This weekend my wife asked me to help her meal prep for the week to help her eat healthier. I figured I would share the process in case someone else out there wants to do the same. For this week I made a breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner for five workdays.
- Breakfast – Hard boiled egg served with yogurt and fresh blueberries
- Lunch – Thai green papaya salad (Som Tum)
- Snack – Hummus with sweet mini bell peppers
- Dinner – Cajun chicken tender pasta / Sun-dried tomato sausage, broccoli and brown rice
In this how to guide, we will focus on the dinner dishes, which are the Cajun chicken tender pasta recipe and the sun-dried tomato sausage, broccoli and brown rice recipe. Both of these dishes can be made with ingredients found at Trader Joe’s. To make these two dishes you will need:
- 1 pack of chicken tenders
- 1 pack of zucchini
- 10-12 cloves of garlic
- 1 pack of sun-dried tomato chicken sausage (cooked)
- 1 (2 lb) bag of spinach
- 1 brown rice pasta
- 2 cups of brown rice
- ~ 1 cup of chicken stock
- Cajun seasoning (I made my own but you can use store bought)
- Cooking oil (I use grape seed oil)
This will make enough for 4 servings of the Cajun chicken tender pasta and 3 services of the Sun-dried tomato sausage, broccoli and brown rice. Before you start cooking everything else, bring a large pot of water to a boil so you can start cooking your pasta. Just remember to season the water so that the pasta tastes good when it is finished cooking.
To get started, just season your chicken tender and bring a heavy cooking pan to high heat. Add in cooking oil to coat the pan, then pan sear the chicken tenders.
Due to the high heat, the first side will cook pretty fast, so the minute it has a good sear on the first side you are going to want to flip the chicken tenders.
When you flip the chicken tenders, the spices should have “blackened” giving the chicken a nice brown crust with black bits throughout. Drop the heat to medium and add in about 1/4 of your garlic (minced). You will use another 1/4 of your garlic to finish the second half of chicken tenders whereas the remaining 1/2 of your garlic will go towards the zucchini.
You don’t want to add the garlic too early because it will burn. You will probably have to cook the chicken tenders in two batches, just make sure you clean the pan between batches to avoid having burnt garlic when you start the second batch.
Set aside the chicken tenders once they are done cooking.
Wash your pan and reheat to cook the sausage. Add a light layer of cooking oil then sear both sides of the sausage. When you first heat up the pan and add in your oil, coat the whole pan before adding in the sausage. When you first add in your sausage pieces, toss the pan back and forth to help force the sausage to roll around in the pan. This way they won’t stick and they will get evenly coated by the hot cooking oil. Let the sausage sit while the first side creates a nice sear.
Once the first side has a nice sear, the sausage should no longer stick to the pan due to the new sear. So just roll the pan back and forth until most of the sausage has flipped over (seared side facing up). Use some chop sticks or tongs to manually move the rest so that both sides of the sausage can get a good sear. The sausage is already cooked, so you are just adding a sear to bring out more flavor and to reheat the sausage.
Once your sausage is seared, move it aside into a bowl and focus on the zucchini. Make sure you do not wash the pan because we want to keep all of the caramelized sausage flavor which is currently sitting at the bottom of the pan.
Just add in some cooking oil and toss in your chopped up zucchini. Toss to coat all of your zucchini with oil, then add some Cajun seasoning to the top of the zucchini. Let the zucchini cook for a few minutes, then add in the second half of your garlic.
Once your zucchini is cooked, set it aside and again, don’t wash the pan.
At this point, the bottom of the pan should have a lot of brown bits, make sure the garlic is not already burnt.
Add in 2 lbs of spinach. Initially, the spinach looks like it will not fit onto the pan, but it will.
Just add in your about 1 cup of chicken stock to help the spinach cook down and wilt.
After a few minutes your spinach will look like this (above). Move the spinach around to let it all absorb the flavors of the pan.
By now your pasta should be done. Run your pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process. Normally, if you are eating the pasta fresh you never want to rinse the pasta, but since we are planning to meal prep we want to add in some extra moisture to help prevent the pasta from drying out in the refrigerator. What I did was I separated the noodle and the cooked spinach into individual serving sizes, then I tossed two servings back into the pan to help absorb the liquid (left over chicken stock used to wilt the spinach). Repeat this step with the remaining pasta.
Serve your Cajun chicken tenders over the pasta and spinach with the zucchini.
Boil or steam up some broccoli and serve the sausage with it, over brown rice.
For a snack I just bought some hummus and chopped up some sweet mini bell peppers to use as a cracker substitute. I didn’t include pictures of the breakfast because the yogurt is store bought so there isn’t anything special going on there.
For lunch I made Thai green papaya salad (Som Tum). This dish is another adventure so I will create a separate blog post to share that recipe.