Hi! First thing, I want to share some really exciting news- we got a puppy! Potato is a Boston Terrier pup who when not running laps around the house manages to fit 13 naps into each day. Describing him doesn't do much justice so here's the first photo my dad snapped of our new fellow while he waited for me to pick up treats and puppy pads on our way home.
I spent the Thanksgiving holiday at my parent's house outside of Detroit where cool, damp weather was perfect for sitting around the fireplace drinking endless mugs of black tea. Instead of engaging in the madness of Black Friday we went through all the clothing my sister and I had left in various closets around the house. We purged of old, unfortunate style choices and reclaimed items with sentimental value. I came out with a full bag of sweaters and blankets, helped my mom ease her anxiety over stagnant and leftover teenage/college clutter, and didn't spend a penny!
The drive back to New York on Sunday was long and coming back to the city so late left me feeling totally unprepared for the remaining weeks of madness before everyone breaks for the holidays. Between gift shopping and wrapping up the work year there's a lot to be done both around the house and in the office. For me, it always seems like there's even less time than usual to spend hours in the kitchen or experiment with new recipes. Any and all energy that I can muster for cooking this time of year is channeled into latke making for Hanukkah. Due to the recent and very welcome addition of a food processor, my sister and I were able to churn out a batch of 200 (Smitten Kitchen's fool proof latke recipe is the best) and enjoy a lovely evening of dreidel at our apartment.
So now Thanksgiving is done, Hanukkah is happening, gifts are being bought and wrapped, holiday parties are every weekend, and then we're off to South Carolina for Christmas. All while chasing around Potato who like a little tornado tears through our home and required constant attention. Like I said, it's a hectic time and there's not much energy for the kitchen or even grocery shopping. Mostly these coming weeks are punctuated by a lot of sighing and texting, "I wish I were in bed or it was Christmas already." followed by massive caffeine consumption and more sighs. So, if you're like us and things are absolutely insane this time of year, I'd like to share with you my meal plan for the next two weeks - what I have in my fridge and pantry and how I plan to use it. The idea is to make several bases and prepare foods that will last through for lunches and dinners. Nothing fancy, because let's be honest, the idea this time of year is just to get through.That's not to say that we're eating fast food, but it also doesn't mean I'm standing around trimming my homegrown organic basil plant while sipping kombucha and knitting a sweater for my grandmother. It's go, go, go around here and so are our meals.
Mid-Holiday Meal Plan
Below is a list of items I came home to the Sunday after Thanksgiving in my fridge and freezer. My pantry is always stocked with canned and dry goods from my Starting from Scratch post.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken tenders
- frozen green beans
- frozen vegetable mix
- 1 package large tortillas
- 1 large leek
- cherry tomatoes
- 4 carrots
- 1 head lettuce
- bell peppers
Again, the idea is to make lots of meals which will be quick, filling, and work for both lunch and dinner. Instead of going through what we are eating every day I am going to share recipes for the dishes which are my go-to's when I am on a hectic schedule. We plan to eat out a few times to supplement meals and this does not include snacking, but mostly this is what we're eating for the next 2.5 weeks. Some of the recipes are linked out and my favorite easy soup is outlined below. I hope you find this guide helpful!
My first tip for efficient meal planning is to prepare several bases which can serve as fillers or sides to have on hand. I filled 3 large tupperware containers with cooked rice, lentils, and bulgur. You can make any base from grains you have in your pantry.These can be easily reheated for sides, put into wraps for lunch, or used for bowls.
If I have sweet or regular potatoes on hand, I boil and mash them up. In tupperware they can last for the week and also work as excellent quick side or base options.
Frozen chicken is great to have on hand because it's really a meat that can work for you, while you're at work. I use two super simple methods for preparing chicken when I have almost no time to spare.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a dream for a rushed cook.
- I marinate the chicken in a full bottle of honey mustard (or use any dressing you have) overnight.
- Come home from work and bake for 35 minutes at 400F, dressing and all.
- Use frozen vegetables or your prepared grains as a side. Leftover chicken goes into a bowl of bulgur, cherry tomatoes, and walnuts for a work lunch.
Easy chicken tenders:
- Defrost the chicken tenders and pat dry.
- Coat on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Grill on a pan with vegetable oil until brown on both sides.
- Cut chicken into pieces and store in tupperware to add to bowls, salads, wraps, or the soup recipe below!
When in a pinch for what to cook Ian often make beef burritos by using pre-made taco mix or just fixing his own with a basic taco seasoning mix. He grills the beef, I chop lettuce + tomatoes, then wrap everything into a burrito with some sour cream/salsa/cheese, basically whatever we have on hand. Quesadillas can be made with almost all the same ingredients, it's really a matter of preference.
I use the bases I prepare at the beginning of the hectic week as bases for bowls which I toss together for lunch and sometimes, a quick dinner. The combinations are endless and really a question of taste, the two bowls I prepared this week are below. (I will go into my bowl lunch prep strategy in a post soon!)
- lentils + cherry tomatoes + feta + almonds + bell pepper then dressed with olive oil/balsamic/s+p.
- bulgur + honey mustard chicken + lettuce + walnuts then dressed with olive oil/s+p.
When you're in a rush, soup made with canned ingredients mixed with whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand is your best friend. Below is my favorite recipe which I developed while severely stressed for time and funds. The result is protein rich and flavorful - you can keep it vegetarian or grill some chicken tenders for extra flavor!
Easiest Chickpea + Vegetable Soup
- 3 cans chickpeas, drained + rinsed
- 1 leek or onion, thinly sliced
- 1 head garlic, finely chopped
- 2 carrots finely chopped
- 1 container mushrooms, rough chop
- 2 cartons chicken or vegetable stock or 6 cups of water + 2 bouillon cubes
- 1 tbsp. cumin
- 1 tbsp. paprika
- 1 tbsp. thyme
- 1 tsp. rosemary
- salt +pepper
- In a pan sauté drained chickpeas in a glug of olive oil until they start to lose their softness and brown a bit, 10 min or so.
- While chickpeas are cooking- in a big soup pot on medium heat sauté mushrooms, onions, carrots, and spices until mushrooms brown and lose their liquid. If using leeks add when the mushrooms are cooked through and browned.
- Add garlic and chickpeas to the soup pot with mushrooms, onions/leeks, and sautee for 5-7 min. on low heat. If using bits of chicken tenders add them now.
- Add all the chicken/vegetable stock, bring to a boil, then simmer and cook for 15 min.
- Serve with grated cheese if you have it and some crusty bread.
As with all soups I divide into tupperware or jars and we eat it for a week for lunch after we've had it for dinner.
I repeat the recipes above throughout the mid-holiday season because they're no brainers and last us for several days. Fresh vegetables can be added to the chicken with a grain base for hearty lunch time bowls. Tortillas can be used to wrap up chicken, beef, lettuce, and fresh vegetables for quick salad wraps. I think once you nail the formula of base, protein, and fresh vegetable you have a lot of quick meal options to choose from throughout the work week. But most important, soup is your biggest friend. Huge quantities made with canned goods, means that you don't have to worry about making something new every evening.
Please share in the comments if you have any recipes that you stick to during this hectic time of the year! I've found that's it's unsustainable to eat out too much and the above meal plans have really saved us time and money.
Happy running around!! I'm so excited to slow down and take a breath over the Christmas break. I hope that you have a chance to do the same.