There are basic factors recipes must meet in order to be the Makeover Monday Meal:
It has to have a fairly short prep time, and the meal or dish should come together in less than an hour.
The ingredients have to be easy to find in your grocery store, freezer, or fridge. The use of pantry items is a plus.
The recipe has to be adaptable, even traditional meat recipes.
It should be healthy
This week’s recipe for Cast Iron Baked Ziti comes from America’s Test Kitchen. This is a wonderful weeknight meal that comes together quickly and is easily adapted for a vegan/vegetarian or gluten-sensitive diet. The sauce is a combination of fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, basil, mozzarella, and grated parmesan cheese. Moreover, as good as it tastes when you first make it, the leftovers actually taste better overnight in the fridge.
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup) (vegan cheese like Daiya Provolone or mozzarella shreds are quite good)
Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Heat 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Toss tomatoes with oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Add tomatoes to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly charred and blistered, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, tomato paste, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Off heat, coarsely mash tomatoes using a potato masher.
Stir in pasta and water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to vigorous simmer, cover, and cook, stirring often, until pasta is tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
Stir in Parmesan and adjust sauce consistency with extra hot water as needed. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Transfer skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and spotty brown, about 5 minutes. Serve.
For more recipes and to keep up with Still a Chick Lit, subscribe to our newsletter
Almost everyone has a go-to place for great takeout. Whether you go on a Friday, Saturday, or even Tuesday night, there’s nothing like ordering your favorites and digging in when you get home.
However, there are times when you just don’t feel like making the drive. Granted, there are a plethora of delivery options available, but many of them require a minimum order to get free delivery, and if you’re in the mood for one thing, it’s just not worth it.
For many people, lo mein with its noodles stir-fried with vegetables and your choice of beef, chicken, or shrimp in a delectable sauce, ticks all the boxes. Thankfully Cooking Professionally has a recipe for Beef Lo Mein that is not only delicious but it can also be prepared for two in twenty minutes. Moreover, by making it at home, you can control the level of sodium and carb intake.
With so many supermarkets and grocery stores offering pre-chopped and julienned vegetables in their produce sections, you can save yourself some more time. This is a great and economical way to enjoy your favorite takeout meal at home.
If you want to make this vegetarian or vegan:
Omit the beef and increase vegetables *
Replace the oyster sauce with an equal amount of low-sodium or regular soy sauce plus 2 teaspoons of white sugar, coconut sugar, turbinado, or raw cane sugar. You can also use 1 teaspoon of Swerve, Splenda, or monk fruit sweetener. *
To make it low-carb instead of Lo Mein noodles or egg noodles, you can use zucchini or spaghetti squash noodles. Instead of blanching in hot water for 2 minutes, blanch the vegetable noodles for 4 minutes and set them aside. *
Beef Lo Mein recipe by Cooking Professionally adapted Still A Chick Lit
This Monday meal is just right for autumn and football season. When the temperatures drop, this chili will warm you up without weighing you down. It also comes together fairly quickly. Serve the chili alone, topped with cheese or over rice. It also goes well with guacamole and chips.
This is a family pleaser and perfect for Monday Night Football.
The recipe includes adaptations for vegetarians and vegans. It’s also gluten-free and high protein.
Chicken Chili by Still A Chick Lit
4 small or 3 large sweet onions, diced (Vidalia or Texas sweet)
2 green peppers, medium-diced
3 red peppers, medium-diced
1 orange pepper, medium-diced
1, yellow pepper, medium-diced
1 can low-sodium red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can low-sodium pink kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of unsalted chicken stock or broth
3 cans Campbells tomato soup
3 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
1 pound ground chicken (or ground turkey)
1 pound ground chicken breast (or ground turkey breast)
3 tablespoons Canola oil
Add Canola or vegetable oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add your diced onions and peppers. Saute for 8 to 10 minutes. Add ground chicken and chicken breast in, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cover and let cook through, stirring occasionally.
When the chicken is no longer pink, add the chili powder and stir well. Add the beans and tomato soup. Mix well. Lower the flame and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
2 Packages of vegan ground meat
1/4 cup to 1/2 unsalted vegetable stock or broth
To Make Using a Slow Cooker
Cook the ground chicken separately in a skillet until cooked through. Set aside. Clean the skillet and add the onions and peppers. Cook until the vegetables are just beginning to soften. Remove from the heat.
Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a slow cooker with the beans, tomato soup, seasoning, and chicken stock.
Cover and cook on high until chili has thickened, about 4 hours. Or cook on low for 6 hours.
For more Makeover Monday Meal recipes and more, subscribe to our newsletter
Summer is the season of hot weather, going to the beach, cool drinks, grilling, and long lazy days. Conversely, autumn is the season of cooler temps, leaves changing, sweaters, hot apple cider, comfort food, Halloween, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving. For so many of us, it’s time to put the oven on and head back into the kitchen.
Comfort meals are just the thing to help us hit the reset button in the midst of the stresses of work, school, and other obligations that can make us feel a bit off balance. During the week, we often don’t have the time or energy to deal with a long complicated meal. Even a slow cooker can be hard when you don’t have time to put the ingredients together, or some of us have even forgotten to put it on. However, we came across a recipe in Southern Living that is easy, healthy and comes together in less than thirty minutes.
Chicken soup is one of the ultimate comfort foods and cure for all that ails you. The best thing about this soup is you can buy many of the ingredients pre-cooked and pre-chopped. We’ve adapted the recipe for vegans and vegetarians ( no chicken, vegan noodles, and non-dairy milk) as a way to be sure that everyone can find comfort in a hot, creamy soup perfect for the cooler evenings ahead.
Enjoy and Happy Fall!
Creamy Chicken Soup recipe by Southern Living Magazine adapted by Still A Chick Lit
Total Time 25 minutes
¼ cup unsalted butter (unsalted vegan butter)
1 medium-sized yellow onion, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, sliced into 1/2 -inch rounds (about ¾ cup)
2 medium celery stalks, chopped
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups fresh spinach or 1 cup frozen peas
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 bay leaf
¼ cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, sorghum, white rice, or brown rice flour)
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
6 cups unsalted chicken stock (unsalted vegetable stock) (I like Kitchen Basics)
8 ounces Old-fashioned wide egg noodles (you can use pasta, such as orzo or even angel hair spaghetti to keep it vegan/vegetarian)
1 cooked or rotisserie chicken, torn into bite-size pieces (omit for vegan/vegetarian soup)
½ cup heavy cream (dairy: light cream or half and half) (non-dairy: rice, soy, or almond milk)
1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Melt butter in a large pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened. Add flour, garlic, and smoked paprika. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is fragrant and the flour begins to turn brown.
Add stock to the mixture and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Stirring occasionally. Add the noodles, spinach, or peas and cook, stirring occasionally until the noodles are tender. Reduce the heat to low, add the chicken. Cook until the chicken is heated through, about one minute. Stir in the cream, sherry vinegar, and remaining salt. Before serving top with thyme leaves. Serves Four.
For a vegan or vegetarian version of this soup, double the vegetables for an extra-yummy creamy vegetable soup.
There isn’t a lot of knife work for this recipe, however, if you’re not comfortable, most grocery stores and supermarkets have pre-chopped vegetables in their produce section. It’s also a time saver.
Like Beef Stroganoff, Swedish Meatballs reached the height of popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. The recipe is a mixture of ground beef, ground pork, minced onion, breadcrumbs, seasonings, eggs, and heavy cream. It fell out of popularity for a while but saw a resurgence when Ikea brought it to America.
The original recipe requires time and that’s not something a lot of modern families have while living busy lives. Fortunately, we found a recipe by Inspired Taste that includes instructions to make them in a slow cooker and an Instapot or pressure cooker.
Remember, seasoning can be adjusted to your liking. We adapted the recipe to include vegetarians and vegans, so they can enjoy it too.
We hope you will give this a whirl to perk up your Monday night meal.
Crave-Worthy Swedish Meatballs by Inspired Taste. Adapted by Still A Chick Lit
This Swedish meatballs recipe makes juicy and flavorful meatballs with a creamy, rich, and crave-worthy sauce. If you prefer, you can serve the meatballs without the gravy. Serve these with mashed potatoes (or mashed cauliflower), buttered noodles, or roasted vegetables.
For the gravy, Inspired Taste added a few unconventional ingredients. Soy sauce seasons, mustard adds a little zing, and lemon zest brightens up the flavors of the dish.
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk (dairy: whole, 2%, or non-fat) (non-dairy: almond, rice, or soy milk)
2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, plus more as needed (unsalted vegan butter)
1/2 cup (70 grams) finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or a pinch of dry mustard powder
1 large egg (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, ¼ cup silken tofu pureed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, or vegan egg replacer)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
FOR THE GRAVY
Butter, as needed (vegan butter or margarine)
3 tablespoons (24 grams) all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)
3 cups (710 ml) unsalted beef, chicken, or unsalted vegetable stock (you can also use broth)
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream (Dairy: light cream or whole milk) (non-dairy: full-fat coconut milk or unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon light soy sauce (vegan soy sauce)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or a pinch of dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Handful fresh parsley, chopped
PREPARE MEATBALL MIXTURE
In a small bowl, tear or chop the bread into small pieces then cover with the milk. Set aside.
Melt one tablespoon of butter in a wide skillet. Add the onions and cook until soft, but not brown; 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the black pepper, allspice, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and mustard. Cook, stirring everything around the pan for 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl to cool, and then wipe the skillet mostly clean with a paper towel so that it is ready for cooking the meatballs.
Combine the beef, pork, bread, and milk mixture, and the egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large food processor). When the onions are warm, not hot, add them to the bowl as well.
Evenly sprinkle the salt over the top of the mixture then beat for about 30 seconds, scrape the sides of the bowl, then beat another 30 seconds to a minute until the mixture looks very well blended. (If you are using a food processor, you may need to stop the processor one more time to move the mixture around a bit.)
Form the mixture into meatballs; we like using a medium cookie scoop that holds about 1 1/2 tablespoons — you should get around 30 meatballs. Move onto cooking or cover and refrigerate up to a day or freeze them (see notes section for our tips).
Heat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. (It’s likely you will cook the meatballs in batches. A warm oven helps to keep cooked meatballs hot while you finish cooking all of the meatballs.)
Melt half a tablespoon of butter in the pan used to cook the onions over medium-low heat. Add meatballs and cook, turning every few minutes, until brown on all sides and cooked through; 8 to 10 minutes. It’s unlikely all of the meatballs will fit so you will need to do this in batches (or use two pans). Add more butter to the pan as needed.
Transfer cooked meatballs to the baking sheet and place them into the warm oven.
MAKE THE GRAVY
After cooking the meatballs, make the gravy in the same pan. Depending on how much fat is left in the pan after cooking the meatballs, you may need to remove some or add a little bit of butter. You will need about three tablespoons of fat in the pan.
Decrease the heat to low then scatter the flour over the fat in the pan and whisk until medium blonde in color, about 2 minutes. While whisking, slowly add the broth. Continue to whisk until the gravy begins to thicken. Add the cream and continue to cook until the sauce thickens enough to coat the meatballs, another minute or so.
Whisk in the soy sauce, mustard, and lemon zest. Taste then adjust with salt and pepper, as needed. Remove the meatballs from the oven and add to the gravy. Serve with parsley scattered on top.
The recipe authors Adam and Joanne prefer the combination of beef and pork, If that doesn’t suit you, use 1 ½ pound of ground beef.
If you don’t want to use beef or pork, the combination of 1 pound of ground chicken breast and ground chicken makes for just the right bite.
You can use 1/3 cup of plain bread crumbs instead of fresh bread.
If you don’t have a stand mixer or food processor, you can mix the meatball mixture by hand. An immersion blender works too. If you use your hands, it will affect the texture of the meatballs.
Make-ahead tips: The meatball mixture can be made and refrigerated one to two days in advance.
Freezing the Meatballs:
To freeze cooked meatballs, let them cool enough so you can handle them then add to freezer-safe bags or containers. To reheat them, bake in the oven until heated through. To freeze uncooked meatballs, place the formed balls onto a baking sheet and then into the freezer. Freeze until hard then transfer to freezer-safe containers or bags. To cook them, thaw in the refrigerator overnight then follow the directions for cooking in the recipe above. We do not recommend freezing the gravy, but you can make that in about 5 minutes.
Making Them in a Slow Cooker
You can make this recipe in a slow cooker or crockpot. To do it, follow these steps:
Make the meatball mixture as directed and roll it into balls.
Brown the meatballs to add some sturdiness and color, and then add to the slow cooker.
Make the gravy as directed in the recipe below, but leave out the heavy cream. Instead of adding cream at this stage, add it once the meatballs are cooked, which prevents curdling the cream.
Cook the meatballs on LOW for 4 to 5 hours or on HIGH for 2 hours.
When cooked, turn the heat setting to WARM. Stir in the cream, taste the gravy, and adjust with additional salt and pepper.
Making Them in a Pressure Cooker (example: Instant Pot)
You can make this recipe in a pressure cooker. To do it, follow these steps:
Make the meatball mixture as directed and roll it into balls.
Brown the meatballs to add some sturdiness and color, and then add to the pressure cooker. Depending on your pressure cooker, this step can be done by using the SAUTE function.
Make the gravy as directed in the recipe below, but leave out the heavy cream. Instead of adding cream at this stage, add it once the meatballs are cooked, which prevents the chance of curdling the cream.
Cook the meatballs on HIGH PRESSURE for 8 minutes, and then let the pressure naturally release.
When cooked, stir in the cream, taste the gravy, and adjust with additional salt and pepper.
To be sure you get our latest Makeover Monday Meal, subscribe to our newsletter