Weekly Meal Planning 101 (Hint: it’s really not that complicated!)

I’ve been on a blog post hiatus for quite some time now, between figuring out my new career path, working on home renovations, and making up for a year’s worth of missed-out-on social plans. I’m thrilled to finally have a second to catch my breath and sit down to write this post.

I get asked CONSTANTLY how I meal plan for the week. It can be incredibly overwhelming and I used to spend hours doing it, but not anymore. My good friend (and soon to be roommate in literally 5 days) introduced me to her method a while ago and I’ve never looked back- it’s that foolproof.

The outline is simple. Plan for Monday-Friday of meals, with leftovers being eaten the next day for lunch. We keep breakfast simple at my house with smoothies every weekday and some kind of egg situation on the weekends, but you could also build that in to your plan if you so choose. As far as the content of the meals, the method is to choose plant-forward recipes daily, alternating between meat-based and vegetarian recipes, as well as keeping in mind carb sources day-to-day. For example, if Monday night’s dinner was chicken, rice, and vegetables, that means you’re eating rice (a high-starch carb) and chicken (a meat-based protein) for lunch Tuesday, so the subsequent dinner should be vegetarian and include little-to-no high-starch carbs. Then, Wednesday’s lunch becomes vegetarian/low-starch carb, followed by a heartier meat and carb dinner the following night. Does this cycle make sense? You can interchange these components however you wish, just keeping in mind the overall cycle.

The purpose for reducing high-starch carbs is NOT because we’re following any specific fad diet or counting macros, etc. It’s partly to make sure that the bulk of our nutrients are coming from whole plants, and it (indirectly) helps with weight management; the more veggie sources on my plate, the less room there is for calorie-dense high-starch carbs, and therefore the less calories in the overall meal. Again, just to reiterate, I’m NOT concerned with calories at all, but it’s a nice added benefit to this way of eating. The main takeaway: the purpose of this style of meal planning is to focus on the quality, not the quantity, of food on my plate daily. Hope that’s helpful! For more info on this, I highly recommend Dr. Mark Hyman for all things regenerative, plant-forward eating and functional-medicine-based nutrition. He’s got a great podcast, as well as a plethora of books on the topic.

There’s one caveat, and that is that my boyfriend, Jeff, prefers a more meat-heavy diet overall. I don’t have an opinion either way, so usually we have 1 (max 2) vegetarian meals per week, and the majority do contain a sustainably-sourced meat or seafood from our Butcher Box subscription. We do try to stick to the high-starch carb alternating, mentioned above, as much as possible though!

Now that you’ve read my word vomit and completely opinion-based view on nutrition as a whole (I’m not a doctor!), are you ready to see a sample meal plan? Let’s go!

Doing the Research

I always start my meal planning by visiting my favorite chef and food blogger’s pages to see what new recipes they’ve come out with in the last week. It’s a great way to try new foods, incorporate veggies you’ve never cooked before, and support creators! I love Pinch of Yum, The Modern Proper, Half Baked Harvest, Molly Baz, Carolina Gelen, and What’s Gaby Cooking, to name a few. I also like to incorporate my own recipes into the week, especially if I’m developing a new recipe and need to test it.

Next, I search the websites of the aforementioned bloggers and chefs and enter keywords based on what I’m looking for that week. This is a great way to find recipes based on what you ALREADY have in your fridge, like that lone head of cabbage you impulse bought at the farmer’s market and need to use up. Once I’ve found 1-2 vegetarian recipes and 2-3 meat-based recipes, I arrange them into the weekly schedule based on the cycle I discussed above.

Making the Meal Plan

Want a pro tip? Write down your meal plan either in a note on your phone or a spreadsheet on your computer, then copy and paste the recipe links (or note the page number from a cookbook) directly into the document. That way, when you’re ready to make dinner, you aren’t scrambling trying to find the recipe you intended to make. Here’s what that might look like:

Monday: The Modern Proper Lemongrass Chicken Thighs, Brown Rice, Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad, Steamed Broccoli (meat-based, high-starch carb source from rice)

Tuesday: Cast-iron steaks with crispy roasted asparagus and simple green salad (meat-based, no high-starch carb source)

Wednesday: Pinch of Yum Chipotle Tahini Bowls (vegetarian, high-starch carb sources from quinoa and sweet potato)

Thursday: The Ardent Cook Honeydew and Feta Summer Salad with Grilled Pork Tenderloin (meat-based, no high-starch carb source)

Friday: The Ardent Cook Hidden Veggie Sloppy Joe’s with simple green salad (meat-based, high-starch carb source from the buns)

The above meal plan contains a huge array of vegetables, sustainably-sourced meat-based proteins, a variety of high-starch complex carbs, and an array of flavor profiles so you never feel bored and genuinely look forward to dinner and lunch leftovers each day. I’d also like to point out that YES, as a food blogger, I am constantly making other food blogger’s recipes! Support creators, people.

To Conclude

In conclusion, a simple formula, 20 minutes spent looking up yummy recipes on the internet and in cookbooks, and a little copying and pasting of recipe links gets you a delicious and FOOLPROOF plan for your weekly meals. Once I’ve written everything out, I’ll make a list based on what I need for each recipe. It makes my grocery shopping so much more streamlined because I’m never guessing as to whether or not I’ll use an ingredient. This method limits spending, reduces food waste, contributes to my health and the health of my partner, and makes me feel accomplished knowing that I’m feeding myself and Jeff a delicious and nutrient-dense meal every night. I hope this helps you take control of your own meal planning, discover new recipes, and lower your stress when it comes to figuring out what’s for dinner each night!

Warm Spring Veggie and Wild Rice Salad

This salad is so good!!!!!! I can’t use enough exclamation marks to convey how delish it is. Picture your favorite spring veggies (which can totally be subbed out based on what you have at home), loads of fresh herbs, warm and fluffy wild rice, and an easy homemade lemon vinaigrette drizzled over top. It doesn’t get much better than that, in my opinion.

This dish is hearty enough to be a vegetarian main for lunch or dinner, or serve it with a protein of your choice, such as grilled chicken or broiled salmon. It’s great for meal prep, too! If meal prepping, I like to pack it with an extra wedge of lemon to give it a bright pop just before eating. Let’s make it!

Ingredients needed to make Warm Spring Veggie and Wild Rice Salad

You’ll need a few cups of cooked wild rice and a boat load of veggies to make this salad. I’ve listed the ones I used for this recipe (also the ones I believe taste the best), but don’t be afraid to substitute, omit, or embellish as desired. No veggie is a bad veggie in this salad. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Wild rice blend
  • Radishes
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Shelled english peas
  • Scallions
  • Fresh dill
  • Fresh parsley
  • Fresh mint
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Honey
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

That’s really it! It sounds like a lot of ingredients, but the nice part is that most of them are found in the same area of the grocery store. So, you won’t have to do a lot of searching while shopping.

Tools used to make Warm Spring Veggie and Wild Rice Salad

I love this dish because it uses so few tools to pull together. I love batch cooking a grain on Sunday to use throughout the week ahead, so you could easily do that here! My favorite method for cooking wild rice* is as follows: combine 1 cup wild rice blend with 2 cups water or broth in the bowl of your Instant Pot, then cook at high pressure for 30 minutes. Let the Instant Pot naturally release the pressure and you’ll have perfectly fluffy (and hands-off) wild rice! Then, to make this a “warm” salad, I simply heat the rice over the stove or in the microwave before adding the other ingredients. You could do that, or just make your rice right before preparing the dish. Either option works.

If you cook your wild rice ahead of time, then your equipment list is literally this short:

If you cook your wild rice just before making this dish, you’ll need to add either an Instant Pot or a pot with a lid to your equipment list, as well as a dry measuring cup. Pretty simple stuff!

How to make Warm Spring Veggie and Wild Rice Salad

You’ll begin by cooking your rice, either in the Instant Pot or over the stove according to package directions. If using the Instant Pot, see above for my favorite method for cooking it*.

While the rice cooks, prepare the vegetables. Slice, dice, chop, mince, etc. and add it all to a bowl. To make the lemon vinaigrette, combine the juice of one lemon, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tbsp honey, salt, and black pepper and whisk until emulsified.

When the rice is done, add ~2 cups cooked rice to the bowl with the prepared veggies and herbs. Add the dressing and toss thoroughly, seasoning with additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm or chilled!

Looking for other salad ideas?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar

Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

Warm Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Recipe Ingredients

1 cup dry wild rice blend

2 cups water or broth

3-5 small radishes, very thinly sliced or cut on mandoline

1 medium carrot, very thinly sliced or cut on mandoline

1 medium English cucumber, quartered then sliced

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 cup shelled English peas, blanched

1 cup mixed herbs, minced (I used parsley, dill, and mint- but anything works!)

1 lemon, juiced

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tbsp honey

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Make the wild rice. Combine wild rice and water or broth in a pot and cook according to package instructions. If using Instant Pot, cook on high pressure for 30 minutes, allow natural pressure release, then fluff with a fork.
  2. Prepare the vegetables. Slice radishes, carrot, cucumber, and scallions. Mince the herbs. Blanch the peas by boiling them in water until they just start to float (about 2 minutes), then drain and immediately rinse with very cold water. Add all the veggies to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Make the lemon vinaigrette. Combine juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper. Whisk until emulsified.
  4. Once the rice is done, add ~2 cups cooked wild rice to the mixing bowl with the prepared veggies and herbs. Pour the lemon vinaigrette all over and mix very thoroughly.
  5. Season again with salt and pepper, and enjoy warm or serve chilled later.

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Orange Glazed Pork Tenderloin

I absolutely love pork, but it’s gotten a bad rap over the last few years as regenerative and sustainable meat production has grown in popularity and large-scale pork producers continue utilizing worst-practice methods of raising animals. Luckily, I’ve been able to source some delicious cuts of pork from local farms, natural markets in my area, and meat delivery services such as Butcher Box.

If you feel lost, I’d encourage you to do a quick web search of local meat purveyors in your area! Many local farmers have begun selling their products to stores in their area, so you may not have to travel far to get your hands on delicious, local, regeneratively-raised pork, perfect for making these Orange-Glazed Pork Tenderloins!

A quick glaze of fresh orange juice, honey, mustard, and loads of herbs is the perfect accompaniment to oven roasted pork. I hope you enjoy this recipe just as much as I do!

Ingredients needed to make Orange Glazed Pork Tenderloin

To make this delicious pork, you’ll need the following ingredients:

For the Pork

  • Pork tenderloins
  • Avocado oil
  • Salt
  • Fresh thyme
  • Ground ginger
  • Fresh garlic
  • Black pepper

For the Orange Glaze

  • Navel oranges
  • Honey
  • Dijon mustard
  • Water
  • Tapioca or cornstarch
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Tools used to make Orange Glazed Pork Tenderloin

This pork recipe is easy to make and requires just a few kitchen basics. You’ll need the following items:

That’s it! In case you’re missing one of these items, I’ve linked to a few of the products I have in my own kitchen that never fail me.

How to make Orange Glazed Pork Tenderloin

I love this pork dish because you can sort of “set it and forget it,” as with most things you cook in the oven. It’s no-fuss and the glaze is delicious. You’ll start by combining a few ingredients to make a basic rub for the pork. Slather that on, add to your baking dish, and bake the pork until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the pork roasts, you’ll make the glaze. Combine all the ingredients except the orange zest into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the glaze bubbles. Turn the heat down and allow the glaze to bubble for 1-2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Remove the herb bundle and stir in the orange zest.

When the pork reaches temperature, pull it out and brush (or spoon) a layer of glaze over the pork. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, but watch it carefully- it can burn easily!

Let the pork rest at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before slicing, and enjoy!

Looking for other easy main courses?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Pork Chile Verde

Harissa Chicken Thighs

Mediterranean Grilled Strip Steak

Recipe Ingredients

For the Pork

2 pork tenderloins, each about 1.25lbs (usually two come in a pack)

1 tbsp avocado oil

1 tsp salt

6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only 

½ tsp ground ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

Black pepper 

For the Glaze

Juice of 4 navel oranges, approximately 1 cup

Zest of 1 navel orange

¼ cup honey

2 tbsp dijon mustard

¼ cup water

1 tsp tapioca starch (or cornstarch) 

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes 

3 thyme sprigs 

2 rosemary sprigs 

Salt, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish or rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Combine the salt, fresh thyme leaves, ground ginger, minced garlic, and black pepper. Rub the pork tenderloins with the avocado oil, then evenly coat in the spice blend. Roast for approximately 20 minutes, pausing after about 15 minutes to add a layer of glaze (see below*)
  3. Meanwhile, make the glaze. Combine all glaze ingredients except for the orange zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then lower the heat and let simmer for 1-2 minutes until thickened.
  4. At about 15 minutes* into the pork cooking time, remove from the oven and brush with the glaze. Return to the oven and cook for an additional 5 minutes or so, until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit. To finish, brush with one more coat of glaze and place pork under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until slightly caramelized.
  5. Let the pork rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Serve with additional glaze and enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Hidden Veggie Sloppy Joe’s

Man is this recipe good. I almost cringed writing the title because I really hate the idea of “hidden veggie” anything, but I felt like the world needed to know just how versatile and nutrient-packed these SJ’s are. Whether you’re cooking for picky kiddos or just trying to add a bit more vegetables into your dinner, I’ve got you covered with this one-pan wonder of a meal.

Ingredients needed to make Hidden Veggie Sloppy Joe’s

This recipe makes a large amount of SJ filling. It calls for two pounds of ground beef, plus a large portion of food-processed veggies that leaves you with enough for 6-8 servings. I created this recipe on the larger side on purpose, firstly because Jeff eats the equivalent of two adult portions in one sitting and secondly because this recipe works wonderfully for meal prep. The leftovers keep for a solid 5 days in the fridge and it’s incredibly versatile. I serve it over buns, cauliflower rice, mashed potatoes, scooped up with chips, or even eaten with a spoon as-is. If you don’t need this much sloppy joe action in your life, just half the recipe! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Grass-fed ground beef
  • Zucchini
  • Red bell pepper
  • Mushrooms, any variety
  • Yellow onion
  • Garlic
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Canned tomato paste
  • Maple syrup
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hamburger buns, for serving

You may be wondering, can you:

  1. use ground chicken or turkey, instead? Yes! Since ground poultry is leaner than ground beef, I would add two Tbsp cooking oil per pound of meat
  2. substitute other veggies in your kitchen for the ones listed in this recipe? Yes! I have made these using cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, different varieties of mushrooms, hot peppers instead of bell peppers for extra heat, and fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Use what you have and what you like, just keep the amounts the same.
  3. omit the sweetener? Yes, but I would be aware that traditional sloppy joe’s are on the sweeter side. Omitting the sweetener will leave you with more of a chunky Italian meat sauce rather than a sweet sloppy joe flavor. You can, on the other hand, sub out the maple syrup for whatever you’ve got on hand- honey, agave nectar, or other forms of sweetener.
  4. use beef that isn’t grass-fed? Absolutely! Grass-fed is my preference for a multitude of reasons, but regular beef is just fine.

Tools used to make Hidden-Veggie Sloppy Joes

I love this meal for easy, weeknight-friendly meal prep. It comes together in one large skillet or pot, making for easy clean up. You’ll need just five pieces of equipment for this recipe, which are as follows:

How to make Hidden-Veggie Sloppy Joes

As mentioned above, this recipe can happen rather quickly, making it perfect for weeknights. It’s also very kid friendly, if that’s something you’re looking for in the kitchen. I don’t yet have kids, but I can imagine the joy on their faces while helping food process all the veggies in this recipe. Every kid loves to push the button, ya know?

You’ll start by processing all the vegetables in the food processor. You may need to work in batches, because an over-crowded food processor can lead to some veggies being pureed and some being too large. We’re looking for everything to be a nice, uniform mince that is similar in size to pieces of cooked ground beef. Once everything is processed, set it aside.

Brown the ground beef in your large skillet or pot. While the beef cooks, you can measure out the remaining ingredients.

Once the beef has browned, add the minced veggies and let everything cook together for 10-15 minutes, until all the water from the veggies has cooked out. Then, add the remaining ingredients to create the sauce. At this point, the sauce can be done after just 10 minutes. However, if you want even more developed flavor, you can let it go over very low for a few hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so. If I’m making this on a lazy Sunday, I’ll often opt for the longer route, but both options taste delicious!

Serve the sloppy joe’s over whatever your heart desires. Traditionally, they’re served on hamburger buns. I’ve also been known to eat it over rice or cauliflower rice, mashed potatoes, or even as-is with a spoon. Jeff loves to dip tortilla chips into the filling, like a sweeter version of chili on chips. Go for it!

Looking for other veggie-packed recipes?

Try these ideas from The Ardent Cook!

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

Chicken and Dumplings

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Recipe Ingredients

2lbs grass-fed ground beef

1 large zucchini, minced

2 medium carrots, minced

1 red bell pepper, minced

4oz baby bella mushrooms, minced

½ yellow onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

28oz can crushed tomatoes

6oz can tomato paste

¼ cup maple syrup

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 Tbsp worcestershire sauce 

Salt and pepper, to taste

Hamburger buns, for serving (optional)

Recipe Instructions

  1. Process or very finely mince the zucchini, carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Set aside. 
  2. In a very large skillet, brown the ground beef. Season with salt and pepper,
  3. Add the minced veggies and stir everything together thoroughly. Season again with salt and pepper. Let the mixture cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until most of the water from the vegetables has cooked out.
  4. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Let the mixture come to a boil, then simmer an additional 10 minutes to let the flavors meld together. 
  5. Adjust salt and pepper as needed, and serve over hamburger buns for a traditional sloppy joe. Alternatively, serve over rice, cauliflower rice, or mashed potatoes for a fun twist. Leftovers keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

Another great transitional recipe for those weird days between winter and spring, this creamy risotto-style dish is loaded with vegetables. It’s still warm and comforting, but the overall light feeling of the dish gives a nod towards warmer days ahead. I absolutely love it and I hope you do too!

Ingredients needed to make Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

The ingredients are straightforward and veggie-heavy. A few notes on substitutions- I prefer using ground chicken in this recipe, but you could use turkey as well. If using frozen cauliflower rice, it may take longer to rid the pan of liquid before adding the goat cheese, as described below. I find fresh riced cauliflower in the refrigerated produce section in most grocery stores, and generally prefer it to frozen riced cauliflower! Here’s the list of everything you’ll need:

For the meatballs:

  • Olive oil
  • Ground chicken
  • Fresh garlic
  • Roasted red peppers, jarred
  • Fresh or dried oregano
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

For the risotto:

  • Grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Olive oil
  • Riced cauliflower
  • Shallot or yellow onion
  • Roasted red peppers, jarred
  • Tuscan kale
  • Chicken broth
  • Goat cheese
  • Whole milk or unsweetened dairy-free milk
  • Flour or tapioca starch, if gluten-free
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Tools used to make Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

This is a wonderful meal to make on a weeknight because it’s made using just one large skillet! I prefer using a deeper skillet to make sure there’s enough room in the pan for everything, but you could also use a large Dutch oven if you prefer. Here’s a complete list of equipment for your convenience:

  • Large, deep skillet (at least 12 inches) or large Dutch oven
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Tongs
  • Stirring utensil, such as a wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • #40 (1 1/2 Tbsp) cookie scoop, optional

How to make Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

As always before beginning a recipe, make sure to read the entire recipe through. Part of stress-free cooking is taking time to do this simple step, as well as chopping and measuring everything that needs to be chopped and measured before you even turn on a burner. If you do those two tasks, I guarantee you’ll feel better tackling whatever recipe you land on, not just including ones I’ve written.

You’ll start by mixing the meatballs and forming them into balls. I like to use a cookie scoop to ensure all of my meatballs are the same size, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have one. You can eyeball them, keeping in mind the recommended size for these meatballs is about 1 1/2 tablespoons per ball.

Once formed, cook the meatballs over medium heat. You’ll need to work in at least two, if not three, batches to ensure your meatballs get a nice browning and don’t just steam from a crowded pan. When a recipe says work in batches, it’s for a reason more than just slowing you down!

After all of the meatballs have cooked, set them aside. In the same skillet you cooked the meatballs, lower the heat slightly and add the butter and olive oil. Stir in the riced cauliflower and scrape up any meatball bits from the bottom of the pan, which are going to add a ton of flavor to this risotto!

After the cauliflower has cooked for 1-2 minutes, add the garlic, onion, roasted red peppers, and chicken broth, then cover and cook for 5-7 minutes until the cauliflower has become tender.

At this point, you’ll remove the lid and check for liquid in the skillet. You can also add the kale at this point. We want to let as much of the liquid evaporate as possible before adding the cheese and milk, which is what gives this dish that “risotto” feeling. To do this, simply continue cooking the cauliflower, uncovered, over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated. Note: If using frozen riced cauliflower, there may be more liquid. Plan to increase the time needed to reduce the liquid.

Next, we’ll make a “slurry” of flour and milk. This is just a fancy way of saying we whisk flour into milk before adding to a hot pan. It helps the dish thicken and leaves us with a creamy “risotto” as the final product. If you’re dairy free, you can swap any unsweetened dairy milk you like. To make the dish gluten-free, as I often do, swap flour for tapioca starch or a gluten-free flour blend. Both options work! Once the slurry is made, add it to the cauliflower along with the goat cheese. Stir everything up until the goat cheese has melted and incorporated, and the whole dish is creamy.

Finally, you’ll stir in the lemon juice and crushed red pepper, then season again with salt and pepper to taste. Add the meatballs back into the skillet and serve hot!

Looking for other one-pan/one-pot recipes from The Ardent Cook?

Chicken and Dumplings

Wild Mushroom Farro with Parmesan and Microgreens

Potato, Leek, and Corn Chowder

Chicken with Nectarines and Crispy Prosciutto

Recipe Ingredients

For the meatballs 

2 tbsp olive oil

1lb ground chicken

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium roasted red pepper, finely diced, from a jar of roasted red bell peppers 

½ tsp dried oregano

A few shakes crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

For the “risotto”

Two tbsp grass-fed butter or ghee

1 tbsp olive oil 

Two 12-14oz bags fresh or frozen riced cauliflower 

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium shallot or small yellow onion, diced 

One 10-12oz jar roasted red peppers (minus the one used in the meatballs), drained and chopped

1 small bunch tuscan kale, stems removed and leaves very thinly sliced

½ cup chicken broth 

6oz goat cheese 

¾ cup whole milk or dairy free milk of choice

2 tsp flour, GF flour blend, or tapioca starch

Juice of ½ lemon

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients for the meatballs and mix well using your hands or a fork. Form into 1 1/2 tbsp-sized balls. Recipe makes about 15 meatballs, for reference.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook meatballs, flipping often to brown them on all sides, until cooked through, approximately 5-6 minutes. When all meatballs are cooked, set aside.
  3. Make the risotto. Lower the heat slightly and add the butter and olive oil. Add the riced cauliflower and scrape up any bits of meatballs from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper and let cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, onion, chopped roasted red peppers, and chicken broth. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender.
  5. Remove the lid and check for liquid in the pan. Continue cooking, uncovered, over medium heat until all of the liquid from the cauliflower has evaporated.
  6. While the liquid evaporates, vigorously whisk the flour into the milk to form a slurry. Once all the liquid has evaporated, stir in the goat cheese and the milk slurry and continue stirring until thickened.
  7. Stir in the lemon juice and crushed red pepper flakes. Season once more with salt and pepper to taste, add the meatballs back into the skillet to warm, then enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar

Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar is officially my segue into spring flavors. I love cold months so much, but one of the reasons I live where I do is for the distinct four seasons. If winter hadn’t already outstayed its welcome, it really made its place known with another unexpected, and pretty large, snow dump earlier this week. My car got stuck and I ended up staying late at work because I was literally trapped. Needless to say, I’ve had enough of winter.

Enter this celery salad and I was met with a little bit of joy in the otherwise cold and dreary days. It’s crisp, easy to pull together, and really adds an unexpected element to those heartier winter meals. I really love the balance in this salad!

This recipe was inspired by a favorite chef of mine, Joshua McFadden. His book, Six Seasons, is truly one of the most beautiful cookbooks I’ve ever read. Trust me- my collection is overflowing. In that cookbook, he has a recipe for a similar celery salad with dates, parmesan cheese, and various other delightful ingredients. This is basically a riff on that famous recipe. I took out the nuts that are present in his recipe and made the addition of za’atar in my recipe. I love nuts, but I found that we’ve been consuming a lot of them since adopting a gluten-free lifestyle. Whether its almond milk, almond flour, other nut flour blends, etc., it was just a lot of nuts. The za’atar is punchy and bright enough to stand up to the lemon in this dish, plus I just love the taste of it.

Nuts or not, this salad excels in every aspect. Read on for the how-to.

Ingredients needed to make Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar

To make this celery salad, you really need to get yourself some celery. I implore you to skip the pre-cut celery hearts at your store and instead grab a full-blown head of celery, with the leaves attached. Those little celery leaves are so delicious chopped up and added into this salad, plus it’s just one other way you can reduce your food waste in the kitchen. Save the leaves!

Here’s everything you’ll need:

  • Celery
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Golden raisins
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Za’atar spice blend
  • Sharp cheese, such as parmesan, aged provolone, pecorino romano
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Tools used to make Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar

This salad requires super minimal equipment. You’ll need a large cutting board, sharp knife, large mixing bowl, small mixing bowl, a whisk or fork, and measuring cups and spoons. Pretty simple!

How to make Celery Salad with Golden Raisins, Lemon, and Za’atar

To begin, combine the thinly sliced celery and leaves, torn romaine, and golden raisins in your large mixing bowl. I like to cut the celery on the bias to make it look pretty for serving, but you can cut it any way your heart pleases. I also like the rustic look of the torn romaine leaves, but you could roughly chop them if you must.

In the smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, za’atar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, stream the olive oil into the lemon juice mixture and keep whisking until a vinaigrette forms. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad, toss, and season once more with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving plate.

At the end, I’ll sometimes garnish with more golden raisins. Sometimes they sink to the bottom of the salad, and I like a few to be resting on top so folks know whats in the salad they’re about to eat. Finally, you’ll top it all with your shaved sharp cheese of choice. SO delicious!

Looking for other quick and fresh salads?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook

Harissa Chicken Chopped Salad

Harvest Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, and Golden Raisins

Broccoli Salad with Quick Homemade Ranch

Charred Corn Salad with Cumin Lime Vinaigrette

Recipe Ingredients

8-10 stalks celery, stalks thinly sliced, leaves roughly chopped

6 romaine leaves, torn

¼ cup golden raisins

Juice of 1 lemon

Scant ¼ cup olive oil

1 tsp za’atar 

2 oz sharp cheese, such as parmesan or aged provolone, shaved 

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Combine celery and leaves, torn romaine, and golden raisins in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a smaller mixing bowl, combine lemon juice, za’atar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, stream the olive oil into the lemon mixture and continue whisking until a vinaigrette forms.
  3. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette, season once more with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving bowl or plate.
  4. Top with the shaved cheese and additional golden raisins if desired. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

A Year of The Ardent Cook: Favorite Recipe Roundup

I woke up this morning to a complete shock: an annual charge had been pulled from my bank account for my domain name, which means that I’ve officially had this blog for an entire year! While the unexpected withdrawal hurt a little, I’m floored at how quickly a year has passed and how far this project of mine has come. Since The Ardent Cook’s inception, I’ve developed and shared over 100 recipes, gained hundreds of followers, failed while testing numerous recipes, and succeeded in creating a community for myself that I’m proud of. I wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of you as readers and followers, and I’m incredibly humbled by it all. Thank you for being here for the past year! I’m looking forward to many more together here at The Ardent Cook.

To celebrate, I’ve rounded up a list of my top 10 most favorite recipes from the past year. I hope this serves you well in your cooking endeavors, whether they be sharpening your skills in the kitchen, feeding a crowd, or serving a comforting dinner to your loved ones. Enjoy!

#10 Whipped Feta Dip

#9 Crispy Baked Buffalo Wings

#8 Blistered Green Beans with Garlic and Ginger

#7 Quick(er) Chicken Shawarma with White Sauce

#6 Warm Roasted Cauliflower Salad

#5 Favorite Roast Chicken

#4 Instant Pot French Onion Quinoa and Beef Stew

#3 Curried Pumpkin Chickpeas with Cucumber Raita

#2 Salted Raspberry-Swirled Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

#1 Brie-Stuffed Soft Pretzels with Rosemary Butter and Fig Mustard

Once again, thank you! Stay tuned for another year filled with delicious recipes for the home cook. Yum!

Miso Ginger Meatballs

Miso Ginger Meatballs are little bombs of umami flavor perfect for adding protein to any meal or serving as a delicious appetizer. Made using just 8 ingredients and baked in the air-fryer or oven, these meatballs are quick to whip up and great for meal prep, if that’s your thing. You may consider doubling the recipe if you’re feeding a larger family or adding them to lunches for the week, as this recipe makes approximately 15 meatballs.

Ingredients needed to make Miso Ginger Meatballs

As mentioned, you only need 8 ingredients to make these meatballs, and many of them are pantry staples. Here’s the list:

  • 85/15 grass-fed ground beef
  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh ginger
  • Soy sauce or tamari
  • Rice vinegar
  • White miso
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Scallions (optional, for serving)

Tools used to make Miso Ginger Meatballs

To make these meatballs, you’ll really only need a few kitchen tools. The mandatory items you’ll need are as follows: cutting board, sharp knife, measuring spoons, mixing bowl, and an air fryer OR rimmed baking sheet (if using oven method). If you’d like to make your life slightly easier, I’d also recommend a #40 cookie scoop (this fits about 1 1/2 tbsp) to make sure each meatball is the same size, as well as a microplane or citrus zester for grating the garlic and ginger. Both of those items are completely optional, however. That’s all you need to make delicious meatballs in no time!

How to make Miso Ginger Meatballs

This recipe is as simple as combining all the ingredients, shaping the meatballs, and baking. It’s really that easy. No eggs, no breadcrumbs, no fuss. There is one caveat, which is that you really should use 85/15 ground beef. The fat ratio is very important to achieving juicy meatballs without adding extra ingredients, so don’t go any leaner than that ratio. I beg!

If using an air-fryer, I like to line the basket with parchment and bake the meatballs in two batches so they get nice and crispy outside while staying juicy inside. Adding all the meatballs at once would make for a crowded air-fryer and soggy, not crispy meatballs. If using the oven method, it’s helpful to line the baking sheet with parchment to minimize sticking, but you could also just spray your pan very well to avoid this issue.

Once baked, I let them cool slightly before topping with scallions (and sometimes cilantro) and devouring. They’re so delicious!

Looking for other make-ahead recipes for meal prep and beyond?

Try these ideas from The Ardent Cook!

Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Celery Salsa

Instant Pot Lemongrass Pork Bowls

Harvest Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, and Golden Raisins

Recipe Ingredients

1lb 85/15 ground beef

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

½ inch piece ginger, minced or grated

1 tbsp soy sauce 

1 tsp rice vinegar

3 tbsp white miso

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

Scallions, optional, for serving

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the air-fryer or oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the air-fryer basket or sheet tray with parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients except scallions in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Using a #40 cookie scoop, or a large spoon, scoop approximately 1 1/2 tbsp of the meat mixture into your hands and roll to form a meatball. Repeat until all the meatballs are formed.
  3. If air-frying, bake the meatballs in two batches. Lower the temperature on the air-fryer to 390 and cook for 9 minutes, then repeat with the second batch.
  4. If baking, add the meatballs to the prepared sheet tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches at least 155 degrees and the meatballs are beginning to brown on the outside.
  5. Garnish with sliced scallions, if desired, and serve hot. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

When I saw that TikTok pasta trend with the baked feta and tomatoes, I knew I had to try it (and try to do it better). I think I succeeded with this delicious take on the viral dish, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. I swapped tomatoes for broccoli for a little green veggie overhaul (and because tomatoes aren’t in season for me right now), then added fresh lemon to brighten the dish. The pasta is finished off with a quick pesto made with fresh mint, kale, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices and it really takes this pasta over the edge in terms of fresh flavor.

Ingredients needed to make Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

If you’ve seen the viral video of this pasta, you probably know the majority of the ingredients you need. This recipe will not work with store-bought crumbled feta, so be sure to get an 8oz block. Here’s the full list:

  • Pasta
  • Broccoli
  • Feta cheese block
  • Olive oil
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Fresh kale
  • Fresh mint
  • Fresh garlic
  • Honey
  • Salt

Tools used to make Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

To make this recipe, you’ll need a few kitchen tools. First, a large pot to boil the pasta, as well as a 9x13in baking dish. Additionally, you’ll want to have a large cutting board, sharp knife, food processor or high speed blender, a microplane or cheese grater (for zesting), and measuring cups. That’s it!

How to make Baked Feta Pasta with Broccoli, Lemon, and Minty Kale Pesto

You’ll begin by preheating your oven and bring a pot of water to a boil. Chop the broccoli into small florets and arrange in a baking dish around a block of feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, you’ll cook the pasta according to package directions, making sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water just before draining.

To make the pesto, combine all the ingredients into a food processor or high speed blender, then blitz until a pesto forms. You may need to add more olive oil to achieve desired consistency, as well as additional honey and/or salt to taste.

Once the feta and broccoli have baked, toss the feta with the broccoli and pasta water in the baking dish to create a creamy mixture. Add the pasta and a couple tablespoons of the pesto and gently toss again, coating the pasta in the sauce. Top with lemon zest, additional pesto if desired, and serve immediately!

Looking for other delicious pasta dishes?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Wild Mushroom Farro with Parmesan and Microgreens

Creamy Green Goddess Pasta

Vegetarian Bolognese

Recipe Ingredients

For the pasta

1lb pasta

1 medium head broccoli, cut into small florets

1 8oz block feta 

½ cup olive oil, divided

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Zest of 1 lemon

½ cup pasta cooking water, reserved 

For the pesto

Juice of ½ lemon

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh kale, packed

⅛ cup fresh mint, packed 

1 small garlic clove

1 tsp honey

½ tsp salt

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange broccoli florets around feta block in a large glass baking dish. Drizzle all over with ½ cup olive oil, then season with crushed red pepper flakes. Bake for 25 minutes, or until broccoli is tender and beginning to crisp up. 
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid before draining. Set pasta and reserved water aside. 
  3. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, kale, mint, garlic, honey, and salt in a food processor or high speed blender. Pulse until a pesto forms. Additional olive oil may be needed to achieve desired texture. 
  4. Remove the baking dish from the oven and add pasta cooking water. Stir to combine immediately, mixing the feta with the water to create a cheesy sauce. Gently fold in the cooked pasta and approximately 2 tbsp of the minty kale pesto. Serve immediately, topped with fresh lemon zest and additional pesto, if desired. Leftover pasta can be reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave, and leftover pesto should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Cold Brew Pancakes with Coffee Maple Syrup

Cold Brew Pancakes with Coffee Syrup are a delicious treat to cook up on a weekend morning. This recipe makes a large quantity of pancakes, making it perfect for a big family or to save as breakfasts for the week ahead. Each pancake is made using about 1/4 cup of batter, leaving you with dinner-plate-sized pancakes that feel like they came from a diner. This recipe was tested using both all-purpose and gluten-free flours, and it is important to note that the gluten-free flour behaved slightly differently in this recipe (see recipe notes below regarding flour amounts*).

Ingredients needed to make Cold Brew Pancakes with Coffee Maple Syrup

You’ll need a variety of ingredients to make these pancakes. Here’s everything:

Tools used to make Cold Brew Pancakes with Coffee Maple Syrup

There’s no fancy equipment required to make these pancakes, which makes them a great recipe for a lazy morning. No fuss, just delicious. These pancakes can be made using one skillet, but for efficiency you may consider using two. Here’s the full list:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Whisk
  • Small saucepan
  • Medium skillet, or two
  • Spatula

How to make Cold Brew Pancakes with Coffee Maple Syrup

To start, you’ll need to measure out the dry and wet ingredients in separate mixing bowls. *If using gluten free flour, start with 2 1/2 cups, then adjust if needed after adding the wet ingredients. If using all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 cups should be exactly what’s needed to achieve the correct batter consistency. If you’re looking for a reference point, think back to childhood when your parents made pancake batter from a box. It’s thin enough to flow steadily out of the bowl and into the pan, but not so thin that the pancakes can’t hold their shape once they hit the hot skillet.

Once you have your wet and dry ingredients measured out, you’ll combine them and adjust flour accordingly, as described above. It may seem “willy nilly” to approach a recipe by feel or looks, but I can’t stress enough the importance of adjusting as you go. This doesn’t always work, especially for baking recipes, but pancakes are forgiving enough to handle a little extra flour to achieve a thicker batter. Trust your gut, as they say!

Heat one or two skillets over medium-low heat and melt butter to grease the pans. Begin cooking pancakes, flipping once the top begins to bubble and the sides are setting up. I love to make these pancakes as big as possible, so I typically use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to drop the batter in and only cook one pancake per skillet at a time. If you prefer small pancakes, that works just as well.

While watching the pancakes, make the coffee maple syrup in a small saucepan. Combine the maple syrup, instant coffee, and cinnamon stick and heat gently until the instant coffee has dissolved into the syrup.

Stack the pancakes, pour over that syrup, maybe at a pat of butter, and enjoy! It doesn’t get much simpler than pancakes.

Looking for other breakfast ideas?

Try these ideas from The Ardent Cook!

Apple Spice Smoothie

Gluten Free Olive Oil Zucchini Bread

Double Chocolate Scones with Salted Peanut Butterscotch Glaze

Recipe Ingredients

2 ½ – 3 cups all-purpose flour (or 1-1 GF flour blend) (*see recipe note above if using gluten free flour)

2 tbsp baking powder

½ cup coconut sugar

½ cup milk or almond milk

1 cup (8oz) cold brew espresso

3 eggs

4 tbsp melted butter or ghee

1 tsp vanilla extract

Butter, for greasing the pan 

½ cup pure maple syrup

½ tsp instant coffee powder

2-inch piece cinnamon stick

Recipe Instructions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and coconut sugar. In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, cold brew espresso, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract.
  2. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet in the larger of the two bowls. Whisk to combine, and adjust flour amount as needed (described above*)
  3. Heat one or two skillets over medium-low heat with butter. Once the butter has melted, add pancake batter to the skillets about 1/4 cup at a time to create large “diner-size” pancakes. Let cook, then flip when the tops begin to bubble and the sides have started to set.
  4. Meanwhile, heat maple syrup and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, whisk in the instant coffee and continue whisking until dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  5. Serve pancakes hot with a pat of butter and a drizzle of the coffee maple syrup. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.