Simple meal prep: Kale and Cruciferous vegetable salad

This was the easiest think I made this week. I was shopping through Trader Joes and found a premixed bag of chopped kale and raw cruciferous vegetables and had planned on making a dressing at home. However I thought I’d take a look to see what they had for dressings on the shelves and came upon a fig balsamic vinaigrette and thought that sounded pretty good. All I did for this salad was dress it with the vinaigrette! It keeps wonderfully in the fridge and gets better with each passing day as the kale and brussels sprouts get softer and more flavorful as it sits.

Curried Cauliflower – meal prep

Cauliflower is easy to make delicious to begin with, and roasting it takes it to a whole new level. I have spiced this one with some spicy curry powder, sort of a classic combo. You’ll see a lot of menu preparations at restaurants that will likely include pine nuts and maybe some golden raisins, which you can add if you like. This time, I made a quick stop at the grocery store and used what I had leftover in my fridge. There is really not much to this simple recipe.

  • 1 Head cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, whites cut into 1 inch pieces, greens sliced thinly
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5-6 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 tbl curry powder
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • olive oil, to coat
  • salt and pepper

Begin by preheating your oven to 400. Cut up cauliflower to bite sized pieces, and toss with the olive oil, and curry powder. Roast for about 5-6 minutes, and add the white parts of your scallion, your sliced shallot, and your mushrooms. Continue to roast until the cauliflower starts to brown around the edges, and the rest of your vegetables are almost cooked. Add your garlic, and continue to cook for another two minutes. Try to time when you add your garlic so that your veggies don’t overcook. When the vegetables have finished cooking, squeeze the juice of one lemon over them for some acidity.

You can season with salt and pepper whenever you like; at the addition of each new ingredient, as you go, or when finished. Each will have a different effect on how the dish turns out so bear that in mind.

And there it is. Can be eaten hot or cold, and served with a dollop of seasoned yogurt.

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Quick Camping Trip Meal Prep

Foods prepared ahead of time for my camping trip

Here on the left is a braised chicken dish I’ve made with an organic chicken. Dark meats braise better than white meats, but I shredded everything so either way it is all the same to me. I had put it into the pint containers and frozen it. This will fit better into the cooler and act as ice with the other food I need to keep cold. This was great with small tortillas and guac.

This lentil salad was a last minute decision. Because I cook for myself regularly, I have a lot of different types of ingredients on hand at any given moment so things like this are easy. This was surprisingly delicious for the amount of prep time it required. I’ll have the recipe in a future blog post but the bulk of it consists of kale, lentils, tomatoes, olive oil and lemon juice.

Over time I have found that it is very easy to over eat or eat poorly, or a combination of the two, while camping. In an effort to counteract these temptations, this salad acts as an inbetween meal with a lighter caloric load, and some fresh veggies and high quality protein from pasture raised hard boiled eggs.

Braised Beef Stew with Red Wine Sauce

To begin, purchase a high quality chuck roast from your local supermarket. I get mine from whole foods. Sure, it is more expensive, but the quality is much much better. They way I justify this is if I can get 5 or 6 meals out of this recipe, my food cost is quite low in fact, for a preparation like this.

Unwrap your meat and prepare your pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil, making sure the pan is big enough to fit the roast comfortable with room on the sides. If it is too small for the pan, it will start to steam the meat instead of caramelize, and this will compromise flavor. There are several trains of thought on seasoning. I don’t season my meat before I sear as the salt pulls moisture out, thus preventing a better sear.

Seared roast

After searing the meat, turn your heat to medium high, and saute your mirepoix (carrot, celery, onion) and mushrooms to the pan. You’ll want to cook these for about 5-7 minutes, until they get nice and brown.

After your vegetables caramelize, season them with salt, and pepper if you like. With heat on medium/high, add garlic, and saute for another two minutes. Then, tomato paste, for two more minutes. Add your all purpose flour, then cook for at least two minutes. The flour is going to thicken the stew, but you don’t want any sort of raw flour flavor in you finished product, so cooking it before you add your liquid is very important.

Add your wine. Bring this mixture up to a fast simmer to cook out some of that harsh alcohol, and reduce the wine a little bit. I’m using a Cabernet Sauvignon, which stands up nicely to red meat. I’d use a heavier dry red if you are able.

Don’t worry too much if you can smell some alcohol evaporating, as this dish is going to simmer for a long time and this will eventually cook out during that process.

Now, add your three cups of stock. I’m using a chicken broth that is very tasty, beef broth will be just as good. I have also added a 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes. You can add whole chopped tomatoes if you have some nice ripe ones. With the stock, it is important to purchase no or low sodium versions. While the pot simmers, the liquid will get saltier and saltier and if it is perfectly seasoned before the meat if finished simmering, you’re going to have a salty sauce, and that would be a big letdown, especially after all of this work.

Now that everything is added, low and slow!

Now that you have added everything, bring the mixture up to a boil, and then very low heat. You’re looking for a slow bubble. You will want this to braise for at least three hours. Anything less than that and you won’t get a tender piece of meat. If it cook long enough it should almost fall apart with a fork. If you wanted to add potatoes, add them about 30 minutes before you’re going to pull the meat off the heat so they don’t overcook. Taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning. With my roast weighing a little over 2-1/2 lb and having added a couple of potatoes, I have gotten at least six meals out of this recipe. Although it cost me a little extra to purchase high quality meat, it is no problem for me with that in mind. Garnish with parsley, if ya like.

Stuffed and Baked Peppers!

In an effort to cook meals ahead of time for eating through the busier days of my week, I had an idea to make stuffed peppers. Not only are they delicious, but filling, and versatile.

In the picture we’ve got red bell peppers, the mirepoix (celery, carrot, and onion), as well as garlic, apples, feta cheese, organic ground turkey, pancetta, and cooked lentils. Clean up your peppers by cutting them in half and then pulling out the stem, seeds, and white pith.

With a little olive oil, start by sweating the pancetta on a medium low heat. You want to slowly render the fat from the pancetta without burning it. Then add your carrots, onion, celery, apple, and garlic. Add some salt, pepper if you like, and any all purpose seasoning of your choosing if you have one on hand. I used a garlic and herb seasoning that went well with this recipe. Cook over medium heat until soft, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add your cooked lentils and stir them to coat in the flavorful oil. Then, add about two tablespoons of smoked paprika. After toasting the mixture with the paprika for about two minutes, take off the heat to cool down.

Once the mixture is cool, add and mix well into your ground turkey mixture. Season the mixture with a little more salt as the ground meat will need some. Once this mixture is well combined, you’re going to begin stuffing your peppers. Fill each pepper with a heaping amount of filling. This will shrink a little bit. Bake the peppers at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the peppers are cooked through. If you’re unsure, you can use a foodsafe thermometer and check to see that they have reached 165F near the center.

Par baked peppers

Next, youll want to top them with a good amount of feta cheese, and broil them to perfection. This is the best part as the cheese browns, and they are hot and ready to eat!

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These will keep well for about 3-4 days in the fridge, and make for a filling meal at any point during the day. They travel and heat up well if you’re taking them to work. There is a little work involved, but they taste great, and are a great low budget option if that’s what you’re after.