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.
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).
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.
Okay - it is really hard to get an attractive picture of a shepherd's pie. The blogger I got this recipe from did cute little individual dishes and I thought "Ain't nobody got time for that!" and just did one big casserole. But after posting a very unattractive photo on facebook (that sparked a crazy battle between two friends, no joke) I know why she did it that way!
Photography aside, this dish is great. Lean but satisfying ground turkey mixed with a ton of veggies make a hearty filling.
Topped with delicious super-food sweet potatoes, this version of shepherd's pie is super healthy and super delicious.
Baking it in individual dishes is definitely cuter and neater, but if you don't care whether the topping gets mixed into the filling on the plate - you can totally do one big dish.
My friend Keerin was coming over to watch Game of Thrones (I'm pretty much obsessed) and I wanted to make some food for us. She is vegan and I do not cook vegan food that much so I was trying to think of what I could make. I knew that I had a bunch of fresh and frozen vegetables, but I didn't want to make something boring. That's when it hit me - we could play with my mini pie machine!
What the heck is a mini pie machine, you ask? It's a fun little electrical device, kind like a panini press - except that it makes adorable personal sized pies! The machine comes with a cutter to cut the perfect size circles for the base and top. You use puff pastry for the tops and you can either use puff pastry or pie dough for the bottom. I am not a big fan of store bought-refrigerated pie dough is general, but it works great for this because it is a bit tougher. All you do is press a circle of dough into the bottom of one of the four wells using a tool that is included, spoon in the filling, lay a circle of dough on top, and close the lid. The pies cook in about 8 minutes - so fast! Because the cooking time is so short, the filling needs to be precooked.
Fear not if you do not have this machine, though (and I assume most people don't because it is silly and extravagant) - You can just fold circles of dough over filling into half moon hand pies and bake them in the oven.
So, because the pies are personal sized and because they cook so quickly - I knew that each of us could play around with filling combinations. I had frozen peas, corn, green beans, spinach, and butternut squash - so I microwaved those to pre-cook them (I cut the green beans into bite-sized pieces). I cut up some carrots and parsnips and microwaved those, and then I drained a can of chick peas (gotta have protein!). I also had some fake beef crumbles and Keerin brought some fake cheese.