By Nancy Sweet, director, LLCC culinary program and operations
Home-delivery meal kits have become very popular. Whether you are a busy family with kids or just looking to try out new flavors or more healthful dishes, home meal kits can be an easy way to do this. These kits usually provide all the ingredients already portioned, step-by-step directions, and highly fresh, quality foods.
What’s nice is that these kits can persuade you to make things you might feel are too complicated or too fussy or contain certain ingredients that you may not be familiar with. Blue Apron (good for more adventurous eaters and cooks), HelloFresh (more nutritious-focused), Plated (easy but great tasting), and Purple Carrot (no animal-based products) are a few popular ones.
However, with these you do pay for the convenience (which can sometimes be very worth it). But with just a little extra planning and a well-stocked pantry, making something a little more upscale on a weekend night can be worth it. I’ve found a couple of tips that help me make this happen.
First, I plan my meals in advance to make shopping at the store easier. The second tip is that I really try to put my cookbooks to good use. I made a goal this year to cook at least four to five recipes from the same cookbook each month. That way I get to know that author’s viewpoint and language for cookbook writing. Plus, I feel like I get my money’s worth out of that cookbook.
Below are some recipes that have some “wow” factor, taste great, are not overly complicated, and use some ingredients that you might not use frequently. Enjoy!
Fennel and Orange Salad with Hazelnuts
*2 navel oranges or blood oranges
*1 large fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, cored, very thinly sliced crosswise
*1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion
*16 small fresh mint leaves, torn in half
*¼ cup Kalamata olives, sliced in half
¼ cup hazelnuts, chopped
*3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
*Salt and Pepper to taste
Cut peel and pith from oranges. Cut between membranes to release segments. While doing this, keep a bowl under the orange to collect any juices from it.
Toss orange segments, fennel, onion, mint, olives, leftover orange juice, and oil in large bowl to coat. Season salad generously to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer salad to platter. Garnish with hazelnuts and serve.
This is a great side dish served with any of the below recipes.
*1/2 cup quick cook bulgur (Bob’s Red Mill is a good brand)
*1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
*½ cup Kalamata olives, diced
*1 medium cucumber, diced
*½ large or 1 small red onion, diced
*2 tablespoons mint, chopped
*2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
*juice of 1 lemon
*1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
*Salt and pepper, to taste
In a small pan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Stir in bulgur and season with a pinch of salt. Let boil for about 1 minute. Turn off heat and let sit about 15 minutes to absorb water. Fluff with a fork when done and transfer to a medium sized mixing bowl.
Add tomato, olives, cucumber, onion, and herbs to bulgur and stir. Stir in lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Finish with feta cheese if you like.
Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt Tahini Sauce
*6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
*1 tablespoons tahini paste
*2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
*1 tablespoon olive oil
*1 garlic clove, minced
*1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
For Eggplant and Peppers
*1 medium eggplant, sliced into strips
*2 red bell peppers, quartered
*1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
*Salt and Pepper
*1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Toss eggplant and peppers with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet; the eggplant strips should be skin side down and the bell peppers skin side up.
Bake at 375° F (200° C) 30 minutes, or until the vegetable strips are soft and the bell peppers are slightly charred.
Sprinkle sesame seeds over the hot vegetable and top with tahini/yogurt sauce.
Other vegetables are good roasted like this: sweet potato strips, cauliflower florets and green beans.
Mediterranean Sweet Potatoes with Chickpeas
Serve with the Yogurt Tahini Sauce from the above recipe if you like. Feel free to add fresh or dried dill, too.)
*4 medium sweet potatoes
*1, 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
*1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
*1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander, cinnamon, smoked (or regular) paprika
*1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
*1/4 cup chopped parsley, minced
*Juice of 1 lemon
*S and P
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil.
Rinse and scrub potatoes and cut in half length wise.
Toss rinsed and drained chickpeas with about ½ TBS olive oil and spices (cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika) and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Rub the sweet potatoes with a bit of olive oil and place flesh side down on the same baking sheet or a separate one if you need more room. Roast potatoes and chickpeas about 25 minutes – until chickpeas are golden brown and potatoes cooked through.
While that is roasting, combine tomatoes with parsley and lemon juice. Let marinate while potatoes roast.
When potatoes are done, serve flesh-side up and smash down the insides a little bit. Then top with chickpeas and parsley-tomato garnish. Also serve with the Yogurt Tahini sauce if you like.
Seared Salmon with Salsa Verde
*1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
*Juice of 1 lemon
*1 teaspoon lemon zest
*4 cups fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley (from about 2 large bunches)
*¼ cup walnuts
*1 garlic clove
*2 anchovy fillets
*2 tsp Dijon mustard
*1 to 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil (approximate)
*4, 5 oz salmon filets
*1 TBS olive oil
*S and P
For Salsa Verde add vinegar, lemon juice and zest, parsley, walnuts, garlic, anchovy fillets, and mustard to food processor. Process until fairly broke down. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while processor is running. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.
To cook salmon, heat a pan (Cast iron or non-stick) over high. Add oil and let oil heat up. Season both side of salmon with salt and pepper. Add salmon to pan and let sear on one side about 2 -3 minutes. Turn and let sear another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Salmon should be about medium at this point. If you prefer you salmon cooked through, finish in 400 degree oven for about 3 more minutes. Serve with sauce.
Grilled Pork Skewers with Romesco Sauce
*1/2 cup dry white wine
*1/2 cup olive oil
*8 garlic cloves, minced
*1 tablespoon kosher salt
*1/2 tablespoon sugar
*1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
*1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
*2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
*1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
*2 pounds trimmed pork butt/shoulder, cut into 1′ cubes
*1 cup roasted red peppers
*2 garlic cloves, smashed
*½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
*1 slice white bread, crusts removed, cubed, and toasted
*¼ cup crushed or diced tomatoes
*2 tablespoons fresh parsley
*2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
*2 teaspoons smoked paprika
*½ teaspoon cayenne
*½ cup olive oil
*Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For pork, combine all ingredients except pork and whisk together. Add pork and toss to coat. Cover and chill, tossing occasionally, for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Heat grill to high. Thread pork onto skewers. Grill pork, turning every couple minutes, until pork is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Serve with Romesco Sauce.
For Romesco sauce, place peppers, garlic, toasted almonds and bread, tomatoes, parsley, vinegar, paprika, and cayenne in bowl of food processor. Process until fairly pureed. Slowly add olive oil. Taste for seasoning.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts