Meal Planning: Basic Instant Pot Chicken and Roasted Vegetables

A little meal planning goes a long way. I try to plan our meals for the week the night before I go grocery shopping, so that I can make my list dependent on what I’m going to cook that week.

On weekends, I try to cook extra items to make our meal preparation for busy weeknights easier. I received an Instant Pot for Christmas. It is a great too for meal prepping.  Either I make dinner in the instant pot, while I make the meal for other nights on the stove or vice versa, make the meal for later in the week in the Instant Pot while I cook our dinner on the stove.

Here are a couple of easy recipes that will make multiple meals.

Basic Chicken Breasts in the Instant Pot

Marinade:

Ingredients

About 3 pounds of chicken breasts

5 Tablespoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon of garlic paste or 1 clove of garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 Tablespoon onion powder

½ cup of water

Directions

Mix all the ingredients together in a gallon freezer bag with the chicken breasts and marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Take out of marinade. Add into instant pot on steamer shelf with about a cup of water and set to pressure cook for 10 minutes. Allow natural release for 5 minutes and then manually release the remaining pressure.

Now you have cooked chicken breasts to be able to add to whatever you like for the week. Roasting some veggies while the chicken is cooking, will lessen your load during the week even more.

Roasted Veggies

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 Green pepper, sliced into sticks

1 Yellow pepper, sliced into sticks

1 zucchini, sliced into sticks

1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved

1 teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

¼ teaspoon of thyme

Directions

Toss veggies with olive oil and spices. Spread out on a sheet pan. Roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Here are some meal ideas with the chicken and veggies.

First Meal

This feeds 5-7 people

Greek Inspired Chicken Pasta

Ingredients

1 ½ cups of cooked chicken, cubed

Roasted tomatoes and zucchini

1 16 ounce box of pasta shells (small shells – I like Wegman’s gluten-free)

4 to 6 ounces of crumbled feta

Juice of ½ a lemon

Pasta water

Directions

Cook pasta according to instructions on package and save some of the pasta water. Pour the pasta in to a serving dish. Add chicken, tomatoes, zucchini and lemon juice and one ladle full of the pasta water. Mix. Add more pasta water if too dry. Stir in the feta and serve. Add fresh basil if you have some.

2nd meal – for one ( This was my lunch one day)

Baked Sweet Potato with chicken, roasted veggies and feta

Ingredients

1 Baked Sweet Potato

¼ cup of chicken, diced

A couple of roasted peppers

1 to 2 ounces of crumbled feta

Directions

Cut open baked sweet potato.  Add chicken, peppers and feta. Enjoy!

Baking the sweet potato in the oven is really my favorite way to cook it, but lack of time usually means that I make it in the microwave.

3rd meal feeds 4 to 5

Chicken Quesadillas

Ingredients

6 flour tortillas (my gluten free favorite is Joseph’s or Mission GF)

1 to 1 ½ cups of cooked chicken, chopped

Roasted green and yellow peppers

8 to 12 ounces of shredded cheddar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray sheet pan. Place cheese, chicken and peppers on one half of each tortilla. Fold other side over and cook about 6 to 8 minutes on each side.

If there are any chicken and veggies left, toss them into a salad with your favorite dressing.

What are your favorite meal planning recipes? Here are some of my other recipes that have great leftovers to help you out during the week! It is all about making our lives easier: What to do with leftover cod, Turkey Fried Rice  and Sweet Potato Two Ways.

 

Super Easy Pasta Night

I keep hearing from friends and readers that they wish they could cook what I do. Truth is…you can. Yes, I love to cook. It is my passion and stress reliever, but I completely understand (and have those nights or weeks!) of not wanting to cook or not having the time to cook.  I do make more complicated meals some nights, but everyone needs to have super easy meals that they can make with very few ingredients and with very little effort. I’ll be sharing some of my favorites over the next couple months.

I have been sharing my “theme night” meals (Breakfast for Dinner, Tex Mex Tuesday, etc.), to show how I keep organized and take the stress out of my cooking. Easy meals like this Pasta with Mascarpone can help change up your pasta night. This recipe is very easy and a new take on mac-n-cheese if you are looking for something a little lighter.

Pasta with Mascarpone
Ingredients
1 pound elbow pasta (use GF pasta or even roasted cauliflower if making GF)
1 – 8 ounce tub of mascarpone cheese
2 Tablespoons of grated parmesan
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of pepper
1 to 2 cloves of garlic minced or 1 teaspoon of garlic paste
Red pepper flakes to taste, optional
Grilled, sautéed or cooked vegetables, chicken or shrimp, optional


Directions
Cook pasta according to directions on the box.  Reserve the pasta water. Pour the pasta into a serving bowl. Add the mascarpone, parmesan, onion powder, salt, pepper and garlic.  Add a ladle of pasta water, or more if needed to help melt the cheese and create a sauce.  Serve. 

This makes more than enough for a family of five as a main meal with some vegetables and leftover chicken. We usually have enough for all five of us for lunch the next day too! You can also use it as a side dish.



A great friend of mine (who just launched an AMAZING blog: Momma to Go), tested this one for me. She is a busy mom with 2 young kids so understands that dinner needs to be easy and needs to be good. This got a thumbs up! Thanks Harmony for testing and for the picture!

What is your favorite super easy meal? 

While I’m singing praises of another blogger, I will remind you that Tuesday, October 25th is the release of Nicole Hunn’s Gluten-Free Small Bites, so you only have two days to get the pre-order goodies available here! I’ve already made good use of mine! 


Soups, Stromboli and Shredded beef

In an effort to continue moving forward, I am trying to continue my menu planning each week. Earlier this week I went to a lecture at the local library on menu planning. It was very informative. The librarian giving the talk is a home organizer and amateur cook on the side. Her home organizing company is called, tidylogic. She gave me some great ideas. The first, I had not thought of before. Start with organizing your recipes into one or 2 locations by type (and time, ingredients, etc as detailed as you have time for). This way when you sit down to plan your meals for the week, you can just write in recipes you want and then you have the recipes easily at your fingertips to find the ingredients to add to your shopping list. This way you also do not get stuck in the rut of make the same meals every week like I do sometimes!

There are many different programs out there either online, Iphone/Ipad apps, or through software you can purchase. Having tried a couple of them, I have realized that you just need to find one that works for you and can be customized. If it doesn’t work for you, then you are not going to use it for the long haul.

Doing this recipe organization (or starting to) has reminded me of recipes that I have had for a long time and have never made. My basic menu plan for each week is:

Monday
Breakfast – cereal and yogurt
Lunch – sandwiches and fruit
Dinner: leftovers
Snacks: chocolate zucchini bread, apple sauce, crackers with peanut butter, cheese stick

Tuesday
B: eggs and fruit
L: quesadillas and fruit
D: Pasta/Rice (this is where you would insert your favorite pasta recipe)
S: yogurt, fruit, whole wheat gold fish with craisins

Wednesday
B: toast and fruit
L: sandwiches and fruit
D: Tex-Mex night (this is where you would insert your favorite enchiladas, chili, quesadilla recipes)
S: wholewheat banana muffins, apple sauce, crackers with peanut butter, cheese stick

Thursday
B: oatmeal with fruit
L: sandwiches and fruit or leftovers
D: Baked potatoes/sweet potatoes with soup (slow cooker day)
S: yogurt, fruit, whole wheat gold fish with craisins

Friday
B: cereal and yogurt
L: chicken nuggets/fish sticks with sweet potato fries or peas
D: Pizza
S: apple sauce, crackers with peanut butter, cheese stick

Saturday
B: Eggs and fruit
L: leftovers/soup
D: Pasta/Rice
S: yogurt, fruit, whole wheat gold fish with craisins

Sunday
B: wholewheat pancakes with fruit
L: leftovers
D: Roast (slow cooker day)
S: apple sauce, crackers with peanut butter, cheese stick

Using this plan, I plug in recipes based on what I have already on hand and what is on sale at the grocery store.  For example, shrimp is on sale one week so I will make my pasta or rice dish on Tuesday with shrimp.

Last week I made a corn chowder for soup night, Stromboli for pizza night and a shredded beef with sweet potatoes, onions and brown rice for Roast/Slow cooker night.

The corn chowder was the same recipe as I made lobster chowder before, just minus the lobster pieces 🙂

The Stromboli was inspired by an episode of the Chew last week when Michael Symon made a pizza roll. I used Trader Joe’s garlic and herb dough with jarred tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella and turkey pepperoni. Tim, Paul and I liked it, but Neil did not (he’s not eating much of anything these days!) and Karina told me that next week we have to make a flat pizza because she doesn’t like the roll 🙂 This picture is not of the finished product. After I cut into it I saw the dough was still raw inside so I had to put it back in the oven. It definitely takes longer to cook this way.

For the shredded beef with sweet potatoes, onions and brown rice I put a London Broil steak frozen in the slow cooker with a can of healthy choice cream of chicken soup, couple of cups of water, Worcestershire sauce, a little vinegar and Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. I diced the sweet potatoes and onions  and sauteed until mostly cooked then added a little water and closed the lid to let the steam finish cooking the sweet potatoes on low. I seasoned them with salt, pepper and Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. I made the brown rice in the rice cooker with chicken stock. When the steak was read, I took it out to rest and then poured the liquid through a strainer and reduced it. To make a good gravy, I added a little brown sugar and a bay leaf along with the water and cornstarch for thickening.

I use the leftover sweet potatoes to add to grilled cheese sandwiches and quesadillas. Here is a good quesadilla recipe I found for black bean and sweet potato quesadillas. I used the leftover gravy to flavor the stock for lentil soup along with turkey bacon, onion and carrot. My husband also brought leftovers for lunch for a couple of days.

Today, Thursday is soup night, so I am making my old standby, Butternut Squash Soup. The only difference is I added a little ginger to it and when it came time to put the stock in I moved everything to a slow cooker to cook all afternoon and stay safe and warm while I go pick up Karina at school.

Menu plan for the week

As I go back to being a stay at home mom (now to 3 instead of 1) I have to rework my cooking/grocery shopping habits again. I was successful for a few weeks cooking down all the food in our freezer and pantry and still working on the pantry. The twins who are now 8 months old are still eating pureed food, but starting to eat little pieces of things like cheerios, steak and brownies 🙂 Luckily for now, they eat anything I put in front of them. Let’s hope that keeps up! Karina, who is 3, is a pretty good eater. She, like all kids, goes through stages of I hate “x” and then loves “x” the next week.

We just came back from a trip to Boston, so our fridge was fairly empty. I made an easy pantry meal last night for our first night before our groceries were delivered this morning from AmazonFresh – Pasta with a tomato pumpkin sauce. For the sauce I just poured a jar of tomato basil sauce into a saucepan, added about 1/3 cup of canned pumpkin, 1/3 cup of fat free 1/2 and 1/2, 1/2 tsp ground coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until heated through and pour on cooked pasta. I added some frozen peas as well for a little more veggies. However, Karina has decided this week that she doesn’t like peas (used to be her favorite!). At least she got some veggies from the pumpkin + tomato. I got the highest praise, “Mamma, I like the sauce. I’m going to eat all my pasta!”

Tonight, we are having some chicken with rice and edamame. I haven’t decided yet how I am going to cook it, but probably will bake the chicken with a soy glaze (soy sauce, molasses and ginger), make the rice in the slow cooker and microwave the edamame. Simple and quick.

Tomorrow night is frozen pizza with salad and some frozen corn heated up in the microwave, Sunday is going to be ground turkey with some curry + apricot jam on top of couscous to which I’ll add some frozen peas + diced dried apricots. Monday I’m going to go for some salmon, risotto and edamame.

Tuesday night is going to be Thanksgiving night. Whole frozen turkeys were on sale for .88 per pound so I bought a 14lb one that is in my fridge defrosting. Will make enough food for many meals, which I will post about later.

I am trying out various menu planning tools and this is the one I’m using this week: http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/meal-planner.html I’ll let you all know how it works. Hopefully more posts to come now that I am not working outside of the house!

What is on the menu for the week?

Karina has been a bottomless pit. I know that seems like it shouldn’t be a problem, because most toddlers won’t eat anything, but to have to feed her every 40min to an 1hr…it is ridiculous! (Especially after I just put her back to bed at 10:30pm because she wanted a snack). I’m trying not to, but if she’s hungry then I will give her a snack. I am just really trying to keep it healthy. Maybe its because she started walking this week…

So, as I’ve mentioned before I have started doing meal planning for each week and then shopping just for what I need. It has made a difference in our shopping budget and the amount of space in our fridge!

Its been a while since I posted a meal plan for the week…so, here is what I have planned for the week: (who knows if it will actually happen, but most of it is what I have on hand)

Sunday

  • Breakfast = smoothie (I mix plain yogurt with frozen berries and apple juice.)
  • Lunch = sandwiches (turkey, cheese and tomato or roast beef cheese and tomato) or leftover swedish meatballs and cauliflower mashed potatoes
  • Dinner = Fish (still to buy tomorrow), rice (made in the rice cooker) with edamame (frozen and then takes 3 minutes to steam in the microwave)
  • Snacks for Karina = cheddar cheese, grapes, apple sauce, goldfish crackers, craisins

Monday

  • Breakfast = one egg, whole wheat toast and sliced pear
  • Lunch = leftover rice and edamame + deli turkey meat
  • Dinner = roast pork (cooked in the slow cooker with beef stock, balsamic vinegar, worchestershire sauce, dried rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.), cauliflower polenta (buy the tubes from Trader Joes or Safeway and just mix in some steamed cauliflower, parmesan and milk) and salad
  • Snacks = yogurt, whole wheat pita with white bean hummus, carrot sticks, craisins and goldfish.

Tuesday

  • Breakfast = oatmeal and apple slices (or a whole mini apple that I discovered at Trader Joe’s last week. A friend turned me on to their mini pears, but I couldn’t find them, then I found the mini apples – perfect size for a toddler’s hand)
  • Lunch = quesadilla with leftover pork, black beans and cheddar cheese
  • Dinner = Whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce. (If I have time, I put a couple of cans of diced tomatoes in the slow cooker while Karina’s eating her lunch, with a diced onion, some garlic, bay leaf, touch of oregano, rosemary, salt and pepper. Otherwise, I just used jarred).
  • Snacks = orange slices, cheddar cheese, grapes, whole wheat pita, craisins and goldfish (sensing a pattern…?)


Wednesday

  • Breakfast = egg, cheerios and peaches (canned peaches).
  • Lunch = pasta, deli turkey and green beans (frozen, steamed in microwave for 3 min)
  • Dinner = French onion soup (this is more for me, its an amazing recipe from Rachel Ray’s Comfort Foods…mmm…we’ll see if she likes it) and leftovers.
  • Snacks = apple sauce, grapes, cheddar, carrot sticks, goldfish and craisins

Thursday

  • Breakfast = smoothie.
  • Lunch = turkey, cheese and blackbean in a whole wheat tortilla wrap.
  • Dinner = leftovers
  • Snacks = peaches, cheddar, whole wheat pita with white bean hummus, grapes, apple

Friday

  • Breakfast = egg, toast, orange slices
  • Lunch = peanut butter and jelly sandwich, mixed veggies (frozen, steamed in microwave for 3 minutes).
  • Dinner = TBD (either order food, see what’s on sale that day at the grocery store or my husband will pick something up at Pike’s market on the way home from work).
  • Snacks = apple sauce, yogurt, whole wheat pita and whatever else is left in the house until I go shopping on Friday 🙂

That is a fairly typical week for us. It really has taken a lot of the stress out of cooking to have the meals planned. Things always come up though, so having a couple nights of “leftovers” or keeping pasta and jarred sauce or tortillas, canned black beans and cheddar on hand can make easy pasta or quesadilla nights or allow you some flexibility.

Karina finally meet a cheese she didn’t like this week (to my surprise)…Gorgonzola. She really is her father’s daughter…

Happy cooking!