Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Working Hard, Eating Well

One Healthy Organised Week

I love spending time in the kitchen “creating” (creating a mess if you ask The Husband) but during the week neither of us have time to spend hours cooking or even thinking about what to cook. We have been putting together weekly meal plans for a good few years now but the combination of heavier than usual workloads (both of us), traveling for work (me) and trying to fit in some training (for various runs and swims that I have over-enthusiastically signed up for) meant it was time to take it up to another level. So last week I sat down and planned out the week to come. I wanted to plan healthy meals but I also wanted them to be delicious enough to serve to any unexpected guests (not that we ever have any). Most importantly I had to be to be able to prepare as much as possible on Sunday so that the meals could just be assembled during the week. I came up with this plan:

Quinoa and courgettes in a chickpea sauce

Stuffed large mushrooms & salad

Chorizo and butterbean stew with roasted red peppers and spinach

Trout fillets baked with pesto crust & salad

Thai green curry with prawns & basmati rice

  • Prepared enough quinoa for Monday and Tuesday. 2/3 put aside for Monday’s dinner, 1/3 for Tuesday.
  • Chickpea sauce prepared by blending a can of chickpeas, a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt, some lemon juice, 2 cloves of garlic and a dash of Tabasco. ½ frozen for a future dinner and the other ½ refrigerated for Monday.
  • Quinoa stuffing for mushrooms prepared by cooking onions, garlic, chopped mushrooms stems and adding lemon zest, chopped black olives and parsley and the cooked quinoa. Mixture cooled and refrigerated.
  • The chorizo butterbean stew is just an adaption of a classic chorizo and chickpea stew. The adaption was necessary as I had some butterbeans but no chickpeas. I tend to use tinned pulses as I normally don’t have time for all that soaking and boiling. I had a couple of red peppers in the bottom of the fridge so I roasted and peeled these and added them at the end. This stew tastes even better if it sits for at least a day so making it on Sunday made perfect sense.
  • I froze the trout fillets ready to be defrosted on Wednesday night. I had made homemade pesto as part of Friday night’s dinner (Pesto Trapanese from Catherine’s Italian Kitchen by Catherine Fulvio) so I just topped the leftovers with an extra layer of olive oil to keep it fresh.
  • I normally don’t mind doing a little gentle cooking on a Friday night (with a cocktail in hand it never seems quite so onerous) so I thought I could manage making the Thai curry on the night. This recipe uses green Thai curry paste, frozen prawns and some coconut cream (things I normally have in the cupboard/freezer).
 An hour or so of cooking and I was feeling pretty organised (and just a tiny bit smug).

Monday - Friday:

I was late home on Monday and by the time I walked in the door; The Husband had cooked the courgette slices, added the quinoa and the chickpea sauce and topped with toasted sunflower seeds, chopped tomatoes and parsley. I’d contemplated eating my own arm on the train home so I devoured it in about 30 seconds. I was late home again on Tuesday but Himself only had to put the stuffing inside the mushrooms, pop them in the oven and make a green salad. On Wednesday we added some frozen spinach into the chorizo stew as it was heating up. The roasted red peppers added a lovely sweetness and the butterbeans were softer and more comforting replacement than the usual chickpeas. I remembered to take the fish out of the freezer on Wednesday night (for once) so Thursday evening the fillets were straight into the baking dish, topped with the pesto and baked for about 15 minutes. Together with the salad it was very tasty and felt ridiculously healthy.
Friday night came along and we both ran out of steam. After a large gin and grapefruit juice, I decided to leave the prawns in the freezer (luckily I had forgotten to defrost them) and order from Inder's Kitchen. I comforted myself with the fact that it’s probably the healthiest takeaway in Cambridge (and one of the dishes we ordered was a broccoli stir fry...). The words “feck it” also went through my mind. Well, I wouldn’t want to get too healthy.

At no stage during the week did I come close to a nervous breakdown thinking about how long it would take to cook dinner, so all in all a successful experiment.

Does anyone else out there struggle to find the time for gastronomy during the week? Please share your tips and strategies (and help me get better at this!).


  1. WOW!!!! You just make it seem so easy!! We are terrible at cooking during the week but you have inspired me to think about this for next week. Thank you!

    1. Ah thanks. The husband complains about the work it involves on a Sunday but I think it is definitely worth it to get ahead of yourself for the week.

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  3. Seriously can you clone that Husband Dr Maxwell.. you are both amazing scientists I am sure ye could work it out !
    And your meals look fab..actually a girl in work had chorizo and butterbean stew for her lunch today (as she had no chickpeas!)..somthing I am definately going to make now :)

    1. There can only be one Husband! (I did get pretty lucky there). That's hilarious about the chorizo butterbean - a new trend!

  4. Very inspiring! Chorizo stew is my absolute failsafe midweek meal, always have made it with chickpeas though. Will be picking up a tin of butter beans in the not too distant future!

    1. Definitely got to try - has inspired me to be a bit more adventurous with my bean selection....

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