Truth: I cook all of the meals that I eat during the week on the weekend. Yes. Each Sunday morning, there’s a crumpled and crotchety old piece of notebook paper set atop my kitchen counter with a list of dinners that are previously decided delicious. And there I am, standing in my two-day-worn jammies, hair a hot mess, cooking and singing a little too wildly. ‘Smiling, Crazy-Eyed Fool,’ if we were to name the scene.
Usually at the start of the weekend, I ask Daniel to think about foods that he’s craving and meals that sound appealing. I ask him to consider meals involving x, y, and z items that are on sale this week. It’s generally along the lines of me shouting from my perch on the kitchen counter, store circular and scissors in hand, “Chicken! Ice Cream! That rye bread you like! Toothpaste!!!”
The enthusiasm and decibel of my voice are often unnecessary. That much I admit.
Then, Daniel mulls it all over and returns a cool thirty minutes later with a list resembling, “waffle sundaes, chicken fingers and french fries, eggplant parmesan subs, and popcorn shrimp!”
I smile, nod, thank him for his thoughts.
By the time he’s left the room, cheery and so proud of his contributions, I have already mind erased and begun a new list. Largely because I don’t want Chuck E. Cheese to feel I’m copying their menu.
But really, Daniel does give valid suggestions much of the time. I admit that they always sound fabulous on paper, the kinds of things I’d eat with reckless abandon if I wasn’t worried about sugar and trans fat related diseases down the line. Or my blog credibility. And mostly, waffle sundaes and chicken fingers can be modified and merged into substantial, more legitimate meals like: oven-fried chicken and whole grain waffles or baked buffalo chicken tenders.
It’s a fun game we play. Take party food and turn it proper.
Once I have a hand written list of five or so meals that jive with not only our cravings but our current budget (and the question of, ‘Is this blogworthy?!’), I head to the grocery store and buy the ingredients. I come home, a little on edge, sporting a sweat mustache, because the market never treats me or my wallet as kindly as I’d like.
And then, on Sunday, I roll up my pajama sleeves, because God knows I haven’t gotten dressed in two days, pump up the jams in my kitchen, and set about making a meal for each weeknight. Generally, I make four servings per recipe because then Daniel and I have some pretty fabulous leftovers for lunch. And because somewhere along my path in life, I convinced myself I was one of The Duggars.
The beauty of it all is that I begin the week prepped and peppy. I have a fridge packed with dinners and tupperware-contained lunches that really do excite me, if not thrill me a little disconcertingly. I feel on top of it all.
People tell me that the trouble they find with weekly menu plans, or make ahead meals, is that they don’t end up wanting what they’ve made on a given night. Well here’s the thing to keep in mind: If you have five weeknights to eat them, and five dinners that sound delicious at the onset of the week, just swap them around as you like. I have a hunch that if those five meals made your mouth water at one point, they can do that again. Do not, repeat: Do not!, simply make meals that sound super duper healthy and like foods you “should be eating” just for the sake of setting up a week of strict, clean eating. This almost always backfires. You never end up wanting the boiled chicken and blanched green beans. They sit, cold, sad, and unappetizing, in your fridge.
Think about foods you actually salivate over, modify them in the healthiest ways you can, and make those.
You will not regret eating a meal that once sounded good. And the truth of it all is: talk to me at 6:45pm on Tuesday night when you’ve just walked through the door from work and are hungry. You’ll be happier to have a homemade dinner than you’ll be sad to have it pre-planned. Trust me.
This is also why it’s important to plan meals that are fun and interesting and to try new recipes all the time. I come home most nights at 6:30 rather giddy to dig into the fun dish I’ve planned.
This chicken is one such dish. The easiest chicken cordon bleu my mind can conjure.
It’s almost so simple I can’t prescribe a recipe. It’s almost so tasty you’d assume it to be a million calories, give or take a trillion.
Tender and juicy chicken breast. Smooth and creamy whole milk provolone cheese. Smoked ham. Extra virgin olive oil. Paper-thin slices of lemon. Salt. Pepper. Hunger.
It’s easy. It’s not fussy in the slightest. It requires so few ingredients and comes together in no time at all. The result is moist chicken infused with the brightness of lemon and filled with hot ham and melting, creamy cheese. I imagine you could fill the chicken cutlets with anything you like. Give it a try for a fast, easy, and super healthy meal.
Directions for two:
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Butterfly a thick, 8 ounce chicken breast.
Cut that butterflied breast into two pieces along the seam that holds the two breast halves together. Imagine it as an open book and cut along the spine. Now you have two thin cutlets.
Lay a slice of ham and then a slice of provolone cheese on each cutlet. You may want to tear the cheese and fold the ham so that they do not extend beyond the cutlet, because they’ll just melt or burn in the oven.
Fold each cutlet over to almost seal the ham and cheese inside. Brush the tops and sides of the stuffed chicken cutlets with olive oil. Sprinkle very generously with salt and pepper.
Cut two thin rounds of lemon and place one on each chicken bundle.
Bake for 17-20 minutes.
Top each baked, stuffed chicken breast with minced fresh parsley to really enhance the fresh flavors.