The Art of Simple Skillet Dinners

Need dinner on the table fast? Make healthy and delicious meals using just a skillet! Read more about this method by reading this article at The Nourishing Gourmet.

Lack of time or energy for cooking can be the death knell for healthy eating. We’ve had a year like no other, and developing strategies for quick, healthy meals has been essential. (Read about my new series: The Low Energy Guide to Healthy Cooking)

Enter skillet dinners. Oh, how I love thee, skillet dinners.

7 Reasons I Love Skillet Meals

  • They are fast
  • They are frugal
  • They use up leftovers
  • They are easy to make
  • You don’t need a specific recipe to conquer them
  • They are healthy and vegetable-centered
  • You can use whatever you like to flavor them

This one-skillet dinner has been a true help. They are wildly adaptable to what you have in the fridge, and you can flavor them however you like. Ginger and garlic, dried herbs, fresh herbs, turmeric, curry powder, garam masala, green onions, regular onions, red onions, and more!

In my last post, I shared how we have been using pre-washed and cut vegetables on a consistent basis and how much time and how many dinners they have saved. Skillet dinners are one of the most common ways we use prepped vegetables.

Need dinner on the table fast? Make healthy and delicious meals using just a skillet! Read more about this method by reading this article at The Nourishing Gourmet.

Method:

Dinner can be as simple as this: Heating some oil in a large pan, and sautéing together a package or two of prepared vegetables with a pound of ground meat (any kind you like), or adding leftover shredded meat after the vegetables are cooked. Serve with roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes, or throw some leftover rice or quinoa into the pan as well, and dinner is served.

While the below options are meat-centric, I see no reason why you couldn’t use cooked beans or lentils instead. In fact, a lentil centered skillet dinner sounds fabulous.

What is essential to this dish is a very large skillet. I favor our largest cast iron pan. And when I say large, I mean large. I use a 12 inch cast iron pan which is adequate for our five member family, but I’d even like a bigger one eventually.

Some combinations we’ve liked:

  • Shredded cabbage with beef (add garlic and salt and pepper to flavor) served with rice or quinoa.
  • Vegetable Pork Skillet Dinner: Onions, Mushrooms, garlic, dried herbs, with pork and bacon.
  • Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Chicken: Cauliflower “rice” with celery, green onions, ginger, garlic, grated carrots, and chicken.
  • Gingery Broccoli and Mushroom Stir Fry: Ground meat of choice, broccoli, mushrooms, ginger, and garlic.
  • Leftover Fried Rice: Onions, broccoli, and cauliflower mix, leftover shredded roast, leftover rice
  • Every day Skillet Dinner: Onions, Zucchini, mushrooms, meat of choice or eggs
  • Extra Greens Skillet: Onions, greens, meat of choice, seasoning of choice

Really, there are no limits to skillet dinners. One of my recent favorite combinations was one in which I used bits and pieces of leftover bags of vegetables which made a delicious and coherent dinner. Skillet dinners can be a great way to use leftovers and the odds and ends you have in your refrigerator!

Do you make similar dishes? I’d love to hear your favorite combination!

Some links above may be affiliate. Thanks for supporting my website!

How Buying Prepped Vegetables is Saving Our Dinner

I'm so thankful I can buy prepped vegetables. They are helping us get dinner on the table! -- The Nourishing Gourmet

The first tip I wanted to share in my series, The Low Energy Guide to Healthy Cooking, is a simple one, but it has made such a difference for us during a challenging year.

Buying prepped vegetables.

Can I be honest for a minute? I never really thought I would buy pre-cut and prepared vegetables. I do hate the extra plastic packaging that pre-cut vegetables tend to have. Plus, I never saw a problem with an extra five to ten-minute preparation it took to prep my own vegetables.

It never seemed like a big deal to just prep them myself.

But then my kind of low-grade health issues sky-rocketed. This whole last year has been one long sick year for me (we finally got a diagnosis last week, but more on that later). Suddenly those five to fifteen minutes of extra preparation were a big deal. It could mean the difference between having a vegetable side or not, or getting a homemade dinner on the table that night.

I wanted us to eat healthy. I needed us to eat well. But there are seasons when you need all the extra help you can get to make that happen. This has been one such season for us, and having vegetables ready and waiting in the fridge for us to cook up has been a big help.

My husband has been helping much more with the cooking, which has been extremely helpful. But he often gets home late-ish, so having the dinner cooking process as streamlined as possible for him was also important. Once again, it’s been so helpful to have at least some of our vegetables prepped.

Unfortunately, not all prepped vegetables are inexpensive. However, I have been very happy with what I can find at Trader Jo’s. They have a large selection of prepped vegetables, including: cut and washed broccoli and cauliflower, riced cauliflower (frozen and fresh), washed lettuce greens, prepped kale, butternut squash “zigzags” and noodles, a multi-chopped vegetable container (that is very tasty), and more.

While I still have to prep some of our vegetables, having more than half of them prepared for me has been a dinner saver!

The next best thing is hiring someone to prep vegetables for the week for you, or setting aside time (perhaps with a spouse) to prep vegetables for the week using a food processor when possible to make it easier. Neither of these options works well for us right now, so we are really thankful for the prepped vegetables we can buy. If you have any available in the stores near you, give it a try!

The Low Energy Guide to Healthy Cooking

When you feel the worst, you need to eat the best. But how can you manage it when you have chronic health issues or low energy (or are simply busy). This series seeks methods to make eating healthy easier on us. --- The Nourishing Gourmet

Do you need to eat well, but have little energy to put into cooking?

One of the ironies about ill health is that it makes it harder to cook healthy food for yourself when you need it the most. This is especially a problem when you have long-term health issues.

Often friends and family will bring you meals during a short-term acute illness (such as the flu), after you’ve had a baby, or after surgery. But about those who have long-term, chronic illnesses such as an autoimmune disease?

It would be too much to expect to have people bringing you dinner all the time, but you may be just as much in need, especially during a flare.

One of the promises of eating better ¬–especially a healing diet ¬– is that it may over time help improve your health. Dr. Wahls book, The Wahls Protocol , offers such hope. She used this diet to help reverse her own MS, and there are ongoing and encouraging studies using this protocol for other MS sufferers. In this version of a paleo diet, you concentrate on eating high amounts of vegetables every single day as a vital part of the protocol (3 cups of colorful vegetables, 3 cups of greens, and 3 cups of sulfur-rich vegetables). The autoimmune protocol diet is another healing protocol that includes many of the same principles.

But the irony again. Sometimes when you are sick and in need especially of a healing protocol, you are most fatigued and most overwhelmed at making it work. You just would be happy to get anything on the table, let alone a special diet meal.

If you have children to feed, then this becomes even harder.

I know what I am talking about after an almost complete year of overwhelming health issues (more on that in an upcoming post). I was privileged to live in a community living building for part of this last year where dinner was made for my family (I would make my own dinner when I started the AIP diet).

After we moved out, it was just us again. We made a lot of compromises on our food out of necessity, even while I tried to maintain a strict diet for myself. It was imperfect, but it was the best we could do.

So the first thing I want to say is this – this new series I am started – The Low Energy Guide to Healthy Eating is NOT at all about perfection. Because my health is still up and down so much, there are still days when we are far, far, far away from how I’d like us to eat.

Despite it all, we have managed to eat pretty well a lot of the time. One of my readers on my email subscription list mentioned the idea to me to do this series (borrowed from another blogger who did a similar series on low energy homeschooling). I thought it was a brilliant idea, and quickly wrote out a list of possible subjects to write about and recipes to share.

This series will not be about perfection, even though I will address being on the AIP/healing diets with low energy.

What I love about the series idea, is that everyone can glean from it. Whether you have low energy, are dealing with a chronic illness, or simply have little time, there will be something for everyone.

I am really looking forward to addressing this topic, since it is so close to my own heart, my own situation, and my desire to share any tricks and recipes and ideas that have helped us get through a tough year of illness!

If you have questions or ideas for this series, please use the contact form or comment below to let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

How to Enjoy Vegetables (Methods and Recipes)

Vegetables can be wonderful - using the right cooking methods and recipes! Check out these tasty ways! - The Nourishing Gourmet

“You gotta eat your spinach, baaaaby.” I grew up watching a young Shirley Temple singing about not wanting to eat spinach in the movie Poor Little Rich Girl. Her sentiment that spinach was that “awful greenery” represents an attitude towards vegetables that many take into adulthood.

That’s too bad because not only are vegetables good for you, but they are really delicious and flavorful. We don’t get to eat often at an expensive restaurant, but when we have had the opportunity it is striking how often vegetables play an important role in the dishes. That’s because chefs know that vegetables can play a key part in making your taste buds sing.

Now obviously making 4-star restaurant food is a gloriously yummy undertaking, but perhaps not practical for our everyday meals. But there are delicious ways to easily prepare vegetables for the daily meals that will help you get those vegetables into your routine.

Let me give just a few suggestions to get you started. I’d also love to hear from you. Tell me about your favorite method for preparing vegetables!

Roasting: Taming with Heat

asparagus2

One of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables is roasting them. Roasting them makes them sweet, tender, and delicious. I will generally roast them about 400-425 for about 15 minutes. Toss them with a little heat safe oil (like avocado or coconut) sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir about half way through. Yum! This method is delicious with asparagus, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes (cut in half) and so many other vegetables as well! Roast until the vegetable edges are starting to brown and the vegetable is tender.

Braising: Slow and Steady

greenbeans&mashedpotatoes
Braising is delicious because it also sweetens and adds a whole new layer of depth of flavor. This method cooks vegetables slow and long and yields a very flavorful vegetable. The best example I know of this method is this recipe for The Best Braised Cabbage. Make this on a day when you will be home for a couple of hours before dinner. It’s not hard to make but does take time. You can also do a long stove-top braise, such as the following recipe:
Grandpa’s Green Beans

Simple Vegetable Sautes

Easy Pan Fried Cabbage and Apples 2

It really doesn’t have to be complicated! Some of our favorite vegetable dishes are simple vegetable sautés. Take a look at the vegetable below. We combine Brussels sprouts with bacon, carrots with butter, cabbage with apples, and zucchini with onions for delicious results.

Easy Skillet Dinners

This easy dish makes a wonderful and flavorful frugal main dish that is paleo and AIP friendly too! Serve it over desired carbohydrate (AIP - think cauli-rice or sweet potato). -- The Nourishing Gourmet

I’ve sung the praises of skillet dinners recently, and I think they deserve that praise. When you cook meat and a variety of vegetables together, they flavor each other in a lovely way. It makes a great one pan meal, or serve it over rice, quinoa, make them into taco/burrito stuffings, or top baked sweet or white potatoes! Really, the method is so simple you can make them without a recipe, but to get you started check out the following two recipes:

Steaming with Skill

ng_broccoli

Why do we hate steamed vegetable so much? Often they were frozen vegetables (which tend to be much less flavorful), and they are also usually overcooked. It’s vital when steaming vegetables that you cook them until just tender. Overcook, and they will be tasteless. Do a quick Google search for how long to steam whatever vegetable you are serving that night. To serve, we like to add small pats of butter and squeeze fresh lemon juice over it, with a generous sprinkle of unrefined salt. Yum!

Other Ways to Enjoy Vegetables

apple and avocado salad

  • I feel like eating a large main dish salad for lunch helps me have more energy for the afternoon. You can check out some of my recipes for homemade salad dressings and salads here. I wrote a whole cookbook on salads too!
  • Soups are a wonderful way to enjoy vegetables. In my soup cookbook, Ladled: Nourishing Soups for all Seasons, I have a whole section on creamy vegetable soups, but the majority of the soups have several vegetables in every soup.
  • Don’t forget that you can add lots of root vegetables to braising meats (such as pot roast), add shredded or diced vegetables to pasta sauces, or combine a panful of sauteed vegetables with pasta and a light sauce.
  • Finally, I like to add a couple of handfuls of baby greens to my smoothies. It’s an easy way to get more greens into your diet.