QUICK PREP MEALS

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So after writing my “day in the life” post, I got a few comments and questions from people in my normal life who were shocked that I cook actual meals for dinner pretty much every day. Apparently, this is not that common, especially in the young professionals set and I can understand that – it’s a lot easier to just grab take out or throw something in the microwave and veg on the couch at the end of a long day than take the time to prepare a meal for only one or two people. When my ex and I first split, I wasn’t really sure what my budget would be or how to manage it, so I had to cook to save money. Since then, it’s just been a habit.  While I don’t cook dinner every day (more like 6 nights a week), it is something that I do take a lot of pride in and something that I find important. After all, it’s a great way to save money and make sure you actually know what you’re eating, so you can eat on the healthier side if you so choose!

That said, as you probably saw from my Day in the Life post, most of my time throughout the day is already accounted for. I don’t have a ton of time to cook dinner (who does?) and getting home from work/barre/running late means I’m starving when I do get home, so I need something quick. Here are some of my most common meals, found mostly courtesy of Pinterest – all take 30 minutes or less to prepare! I’m not a wizard chef and these recipes aren’t anything ground breaking, but it’s all easy, quick, and (mostly) healthy. These are all prepared using gluten-free ingredients out of necessity, but you can use whichever options you want! The link for each recipe is in the title of the dish!

Shrimp (or Chicken) Pad Thai

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Before adding the peanut sauce – it was a lot less pretty afterwards

A recent craving for Thai food led me to purchasing some rice noodles at the grocery store, and now AJ and I are obsessed. I like using frozen shrimp because they defrost quickly and I can whip up a quick stir fry using the shrimp, a frozen veggie mix, and noodles, but chicken works too. I’m just not very good at remembering to defrost chicken! Anyway, I buy a pre-made peanut sauce, frozen shrimp that is peeled and devined, and a frozen stir fry veggie mix with no sauce added. Done in no time!

Individual Lasagna Bowls

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Showing the various stages of prep before baking!

These individual lasagna bowls are a big favorite of AJ’s, and they are super easy. The link above gives a pretty good idea of what to do, but I always modify the ingredients based on what I have on hand. For example – I use pre-made frozen meatballs (gluten free turkey for me) and cut them into small pieces to place throughout the layers. I mix up provolone and mozzarella cheese, and I use marina sauce in my bowl while AJ prefers alfredo. The main steps are cooking the noodles and baking the bowl – that’s it! Super easy and virtually no cleanup.

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The finished product is below! Not super healthy, but super delicious. I guess you could use less cheese, but why?

White Chicken Chili

It looks gross, but stay with me!

This white chicken chili takes less than 5 minutes to throw in a crockpot, and then it can be cooked for 3-4 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low. I use frozen chicken breasts, canned black beans, canned tomatoes, canned corn, etc – just throw it right in! I prefer to buy the “no salt added” versions of those items and the reduced fat cream cheese, but the choice is yours. After cooking, all you do is whip up a batch of rice (we use jasmine rice because it is easiest on my stomach) and serve the chili over top! This is a perfect meal to make on a Sunday and save leftovers throughout the week. We eat this for lunches all the time!

Sausage, Spinach, and Parmesan Risotto

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Turkey sausage and spinach add a healthy spin to this one-pot dish!

We’re all about some one-pot meals here in the Cemprola household. This sausage, spinach, and parmesan risotto is supposed to be made with kale, but the thought of trying to get AJ to eat kale made me cringe, so I subbed in spinach instead. As always, we used turkey sausage! Not the most low-sodium meal, but delicious and reasonably healthy nonetheless.

Burrito Bowls

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I could talk about burrito bowls for hours, but I’ll spare you

Ahh, burrito bowls – the greatest of all foods! No recipe here, but this is super easy to throw together – rice, black or pinto beans, tomatoes/salsa, cheese, spinach, and either ground turkey, chicken, or shrimp. I would literally eat these for every meal every day if AJ would let me get away with it. Burrito bowls are the perfect food.

Cheesy Sausage Pasta

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Not the healthiest, but probably the most delicious

Turkey sausage once again makes an appearance in this dish! I sub out the Rotel in the recipe and use no-sodium diced tomatoes to remove the spice, since AJ doesn’t like it. You can choose to add cheese or not, and sub out the heavy cream for milk. We make this probably once a week and it’s one of my favorite meals! Plus, it’s fast, sausage can be defrosted in the microwave for when I inevitably forget to do it ahead of time, and it’s delicious. It’s not really very healthy, but portion control is your friend.

These are just some of the recipes that make up our regular repertoire, but the basic tenets of quick prep hold true:

  1. Use frozen vegetables (with no sauce) – I use stir fry mixes and most importantly, DICED ONIONS! Yes, you can buy onions pre-cut and frozen. No need to thaw, just throw them in the pan! I will never cut an onion again.
  2. Buy diced no-salt-added tomatoes – Just dump them in and go! They’re cheap, always on sale, and if you keep the extra salt out, totally healthy.
  3. Sub in turkey for beef or pork – We use turkey sausage and ground turkey for pretty much everything. This makes a huge difference in the health factor of the meals, especially where sausage is concerned. We eat a lot of sausage because it’s easy and defrosts quickly!
  4. Stick to one-pot meals – Less prep means less cleanup means less wasted time! I don’t do the dishes (AJ does) but I still try to help him out in this department.

That’s all for me! Now you know all my secrets.

LEAVE A COMMENT: What are your favorite go-to quick meals? Do you struggle with preparing meals on a regular basis?

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