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...). Today I'm going to talk you through how I plan a meal, and share a lovely and uncomplicated recipe with you!
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 (chicken, turkey, fish, beef, pork, eggs, etc... plant-based sources like tofu, lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa are awesome too), some type of produce (mostly vegetables but fruits are a part of at least one meal a day), and then 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 (because we all know that garnish is fancy).
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!
Using thinly sliced marinated chicken breasts (Feel free to season however you'd like! My go-to's are mixing olive oil and spices like salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, basil, thyme, and ALWAYS fresh garlic OR... a nice balsamic vinaigrette is simple and flavorful!), 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 thin so I don't cook them too long). While the chicken cooks, I whip up the veggie "pasta" salad! I used a bag of frozen zoodles for this recipe, but you can use fresh zoodles as well. After steaming them 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 season to your liking! I had a small jar of pesto in my fridge and used a little of that, but if you have another pasta sauce on hand you'd like to use that will work too. Before serving, my final touch to the dish was a little squeeze of lemon juice, and some finely chopped cucumbers for a cool crunch!
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, definitely 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.