The Ardent Prep: Ground Turkey, Quinoa, and Zucchini

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone celebrating the moms and guardians in their life. If you’re like me, I’ve always used cooking as a form of gift-giving. Why not impress mom with a week’s worth of easy dinners, starting right now! If you’re new to the concept of this meal prep series, I recommend taking a look at the original post from the very first ‘The Ardent Prep’ linked here: The Ardent Prep: Chicken, Rice, and Caramelized Onions . This will explain the basics and method that I use for prepping, then you can head back here to get started.

This particular series is centered around ground turkey (per ALL of your requests), quinoa, and zucchini. The prep day is very basic, and the meals themselves are nothing short of delicious. This grocery list is a bit longer than the last series, but I’m venturing to guess that you already have many of the ingredients in your pantries and therefore won’t need to buy them. The recipes you’ll be making are as follows: Herby Vegetarian Quinoa Salad, Barbecue Turkey Quinoa Burgers with Zucchini and Burst Tomatoes, and Buffalo Stuffed Zucchini Boats.

The first recipe is a Meatless Monday edition, and it’s probably my favorite in the entire series. The quinoa packs a filling, high-protein punch and the mediterranean flavors are right up my alley. If you’ve never tried dates, you’re sooooo missing out. However, if you can’t find them or don’t feel like trying, raisins or dried apricots would be an equally flavorful alternative!

The second recipe is a twist on a classic turkey burger. My hope for this recipe (which makes four large burgers), is that you eat them one night during the week, and save the others for an all-out burger night on the weekend (I’m talking oven fries, special sauce, pickles, go BIG). I love this burger because it pairs my favorite combination of sweet and savory. The burgers themselves are mixed with your favorite barbecue sauce, and the sharp cheddar is the perfect compliment. For a twist, I also include a slice of apple, which acts as that crunchy bit that you might get from a piece of fresh lettuce. The apple with the cheddar is unreal.

Finally, the third recipe, which is the favorite in my household… Buffalo Stuffed Zucchini Boats are everything you’re dreaming of and more. Tender zucchini is hollowed-out and filled with a creamy, spicy ground turkey filling, baked until crisp and golden, and topped with more hot sauce (and ranch dressing, if you’re me). These are Jeff’s favorite, and a close second for me. I love that they feel indulgent and fun, but healthy at the same time.

Now, let’s get back to that Prep Day!

Grocery List

Meat:

2lbs ground turkey

Produce:

9 medium zucchini

1 apple, such as honey-crisp

2 medium shallots

3 garlic cloves

1 handful mint, finely chopped

1 handful parsley, finely chopped

1 package cherry tomatoes, on the vine if desired

Dairy:

4 slices sharp cheddar cheese

⅓ cup mayo (or plain, full fat greek yogurt)

Pantry:

1.5 cups quinoa (Dry)

3 TBSP barbecue sauce, plus more for serving (your choice)

1/4 cup hot sauce, plus more if desired (such as Frank’s or Texas Pete’s)

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2-3TBSP flour

1 tsp ground cumin

¾ tsp onion powder

¼ cup Medjool dates (or raisins)

1 TBSP honey

Olive oil, for cooking

Bakery:

4 hamburger buns

Prep Day Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cook 1.5 cups (dry) quinoa according to package instructions.
  3. Cut 3 zucchini in half, length-wise. On a large, rimmed sheet tray greased with olive oil, lay zucchini cut-side-down and bake for 12 minutes. The zucchini will start to “sweat”, but will still be firm. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  4. Dice the remaining 6 zucchini into 1-inch cubes and place on a rimmed sheet tray or in a large glass baking dish. Coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes or so, until the zucchini is caramelized and brown on the edges. If there is still a considerable amount of liquid on the sheet tray after 30 minutes, continue to bake, checking regularly, until the majority of the liquid has evaporated. Every oven is different, but you are aiming for golden-brown.
  5. While the zucchini bake, brown 1lb of the ground turkey in a large skillet. Feel free to add a pinch of salt and pepper, but do not season otherwise. Keep the other 1lb in the package, raw, and store in the fridge.
  6. If you are proceeding with one of the meals, follow instructions in those recipes, linked below. Otherwise, follow these instructions for storage of the prepped ingredients:
  7. Place halved, par-baked zucchini in a large container. In two separate containers, divide the cubed, roasted zucchini evenly. Store the ground turkey in another container. You may store the quinoa in one large container, however keep in mind that 1/4 cup is needed for the Buffalo Stuffed Zucchini Boats, 1/2 cup is needed for the Barbecue Turkey Quinoa Burgers, and the remaining is needed for the Herby Vegetarian Quinoa Salad. You can feel free to divide those portions ahead of time, or just keep it all together.

Herby Vegetarian Quinoa Salad

Barbecue Turkey Quinoa Burgers with Zucchini and Burst Tomatoes

Buffalo Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Creamy Everything Scalloped Potatoes with Lemony Pesto

You. Guys. I literally tested this recipe THIS MORNING and had to share it same day because it’s that good. I grew up eating traditional scalloped potatoes, sometimes with ham, and of course they were delicious. What could be better than potatoes and cheese? Um, I think I found my answer.

The monotonous, traditional scalloped potatoes (or potatoes Au Gratin) get jazzed up with the addition of fresh thyme, garlic, and everything bagel seasoning. Traditionally, this dish incorporates both gruyere and parmesan cheeses, however in this recipe I chose not to add the parmesan. The nutty, creamy gruyere, which is normally balanced by the tangy parmesan, is instead complimented by the bright lemony pesto, and I didn’t feel that the parmesan was needed. If you want to add it, go for it.

This dish comes together in about 15 minutes, and the majority of the cook time is spent in the oven. You start by slicing Russet potatoes (or other starchy variety) and shallots into 1/8-1/4 inch rounds. You want to take care to slice the pieces as close in size as possible, so they all cook at the same time. Once sliced, just layer the potatoes and shallots in your glass baking dish and cover with the delicious cheese sauce.

The lemony pesto could not be easier- simply mix 1/4 cup of your favorite store-bought pesto with the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon. The brightness will blow you away! I also love to spoon this pesto over avocado toast, pasta, fish or chicken, and homemade pizza. The opportunities are endless, and I know this will be a summer staple condiment for me.

The weather is warming up, but the nights are still cool and begging for a soul-warming dish to be eaten out on the patio with your favorite sweater on. I’ll be having these potatoes tonight, alongside pan-roasted chicken breasts and crispy broccoli. Probably with a glass of Pinot Grigio too, because, well you know. I hope you enjoy this refreshing take on a classic as much as I do. If you make this recipe, don’t forget to share a photo and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Ingredients

1.5lbs Russet potatoes 

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded

1 TBSP flour

2 TBSP butter, plus more for greasing

1 ½ cups milk 

½ cups shredded gruyere

1 TBSP everything bagel seasoning

¼ cup basil pesto

Zest and juice of ½ lemon 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8×12 or 9×13 inch glass baking dish with butter.
  2. Slice potatoes into ⅛-¼ inch pieces. Peel and slice shallot crosswise and separate the layers into rounds. Mince garlic cloves. 
  3. Place a layer of potatoes followed by a layer of shallots and repeat until the baking dish is full. Set aside.
  4. In a medium skillet, melt 2 TBSP butter over medium heat. Stir in minced garlic and thyme leaves. Allow to cook for a minute or so, until fragrant. 
  5. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Allow the flour and butter mixture to cook for 2 minutes or so, until thick and bubbling. 
  6. Add milk and stir constantly until the entire mixture has thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add cheese and stir until just melted. Remove from heat and stir in everything bagel seasoning. Taste for additional salt and add accordingly. 
  7. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes, using the back of a spoon to smooth it over the top evenly. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. 
  8. While the potatoes bake, make the Lemony Pesto. Combine ¼ cup of your favorite store-bought basil pesto, juice of ½ lemon, and fresh lemon zest. Stir to combine.
  9. When the time’s up, remove foil and broil the potatoes 1-2 minutes, until the top is browned to your liking. Spoon Lemony Pesto over the top and sprinkle with additional everything bagel seasoning, if desired. Serve immediately for dinner alongside your favorite protein and vegetable. 

Easy Fridge Pickles, Three Ways

I love pickled anything- cucumbers, carrots, red onions, beets, beans, etc. You name it and I will eat it pickled. I’ve spent years of my life buying and trying new pickle brands, and have my favorite store-bought varieties like any other pickle fan. A few years ago, though, I set out to find a recipe for homemade pickles that didn’t require canning. I ended up finding a super simple one that didn’t offer much guidance in terms of the aromatics to incorporate, and ultimately left me with sour, flavorless pickles.

Experimentation and a trip down the spice aisle at the grocery store was all I needed to figure out what spices lended themselves to delicious pickle varieties… and I’m not just talking about cucumbers. If you’ve never tasted a pickled green bean, you haven’t LIVED.

This recipe breaks down the three major components to a good pickle- the brine, the vegetables, and the aromatics. Once you’ve got the first two down, you can mix and match all sorts of spices and additions that will give you truly unique pickled vegetables. I have included three of my favorite recipes: Spicy Cardamom Carrots, Oregano Green Beans, and Garlic Peppercorn Sour Dills. However, don’t let my personal flavor opinions stop you from trying the veggies and aromatics that you love. Other veggies to pickle include okra, tomatoes, garlic cloves, onions, peppers, etc. Great aromatic additions to try include fresh or dried chili pepper varieties, horseradish (great with carrots!), fresh herbs like dill or rosemary, and other whole spices not listed in my recipe such as fennel seed, cumin seed, bay leaves, etc. You can also find pre-mixed “pickling spice” in most major grocery stores that will give you a nice, one-stop-shop, versatile blend. The opportunities are endless!

This is a really fun project for kids and adults that requires little-to-no effort. I hope you love these fridge pickles as much as I do! If you make them, don’t forget to share and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Ingredients

For the Brine:

4 cups white vinegar

4 cups water

3.5 TBSP salt

2 TBSP sugar

For the Pickles

Small pickling cucumbers, halved lengthwise (enough to fill a jar)

Carrots, sliced into matchsticks (enough to fill a jar)

Green beans (enough to fill a jar)

For the Aromatics

Whole garlic cloves, peeled

Whole mustard seed

Whole coriander seed

Whole black peppercorns

Cardamom pods, lightly crushed

Crushed red pepper flakes or small, whole chili pepper

Ground turmeric, if bright green color is desired

Fresh oregano sprigs

Instructions

Make Brine:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil and allow the mixture to cook for 1-2 minutes at a rolling boil.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Set aside while you assemble jars.

For the Spicy Cardamom Carrots

  1. Blanch matchstick carrots in boiling water, uncovered, for 1-2 minutes. Transfer immediately to an ice bath to stop cooking.
  2. When cool enough to handle, arrange carrots upright in a medium-large jar with a tight-fitting lid. I love to use old, store-bought pickle jars that have been washed.
  3. To the jar with the carrots, add 2 whole garlic cloves, ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes or 1 fresh chili pepper, ¼ tsp whole mustard seed, ¼ tsp whole coriander seed, a few whole black peppercorns, and 5-6 whole cardamom pods.
  4. Cover with brine- it’s okay if the brine is still hot.
  5. Allow jar to cool on the counter for at least 1 hour. Lid the jar and let cure in the fridge for at least 24 hours, but the longer the better.

For the Oregano Green Beans

  1. Blanch green beans in boiling water, uncovered, for 1-2 minutes. Transfer immediately to an ice bath to stop cooking.
  2. When cool enough to handle, arrange beans upright in a medium-large jar with a tight-fitting lid. I love to use old, store-bought pickle jars that have been washed.
  3. To the jar with the beans, add 2 whole garlic cloves, ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes or 1 fresh chili pepper, ¼ tsp whole mustard seed, ¼ tsp whole coriander seed, a few whole black peppercorns, and 1-2 sprigs fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried).
  4. Cover with brine- it’s okay if the brine is still hot.
  5. Allow jar to cool on the counter for at least 1 hour. Lid the jar and let cure in the fridge for at least 24 hours, but the longer the better.

For the Garlic Peppercorn Sour Dills

  1. Arrange raw cucumbers upright in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. I love to use old, store-bought pickle jars that have been washed.
  2. To the jar with the cukes, add 3 whole garlic cloves, ¼ tsp whole mustard seed, ¼ tsp whole coriander seed, a few whole black peppercorns, ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes or 1 fresh chili pepper (for spicy pickles, or feel free to omit). If you desire that bright, neon green color characteristic of store-bought pickles, feel free to add 1/8 tsp ground turmeric before adding brine.
  3. Cover with brine- it’s okay if the brine is still hot.
  4. Allow jar to cool on the counter for at least 1 hour. Lid the jar and let cure in the fridge for at least 24 hours, but the longer the better.

Gluten-Free Strawberry & Pineapple Crumble Bars

The more I do this, the more I notice that some of my better recipes are born out of complete chance. Take these bars for example, which were created out of a lack of almond flour. I set out to develop these bars as a gluten-free dessert option, which I have gotten a lot of requests for after releasing my Sour Cream & Cheddar Biscuits and Double Chocolate Scones, both of which are very much not gluten free.

I wanted to incorporate a mix of almond flour and a gluten free one-to-one baking blend, but realized halfway through adding ingredients to my bowl that I only had half the amount of almond flour I had planned on using. Insert: walnuts and a high-speed blender. I just eyeballed the amount of walnut halves I thought would make roughly ½ cup and pulsed them until they resembled coarse flour.

In retrospect, I think any nut flour would work in this recipe, with the exception of coconut flour. Coconut flour is a whole different beast, absorbs liquid at insane rates, and simply won’t work in this recipe. Other than that, feel free to get creative with your nuts in this crust. Macadamia, walnut, almond, maybe even pecan would all probably taste delicious and offer similar effects when combined with the gluten-free flour blend.

As far as fruit filling goes, I personally love the combination of fresh spring strawberries with the pineapple. I happened to have a ton of frozen pineapple and fresh berries that were on the verge of going bad, and the combination ended up being exactly what I was looking for. Sweet, with a hint of tropical, and a little vibrance from the freshly-squeezed lemon…. Yum! This recipe is versatile in that you can use whatever fruit you want, and it can be frozen, fresh, or a mixture of the two. Totally up to you, as long as the amounts remain the same (2.5 cups fruit, total).

In the realm of desserts, this one is pretty healthy, but definitely not shy in the flavor or satisfaction departments. I hope you enjoy this one, and don’t forget to share and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Ingredients

For The Crust:

½ cup almond flour

½ cup ground walnuts (see recipe notes above)

1.5 cup gluten free flour blend (use a cup-for-cup option)

⅓ cup coconut sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp almond extract

11 TBSP butter, cold

½ tsp cinnamon

For The Filling:

1.5 cups strawberries, crushed or cut into smaller pieces

1 cup pineapple, crushed or cut into smaller pieces

¼ cup coconut sugar

4 TBSP fresh lemon juice (about ½ lemon)

1 TBSP gluten free flour blend 

Instructions

  1. Cube cold butter into ½ in cubes.
  2. Combine almond flour, ground walnuts, gluten free flour blend, coconut sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Whisk to combine. 
  3. Using your fingers, work butter into the flour mixture until it is broken down and incorporated. The dough will look coarse and crumby. 
  4. Add eggs and fold to combine, creating a moist dough. Gather dough into a ball and cover with a damp paper towel or dish towel. Chill for at least 30 minutes
  5. While the dough chills, make the filling. Combine fruit, coconut sugar, lemon juice, salt, and gluten free flour blend in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  6. Bring filling to a boil, then simmer for another 5-7 minutes, until thickened. Transfer to a  bowl and cool in the fridge while you bake the bottom layer of crust. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide chilled dough in half. Using your fingertips, press the first ½ of the dough into the bottom of a 7×11 inch glass baking dish lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes. 
  8. When the first layer of dough is finished baking, add the cooled fruit filling on top. Crumble the remaining ½ of the dough on top of the filling in an even layer. Bake the entire pan for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown. 
  9. Let bars cool completely before slicing. Serve as is or with a side of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Bolognese

Bolognese is one of my favorite Italian dishes. The creamy, slow-simmered, and caramelized flavors offer the perfect balance of comfort food, elevated. I know that the entire concept of this vegetarian recipe is sort of sacrilegious, in that bolognese is literally a sauce made from meat. But you’ve got to trust me, this recipe is delicious!!

I chose to use white wine in this recipe rather than the traditional red wine. I felt that it really complimented the mushrooms, and overall lends to a more subtle flavor profile that a robust red wine would overtake. If you only have red, it will totally work, so don’t fret. But the white is really great in this case.

The mirepoix, a mixture of onion, celery, and carrot which is a foundational ingredient combo that originated in French cooking, is chopped using a food processor or high-speed blender to mimic the size and texture of ground beef pieces. The same technique applies to the mushrooms. If you don’t have a food-processor or blender, you can definitely achieve a similar texture chopping by hand, although it will take more time.

A few notes about the aromatics- the mirepoix and garlic in this recipe are mandatory in my opinion. You can get away without the bay leaf or nutmeg, however they do add dimension to the recipe, especially the nutmeg! I was the lucky recipient of a hand-me-down fresh nutmeg grinder from my Dad, which is why I call for fresh nutmeg in this recipe. You can find the whole spices at many grocery stores, but you may have better luck at bulk, specialty spice stores. If you find whole nutmeg and don’t have a fancy-dancy grinder like me, you can also grate it on a microplane. Or, just ignore me and use the pre-ground stuff.

This recipe is truly unique, and I really enjoy the mushrooms as a meatless alternative to a classic dish. I hope you love this riff on an old favorite, and if you make it, share your photos and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Ingredients

2 TBSP olive oil, plus more

1 3.5oz container cremini mushrooms 

2 celery stalks

1 medium yellow onion

1 medium carrot

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup dry white wine 

1 6oz can tomato paste

1 Bay leaf 

Fresh nutmeg, a few turns 

2 cups vegetable stock 

⅔ cup heavy cream

⅓ cup pecorino romano, or similar cheese, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper, to taste

1lb short, holed pasta, such as rigatoni or penne, cooked Al dente

Instructions

  1. Make your mirepoix. In a food processor, pulse celery, onion, and carrot until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, then pulse mushrooms separately, until they are coarsely chopped, resembling the texture of ground beef. Transfer to another bowl. 
  2. In a Dutch oven or large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. When the oil shimmers, add mushrooms, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently. When mushrooms appear soft and some of their moisture has evaporated, push them to the outsides of the pot in a circle, leaving space in the middle clear. 
  3. Add mirepoix (celery, onion, and carrot mixture) to the clear space in the center of the mushrooms. Saute mirepoix for 4-5 minutes over the center of the pan, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until onions appear translucent and some of the moisture has sweat out of the mixture. Add garlic and stir for an additional minute. 
  4. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook for 3 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated and it no longer has a pungent alcohol smell. Add entire can of tomato paste and stir to incorporate. 
  5. Add nutmeg, bay leaf, and another pinch of salt and pepper. Then add vegetable stock and heavy cream. Cook on low heat for at least 1.5 hours, if not longer. The liquid will reduce significantly and the sauce will become thicker and richer. Taste as you go and add salt and pepper as desired. 
  6. Once sauce reaches the desired thickness, stir in grated pecorino Romano and another swirl of olive oil. Serve over pasta immediately and enjoy with additional pecorino on top! 

Grain-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cookie-Bread

I truly had no clue what to title this recipe when I tested it…..correction: I still have no clue. It’s kind of like a giant skillet cookie, but it also reminds me deeply of banana bread laced with creamy peanut butter and melty chocolate. Alas, it’s now called “Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cookie-Bread.”

Despite the trouble in titling this dessert, I had ABSOLUTELY no trouble devouring it. It comes together in one bowl and can be baked in either your favorite cast-iron skillet or in a 9-inch round cake pan. It’s also super versatile when it comes to the add-ins. I used peanut butter, chocolate chips, and chopped toasted walnuts, but you could really use any combination of nut butters, nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate and it would taste delicious.

Per some requests to create gluten-free recipes, this cookie-bread relies on almond flour as its base. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t sub out any other flour variety in this case, as I found little success testing those. Another *important* note: this cookie-bread was tested using 2 whole eggs as well as 1 egg and 1 egg yolk. The two-egg version yielded a lighter, “bread-y” consistency (similar to banana bread), while the one-egg-one-egg-yolk version was slightly denser and gave off a gooey cookie vibe. Both were delicious, and it’s totally personal preference here. If you’re curious, the difference lies primarily in the fat-to-protein ratio, in that the two-egg version has a higher protein content from the extra egg white, while the egg yolk version has a higher fat content due to removing the egg white (egg yolks are primarily lipids). I love food science, so there’s your lesson for the day. If you wanted to test this protein/fat theory, you could sub the one egg yolk in that version for 1 TBSP of your choice fat (like butter or more coconut oil), and it would likely show similar results. But hey- I didn’t test that out, so don’t quote me.

Anyhow, make this recipe!! It’s honestly healthy enough to eat for breakfast. Or slathered with extra peanut butter, warmed in the microwave, and covered up entirely by a massive scoop of ice cream. But that’s just me.

As always, if you make this recipe, don’t forget to share it and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Ingredients

2 eggs (or 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, see recipe notes above)

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

⅓ cup salted creamy peanut butter (use natural for best texture)

⅓ cup coconut sugar 

2 TBSP coconut oil or ghee, melted, plus more for greasing pan

1 ¾ cups almond flour

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

½ – ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

⅓ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or round cake pan with coconut oil.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine mashed bananas, eggs, peanut butter, melted coconut oil, and coconut sugar. Whisk to combine.
  3. Add almond flour, baking soda, and cinnamon, and stir to combine. Batter will be moist but not overly wet or runny.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts, and pour batter into skillet.
  5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until middle is set and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cookie-bread comes out clean.
  6. Serve warm with a dollop of extra peanut butter and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

The Ardent Prep: Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat Cheese Bowls with Homemade Balsamic Glaze

This is the third recipe in The Ardent Prep series “Chicken, Rice, and Caramelized Onions.” To visit the original blog post, click here. To see the other two recipes in this meal prep series, click the links at the bottom of this page. I hope you enjoy this delicious and easy recipe!

Ingredients

Remaining prepped rice

Remaining 1/3 prepped chicken

Remaining 1/2 prepped caramelized onions

1-2 heads kale

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 16oz bottle Balsamic vinegar

1 4oz log goat cheese, crumbled

Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. In a medium skillet, pour entire bottle of balsamic vinegar and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook until liquid amount has reduced by two-thirds and the vinegar is thick, resembling a glaze, approximately 12 minutes. The liquid should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside.
  2. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop the leaves. In a medium skillet, saute garlic in 1 TBSP olive oil until fragrant. Add kale and stir to coat in the olive oil and garlic mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, and cook until kale is wilted.
  3. Assemble the bowls. Add rice to the bottom of a bowl and top with sliced chicken, caramelized onions, and the sauteed kale. Top with goat cheese crumbles and drizzle with balsamic glaze.
  4. Store remaining balsamic glaze in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Drizzle over roasted vegetables, use as salad dressing, or enjoy as a topping on pizza. Enjoy!

Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet

Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry

The Ardent Prep: Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry

This is the second recipe in The Ardent Prep series “Chicken, Rice, and Caramelized Onions.” To visit the original blog post, click here. To see the other two recipes in this meal prep series, click the links at the bottom of this page. Note that there are no caramelized onions used in this recipe. The onions are used in the other two meals. I hope you enjoy this delicious and easy recipe!

Ingredients

2.5 cups prepped rice

Approximately 1/3 prepped chicken breast, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated

1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 16oz can full-fat coconut milk

1-2 heads broccoli, cut into florets

Cilantro and lime wedges, if desired, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a medium skillet, heat 1 TBSP olive or coconut oil over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add garlic, ginger, and jalapeno*. Saute until fragrant, approximately 2 minutes.
  2. Add turmeric and stir to coat the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno mixture. Allow the spice to “bloom” by cooking it in the hot pan for about 30 seconds. Then, add entire can of coconut milk.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, until slightly thickened and glossy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In a separate pot, steam broccoli florets, approximately 6 minutes or until tender.
  5. Assemble bowls. Add rice to the bottom of a bowl and top with sliced chicken and steamed broccoli. Spoon curry sauce over the top of the bowls, using as much or as little as you like. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges, if desired. Recipe will yield about 3 adult-sized bowls.

*for added heat in this recipe, leave seeds in jalapeno. Alternatively, add crushed red pepper flakes or a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste.

Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet

Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat Cheese Bowls with Homemade Balsamic Glaze

The Ardent Prep: Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet

This is the first recipe in The Ardent Prep series “Chicken, Rice, and Caramelized Onions.” To visit the original blog post, click here. To see the other two recipes in this meal prep series, click the links at the bottom of this page. I hope you enjoy this delicious and easy recipe!

Ingredients

2.5 cups prepped rice

Approximately 1/3 prepped chicken breast, cubed or shredded

Approximately 1/2 prepped caramelized onions

2 bell peppers, any color, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, grated or minced

1/4 pound American Cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 TBSP olive oil over medium heat. Add peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and slightly browned, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute, until fragrant.
  3. To the skillet with the peppers and garlic, add rice, chicken, and caramelized onions. Fold ingredients together and spread into an even layer in the skillet. Taste for salt and pepper, and add accordingly.
  4. Cover rice mixture with sliced American cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and slightly golden. Enjoy!

Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry

Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat Cheese Bowls with Homemade Balsamic Glaze

The Ardent Prep: Chicken, Rice, and Caramelized Onions

Happy Easter everyone! I’m spending today with endless cups of coffee, a nature walk, and a free spiral-cut ham that we got on rewards from the grocery store (no shame here). One of the positives of this quarantine for me has been the opportunity to fully immerse myself in Spring and all that this season has to offer. I think Spring is often overlooked because of our desires to get out of the cold weather and move directly into summer, but it’s really one of my favorite seasons! I’m thankful for the opportunity to slow down a bit and watch the flowers bloom.

This meal prep series was inspired by feedback I got from you all on Instagram. The concept was to take a “base”, in this case chicken and rice, and come up with 3-4 quick, easy ways that you could change up that base throughout the week. While most of us do have more time now that we’re home, I think there is also a pressure to be even more productive than we would normally be in the office, and therefore meals get overlooked in exchange for a quick snack while you mute yourself on a conference call. The idea of this meal prep series is that you spend 30 minutes or so prepping your base, then an additional 15-20 minutes for each meal. I visualized a schedule that goes something like this:

Sunday: Prep base ingredients. Store in containers in fridge.

Monday: Make Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet for dinner. Store leftovers for lunch next day.

Tuesday: Make Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry for dinner. Store leftovers for lunch next day.

Wednesday: Leftovers, if any.

Thursday: Make Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat Cheese Bowls with Homemade Balsamic Glaze. Store leftovers for lunch next day.

Friday: Leftovers, if any.

Alternatively, you could do your prep and make a meal all in one shot in the kitchen. It really just depends how you want to make this plan work for you. I will say that this isn’t a comprehensive, feed-your-entire-family-for-a-week meal plan. This is basic. You get roughly 2-3 adult-sized portions per meal, and if you live with boys, good luck making it last. However, if you live alone or with one other person, this is a pretty decent way to feed yourselves using simple, healthy ingredients with minimal effort during the work week. You can always feel free to bulk up these recipes even more by adding additional sides of vegetables or another side dish. The point of this recipe series if to provide a framework that is digestible, delicious, and open for interpretation!

The grocery list is provided to be used at the beginning of the week, with the assumption that you already have a few staples like olive oil, salt, pepper, and butter. You can certainly feel free to swap out any vegetables you don’t like, change up your protein, or use a grain alternative instead of the rice. Be mindful that your final product should be about 8 cups of whatever rice or rice alternative you are using, so take that into account when making a swap there! Seafood would be excellent in the Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry or the Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat cheese bowls, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a swap for the Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet. Make this recipe your own and don’t be afraid to swap something interesting!

I hope you enjoy the first installment of The Ardent Prep. If this concept is well-received, I would love to make this a regular occurrence on the blog. Your feedback is always appreciated, and I’ve been loving seeing all of your recipe photos. It means the world! If you decide to make any of these recipes, don’t forget to share and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Grocery List

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

1 knob fresh ginger, approximately 1 inch

1 head of garlic

1-2 large sweet onions 

2 Bell peppers, any color

1 medium jalapeno pepper

1-2 heads of broccoli

1-2 heads kale

¼ pound sliced White American cheese

1 4oz log Goat cheese

1 16oz can full-fat coconut milk

White rice (4 cups dry)

1 16oz bottle Balsamic vinegar 

Ground turmeric

Prep Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, and pepper until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately 30 minutes.
  2. Cook rice according to package instructions. If using a grain alternative, be sure that your final products yields close to 8 cups. Each recipe calls for approximately 2.5 cups of rice, give or take.
  3. While chicken and rice cook, melt 1 TBSP butter or other cooking fat in a medium skillet. Finely slice onion crosswise and add to the skillet along with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat onions in the butter, and saute over low heat until onions are slightly golden and resemble a jammy consistency, at least 20 minutes. Be careful not to cook onions any higher than low heat, at the risk of burning them.
  4. If choosing to make one of the meals at this point, continue with instructions for those recipes, linked below. Otherwise, store all ingredients in separate containers in the fridge and use according to recipe instructions throughout the week. Enjoy!

Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet

Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry

Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat Cheese Bowls with Homemade Balsamic Glaze