Conquer Weeknight Cooking
There are some things in life that we can’t control. Whether it’s long hours at work, rough commutes, or driving kids to after-school practice, we are all living with a rush-rush reality that we have accepted as normal.
We settle for subpar dinners, especially on weeknights when we work our hardest. This is counterintuitive; we should be relying on quality meals to nourish us and carry us over to the next day.
Drive-thru, take out, and meal delivery services set the precedent that eating out is the only way we can handle the stress of busy schedules and overpacked days.
A delicious meal that comes together quickly, tastes like home, and is served warm in real china could make us feel cared for and nurtured considering the hard work we put into other areas of our life.
Contrary to popular belief, home cooking doesn’t have to deplete our time and energy; resources that are already in scarce supply. Nor must it require tons of creativity. With a little bit of planning we can have the best of both worlds: treat ourselves to sumptuous homemade dinners each night with initiative and energy to spare to do the things we love.
A key tip is to pay attention to your family’s food preferences and plan ahead. Any dishes that get a 5-star rating every time? Start there! Did you know that the average American home cook successfully makes about 14 dishes? That’s plenty! If put on rotation, with star ingredients your family loves, these meals provide a couple week’s worth of dinners without repeats.
Cooking on weeknights seems automatically stressful because current day culture has brainwashed us into believing that without exotic ingredients and intricate gadgets, we’re not real cooks. A perfectionist mindset will make cooking seem more complicated than it needs to be. To simplify the process, we have put our heads together and found popular favorites that can be prepared in a foolproof way with under six ingredients. That’s not all: most of the ingredients can be found in our farm market including pantry staples like quinoa and marinara sauce, in addition to proteins and fresh vegetables, making shopping easy and convenient.
The recipes we’ve picked are also designed to support working parents because they are one pot meals which reduce prep work and clean up! These time-saver recipes can even be started ahead of time in a slow cooker or an instant pot by family members or caregivers. Once the ingredients go in the pot or on the sheet pan they cook themselves and free up time till dinner, allowing you to get to the gym or run errands in between. Most importantly, the warming function on the slow cooker, instant pot or the oven for sheet pan dinners mean that food stays warm till it is served, which comes in handy when multiple family members are eating at different times. Another stand out feature of this recipe selection is that they are versatile, reheat well, and make great leftovers to fill in school lunchboxes or carry to work the next day.
Not everything has to be carefully homemade to feel like you are eating at home! Such limiting mindsets prevent us from maximizing all the options that are available to us. For example, the farm market at Abma’s is always stocked with customer favorites like potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni salad and roasted vegetables that are great supporting dishes to chicken, pork and fish dinners. Feel free to mix and match the pasta and grain salads as well that are offered on a weekly rotation. In Autumn, take advantage of our soups and other offerings that reflect produce that’s in season like our sweet potato vegetarian chilli or harvest salad.
Another tip to get us into the habit of cooking at home is to set themes for different weeknights. When weekly schedules and sports calendars change as the year progresses, simple routines like Taco Tuesday and Meatless Monday can offer your family a nice rhythm with a welcome predictability. Give yourself a break from cooking with a Friday Night Pizza theme or a “scrounge night” where all the leftovers from the week are foraged and put on the table “tapas style.” If eating leftovers is not your jam, our Farm Market has tried and tested family favorites like fresh quiche, empanadas, chicken tenders, and our popular chicken and tuna salad.
All the recipes found below are from Lisa Lillien’s Hungry Girl Simply Cookbook:
Recipe #1: Thai Oh My Salmon & Broccoli (Makes 2 Servings)
3 tablespoons sweet Asian chilli sauce
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium/lite soy sauce
21/2 cups small broccoli florets
Two 4-ounce raw skinless salmon fillets
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon paprika
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lay a large piece of heavy-duty foil on a baking sheet, and spray with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, combine chilli sauce, soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of water. Mix until uniform.
Place broccoli on the center of the foil. Top with salmon, and sprinkle with seasonings. Drizzle with sauce mixture.
Cover with another large piece of foil. Fold together and seal all four edges of the foil pieces, forming a well-seated packet.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through and broccoli is tender.
Cut packet to release hot steam before opening entirely.
Add the following to your shopping list while at the farm market to make as sides that pair well with Salmon
Garlic Green Beans
Baby Bok Choy
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Recipe #2: Easy- Peasy Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork (Makes 6 Servings)
12 ounces raw lean boneless pork tenderloin, trimmed of the excess fat
12 ounces raw boneless pork shoulder (the leanest piece you can find), trimmed of the excess fat
2 cups roughly chopped onion
1 cup BBQ sauce with 45 calories or less per 2-tablespoon serving
½ cup canned crushed pineapple packed in juice (not drained)
⅛ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
Place all the pork in a slow cooker, and season with salt and pepper. Add remaining ingredients, and lightly stir.
Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours, until pork is cooked through.
Transfer pork to a large bowl, and shred with two forks.
Return pork to the slow cooker, and mix well.
Pair with the following items that can be picked up from the Farm Market.
Mac and Cheese
Biscuits or Dinner Rolls
Recipe #3: Instant-Pot Italian Meatballs (Makes 5 servings)
2 cups marinara sauce with 3g fat or less per serving
1 pound raw extra-lean ground beef
1 cup finely chopped onion
⅓ cup (about 2 large) egg whites or fat-free liquid egg substitute
¼ cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese, or more for topping
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon garlic powder ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
Add marinara sauce to an Instant Pot sprayed with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients and seasonings. Thoroughly mix.
Firmly and evenly form into 20 meatballs, and place in the pot.
Seal with lid. Press Manual, and set for 8 minutes.
Once cooked, press Keep Warm/Cancel. Let stir for 10 minutes.
Vent to release steam.
Roasted or Air Fried Potatoes
Corn on the Cob
Roasted Potatoes with Green beans
Recipe #4: Slow Cooker Chicken Veggie Soup (Makes 8 Servings)
1¼ pounds raw boneless skinless chicken breast
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1½ cups sliced carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground thyme
Place chicken in a slow cooker, and season with salt and pepper. Add remaining ingredients and seasonings, and mix well.
Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours on low for 7-8 hours, until chicken is fully cooked.
Transfer chicken to a large bowl. Shred with two forks.
Return chicken to the slow cooker, and mix well.
Pair with grilled cheese sandwiches
Recipe #5: Sheet-Pan Ratatouille (Makes 6 Servings)
1½ cups cubed eggplant
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup sliced and halved zucchini
1 cup canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
⅔ cup roughly chopped onion
½ cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried basil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Place ingredients and seasonings in a large bowl, and stir until uniform.
Distribute mixture onto the center of the baking sheet.Cover with a large piece of foil.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until veggies are tender.
Carefully release steam before uncovering entirely.
Serve with cooked quinoa. Keep it vegetarian or add chicken on the side.