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Meal Planning During Quarantine

I don’t know about you but cooking cooking cooking has got me tired tired tired and totally lacking creativity in the the food department.  Every day, the same ol’ routine.

Am I alone?  No, I don’t think so!  We are all going thru this together!  We are all trying to chug through our days, getting inspiration wherever it flashes.

Well, honey!  Here come’s a FLASH OF INSPIRATION!!!!  Here are a handful of meals I cooked last week and a little review about each one.  Some were HUGE hits, and others were…”not our kids’ favorite”. (We don’t like to say dislike in our house.  It might hurt someone’s feelings. 😉 )

I have provided links to the original recipes that inpired me (but I changed a few things to accommodate our own family and goods that were available). 


Greek Chicken Orso Bowls


I went to make this recipe right after getting my online Fred Meyer order delivered and sure as not, they forgot to put in orzo!  I improvised and made it with a small soup pasta and it worked just fine.

Manos Rating: all 4 of us liked it! I kept the toppings all separate for the kids to pick at their favorites.

Greek Chicken Orzo Power Bowls

  • 4 cups prepared orzo pasta (or any small profile pasta)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 cucumber, sliced and quartered
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup Tzatziki sauce (I got mine at T.Joes)
  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Fresh mint, (optional)

Prepare orzo in advance according to package directions. Set aside.

In a large skillet or non-stick pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.

Place chicken in pan and sprinkle half of your oregano, basil, salt and pepper over top. Cook for about 6 to 8 minutes. Flip chicken over and sprinkle with remaining oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Cook for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until juices run clear and chicken is golden brown. Remove from pan and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Slice thinly.

Cut up cucumbers, shallots and tomatoes. Mix in bowl and drizzle with lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Place orzo in bottom of each bowl. Place sliced chicken in bowl. Add veggie mixture in bowl. Add dollops of Tzatziki sauce randomly around bowl.

Sprinkle with feta cheese and mint, if desired.

Braised Beef with Wide Noodles


We first time we had this delicious dish at our friends, the Armstrong’s house.  Our hosts served it over wide noodles, so I did the same.  Note: this takes a little searing time before you put it in the Dutch oven to cook for 2+hours.  Be sure to either make it the day before (which would be heavenly) or start around lunchtime so that it’s ready by dinner. We ate a little late ‘cuz this mom started too late…!!!

Served with: wide noodles

Manos Rating: 3 out of 4 LOVED IT!  Guess who didn’t?  The boy.  No idea why.  It was dripping off the bone GOOD!

  • 5 pound bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2″ pieces

  • S+P

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 medium onions, chopped

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped

  • 2 celery stalks, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)

  • 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

  • 8 sprigs thyme

  • 4 sprigs oregano (Optional: I did not have this)

  • 2 sprigs rosemary (Optional: I did not have this)

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

  • 4 cups low-salt beef stock

    Note: Buying fresh herbs can be expensive.  I only had fresh thyme.  Add whatever fresh herbs you have.  If you don’t have them, you could add dried herbs or just omit them.  This is a very flavorful dish.  I did not feel it was missing anything with just Thyme.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot. (I didn’t have to poor of any…)

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2-2 1/2 hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over mashed potatoes with sauce spooned over.

Prociutto Wrapped Chicken

I prepped the Chicken for the following recipe (Chicken Skewers) at the same time I made this dish.  I felt so smart!  It saved a ton of prep for the following night and the chicken was so tender after marinating for 24 hours!

Served with: Cauliflower Gnocchi (frozen isle at Trader Joes)

Manos Rating: Everybody LOVED IT!!! Total hit!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed with Ricotta & Spinach

  • 24 oz Chicken breasts, boneless skinless
  • 8 slices Prosciutto di parma
  • 4 cups Baby spinach (or I used a pack of frozen spinach)
  • 1 large clove Garlic
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 pinch Nutmeg
  • S+P
  • 1/2 cup fresh Ricotta
  • 3 tbsp. EVOO
  • 1/2 cup (loosely packed) freshly, finely grated parmigiano-reggiano

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees .Butterfly the chicken by slicing horizontally into the thick, long side of each breast, taking care not to slice all the way through. Open each breast like a book and place on a work surface. Using a mallet, pound the chicken to even it out a bit. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp. EVOO, one turn of the pan, over medium. Add the garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add the spinach and stir until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the nutmeg; season. Drain the spinach well, let cool, then finely chop. (You will have 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped spinach.)

In a medium bowl, mix the spinach with the cheeses; season.Spread some of the spinach mixture on one side of each chicken breast, leaving a small border. Close the other half of the chicken breast over the filling to cover. Wrap each chicken breast with 2 slices prosciutto.In a large, ovenproof skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. EVOO, two turns of the pan, over medium-high. Add the chicken and cook until the prosciutto is browned, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes. Halfway through cooking, add the lemon halves, cut side down, to the pan and cook until the lemons are browned.

Divide the chicken breasts among plates. Squeeze the juice from the lemon halves over the chicken.

Marinated Chicken Skewers with Quinoa

HyperFocal: 0

Do you follow What’s Gaby Cooking?  She has some really excellent recipes.  I don’t have her cookbook yet but I need to stick it on my wish list!!!

This recipe comes together very quickly after you have marinated the chicken (4+ hours). And because there are so many “toppings”, it is easy to customize them for each person’s likings.

Manos Rating: I loved it!  Kids liked the chicken but didn’t like the hummus.  (I don’t know what they have against hummus!  I’ll keep pushing…)

Chicken Quinoa Bowls

For the Chicken:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves – cut into 2 inch pieces
  • fresh parsley

For the Bowls:

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup homemade Hummus
  • store bought garlic sauce
  • sliced Persian cucumbers
  • 1 head romaine lettuce shredded
  • served w/ a side of pita bread
  • 1/2 cup homemade Tzatziki optional

Whisk together the lemon juice, vegetable oil, plain yogurt, garlic, tomato paste, salt, oregano, paprika, pepper and allspice in a large bowl; add the chicken and toss to coat. Transfer the chicken mixture into a large plastic bag; refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate. Thread the chicken onto metal or wooden skewers. Cook on preheated grill until the chicken is golden and no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes each side. Sprinkle the parsley over the skewers.
To assemble, divide the quinoa into 4 bowls and top with equal parts of avocado, hummus, garlic sauce, sliced cucumbers and shredded lettuce. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice if needed. Serve immediately.

Pan-Seared Cod in White Wine Tomato Basil Sauce

I try to squeeze a seafood meal into each week. Fish is SOOOO GOOD FOR YOU! But, do you remember being a kid and just HATING fish?!  I totally didn’t eat fish when I was a kid. I honestly think it’s a palette that grows on you with age.  But now? If we go to a “fancy” restaurant, I am 90% likely to order the fish as my main dish. Maybe it’s because it’s so hard to cook it well? Or that I don’t get to cook it ENOUGH because when I do, all I hear are the moan and groans!!!!

This recipe comes together so quickly that it is a fantastic one for a quick weeknight dinner.  I served it over a heated up bag of Trader Joe’s brown rice frozen packs.  I might try a less tough fish next time…maybe the kids would like it better. Again…I’ll keep tryin’!

Served with: brown rice.

Manos Rating: Adults like it!  Kids “not my favorite”.

Pan-Seared Cod in White Wine Tomato Basil Sauce

For the White Wine Tomato Basil Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (more to taste)

For the Cod:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds fresh cod, cut into 4 fillets (or four 6 ounce fillets)
  • Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper flakes and garlic and saute for 1 minute, or until garlic is fragrant. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re soft and blistering, but still hold their shape, 9 to 12 minutes. Add in the white wine, stir, and allow the mixture to come to a gentle simmer. Stir in the basil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, sugar, and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer the sauce into a bowl and set aside until needed.

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Pat the cod dry with paper towels. Then season both sides of cod with salt and pepper.

Place cod in the oil and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip the cod over and continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes, OR until it’s cooked through.

Pour the white wine tomato basil sauce over the cod, let the sauce warm up for a minute, then remove from heat and and serve at once.

What do you think?  Any of these spark inpiration? I hope so!

One Last Recipe: Breakfast Inspiration

One last food tip before I go…

blueberry bars

I have been wanting a little healthy something to nibble right when I get up in the am.  I grabbed the individual hard boiled eggs from Costco.  But, I also made a Blueberry Breakfast Bar/Cake last week that was delish!  And so healthy for you!

Blueberry Quinoa Breakfast Bars
  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons flaxseed meal + 6 tablespoons of water)
  • 2 tablespoons nut/seed butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I substituted coconut extract!)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9″x 9″ baking sheet with parchment paper and grease the sides with cooking spray. Create your flax seed eggs: 2T + 6T water, let it sit.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oats, quinoa, sugar, baking powder, and chia seeds.
In a separate bowl, mix the banana, nut butter, flax eggs, lemon juice and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients, mixing everything together until fully incorporated. The batter should be moist, but not runny. Fold in the blueberries
Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.
Bake on the center rack for 25 – 35 minutes until the bars are golden brown and firm to the touch.
Remove and let cool completely in the pan, then remove and slice into squares. Store in an airtight container for 4 – 5 days if they last that long!
I hope this provided some ease and normalsy to your quarantine week!
Miss you much! xo, Melis


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