I work 40 hours a week in an office and have a freelance writing job on the side. Add in the 6 hours a week I spend at the gym and that leaves very little time for me to cook if I want to not be a hermit during said spare time. But last weekend I decided I actually wanted to prepare some fun, yummy and (somewhat) healthy meals that I could bring to work or eat when I got home instead of running to Taco Bell.
I got up early one Sunday morning and began cooking, not finishing everything until nearly ten hours later. But I ended up with four meals that are actually pretty easy to make!
In order to make these recipes, you will need:
Forks & spoons
Grill pan (mine is cast iron - also, this is totally optional but it's fun!)
Bowls...lots and lots of bowls
1. Slow Cooker Barbacoa Tacos
Recipe (from Tasty)
This recipe was great because it actually tastes like the barbacoa from Chipotle, but I spent roughly $5 more for multiple days' worth of food!
The first thing I did was sear the roast beef and mix up the spices before throwing it all together in the slow cooker. Then I did some laundry and went to Pizza Ranch with my boyfriend's sister. This smelled delicious when I got home.
It was also the last meal that was finished, considering it took eight hours to cook. But it turned out great - especially mixed with cheddar cheese and salsa verde on a corn tortilla!
2. Vegan Tortilla Soup(from Thug Kitchen)
Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck is a cookbook I got for Christmas from my boyfriend's sister (yes, my Pizza Ranch date) last year. She gave it to me solely for the naughty language on the front and back cover, not knowing it was actually a vegan cookbook. However, I was still thankful because I really did (and still do) need to get better at eating my f*cking vegetables.
I've made a few recipes from this cookbook, but this one is so far my favorite - I love southwestern flavors, so for a carnivore, this was a great first-step into the veggie life.
1 yellow or white onion
1 bell pepper
1 to 2 jalapeños
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
2.5 tsp ground cumin
2.5 tsp chili powder
2.5 tsp dried oregano
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 2 oz can tomato paste
5 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp lime juice
5 to 8 corn tortillas
Chickpeas, cilantro, avocados or crushed up tortilla chips for garnish
I didn't buy any carrots because my mom gave me three bags of frozen chopped sweet potatoes and I needed to use them, so I replaced the carrot with the potatoes. I also forgot an onion, so I used multiple jalapeños and added in a ton of dried, minced onions at the end. And lastly, I only had 4 cups of vegetable broth, so I used a tiny bit of pickle juice.
I followed the recipe otherwise, which calls for frying up the veggies in the saucepan, adding the spices as they soften, and then adding the wet ingredients and lastly the tortillas (I used 8). Next, I let everything simmer for about 10 minutes, to make sure everything was soft. The last thing I did was turn off the heat and drop my hand blender in there, letting it whiz through everything until I had a nice "creamy" bisque.
I used crushed multigrain tortilla chips as my garnish since I am terrible at knowing when to buy avocados, I didn't like the chickpeas in it last time, and I have the unfortunate gene that makes cilantro taste like soap (yes, it's genetic).
3. Pizza Roll-Ups (Made Up By Yours Truly)
I had intended to make homemade pizza, but the one crust I'd had left over from the last time I'd made some had gone stale, so like many contestants on my favorite TV series, Chopped, I had to go with a plan B.
This recipe may be the least healthy of the four since it includes pepperoni, but there are plenty of worse things I could've done for lunch at work, like drive to the mall and grab food court grub - or even worse, gotten food from the convenience store down the street.
3 whole wheat tortillas
1/2 jar pizza sauce
1/2 bag shredded Italian 5-cheese blend
2 to 3 cloves garlic
18 slices pepperoni
Half a container baby spinach
Garlic powder to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté the spinach and garlic in olive oil. Brush a tiny bit of olive oil onto the tortillas and then shake garlic powder onto them. Then add your toppings - 6 slices pepperoni on each tortilla and split up the spinach evenly. Wrap them up and stick them into the oven until they start get melty.
I gotta admit, this was the least attractive of my four meals. It was also the worst prepared. I should've cooked it longer, because I could barely pick it up, it was so slick. I had also wanted to cut up the wrap into bite-sized pieces and make them sort of like pizza rolls, but the undercooked-ness of each wrap made them too soft and they fell apart when I tried. But I liked my choice of the cheese blend over plain mozzarella - it added an extra flavor to what was otherwise a pretty ordinary tasting meal.
This recipe can easily be made healthier by swapping out pepperoni for chicken or steak, or you could take meat out altogether and add olives, peppers or tomatoes to the wrap.
4. Pan-"Grilled" Salmon and Sautéed Spinach
Recipe (from Tasty)
The recipe mixes the salmon with an avocado salsa, but again, I decided not to use avocados. When I cooked the spinach for the pizza roll-ups, I used the rest with this meal.
In the article I wrote about my grandmother, I talked about how spinach and fish are two essential pieces of my diet, since I need more calcium than most people. And the duo pack in a variety of other awesome nutrients that I crave due to my regular fitness routine.
The marinade is made up of olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika, but I added a bit of lime juice to it, too, since I had so much leftover from the tacos and soup. The recipe also calls for actually grilling the salmon, but the weather hasn't been great for grilling lately - too wet and windy, especially when you're confined to a fenced-in patio (hello, fire hazards!), so instead I used my cast-iron grill pan because I still wanted to have the grill marks.
Salmon is a very flaky fish, so I had to coat the pan with olive oil before frying it up because the first time I tried this dish, the fish stuck to the pan.Some of it still did, but I managed to keep most of each fillet in one piece. The crumbles that did stick to the pan also made for a yummy add-in to the spinach!
I ended the night stuffed from sampling everything and exhausted from running around the kitchen for an entire day. I also ended up with a sink full of dishes that I promised my roommate I'd do for her. But in the end, it was all worth it - I had meals to bring to work for a week, and they didn't break my bank or my diet.