It was on the news last night that Californians spend over 40% of their food budget eating dinner out at least four nights a week. We are also fatter than ever with the adult obesity rate over 60%, and children already at 30% in the state. Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Department of Health launched a program called Choose Health LA Restaurants – the idea behind it is “to promote healthier meal choices for customers across California.” Really? Are we really such mindless drones we now need government dictating menu guidelines to restaurants in order to get a grip on soaring obesity rates predicted to double by the year 2030?
I’d much rather they spend those funds on adding home economics back into the curriculum, and science credits for courses on nutrition. We’re getting fat because we stopped caring about where and how our food is sourced, we’re eating mindlessly, and eating out too much! I’m not saying avoid restaurants, I’m just saying we need to start relying more on homemade meals again, and limit eating out to once or twice a week.
To get to the crux of the problem one needs to assess how it started. It is not coincidence that America started gaining weight about the same time women’s lib hit. Previous stay-at-home-mom’s were suddenly working and started to rely more on fast and convenience foods due to the new demands on their time. (it takes the average person 6-8 hours a week to plan menus, purchase the ingredients, and cook dinner every night). In addition, kids no longer grow up learning to cook from their mothers. That’s probably why we watch cooking shows in droves today, but studies show repeatedly that we are watching, not cooking.
At the end of the day you can tell a restaurant to make their portions smaller, grill instead of fry foods, and add more vegetables to their entrees, but people who aren’t making healthier choices at home are not likely make healthier choices in restaurants either, especially when faced with a choice between the much less exciting chicken salad or a juicy cheeseburger. Plus restaurants tend to rely more on fat, sugar, and salt for flavor. The only way to know exactly how healthy our meals are, is to make them ourselves. I’ll guarantee that your family are eating healthier when YOU make informed decisions and control the ingredients your family digest. YOU select the quality (preservative free, organic vs. conventional produce, hormone and anti-biotic free meats etc.), YOU choose the recipes, and YOU control the portion sizes.
The Personal Chef Approach helps you utilize your time as efficiently as possible (saving the average person 4-6 hours a week). The fact you’re shopping more efficiently, and eating out less often means you’re saving money too, plus you are never alone in the kitchen – as a member you’ll have direct access to my advice and a whole community for support. With just a little rewarding effort and a few hours on the weekend, you can get homemade dinners on the table faster than going through the drive-thru the rest of the week. I’m so passionate in my belief that the PCA is the modern day solution for getting homemade dinners on the table nightly that I am sharing this week’s menu plan free with everyone! Bon appetite! I hope you enjoy, and that you will join the Personal Chef Approach once you see how much time and money you save, and how great you feel in the knowledge your family is eating healthier!
I always recommend people start off slowly. If you have never cooked, start with one or two recipes, and if you’ve cooked but never tackled cooking multiple meals at once, start with two or three meals to avoid becoming overwhelmed. You’ll be surprised how quickly you become proficient in cooking multiple meals, and should add more meals as you become more comfortable with the process.
Marinated Grilled Veal Chops
Grilled Zucchini & Red Peppers
(Spinach, Red Pepper, & Feta Mini Quiche)
Roasted Lemon-Herb Chicken
Fingerling Potatoes, Carrots, and Celery
(Chicken Artichoke -Pesto Salad on Argula)
Southeast Asian Coconut-Carrot Soup
(Double recipe for lunches)
Marinated Grilled Veal Chop
Since grilling season could soon be over in your corner of the world, I thought I’d make use of it while the weather still holds up. I crave that smoky flavor you get from grilling and love having fewer pans to clean afterwards. If you don’t like veal or want to economize, chicken or pork work equally well.
2 lemons, zest and juice
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
4 veal chops
1). In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice, zest, vinegar, sugar, garlic, Italian parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Add the veal chops, turning a couple times to coat, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
2). Prepare a hot grill. Remove the veal chops from the marinade, discarding marinade, pat chops dry.
3). Grill chops on preheated grill 4-6 minutes per side (depending on thickness), or until cooked as desired. Try to keep on one side of the grill so that you have room for the vegetables on the other.
Serving Suggestions: Grilled Zucchini & Red Peppers
Of course you could substitute any combination of grilled vegetables you prefer, but I like to think about the colors and how pretty they will go together on the plate. You might want to add in some yellow summer squash if you can still find it at the market.
Olive oil spray
3 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices
3 red peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise into slices
Salt and pepper to taste (or any seasoning of your choice)
1). Spray the sliced vegetables with olive oil spray, and season with salt and pepper to taste, or using whatever seasoning you choose to use.
2). While the grill is already hot and in use for your veal chops, set the vegetables on the grill. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until nicely marked by the grill. Remove to a plate and serve hot or cold.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with Grilled Veal Chops.
Note: Be sure to make an extra grilled red pepper to cool and use later for the quiche.
Variations: If you are not keen on zucchini, substitute any vegetable of your choice.
Remember it is really easy to have a few kid friendlier ingredients on hand too – just fill half the quiche shells with those, and half with the grown-up version. Then fill with the egg mixture and bake all at once, so you’re not making separate meals for everyone.
1 9-inch pie crust (store bought or homemade)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 red onion, chopped and sautéed until softened set aside to cool
1 box frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
8 ounces Feta cheese with garlic and herbs, divided
1 red pepper, grilled and chopped
1). Preheat oven to 375° F. Prick holes in he base and sides of the piecrust using the tines of a fork at regular intervals. Bake piecrust 10 minutes, or until partially baked and beginning to brown.
2). While crust is partially baking, sauté the onions in 2 teaspoons olive oil until softened. Mix well with thawed and drained spinach.
3). Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, extra yolks, milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper; set aside.
4). Spread 1/2 of the cheese on the bottom of the warm piecrust, then spinach, and then roasted red pepper slices. Top with remaining cheese.
5). Pour the egg mixture into the pie until it reaches 1/2 inch from the top. Bake until the egg mixture is set around edges or until a knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean, about 30 – 35 minutes. Top should be golden brown, but it may still be slightly gelatinous in the center when you wiggle the quiche.
6). Cool thoroughly on wire rack. When totally cool, wrap in foil, then in freezer bag.
Serving Suggestions: This is easily lunch on it’s own, but of you prefer more – serve with a mixed green salad tossed in vinaigrette.
Variations: Use whatever variations of combinations of vegetables and cooked meats that you like.
Roasted Lemon-Herb Chicken
There is nothing more comforting than a juicy roast lemon herb chicken with crispy skin, and caramelized vegetables. Why not kill two birds with one stone (couldn’t resist the pun), and double the chicken part of the recipe for the chicken needed in your chicken pesto salad for lunches? You make the effort to cook it once and only have one pan to clean! If you don’t require quite that much extra chicken, throw in a couple breasts and thighs rather than a whole chicken.
1-2 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) whole chicken
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lemons, zested, and one quartered
1 1/2 tablespoons salt plus more to taste on vegetables
2 teaspoons black pepper plus more to taste on vegetables
2 bay leaves
1 pound fingerling potatoes, sliced in half
1/2 pound baby carrots
1/4 pound baby turnips, peeled and stem ends trimmed
4 celery stalks, cut into 3 inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1). Preheat oven to 375° F. Wash the chicken and pat dry.
2). In a small bowl, combine the garlic, thyme, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Rub the herb mixture all over the inside cavity and outside, covering evenly.
3). Place the bay leaves and quartered lemon inside the cavity, and place the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan.
4). In a large bowl, mix the baby carrots, turnips, potatoes and celery with the remaining olive oil. Pour the vegetables around the edges of the chicken (if there is not enough room use a separate sheet pan to roast the vegetables on). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5). Roast chicken and vegetables 1-1 1/2 hours or when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (without touching the bone) registers 165° F. Let the chicken rest at least 10 minutes before carving.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with roasted fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, turnips and celery.
There are shortcuts you can exercise here if you want. I’ll often use a freshly roasted store bought chicken to save to save time and effort – you really won’t taste the difference. You can also use store bought pesto sauce, but if you have time it is worth making your own since it is so much better without the preservatives.
For the pesto
2 cup fresh basil, packed and stems
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated divided
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1/2 cup tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad
1 whole chicken, roasted and meat shredded
1/4 pine nuts, toasted
1/4 golden raisins
4 oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
For the pesto
1). Pulse all of the pesto ingredients in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, until the mixture comes together.
2). Place the shredded chicken in a large mixing bowl. Add pine nuts, raisins, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto sauce. Stir well to distribute ingredients throughout.
Serving Suggestions: This great as a sandwich on ciabatta with sliced tomato and arugula or a main course salad atop greens tossed in balsamic dressing.
Notes: The pesto sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator with a little extra olive oil drizzled on top to help prevent discoloration, up to one week or in the freezer up to three months. Once the chicken salad is combined, you should eat it within three days or freeze, ready-made, for up to three months.
Variations: Sometimes I like to make this salad with a different pesto such as and artichoke or arugula pesto.
Southeast Asian Coconut-Carrot Soup
This thick, exotic soup can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. Don’t let looks deceive you – kids and adults alike will find this one super satisfying dish anytime of day.
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 lb. carrots cut into 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/8 teaspoon dried chili flakes (more if you like heat)
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cilantro, finely chopped
1. Heat peanut oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and cook until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add the carrots, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2). Add the chicken broth and cook until tender, about 40-45 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, peanut butter, sugar, sesame oil, and coconut milk. Continue cooking, stirring continually, until peanut butter has melted and all ingredients are well incorporated, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
3). In a blender, puree soup in small batches (use caution blending hot liquids – fill blender only 1/2 full, working in batches, and place a towel over the top to avoid being burned). Return soup to pan and stir in the cilantro.
Serving Suggestions: This soup can be served hot or cold with a yummy sesame seed roll if desired.
These are all the ingredients you will need to make all of the recipes. Go through your pantry and fridge to see if you already have some of the ingredients and cross those off the list. If you are altering the recipes servings (fewer or double portions) you will need to make adjustments accordingly to this list. If you wish to make more meals, add those ingredients to the list, and anything else you need to stock your fridge and home, so you make one organized trip to the store.
Olive oil spray
Balsamic dressing (or use homemade)
Red wine vinegar
Pine nuts (10 ounces)
Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
Dried chili flakes
1 32-ounce box vegetable broth
Creamy peanut butter
Toasted sesame oil
Foil mini quiche pans
Ziploc salad containers or baggies for sandwiches
Ziploc screw top containers for soups
1 white onion (x2)
1 red onion
Fresh Italian parsley
3 medium zucchini
3 red peppers (+1)
1 pound fingerling potatoes
1/2 pound baby carrots
1 pound whole carrots
1/4 pound baby turnips
4 veal chops
1 whole 3 1/2 pound chickens (x2)
Pint of whole milk
Pint of heavy cream
8 ounces Feta cheese with garlic and herbs
1 box prepared pie dough (or use homemade)
10 ounce box frozen spinach
Remove food from freezer and place in refrigerator for 24 hours prior to serving unless you plan to eat the food immediately after defrosting, in which case you may defrost in the microwave on the defrost setting, before heating. If food is not completely thawed prior to heating or finalizing the cooking process, or if you choose to heat food directly from the freezer, you will need to increase the cooking time given here. Under no circumstances allow food to defrost at room temperature. All instructions are given for thawed food unless otherwise noted.
Marinated Grilled Veal Chops: Vent lid of container and heat in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, turning the chops midway; or marinate and grill-off when ready to eat them. Serve with Grilled Zucchini & Red Peppers: Vent lid of container and heat in microwave 1-2 minutes; or remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving to allow the vegetables to come to room temperature.
(Spinach, Red Pepper, & Feta Mini Quiche): To serve, slice and heat appropriate number of slices on a cookie sheet, covered loosely with foil, in a 375° preheated oven, about 10 minutes. May also be heated in microwave, but curst will not be as crisp.
Roasted Lemon Chicken: Vent lid of container and heat in the microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, turning pieces midway to distribute heat evenly; alternatively, preheat oven to 350° F. Place chicken on a pan and heat for 10-15 minutes, or until internal temp reaches 16° F. Serve with Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes, Carrots, and Celery: Vent lid of container and heat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, stirring midway to distribute heat evenly; alternatively, preheat oven to 350° F. Place vegetables on a sheet pan and heat for 5-10 minutes.
(Chicken Artichoke -Pesto Salad on Arugula): Toss arugula with dressing, then spoon chicken salad on top (served cold).
Southeast Asian Coconut-Carrot Soup: Heat over medium low heat in a sauce pan on the stovetop, or individual portions in microwave proof bowls for 3-5 minutes, stirring midway, in the microwave until just heated through.
(Double recipe for lunches): Heat over medium low heat in a sauce pan on the stovetop, or individual portions in microwave proof bowls for 3-5 minutes, stirring midway, in the microwave until just heated through.