Let me begin by saying I am no Gordon Ramsay (honestly, I'm more of a Giada or Emeril fan myself...). I am a very average human when it comes to skills in the kitchen, with what I would consider an above-average appreciation for a fresh-cooked meal. So, if you are like me in any sense - you want a delicious, nutritious, and easy meal at home but aren't quite sure where to start - then I'm grateful you're reading along now!
I absolutely love trying new recipes, and I find inspiration through so many outlets, but often I throw together a meal with about five things I find in my fridge (or freezer, or pantry, just so we're not limiting any resources here...).
You can make a meal out of just 5 elements:
A star veggie or two.
A star protein
A star grain (though in this meal I used zoodles instead of noodles)
Oil & Spices
Today I'm going to talk you through how I plan a meal, and share a lovely and uncomplicated recipe with you!
Consider Nutrition: Micros & Macros
When I'm deciding what I'm going to use to piece together a dish, I always consider the nutritional aspects first so that I know I'm balancing it well with micro- and macronutrients, and then spice it up with flavor and consistency. These nutritional building blocks are very simple, and are as follows: protein, produce, energy souce i.e. carbohydrates or fats.
Every single meal typically begins with my protein source. I opt for lean chicken, turkey, fish, beef, pork, eggs, and also like plant-based sources like tofu, lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa. And, I pair protein with a star veggie (mostly vegetables but fruits are a part of at least one meal a day). Finally, I decide if I want my energy source to come from carbohydrates (like rice, potatoes, oats, whole grains, beans, etc) or healthy fats (like olive/coconut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, etc).
Once I have that plan, then I start to have fun with details like the methods I'm using to prep the food, how I'm seasoning it, or if I'm going to be extra fancy and top it off with a garnish.
Season With Pantry Staples
The particular meal that I'm sharing here is a Mediterranean-style chicken and warm vegetable "pasta" salad. I did not have to make a special trip to the store for this meal, I just used what I had to work with in my kitchen and you are welcome to do the same!
This meal features thinly sliced marinated chicken breasts. My go-to seasoning for chicken is mixing olive oil and spices including salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, basil, thyme, and ALWAYS fresh garlic. I recommend having these spices on hand, always.
I laid the cutlets on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup, y'all), and baked at 350 degrees F for approximately 20-25 mins (but I peek at them regularly; when they are they cook fast.)
Texture Tickles (and Tricks) Your Brain
While the chicken cooks, I whip up the veggie "pasta" salad!
I used a bag of frozen zoodles for this recipe, because that's what I had, but you can use fresh zoodles as well. Sure, Zoodles will never be noodles. But they have a fun texture that can be a simple midweek alternative to keep things light. If you are opting for noodles, health-them-up, by tossing them with equal parts veggie to noodles.
After steaming my Zoodles as directed on the bag, I set them aside and sauteed chopped red bell peppers, mushrooms, and garlic until tender.
Then toss the zoodles back into the pan with the rest of the veggies and mix until well-combined, and keep it simple by seasoning with the same ingredients used on the chicken.
Balance with Brightness
Before serving, my final touch to the dish was a little squeeze of lemon juice, and some finely chopped cucumbers for a cool crunch! This brightens and lightens the deeper flavors from the seasoning, and brings to life chicken that sometimes can otherwise feel bland.
Again, I encourage you to have fun in the kitchen and embrace what you have to work with! Any protein would go wonderfully in a dish like this, and if you don't have peppers or mushrooms, mix in the veggies that you DO have!
And if you don't top your dish with cucumbers, but instead want to use olives or sunflower seeds, have at it! Remember that the idea here, is to show up Gordon Ramsay (just kidding...but not really), and to get creative in the kitchen and play with the options that you have.
Namastay whippin' it in the kitchen.