Man - and woman - cannot live on protein bars and shakes alone. But planning, shopping for and cooking healthy meals can be a challenge when work, the workout of the day, and more crowd the Monday through Friday calendar.
To help you out, here are 10 meal ideas that will do double, or even triple, duty when you store leftovers in the fridge or freezer and repurpose recipes on busy nights for later in the week and beyond.
- 8 to 12 eggs
- Diced onion
- Diced bell pepper
- Other vegetables, chopped
- Olive oil
- Leftover bacon, ham or sausage, cooked
- Salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups. Heat the oil in a pan and lightly sauté the vegetables. Whisk together the eggs in a separate bowl and stir in the sautéed vegetables and meat. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full and bake the muffins for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
These muffins can be stored in the refrigerator and are a tasty high-protein treat any time of the day. And, even better, you can use any veggies or cooked meat you happen to have on hand. You can also add a little coconut milk to the egg mixture if you’d like.
For more variations on this versatile idea, check out this page atPaleoGrubs.com.
Smoked Salmon Omelet
- 6 eggs
- 1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
- 6 ounces smoked sockeye salmon, flaked
- ½ cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat your oven’s broiler. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and whisk in the herbs, salmon and Gruyere. Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and cook the egg mixture for two minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about eight minutes more, or until the eggs are almost set. Sprinkle the omelet with Parmesan and put the skillet under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it is lightly brown.
This large omelet can be cut into individual servings and frozen on a baking sheet until the servings are just solid. Then, store each serving in a freezer-safe container or wrap. Frozen portions should thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours before being microwaved on high for a couple of minutes until they are warmed thoroughly.
The same basic cooking, freezing, storage and reheating technique can be used for many other omelets with a variety of fillings that suit your diet and taste. For example, you can develop a dairy-free omelet if you don’t eat cheese. Protein-rich omelets can also do triple duty as breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Lentil and Couscous Veggie Burgers
- 6 ounces dried red lentils, cooked according to package directions
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little more for brushing
- One onion, minced
- One red bell pepper, seeded and minced
- One clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup dried currants, rehydrated in water
- 1 cup whole-wheat couscous, cooked
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- Salt and pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
Drain the cooked lentils and set them aside to cool. Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the onion and red pepper, stirring often, until they are tender. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute more before removing the skillet from the stove. Drain the currants and stir them into the onion mixture before transferring the contents of the skillet to a large bowl to cool.
Once the onion mixture is cool, add the lentils, cooked couscous and sunflower seeds. Use your hands to combine the ingredients and season the mix to taste with salt and pepper. Stir the beaten eggs into the lentil mixture, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
When you’re ready to cook the patties, turn on your oven’s broiler and let it heat. Divide and shape the lentil mixture into 8 patties and brush both sides with olive oil. Broil patties, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, until lightly brown. Once cooled, individual patties can be wrapped in freezer wrap, stored in an airtight bag or container and frozen. Frozen patties can be thawed in the refrigerator and reheated in the microwave, on high, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until heated through.
Heat the rice and water over medium high heat in a saucepan. You can also substitute broth for the water to give the rice a flavor boost. Once the rice and water come to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until the liquid is just absorbed. Spread the rice on a baking sheet to cool it completely. It can then be frozen on the baking sheet.
After the rice is frozen, divide it into your desired serving sizes and store it in freezer-safe bags or containers. To reheat, allow the rice to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before transferring it to a microwave-safe bowl, adding a little water and warming it up in the microwave, a minute at a time, until it is heated through.
With a little experimenting, the same basic cooking, freezing and reheating method can be used for many healthy grains, which can then be eaten as a side dish or combined with proteins, vegetables and flavorings to suit your taste and mood.
Smoked Salmon Omelet, Veggie Burger and Brown Rice recipes adapted fromMake-Ahead Meals Made Healthy: Exceptionally Delicious and Nutritious Freezer-Friendly Recipes You Can Prepare in Advance and Enjoy.
Red Lentil Dal
- 2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked through
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon red curry powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 can petite diced tomatoes in juice (14.5 ounce)
- 4 cups water
Soak the lentils for 20 minutes. While the lentils soak, heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Once oil is heated, add onions and cook, stirring until they are translucent. Stir in the ginger, garlic and spices and cook, while stirring, for about a minute.
Add the tomatoes and juice, stirring the bottom of the pot to scrape up any browned bits. Drain the lentils and add them to the pot, with 4 cups of fresh water. Simmer the mixture until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
Allow the dal to cool, divide it into portions in freezer-safe containers and chill the servings in the refrigerator before freezing. To reheat, allow the dal to thaw in the refrigerator before reheating in a saucepan on the stove.
Dal, the Hindi word for a dish consisting of cooked lentils and spices, can be served over brown rice. After adding some vegetable broth or extra water before reheating, you might also enjoy it as a hearty lentil soup.
Garlicky Italian Chicken Breasts
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup white wine, sherry or chicken broth
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried basil)
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Mix all the ingredients except for the chicken. If cooking all the chicken breasts that day, use the mixture to marinate the chicken for 2 to 8 hours in the refrigerator before grilling the meat over a hot fire, turning once and cooking until chicken is done.
If you want to save some chicken breasts for later, freeze immediately after combining the chicken and marinade, storing the chicken and marinade in a freezer bag. A day or two before you are ready to cook the chicken, thaw it and the marinade in the refrigerator before grilling.
These chicken breasts make a flavorful main dish or a great protein boost for salads. Try mixing and matching spices and herbs to achieve different flavor combinations.
Recipes for Dal and Garlicky Italian Chicken Breasts adapted from Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook.
Crispy Roast Chicken
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 whole chicken (3 ½ to 4 ½ pounds), giblets removed
Combine the salt and oil, then stir in the baking powder and pepper until all ingredients are well combined. Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry before using your fingers to carefully loosen the skin over the breast and thighs. Use a metal skewer or the tip of a small knife to poke 15 to 20 holes in the fat deposits on top of the breasts and thighs (poking small holes through the chicken skin.) Rub the other combined ingredients evenly over the surface of the chicken.
Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wingtips in before setting the chicken, breast side up, on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. To roast, adjust your oven rack to the middle position, put in an oven-proof skillet and heat to 450 degrees. Carefully place the chicken, without its rack from the refrigerator, to the heated skillet in the oven and roast the bird for 25 to 35 minutes.
Turn off the oven and leave the chicken in for about 25 to 35 minutes more, until a meat thermometer indicates the breasts have reached 160 degrees and the thighs are at 175 degrees. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.
This recipe allows you to prep the chicken one night and roast it on the next. Poking the fat deposits ensures a crispy skin and has the added advantage of allowing the fat to drain from the chicken as it renders in the hot oven. A perfect weekend recipe, this makes for a traditional Sunday dinner main dish while leftovers make a great addition to salads or healthy veggie mixes later in the week.
Crispy Roast Chicken adapted from The Make-Ahead Cook: How to Cook Less and Still Eat Well Every Night of the Week.
While you’re roasting chicken, make your oven do double duty by baking a few sweet potatoes and storing them in the refrigerator. You can season and eat baked sweet potatoes as is or add a little coconut milk, lemon juice and spices before mashing them. You can even refill potato skins with seasoned and mashed sweet potatoes before baking them again to transform them into a twice-baked treat.
For more ideas on how to use sweet potatoes, check out this page from Overland Park CrossFit.
- 4-5 pounds pork butt roast
- 2 yellow onions, sliced
- One head garlic, separated and peeled (optional)
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
Trim the fat from the roast and, if desired, place garlic cloves in small slits cut in the meat. Mix all the dry ingredients together and rub over the meat, using all the spice mixture. Place one sliced onion in a layer on the bottom of your slow cooker and set the meat on top. Layer the other sliced onion on top. Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours, turn down to low, and cook for another 3 to 4 hours until the meat falls apart when shredded with two forks.
This pulled pork makes an excellent sandwich filling or can be the basis for a down-home barbeque salad among many other uses.
Adapted from Everyday Paleo.
- One 28-ounce package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- One package taco seasoning (or use a few tablespoons of the same spice mix used for the pulled pork)
- One 24-ounce jar of salsa
Coat the chicken pieces with a tablespoon (or more, to taste) of the seasoning mix and place chicken in a slow cooker. Top with the salsa, cover and cook on low for 4 to 4 ½ hours. Remove the chicken and shred with two forks. Taste and add more seasoning mix if desired. Return chicken to slow cooker and cook on low for 30 minutes.
This chicken, which freezes well, makes great tacos, burritos and taco salads. Adding a beans and some chicken broth transforms it into a hearty and spicy chicken soup, too.
Adapted from Pillsbury.
What are your favorite weekend recipes that help you eat healthy all week?