Ahh, summer! It’s finally time to indulge in well-deserved rest and reconnection with your tribe. Maybe you’ve already booked a lakeside retreat or beach condo, or you’re just planning to take it down a notch with a staycation. If you’re like me, in anticipation of your getaway, you’ve squirreled away a pile of not-to-be-forgotten must-haves: a deck of cards, new sun hat, tube of sunscreen, and the latest beach read. But when grabbing for the empty cooler, you realize that not only do you need a change of scenery but a vacation from dinners as well! Yes, you still have to eat, but packing the same expected flavors, recipes, responsibilities, and routine just doesn’t sit right. You, my friend, are in need of a recipe reset.
Sure, you could eat out every night, but let’s face it, that choice can wreak havoc on a budget.
Nightly jaunts to crowded hot spots with no-reservation policies and long wait times will test even the most patient souls. And ordering out — well, haven’t we all been there, done that last year? Introducing the meal kit. Maybe you’ve entertained this relatively new concept or even tried it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, or for those who are still skeptical, allow me to elaborate on the positives I’ve unmasked in this creative approach to summertime meals.
Meal kits are food subscription models that send you a box containing chef-inspired recipes and pre-portioned ingredients for cooking at home. The idea originated in Sweden in 2007, soon inspiring a range of competitors. Meal kits have grown in popularity over the last few years. Once I jumped on the bandwagon, I must confess, I became a fan. So, take a meal kit on vacation … and here’s why:
• all ingredients included — perfect for travel;
• restaurant quality food at a fraction of the price;
• portioned, organic, and sustainably-sourced means healthy;
• new menu selections each week;
• introduction to new ingredients, cooking terms, and techniques;
• easy to follow step-by-step instructions invite others to help and learn;
• no contract to deal with;
• and fabulous discount coupons.
As a cook, meal-planner, recipe-seeker, and host, I’m always on the hunt for new, unusual, and creative spins for the kitchen. That said, meal kits aren’t a staple in our home, more the exception. However, when I’m on a deadline, need a reprieve from meal-planning, in a cooking rut, or vacationing and cooking, I value the respite, change of pace, and originality these kits bring to our table.
Order your own box or put one together from a few of these tried and true favorites I found while using meal kits.
Bon voyage and bon appétit!
Shrimp & Sweet Chili Sauce Makes 4 servings
1 c. Jasmine rice4 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (divided) 4 cloves garlic (minced)2-inch piece fresh ginger (peeled and minced) 20 oz. shrimp (thawed, peeled, and deveined) 1 Tbsp. curry powder2 Tbsp. sesame oil2 limes (cut into wedges)8 oz. sweet peppers (seeded and diced) 2 c. bok choy (rough chop)1/2 c. sweet chili sauce 1/4 c. sliced almonds
In a medium pot with secure lid, add two tablespoons of olive oil. Over medium heat, saute garlic and ginger. Add two cups of water, a pinch of salt, and the rice. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, then turn heat to low, cover and cook rice for 14 minutes. Turn off heat and fluff with fork. Keep covered until serving. Meanwhile, pat the shrimp dry, place in a bowl, and toss with curry powder. In a non-stick skillet on medium high heat, add remaining olive oil. Add shrimp in a single layer and cook for two-to-three minutes per side or until they turn opaque. Remove from heat and keep warm. In the same pan over medium heat, add sesame oil and stir fry peppers and bok choy for two-to-three minutes or until tender. Add the juice of two lime wedges. Serve cooked rice layered with veggies, shrimp, chili sauce, and almonds. Garnish with lime wedge.
Named after the sweet-smelling flower, jasmine rice is a long grain rice native to Thailand with a delicate floral and buttery scent.— Laura
Cajun-Spiced Chicken with Warm Grain Salad Makes 4 servings
1 c. farro4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 2 Tbsp. Cajun spice blend4 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (divided) Salt and pepper2 shallots (chopped)4 cloves garlic (minced)1 large bunch kale (stems removed and chopped) 6-8 sweet piquant peppers (roughly chopped)4 Tbsp. sour cream 2 Tbsp. hot sauce
In a medium pot with lid, cook the farro according to package directions. In a large skillet over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, then add shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for one-to-two minutes, then add the chopped kale and cook three-to-four minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and stir frequently until kale is wilted. Transfer kale mixture to a plate and keep warm. Season the chicken with Cajun spice on both sides. In the same skillet, heat to medium high, adding oil then chicken. Cook chicken for six-to-seven minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and allow to rest. To the pot of farrow, add the cooked kale mixture, chopped peppers, sour cream, and hot sauce. Combine well, then drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve finished farro on a plate topped with sliced chicken.
Chorizo Burgers Makes 4 servings
1.5 lbs. ground pork chorizo 4 potato rolls1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 red onion (peeled and sliced) 4 Tbsp. mayonnaise2 Tbsp. fig spread1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs2 oz. roasted red peppers (sliced)
In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs with ground pork, salt and pepper to taste. Form mixture into ½-inch thick round patties. In a large pan, drizzle olive oil and heat to medium. Add patties to skillet and cook five-to-six minutes per side along with onion slices. Transfer to a plate. Slice the buns and toast inside the same skillet. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and fig spread. Assemble the burgers as such: toasted bun with fig mayonnaise, cooked pattie, peppers and onions. Serve with a side salad or sweet potato fries.
Farro is a type of grain with a nutty flavor and ancient roots.
Laura Schupp is the author of Our Newlywed Kitchen: The Art of Cooking, Gathering & Creating Traditions. Learn more about Laura at OurNewlywedKitchen.com.
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