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Hurricane Salad

10 Oct

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Right now, leaves are rustling due to a nice, cool, dry breeze, the windows are open in my always-ever-locked house, and I am enjoying what feels like the very first taste of autumn.  When I walk outside, I’m not immediately suffocated by heat and humidity, and there are very few biting bugs flying around (always a good day when this happens in Florida).

It also happens to be a Monday, a day when I’m usually working at school.  But today was a “virtual planning day” per our lovely contract, which allowed me to finish my report cards, or do anything else teacher-y (like cut out paper pumpkins), in my sweatpants.

All in thanks to Matthew.

No, I’m not talking about my husband’s many family members of that name (on my side it’s Bob, and I think the Bobs still win that rodeo).  I’m talking about the crazy, high-intensity, slow-as-a-freaking-snail hurricane that crawled its way through north Florida a few days ago.

Thinking back to those rare times when public school actually got cancelled for things, I’ve seen the gamut.  I’ve had a fire day (thank you SoCal wildfires), a wind day, snow days, a tsunami day (that was a crazy phone call to wake up to), and now Florida has gifted my very first hurricane days.

Growing up mostly in the Southwest, I had never been in a proper hurricane before.  But let me tell you, it’s an event.  The prep alone was beyond stressful – moving all the patio furniture to the garage, securing the house, digging through all the camping equipment to find white gas stoves and lanterns.  With my parents’ help, we got it all done which made me feel prepared – and proud.  I was stocked with water and ice (I bought the last 4 bags at the grocery store, thank you very much), lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and dried/canned/preserved goods to last a long, potential power outage.  And of course I also bought the absolute essentials for any long, drawn out, stressful event: chardonnay and pumpkin donuts.

I was ready.

The storm was what it was.  A storm.  Big, loud, mean, wet, wild, windy, and everything a person might imagine a hurricane to be.  I was scared, nervous, and at times peaceful as my family and I sat in pajamas watching continued news reports.  There was nothing else to do.

But eat.

What a fabulous excuse a hurricane is for eating junk food!  I thought it was just us with our chardonnay and donuts – oh, and beanie weenie casserole – but the grocery store trip afterwards showed us what people really thought was important.

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Bread, chips, bananas all topped the list of hurricane necessities – the empty shelves couldn’t hide it.

But spin around to those green, fresh, healthy things?

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Why golly, those shelves were chalked full.

So funny, because despite our little junk food splurge, we also made a conscious effort to make sure some nutrition did make its way into our bodies, basically to give us the right kind of energy and lack of mental lethargy to face whatever it was that we needed to face with this storm (again, our first major hurricane, folks).

My mom whipped up what she ended up calling the Hurricane Salad.  It was really just a veggie salad full of ingredients that are health-wise important: mixed greens, yellow bell pepper, soy beans, cucumber, celery, corn, and a simple ranch dressing.  That was it.  But boy did it hit the spot.  We ate it for two days.

With only some chopping, it literally took a few minutes to assemble and a fantastic dinner salad was ready.

Now, you definitely don’t need a hurricane to make this salad.  In fact, let’s hope you don’t have a hurricane to enjoy this salad.  But, it would be great as a take-along dish (dressing separate), easy lunch, fast dinner, or anything else in between.

People – oh those proverbial “people” – always say that something good comes out of something negative.  However, I wouldn’t call this salad good.  I’d call it delicious!  (Too cheesy?  Oh, some cheese would be good on the salad too!)

Try it – sans storms – and let me know what you think!

Enjoy!

(Feel free to use your favorite ranch dressing here – and ranch really is the best for this salad, I think.  But here’s my recipe for a good homemade version that will last you and your favorite salads all week.)

Hurricane Salad

This salad is completely flexible.  Add or subtract as much or as little as you want.  So it can easily be a single serving, or enough to feed a crowd.  Just toss together the following ingredients: mixed greens, yellow bell pepper, soy beans (cooked, I boil mine), cucumber, celery, and corn (cooked or raw).  Sprinkle a bit of s&p, and serve with the dressing on the side (to appease any finicky pourers).

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Homemade Ranch
(makes 1 pt)

Finely mix together 1/2 tsp dried oregano, pinch of ground thyme, 1/8 tsp celery seed, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, and s&p to taste. Use a mortar and pestle to mix (this makes more spice mix than you need- great for chicken, shrimp, or a olive oil dip). Then pour 1 tsp of the spice mixture into a bowl with 1 c mayo, 1 c Greek yogurt, and juice of 1 lemon. Mix and taste for seasoning. 

Enjoy! 

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Oh, Where Do I Begin?

15 Mar

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A version of the Pan Seared Broccoli from Week 2!

Obviously, it’s been a minute. The last few months have been filled with polarizing events leading to certain stressors, and those stressors have led to much consumption of things like cookies, cakes, pasta, and other things that are easy to reach for when I’m not cooking, and of which I should not be eating a lot.  There was a fabulous trip to my new fave city, Asheville, NC.  There was also an emergency oral surgery on Sig and then a horrible, pussy, bloody allergic reaction to a bug bite (poor pup and damn the Florida bugs).  There was an incredibly relaxing Christmas, a fabulous Beef Wellington (one of the best), and a New Year’s celebrated with family and friends (including an amazing home-smoked pork loin).  A significant move also took place – I was offered a position at another school, an opportunity I would’ve been a fool to pass up. So the ever-so-unpleasant experience of emptying a classroom (and then deep-cleaning someone else’s former classroom) was overshadowed by the fantastic new job: teaching first grade!

Not only am I teaching a new grade at a new school, but I also get to share this experience with my mom who is also on the first grade team.   While all of this has definitely kept me busy with much that comes with transitions, it has also been a lot of fun.

But despite (or maybe because of) all of this, I’ve been left with a feeling I’ve never had before.  It’s odd for me – strange and uncomfortable – and if it weren’t for Rob’s challenge to me, I think I’d be lost in my own kitchen.

On more than on occasion, I’ve heard people make comments, likening only to dread, regarding making dinner.  In fact, one of my closest friends describes the pit she gets in her stomach while driving home from work knowing only ingredients – frightening and alone – are awaiting her with doom.  If only Mary Poppins could come and snap her magical fingers and a Michelin Star quality meal would fall from the ceiling, piping hot, plated and presented beautifully.

While Mary Poppins is my all-time favorite hero, alas I know this is impossible.

But what a horrible, shoulder-slumping, overshadowing dark cloud feeling to have, right?

And I got it.

Like a sniffy nose from a 5-year old, once it came on, it lingered.

I love to cook.  Creating meals is my release, my recharge.  How am I literally feeling like it’s a burden to make a meal?!

On top of everything, it is Rob’s deployment season – never ideal.  Luckily, this time in lieu of a deployment, Rob has an extended training stateside.  Oddly enough (and what seems as totally backwards), Rob’s leaving has renewed my kitchen love.

A couple weeks ago, as Rob was making his preparations, he asked me to write up some recipes for him as his on-base housing would have a little kitchenette.  When I say little kitchenette, I’m being kind.  He has two burners, a fry pan, a fridge, and a microwave.  But in all fairness (and considering that this past summer I cooked a dinner on a rock in the middle of a hiking trail – no joke), that’s really all you need to make good, satisfying, home-cooked meals.  That’s just what Rob asked me to do.

So with the challenges of:

  • limited time (cooking after all-day trainings)
  • limited resources (only a small co-op near his location)
  • limited supplies (only a skillet, and no oven)
  • limited money (that speaks for itself)

I created a 4 to 5-day menu of easy-to-cook, easy-to-eat, easy-on-the-wallet recipes all consisting of 1 pan, with leftovers for lunch the next day.  And of course, all the recipes were reminiscent of the meals Rob would have at home.

Each recipe is broken down into ingredients, prep, cooking, and serving.  While every ingredient is standard and accessible, there are a few things that are considered pantry items that can be used way more than once.  Mustard, butter, olive oil, s&p, and the like.

Thus far, Rob has had good, healthy meals, and I’ve gotten positive reviews!  So I decided to include the meal plans for you to enjoy, as well.

This little project made me feel refreshed in my inspiration, motivation, and desire to cook.  That horrible place of cooking apathy was dreadful, and if this little 5-day plan could help others shake the dust off their spatulas, then I’ll call it a win!

If you try any of these recipes, let me know how it goes!

Enjoy!

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

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