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Meal Plan for 3-24-14

I hope you guys don’t mind if I continue posting meal plans.


Normally, I spend 1-2 hours on the weekend planning meals and going to the grocery store. When we go out of town this routine obviously gets impacted, which is when I resort to some of my meal planning resources. Knowing we were going to be out of town last weekend, I immediately added the meals to my Google calendar and created a customized grocery list when I stumbled upon this meal plan on Cooking Light last week—and you can do just the same.

Monday: Grape Tomato, Olive, and Spinach Pasta with Garlicky Asparagus


This was meant to be a “Meatless Monday” dish, but I added 3 chicken sausages (something we keep in the freezer at all times), because I just felt like I needed a little more protein.

Tuesday: Chicken with Pepperoni-Marinara Sauce with Green Beans and Toasted Garlic


This recipe was so yummy! It tasted just like pizza! We ended up with extra leftovers, and they were even better than the first night. This would be a great recipe for kids.

Wednesday: Four Mushroom Pesto Pizza with Celery and Parsley Salad


For the crust, the husband used leftover Whole Foods Multigrain crust and I made another quinoa crust, but this time I used 1/2 quinoa and 1/2 buckwheat, and it was still amazing!

Thursday: Herbed Rubbed NY Strip with Sauteed Peas and Carrots and Roasted Potato Wedges


We just couldn’t resist having a little red wine with this one. I subbed 1/3rd the quantity of dried herbs for fresh in these recipes to save some money.

Friday: Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia with Squash Salad and Brown Rice


Nice little change of pace with the squash and the fish—I definitely wouldn’t have otherwise chosen this recipe, but we enjoyed it.

Overall, here is what I loved about the meal plan:

  • Every recipe came with something green
  • Every recipe was ready in 40 minutes or less
  • It didn’t require much planning ahead
  • I was able to create a grocery list where I was easily able to check off what I had in my pantry
  • I didn’t waste any food
  • We both had enough leftovers for lunch each day
  • I hardly modified the recipes

What I didn’t love about it:

  • Some meals required me to use more pots and pans than I normally would (lucky for me the husband does the dishes!)
  • I spent more money than I normally would even though I subbed dried herbs for fresh

Let me know if you make this meal plan and how things turn out!

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Since I missed you all last week, I have something extra special for you…a meal plan and grocery list for next week! Each recipe is designed to make four servings. Make the full recipe and package up the leftovers for lunch the next day or other subsequent meals depending on the amount of people you cook for, if you dine out, or your schedule for the week.

Meatless Monday: Peanut Noodles with Brown Rice Pasta and Veggies from Naturally Ella


Double this recipe for leftovers and use 1 head cauliflower, 4 oz. sliced mushrooms, and 1/2 cup frozen edamame for the veggies. Use 1/3 cup coconut milk and 1/3 cup water in place of 2/3 cup veggie broth (or water); you will use the rest of the coconut milk later in the week. I skipped the bean sprouts and cilantro to save money, but feel free to add them if you wish. Use Tinkyada brown rice pasta to make this recipe gluten free or whole wheat spaghetti if you are not gluten free. There was quite a bit of extra sauce that I wish I had made extra pasta for, so you may want to make an extra 2 oz. or so of pasta to soak up that sauce and add another serving.  You could also save the sauce for something else.

Plan ahead: if you plan to make tomorrow’s gluten free pizza crust, rinse and soak the quinoa overnight and plan on a little extra time to make the crust and then top it. Alternatively, you can make it a few days in advance.

Tuesday: Chicken Pizza from MyRecipes.com



For the crust, the husband had our favorite Whole Food’s pre-made multigrain dough that he rolled out. For myself, I made this gluten free quinoa crust that was super simple and delicious! Double this recipe if you are only making this crust and not using any other type of crust. This recipe uses the remaining 4 oz. of mushrooms you didn’t use in Monday’s peanut noodle recipe. Instead of fresh thyme and parsley, you can just sprinkle it with dried before cooking. Serve it with a head of sliced kale massaged with your favorite salad dressing or your own!

Plan ahead: make 1 1/2 cups short-grain brown rice, toss with 1 tablespoon cooking oil, and refrigerate for tomorrow’s meal.

Wednesday: Curried Fried Rice from Cooksmarts


Use the remaining coconut milk you have from Monday’s recipe to make this creamy and incredibly easy fried rice!

Plan ahead: cook up 1 cup dry quinoa for tomorrow’s meal.

Thursday: Cajun Shrimp Chicken and Quinoa Casserole from This Gal Cooks



Use chicken thighs (cut into 1” cubes) in this recipe instead of shrimp to (1) save money and (2) add variety since the fried rice contained shrimp. Also, use mozzarella cheese instead of fontina for the same reasons. To microwave the broccoli for the side, put it in a microwave safe container, add approximately 1” of water, cover loosely and microwave until al dente; about 3-4 minutes. Top with salt, pepper, Spike, or whatever seasonings your heart desires.

Just a tip…


Freeze leftover tomato paste by the tablespoon full on a parchment paper lined plate, transfer to a freezer bag when completely frozen, and use as you normally would allow some extra time to defrost. You’ll never waste tomato paste again!

Friday: night out with friends or a fridge clean out of any leftovers!

Here is your grocery list for these meals with the modifications listed:

Print here!


¨ 1” knob fresh ginger

¨ 5 cloves garlic

¨ ½ medium onion

¨ ¼ cup vertically sliced onion

¨ ½ cup chopped sweet onion

¨ 1 head cauliflower

¨ 8 oz sliced mushrooms

¨ Bean sprouts (optional for garnish)

¨ Cilantro (optional for garnish)

¨ 2 limes (optional for garnish)

¨ 1 red bell pepper

¨ 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or a sprinkling of dried)

¨ 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or a sprinkling of dried)

¨ 1 head kale

¨ 3 green onions

¨ 4 medium tomatoes

¨ 1 jalapeno

¨ 1 large head of broccoli


¨ 1 (12-oz) portion fresh pizza dough (or 1 ½ cup quinoa, 2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil to make two of your own gluten free crust – see recipe)

¨ 1 cup (4-oz) shredded fontina cheese

¨ 1 cup (4-oz) shredded mozzarella cheese

¨ 4 large eggs


¨ 2 tablespoons cornmeal (omit if making gluten free pizza crust)

¨ 1 ½ cups short grain brown rice

¨ ¼ cup peanuts, crushed

Canned and Packaged

¨ 1 (15-oz) can coconut milk

¨ 1 tablespoon tomato paste


¨ 4 tablespoons peanut butter

¨ 1-1 ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper

¨ 1 tablespoon honey

¨ 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari to make gluten free)

¨ 8-10 oz brown rice or whole wheat spaghetti

¨ 6 ½ tablespoons olive oil

¨ 4 tablespoons of your favorite salad dressing (or the ingredients to make your own)

¨ 1 tablespoon red curry paste

¨ 1 tablespoon fish sauce, soy sauce or tamari

¨ ½ tablespoon brown sugar

¨ 3 tablespoons cooking oil

¨ 2 ½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning

¨ Salt and pepper

Meat and Seafood

¨ 2 (6-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

¨ 1 (4-oz) bulk sweet Italian sausage

¨ 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

¨ ¾ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs


¨ ½ cup frozen shelled edamame (optional)

¨ 2 cups frozen peas and carrots


Just a reminder to follow me on Pinterest for regular meal planning ideas! Enjoy!

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Rice Cooker Paella

I wish I knew how many things you can make in a rice cooker when I was living in the dorms in college. All you need is an electrical outlet and you can sauté vegetables, make breakfast porridge, cakes, breads, risotto, and frittatas. Consider your mind blown! That is if you didn’t already know this.


I love using my rice cooker, because I can set it and forget it as it automatically switches to “warm” when it is done. Mine is particularly awesome because it has a delay timer, so I can set it up with rice and water in the morning and it will be ready and warm when I get home at 6:00 pm. Lately, I have been using my rice cooker to make more exciting things like Mexican rice and this delicious Spanish style Paella inspired by Jenna at Eat, Live, Run.


Rice Cooker Paella

Serves 6 | Recipe by Lauren Larson inspired by Eat, Live, Run | Print here!

Prep time: 40 minutes | Cook time: 50-60 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 yellow onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red bell pepper diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons oregano

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1 bay leaf

1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 ½ cups short grain brown rice

1 pound chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

½ pound bulk chorizo sausage

1-14.5 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

½ cup frozen peas

½ cup sliced black olives

Frank’s hot sauce (optional)

Freshly chopped parsley (optional)

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in rice cooker on “cook”, “sauté then cook”, or other appropriate setting for your rice cooker. Add onion and bell peppers, and sauté until soft; about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant; 30-60 seconds. Stir in smoke paprika, oregano, salt, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and bay leaf. Add diced tomatoes, broth, and rice; stir to combine. Close lid on rice cooker and set on appropriate setting to cook rice for at least the length of time listed on the package of rice you used.
  2. About 10 minutes before the rice is finished, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken thighs and sausage and cook until well browned and cooked through; about 8-10 minutes. Stir chicken and sausage into rice cooker.
  3. Add artichoke hearts, peas, and black olives. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
  4. Serve topped with hot sauce and freshly chopped parsley if desired.


A couple notes about the recipe…the smoked paprika is KEY for a smoky flavor. Shrimp would also be great in this dish, but we always get a little weirded out by leftover shrimp. You could always omit the meat if you would like too.

Do you have a rice cooker? If so, what is your favorite use for it?

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