Three Meals you can Build Around Olives 

Olives are a great food that tend to get a bad rap sometimes. There are many people who do not like them (despite there being hundreds of different types that they haven’t even tried), but let’s face it: the health benefits of olives simply cannot be denied. For one thing, they do an outstanding job of protecting against skin cancer along with colon and breast cancer. See? They’re already starting to look better, aren’t they? They also contain monounsaturated fatty acids, along with oleic acid, both of which have been proven to reduce excessive inflammation. The compounds work side by wage war on free radicals within your cells.

Did you know that olive oil is good for the heart? Containing biophenols, it is capable of suppressing bad cholesterol, also known as LDL, and is also key in reducing blood pressure. Finally, olives are known to reduce chronic pain from diseases like arthritis. Adding a bowl of olives to your daily routine can be very beneficial, and may even go so far as to save your life. They will certainly serve to make your quality of life better, especially if you deal with any of the above issues.

The vegetable that so many see as just a condiment, or perhaps something to be ignored, is one of nature’s greatest gifts to us, and quite frankly, we think that it should be used everywhere. You already know that they can be used on salads, and you probably order them with your pizza, but what you might not now is that they can be used to make a number of different meals. Let’s cover three of them below and you’ll be on your way to becoming a gourmet olive chef.

Meals you can Build Around Olives 

The Olive Chicken Dish

Chicken is without a doubt the harbinger of the most popular meals on the planet, but you can make it even more interesting by creating an olive marinade. All you need is:

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Seasoning (your choice)

After slicing the olives, you can use these ingredients to create a marinade, and then coat your chicken thighs (or breasts if you would rather) before placing them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. If you want to spice it up a little, feel free to serve with lemon slices.

The Tart Dish

This is a quick dish and a great snack for summer time. You will need:

  • Puff Pastry Tray
  • Caramelized Onions
  • Roasted Red Peppers

You will start by cutting circles from the sheet of puff pastry, as many as you need. Cover it with the ingredients, and top with olives. Add any other ingredients you want, we strongly recommend anchovy fillets, and then cook in the oven for fifteen minutes at 350 degrees.

Olive Stuffed Tomatoes

This can be used as either an appetizer, or simply as a light lunch. You just need to scoop out a few tomatoes and stuff them with cooked rice, minced garlic, chopped tomato, herbs, lemon juice, and of course, green olives. Bake in the oven for five minutes at 350 degrees and serve.

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Pulled Pork – A meal that can last all week!

It is the holiday season. Life is busy and people are tired. With all the parties and baking, meal planning can become overwhelming. One of the greatest life-hacks all home cooks should know is that prepping meat like pulled pork and reusing it in a variety of ways throughout the week can save you tons of time and energy in the kitchen. Here is a simple pulled pork recipe that, with a little creativity, can be served in five different ways!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe

What you will need:

  • 1 boneless pork shoulder (at least 3 lbs in weight), skin and excess fat removed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups bbq sauce (bottled or homemade)
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a slow cooker, place pork on top of chopped onion. Add broth, cover and cook on low for 8 hours. For truly tender pork, remember ‘low and slow’ is always the best method! Remove from heat and allow meat to cool. Once cooled, pull meat into shreds (removing fat and gristle as you go). Remove excess fat from slow cooker by skimming the top of the liquid. Return meat to slow cooker and stir in remaining ingredients. Cook for 1 hour on low.

Pulled Pork – A meal that can last all week!

5 Days of Pulled Pork

Monday- BBQ Sandwiches

You can’t beat the classic BBQ pulled pork sandwich! Simply serve your pulled pork on a toasted bun with a side of coleslaw and sweet potato fries and call it a night!

Tuesday- Pulled Pork Tacos

For a Mexican inspired twist, try serving your leftover pulled pork on warm corn tortillas. Top with sliced avocados, shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, fresh cilantro, feta crumbles and a splash of lime juice!

Wednesday- Pulled Pork Salad

Combat that mid week slump with a fresh garden salad topped with a serving of chilled pulled pork! Dress with your favorite vinaigrette or a creamy ranch and you have the perfect lunch meal!

Thursday- Egg Rolls

Time to switch up the flavors a bit with this Asian inspired dish! All you will need is a cup of pulled pork, diced green onion and celery, shredded carrot, and about a ½ teaspoon of both minced garlic and soy sauce. Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Spoon into the center of eggroll wrappers and wrap everything up nice and tight. Finally, fry or bake until light golden brown!

Friday- BBQ Pizza

Mix up your usual Friday night pizza night by using what’s left of your pulled pork. Keep it simple by purchasing a premade pizza crust (obviously homemade dough is delicious too). For the sauce, simply mix ½ cup marinara with ½ cup of your favorite bbq sauce and spread evenly across crust. Top with leftover pulled pork, sliced red onion, pineapple chunks, and plenty of mozzarella cheese! Bake at 450 degrees until your cheese is melted and bubbling!

 

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Best Way to Plan a Week Long Set of Meals

Plan a Week Long Set of Meals

Meal planning for a whole week at a time can be overwhelming, but with a little time, effort and energy put in on the front end, you might find it's a lot easier than you anticipated. There are a few things you can engrave into your routine to set yourself up for success when you're planning ahead.

Get Out the Calendar

The most important thing to do when you're shopping for food on a weekly basis is sit down with your calendar ahead of time. Before you ever make a list, make a note of your schedule. You might see that you have 3 nights where you'll be out for dinner, which leaves you with 4 nights to cook at home. How do you do lunches for your family? Will they be eating at school or work? How about breakfast? Once you have a tally of how many meals you'll be responsible for for the week, jot it down on your grocery list to be mindful of as you make your plans.

Set Your Budget, and Shop the Sales

You may be used to shopping on a budget, but if you're not, this is key in meal planning for bigger lumps of time. If the grocery store you go to has weekly specials, it's best to meal plan around what those specials are. For example, if you notice ground beef is on sale, go ahead and plan to buy a couple pounds rather than the ground turkey, which is not on sale. Shopping the sales will get you the most for your money, and will stretch your dollar much further.

Have Some Set Meals, and Then Be Flexible

Don't plan to whip up a fancy dinner where you're following cooking instructions more than once or twice per week. Making lists specifically for certain meals will run up your bill and most of the time, ingredients you purchase are good for one use before you forget about it in your cupboard. Rather, consider spending a large percentage of your budget on meat, a large percentage on produce, and little on other ingredients that you wouldn't use often. During the week, get creative with what you've purchased. Be flexible! You'd be surprised how many different things you can create without a detailed list of ingredients to account for.

Know Your Staples

If you cook regularly, you probably already know what your go-to ingredients are. What are the things you always have in your kitchen? What are the items that, no matter what you're making, you seem to always cook with? Chicken broth? Cumin? Olive oil? Keep a running list of these staples, and utilize them often. Plan your meals around them, since you always have them there.

Don't Be Afraid of Left Overs

If you're cooking 4 nights out of the week, go ahead and plan to make 2 different meals, knowing that you'll have some form of leftovers the night after each one. Get creative with your leftovers and don't feel like you have to have the same meal two nights in a row. Have a plan for the remainder of tonight's meal before you even cook it. Doing that will implement a much needed sense of portion control as well as eliminate any chance of variation from the schedule.

With a little pro-active effort and planning, meal planning for a week at a time can be simple, and can actually save you lots of time and money.

 

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Making the Most of Leftovers

Leftovers

It’s difficult to make good use of leftovers. Even though you have good intentions when you put away those foil wrapped plates or containers of food, more often than not, they are left to languish in the back of the fridge until they complete their journey into the garbage can. Even the name “leftover” sounds less than appealing. But in truth, leftovers are a great way to stretch your food budget and make a light cooking night once or twice a week. Here are some tips for making new meals using leftovers.

Meal Planning

Planning your meals each week ensures that you will make good use of leftovers because they become part of the menu. For example, if you make a batch of chili for dinner, a day or two later, you can make loaded baked potatoes with chili, cheese and sour cream to serve alongside of a fresh salad. If you roast a chicken for dinner you can shred leftover meat to make enchiladas or quesadillas. All you have to do is think ahead and you’ll have ideas for leftovers of any kind. Plus, because a good portion of the meal is already cooked, new meals with leftovers have a ‘heat and serve’ quality that saves time.

Stay Within Ethnicities

Making new meals using leftovers is much easier if you stay within a specific ethnicity. For instance, making a variation of Mexican food using the same seasoned meat is much easier than trying to use taco meat in spaghetti. If you’re not sure about your plans for leftovers, try to use basic seasonings for the protein and leave the intense, specific flavors for a sauce or side dish. You’ll have more options for the next meal.

Casseroles are Harder to Repurpose

If you make a casserole where the ingredients are all assembled then cooked together, you’ll be very limited in terms of meals you can make with the leftovers other than simply reheating and eating. This is, however, another time saving leftover tactic. If you’re making a casserole, double the recipe and freeze one half for a meal within the next month.

An Easy Leftover Makeover

Here’s a versatile leftover dish that works with just about anything. Throw together batch of fried rice. Add canola or vegetable oil to a frying pan or wok over medium/high heat. You can use any type of meat:  ham, pork chops, cubed chicken, leftover steak – even breakfast sausage or bacon works well. Toss in any vegetables -- leftover carrots, green beans or peas are great. Add cooked rice and a splash of soy sauce. Make a well in the center and scramble an egg (or scramble separately in another sauté pan) and mix the egg crumbles throughout. Top with chopped scallions and a few chopped peanuts.

Grab Bag

Turn leftovers into a fun, end-of-the-week buffet. Make every Friday a “grab bag” for dinner: spread out the leftovers from the previous four nights’ dinners and let everyone build their own plate with whatever suits them. Be sure to include a fresh green salad as the perfect accompaniment to every meal.

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