This time of year seems to be particularly busy, so I’ve been trying to find shortcuts to meal preparation, while trying to avoid leftovers.
I feel like I may have cracked the code with my latest five-day meal plan, so I’m sharing it in case anyone else is feeling like they’ve run out of steam.
I’ll suggest five meals that can be prepared from one base, all with a different flavour profile, and carb accompaniment.
It’s easily modifiable for different diets. For vegetarians, ground beef is easily substituted for ground round. For those following a fodmap program staying away from garlic and onions, no problem, just don’t add them to the base mixture and they really won’t be missed (I don’t use either). My keto friends could skip the carbs, leading to a lot of bowls of different-flavoured stews or hot salads. But without further ado, here we go.
Cook a package of extra lean ground meat or meat substitute, quartered mushrooms, diced zucchini, and two peppers (I like orange and yellow). You can also add onions and garlic in this step (I don’t). When cooked, split it into five storage containers.
Night one, start water boiling for your favourite pasta and put it in to cook. Make your own pasta sauce or open a jar. Mix your base mixture into the sauce, heat it up, and voila, a protein-rich pasta and sauce meal is ready in the time it takes to cook your pasta; typically, seven to 13 minutes. Top with parmesan, and/or red chili flakes. If you make too much of the sauce, you can use it for night five.
Night two, switch up your starch, and get your rice cooking. Make enough for two nights, as part of the rice will come back later in night five. Finely chop a quarter cabbage and a carrot, or buy a ready-made coleslaw mix, and cook until tender. Add some ginger, and a bit of sesame oil if you have it, or use the hoisin or teriyaki sauce from the back of the fridge, or add a few shakes of soya sauce. Add in the base mixture, heat it through. Serve over rice (or not), with plum sauce or a sweet and sour sauce and packaged fried chow Mein noodles and you have an egg roll bowl that took less than 20 minutes.
Night three, broil halved buns until slightly crispy. Heat up your base mixture with some barbecue sauce. Portion it onto the toasted buns, top with mozzarella cheese and return under the broiler to melt the cheese. In less than seven minutes, you have a take on a Philly cheesesteak.
Night four, boil the water for egg noodles and grab a can of chunky, ready to eat, mushroom soup from your pantry. Start your noodles cooking, and heat up your base mixture with the soup. Add a bit of sour cream or heavy cream, and a couple shakes of Worcestershire sauce. You might need some broth to water it down. Maybe add some thyme and/or sage, and in eight minutes you have a beef stroganoff.
Night five, grab your leftover rice from night two and mix it in a pan with the base mix or extra pasta sauce from night one. Add in a bunch of salsa, and some black beans and corn. You now have a protein-packed burrito filling for a tortilla. Other additions to the tortilla could include sour cream, avocado, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, jalapenos, and your choice of grated cheese. This will take less than 10 minutes unless you are slow at opening the can of beans and corn.
Just like that, you’ve toured Italy, China, the US, Russia, and Mexico, with very economical, tasty, healthy, ridiculously quick and easy-to-prepare meals.
(Now you have more time for that imminent December nervous breakdown.)