Or…Eat like a king and pay like a pauper.
Matt and I were back and forth on what we should call this segment/project, but one thing was clear: we were on to something! We cooked together with Colin and Sarah back in February (seems like a long time ago now) and I’ve been sitting on this post for awhile because I really wanted to dedicate the proper amount of time and attention to it. There’s a lot of info here so sit back, relax and read–and bookmark because you’ll be coming back again & again!
So, Matt and I both love to cook healthy, good food. We’ve been working out together in the same gym classes for awhile now, and when we both realized each others’ similar food interests, we began putting our heads together (as the entrepreneurs that we are) to create something that could help others. He and I both feel that there’s a food niche that’s missing: great recipes for men. I field questions often from my male friends about what they can make at home that’s quick, cheap and easy. Oh, and healthy to boot. And don’t forget that it needs to taste good–scratch that–great!
Once Matt and I began throwing around recipes, tips and techniques, I knew he would be the man for this job. We planned to get together in February for a night of cooking his way. As a successful guy living on his own, he’s had to often come up with weekly meal plans that are satisfying, easy to make in large batches and freeze in portions if necessary, and easy on the wallet–because why not? Who doesn’t love eating well and not paying a lot for it? Sure, I could have just written recipes for men that involve grilling steak and baking potatoes, but why not take it a step further into the unknown and offer real advice? That’s where Matt comes in. Below is a detailed account of our cooking night with recipes. I hope to make this segment a regular thing! Please share with the men in your life who are looking to spice things up in the kitchen=)
So, Matt makes things easy. He’s a great teacher and he’s coming at this whole thing with the luxury of experience. After all, he’s not a chef. He’s just a healthy guy who likes to eat well. His cooking style is approachable and easy for anyone (guy or gal) to pick up. He likes to make variations of the same things each week, which are both predictable on his budget and also easy to make in large batches and eat throughout the week. As an added bonus, he packs his dishes with protein, veggies and spices so not only are they never boring, but they are geared toward his active and healthy lifestyle. On top of that, he has mastered a few key recipes, like cornbread, for example, so that he has a nice warm batch to enjoy throughout his busy week.
Here’s a look at his typical weekly menu, so grab your favorite microbrew and let’s get going:
Cabbage & Beef Saute
“Fried” Chicken Thighs
French Lentil Salad with Mirepoix
Here are his recipes:
Cabbage & Beef Saute
Any type of ground meat or even tofu works here. The key is making a big batch to be eaten throughout the week. Serve over sprouted lentils, steamed quinoa or brown rice, or just eat it plain. Try ground turkey, chicken, beef or sausage. The cabbage cooks down really nicely, so go ahead and use the whole thing!
4 large onions, chopped
1 head green cabbage, cored and sliced/chopped
1 lb ground beef (or whatever meat you want)
spices (a pinch of whatever you want…here’s what he used: allspice, paprika, red pepper flakes, ginger, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper)
In a large cast iron (or other) skillet, over medium heat add a touch of olive oil and add onions. Saute slowly to caramelize. Add a touch of sugar (just a pinch) to help bring out the color and flavor of the onions. Next, add the beef and break apart with your spoon. Add spices (remember a little at a time–you can always add but you can’t take away!–you’ll have time to adjust seasonings later). Saute beef until brown. Add shredded cabbage and place a lid over the skillet to help steam the cabbage and cook it down. Once it’s cooked down enough to stir without spilling everything out when you combine, remove lid and stir carefully to incorporate ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot!*
*For saving leftovers, make sure to cool everything to room temp before placing in a well-sealed container and refrigerating. To make this dish go and go, add beef stock or any other stock to it and turn it into a delicious soup!
“Fried” Chicken Thighs
This one is so simple I’m kicking myself for not having known about it sooner. The key here is that you use bone-in chicken thighs with the skin still on. These are incredibly cheap at the store since so little is done to them. As a bonus, they are full of flavor and for you dark-meat fans, these are for you! Also, since they are not actually fried, they are so much better for you and you don’t even have to worry about dirtying more than one pan or worrying about making a sticky/messy batter. Read on…
1-2 packages skin on, bone-in chicken thighs
salt and pepper to taste
In a large cast iron skillet (a must) place chicken skin-side down in the pan. No oil is needed if the skillet is well-seasoned. Over medium-low heat, let the thighs hang out (don’t move them!) for 30-45 minutes. Leaving them skin-side down will help render the fat and give them the most crunchy outside. Trust me when I say you will not believe how delicious these are. If you notice them starting to burn, just turn down the heat (everyone’s stove top ranges are different!). Once they are crisp enough to your liking, turn them over and crisp up the other side (you don’t need to go as long here, just keep your eye on them but the same rules apply-don’t move them). Once cooked, remove to a plate and salt and pepper those suckers.
Serve hot and crispy and preferably with a vegetable, but that’s not required;)
French Lentil Salad with Mirepoix
This sounds fancy, but trust me, it’s not. This happens to be my recipe that I shared with Matt awhile ago. He liked it so much that he uses it often at home, so it is Man Food approved! Make sure to cook your lentils al dente (adding the vinegar helps with this). Buying dried lentils is cheapest, but if that’s not your thing, Whole Foods carries a great brand of French lentils in the can. This recipe makes a lot, so half the batch if you want. However, this stays fresh in the fridge for up to two weeks and works well thrown into a soup as well, so it can have many iterations.
1 lb lentils, dried
4 cups mirepoix (equal parts diced celery, carrots and onion)
juice of 2 lemons or 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar to taste
salt and pepper to taste, plus maybe a dash of garlic powder
1/4 cup olive oil
Cook the lentils in a large pot of water with a splash of cider vinegar but NO SALT (the vinegar helps to keep the lentils firm but the salt will inhibit their cooking and they’ll never get soft enough to be edible). Make sure to wash and pick through the lentils first if they are dried. If you happen to have some kombu around (or if you even know what that is) throw in a thumb-sized piece to prevent gas. Cook for about 20 minutes or until al dente (still firm and chewy and NOT super soft and mushy). Measure out 5 cups. Reserve the rest in the fridge or freezer to use for soups or salads later in the week. While the lentils are cooking away, dice up your mirepoix. It sounds hard that it is. Basically, cut all veggies into pea-sized pieces. This takes a bit of practice, but you’ll get the hang of it. You’re basically going for all ingredients to be the same size as the lentils. Toss everything with lemon juice or vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings. If too bland, add more lemon juice. If too sour, add a pinch more salt, and keep going until you get it just right. Add olive oil and chill. The flavor sometimes changes overnight, so always taste before serving and adjust seasonings as necessary.
As I said up there, he makes this once a week. He enjoys it with unsulfured molasses, which was pretty damn delicious when we tried it. I would say if you want to go fancy, mix molasses with room temp butter for a simple and surprising spread. Make sure to start saving your bacon grease, because you can use it here! This recipe is a variation from one he found on food.com.
2 cups white cornmeal
2 cups buttermilk (you can sub milk, plain yogurt, or a combo of the two)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup bacon grease (or butter if you don’t have good ol’ bacon grease lying around)
1 teaspoon salt (if you don’t use bacon grease)
Combine all ingredients in a well-seasoned skillet, pat out and bake at 425 degrees until golden brown and puffy, about 20 minutes.
Now that all of the important stuff is out of the way, here’s a final note:
I WANT FEEDBACK! Do you like this segment? DO the men in your life like it? I want you to try these recipes, take pictures and share them with me or on social media with the hashtag #dinnerdividemanfood. Please & thank you.
Until next time!