British macaroni cheese

Adapted from Great British Chefs and British Food History

Ingredients:

  • 30 g plain flour 
  • 30 g butter 
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 400 ml hot full-fat milk 
  • 6g of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 200-250 g macaroni 
  • 1 slice stale bread 
  • ½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves, or ¼ tsp fried rosemary (optional) 
  • 225 g Stilton cheese, grated 
  • 200 g Gruyere or Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 30g of Parmesan
  • Pinch of Cayenne pepper or 20g of Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly-milled black pepper
  • 15 basil leaves

Directions:

  1. Start by cooking some pasta of your choice in a pan of boiling water. Once cooked, strain the pasta and set aside
  2. Place 50 mL milk into a pan over a low-medium heat and add the thyme and bay. Bring up to a warm heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place a separate pan over a low heat and add the 4 tbsp. butter and 4 cloves of garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add the flour. Heat for for 2-3 minutes and stir constantly so the mixture comes together. –> Béchamel sauce
  4. Strain the milk, thyme and bay mixture so that you are just left with the infused milk. Gradually (over 5 minutes) add the infused milk to the other pan and stir with a wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer
  5. Take the pan off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Add the cheese, mustard, basil and pasta to the pan and then pour the contents of the pan into a casserole dish. Cover with some extra cheese and place in the oven at 180°C for 20 minutes (I prefer stovetop because I haven’t a baking dish currently).
  6. Remove the dish from the oven, divide the macaroni cheese into 4 portions and serve immediately.

My grandmother gave me a box of instant mac and cheese from her senior citizen community center (before the pandemic lockdown). Of course I didn’t want to eat that stuff straight, so I thought I would try to dress it up with some caramelized onions, garlic, herbs, and whatever else I might find in the pantry.

~Jessica

Starbucks cheese & fruit protein box

Adapted from Damn Delicious. Prepares 4 meals

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. sharp two-year aged Cheddar cheese, cubed
  • 4 oz. of Brie wedge
  • 4 oz. of Gouda
  • 2 Braeburn apples, washed and halved (I cut carrot wedges)
  • 2 cups of grapes, washed (I used 20 grape tomatoes)
  • 4 Ozery Bakery Morning Round Pita Breads, or 20 nine-grain crackers
  • 1 cup Hummus, divided (saved for next time, I need little cups!)
  • fresh lemon juice, optional for apple slices (I had hard-boiled eggs)

Directions:

  1. Place fruit, carrot, celery, apple, peanut butter, cheese and pita bread into meal prep containers.

The only fruit I’m fond of are berries, and since they’re not in season, I subbed with vegetables. Grape tomatoes instead of grapes. Carrots instead of apples. I added elements of my other favorite protein boxes, like the PB&J and the hard-boiled egg (although I want to see if I can get good enough to make soft-boiled eggs!) Instead of Brie and gouda, I used Havarti (on sale at WF) and Queso Oaxaca cheese and Dubliner Cheese wedges and leftover Longhorn (Colby) Cheddar.

365 Multigrain Bread $3.39
Roth Original Havarti cheese $2.99
365 Grape Tomatoes 1 pint $2.49
2 Organic Loose Carrots $0.62
Total $9.49

~Jessica

Starbucks-copy PB&J protein box

Adapted from Platings and Pairings. Prepares 4 meals.

Ingredients:

  • 8 tbsp (32 g) Peanut butter (I find almond butter less tasty)
  • 4 tbsp (16 g) Bonne Maman mixed berry preserves
  • 4 Whole-wheat whole Grain Bread slices / 1 Whole Wheat Pita halved
  • 4 string Cheeses (or 4 oz. of mixed cheeses, like I did!)
  • 40 mixed Nuts (optional)
  • 4 Mandarin oranges
  • 20 Grape Tomatoes
  • 20 Baby Carrots
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch sticks
  • 2 Bell Peppers, cut into 1/2-inch sticks (optional)
  • 24 Cucumber slices (optional)

Directions:

  1. PB&J the sandwich thins, then slice in half. Cut the carrots / celery to bite size. Add the rest of the ingredients.

Please ignore the actual Starbucks fruit & nut packs in the photos, I just saved them since forever and wanted to use them up. ^_^ I tried the cucumber slices previously but they would retain so much moisture and get everything soggy. Same problem with hummus without having a cupcake paper or something to hold its viscous mass.

Costs:
3 lbs. Mandarins $5.99
Oaxaca cheese $4.99
Queso de Papa $1.99
Arnold Sandwich Thins $4.29
Grape Tomatoes $2.50
Carrots and Celery, sliced $2.21

$21.97 plus leftovers

~Jessica

Starbucks-copy eggs & cheese protein box

According to No. 2 Pencil and Simply Recipes. Prepares 4 meals

Ingredients:

  • 8 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled 
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz. white Cheddar cheese
  • 4 Mandarin oranges
  • 20 Baby Carrots
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch sticks
  • Honey-Roasted Peanut Butter, portioned into 2 ounce containers
  • 8 multi-grain flatbread sandwich thins, cut in quarters (multigrain muesli bread)

Directions:

  1. Cover the eggs in a saucepan with water: Fill a saucepan about a quarter of the way with water. Place the eggs in a single layer at the bottom of the saucepan. Add more water so that the eggs are covered by at least an inch or two of water. 6 eggs should be covered by at least an inch, 7 to 12 eggs, 2 inches.
  2. Heat the pot on high heat and bring the water to a full rolling boil. add in 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  3. Turn off the heat, keep the pan on the hot burner, cover, and let sit for 10-12 minutes.
  4. Strain the water from the pan and run cold / ice water over the eggs to cool them quickly and stop them from cooking further.
  5. Brush apple slices lightly with fresh lemon juice to prevent browning if desired. Alternatively, keep the slices face down and pressed together prevent browning as well.
  6. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Assemble four protein bistro boxes and store refrigerated.
Before I added the peanut butter and smoked almonds

Eggs should be eaten within 5 days. I’m not a big fruit person, so I go cucumbers, carrots, and celery with pesto hummus. I did manage to find sandwich thins (Arnold) by some miracle. My first attempt, I decided to just try hard-boiling four eggs, to see if I could do it right. Next time, I will get a bigger pot or pan, and cook all eight eggs at once so I can meal prep for four lunches at a time. Teacher hack ^_^ This would look pretty with some red bell pepper, if they were in season and cheaper.

Carrots/Celery $1.99
Extra sharp cheddar $2.69
Gouda cheese $4.99
Arnold Thins $4.29
Esti pesto hummus $3.79
Cucumber $0.80
Green bell pepper $1.93
Dozen brown eggs $2.99

Total $23.47 for two ‘weeks’ worth of protein boxes (8 boxes)

~Jessica

Tex-Mex chicken burrito (bowl)

Adapted from Mexican Please and My Latina Table

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup pico de gallo or fresh salsa (I chopped a Roma tomato and Vidalia onion to make one quick)
  • 1 14-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6-7 chicken thighs, seasoned, baked, shredded
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 burrito-size flour tortillas
  • 1 1/3 cups cooked white rice, warmed
  • 1 1/3 cups shredded Monterrey jack cheese (I used mozzarella and cheddar)
  • Guacamole, for serving (whenever possible)
  • sour cream

For the Guajillo Salsa:

  • 3 Tomatoes
  • 1/4 Onion (white)
  • 2 cloves garlic (large)
  • 1/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/4 cup Chicken Stock
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika

For the baked Mexican chicken:

  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 juice of 1 lime (about 3 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 white onion, sliced (substituted from jalapeno — baby can’t handle too spicy)
  • 6-7 chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (I used peanut oil)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup pico de gallo and peppers if you have on hand (we didn’t); cook until the mixture starts to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add the beans and 3/4 cup water; bring to a low boil, then stir in the chicken and cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and season with salt.
  2. Heat the tortillas as the label directs. Arrange the rice horizontally in the lower half of each tortilla, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border on all sides. Top evenly with the cheese, chicken mixture, sour cream and the remaining pico de gallo.
  3. Fold the bottom edge of each tortilla snugly over the filling, tuck in the sides and roll up tightly. Cut the burritos in half and serve with guacamole.

For the Guajillo Salsa:

  1. Roast the tomatoes, onions, and garlic together on a frying pan until slightly browned. 
  2. Put the tomatoes, onions, and garlic into a blender with the spices, the chicken stock, and the whipping cream and blend until smooth. (No blender, hence the orange sauce with tomato and onion you see in the photo — great topping for leftovers!)

For the baked Mexican chicken:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, dried oregano, paprika, garlic powder, lime juice, olive oil, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, cilantro and sliced onions.
  2. Place chicken thighs in the bowl and toss marinade over thighs. Mix well together. Let the chicken marinade in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or overnight. (We did it promptly.)
  3. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Heat coconut oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken thighs skin side down and cook until skin begins to get crispy and slightly light brown, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Flip thighs over, transfer skillet to oven and bake for 10 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper to taste and garnish with more cilantro and onion slices if desired.

My sister Jennifer likes easy to make meals, as a mother of two. She had some chicken thighs defrosting in the fridge, ready to go, so I tried to go extra authentic Mexican on this Tex-Mex favorite. I used the spice mixture from Isabel Eats to bake the chicken 35 minutes. Next time I’ll make the arroz rojo properly. To make the Goya black beans, I followed the back of the can recipe. So really this was three separate recipes: the baked Mexican chicken, the Guajillo salsa, and the black beans. Not bad for Spring Break full on meal.

~Jessica

Triple grilled cheese

Adapted from Food Network and Wisconsin Cheese

IMG-20170501-WA0011.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 slices cheddar cheese
  • 2 slices Swiss cheese (can try smoked gouda)
  • 2 slices American cheese (I like goat Brie more)

Directions:

  1. Butter both sides of the bread. Add cheese to one side.
  2. Fry in pan until cheese melts on top.
  3. Put the slices together and fry a little more in the pan, flipping once.
  4. Serve hot.

A classic Grilled Cheese involves 1 slice of cheddar per bread slice. The first time I added muenster and crumbled goat cheese, garnished with a side of kale chips. (Because there was cheese in the fridge that needed to be used, if you know what I mean). Next time I will add more cheddar and a little less goat cheese (strong flavor overpowers the sandwich).

EDIT: Attempt #2 with updated recipe details. And eaten with the delectable spring vegetable soup (I added leeks!).

~Jessica