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Recipe Blog

Filtering by Tag: meal prep

Meal Prep with Minimal Cooking

laura lomax

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One of my main goals with meal prep is to provide options for healthy meals and snacks. While setting aside 2-3 hours for preparing meals is possible at times, I know there are weeks that it just does not fit in the schedule. Meal prep does not always have to include hours of cooking, but can be about keeping the refrigerator and freezer filled with healthy choices. Having a stocked refrigerator and freezer eliminates a barrier to choosing healthy foods despite hectic schedules and minimal cook time during the week.

MEALS AND SNACKS

8 Serving - Lean Beef Mini Slider Burger + Mixed Green Salad

2 Servings - Spinach and Blueberry Salad + tuna pouch + Triscuit Crackers + Mandarin orange

2 Serving - Frozen Meals - Healthy Choice Simply Steamers and Saffron Road Chicken Enchiladas

SNACKS:

5 Servings - 100 calorie Single Serve Almonds + Fresh Fruit (Pears or Kiwi)

4 Servings Baby Tomato + Muenster Cheese Slices

INGREDIENTS/SHOPPING LIST:

1 pound lean ground beef

1 Packet Whole grain Mini slider buns

1 Box Single Serve 100 calorie almonds

2 Serving Triscuit Crackers

8 Slices Muenster Cheese

1 Large container Spring Salad Mix

1 Bag Spinach

1 Box Cherry tomatoes

2 pouches Tuna

1 Pint Blueberries

3 pears

2 Kiwi

2 Mandarin oranges

Salad dressing of your choice

Hamburger Seasoning

2 Frozen Dinner (Pictured are Healthy Choice Beef and Broccoli and Saffron Road Chicken Enchiladas)

* If your crunched for time swap out cooked burgers for pre-made frozen lean beef or turkey patties as a no cook option to this meal prep *

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Prepare Lean Burgers. Form Hamburgers into evenly shaped patties and sprinkle with hamburger seasoning. Cook in large skillet. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

  2. Optional- Prepare salads and snacks in single serve containers for easy access at meal times.

  3. Enjoy Healthy Meals all Week! With 4 main meal options (Burger + mixed greens, Spinach + tuna, 2 different frozen meal options) and 3 snack snack combos you wont feel bored with your choices!

Easy Under An Hour Meal Prep

laura lomax

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This meal prep encompasses a variety of short cut methods to completing a meal prep with ease and in under one hour.

INGREDIENTS:

MAIN MEALS:

3 cups Instant Brown Rice

1 cup Quinoa

32 ounce low sodium Chicken Broth

Boneless skinless chicken breast

16 oz bag Frozen peas and carrots

Frozen Shelled Edamame

11 ounce bag Steam fresh mixed Vegetables

Tuna Pouches (in water)

Olive oil

Seasoning of your choice (I used Penzeys Mural of Flavor)

BREAKFAST

Greek Unflavored yogurt

Blueberries

Granola

SNACKS

Roasted Crunchy Chickpeas

Pears

Hummus

Cucumbers

Optional Evening snack/dessert: Mini KIND bars and Strawberry Greek Yogurt


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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook Chicken- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cooking sheet with foil for easy clean up. Spray foil with non stick spray. Remove wrapper from chicken, rinse and place back in the container purchased in. Drizzle both sides with olive oil, seasoning of your choice, and lightly sprinkle with salt. Place in oven and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until thermometer reaches 165 degrees.

  2. Once chicken is in the oven the remainder of the preparation can be completed. First prepare the quinoa. Bring 2 cups chicken broth to a boil. Add 1 cup Quinoa reduce heat to simmer covered for ~ 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, stay covered and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

  3. While quinoa and chicken continue cooking prepare instant brown rice follow instructions on the box. For this prep I used 3 cups rice + the remaining 2 cups Chicken broth + 1/2 cup water and microwaved for 12 minutes per instructions. Remove from microwave and sit covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

  4. The vegetables used for this meal prep are all frozen and the mixed vegetables and edamame are from steamer bags. Once the microwave is free steam the vegetables according to package instructions.

  5. Remove chicken from oven and allow everything to cool before preparing in individual portions or in bulk. Enjoy a variety of meals for the week.


MEAL PREP PROVIDES

6 Chicken Servings (large breast cut in half)

2 Servings tuna

4 - 1/2 cup servings of Edamame

6 - 2/3 cup servings of rice

6- 1/2 cup servings of Quinoa

6 - 1/2 cup servings mixed vegetables

6 - 1/2 cup servings peas and carrots

Prepares a total of 12 meals

Breakfast: 4 servings - Greek Yogurt + blueberries + granola

Snacks: 4 servings of Pears + Roasted chickpeas

Snacks: 4 servings Hummus + 1/2 cucumber

After Dinner Snacks 8 Total : 4 servings Mini KIND bars and 4 servings Strawberry Single Serve Greek Yogurt Cups

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Best Choice Convenience Items

laura lomax

A few of our favorite convenience items to stock in the freezer, fridge, and pantry for those days and evenings when cooking just doesn't fit in the schedule. 

A few of our favorite convenience items to stock in the freezer, fridge, and pantry for those days and evenings when cooking just doesn't fit in the schedule. 

If you follow me on social media or browse my site you know I enjoy meal prep. While I love meal prepping and believe it is a wonderful tool to healthy eating it requires time to plan, prepare, and clean . It would be unfair for me to not share that along with meal prepping I use a variety of other strategies to provide healthy options when cooking just doesn't fit the schedule. Today's post focuses on these strategies. 

FROZEN MEALS

1.  Frozen dinners....yes I said it. I know for years frozen meals were cringed at by most dietitians with their high sodium content, high calories, tons of preservatives and additives, and flat out horrible taste.  However, over the past years with consumer demand and the popularity of quality ingredients, less additives, and overall healthier options several manufacturers of frozen meals have stepped up to meet the demand. As always when searching out the best options refer to the nutrition label and ingredient list. Several guidelines and nutrients to examine  when selecting a frozen meal include calories, protein, sodium, fiber, and fat. 

General Guidelines For Choosing a Frozen Meal- 

~350-450 calories (varies by individual needs)

~10-15 grams or less (<30% total calories) of fat

- Sodium ~600 mg or less 

- At least 15 grams of protein  

- At least 4 or more grams of fiber

If a meal you enjoy doesn't meet your calorie  needs or falls short on other nutrients below are healthy and simple ways to boost the calorie and nutrient content and round out your frozen meal.

For example: Pair Newman's Own Frozen cheese pizza with a frozen vegetable or salad. With 2 slices of pizza at 260 calories adding a vegetable will boost the calorie and nutrient content to turn a frozen pizza into a meal.  

  • Protein:  For a boost of protein add a serving of dairy to your meal. Examples include adding a glass of low fat milk or a  string cheese. 
  • Vegetables: For frozen dinners short on vegetables considering mixing additional vegetables to the meal, having a vegetable side, or serving with a side salad (using bagged or bin of pre-washed lettuce makes this an easy side). Another great option is snacking on a side of edamame as an appetizer. Simple pop a steamer bag of edamame in the microwave and sprinkle with your favorite seasoning. 
  • Nuts/Seeds - Add a serving of nuts to your meal or as a dessert to round out your meal with healthy fats to keep you feeling full longer.  

Several examples of frozen meal brands with minimal additives (and some of my favorites) include Amy’s Light and Lean, Healthy Choice Café Steamers Simply, evol, Luvo, and Saffron Road. 

CONVENIENCE ITEMS:

2. Convenience Items are great time savers when it comes to choosing healthy foods at home. Stock up your fridge, freezer, or pantry with these items to always have a healthy meal on hand. 

VEGETABLES:

  • Pre-cut vegetables
  • Bagged Salad or salad bins
  • Frozen vegetables 
  •  Steamer vegetable bags  
  • Cauliflower rice 

PROTEIN:

  • Low sodium canned tuna or tuna pouches
  • Canned or pouches of salmon
  • Canned low sodium beans  
  • Dry roasted chickpeas 
  • Nuts/seeds 
  • Pre- cooked natural minimal or preservative free chicken or beef patties 
  • Eggs
  • Cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, low fat milk
  • Nuts/seeds 

FRUIT:

  • Ready to eat fruits that do not require slicing or peeling such as apples, bananas, peaches, pears, blueberries.
  • Canned or single serve cups of fruit in natural juice or no sugar added
  • Dried fruit
  • Freeze dried fruit  
  • No sugar added applesauce 

STARCH/WHOLE GRAINS:

  • Microwave brown rice cups 
  • Steamer brown rice 
  • Protein plus pasta 
  • Popcorn
  • Oatmeal 
  • Whole grain cereal
  • Whole grain crackers 

With these pantry staples there are a variety of combos that put a meal on the table in 5-20 minutes. Examples include:

  • Microwave bag of brown rice + Microwave bag of steamer vegetables + low sodium canned beans. Served with a side of Applesauce sprinkled w/ cinnamon. 
  • Whole wheat crackers + tuna pouch + raw pre-cut carrots. Served with an apple 
  • Protein Plus pasta + frozen vegetables. Served with canned pears.  
  • Oatmeal prepared with milk (or water if no milk available) + smashed banana (for sweetness) + sprinkled with crushed nuts and cinnamon.
  • Scrambled eggs + bagged spinach  + Peaches 

 

Meal Prep: Plan for Success

laura lomax

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Total Prep time:

2.5 hours with whole uncooked chicken

*1 hour 15 minutes with pre- cooked rotisserie chicken*  

Ingredients: 

3.5 pound whole chicken

2 - 4 oz steaks 

3 heads of broccoli

2 yellow squash

8 Apples 

1 bag or bundle of spinach 

2 cups brown rice 

1 can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed

4 -1oo% whole wheat pitas 

2 cups of quick oats

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

Salad dressing of your choices 

olive oil 

Cinnamon 

Raisins 

Chopped walnuts

 Salt and pepper 

Steak seasoning 

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Directions: 

1. Set racks evenly apart in the oven (to cook both chicken and vegetables the last 20 minutes). Preheat oven 415 degrees . Remove chicken from packaging, drain off any liquids, and place in cooking dish.  Drizzle generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in oven and cook for the first 20 minutes at 415 degrees, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees.  For this 3.5 pound chicken it cooked for for 1 hour and 20 minutes. You will base your prep schedule on the chicken cook time so be sure to calculate an estimated cook time based on the weight of your chicken before you begin preparing other dishes. A rule of thumb is approximately 20 minutes per pound, but as always when cooking chicken check temperature with thermometer and chicken is done when internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. 

2. While the chicken is cooking. Wash and chop vegetables placing squash on one sheet and broccoli on the other. Wait to season the vegetables until closer to cook time.  The vegetables will be added to the oven the last 20 minutes of the chicken cook time. To season drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and increase the oven temperature to 415 degrees.  

3. Next cook the rice. In a large pot add 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups brown rice, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 35- 40 minutes.

4. At this point the chicken likely still has at least an hour of cook time so if desired use this time to prepare other foods for the week. Options include cooking hard boiled eggs, chopping single serve fruits or vegetables, preparing instant oatmeal packets, or planning next weeks meal prep. As pictured  I prepared oatmeal with 1/2 cup oats, 1 tsp brown sugar, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, and 2 tbsp. raisins or crushed walnuts. I also use this time to clean up any mess and dishes used thus far. 

5. As the chicken has ~ 40 minutes left to cook work on the steaks.  Season each steak with steak seasoning or other seasoning of your choice and cook over stove top or outdoor grill. Remove from heat and allow to cool. While the steaks are cooking open black beans, drain, and rinse then set back in the can. 

6.  Once the chicken nears completion with ~ 20 minutes left increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees, season the vegetables and place in the oven to cook.  While the chicken finishes and vegetables are cooking set out all your single serve containers and begin to fill with prepared foods.

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7. Remove chicken from oven and check temperature with meat thermometer (make sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees). Remove from cooking juice onto a new plate to cool. Remove vegetables and allow to cool. 

8. While chicken is cooling begin assembling single serve containers with beans, brown rice, spinach, and steak. Once chicken and vegetables are cool add to the meals. 

4 Meals - Black bean + Broccoli + brown Rice + chicken 

2 Meals - Spinach salad + roasted yellow squash + steak

2 - Meals Chicken + Spinach + Roasted broccoli + chicken + 100% whole wheat pita

4 Meals - Oatmeal with cinnamon + raisins or walnuts + (Add milk or milk alternative when ready to serve)

Tip: 

*The bulk of this meal prep time is spent cooking the chicken to save time use a store bought rotisserie chicken. If using a pre-cooked chicken skip the first step. start your meal prep by preheating the oven to 415 to heat up for the vegetables then cook the rice. From there proceed to step 2 and continue with the meal prep eliminating or portions of steps that pertain to cooking the chicken. 

 

Baked Chicken Tenders

laura lomax

Servings: 6

Servings size: 2 tenders

Prep time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 30 minutes. Total time: 40 minutes

1.5 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast sliced into 1/2 inch stripes or boneless skinless chicken breast tenders

2 Egg

3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs                            

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. McCormick salt free original all-purpose seasoning or Penzey Mural of Flavor

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

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Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray. In a small bowl beat the egg. In a different bowl combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, All-purpose seasoning, salt, and pepper. To prepare the chicken dip the chicken tender in egg then coat in breadcrumb mixture. Place on the baking sheet and repeat for the remixing chicken tenders.  Place in the preheated oven and cook for ~ 20-30 minutes (depending on thickness of tenders. Serve alone or with your favorite dipping sauce.