Easy Week Before Traveling

August 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

We’re already back from our trip to Michigan, but wanted to share the week of dinners leading up to our vacation.  Looking ahead, I really wanted an easy week because I needed to pack, and plan for traveling.  Used a few more recipes from Dinner:  A Love Story (thank you, Suzanne)!  Also, tried out a couple of recipes to fit in with the Virgin Diet.  Here’s what it looked like:

Saturday- Chicken Tomato Wraps, Big Salad, Corn on the Cob
Make Lemon Meltaways
Make Chickpea Flatbread (to be used as pizza crust or sandwich bread)

Sunday- Great Grandma Turano’s Meatballs, Pasta, Green Beans
Cook Quinoa
Make Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Meatless Monday- Grilled Tomato and Cheese Sandwiches,
Get Slow Cooker prepped

Taco Tuesday- Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos
Apricot-Pistachio Muffins

Wacky Wednesday- Leftover Spaghetti and Meatballs

Slow Cooker Thursday- Brat Gyros

Friday- Leave for Michigan


Chicken Tomato Wraps

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes with jalapeno chiles
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 small firm, ripe avocados
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cucumber, peeled
4 large (11-inch) flour tortillas or sandwich wraps (plain, spinach or sun-dried tomato), warmed following package directions (NOTE:  I used gluten-free, vegan, soy-free wraps…you could also use big lettuce leaves instead of a tortilla)
8 large leafy lettuce leaves (about 1/2 large head)

1. In large deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and onion; sauté until chicken is lightly colored and onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to boiling; cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and most of liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. (Mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated, and then brought to room temperature before proceeding.)
2. Halve avocados; remove pit; peel. Cut lengthwise in 1/4-inch-thick slices. In small bowl, toss avocado with 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Halve cucumber crosswise, then halve lengthwise; seed. Cut pieces into thin lengthwise slices. In bowl, toss with remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
3. On work surface, spread out 1 tortilla. Cut off 1 inch from edge of each tortilla. Arrange tortilla, cut side away from you. Spread one-fourth of chicken mixture, about 1 cup, across lower fourth of tortilla, about 1 inch from bottom. Top chicken mixture with 2 lettuce leaves, one fourth of the avocado and one-fourth of the cucumber strips. From bottom edge, tightly roll up tortilla. Arrange, cut edge down, on work surface; slice diagonally in half. Repeat with remaining tortillas and fillings. (Wraps can be made up to 6 hours ahead and individually wrapped in plastic, and then refrigerated. For best flavor, serve at room temperature.)

IMG_9458 IMG_9457 IMG_9456  IMG_9454IMG_9459IMG_9446

Lemon Meltaways

  • •1-1/4 cups almond flour or ground almonds, cashews, or sunflower seeds
  • •1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus extra for rolling)
  • •2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • •1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • •3 tablespoons honey, coconut nectar, or Grade B maple syrup
  • •2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, gently melted (not hot)
  • •2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • •1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • •1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean)

1.In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the almond flour, 1 cup shredded coconut, coconut flour, and sea salt until finely ground. Add the honey, coconut oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Process until a rough dough forms.

2.Form the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in shredded coconut if desired.

3.For a no-bake treat, simply refrigerate until firm and enjoy!

4.For a more traditional meltaway cookie texture, place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 250oF for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Chickpea Flatbread

  • 2 ½ cups chick-pea flour
  • 3 ½ cups cold water
  • Salt & black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.  In a large mixing bowl, pour in the flour and add the water gradually, while whisking, to keep any lumps from forming. Mix until smooth.

2.  Add the salt, olive oil and whisk until smooth. Let mixture stand at room temp for about 3 hours.

3.  After the 3 hours, heat oven to 350 degrees. Gently skim off the top layer of batter that may form with a slotted spoon.

4.  Spray olive oil on a large rimmed cookie sheet and pour in the batter, making about a ¼ inch layer.

5.  Carefully place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool slightly, then cut and serve.


Grandma Turano’s Meatballs Recipe

For the sauce:
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Red pepper flakes
1 small can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 15-ounce cans tomato puree (or diced tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes)
2 tablespoons oregano
Few pinches fennel seeds
Small handful thyme or basil

In a Dutch oven, saute onion and garlic and a few red pepper flakes in olive oil over medium low heat until onions are soft and just starting to turn golden. Add tomato paste and sugar and stir, mashing paste and onion mixture together, about 1-2 minutes. Fill empty tomato paste can with water and add to pot, stirring until mixed, another 1-2 minutes. Pour in tomatoes, oregano, fennel, and thyme or basil, and stir. Simmer lazily over low heat, uncovered, for as long as you want: the longer the better. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little water.

For the meatballs:
2 pounds ground beef (or, I hate to even own up to this, but we have been known, in an effort to be healthy, to use ground turkey)
1 cup Italian bread crumbs (my great grandma and my mother used Progresso; if you don’t have Italian bread crumbs, you can just add oregano and some salt to regular bread crumbs)
1 cup shredded Parm
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Few pinches fennel seeds
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, combine meat, bread crumbs, eggs, Parm, parsley, fennel, salt and pepper. Mash together with hands until thoroughly combined. Roll into balls (the size of golf balls) and set aside on a plate. In a large skillet, add a big glug of olive oil. Begin browning meatballs, in batches, over medium high heat, turning frequently. Remove when browned on all sides. When all the meatballs are browned, add to sauce, and continue cooking over low heat for at least 30 minutes. Serve over pasta, pile high with cheese.


Lemon Blueberry Muffins

  • streusel topping (see ingredients below)
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 cups + 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 7 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. loosely-packed lemon zest

Stresuel Topping Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup raw sugarTo Make The Muffins:
    Preheat oven to 350o. Line a baking pan (or two if needed) with 16 paper liners, or grease with cooking spray.
    Prepare the streusel topping according to instructions below.
    In a small mixing bowl, toss blueberries with 3 Tbsp. flour until blueberries are coated. Use a slotted spoon to remove blueberries and shake off any excess flour. Set aside.
    In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
    In a large mixing bowl (or an electric stand mixer), whisk together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and continue whisking until smooth. Fold in flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined. Carefully stir in blueberries.
    Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full of batter. Sprinkle each cup of batter with about 1 Tbsp. streusel topping. Bake at 350o for 20 to 25 min, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
    Let muffins cool for a few minutes in the muffin pan before removing to cool on a wire rack. Serve immediately or store in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
    To Make Streusel Topping: Whisk together all ingredients until combined and mixture is crumbly.


 Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 pounds beef (I used a boneless chuck roast)
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 cup beef stock
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (if you want extra flavor/heat, add an extra pepper)
1 small white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
Flour tortillas
Favorite taco toppings:
or sliced avocado
Mexican rice
grated cheese
fresh lettuce
lime wedges

Whisk together the chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Rub the spice mix into the beef, covering each side evenly.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully place the beef in the skillet and sear on each side until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the beef from the skillet and place in the bottom of a slow cooker.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and diced onion to the saute pan. Saute for an additional 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the beef stock and stir the pan to deglaze it, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add tomato paste and minced chipotle, and whisk into the pan sauce until combined. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a 3-5 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Pour the pan sauce down over the beef in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours, until the beef shreds easily.
Shred the beef with two forks, and toss to coat with any of the remaining juices. Serve the beef in the flour tortillas, topped with your favorite taco toppings.

IMG_9479 IMG_9478

Apricot-Pistachio Muffins (Baked on the Grill)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream or full-fat yogurt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 7 ounces apricots (about 2 to 4 apricots), pitted and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • Yogurt, for serving

Set up a grill for indirect grilling, with only half or two-thirds of the burners lit on a gas grill or with the coals on one side. Bring the grill temperature to about 450°. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs, sour cream and butter; mix into the dry ingredients, then fold in the apricots and pistachios. The batter will be quite thick.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each cup almost to the top. Set the muffin tin on the unlit side of the grill, close the lid and bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, keeping the grill temperature between 400° and 450° and turning the pan once halfway through. The muffins are done when they are lightly browned on top and when a toothpick inserted in them comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
Carefully transfer the muffins to a rack and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with yogurt.

Note: Alternatively, you can bake these muffins in a 375° oven for 16 to 18 minutes

IMG_9477 IMG_9476

Brat Gyros

  • 1.5 cups Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 T salt
  • 1/2 T chopped dill
  • 1 pack flat bread or pitas (at least 6)
  • 1-2 Tomatoes
  • 1-2 Sweet Onions
  • Feta Cheese
  • 1 pack of bratwurst (Nitrate-Free)

1. For the Tzatziki Sauce: Peel the cucumber and scoop out the seeds. Dice the cucumber into small 1/2 inch sized pieces. Place diced cucumber into a strainer placed in the sink or in another bowl and add 1/2 T salt. Mix well. Let salted cucumber mix sit for about 30 min to remove excess water. Take a paper towel and additionally dry off the cucumber a bit more. Add cucumber, peeled garlic, lemon juice, dill and a bit of pepper to a food processor and process until smooth. If excess water is present try to dab it up with another paper towel. Mix in the Greek yogurt and let sit in the fridge for about 1 hour.
2. For the Brat Gyro: Preheat grill to medium or medium low heat. Grill bratwurst and let them cool. Prepare onions and tomatoes by slicing them into desired sizes. When the brats are cool slice them as thin as you can using a very sharp knife. Assemble the gyro by placing the onions, tomato and sliced brats on the flat bread. Top with homemade tzatziki sauce and feta cheese if desired.

slicing brats for use in a homemade gyro recipe


Pure Michigan…ahhh!


But most of all, I’m part of you people out there who have listened to me, because especially you people in Michigan, you Tiger Fans, you’ve given me so much warmth, so much affection and so much love.

-Ernie Harwell

Chicagoan Michigander






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Easy Week Before Traveling at emaoin.


%d bloggers like this: