Life can be crazy sometimes. And I do not know about y’all, but I am not always in the mood to be in the kitchen at the end of the day (or first thing in the morning or noontime). I am quick to find a snack, but like everything else, if it is not easy to get to, I will opt for the chips, or cookies, or other fantastically unhealthy thing available!
Many of you know I have had colorectal cancer for a little over three and a half years. There are many days my husband, Pepper, and I do not feel like making a healthy meal. A lot of nights, we grab a meal out, or make something quick. And let me just say, Pepper didn’t get a Valentine’s gift of an apron that says “I kiss better than I cook” for nothing!
But what I know about myself it that if it is pre-prepared and ready for the oven or the microwave, I will eat at home and reasonably healthy
When I was first diagnosed, we were given money to hire a meal service out of Starkville. They would prepare five complete meals each week based on the Paleo and Whole 30 diets. They closed their business and we have been trying to replicate the process at our house since then. For me, it is harder than it looks! My cousin, Brian Pearson’s wife, Jen is GREAT at the traditional meal prep that you see on Pinterest. She is into healthy eating and fitness and this is a passion for her. I hope I can pull that off one day! #GOALS
My cousin, Lisa Woods Pruitt, said she preps soup for the week. She is a teacher and she has just graduated from Mississippi State University with her graduate degree that she has been doing in her “spare” time (as if that really exists) and while taking care of her husband and 13-year-old son. She loves knowing there is something they can warm up quickly during the week.
As for my house, I do general prep work for the week if I have energy on the weekends. Chemo knocks me out. Sometimes longer than others. When I have a little energy, I try to do as much as possible to prepare my house, food and life for the upcoming week.
Now, for me, this all begins with planning my meals for the week. It makes life easier. It does not always work out, but at least there is something in the house Pepper and I can put together for a meal. Usually, my meal prep day is Sunday afternoon. I am not sure why, but it goes back to working with the energy available. I need to have a second prep day on Wednesday to make things flow well, but it is a work in progress.
So, in our imaginary world where every night works out perfectly and one of us cooks something at home, our week would look something like this:
Monday: Roast beef tips with carrots, onions, potatoes and cream of mushroom soup in the crockpot;
Tuesday: Meatloaf with sautéed veggies;
Wednesday: Parmesan Chicken with roasted carrots and green beans; or Grilled chicken salad;
Thursday: Tuna patties with sautéed veggies;
Friday: Meatball casserole with sautéed veggies;
Saturday: Grilled Chicken strips or hamburgers with sautéed veggies or “date night” when I can go back out in public without my blood count numbers going down due to a cold;
Sunday: Lunch and dinner at my mother-in-law’s house (or leftovers in my case) or veggie soup.
Having a meal plan also helps with grocery shopping. These days, Pepper is doing ALL of the grocery shopping and having a meal plan makes his job easier.
For breakfast, we plan on scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage, when we are out of Breakfast Casserole. Pepper eats lunch with his mom on days when we are at home. I will have leftovers, soup or salad.
So with that in mind, meal prep day begins by boiling eggs for stuffed eggs that we eat for high protein snacks. I also prepare my favorite, strawberry sugar-free Jell-O gelatin in four small containers for a sweet treat. I also try to keep fresh fruit and one of my favorite brands of Greek yogurt, Yoplait 100 Whips in Vanilla Cupcake – I pretend it is ice cream! My friend, Shea Allen, said her mom would always told her yogurt was ice cream as she was growing up. So funny and healthy!
I will chop a head of iceburg and/or lettuces for salads throughout the week, and allow it to soak in salted water for 30 minutes to an hour.
Next, I brown the sausage for the breakfast casserole. There are many variations of a breakfast casserole recipe. This is mine:
1 package of ground sausage
1 cup whipping cream
Beat 12 eggs and add whipping cream. Mix together. Brown sausage. Cover the bottom of two pie dishes with Cheddar cheese. Layer the browned sausage. Then add the egg-whipping cream mixture. Top the casseroles with Swiss cheese and sprinkle paprika over each casserole. The original recipe includes spinach and sautéed onions, but I do not want “onion breath” in the mornings and Pepper doesn’t like spinach. I wrap up one casserole and place it in the refrigerator for later this week. I place the other pie plate in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Allow it to cool for five to 10 minutes to “set” before serving.
We place it into the refrigerator after it has cooled for breakfast the next morning. We will divide a pie pan into four large pieces, place one on a plate and microwave for two and a half to three minutes or until the cheese melts. It fills you up!
After the breakfast casseroles are in the frig and oven, I will begin browning hamburger meat for my beef and veggie soup. I will also make hamburger patties and place them in the freezer to take out later in the week.
Gwen’s Beef and Veggie Soup
Small package of ground chuck or lean ground round, browned
Tomatoes (I use tomatoes my mom cans each summer), two cans of juice
Lima beans, about 1 cup
Corn, about 1 cup
Brown hamburger meat and drain any grease. Usually, all of the veggies come from the summer garden and canned or frozen just after picking. When that can’t happen, I improvise. Add the tomato juice and the frozen limas, and cook on the stovetop for 20 minutes, then add frozen corn and cook for a final 10 minutes. I like to prepare this soup in the cast iron pan I cook the hamburger meat in. To me, it adds an extra layer of flavor.
When we do not eat this immediately, I allow the soup to cool in the pan and place it in small wide-mouth canning jars and keep them in the refrigerator until we have one for lunch. This usually makes three or four jars. When we have the soup for lunch, we microwave it in the jar (with the lid off, of course) for two and a half or three minutes. Use the lid as a coaster for the jar.
Another lunch or substitute supper meal can be the Grilled Chicken Salad. I make Ranch dressing from the Hidden Valley Ranch recipe. I sauté Tyson boneless, skinless five or six chicken tenderloins in the cast iron skillet. I cut up the chicken in the pan into small bite-sized pieces, and finish cooking. While the chicken is cooking, I prepare two dinner plates with a bottom layer of lettuce, Texas Toast croutons, Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits or cooked bacon crumbled, shredded Cheddar cheese and topped with hot, steaming chicken. We love it served with the Ranch dressing, this is SUPER QUICK and EASY if we just do not want to do anything – which happens a lot these days!
Typically, I will prep the crockpot inner container with the roast beef tips, carrots, onions and cream of mushroom. Sometimes I will cut up the potatoes and add them with the skins on to the crock pot dish, or I peel and dice them up for mashed potatoes and other meals throughout the week. I LOVE roast beef tips over mashed potatoes. YUM!
By this time, I completely run out of steam!
Ideally, I would have a second meal prep day on either Wednesday or Thursday, where a make up the tuna patty mix, the meatball casserole, the Parmesan Chicken and the meatball casserole. I will work on that and get back with y’all!
Do you have a dish you prep for a busy week? Let me know at my Facebook page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org