If you’ve been around these parts for any length of time, you know I love food. I love to eat. I love to cook (mostly, I like to nourish people.) This isn’t becoming a food blog by any stretch of the imagination. The best I could do for a picture of the prep is above. I’m not expecting anybody to pin this…
I’m always looking for quick ways to put fresh and healthy meals on the table during the week. Anything more than 30 minutes is too much on a weeknight. I don’t usually get home until 5:30 and if we aren’t eating by 6:00, the night is about me nagging everybody and enjoying nobody. Not a great recipe. 😉
Sunday I spent about two hours prepping and cooking and got three meals out of it (with a fair amount of leftovers). That included all the clean up except for the pan I finally made dinner in and eating dishes. One meal will be heat and eat and the other will take close to 20 minutes. My groceries cost just under $30 for all three meals. The recipes are adapted to be a full prep from America’s Test Kitchen’s “The Make Ahead Cook” book. The author of the book wrote them to be individual recipes for three separate meals.
The Menu (4 servings of each meal):
Meal 1: Spicy Chicken and Mango Stir Fry
Meal 2: Easy Pork Tacos
Meal 3: Pan-Seared Halibut and Potatoes with Cilantro Sauce
The Grocery List:
4 (6- to 8-ounce) skinless halibut filets, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick (I substituted Cod, because the Halibut was 2x the price)
1 1/2 lb ground pork
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 oz block of Monterey Jack cheese (or skip step 2 and buy a bag of shredded)
1 small bunch fresh Thai basil (the store didn’t have Thai basil, so I just used the regular stuff)
2 large bunches fresh Cilantro
1 1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes
1 red bell pepper
12 (6-in) flour tortillas
1 small can Chipotle in Adobo
Check your pantry:
1 large onion
Garlic (6 cloves total)
Flour (1 tablespoon)
Sugar (1 teaspoon)
Cornstarch (5 teaspoons, divided)
Soy Sauce (3 tablespoons)
Rice vinegar (2 teaspoons)
Chicken broth (3/4 cup)
Red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon)
EVOO – extra virgin olive oil (about 3/4 cup total)
Rice (enough to serve as a side for Meal 1)
Wine – your favorite kind. Red or white makes no difference.
Instructions: Of course I encourage you, like every cookbook I’ve read, to read through all of the instructions before getting started, but who really does that?
Step 1: Pour self glass of wine. Refill as necessary. No other step shall take priority.
Step 2: Toasting Garlic
Put two cloves of garlic unpeeled in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat for about 7 minutes. Shake occasionally, until fragrant and spotty brown. Let cool. (You can really walk away from this and start step 2. A little charring never hurt anybody.) Set the pan to the side, but remove any garlic skin. No need to wash.
Step 3: Shred the cheese
Run it through the food processor with the grating blade. Put it in a food storage container for Meal 2. Toss the grating blade into the dirty dish area and dust out the bowl. If there is a little cheese stuck around the top it isn’t a big deal. You are going to reuse the bowl in step 5.
Step 4: Chopping
I like to use wax paper to put everything on instead of prep dishes, because I’m lazy when it comes to clean up.
Grab the following ingredients: limes, cilantro, basil, 4 cloves garlic, Yukon Gold potatoes, mangos, onion, bell pepper, chipotle chile in adobo.
Also pull out your food processor.
Limes – zest 1/2 teaspoon and put in food processor bowl, then juice the rest. Put 2 tablespoons of lime juice in the food processor bowl. Set the remainder aside.
Cilantro – Put 1 1/2 cups fresh leaves in the food processor. Mince another 1/2 cup of cilantro and put in a 3-cup or larger food storage container for Meal 2.
Basil – chop 1/4 cup and set aside for Meal 1.
Garlic – Mince all 4 cloves and combine with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
Potatoes – wash and leave peel on. Chop in 1-inch pieces. Put in storage container for Meal 3.
Mangos – Peel and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Set aside one mango’s worth of slices for Meal 1. Dice the remaining 2 and put in a 3-cup or larger food storage container that already has the cilantro.
Onion – Cut in half. Dice one half. Divide it in half again (so a quarter onion). Set one 1/4 dice aside for step 5 and add the other 1/4 dice to the mangos and cilantro in the 3-cup or larger food storage container for Meal 2. Slice the other half 1/4-inch thick and set aside with mangos slices for Meal 1.
Bell Pepper – Stem, seed, and cut into 1/2-inch strips. Set aside with mangos and onion slices for Meal 1.
Chipotle Chile – Mince 1 tablespoon. You’re going to have a lot leftover. Maybe mince it all and freeze the leftover in an ice cube tray. I tossed mine, but like the idea.
Step 5: Making the Cilantro Sauce
The toasted garlic should slip right out of the skins. Chop the soft clove and add to the food processor. Add 7 tablespoons EVOO (that’s a little bit less than 1/2 cup.) Eye-balling is fine. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pulse it 10-15 times until the cilantro is finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Season to taste with pepper. Transfer to a food storage container. You are done with the food processor.
Step 6: Browning Pork Taco Meat
Over medium heat add 2 teaspoons EVOO, the minced chipotle, and the 1/4 diced onion. Cook for about 3 minutes until onion is softened. Add pork and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spatula until pork is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. I drained the fat at this point, which is an alteration to the original recipe. Off heat and add 1/2 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Mix it in and season to taste with salt and pepper. At this point, I added a bit more of the adobo sauce, since I planned to throw away what was left. Once it tastes good, pour the pork mixture into a food storage container. Set aside to cool on counter. Let your pan cool, you will need to wash it and use it later.
Step 7: Finish Salsa for Meal 2
You can do this while you brown the meat. Take the food storage container that has the mango, onion, and cilantro in it. Add 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix and set aside.
Step 8: Pat yourself on the back because the first two meals are prepped! Pour more wine to celebrate.
Step 9: Make rice
Everybody has their own preference of rice and preparation. My preference is the bag you put in the microwave. If this is your preference too, then wait until the very end (I’ll remind you later too.) If you like to make long grain rice, get it started now.
Step 10: Prep Chicken
I used frozen chicken, which required me to thaw it in the microwave. (This wasn’t a well planned out cook-off.) However, I will say if you go this route, let it stay frozen a bit in the middle, which makes it easier to slice. Then finish thawing in the microwave. Slice the breasts across grain into 1/4-inch wide strips that are 1 1/2 to 2 inches long.
Step 11: Prep Spicy Chicken sauce
Whisk until no lumps remain:
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
Now is also a good time to put all of the prepped food for future meals in the fridge including: cilantro sauce (meal 3), potatoes (meal 3), shredded Monterey Jack cheese (meal 2), Mango/Onion/Cilantro salsa (meal 2), and pork taco meat (meal 2).
Step 12: Dredge chicken
In an 8×8 baking dish, mix together 2 tablespoons EVOO, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Add chicken and mix until all is evenly coated.
Step 13: Wash 12 inch skillet for use to brown chicken. Dry completely. I also to the opportunity to wash up as many dishes as I could. I like to clean up as I work. If you like to wait to the end (or have someone who cleans up for you!!!) then no need. You also have 15-20 minutes until your dinner for tonight will be hot & ready, so take a break if you are timing it for a specific end.
Step 14: Brown Chicken
Heat 2 teaspoons EVOO in skillet over high heat until just smoking. Turn down to medium-high. (Frankly, I’ve never done well doing anything on high heat, except searing meat in a cast iron skillet.) Add half the chicken mixture, breaking up any clumps, and cook until lightly browned, but not fully cooked — about 2-3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a clean bowl and tent with tin foil. Repeat with 2 teaspoons EVOO and remaining chicken. Transfer to bowl.
Step 15: Cook Fruit & Vegetables
In now empty skillet, add the 2 teaspoons of olive oil. If you have a lot of leftover oil, you can skip it. If the bottom of the pan has browned bits, no problem. All the better. Add mango, onion, and bell pepper and cook until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Push the mango mixture to the sides to open up room in the middle of the skillet. Add garlic mixture to the center, mashing into pan until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir garlic and mango mixture together.
Step 16: Finish Rice
If you are taking the microwave route, this is the time to pop it in. If you did long grain, you should check to make sure it is done and fluff it.
Step 17: Complete Meal 1 – Spicy Chicken and Mango Stir-Fry
If your pan is anything like mine at this point, it is covered in brown bits. That is perfect! You will take the sauce you made in step 11 and pour it into the skillet with the mango mixture. Using a wooden spatula scrape all the brown bits off the bottom. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices. Stirring constantly until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with soy sauce to taste. Sprinkle with basil and serve over rice.
We had a ton of leftovers and I reheated them. They were delicious! If you find you don’t have much time right before dinner goes on the table, it would be just as tasty to reheat and serve over rice.
Is anybody still with me? Yeah, I’m not a food blogger, so probably not.
Finishing Meal 2: Approximately 5 minutes
Reheat meat mixture. Re-toss the mango salsa. Stack tortillas on a plate, cover, and microwave until warm and soft, about 2 minutes. Spoon pork mixture into warm tortillas, top with mango salsa, add extra cheese if desired, and serve.
Finishing Meal 3: Approximately 20 minutes
Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in bowl, cover, and microwave until potatoes begin to soften, 6-8 minutes. Drain potatoes well.
Meanwhile, pat halibut (in my case cod) dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons EVOO in empty skillet over medium-high heat. Lay fish in skillet and cook until golden, 3-5 minutes. Flip fish and continue to cook until fish flakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife and registers 140 degrees, about 3-5 more minutes. Transfer to serving dish and tent with aluminum foil.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and drained potatoes to now-empty skillet and cook over medium-high heat until potatoes are golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to platter with fish and serve with cilantro sauce.
Enjoy your meals!