finely
  • Eggs (1 per bowl)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sriracha Sauce
  • Gojuchang Sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Sesame Oil
  • Lime Juice

Directions:

  1. Start the rice, by rinsing and then following package directions for cooking.
  2. Create the bibimbap sauce, by combining those last 6 ingredients to your taste. I did about 1 tbsp each of the first 3 ingredients, and then roughly 1-2 teaspoons of everything else. (But the great thing about this dish is that you can make it exactly how you like it, so experiment with your preferences and create your own masterpiece!)
  3. Place about 1/2 of your sauce in a plastic freezer bag with the steak, to give it a quick marinade. Massage the sauce so that it covers the meat, then set side for a few minutes. Set the rest of your sauce aside for later use.
  4. Make a quick pickling solution. Combine equal parts sugar and vinegar in a small sauce pan with roughly 1 tbsp sugar per cup of liquid. Heat till dissolved and starting to simmer.
  5. Thinly chop your cucumbers and carrots and place in a bowl. Pour the hot pickling liquid over the top of them, and set aside.
  6. Start your steak. I prefer to do this over the grill, but you can also do it on the stove, preferably in a cast iron skillet. Depending on the thickness of your steak, you’ll probably want about 6 minutes on each side for medium rare. Once the steak is finished, let it rest off the heat for at least five minutes before slicing.
  7. While the steak cooks, get your veggies going. Add a little sesame oil to a pan with the shallots and garlic, until they start to sweat. Then add the spinach, stirring occasionally until heated through and any residual water has cooked off.
  8. Once the spinach is complete, set it aside. Wipe down your saute pan and add just a little more oil, then in-go your eggs. You want to fry them to a nice “over-easy” consistency, so roughly 4 minutes or so over medium heat should be about right.
  9. Finally, everything should come together about the same time. Divide your rice and spinach mix between the bowls. Thinly slice your cooked steak, and add it to the bowls as well. Drain your quick pickles and add those to your bowls, then slide a fried egg on top.
  10. Finally, take the remainder of your bibimbap sauce from earlier and drizzle over your completed bowl, and top with toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions. Voila! You’ve got a super-hearty and restaurant worthy bibimbap dish in just half an hour.

 

From Table Scraps to Super Soup: Making Your Own (Sugar-Free) Chicken Broth

As we often tend to go on low-carb kicks around these parts, I’ve come to know that you often find sugar hiding in some pretty unexpected places…everything from beans to tomato sauce to salad dressings often include the added white stuff.

But my personal pet peeve for hidden added sugar? Chicken broth. Go ahead and look in your pantry right now. If you have commercial chicken broth in there, chances are you’ll find sugar among the ingredient list. In fact, I’ve literally looked at every single chicken broth brand for sale at our local supermarket. All of them contain unnecessary added sugar.

So, I’ve gotten in the habit of making my own. And I got started thanks to a tip from famous tv chef Lidia Bastianich. Her advice was to stick a gallon-size freezer bag in your freezer, and then, as you go about preparing vegetables or chicken in your kitchen for your regular meals, just shove the leftover bits in the bag instead of throwing them away. Once the bag is full? You’re ready to make some chicken broth.

Such a simple idea, and yet, it works marvelously. Chicken bones, trimmed chicken pieces, even chicken skin, whether previously cooked or not…it all goes in the bag. The “butt” ends of garlic and onions, cores of celery, leftover baby carrots…in the bag. Got some spices that are about to go bad? In the bag. Even the rinds of parmesan cheese…in the bag.

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The start of the boil

Then, when you’re ready to cook, you just fill the largest pot you have with water, and dump in your bag of goodies and a generous helping of salt. Bring the water to a hard boil, then reduce to a simmer and let it cook with the lid off for several hours…at least three or four. The longer you cook it for and let it reduce, the more concentrated and tasty your stock will be. One slight warning though…it’s a very “fragrant” process…perhaps consider doing it on a day when you can open the windows 🙂

Finally, when you’re stock has finished cooking, strain it through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, and put the finished product into plastic containers to go back into the freezer, along with a new plastic bag to begin “collecting” for your next round of stock ingredients.

Using a large stock pot, each time I do this, I usually get around 16-18 cups of stock, and I use 4-cup, freezer & microwave safe, BPA-free Ziploc containers to store them. If you don’t tend to use quite that much stock at a time, another method is to freeze the stock in ice cube trays, and then throw your cubes in one big freezer bag once frozen. With that method, each “cube” is usually about 1 oz.

Added bonus? It’s free. Because I’m just throwing in bits and pieces of other stuff I would have otherwise thrown away, I’m saving myself having to buy store stock. But best of all, with this process, you’ll always be just a few hours away from a delicious, sugar-free, homemade stock.

 

Preserving Cabbage: Salt-Lick-Style Freezer Cole Slaw

When I first moved back to Austin for grad school, one of the very first places I remember going to eat was called The Salt Lick. Located about 30 minutes outside of Austin, the Salt Lick promised country music and all-you-can-eat barbecue and sides. In other words, it was pretty magical. Having lived here for over a decade now, I’ve repeated the trip out to Spicewood more times than I can count.

But my favorite part about the Salt Lick isn’t even their barbecue—the sausage is pretty good, the brisket just ok, and the ribs are fairly hit or miss—but instead, it’s the cole slaw. I LOVE their cole slaw.

Which is kind of weird, because generally speaking, I hate cole slaw.

But the difference is that the Salt Lick’s cole slaw is vinegar based, instead of cream based, and has a great combination of sweet-salty-tangy-smoky flavors. It’s delicious. So when I started thinking about what to do with this year’s cabbage harvest, one of the first things I though of was Salt Lick cole slaw.

And as luck would have it, their recipe is online, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News.

Trying it out in my own kitchen, I found the vinegar mix they suggested a bit too heavy on the salt, so I’d recommend reducing that down a bit. I also love the way their cole slaw pairs with their mustard-based bbq sauce, so I added a tbsp of stone ground mustard to my dish as well.

But the very best part about this recipe? You can freeze it. Cabbage can stand up to freezing and thawing without losing its crunch, and since there isn’t any cream in this recipe, it freezes perfectly well in Ziploc bags.

Our two heads of cabbage from the garden this year = roughly 14 servings (assuming 1/2 cup servings) of the stuff. I’m looking forward to eating it all summer!

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The cabbages from our garden.

To serve it, let it sit overnight in the fridge to thaw, flipping a couple times to let the vinegar mix marinate through all of it. You can certainly eat it straight from the fridge but I actually prefer to let it come up to room temperature first, so I take it out and plate it while I get the other parts of my meal ready.

All in all, it’s a delicious and low-calorie side dish that’s perfect for summer. (Also – for my fellow Weight Watchers out there – it’s only 3 Smart Points per 1/2 cup serving!)

Weight Watchers Friendly Camping Meals & Photos from Muleshoe Bend Campsite

Recently, one of my best friends decided to give Weight Watchers a try, and after seeing her success, I decided I would join in too. Of course, the hardest part about any diet is making it work around “real life” and we had already scheduled one of our bi-annual camping excursions for this past weekend.

So, there was nothing to do but figure out how to make a camping trip Weight Watchers friendly!

Luckily, with the new Weight Watchers program, this really wasn’t too hard. Here’s what we ate this weekend:

Dinner, Dinner Day One: 15 Smart Points

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2 Links of Chicken/Apple/Gouda Sausage (HEB Brand), Corn on the Cob w/ Butter & Chili Powder, and Tomato, Basil & Feta Salad with Lite Italian Vinaigrette

Breakfast, Breakfast Day Two: 3 Smart Points

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2 oz Smoked Salmon, Canteloupe, and Coldbrew Coffee with Sugar and Half&Half

Lunch, Day Two (No Picture, Sorry!): 12 Smart Points

Ham Sandwich (2 slices Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Bread, 4 oz Thin Sliced Ham, 1 tsp mayo, lettuce, and tomato, 1 serving baked bbq chips

Dinner, Day Two: 11 Smart Points

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9 Shrimp, sauteed in 1/2 tbsp butter, marinated in 1/2 tbsp Zesty Italian dressing; Foil packet of zucchini and cherry tomatoes with 1/2 tbsp Zesty Italian dressing
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For dessert, 1 apple w/ Quaker Cup Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal, Cinnamon, and 1 tbsp butter in a foil packet

Breakfast, Day 3: 7 Smart Points

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French Toast: 2 pieces Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Bread, battered in 1 beaten egg & cinnamon, topped with strawberries, and 3 tbsp Mrs. Butterworth Sugar Free Syrup

And if you’re wondering, but…what about her weeklies or fitpoints? Surely Whitney got a few more points than this? Yep…..we drank them. What’s camping without a little “sauce” for sitting around the campfire?IMG_4669

Of course, even though I did dip into my weeklies a bit, I don’t really feel too bad about it, because we also took a 2+ hour hike each day, resulting in my getting more than 15k steps a day, according to my Fitbit.

Not a Weight Watcher? Fine. Here’s some more photos from our camping trip:

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The view from campsite 26, at Muleshoe Bend LCRA park near Spicewood, Texas
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Sunrise over Lake Travis
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The view from inside our tent…not too shabby!
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Dinner with a view
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The hubby, pointing out the “easy” 3 mile hike, that turned out to be 5+ miles
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“Mystical Fire” – highly recommend!
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The hubby’s biggest fish…he caught 5 total over the weekend
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And me with my biggest…I only caught two, but my biggest was bigger 🙂

Healthy Make-Ahead Lunch: Southwest Chicken Salad

It has been said that Southerners like chicken salad a little *too* much. And it doesn’t escape my memory that I have not just one, but two different chicken salad recipes on this blog already.

But today, I made a batch of our favorite “healthy” chicken salad — with no mayonnaise, no added sugar, and tons of protein and fiber. A big batch makes enough for four pack ahead lunches, and keeps well the whole week long in the fridge.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 12-oz can of black beans in water (look at the ingredients – you’ll find lots of things hiding in your beans, if you’re not careful. We look for ones that only have beans and salt.
  • 1 cup of corn (either fresh, canned, or frozen will work)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Vinaigrette (Either homemade, below, or use a storebought Zesty Italian)
    • 2 tbsp high quality olive oil
    • 1/4 cup orange juice
    • 1 tbsp lime juice
    • 1 tbsp white vinegar
    • 1 & 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • Add all ingredients to a small tupperware container, put the lid on it, and shake vigorously until fully emulsified

Directions: 

  1. Cook your chicken. I prefer to boil it in chicken broth until fully cooked through, but if you want a smokier, meatier taste, you could roast it as well. Once cooked, set aside to cook until cool enough to handle.
  2. Split your jalapeno in half and remove the stem and seeds. Peel your two garlic cloves. Then add both the jalapeno and garlic to your food processor, and process until finely minced (you may have to scrape down the sides once or twice). Next, add your chicken to the food processor and pulse until chicken is just shredded but still chunky, and the garlic and pepper are incorporated.
  3. Move your warm chicken mixture to a large mixing bowl, and top with your vinaigrette (either homemade or store bought).
  4. Add all remaining ingredients, then stir to combine. Season to taste; if you enjoy cilantro, add a nice fresh bunch just before serving. Portion out your lunches into tupperware, and you’re ready to go!

Healthy Recipe: Easy Tuna Poke Bowl

I’ve always been a huge fan of sushi, but I’ve never actually tried making it at home. It just seems like a lot of work. Who has time for that on a week day?

But when we did the Meal Kit Review Series a couple months ago, one of the recipes was for a “poke bowl.” *Lightbulb moment*

I love poke. Essentially a rice bowl topped with marinated raw fish, it’s like a deconstructed version of all the best parts of sushi. We’ve made a few different varieties now, and it’s officially been added to my ongoing rotation. And the secret is really just the sauce/marinade. Here’s what goes in ours:

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 2 tbsp black vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (sesame oil works too, if you have any lying around)
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 a scallion, finely chopped

You can adjust the quantities to your taste, but that works quite well for us. Pour half the mixture over your fresh, sushi-grade fish (tuna or salmon both work well; make sure your fish has been previously frozen so as to avoid any parasites, since you won’t be cooking it) in a Ziploc bag, and let marinate about 20-30 minutes, while you cook your rice.

You can use either traditional white sushi rice for this recipe, or go with a brown rice alternative for a healthier dish. If you go with brown rice, don’t rinse it as much, as the starch will give you that “sticky” texture that you’re looking for. If you want to be truly low-carb, skip the rice altogether and substitute mixed greens.

My favorite toppings are seaweed salad, shredded carrots, avocado, green onions, mango, and sesame seeds. Other ideas include nori pieces, fish roe, cherry tomatoes, red onion, pickled ginger, edamame, cilantro, red cabbage, wonton strips, etc. You can really include anything you like!

Finally, add the remaining sauce to your masterpiece to your own taste, and dig in. You’ll spend 1/3 of the dough you’d shell out at a sushi restaurant, and still get all the satisfaction!

My Top 10 Pantry & Freezer Basics

A friend reached out to me recently with a blog request. She told me that she felt like she was “failing the pantry and freezer game.” She wants to cook more, but is quite busy. She thought perhaps if she had more things on hand in her pantry and freezer that she could just throw together in a pinch, she might be able to cut down on the amount of take-out and restaurant meals in her family’s schedule.

For me, this is exactly the reason to make a meal plan each week or month, like my recent 4-week low-carb meal plan. But even with the best planning, sometimes things fall through. In that situation, here are the items I keep on hand just in case I need a last-minute meal.

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Photo by Flickr user cookbookman17.
  1. Dry Pasta

At any given time in my house, I probably have lasagna noodles, spaghetti, penne, and elbow macaroni all on hand. Because I pretty much consider pasta the ultimate comfort food. And it’s so easy; boil it up and you have dinner in 10 minutes. Pair it with a jar of pasta sauce (or a frozen sauce you’ve previously made); pair it with olive oil, spices, and grated cheese; pair it with a nice creamy cheese sauce. Having pasta on hand means dinner is always nearly ready.

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Photo by Flickr user Thomas Ricker.
  1. Olive Oil

About 90% of the recipes I make start with olive oil. You can use it to saute proteins or veggies, you can combine it with vinegar or citrus to make a salad dressing or marinade, you can even bake with it. On the rare occasions when we’ve run out of olive oil, it’s essentially a full-grade emergency; a good quality EVOO is essential to any kitchen.

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Photo by Flickr user thebittenword.com.
  1. Canned or Frozen Tomatoes

Tomatoes have always been one of my favorite foods, again, because of the versatility. Since we grow tomatoes, when the fresh harvest gets too big for us to consume, I just throw the extras in the food processor for a quick dice, and then into the freezer they go. But even if you don’t garden, keeping a few cans of diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, and/or Rotel on hand will never go amiss. You can add them to your dry pasta for a quick marinara, you can throw them in soups and chilis, they work in enchiladas and even Indian food.

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Photo by Flickr user Leibolmai.
  1. Frozen Peas

Peas are my go-t0 vegetable side dish, and one of the few veggies that the hubby will consistently eat without complaint. Even better is that I find frozen peas taste GREAT. Just as good as fresh, and even better than canned. Just yesterday, the hubby brought home steaks for dinner; I threw some frozen peas, salt, pepper, and butter in a pot and in under 3 minutes, I had a tasty side dish. You can also toss them in salads or pasta dishes.

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Photo by Flickr user The Meat Case.
  1. Chicken Broth

Having some broth on hand, either homemade or store-bought, enables you to make just about any slow-cooker recipe. It makes rice delicious, or creates the base of many a soup. Making more broth is actually my New Year’s Resolution; the first step is just throwing all the “leftover bits” of veggies and proteins into a freezer bag…once the bag is full, you throw it all in a pot of water and boil for a few hours. And by making your own stock, you don’t get all the added sugar and artificial colors and preservatives you find in commercial varieties.

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Photo by Flickr user Shari Chankhamma.
  1. Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

So gross, yet so comforting. When you open a can of this glop, you know a casserole is not far away. Add green beans, bacon, and fried onions — you’ve got green bean casserole. Chicken, a can of rotel, tortilla chips, and cheese — you’ve got King Ranch casserole. Shredded chicken, cut spaghetti, veggies, and cheese — you’ve got chicken spaghetti casserole. Beef roast and veggies in a slow cooker — you’ve got pot roast. Heck, you could even add water and just make actual soup out of it. Amazing.

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Photo by Flickr user Yamanaka Tamaki.
  1. Rice

Rice is like a blank canvas for whatever you put on top of it. Top it with some protein and a hearty sauce, and you’ve got a great filling meal. And btw – I don’t mean the 60-second microwave instant rice; just get a big ‘ol bag of white or brown rice. Yes, it takes a bit longer to cook, but it’s not particularly hard. You just boil it, then reduce the heat and let it steep in a covered dish until the water is absorbed. And it works in so many cuisines: Asian, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Cajun, etc.

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Photo by Flickr user The Food File
  1. Breadcrumbs

If you want to turn something into a ball-shape, or you want to stuff something, you’re gonna need some breadcrumbs. Case in point: meatloaf, crab cakes, stuffed mushroom, stuffed eggplant, etc. You can use it as breading to jazz up protein, or combine it with some butter and cheese to make fancy-pants gratin over your favorite pasta or vegetable dish. I always have breadcrumbs in my pantry.

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Photo by Flickr user poppet with a camera.
  1. Good mustard

By “good” mustard, I mean the whole-grain, dijon variety, not something that comes out of a bottle neon-yellow. Mustard is one of my favorite marinades, in fact, despite the fact that I don’t even actually like yellow mustard as a condiment. I use it in salad dressings, rub meat with it, finish sauteed veggies with it (works GREAT with brussel sprouts), include it in charcuterie plates, and even jazz up potatoes with it. The higher quality here, the better.

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Photo by Flickr user Serene Vannoy
  1. Frozen sauces

Finally, my freezer is always full of a variety of sauces. I’ve got marinara, bolognese, pesto, chimichurri, salsa verde, etc. Pretty much any sauce that doesn’t involve cream in it can be frozen. So whenever I make a nice sauce, I don’t just make enough for the dish I’m making; I triple or quadruple the recipe and then store the rest in freezer bags, lying them flat. Then, if I need a simple dinner, I just pop the sauce in the microwave to defrost, and combine it with a protein. It “fancies” up your meal quickly and without requiring any additional work for you.

Make a Plan to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions & My 4-Week Meal Plan

It seems like there’s been a lot of haters discussing the topic of New Year’s Resolutions this year. “Just be healthier all year,” they say. “Don’t go on a diet, adopt a lifestyle change forever instead!”

And while they may have good intentions, I tend to think these platitudes overlook the difficulty in creating real and meaningful change in one’s life. The reality is that having a resolution and putting a plan in place to support that resolution is much more effective than just putting some amorphous, non-specific wish about “being healthy” out into the universe.

Why? Science. There’s a fantastic book out there by Pulitzer-winner Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit. I’d highly recommend it if you are looking for a good read.

But assuming you haven’t read it, the premise is that if you can get something to become a habit in your life, instead of a one-off action, you’re much more likely to continue it long-term. Research generally shows it takes anywhere from 2 to 8 months to effectively establish a habit, depending on the difficultly of the action.

So you know that you’re going to have to continue with your resolution for at least 2 months to get it to stick. How can you ensure your success? The best way is by making a plan for how you’ll do it. Studies have show this is true across a wide variety of situations:

  • Businesses with a business plan are twice as successful as those without. (Source)
  • Having a plan for how and when you’ll vote increases voter turnout. (Source)
  • Forming a plan for when you’ll exercise increases the likelihood you will actually go do it by nearly 3x. (Source)
  • Including plan-making elements in health care reminders makes individuals more likely to get their yearly flu vaccine or colonoscopy. (Source)

If you’re going to stick with your resolution, then, the key isn’t simply changing your thinking to a long-term focus, it’s making a plan for how you’ll succeed.

We’ll be doing this around here; I’ve already got 4 weeks of low-carb meals all planned out for us. By having a plan, it’ll help me avoid the dreaded “Meh, let’s just order a pizza” cop-out, and help with grocery list making as well.  Here’s what we’ll be eating in January!

Day 1/2 1/3 1/4 1/5 1/6 1/7 1/8
Lunch “BLT” Omelettes Leftover Chili Leftover Lettuce Wraps Leftover Chili Charcuterie Lunch – no crackers (recipe) Tacos “in a bowl” (from a taqueria) Sausage and Egg Frittata “Muffins”
Dinner Texas Red Chili (recipe) Thai Peanut Sesame Chicken Lettuce Wraps (recipe) Pork, Spinach & Tomato Stuffed Eggplant Date Night: Greek Food

(I’ll get a big salad)

Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce (recipe) Broiled Fish Filets & Veggies (recipe) Fajita Salads (recipe)

 

Day 1/9 1/10 1/11 1/12 1/13 1/14 1/15
Lunch Leftover Fajita Salads Sausage and Egg Frittata “Muffins” Leftover Fajita Salads Tomato Basil Cream Soup Work Cafe Salad Bar Diner Brunch (Eggs & Meats) Smoked Salmon & Cheese
Dinner Portabella

“Pizzas” (similar recipe; different fillings)

Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts & Brussel Sprouts (inspired by) Date Night: Gastro- pub (I’ll get meat/ veggies) Southwest Ranch Chicken Breasts (recipe) Baked Sweet Potato Bar (similar recipe) Shrimp Boil (recipe) Slow Cooker Beef Stew (recipe)

 

Day 1/16 1/17 1/18 1/19 1/20 1/21 1/22
Lunch Leftover Beef Stew Leftover Chicken Skewers Leftover Beef Stew Leftover Chicken Enchiladas Leftover Lamb Salad Chorizo Egg & Cheese Breakfast Tacos Lunch Out: Kebab Salad
Dinner Harissa Grilled Chicken Skewers & Zucchini Verde Chicken Enchiladas w/ Corn Tortillas (recipe) Greek Salads with Lamb Burgers (inspired by) Date Night: Hawaiian

Poke Bowls

Spiced Pork Chops & Spinach (inspired by…) Chicken Caesar Salads Scallops in Pesto w/ Salad

 

Day 1/23 1/24 1/25 1/26 1/27 1/28 1/29
Lunch Black Bean, Corn, Chicken Salad Leftover Pork Stew Black Bean, Corn, Chicken Salad Leftover Lasagna Charcuterie Lunch Lunch at a Wing Bar Goat Cheese & Spinach Omelette
Dinner Green Chile Pork Stew (recipe) Ground Pork Lettuce Wraps (recipe) Zoodle Lasagna (similar recipe) Date Night: BBQ Spiced Pork Chops & Spinach (recipe) Red Curry Shrimp w/ Brown Rice (recipe) Chicken, Artichoke, and Tomatoes in foil packets (recipe)

Fried Green Tomato Salad & Marinated Chicken Thighs

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and for us this evening that was certainly the case.

I’ve been in a cleaning-out-the-freezer kick, and one of the items I was planning on using this week was a bag of marinated chicken thighs. I use chicken thighs instead of breasts or tenders because they are juicier and more flavorful, and the thin style of this cut goes great over the grill.

For the marinade, I throw one cup of unsweetened plain greek yogurt, some lemon zest, 1 tbsp salad dressing, and whatever spices you like, and throw it all in a freezer bag with your chicken. Mix and massage it all with the bag closed, and let it marinate for at least an hour before throwing it over the grill for about 5 minutes on each side.

The best part of the chicken recipe is that it freezes well; just smooth your freezer bag of chicken and marinade into a relatively flat layer, and pop it in the freezer for easy stacking and even freezing. When you go to use it, just let it defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours before hand.

Usually, I serve these chicken thighs with a big Greek salad, but I goofed at the supermarket. I didn’t get enough tomatoes, I didn’t get any fresh mint to add to the spring mix, and I didn’t have any croutons. Womp-womp.

However, what I did have were a bunch of green, unripened tomatoes that we’ve been slow-ripening inside since the first freeze. Bingo.

I sliced three of our unripe tomatoes in roughly 1/2″ slices.  Next, I combined 1 egg, a tsp of sour cream, and a splash of water in a bowl, and beat it together to form a quick egg bath. Finally, I combined bread crumbs with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, and cumin, and mixed it all together.

With all the prep work complete, I dredged the tomato slices in the egg wash, then the breadcrumb mixture, then they went into a hot pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. And these puppies fry up quick! I only needed about 1 minute on each side before they were nice and crispy. Then, they went onto a paper towel, while I pulled together the rest of the salad. I tossed spring mix, feta, kalamata olives, and vinaigrette in a large mixing bowl, then plated it and added the tomatoes on top.

And it was SUPER delicious!  Plus, getting to grill and have fried green tomatoes in the middle of December? It felt like quite the luxury. Enjoy!

What Did I Learn from the Meal Delivery Review Series?

As most of you know, for the past month, we’ve been trying out the many “meal-in-a-box” type delivery kits.  Having tried five of the leaders in this increasingly congested field, here are my takeaways.

  1.  If you can, you’re still better off just shopping and cooking for yourself.

Looking at these kits from a pure economic perspective, none of the meal delivery kits really make sense. Re-assembling the same or similar meals from the grocery store can be anywhere from 20% – 70% cheaper, depending on what kit you’re using and what go-tos you already have stored in your pantry. And I shudder to think of the environmental cost of all the added packaging and shipment needed here.

But note that I said “if you can.” If you have a disability that prevents you from making it to the supermarket very often, if you’ve just never learned how to cook on your own, or if you have a schedule that doesn’t allow for thoughtful meal planning and prepping, then these kits may still be right for you. In particular, for us, I think I might start ordering these for the week after we return from travel, where I know I’m not going to have time or energy to go to the grocery store. These kits *are* great for situations like that.

platedpanroastedchicken
One of the top meals we tried was this pan roasted chicken with potato and brussel sprout hash, from Plated. I gave it a 10/10.
  1. Plated and Green Chef are my top recommendations.

So, if you decide that a kit is right for you, which one should you go with? For us, hands down, Plated was the winner. Delicious meals, good selection, top-quality ingredients, and easy-to-follow recipes made Plated the real deal. In fact, I actually forgot to cancel my Plated subscription after the free box, and so got another shipment the following week. And we were just as happy even when paying for it out of pocket; Plated is the head and shoulders winner of the meal delivery game for the *average* diner.

That being said, I think Green Chef deserves a runner-up consideration for the variety they offer. We felt Green Chef was among the middle-of-the-pack taste wise, but they are the only kit to offer lots of different options for lots of different diners. With vegetarian, vegan, paleo, and gluten free options available, Green Chef is the best option for those with some sort of dietary restriction.

greencheftuna
This was another favorite meal, the Tuna Poke Bowl from Green Chef. I gave this a 9/10.
  1. Be careful about your subscription & cancellation dates. 

If you *are* going to try one of these services, though, make really sure that you know the terms of WHEN you have to cancel or “skip” the next week’s delivery. Several of these kits require you to cancel BEFORE YOU EVEN RECEIVE your first delivery, and certainly before you’ve gotten to try all the meals in your first box. It’s pretty shady, honestly.

So treat these the way you did Columbia House cd services (you know – the buy one, get 12 cds free promotion that 90s kids like myself so loved…) and just assume that the companies are out to trick you. If you do that and take appropriate precautions against being charged when you don’t actually want a shipment, then adding a meal delivery kit here or there can be a great change of pace to your regular cooking and dining schedule.

Want to read the individual reviews again?

I hope I’ve answered all your questions about meal delivery services in this series, but feel free to ask any followup questions in the comments.  Starting in 2017, be on the lookout for our “Resolution Series” of quick, healthy meals to kick off the New Year.