I’ve giggled as I started paging through our summer calendar and realize that we’re getting ready for a huge, action-packed summer. The hubs starts his new job at UGA, summer wedding season is still on overlay, and I’ve got a few new boards to attend and volunteer on so suddenly we’ve lost any “lazy day of summer.”
Add good old Georgia Summer Scorcher days coming soon and I’m looking at my normal cozy kitchen as a pressure cooker of heat. I realized with busier days, our shared dinner partner schedule needed a few changes and knowing that we need limited cooking time and energy, I sought out some packed lunch and dinner short-cuts. Here is what we’re working with this week – once again I’m observing the “no food waste” and “pantry control” so used what I had in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.
Lunches – Don’t be Lazy or Limited!
I’ll be honest, if I left it up to the hubs, he (and eventually I) would fall back on ham and swiss sandwiches because “they are easy.” I’m trying to watch our health and macros, so I tried to find good food that could also be good for us. I found two “sandwich alternatives” – chicken salad and chickpea salad. The chicken salad has some sweetness with the pineapple, very summery. I used the green onion and celery to give it some balance. The chickpea is to provide a vegetarian alternative with a TON of protein in the chickpeas and the quinoa without lots of complication.
Pineapple Chicken Salad (I adapted from a Cooking Light Recipe that would work for us)
1 can (12oz)cooked canned chicken, drained
1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots
1/8 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup light mayonnaise (this is preference for you)
2 tbs finely chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8-ounce) can crushed or tidbits pineapple in juice, drained
Mix all ingredients together and season to taste. Serve on pitas, bread, or on salad.
1 cup quinoa
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 ounces baby spinach (about 4 cups), coarsely chopped
1/2 ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1/8 cup pesto
Cook quinoa to specifications. While cooking, mix chickpeas, tomato, pesto, and feta together, mix in your chopped spinach. Let quinoa cool then mix into the chickpea mixture.
Asian Cabbage Salad
1 small head cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2-3 tbs soy sauce
1/2 bag matchstick shredded carrot
baked tofu cubes
sriracha sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, etc. (optional to taste)
Prep your veggies and then mix dressing in, add in the tofu cubes last. The end sauces/additions listed are optional to add to your taste. I made this up and let it sit. It may be “fresher” looking if you eat right away – plan on serving as a side that day or within a few days, otherwise it can tend to look a little tired. This is perfect for a side when you want some crunch outside the normal prepped salad.
Winner Winner Summer Dinner
I don’t know about you but when the temperature soars I suddenly feel like I’m swimming in humidity and in turn find myself disoriented with the words, “I don’t want to cook ANYTHING, let’s just go out!” Now, while that is super easy, it kills our budget and recently the increased sodium, fat, etc. we get from “dining out” leaves me even more sluggish. I needed a few options and thankfully found these freezer meal, prep ahead, limited cook meals, even a few fun ones. Here are two!
Lemon Caper Tuna and Noodles with Alfredo
12 ounces extra-wide egg noodles
1 15 ounce jar light garlic Alfredo sauce or one 10-ounce container refrigerated light Alfredo pasta sauce* (I used half the jar and the other half for another recipe since we are 2)
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 12 ounce can solid white albacore tuna, drained
Cook egg noodles and then prep the sauce in a saucepan using the lemon juice, alfredo, and capers. The sauce AND noodles can be prepared ahead and stored and everything combined (tuna, noodles, sauce) and heated in microwave to serve avoiding the heat on warmer nights.
1 prepared pizza dough
1/8 cup Basil Pesto
1 jar alfredo sauce* (Used half of this jar in another recipe)
3 cups of spinach
1 cup Mozzarella cheese
1/2-1 cup of artichoke hearts, cut
Set up foil and spray with oil and dust with cornmeal. Place oiled dough and grill then flip and get ready to spread toppings. Mixing pesto with alfredo, then spread on sauce and then Add remainder of toppings quickly and grill 3-5 minutes.
Although the Sunday prep can be tenuous, it is worth it. I love having our menu plan sketched for the week and know we can do quick grabs the night before and morning of without stress and still gain healthy meals instead of boring sandwiches (which end up not being healthy for us). bon appetit!