Well Dined


Week of Meals

A friend of mine asked if I could put together a week of meals that are healthy, easy, and cost effective for a single working mother.  I thought that sounded like a great idea!  But I definitely underestimated how much work it would be.  It's hard to make food for just two people without having a ton of leftovers - so to get a different meal in each night, I had to figure out how to use ingredients in multiple dishes.  And I wanted to make sure that they were healthy, had a bit of variety, and took 30 minutes or less to put together.  It's a tall order, but I think I managed.  Each recipe is sized for two adults, and there is a shopping list included at the bottom of the post.

Well Dined | Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans

First up - Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans.  This meal is healthy, easy, and comes together in under 30 minutes.  I am so in love with this mustard butter (that I discovered making this recipe), I make it all the time now.  There are no grains in this dinner, and as far as starchy potatoes go, baby red-skinned are relatively low on the glycemic index.  Plus - by cooking more salmon and vegetables than you need, you will already have the ingredients you need for dinner the next night.  This meal comes first because fish needs to be cooked the same night that it is purchased for best quality.

The salmon is going to be one of the more expensive proteins for the week, but it is worth it because it is so good for you (not to mention delicious).  Gotta get those Omega-3's!  However, I do not recommend buying farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is full of chemicals and pollutants.  Instead, I recommend buying wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian.  The Norwegian salmon is pretty great and I can get it here in NoVA for around $15/lb, and coho goes for $13/lb (versus $29/lb for king salmon, yikes!).  If you absolutely cannot swing Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, buy another type of fish instead (cod, halibut, or tilapia would be good).

Well Dined | Salmon Nicoise Salad

For our second dinner, we use the extra ingredients from the previous night, plus a few more, to make Salmon Nicoise Salad.  The only thing you have to cook for this dinner is hard boiled eggs, and you can do those in advance if you like.  Boil more than you need, because we will use some in another dish.  Like the previous night, this meal is grain-free and loaded with healthy fats.  You can see how big one serving is in this photo - I ate the whole thing, Jasper only ate half of his.  So if this is too much food for you, plan to set aside half of it for lunch the next day.  It should travel well, just keep the dressing separate.

This is actually the most expensive meal of the week (if it is making 2 servings, and not 4), so the kind of greens you use will matter.  I used mache or lamb's lettuce, which I think is really delicious.  But there are definitely cheaper lettuces/greens out there.  A note on olives - nicoise olives are traditional, but expensive, so feel free to sub kalamatas, which taste very similar.  You could even buy jarred kalamatas to save even more.

Well Dined | Poached Chicken and Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

Next up, we have Poached Chicken with Balsamic Roasted Vegetables - another grain-free meal.  Both the chicken and the veggies cook in about 30 minutes.  We will be cooking more chicken than we need so that it can be used in two other meals.  Poaching is a great way to keep breast meat tender and to infuse it with flavor, and the leftover cooking liquid is homemade chicken stock.  Also, both roasting and balsamic vinegar bring out the sweetness in veggies, making kids (and adults) more likely to eat them.  Stretch leftovers for lunch by serving them with brown rice or quinoa.

Many stores offer "family packs" of chicken at a slightly discounted price.  Wrap what you aren't using right away in plastic wrap, then foil, and freeze.

Well Dined | Chicken Cobb Salad

For the fourth dinner, we have Chicken Cobb Salad - using leftover chicken from meal #3 and egg from meal #2.  So the only thing you have too cook for this meal is some bacon.  This meal is, you guessed it, totally grain-free.  Am I on a roll or what?  Again - if you know you will have leftovers, set them aside in advance and do not dress them until lunchtime.

Well Dined | Chicken and Vegetable Enchiladas

The fifth dinner is Chicken and Vegetable Enchiladas, made easy and light by using salsa as a sauce.  The filling is shredded chicken (cooked on the 3rd night), bulked out with frozen spinach and corn, and black beans.  Half of that veggie mixture is going to be set aside for use on the last night.  To make this more healthy, you can use reduced fat cheese and sour cream, and whole wheat tortillas.  If you are eating leftovers for lunch, these reheat just fine in a microwave.

Well Dined | BBQ Pork with Coleslaw and Baked Beans

Moving on to dinner number six, we have BBQ Pork with Coleslaw and Baked Beans.  The pork is dry rubbed and slow cooked until tender and falling apart, then tossed with BBQ sauce.  Extra pork will be used the next night in tacos.  As you can see in the photo, I didn't make quite enough pork - so I have adjusted the amount in the recipe below.  By eliminating the bun/bread, we keep this meal pretty healthy.

This is definitely the most labor intensive meal, which is why I have positioned it on the weekend.  Make sure you allow yourself time to let the pork marinate (at least 4 hrs or overnight) and cook (2-8 hrs depending on method).  That being said, the cooking time for the pork is long, but most of it is hands-off.  The coleslaw is made easier by using pre-shredded cabbage, and the beans use canned beans to cut down on prep time.  For leftovers - store the coleslaw separately from the items that need to be reheated.

Well Dined | Pork and Veggie Tacos

Lastly, we have Pulled Pork and Vegetable Tacos.  Using up the remaining pork from the night before, and veggie mixture from night #5.  No cooking required, other than re-heating.  Again, use low-fat dairy and whole wheat tortillas to make them healthier.

There you have it, one week's worth of dinners (and maybe some lunches)!  I hope this will be useful to lots of people and I will try to put out a menu every couple of months (but no promises).  I spent $120 on the week buying all high-quality, organic ingredients from Whole Foods (and without having to buy any "staple" items).  The price breakdown per meal is as follows: 1 - $18, 2 - $28, 3 - $13, 4 - $15, 5 - $13, 6 - $17, 7 - $16.

Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans

4 (6-8oz) salmon fillets (see comments above on buying tips)
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 lbs small red-skinned potatoes
1 lbs green beans
Salt and pepper

5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp chopped chives
2 tsp grainy mustard
2 tsp fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon, save the other half for later)

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water, salt generously.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, but not mushy (about 10-15 minutes).  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Return the pot to boiling and add the green beans.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, drain, and shock in ice water.  Set aside.

Place an oven rack near the top of the oven and turn the broiler on low.  Place the oil in a large, oven safe, skillet over medium heat.  Season the salmon with salt and pepper and place (skin side down) into the hot pan.  Cook until the bottom is just starting to turn opaque (2-4 minutes), then transfer the pan to the oven and broil until just cooked (5-7 minutes).  Set aside 2 of the fillets for another night (you can slide a spatula in between the cooked fish and the skin to easily remove it, if desired).

Meanwhile, combine the butter, chives, mustard, and lemon juice.  Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, then set aside half for another night.  Place the remaining half into a pan, add 3 tbsp of the butter mixture and toss to coat and heat through.

Top the remaining 2 salmon fillets with the remaining 2 tbsp butter mixture and serve with the vegetables.

Salmon Nicoise Salad

6 eggs
2 (6-8oz) cooked salmon fillets (from Monday night)
3/4 lb cooked baby potatoes (from Monday night)
1/2 lb cooked green beans (from Monday night)
4 cups of mixed greens
1 cup of Nicoise olives (or Kalamata)
1 cup of grape tomatoes, halved (this should be 1/2 a pint, the other 1/2 will be used later)
Extra-Virgin Olive oil
Lemon juice (from the 1/2 you saved on Monday night)
2 tbsp chopped chives (the leaves from your celery would also be delicious here)
Salt and pepper

Boil the eggs. You can either do this by placing into a pot of cold water, bringing to a boil, removing from heat, covering, letting sit for 12 minutes, then transferring to an ice bath.  Or use my preferred method (shown here), which is to place them directly on the racks of a preheated 325 degree (F) oven for 30 minutes, then transfer to an ice bath.  Either way, set 2 of the eggs aside for another night (you can refrigerate them cooked but still in the shell).  Peel the remaining 4 eggs under cold running water, then cut into quarters lengthwise (if you prefer to peel the whole batch at once, you can store the peeled eggs in an airtight container covered with a damp paper towel).

Divide the greens between two plates and arrange all the ingredients through the tomatoes on top.  Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with herbs, and season with salt and pepper.

Poached Chicken with Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large carrots, halved (no need to peel)
1/2 a celery heart (about 4 stalks)
1 white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme (or 1 tbsp dried herbs, like Italian blend)
1/2 tsp black peppercorns (or 1/4 tsp ground pepper)
Balsamic vinegar, or glaze
Extra-virgin olive oil

1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium zucchini, cut into half moons
2 large carrots, cut into disks
1 small red onion, halved then sliced
1 cup grape tomatoes (the remaining 1/2 pint from Tuesday)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Place the chicken in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pot.  Scatter the remaining ingredients through the peppercorns over the top (note that there is no salt, that is on purpose so you can salt your dishes later).  Cover with water (just the chicken, the veg can be floating), bring to a boil, and then quickly reduce the heat to low so that the water is barely at a simmer.  Partially cover and gently simmer for 10 minutes.  Then turn off the heat completely, and allow chicken to sit in the hot water for another 15-20 minutes.  Remove the chicken with tongs and set aside.  Strain the solids out of the cooking liquid and keep it in the refrigerator (you will use it on another night).

Meanwhile, roast the vegetables.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (F).  Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper.  Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, until caramelized.

Sprinkle two of the chicken breasts (save the other two in the refrigerator for later, to make your life easier – shred one of them now, while it is still warm) with salt, slice, and drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar or glaze.  Serve with the vegetables.

Chicken Cobb Salad

5 cups chopped romaine lettuce (1 heart)
6 strips bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
1 cooked chicken breast, cubed (from Wednesday night)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 hard-boiled eggs, diced (from Tuesday night)
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup chopped chives (or whatever is leftover from Tuesday night)
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
Dressing of choice (or 2 tbsp balsamic, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp Extra-Vrigin olive oil, 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper)

Toss the lettuce with the dressing, and divide between two plates.  Arrange the remaining ingredients in rows over the top.

Chicken and Vegetable Enchiladas

1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded (from Wednesday night)
4 oz (1 cup) shredded Mexican Cheese Blend (reduced fat is fine, don't use non fat)
salt and pepper
1 (16 oz) jar of your favorite salsa (or 2 cups homemade salsa)
6 small tortillas, warmed (I prefer whole wheat)
sliced scallions, for serving (optional)
sour cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

Combine the beans, spinach, corn, and cumin; season with salt and pepper.  Take half of this mixture and refrigerate it for later.  To the remaining half, add the chicken, 1/2 cup of the cheese, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper and mix to combine.

Spread 1/2 the jar of salsa into the bottom of an 9x13 baking dish.  Dividing evenly, roll up the filling mixture in the tortillas (about 1/2 cup each) and place the rolls seam-side down into the baking dish in a single layer.  Top with the remaining salsa and cheese.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 until cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with the scallions and serve with the sour cream (if using).

BBQ Pork with Coleslaw and Baked Beans

For the Pork:
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
2-3 lbs boneless pork shoulder
2 tbsp high heat oil (like Canola, though avocado is better for you)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup homemade chicken stock (from Wednesday night)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
Remaining carrots (about 2)
Remaining celery (about 4 stalks)

Combine the paprika, cumin, pepper, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne (if using).  Rub all over the pork, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 to marinate.

In a dutch oven or slow cooker insert over medium-high heat, heat the oil.  Add the pork and cook, turning frequently, until browned on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes.  Transfer to a platter.

Remove the pot from heat and pour off the fat.  Place the onion, whole carrots, and whole celery into the bottom of the pot.  Set the pork on top of the vegetables and sprinkle with the brown sugar.  Pour the chicken stock into the pot.

Dutch oven: Cover, place over medium heat and cook, turning the pork occasionally, until very tender, about 2 hours.

Slow cooker: Cover, and cook on low setting for 8 hours.

Transfer the meat to a clean platter and let cool.  Using 2 forks, pull the meat apart into thin shreds.  Remove and discard all the fat and gristle.  Set aside half of the pulled pork for another night.

Serve the remaining pork with baked beans, coleslaw, and your favorite BBQ sauce (recipes below).

Homemade BBQ Sauce
Makes 2 cups

1 tbsp neutral oil (like canola, but avocado is better)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Dash salt

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add onions and cook for 5 minutes, then add garlic for 1 minute.  Reduce heat to low, add remaining ingredients.  Simmer for 20 minutes, then taste for seasoning.

Easy BBQ Beans

1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp yellow mustard
1 (15.5 oz) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F).

Mix ketchup, BBQ sauce, water, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and mustard together in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add beans and salt to taste.  Transfer to a casserole dish and bake uncovered for 1 hour.

Cole Slaw

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp celery seed
1 (15 oz) bag coleslaw mix
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, mix together mayo, honey, vinegar, and celery seed.  Toss the coleslaw mix with the dressing, season with salt and pepper.

Pulled Pork and Vegetable Tacos

Remaining pulled pork, warmed (from Saturday night)
4-6 tortillas, warmed (I prefer whole wheat)
Remaining bean/corn/spinach mixture, warm or cold (from Friday night)
Mexican cheese blend (optional)
Scallions (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Salsa or hot sauce (optional)

Divide the pork between the tortillas, top with the vegetable mixture and any other desired toppings.

Shopping List

Proteins –
4 (6-8oz) salmon fillets (wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2-3 lbs boneless pork shoulder

Produce –
1.5 lbs baby potatoes
1 lbs green beans
4 cups of mixed greens
5 cups chopped romaine lettuce (1 heart)
1 pint (2 cups) grape tomatoes
2 medium tomatoes
1 small head of broccoli
1 medium zucchini
1 small red onion
1 avocado
1 lb carrots (about 6 large)
1 celery heart (about 8 stalks)
2 white or yellow onions
1 lemon
Thyme (optional for poached chicken)
1 cup of Nicoise olives (or Kalamata)
1 bunch scallions (optional for enchiladas)
1 (15 oz) bag coleslaw mix

Frozen -
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach
1 cup frozen corn

Dairy –
Unsalted butter
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 (8 oz, 2 cup) bag Mexican Cheese Blend
Sour cream (optional)

Dry goods –
Salad dressing or Dijon mustard (for Cobb)
Grainy mustard
Yellow mustard
1 (16 oz) jar of your favorite salsa
2 packages small tortillas (should have at least 6, I prefer whole wheat)
BBQ Sauce (unless you choose to make your own)
1 (15.5 oz) can black beans
1 (15.5 oz) cans pinto beans

Pantry Staples –
Olive oil (for cooking)
Extra-Virgin olive oil (for dressings)
Balsamic vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Peppercorns (optional for poached chicken)
Bay leaf
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Cayenne (optional for pork)
Celery seed
Brown sugar
Molasses (optional for homemade BBQ sauce)

One Year Ago - Fresh Homemade Pasta
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