I love meal planning. Well, I don’t necessarily love the actual work of meal planning, but I love having the plan. And the work ahead of time makes the plan possible. I also love to-do lists, especially when I get to check things off the list! It’s a sensation of accomplishment and productivity. Do you ever complete a task that isn’t on your list and then put it on the list just so you can check it off? I’m going to imagine you said yes and we just shared a special moment. (There’s no shame if you want to add “read a blog about preparing a last-minute meal” to your list just to check it off!)

Sometimes, however, life happens and for whatever reason the dinner plan we made simply isn’t going to work. It’s not out of the picture for me to call our friend John in these moments (we’re so close we sometimes call him Papa John), but first I try to see if it’s possible to create something with what I have on hand. Recently, I found myself without a plan but was able to pull off a nutritious meal using a few ingredients we already had in the fridge and freezer. Here’s the good news: I bet you have most of these things on hand, too! So if you find yourself in need of a last minute idea, try it out. The four food critics I live with happily ate it!

Here’s what I used:

  1. Chicken Breasts: I always keep boneless/skinless chicken breasts in my freezer. If you forget to defrost them ahead of time or are using them last minute like I did, you can do a quick defrost in a bowl of water. Change the water about every 30 minutes. Once they are defrosted, slice the width in half (or pound them out) to create a thinner piece of chicken and brush with some olive oil and salt and pepper or your favorite all purpose seasoning. Put under the broiler for 5-10 minutes per side or just until fully cooked.
  2. Sandwich Rolls: I like to keep a couple different types of bread in the freezer. They defrosted quickly on the counter, but I also popped them in the toaster to remove any lingering chill and give them a nice crunch.
  3. Mozzarella Cheese: Guess where this was hiding out—yep in the freezer! We make a lot of homemade pizza, so I buy my shredded mozzarella in a big bag then divide it up into smaller ones. Sliced cheese would work great too. Or no cheese!
  4. Spinach Leaves, Sliced Tomato, and Avocado: I had all three, so I used them, but you could omit any of these if they weren’t already living at your house or try your sandwich with something else you may have like lettuce, red onion, or pickles.
  5. Honey Balsamic Mayo: For the sauce, I mixed together approximately 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup mayonnaise and a pinch of salt. I tasted for deliciousness and delicious it was NOT! Way too sour! When you taste test and one flavor is overpowering DON’T FREAK OUT! Simply think about what you can add that is opposite of your current seasoning to bring balance. So in this case, I needed something sweet to subdue the vinegar. I added about 1 teaspoon honey and tasted again. Perfect.
  6. Vegetables: Add some veggies for the side (frozen veggies have just as many nutrients as fresh, so keep a few frozen options in your freezer for such a time as this) and you have yourself a complete meal!


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