“Delicious healthy recipes from my family to yours.” That’s how the wonderful Gina Homolka of Skinnytaste sums up her cooking philosophy. The best-selling cookbook author is one of our favorites. (Check out her top 10 kitchen essentials here, and win them for yourself here!) And her new cookbook, Skinnytaste Meal Prep, is no less than a must-have for your kitchen. (Ahem, free shipping with the code “Skinnytaste!”)
Here’s why: It focuses on doing as much as you can in advance. Because even if you think you don’t have just one second to spare, and you’re sticking to reheating premade frozen meals (we’ve all been there, and it’s fine for a week or so!) she shows you the path to creating time. After polling her Facebook community about her forthcoming book, as she writes below, “the top three requests [were] meal prep ideas, easy freezer recipes, and make-ahead recipes.” So she made a cookbook that delivers. (Think: whole chapters on “freezer favorites” divided into “vegetarian” and “meat & seafood.” And that’s just to start!)
We’re all looking to simplify and optimize our daily lives, and manufacturers are more than happy to assist. Shortcuts abound, from pre-cut fresh veggies and frozen produce to smart cooking gadgets (some even controlled remotely by your smartphone . . . brilliant!). You can tell Alexa to add ingredients to your shopping list and have them dropped off at your front door courtesy of grocery delivery services. There is certainly a movement to make cooking quick, simple, and healthy. I, personally, couldn’t be more thrilled. In fact, I’m beyond excited to join in by writing this book, which is loaded with totally manageable and absolutely delicious recipes that are sure to please the entire family. When I was brainstorming topics for this cookbook, I polled my Facebook community and the top three requests on your list were meal prep ideas, easy freezer recipes, and make-ahead recipes. Easy is the name of the game, so I combined all three into one book.
Let’s take a look at how these time-saving strategies fit into your busy life and make it possible to say farewell to frozen boxed lasagna, pass on the processed pizza, and ditch the drive-through for good!
PB+J Healthy Oatmeal Cookies
• Cooking spray
• 2 medium extra-ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
• 2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
• 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats (Read the label to be sure this product is gluten-free)
• 4 teaspoons reduced-sugar fruit jam (grape, raspberry, strawberry, or any flavor you like)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray or use a silicone baking mat.
- In a medium bowl, combine the mashed bananas and peanut butter and mix well. Add the oats and mix until thoroughly combined.
Place generous tablespoons of the batter on the baking sheet (you’ll have about 16 cookies). Make an indent in the center of each with the back of the measuring spoon.
- Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven.
SERVE NOW: Immediately top each cookie with 1⁄4 teaspoon jam. Enjoy while warm.
MEAL PREP: To refrigerate or freeze, transfer the cookies, without the jam, to a zip-top plastic bag. When ready to eat, pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to reheat. Top with the jam and serve. SERVES 4.
Juicy Italian Chicken Meatballs
• Olive oil spray
• 1 pound ground chicken
• 2⁄3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
• 1⁄2 cup (3.5 ounces) packed frozen riced cauliflower, thawed
• 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley
• 1 large egg
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 medium zucchini, for serving
• Fresh basil, for garnish
• 1 teaspoon olive oil
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed with the side of a knife
• 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with basil (I like Tuttorosso)
• 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 bay leaf
• Crushed red pepper flakes (optional
- Make the meatballs: Adjust an oven rack to the second highest position and preheat the broiler to high. Spray a large baking sheet with oil.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ground chicken, Pecorino, cauliflower, parsley, egg, tomato paste, garlic, and salt. Mix with wet hands, then gently form into 12 meatballs, a scant 1⁄4 cup each, and transfer to the baking sheet. Broil the meatballs until the tops are golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Make the sauce: In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, bay leaf, and pepper flakes (if using) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the flavors begin to meld, about 5 minutes.
- When the meatballs are done, gently place them into the sauce and cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the meatballs are tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes more. Discard the bay leaf. SERVES 4.
SERVE NOW: Spiralize the zucchini and place in a medium bowl. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender. Serve with the meatballs and sauce, topped with fresh basil.
MEAL PREP: Spiralize the zucchini and divide the raw zucchini among 4 airtight containers. Top each with 3 meatballs, sauce, and fresh basil. To serve, heat in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes (the zucchini will cook).
SKINNY SCOOP Avoid using ground chicken made from all breast meat, which would make the meatballs too dry. Also, you can make a double batch and freeze the rest!
Autumn Stuffed Acorn Squash
• 3 small acorn squashes (22 ounces each), washed, halved lengthwise, and seeds removed
• Olive oil spray
• 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1⁄2 cup (3 ounces) uncooked wild rice
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 small yellow onion, chopped
• 1 medium carrot, chopped
• 1 medium celery stalk, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 4 links (11 ounces total) sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
• 1 Granny Smith apple, chopped into 1⁄4-inch pieces
• 11⁄2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
• 1⁄2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
• 1⁄2 cup chicken broth (Read the label to be sure this product is gluten-free)
• 1⁄4 cup dry white wine
• 2 cups chopped kale
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Spritz both sides of the squash with olive oil spray. Season the insides with the salt and black pepper to taste. Place the squash on a large baking sheet, skin side up, and bake until soft and tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the wild rice according to the package directions and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the celery and cook until softened, about 2 minutes more. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the chicken sausage, breaking it up as it cooks, until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Add the apple, sage, thyme, broth, wine, and kale. Mix well and cook until the liquid evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes. Mix in the wild rice and remove from the heat.
- Fill the acorn squash cavities with the rice and sausage mixture, about a generous 3⁄4 cup each. Transfer to a large casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake until heated through, about 15 minutes. Serve hot. SERVES 6.
FREEZE AND SERVE LATER: After stuffing the cavities, transfer to airtight containers or a large covered baking dish and transfer to the refrigerator or freezer. Refrigereate for up to 5 days; freeze for up to 3 months. If reheating from frozen, let thaw in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Reheat in the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes or in a 375°F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through.
SKINNY SCOOP To make your “bowl” sit flat, simply slice the squash in half lengthwise and slice off a tiny piece of the skin at the bottom of each half.
Reprinted from Skinnytaste Meal Prep © 2020 by Gina Homolka. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing/Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs by Aubrie Pick.