Welcome January 2022, or is it just more of the same? Another year after the last couple of years we’ve had can be extremely overwhelming. Job resignations are in full swing, mental health has been slowly deteriorating and then the pressure of becoming a "new you" can just snowball into a full breakdown. I know this is primarily a food article, but it would be tone deaf not to address all the factors that surround food and recipes when we contemplate making them.
So much hope comes with a new year, and I never like to lose sight of that no matter how hard things can get. Hopefulness does not negate hardships, it does not negate situations in our lives that seem truly insurmountable, it just gets us to the next day. And we must get to the next day. And then the next. Sometimes it feels like a never-ending train of tomorrows, and it may be foolhardy of me to believe it, but I believe there’ll be at least one sunny day in one of those tomorrows.
So how does what some see as the bleakness of the world correlate to food recipes? Well, we all gotta eat. With January comes a plethora of healthy eating, going with this diet or another and using more brain power and energy to become someone new. But sometimes we just need someone to say, “Nah, you’re good right now.” Hi, meet that someone: it me.
You’re good! You want to start a new diet, but now January is almost over and you’ve still been eating cupcakes? You’re good. Start when you’re less overwhelmed. You want to make all these healthy things, but they all died in your fridge waiting for you to cook them? You’re good. You just started a one-man compost army. Look at you, you little environmentalist! You wanted to cook more, but now the hostess at that Italian place knows your order before you walk in? You’re good! Thanks for supporting our local restaurants. Seriously, you’re good.
Now, what can you eat in the meantime? I call these "in the meantime" food options because, while we’re trying to handle everything the world spat at us the last two years, we still gotta eat. Here are my easiest, don’t-care-what-anyone-says, stress-free meals that’ll get you to tomorrow.
If your brain is beat up, battered and bruised, it’s ok to order out, hire a meal prep option or eat ramen until you feel better. It’s all ok. Just feed yourself and take baby steps until you feel like you’re ready to make something else. I use the freezer constantly as my source for meals.
Freezer Meals and Items
Get these directly from the grocery store. There are tons of options that have done the health check for you if you’re leaning toward a certain diet.
Lasagna: Feeds a crew and you just pop it in the oven.
Chicken shawarma and frozen naan from Trader Joe's: So easy, affordable and barely any work.
Beef gyros from Costco: I won’t suggest too many things from membership-based stores for the sake of inclusivity, but this is a great cost effective item we’ve turned to several times now because of its ease and flavor.
Lots of frozen vegetables, rice and fruits: Less to worry about going bad, relatively inexpensive, still keep you healthy.
Pro tip: I love to get pre-cut onions for cooking to save prep time, a variety of vegetables and fruits. Use the fruit to blend up with yogurt or milk or juice for easy smoothies or put on top of oatmeal. The rice and vegetables pair nicely with any protein of your choice.
Frozen proteins: There’s a huge selection of proteins that are either fully cooked or uncooked that you can use at your disposal. I like to get at least three or four meals worth of stuff when possible and then have less to think about later.
I love that stores have started offering a wider selection of fully prepared meals to take home. These have been a life saver many nights.
Rotisserie chickens: These are amazing. You can most certainly roast your own, but don’t let anyone shame you out of getting one of these. They feed my family, and then I use the bones to make stock. (Know what else you can do with the bones? Just throw them away, because you don’t have to do anything that’s not fitting your lifestyle right now.) I like to shred the chicken for salads, enchiladas and soups.
Prepackaged salads and soups: This is an absolute vibe. The salad and soup options keep getting better and better. Put that salad in a bowl, grab one of those rotisserie chickens and a $2 baguette and you’ve got a Parisian meal. Usually under $15, too! And such little effort!
Meal prep companies: If you have the money, but not the time, then look into a few of our local meal prep companies and chefs. They’re putting out great meals and bringing them to your doorstep. Vito & Vera is entirely plant-based and absolutely delicious. I’ve had the good fortune of trying Chef Watson’s food and it’s wonderful, too. There’s also The Healthy Chew, Bella’s Kitchen, Crave Fuel and many others. Ask around and find someone who could suit all your needs.
Whatever direction you decide to take your eating habits this new year, remember, we’re good. We’re doing the best we can, and the best we can is enough. If you decide you’re doing really well and want to make the following recipe, then do it at your own time. Otherwise, it can hang out here in the webspace until you’re ready.
Greek Chicken Kebabs with Mediterranean Orzo
- 1 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
- 1 package button mushrooms (not sliced)
- 1 to 2 zucchini, halved and sliced
- 2 red bell peppers, chopped into large pieces
- 1 red onion, sliced into thick pieces
- 12 wooden or metal skewers
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp. Greek seasoning
- 1 tsp. each of dried thyme, rosemary and oregano
- 3 tsp. garlic paste
- zest of half and juice of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
Soak wooden skewers in water at least 20-30 minutes
Make the marinade ingredients and stir together. Marinate the chicken pieces for 4-6 hours.
Skewer the chicken and the vegetables together in a pattern of your choosing.
Either bake or grill your kebabs.
To bake, preheat oven to 350 and bake on a parchment- or foil-lined pan for 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken cubes) turning a few times. Cook until the internal temp reaches 165 degrees.
To grill, heat oven to low heat and cook until the vegetables and chicken are cooked through and tender. Remember to ensure the internal meat temp is 165 degrees. Serve with rice or orzo.
Feta Dill Sauce
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup feta
- 2 tsp. cumin
- juice of half a lemon
- fresh dill to taste (I start with about a tablespoon or two)
- salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients together — I like to use a food processor so everything is cohesive — and refrigerate once mixed.
- 12 oz. orzo
- salt for the water
- 2 to 3 small English cucumbers, diced
- 1/2 cup olives of your choice, sliced
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 roma tomatoes, diced
- juice of 1 small lemon
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- handful of mint and basil leaves, roughly chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil for garnish
Cook orzo according to directions on packaging and allow to cool.
Add in the remaining ingredients and mix together to incorporate.
Taste to check seasonings. Serve with the kababs and enjoy!
From Z to A with Zara Abbasi
Zara Abbasi is the pastry chef and recipe developer for Zara Made It. Follow her food adventures on Instagram at @zaramadeit.