Wednesday Menu Day
I hope you enjoyed your No-Brainer Cooking menu and grocery list last week! This week we have a few more of our favorites. Isn’t it great to cook once, eat all week?
BBQ chicken wraps are actually better in the summer, but they’re so easy to make when you’re already making fajitas that I thought: why not make them together?
Here’s your grocery list: 4 colored peppers (red, orange, yellow, and/or green), 3 onions, 1 package sliced white mushrooms, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 bunch basil, , 3-4 small tomatoes, 1 bag baby carrots, 3 sweet potatoes/yams, 1 packet chicken fajita seasoning (I use lawry’s or mccormick’s), 1 package large tortillas (corn or flour, your choice), 1 package english muffins, 1 cup lentils, 1 can crushed tomatoes, 1 can diced tomatoes with chilies, 1 can diced green chilies, 1 bag part skim mozzarella cheese, ½ lb lean chicken/turkey sausage, 1 carton egg whites (or one 6-pack of eggs).
What you should have in your fridge/freezer/pantry: 1.5-2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs), jar of minced garlic, bottle of BBQ sauce, 1 can beans, cumin, curry, salt, pepper
Optional: avocado, salsa, sour cream (a healthy alternative is nonfat greek yogurt), shredded cheese, salad (I buy a bag of spring mix), chips, 1 can creamed corn, turkey bacon
Vegetarian: use a meat-substitute for the fajitas. Slice up portabello mushrooms, perhaps? BBQ chicken wraps could become veggie the same way, so instead of cooking chicken, use your grill pan to bbq veggies of your choice. Omit the sausage on the breakfast pizzas and use red/green/yellow/orange peppers or mushrooms instead.
Carnivore: make the fajitas with ½ steak, ½ chicken. Or all steak. Add some bacon to the lentil soup (or chicken, beef, sausage… whatever. I just think bacon would taste good.) Add bacon to the breakfast pizzas.
Gluten free: buy corn tortillas. You could also serve these dishes over rice (Spanish rice would be quite good with the fajitas, in fact!) I suggest making gluten-free latkes for your breakfast pizza base. You can find that recipe via the link.
Lactose free: omit the creamed corn from the lentil soup. Omit the cheese from the breakfast pizza.
Vegan: use vegetarian and lactose free substitutions.
Ok, the breakfast pizzas we’re eating this week actually do require a tad bit of cooking the day-of. You can prepare them completely in advance, so I’ll explain how to do that, but… they are better when you fry the eggs the same day you make them. So why not eat those the night you cook? You’re already assembling your meals, this might as well be the first one out. (Note, there are 40 little steps this week, but please do not be intimidated!) Everything is so healthy, easy, fast and cheap!
Also, each of these dishes was modified and adapted from the following places (in case you only wanted to make one of them): slow cooker chicken fajitas, lentil soup, BBQ chicken wraps, breakfast pizzas.
Here’s how to start your bbq chicken wraps and your lentil soup:
- Keep about 1 lb. of your chicken frozen. Defrost the other half-ish of your chicken. (Note: I always leave chicken frozen and whole before placing in the slow-cooker: this helps it stay moist. It’s not a strong enough meat to stand up to the powers of the slow cooker)
- Place the thawed chicken breasts (the un-frozen ones, whole) in a stock pot. Fill the pot with water until chicken is submerged. Add a little salt to the pot if desired. Cover and cook over high heat for 30 minutes (essentially, boil your chicken).
- If you need to cook your lentils (because you bought them uncooked, like I do), now is a good time (note: you can also cook your lentils in the soup if you cook the soup for one hour rather than 30 minutes. Still rinse and soak the lentils beforehand. Second note: I’ve never tried this. I always precook the lentils. But, that way does seem easier.)
- Rinse lentils 1-2 times in cold water. Soak in cold water for at least 10 minutes (you can “begin preparing your chicken fajitas” at this point. See directions below.)
- Drain water from lentils and place lentils in sauce pot. Ratio of water to lentils is 2:1, so make sure you get a large enough pot! (I’ll only make that mistake once: too small a pot and everything boils over. Not good.) Add 2 cups of water for 1 cup of lentils.
- Cover, bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 40-45 minutes (lentils should be soft but not mushy). When finished, pour into colander to drain. Set lentils aside.
Begin preparing your chicken fajitas (while your chicken is boiling):
- Rinse and drain your beans (from the can).
- Slice 1 onion into long slices (this is called “julienned.” Doesn’t that make you feel like a chef?)
- Rinse, de-stem, de-seed and slice 2 peppers into long slices (there you go julienning again. a nice tutorial is in the link)
- In a slow cooker, combine the whole frozen chicken breasts, beans, sliced peppers, sliced onion, package of mushrooms, 1 can diced tomatoes with chilies, 1 can diced chilies, 1 Tbs. garlic, and ½ fajita seasoning packet (the remainder you can just fold up and put back in your pantry. I only use ½ packet at a time.)
- Cook on low for 4 hours (this is in my slow cooker. In yours, you may need to cook for 5-6 hours like a recipe instructs. You want the chicken to be a little pink at this point, and very moist). I watch the chicken and may or may not add ½ cup water at some point if it seems like it’s drying out.
- If your chicken is still boiling in the stockpot, start chopping things for the soup and set them aside (you’ll put them into the stock pot once it’s free. See “begin your soup” directions below.)
- When the chicken has boiled by itself for 30 minutes, use a fork to remove the chicken from the boiling water stock pot. Set chicken aside (I use a large plate or medium mixing bowl for this.)
- You can dump out most of this water, or you can save it for your soup. It’s like a mild and healthy chicken stock. But put it in a big mixing bowl off to the side.
Now, make your soup:
- Rinse, de-stem, de-seed and chop 1-2 peppers (whatever you have left)
- Chop remaining 2 onions. Divide into 1 onion, and two half onion piles.
- Rinse and chop 1 sweet potato (or yam, whatever you bought)
- Rinse and chop your bunch of cilantro. Divide into ½, ¼ and ¼ of the bunch.
- You may or may not chop your baby carrots. We don’t.
- Heat empty stock pot. Spray with cooking spray. Over medium heat, sauté the equivalent of one whole chopped onion with 1 Tbs. garlic, 2-3 minutes.
- Add peppers, sweet potato, bag of baby carrots, approximately ½ bunch of cilantro, can of crushed tomatoes, and creamed corn (optional) to stock pot. Pour water (or saved chicken water) over vegetables until covered.
- Add cumin and curry to taste (approx. 1-2 teaspoons of each, I’d say). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes (this is essentially the same soup preparation as last week, with a twist.)
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, or turn on the broiler. Adjust your oven racks accordingly (in our oven, that means making the highest oven rack pretty high so the sweet potatoes will roast right up next to the broiler).
- Clean and slice (or “julienne”) your remaining 2 sweet potatoes, skin on (the nutrients are in the skin!)
- In a bowl or gallon ziplock bag, combine a little bit (1-2 Tbs.) olive oil, balsamic vinegar (1-2 Tbs.), spices (you can use cumin, paprika, Italian, or none) and salt and pepper. Put sliced sweet potatoes in the bowl/bag and mix/shake until covered.
- Cover your jelly roll pan (remember, that’s the cookie sheet with the little edges) with foil. Spray with cooking spray.
- Lay your sweet potatoes out on the roasting pan in a single layer (you must bake them in a single layer otherwise they won’t become fry-like). Drizzle with additional balsamic vinegar, spices, sea salt and pepper if you like.
- Broil (or bake) your sweet potato fries for approx. 10 minutes. Open the oven and use a spatula to flip the fries over. Broil an additional 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven.
While sweet potato fries are in the oven, finish your bbq chicken:
- Use two forks and a large plate/shallow bowl to shred the chicken. Your chicken should be white all the way through and still moist.
- In a large bowl, combine shredded chicken with a generous amount of bbq sauce (about ½ the bottle). Set aside.
Begin preparing your breakfast pizzas:
- Rinse and chop tomatoes
- Rinse and chop bunch of basil
- Combine the equivalent of ½ a chopped onion, tomatoes and basil together in a bowl. Set aside. (make sure all your pieces are chopped pretty small because this is like the “sauce” for your breakfast pizzas).
You’re in the home stretch!
- Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray. Heat pan. Once pan is hot, sauté garlic and the remaining onion over medium heat. Remove from pan (but don’t clean).
- Add sautéed onions, garlic, and one ¼ bunch of chopped cilantro to your bbq chicken. Cover and store in your fridge. When you want to make the wraps, get out your tortillas and fill with the bbq filling. Reheat in microwave. You can top with cheese (optional) and serve with sweet potato fries and salad (optional, with or in the wraps).
BBQ chicken, CHECK. Soup, CHECK.
- When slow cooker has cooked about 3.5-4 hrs, use a fork to remove chicken. Use two forks (again) to shred chicken. Then return to slow cooker with the remaining ¼ bunch chopped cilantro. When the chicken is white through, unplug the slow cooker. Our slow cooker goes right into the fridge (it’s the set n forget I mentioned when preparing your kitchen). When you want to serve the fajitas, get out your tortillas and fill with the fajita mix. Reheat in microwave. Optional toppings: shredded reduced fat cheese, avocado/guacamole, low fat sour cream or nonfat greek yogurt, and salsa. You can serve with chips and salsa (also optional). We like cheese, avocado, and salsa, no chips.
- Heat frying pan over medium heat (again, you don’t have to clean it first). When hot, spray pan with cooking spray. Add turkey/chicken sausage and cook until cooked through (I dunno, less than 10 minutes?) Remove cooked sausage from pan and place on a paper towel over a plate. This helps absorb any extra grease.
- Add egg whites to pan, increase to medium-high heat. Fry eggs.*
- When you want to eat the breakfast pizzas: slice English muffin in half. Top with tomato/onion/basil mix, eggs, sausage and mozzarella cheese (if you bought and cooked bacon, throw that on there too.) To reheat an individual serving, place in microwave and microwave on high until cheese is melted. To reheat many pizzas (6-12): preheat oven to 450. Cover the jelly roll pan with foil, spray with cooking spray. Lay English muffins, cut-side up, on pan. Assemble as directed above. Bake for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is melted.
*I’m not good at frying neat-looking eggs. If you can fry them flat and flip them, do so. I scramble everything, solving my “I can’t flip eggs” problem. 1/4 cup egg whites = 1 egg. Depending on how many breakfast pizzas you each want to eat, cook the appropriate amount of eggs. I would say 1 egg per pizza. If you bought eggs but just want egg whites, then separate the yolks out! It’s that easy. If you want things to be more fresh, fry the eggs right before you eat.
And that’s it! Wash your dishes. Clean your kitchen. Sit back, relax, and maybe grab a fork: your work here is done.