Tag Archives: lunch
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Weekly Meal Prep: Mason Jar Salad – Shrimp quinoa with ranch and romaine

28 Apr

I’ve discovered something recently. My portion control had packed up and left me. Totally peaced out. So that meant I was eating larger than necessary portions, snacking in between meals on less than healthy stuff, and having one too many glasses of wine with dinner. The wake up call was the number on the scale. Don’t get me wrong – the number isn’t what matters to me. It is how my clothes feel. And my clothes were feeling hella small. The number on the scale was just the push I needed to start making changes.

Now, I don’t know about you but I cannot diet. I just can’t. As soon as something becomes off-limits, it is ALL I want to eat. So I started using My Fitness Pal again to keep track of my weight as well as all the food and drink I’m ingesting. I’m into week 3 and I’ve lost 5 pounds. Not huge, but slow and steady wins the weight loss race. I’m trying to lose weight, but I’m also trying to regain control of portions. To put more effort into planning my meals so that I refrain from eating convenience foods because I have a healthy meal on hand.

Here’s where the mason jar meals come into play. They are super portable. I have a plethora of jars due to my canning hobby. I can make a weeks worth of meals, and just grab a jar and have lunch ready to go. The lettuce or cabbage will stay crispy because it is as far away from the wet stuff – dressing/sauce – as possible. The meals are healthy. HEALTHY people! And full of flavor. The goal is to keep my lunches at 400 calories or less. This recipe falls around 300 calories – 14 grams of fat, 16 grams of protein, and is very filling from the combo of the quinoa and shrimp. I loved this meal.

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As always, I make everything from scratch. I try to have cooked quinoa frozen in portions in the freezer. That way it’s ready to use for salads or side dishes. For the from scratch ranch dressing – this is by far the simplest dressing recipe I’ve ever experienced. Everything goes into a mason jar, you shake it up and boom.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing: This is a big “to taste” seasoned recipe. The only thing I measure out is the buttermilk and mayo. The ratio of buttermilk to may is 2 to 1. So when I make a batch of this dressing for the week, I do 6oz buttermilk and 3oz mayo. I use the measurement lines on the side of my jars to show me.

For the additional flavor boosters (these measurements are not approximate, they are my best guess)

I use freeze-dried chives – probably about 1/4 cup

Dill – 1 tablespoon

Garlic powder: 1 1/2 teaspoons

Kosher Salt: 1 1/2 teaspoons

Black Pepper: 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Put all of these ingredients in a mason jar, shake like crazy and you have a ready-made, from scratch buttermilk ranch dressing that blows the store bought kind right out of the water.

Now onto the salad!

This list of ingredients will give you one salad. I usually make enough of everything to have a weeks worth on hand for my lunches.

You’re going to want to layer the ingredients in your wide mouth quart jar as follows:

1 tablespoon homemade buttermilk ranch

1 tablespoon 2% milk fat cottage cheese

1 tablespoon crumbled feta

4 tablespoons cooked quinoa

3oz (about 15) small cooked shrimp

2 cups chopped/torn romaine

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When I am ready to eat it, I add a little splash of water to the jar so that the dressing and cottage cheese gets a little runnier and coats all of the lettuce. I shake the jar up, and them pour the salad onto a dinner plate. As you can see from the photo, this is a nice hearty salad. The lettuce stays crisp because it is away from the dressing. The shrimp and quinoa get some flavor from sitting in the dressing. It really is a great salad, and so filling. With warm weather looming, this is going to be my go to meal of summer!
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Have you tried mason jar meals? If so, what are you eating?

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Lighter Snack & Lunch Idea – Lightly Pickled Shrimp!

4 Mar

Every time a new year arrives, the gyms flood with people trying to set new goals with their brand new good intentions. The produce aisle and whole grain sections at the grocery stores are cleared of all things healthy as people embark on a quest for better eating habits. Then it dies off, at the latest, in early February and most people go back to their bad food choices and lazy ways. I never make healthy eating or fitness a new years resolution because it’s like setting yourself up for failure. Healthy eating, fitness, lifestyle changes – you can’t give them deadlines. You’ve got to be mentally ready for the challenge. YOU have to want to do it. I think I’m mentally ready to start getting back into shape again after too much good food & beer. I’m cutting back on the good beer, but not cutting it out. Cutting things out leads to binging on those things because you feel deprived. I need REAL life changes and choices, not a quick fix to drop some weight right now, just to gain it back when I get back to normal.

So for the first week I started getting a little more creative with my lunch choices. I wanted meals that would keep me full and give me the most bang for my buck calorie and nutrition wise. That’s why I started eating Spinach & Cheese Toasts – and I wanted to add in something that had some more protein than the mushrooms I was eating with it and it to be light, healthy & flavorful. So I decided to do a quick, light pickling of some medium sized shrimp. Don’t turn your nose up at the thought of “pickled” shrimp. These aren’t anything like eating a kosher dill pickle. These are brightly flavored without being too “pickled” tasting. They have zing from the apple cider vinegar and fresh lemon juice. There is a hint of spice from the red pepper flakes and garlic. They are just layered with flavor and I love it! I think these will be a great snack and lunch addition, as well as be a great option to take to a summertime picnic or BBQ as an appetizer to share! And the brine? Don’t let it go to waste. It’s lovely smeared on some crusty, whole grain french bread with a couple of the shrimp on top. I think it would also be great as a pasta salad, brining the shrimp overnight and then tossing the jar of ingredients into some pasta. Or quinoa. Next time I make this, I’m going to add in a couple extra shakes of the pepper flakes for a little more zing!

Feel free to double this recipe if you are making it for a group. I made this small batch because I wanted to only have what I would consume over a few days for lunches.

pickled shrimp

Lightly Pickled Shrimp

1/2 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, raw, tails off

1 tbsp old bay seasoning

1/2 tsp mustard seed

1/4 tsp celery seed

1/2 – 1 tsp kosher salt

1 whole lemon, juiced

1/2 cup olive oil

2-3 tbsp unfiltered apple cider vinegar

couple shakes of red pepper flakes

2 pinches parsley flakes

2 cloves garlic, mashed and minced

1/2 medium sweet onion, cut into half moons

Fill a small pot halfway with tap water and add the old bay seasoning. Bring to a boil and add shrimp, cooking until pink – about 2 minutes. Dump your shrimp into a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cold water until no longer hot. (you are using the mesh strainer so that you don’t lose much of the old bay seasoning!)

Take your mustard seed, celery seed & the couple shakes of red pepper flakes and pulse them through a food mill or grinder  a couple of times just to break them up a bit and release their flavors. Add your salt, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and garlic, stirring well to combine. Give it a taste and add more salt or vinegar to get the desired tang and flavor you are looking for.

In a mason jar, put a layer of shrimp, then a layer of onions, and keep layering until you run out of shrimp and onions. Pour the marinade mixture over your shrimp and onions, top with a lid, and put in the fridge overnight to let all the flavors melt together.

Before serving, let the jar sit out for at least 30 minutes. This will let the olive oil easily mix back in with the vinegar and lemon juices. Right before eating, give the jar a good shake to get everything mixed back together. Enjoy as an appetizer, alongside a sandwich, add to pasta, quinoa, rice – whatever your heart desires! Consume within a few days.

Boring lunch fix! Spinach & Cheese Toasts!

19 Feb

I’m in a slump. A winter time lunch slump. I also think I’m, for lack of a better term, bored. I hate the word bored, but I’ve been finding things for myself to do. On a whim I colored my whole brunette head a bright red. Because I finally found a shade of red that said HEY! PICK ME! You’ll look fabulous!!! I love it.

red head girl

But back to the lunch slump….I’m trying to avoid eating overprocessed deli meats….and to be honest I’ve burned out a little from sandwiches. Remove the deli meats and you are left with a cheese sandwich, pb & j, tuna or chicken salad…you see where I’m going. BORING. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some pb & j, especially when the J is homemade strawberry jam. But, well, it’s still boring. Monday – Friday, I’m a working stiff and I have got to eat lunch. My coworkers do not deserve to be subjected to me being hangry.  On the weekends, it’s not a requirement for me to eat lunch since I usually whip up a substantial breakfast. But I’ve certainly got a better set up at home for making a meal than I do at work. At work, we’ve got a toaster, fridge, and microwave. That limits my lunch choices. Since I’m trying to eat healthier, incorporate more veggies, and really stick to eating whole grain products as much as I can, the Spinach & Cheese Toasts lunch was born! It’s a pretty simple set up – whole grain bread, baby spinach, cheese & pepper. Yep. That’s it. And damn…it’s GOOD! I’m getting some veggies into the meal, the whole grain (whole grain as in I can SEE the grains. Not “whole grain” where everything is milled into a fine dust of submission) helps keep me full, and the cheese makes me feel like I’m eating something bad for me, but I’m getting a serving of dairy. To round this out a little and make it feel more like a meal, I have some marinated mushrooms along side it. Next up, I’m going to quick pickle some shrimp and have those with it for an added boost of protein and yummy, citrus laden refreshing flavor! (yes, I’ll post the recipe if my quick pickling tastes yummy like I envision it will!)

spinach & cheese toasts

So, here’s the “recipe”

2 slices whole grain, crusty bread – toasted

1/2 cup baby spinach

2 slices good deli cheese or enough slices of block cheese to cover 2 slices of bread

Put a layer of spinach on each piece of toast, topping with your cheese and a sprinkling of pepper. For optimum results, place under a broiler for a few minutes to get the cheese nice and melty, wilting the spinach a little. If you are limited and only have a microwave, zap is for 45 seconds to melt the cheese. Enjoy!

Hearty meal idea – Spinach and Ricotta Quiche with Savory Chive Crust

24 Sep

Breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong with Quiche. It can be a hearty and filling meal addition. For breakfast or brunch, it’s great served with some fruit and a few slices of bacon. Add a salad and you have a lunch or dinner option.

With our chickens laying between 4-7 eggs (plus the duck laying almost every day too!), we are ending up with a huge vast amount of eggs – as of this morning, we have 52 eggs – before todays offering from the ladies. For a household of 2, even with our love of eggs, that’s a lot to eat up. What better way to use up some of that egg surplus than quiche! You COULD make this a crustless version (just skip the part about the crust and follow the balance of the directions) but it’s pretty tasty so I don’t know WHY would actually WANT to.

I whipped this up over the weekend so that I could have something tasty to heat up for breakfast during the work week. This would also do well in the freezer to save for when you have unexpected breakfast guests or need something to take to a pot luck. Just partially bake it (in an aluminum pan, you do not want to use ceramic as the frozen to hot oven will most likely break your dish)- 20 minutes in the 375 degree oven, remove and let cool to room temp. Freeze with a double layer of saran. To finish cooking, remove from the freezer and place in your preheated 375 degree oven, cooking for 30-40 minutes until center is set.

Spinach and Ricotta Quiche with Savory Chive Crust

serves 6

Seasoned with Sarcasm Original

1 Chive Pate Brisee (recipe below)

2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid

1/2 cup milk

1 cup ricotta cheese

4 eggs

3/4 cup freshly chopped cheddar cheese

kosher salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray your 9″ pie pan with non stick cooking spray. Roll out your Chive Pate Brisee and place in your prepared pie plate. Press down the edges and trip off any excess crust. I did a rough edge for my Quiche, but you can pretty yours up if you like. Puncture the base of the crust with a fork.

Add your spinach to your crust, distributing evenly. Sprinkle the spinach with your chopped cheddar cheese.

In a small bowl, add your eggs, milk and ricotta cheese, whisking to combine. Pour your egg mixture over the spinach & cheese. Season with kosher salt & pepper.

Place your Quiche into your preheated oven, cooking for 40-45 minutes, until center is only slightly jiggly.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 -15 minutes to finish setting the Quiche. Serve hot. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

Chive Pate Brisee

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Yield: 1 pie crust for single 9″ pie

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chives – fresh or dehydrated
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 stick butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 tablespoons ice water, more if needed

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and chives, pulsing a few times to combine. Drop your cubes of butter into the flour mixture, and pulse until the dough resembles a dry coarse crumb.

Turn your food processor on and slowly add the ice water through the feed tube in a steady stream just until the mixture starts to come together. If dough appears to still be crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn dough out onto a piece of saran wrap, press together into a flat disc and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You can also freeze the dough, double wrapping in saran.

Bake according to directions for your recipe.

 

Refreshing & healthy lunch idea – Avocado Egg Salad

10 Sep

The avocado is another one of those super foods. There are a lot of people who dismiss it from their diets because of its high calorie content. I on the other hand love it and am trying to sub it in for mayo whenever I can. I decided to give it a whirl in my egg salad sandwich for lunch. I’m overrun with fresh eggs from my chickens, so I needed another option to eat them all up! Wow, am I glad I subbed the mayo here! It’s fantastic. It was filling and flavorful, even without having all the yolk in it. I enjoyed it on a Syrian roll, but it would be fantastic on crackers, toasted french bread, or even in a salad. The recipe below? It’s one like my Bubba or mom would have written up because there aren’t really any exact measurements. You have to season it to your own tastes. So use it as a guideline, a starting point for you to jump off with your own avocado egg salad flavor. But most of all, enjoy it! I use a potato ricer when I make my egg salad because it gets everything nice and creamy.You can chop all this by hand if you want, or toss it into a food processor and pulse a couple of times until everything is combined.

Avocado Egg Salad

makes 2-3 sandwiches

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

1/2 ripe avocado

lemon juice to taste

garlic salt & pepper to taste

Start out by cutting 2 of the hard-boiled eggs in half and disposing of the egg yolks (I give mine to my dog, it makes his coat nice and shiny and he loves the taste). Place the whole eggs, egg whites and avocado into a potato ricer that has been placed over a bowl. Press down. Clean off any additional egg and avocado from the ricer. Season with garlic salt & pepper to your liking, and add a squirt of lemon juice. Stir to combine. Generously spread onto the bread of your choice and serve.

Note: Be sure to cover tightly when storing any leftovers. I place a piece of saran wrap snugly against the egg salad to avoid any possible discoloration of the avocado.

Grilled Romaine Salad with Grilled Buttery Garlic Baguette

27 Aug

Too much of anything for me ends with me getting sick of said thing. With certain exceptions: bread, eggs, and salad. We have salad with every meal. On those rare occasions when I am out of salad stuff, it feels like there is this huge void because there is no salad. Dinner is a downer, no matter how wonderful when salad is missing. Ok, not REALLY a downer, but still. A critical piece of the meal is missing.

With the summer days having been so very hot and the hubs on a mission to lose weight, he had started requesting just a big salad for dinner. Well, sweet. I can lose weight too AND save oodles of time on dinner prep by tossing together a salad! Woo hoo!!!

So, one day I found myself with some beefy romaine lettuce heads. Hmmm…seeing as how this is not my most favorite type of lettuce, I decided to help make it more palatable to me, I’d get wild and grill it. Grilling salad is no new thing, but I think we tend to forget about this option when prepping our meals. We put everything else on the grill, why not our salad too? Now, the thought of eating a grilled iceberg lettuce or grilled field green salad sounds rather gross to me. But romaine is nice and sturdy. It can handle the heat. That char that some of the leafy tops get just adds a lovely depth of flavor.

Now, since this is a grilled salad, meaning it will be warm when served, I wanted any additional ingredients to also be grilled and warm. So I grilled up the green onions. I even cut a couple of tomatoes in half and grilled them too. And the bread, oh the bread. Grilled to perfection with a lovely hint of garlic. I could eat a whole baguette of this stuff by myself. As it stands, I ate 1/4 of a baguette and forced myself from going back.

This recipe can easily be double, tripled, quadrupled to serve multiple dinner guests. The recipe below is enough to serve 2 as a side salad, or 1 as a dinner salad. I have already asked hubs to keep a path cleared to the grill when it starts to snow because this has rather quickly become my new favorite salad. I use my Creamy Italian Dressing with it, but you can use whatever you like. I wouldn’t go for any soft cheeses though as they will get melted and stuck together from the warmth of the salad. Harder cheeses are key. As is simplicity, which is why there are so few ingredients. Sometimes it’s nice to have a dinner that you don’t have to think too hard about or do tons of prep work. Enjoy!

Grilled Romaine Salad with Grilled Buttery Garlic Baguette

Serves 2 as a side, 1 as a main

1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed dried and sliced in half lengthwise

6 green onions, roots and green tops trimmed

1 clove garlic, cut in half

1/2 loaf baguette bread, cut in half lengthwise

shaved parmesan cheese for sprinkling

butter

olive oil

kosher salt

Preheat your grill so the grill plates are nice and hot. While the grill is heating up, drizzle olive oil over your green onions and romaine lettuce halves. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Take the garlic clove halves and rub them all over both pieces of the baguette, tops and bottoms. Smear a little butter on the tops of each baguette half and sprinkle with some kosher salt.

Place your lettuce and bread halves cut side down on the hot grill along with your green onions. Let cook about 5 minutes or until the lettuce starts to get nice and browned and flip both the lettuce and the bread. Check your onions, once grill marks appear and onions start to get soft, flip them. Cook for about 5 more minutes. Remove everything from the grill.

Transfer the lettuce and green onions to a cutting board, and using a sharp knife, roughly chop everything into bite size pieces. Place in a bowl, sprinkling top of salad with shaved parmesan. Add dressing and toss to coat.

Serve with the grilled baguette and enjoy!