Meal Prep Monday

My job is great for many, many reasons. I could ramble on about it for hours. Don’t worry, I won’t. At least not today. ūüôā One of the many reasons I love my job is that every other Monday I don’t work! I work 20 hours a week in the office and 20 in the building. I alternate being off on Mondays and Fridays every other week. Fridays off are nice. It feels luxurious. Sleeping in is a must. Pajamas are a must. Laziness and relaxation usually happen. It’s like an early kick off to the weekend.

Mondays off… They are a whole other thing. I love Mondays off because I’m so productive! If I haven’t done my two week shopping yet, I do it. I get up early. I usually treat myself to Starbucks.¬†
Oh. Allow me to interrupt myself for an important announcement. Since January I’ve been on a ¬†journey. A Starbucks journey. For years I’ve generously partaken of Starbucks beverages and never knew about being a Gold Card holder. Long story short if you don’t know… Gold = benefits! Free things, a free drink every 15th, free birthday drink, free milk swaps and syrup additions. To become Gold you must register a giftcard, purchase drinks on the card (you’re already spending the money anyway! just put it on the card), and make it to 30. On your 30th drink they mail you your Gold Card. To maintain Gold you just have to purchase 30 drinks a year. I’d like to say that will be hard to do, but let’s be honest, it’s just not an issue. Today, as I treated myself to Starbucks on a productive Monday off, I made 29! It’s getting hot in my neck of the woods and unfortunately my car AC has been broken for a couple of years. I have this anti hot beverage thing that goes from March – September anyway, but when it’s hot, heavy on the milk things don’t sound appetizing to me. I ALMOST skipped on #29 for today, but then I remembered way back in college that Starbucks had a Green Tea Frappucinno. I decided to be brave and risky and ask if they could still make those. My favorite barista came through! She made me the most lovely Venti Raspberry Green Tea Skinny Frappuccino. A good Starbucks barista is like a good hair stylist.¬†
So right… Mondays off. I love them! I shop. I organize. I clean. And then I do one of my most favorite things in the entire world. Meal prep. Oh how I love it! It always involves cutting up produce for easy healthy eating access and quicker cooking.¬†
I know people say not to pre-cut strawberries and I get it. BUT… when I don’t cut them? They go to waste and become moldy garbage! When I do? I snack on healthy bit sized berries all week, I grab them for a breakfast addition, I sneak them in lunches, and I top microwave mini cakes with them. They last at least two weeks for me without going bad at all. I also love love love green onions. I could seriously eat them on almost anything. Before I started cutting and chopping my produce when I brought it home, they always went bad and got thrown away. I started chopping them and keeping them in tupperware containers. They lasted longer, but I still always had to throw some away. The ever faithful clever Pinterest introduced me to my new way of handling green onions and I’ll never go back. I saw a pin where someone suggested chopping green onions, storing them in a plastic bottle, and freezing them. They shake out super easy for any recipe. I’ll seriously never go back to any other way! I use a Wal-mart brand Extra Virgin Olive Oil bottle. Be sure to use a funnel to transfer them from cutting board to bottle or you’ll go crazy. I use a funnel and then shove them down with a wooden skewer. I even use the frozen green onions in cold dishes like chicken and tuna salad. They thaw quickly being so small and add the exact same flavor as fresh.¬†
I also use meal prep days to do any do ahead things that I can for that weeks meals. This often involves making chicken stock and/or shredded chicken. 
Every month or so I make my own chicken stock in the crock pot and freeze some. I use Skinnytaste’s recipe and it’s yummy and flawless. Every few weeks I also make shredded chicken in the crock pot. It freezes perfectly to use in meals like tacos, enchiladas, casseroles, or on salads. If I’m not making stock, and just making shredded chicken I just throw three frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot with an onion (peeled, cut in half, ends on), a couple of green onions (I used the wilting ends and the least pretty ones from the pack), minced garlic, and a good bit of Tony’s. Cover the chicken with water, filling the crock pot almost to the top. Cook on high for 6 hours, let cool and shred. This week I’m using it in the previously mentioned Chicken and Broccoli Noodle Casserole and probably some leftovers for a quick salad topping.
I also like to make breakfast and snack options for the week on meal prep days. If I don’t have my faithful fat free sour cream mixed with a dry ranch packet I always make that. I cut cucumbers and fruit for easy dipping and snacking. I make flavored cream cheese for bagels, freeze banana for chocolate covered banana bites, make homemade bread crumbs for recipes, prepare a batch crustless breakfast quiches, boil eggs and more! This week I made Frozen Yogurt Bites.
Have you ever bought a bunch of yogurt to counteract the effects of an antibiotic, get tired of said yogurt and then realzie¬†it’s about to go bad? Oh.. Yeah. Maybe that’s just me who gets weird post antibiotic mouth sicknesses that normally only happen to babies. Well… maybe you’ve bought a bunch of yogurt because it was on sale at Kroger for a 10 for 10 deal? That seems more likely and normal. If so, this is a great way to use up yogurt! Or if you are like me and don’t really like yogurt but know you should eat it because it’s good for you, try this. It’s way more enjoyable to eat. I used four different kinds of Yoplait, Cherry Orchid, Orange Creamsicle, Vanilla, and Harvest Peach. I emptied each container in its own sandwich sized ziplock. I just barely cut the tip off one corner and piped little yogurt rounds onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet. I stuck them in the freezer for a few hours until they were frozen enough to peel off and store in a gallon ziplock. I also imagine kids would love these. They are sweet, creamy, frozen refreshing treats.¬†
Last, but not least. I always try to make some sort of lunch option. I have my faithful deli meat to rely on, but I just cannot eat a turkey sandwich every day. I often mix up a batch of apple and boiled egg tuna salad or grapes and sage chicken salad. Fruit chicken salads are my favorite! Gimme apples, grapes, or cranberries, toss in some celery, sage, and nuts and I’m a happy camper. However, I recently discovered a delicious twist on chicken salad! Avocado. I already don’t do much mayo if any in my normal chicken salad. I use greek yogurt, fat free sour cream, or fat free mayo. But this chicken salad requires none of the above!¬†
It’s so yummy and earthy and just perfect. It’s great on wheat bread, pretzel chips, tortilla chips, carrot chips, a spoon, a finger… The avocado provides the perfect creaminess. Lime juice keeps it fresh and the avocado from browning as well as adds a little more wetness. I found the idea on pinterest and tweaked it to be my own. I did most of the flavors to taste and I suggest you do the same. I’ll guesstimate on my measurements for a base though.¬†
Avocado Chicken Salad

Ingredients: 
1 13 oz can of chicken breast 
2 ripe avocados
1-2 tbsp lime juice
2-3 tbsp chopped green onions
1/2 tsp dried cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
Directions: 
Open and drain the canned chicken. Separate and break apart the chicken in a medium sized bowl with a fork. Cut avocados in half and separate. Remove seed. Leaving the avocado skin on, cut three slices long ways, not going all the way through the skin. Cut across in the other direction three times, making the avocado look like little squares inside the skin. You should be able to turn the skin inside out and have the pieces fall right into your bowl. If they get stuck, simply use a spoon to scrape all the avocado flesh out. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Serve as a dip, on a sandwich, or on top of salad greens. 
Remember. Cooking doesn’t have to be such a chore! The more prep work you do, the easier meals and cooking are for the rest of the week. Don’t be afraid to pull up a cutting board and trash bowl to the bar and sit while you do it! Find ways to make cooking, planning, and preparation more enjoyable.¬†

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