Here’s what we’ve been cooking lately! This post is full of my favorite recipes for success, hopefully you’ll find inspiration from the visuals and it will help you get creative in a similar way.
It’s officially summertime here in the midwest, and I welcome the sunshine, warm weather, and adventures with open arms! To be honest, I’ve been craving summer for a while. This past semester was long and exhausting, and I did my best to have a positive attitude while it was happening.
recipes for success
Several people have asked me about food, especially in the midst of how food works itself into busy seasons of life. Specifically, I am asked about what I cook, what I buy at the grocery store, and how I meal prep. While it would be convenient to have clear-cut answers to these questions, the answers change depending on the season I am in. For example, I wrote my first recipes for success post last December, where I shared my thoughts on several recipes I tried, pictures of meals, and my thoughts on meal-prepping. Last semester I had a lot more time and energy for trying new recipes, and it showed in the meals I ate. However, the next couple of months were very different. Though eating healthy and balanced meals was still a top priority for me, it looked different how I incorporated them into daily life.
what works for us
Basically, Alan and I ate a lot of the same foods week after week, but changed up the combination of how we ate them. We got creative in how some of the foods were prepared, but essentially it was the same kinds of things. There was a lot of improvising, but we were totally okay with it. Having a busy semester filled with travel and long weekends meant less time on the weekend to meal prep so it was usually easier to pick up the staples from the grocery store and cook things we didn’t need a recipe for.
In my last recipes for success post I mentioned how meal prepping is so helpful to Alan and I because being able to heat things up throughout the week gives us both opportunities to keep on working hard, stay focused on our goals, and even spend extra time with each other. Grabbing a meal without having to plan it that day also allows for opportunities to make healthy choices even when our bodies are tired.
meal prep for the win
I value meal-prepping. I love doing it. A few months ago I was very creative in what I prepped for the week, but these past few months it all looked a little bit more simple. To me, it’s all about finding what works best.
After the success in my first post, I continued to grow my list of favorite food recipes and food bloggers. I kept adding to my recipes in Evernote so I can remember what I’ve made and if I’ve liked it — I recommend doing something like this as you start preparing more meals!
All of this to say, what we’ve been cooking lately is shown below! This post is heavy on photos with variations on different meal ideas rather than specific recipes; hopefully you’ll find inspiration from the visuals and it will help you get creative in a similar way.
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Hands down. Usually I am on the move as the sun rises whether I’m on a morning run or on my way to class/work, so I love having something that has minimal prep time. I think breakfast can be way more fun than a granola bar so I always prepare in advance to make sure I can have something tasty to give me the fuel to start the day.
- OATMEAL. Oatmeal was a staple for me this past semester. I never used to eat oatmeal, but it was a game-changer for this semester because I would make a big pot of oatmeal on Sunday night so I had a big batch to get me through the week! All you do is measure out how many oats you want based on the directions on the bag. So for 5 servings of old-fashioned oatmeal (Monday – Friday), I would cook 2.5 cups of oats using 5 cups of water. I love Bob’s Red Mill, Coach’s Oats, and of course, Quaker Oats. In the morning, I would scoop out the cooked oatmeal, add a little almond milk and chia seeds, and heat it up in the microwave, and then top it with whatever I had in my fridge or whatever I was craving. My go-to toppings were almond butter or peanut butter (usually Trader Joe’s, Georgia Grinders, or NuttZo), a scoop of yogurt (usually Chobani’s non-fat greek yogurt or Siggi’s non-fat yogurt), fruit from Aldi (usually berries and banana), and granola (usually Udi’s gluten-free granola or gr8nola). Sometimes I would sprinkle on some nuts or cinnamon as well. The amazing thing about oatmeal is that is can vary so much based on what you have! I never ever just eat plain oatmeal — I LOVE making it sweet and filling with a bunch of toppings!
- EGG SCRAMBLE. Making an egg scramble with some veggies is one of my favorite ways to start the day when I’m wanting something savory! Usually I start by heating up some veggies in a skillet and then scramble them with two eggs. I like to top my eggs with salsa and avocado as well! This sort of breakfast can be customized to the foods you enjoy most. If you’re looking for extra protein, add in some egg-whites. If you want some dairy, add in cheese. You get the gist.
- FRIED EGG WITH VEGGIES. This is another super easy savory breakfast which involves one skillet and whatever you have in your fridge. I usually would take at least one vegetable (brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, peppers, spinach, onions, etc.) and then fry an egg or two to eat with it, depending on how hungry I was.
- TOAST. If you’re looking for a quick breakfast, this is maybe the easiest of all. We always keep a loaf of Dave’s Killer Breads, Udi’s gluten-free, or english muffins in our freezer. Since we don’t go through bread super quick, it’s awesome that we can just pop the frozen whatever into the toaster and it’ll be ready in approximately 4 minutes. Toast is another one of those things that can easily be made sweet or savory, so it’s perfect for indecisive people like me! For the savory route, our favorite way to top is with an egg or avocado. We usually end up putting on hot sauce, Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning, or red pepper flakes. For the sweeter route, we top with greek yogurt, a nut butter, granola, or fruit. Again, it totally depends how hungry we are and what we are craving. We love celebrating Toast Tuesday!
- PANCAKES/WAFFLES. Alan and I love celebrating Waffle Wednesday! We just got a waffle maker a few weeks ago and it’s a game changer. Similar to toast, you can easily make waffles savory or sweet, though 90% I end up going sweet. In terms of waffle mixes, we love Birch Benders and Kodiak Cakes. Both of these mixes are made with awesome ingredients and end up making super delicious pancakes/waffles. You can easily make a big batch and freeze some extras to pop in the toasters for the week, but usually Alan and I don’t have a problem with leftovers of these!
- For savory waffles, top with an avocado or an egg.
- For sweet waffles, top with berries, banana, yogurt, granola, nut butter, or chocolate chips.
- When we’re feeling ambitious and want to make our own mix, we make protein waffles using a recipe from BodyByBree. The recipe isn’t printed anywhere I know of, but she has talked about it on her Instagram and I’ve made it. Basically you mix together 1/3 cup of oats, 1/3 cup of cottage cheese, and 1/3 cup of egg whites. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and splash of vanilla. The result is a tasty, high-protein, super simple pancake/waffle that you can top with whatever you’re feeling (I almost always use berries and nut butter but I think whipped cream would be good too!)
- BREAKFAST SANDWICH. My go-to breakfast sandwich is a toasted english muffin with spinach, mashed avocado, and a fried egg. Sometimes I like to add hummus, hot sauce, or some more spices to take it to the next level. Sometimes I substitute egg for egg white or chicken, spinach for another veggie, or an english muffin for bread.
- BRUNCH PLATTER. Some days I just want a little bit of everything so I make a plate full of all of the sweet and savory combinations. For example, I’ll toast an english muffin and top half with avocado and red pepper flakes and the other half with yogurt and berries. I’ll make a fried egg and some sweet potato for the side. Overall, I think it’s important to listen to your body and also make sure you’re giving it the fuel it needs. Some days I wake up super hungry and eat a little bit more than usual. Some days I don’t wake up that hungry but I know I’m going to be going on a run so I still fill up with what I need. I think over time we start to understand our bodies more and fuel them properly, so listen up!
Lunch looks different every day. Some weeks went by this semester where I ate the exact same thing for an entire month (hello spinach, quinoa, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, chicken, and avocado). Other weeks I made a big pot of chili to have throughout the week. No matter what I ate, it was always ready ahead of time. Lunch is the one meal I always pack because I always eat it at work. I use my lunch breaks to work out at the rec center, so I end up eating my packed lunch at my desk during work. Some days I wish I could eat at home or making something more fresh, but usually I packed foods I loved so I always looked forward to eating!
- PROTEIN/VEGGIE BOWL. There were several times throughout the semester when lunches didn’t follow a recipe. Lunch looked like prepping a protein (usually chicken, turkey, or hard boiled eggs) and veggies (cauliflower, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, sweet potatoes, or brussel sprouts). I’m not picky about texture, temperature, or combinations so I would throw together whatever I had available.
- ZUCCHINI NOODLES AND TURKEY MEATBALLS. We are pretty new to the zoodle game, but pretty happy we’re playing! We found a random zoodle and turkey meat ball recipe and it didn’t let us down! This meal has a little bit more prep time than my liking, but it’s a light and tasty meal!
- CHICKEN BURRITO BOWLS. This is another one of the lunches I had for about a month in a row and still didn’t get third of it. I followed this recipe but made a couple of variations week-to-week. Some weeks I made ground turkey instead of chicken, other weeks I switched up the vegetables. I ALWAYS added hot sauce and cilantro.
- GREEN GODDESS PLATE. This is an example of a “cleaning out the fridge” lunch. It just so happens that everything left in our fridge was green. I plated spinach and topped it with brussel spouts, corn, avocado, and a veggie burger from Aldi. I actually topped with with the Trader Joe’s Green Goddess dressing and ate it cold, which was perfect in the work refrigerator.
Like I mentioned before, I pack my lunch every single day. I usually pack five lunches at the beginning of the week and then I don’t think about it the night before or early in the morning. It’s easy, quick, and helps me make healthy choices I enjoy eating!
Similar to lunches, my dinners this semester were often packed and eaten in the library or in my office before class. With that being the case, dinners were similar to lunches and not many were eaten at home. Though a lot of meals were combinations of the staples, we did try a few new recipes this semester!
- HAWAIIAN CHICKEN BURGERS. This was a new recipe I tried this year. I found it on instagram and the cook process looked pretty easy so I decided to give it a go! It was pretty good, but I think I was expecting a little bit more flavor out of it. I will probably try these again this summer when I can cook them on the grill outside!
- AFRICAN PEANUT STEW. This recipe kind of blew my mind. Never had I ever had peanut butter in a stew until the day I cooked this. This was the ultimate dinner for a cold winter night. The flavors were kickin’ and I was super into it!
- SALMON AND VEGGIES. Here in the Midwest, Alan and I almost always rely on frozen fish. I would love to one day be able to go to a market and pick up something fresh, but for where we are, Aldi’s frozen section works for our lifestyle. We always have a bag of the Sea Queen filets in our freezer for those nights when we want something easy. I like to use my fish to make tacos or salads. For salads, I start by a base of spinach, add veggies, avocado, and then usually hummus or another condiment. For tacos, I shred the fish slightly onto tortillas and add spinach or lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, pico, salsa, and maybe some cabbage or cilantro.
- CHICKEN OR EGG AND VEGGIES. Very similar to the salmon with veggies, is the way I combine chicken or egg with veggies. Essentially what it comes down to is me picking a protein (fish, chicken, or egg) and then adding it with veggies. My body craves this kind of food so I can keep it simple and really love it. For others, you might have to spice it up to your liking.
- GRILLED ANYTHING. It’s only been summer for about a week and we’ve grilled twice. We grilled some chicken sausage, asparagus, and pineapple. For the pineapple, I soaked it in honey and hot sauce before grilling and it was amazing. We will definitely be adding kabobs, peppers, onions, and maybe some peaches to our grill list for this summer!
- BREAKFAST FOR DINNER. I love breakfast food so it’s probably no surprise I want to eat it for dinner. I will make breakfast sandwiches, omelettes, waffles, you name it. I usually go for the savory breakfasts if I’m eating it for dinner so eggs with veggies and avocado.
This semester was really crazy so I didn’t bake nearly as much as I would have liked. However even though I personally didn’t bake very much, I definitely had something sweet every night! My go-to “night cap” (sweet thing to end the night) was usually an rxbar, piece of dark chocolate, Halo Top ice cream, or dark chocolate covered something. If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of chocolate at night.
- DARK CHOCOLATE BARK. I had part of a bag of dark chocolate chips leftover for something I made so I wanted to try a freezer bar. I didn’t make this exact recipe, but I went off of this for ideas. I used melted dark chocolate and added on coconut, raspberries, and shredded almonds.
I love snacks. Like loooooove them. One day I will write an entire post dedicated to snacks because there are so many healthy, simple, tasty snacks out there! I have a snack drawer in my office that I keep stocked with non-perishable foods such as bars (Rxbars, KIND bars, and CLIF bars), nuts (pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and peanuts), dried fruit (banana chips and dried strawberries are my favorite), and a few other items. I like really easy and simple snacks like pieces of fruit (apple, banana, berries, etc.) and greek yogurt as well.
However sometimes I like to make fancier snack plates!
- APPLE NACHOS. Slice up an apple, drizzle it with a nut butter (I use Trader Joe’s, Georgia Grinders, or NuttZo), and sprinkle it with granola (I use Udi’s gluten-free granola or gr8nola). It will take your snack game to the next level! Alan used to make fun of me for calling these “nachos” but now he calls them that because he tried them and can get behind them.
- SWEET POTATO NACHOS. For this plate all I did was slice up a sweet potato, cook it in a skillet, drizzle it with almond butter and granola, and then add some greek yogurt for dipping. You might never eat this as a snack, but you’d be missing out!
- SMOOTHIE BOWLS. Smoothie bowls are absolutely one of my favorite snacks. I sometimes eat these as a light meal if I’m not super hungry as well. There are a million and a half smoothie recipes out there but my favorites are from Fit Foodie Finds and Ambitious Kitchen. At this point I don’t really follow a recipe but usually end up adding about a cup of frozen berries and a cup of almond milk as a base. Sometimes I’ll add in greek yogurt or spinach as well. I usually add toppings to sweeten it but I know sometimes people like to add vanilla or honey into their smoothies, personally I just don’t find it necessary. I usually top my bowls with sliced fruit, chia seeds, coconut, and granola!
- RXBARS. I love having these bad boys as a snack. They are chewy, sweet, keep me full, and give me energy to do what I have to do. I always have some of these in my office, in my backpack, and at home!
As you’ve probably picked up by this point in the blog, I’m often on-the-go. Most of what I cook can be packed in a tupperware and brought to work, the library, or in the car on a road trip. I’ve packed and ate my meals this way a countless number of times in my life, especially these past few months. Whether it be oatmeal, chicken and veggies, or a smoothie, you can take it on the road! While I do enjoy eating at home, I pack my meals when I’m not able and if it will benefit me. I know that packing meals lets me eat when I’m hungry, saves money, and helps me make healthy choices. That’s why I do! It does take more planning, but it’s worth it!
- ROAD TRIP SNACKS. If I’m going to be in the car for more than an hour, I pack snacks. Alan and I love going on road trips together and we always have a bag full of healthy options! Whole fruits are easy and usually nuts, dried fruit, and bars are packed as well.
There is an unofficial list of items we routinely buy week-to-week and that you will almost always find in our house. Since we live in rural Missouri, 90% of what we buy comes from Aldi. When we’re in a city that has Trader Joe’s or Costco, we will pick up some things there, or we might order nonroutine purchases online. Some of our staples are as follows:
- Freezer: chicken, salmon, tilapia, veggie burgers, and frozen fruit
- Veggies: sweet potatoes, onions, avocado
- Other: rice, quinoa, nuts (and nut butter, usually Trader Joe’s, Georgia Grinders, or NuttZo), dried fruit, bars (Rxbars, KIND bars, and CLIF bars), pretzels, bread, oats (Bob’s Red Mill, Coach’s Oats, or Quaker Oats) granola (Udi’s gluten-free granola or gr8nola)
Overall, the kinds of meals you’re able to make changes with the season of life you’re in. If you’re able to try a bunch of new recipes, that’s awesome. However if you find yourself eating the same foods, that’s okay too. It’s all about finding what works for you and what makes you feel good!
If you have specific questions, favorite recipes, anything at all, please comment!