The kitchen was in desperate need of restocking after we returned from our trip- as I usually plan to use up as much supplies as we can before we travel so that nothing rots or expires in our absence.I had started making a list of the usual needed items before realizing that this would be the perfect opportunity to get back to meal planning (as I could not do so in the prior weeks).
Which is how I found myself with all my cookbooks, a pen, and a notepad spread out on our breakfast bar, furiously scribbling down main and side dish suggestions for the upcoming two weeks. The end result was quite an exhaustive shopping list, with an emphasis on produce and fresh foods since I’m trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Below, you’ll find the menu for the first week:
Many of the recipes I ended up following came from a single cookbook Master Your Metabolism, by The Biggest Loser coach Jillian Micheals. I’m not really a fan of hers but the book had been lying around my parents’ house unused, so when I moved out I took the book with me for my growing cookbook collection. The recipes were uncomplicated (taking less than 30 minutes), didn’t require a lot of ingredients or doing dishes after, and were generally healthy. I’ll definitely be making them again.
So here’s what worked.
The almond-crusted chicken with a side of oven-roasted veggies was a huge hit on Monday. I had prepared it the night before to take to work, as we’ve now joined the Nike Running Club and eating after work is just not feasible when the run starts at 6:30 PM. It was very easy to execute with all the components coming together in the food processor to form a paste that would later coat the chicken breasts. For the veggies, I added a few sprigs of fresh thyme and garlic to add that extra layer of flavor. It was really good- but next time I’d rather have it straight out of the oven.
The broiled fish with the fresh herbs was the other oven-based dish for the week, and equally a hit. It also required blending some fresh herbs (parsley and thyme) with lemon juice and garlic before topping the protein (I prefer Pollock for my white fish). Mushrooms and cherry tomatoes were also baked in the same pan. However, halfway through, I realized that the meal desperately needed a carb element to give us that feeling of fullness. I rummaged around the pantry for a bit before I found that we had some three cheese biscuit mix that we had gotten from Wesley’s. It came together in a blink of an eye and only needed the remaining time in the oven to bake. And yes, I went to the gym after dinner.
The Moroccan mushrooms and couscous was a recipe forwarded to me by my nutritionist and it seemed so interesting that I was dead-set on trying it. And though the original was a vegetarian dish, I added some beef- mainly because Ahmad asked for it. As it was cooking, I felt that the ingredients weren’t made for each other: beef, mushrooms, chickpeas, tomatoes, couscous, dried apricots, and parsely. But somehow, they came together perfectly- and the best indication was Ahmad going back for seconds.
The second beef dish was one that I’ve made countless of times before: Little Moorish Thorns-though for ease, I just call it Spanish Beef. I change the recipe every time I make it, usually eliminating the coriander it calls for (as I find it too bitter with thyme and cumin). Instead, I add paprika and some black pepper to the other spices and olive oil and leave them to marinate for a while. This time, as the beef marinated, I prepared a potato salad with arugula and a lemon-mustard dressing. Both tasted great, although I wouldn’t make them together again.
Here’s what didn’t work: the tomato and shrimp curry. I had to cut down on the heat because my sister was joining us for dinner (and she is not a fan of spicy food), as well as the fact that I didn’t have any turmeric around the house (you always forget that one ingredient while shopping). The shrimps were way too small to hold the sauce, as large shrimp can be quite expensive and the spinach did nothing for the flavor. The accompanying rice ended up being too bland and the grains stuck to each other. Just goes to show that no matter how many times you’ve made rice before, sometimes it just doesn’t come together like you want it to.
And while I would have loved to cook every single meal on the board, this wasn’t the week to do so. It wasn’t that the dishes were hard to execute, just that sometimes you’re just not in the mood. In fact, the last thing you want to do on a Friday night after getting home 2 hours late due to an insane traffic jam is spend a single minute in the kitchen. So the pasta has been pushed to this upcoming week. Then there’s the case of the Sunday, where your husband is craving a burger, so you end up craving one too, putting aside the planned basil and halloumi chicken indefinitely- or until you can find fresh basil because for some reason the supermarket doesn’t carry it.