HELLO THERE, WORLD!
What an interesting time to be alive…. I hope all of you reading this are staying happy, healthy and positive amidst this pandemic. The decisions we’ve had to make re: You & Yours’ operations over the past week or so have been rough, to say the least. Perhaps I’ll share more of my/our experience at a later date but for now, I thought I’d distract myself (and hopefully you) from these supremely shitty times with a few of my favorite easy, healthy-ish and comforting meals to make at home.
These meals are listed in rough order from “a monkey could do it,” to “might want to skim the recipe first,” but I promise you they’re all relatively hands off!
…and I hope this goes without saying, but feeling incredibly fortunate that I’m not only able to work from home during this time but that my household can afford to purchase necessities. Currently brainstorming how we can help those who may not be so fortunate so please leave any suggestions in the comments if you would. My deepest thanks to all the healthcare providers, public health workers and other essential service providers keeping us all going.
1. Jazzed Up Annie’s Mac & Cheese…
This is my guilty pleasure to make for lunch when I’m working from from home (or for dinner during a pandemic-induced lockdown!). I always have a box or two of Annie’s Gluten Free Mac & Cheese in the pantry for when the craving hits or I’m just feeling particularly lazy. Here’s how I jazz it up to convince myself it’s a relatively well balanced meal…
In a small cast iron or nonstick skillet, sauté three big handfuls (or a small clamshell) of whatever greens you have on hand (spinach, kale, chard, etc.), chopped, in your preferred cooking fat (I like avocado oil) until wilted, salting as you go. Chop up whatever cooked protein you have laying around (leftover rotisserie chicken, sliced up pre-cooked chicken sausage) and throw it in the pan with the greens to warm through. Cook Mac to package directions – I like to do whatever I can to make the boxed mac more exciting so I’ll use a mix of butter, chicken stock and sour cream (or whatever dairy I have) in place of the bit of milk the box calls for. Then fold your greens and protein into the mac. Once it’s all mixed in I’ll had a generous handful of chives (use whatever soft herb you have or just skip altogether) and tons of black pepper and boom! done. And yes, I consider one box to be one portion, duh.
2. Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
This one is so good to have as a quick and comforting dinner. Preheat your oven to 450 F. Grab a can of your favorite chili (Trader Joe’s has great options including vegetarian versions) and warm in a small saucepan on the stove. Microwave two small-medium sweet potatoes for 3-5 minutes after poking all over with a fork. If the sweet potatoes are large, use half a potato per person, as shown above. Take them out of the microwave and pop in the oven, right onto the rack, to crisp the skin and finish cooking them through, maybe 5-10 minutes more. Once the sweet potatoes are tender throughout and chili is hot, take the potatoes out and let cool for a minute or two. Split potatoes down the middle, add generous swaths of butter, lots of salt and then top each potato with half the chili. Top with whatever you have on hand – chives, a dollop of greek yogurt or sour cream, shredded cheese and then some good cracks of black pepper. Side of sautéed spinach goes nicely!
3. Ground Beef Tacos
This is one of our favorite simple meals. We make this at least once a week for dinner with either ground beef, chicken or turkey. Sometimes we’ll scoop it into Siete Foods tortillas (the cashew ones are my favorite!) or other times we’ll make a “burrito” bowl by spooning it over cauli rice. A simple side salad is nice but not required in these dark times, lol.
Dice up an onion and sauté in your preferred cooking fat until translucent, 5 minutes or so. Add a few cloves of chopped garlic to the pan. Salt each step generously as you go. Add a chopped jalapeño or Serrano pepper if you have one. When the onion starts to develop a tiny bit of color around the edges, add a pound of ground meat and start to break it up a bit with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper and then leave it alone so it can get nice and charred and brown in places. While the meat is browning, add some spices – I do a mixture of cumin, paprika, cayenne, oregano, and chili powder. Stir occasionally so it can get browned all over, then add a bit of liquid when the meat is almost fully cooked (a half cup or so of chicken broth, some canned tomatoes, water or jarred salsa will do nicely). Once most of the liquid has cooked off and it all looks nice and saucy (maybe 3-5 minutes), load meat mixture into tortillas or over some rice and top with whatever toppings you have/sound good to you. Salsa, hot sauce, sliced avocado, greek yogurt or sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, chives or sliced green onions and enjoy! Makes epic leftovers too for a taco salad the next day.
4. Kale & Sausage Meatball Soup
This one is soooo quick and easy. Two ways to go here: a. make sausage meatballs from fresh sausage links or b. use pre-cooked meatballs. I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s frozen little ‘party meatballs’ if you want to go that route
If using fresh uncooked sausage, take the sausage out of the casing and roll each link into about 4-5 mini meatballs.The sausage is already seasoned so you don’t need to do anything there. Put a bit of oil in a large dutch oven and cook the meatballs until brown on all sides but not fully cooked. Remove meatballs from pan and set aside on a plate. Dice up whatever starchy veggies you happen to have and throw them right into the pot (side note: If your sausage was pretty lean, add a glug of your preferred cooking oil to get everything going again). I usually do carrots as well as an onion, a few cloves of garlic, and maybe a fresh chili pepper if I have one. Let all those veggies sauté, salting as you go. This is a good time to add some chopped thyme or rosemary, maybe some dried oregano and definitely some crushed red chili flakes! Once the veggies have softened and developed some color (5-10 minutes) add a ton of greens (a big clamshell of spinach or baby kale, or a couple bunches of heartier greens like curly or dinosaur kale or chard torn into pieces). Let those wilt for a minute or two then add two cartons of bone broth and bring to a simmer. If you want to keep it vegetarian, use vegetable broth and maybe add a can of white beans or chickpeas to bulk it up in lieu of meatballs! Whether using fresh or frozen, toss the meatballs & any juices into the soup and let them heat up/finish cooking through while everything comes up to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes then salt & pepper to taste. Serve with big shavings of parm and flaky salt.
5. Beef Bourguignon + Cauliflower Gnocchi
Okay, this one has an actual recipe… I LOVE Ina’s Beef Bourguignon recipe because it really is stupid easy to make. The only modifications I make are 1. omitting the Cognac (simply because I don’t have any and don’t think the dish rides on it), 2. omitting the frozen onions at the end and 3. serving it all over Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi instead of thick slices of bread, but you do you! Cook Gnocchi to package directions, top with stew and chopped parsley to serve.
What are you favorite meals to make when you’re in the mood for something easy and mood-boosting? I’d love to know! Xo, LKJ