In the Trenches, Episode 4 by joec3
January 24, 2014, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the Trenches: Episode 4

By Joe Chiles

The beginnings of something great.

The beginnings of something great.

So, it turns out medical school takes up quite a bit of time.  Personally, even when it comes to cooking for myself lately, it’s been a rather on-and-off relationship.  By the end of last week, I had eaten my way through my entire freezer full of old meals I had frozen down.  It was time to cook again and it was time to cook a lot.  But I had so much to do!  I needed a quick and very productive cooking session.

What to do?  Well, for me, the first problem is the oven.  I only have one, so I can’t use my oven for very many things all at the same time.  Additionally, there’s only one me, which means that prep time also becomes a limiting element.  I need stuff that I can start and then walk away from while I prep something else or get something else done.

This is what I came up with and it was pretty darned good.  I’ll break it down recipe by recipe and tell you how I made them work together at the very end.

Sausage Breakfast Bake

 This is one of my oldest recipes, it’s great for eating a filling and healthy breakfast each morning without having to cook.  Unfortunately, when you reheat it, it’s still microwaved egg, which isn’t the best texture in the world, but making it this way is the most palatable I’ve found.

So easy a groggy human can reheat it.

Breakfast for days.


  •  0.6 lbs. Good Foods Breakfast Sausage (MISTAKE, STAY AWAY – get the chorizo or Italian instead)
  • 1/2         Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1              Green Bell Pepper
  • 1              Bunch Lacinato (or Dinosaur) Kale
  • 6              Eggs, beaten
  • Salt, Pepper
  • Servings:             4
  • Cost/Serving:    $2.71
  • Prep Time:          20 minutes active, 30-45 in the oven

Brown some sausage over medium heat.  Before it’s cooked all the way (*gasp*), add in some onions and bell peppers, roughly chopped.  Cook until onions start to soften, add in some leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, collards, I don’t care), and cook until they’re wilted.  Add cooked veggies and meat to a baking dish.

In a bowl, whisk together some eggs (I generally use two per serving, but I tried 1.5 in this one and I think it may have worked out better) and pour them over the meat and veggies.  Bake in an oven at 400oF for 45 minutes for a 9”x 13” pan, or around 30 minutes for an 8” x 8” pan.  Basically, bake until the eggs are firm and show some browning on top.

Chili, Version 3.1

I have a pathological love of chili.  When you see how easy and quick it is maybe you will, too.  I used some different spices here, but chili is pretty forgiving in general.  Season it, taste it, repeat until you’ve got a combination you like.  I sometimes eat this for breakfast because, like I explained, my love for this stuff is like a disease.

Great, now I'm hungry.



  •  2.0 lbs.  Ground Beef (I used grass-fed, you do what you want)
  • 4 cans    Diced Tomatoes (14 oz.)
  • 1 can      Yellow Corn, drained (15 oz.)
  • 1 can      Black Beans, drained (15 oz.)
  • 1              Yellow Onion, chopped coarsely
  • 2              Green Bell Peppers, chopped coarsely
  • 2              Jalapeno Peppers, sliced
  • 2              Serrano Peppers, sliced
  •                 Salt and Pepper
  •                 Spices (I used turmeric, cumin, curry powder, cayenne powder, cinnamon, and garlic)
  •  Servings:             8
  • Cost/Serving:    $3.20
  • Prep Time:          30 minutes active time, 30 minutes – 3 hours simmer time.

Brown the ground beef in a large pot over medium heat.  Chop the onion and green pepper coarsely and add it to the beef.  When the onions start to turn translucent, add salt and spices to taste.  Careful with the salt, you can always add more later.  Add the tomatoes and stir them into the mixture.  I like to use a spoon to crush them a bit.  Add the beans and corn.

Wait until the mixture starts to simmer, then turn down to a medium-low heat.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes to three hours, stirring every fifteen minutes or so.  As it cooks, the tomatoes will break down and form an emulsion with the fat from the beef, leading to the classic thick chili texture.

Dinner: Chicken breasts with roasted root vegetables and greens.

Mmmm, beer.

Dinner! Keep scrolling for the recipes.

Roasted Root Vegetables

 Roasted root vegetables are easy to make, delicious, and cheap.  I will forever be in debt to my friend Chelsea for showing me how this is done.  I cheated here a little bit and used leftover beets, sweet potatoes, and carrots from my CFA share over the summer, but you can use pretty much any root veggies you want and it will be delicious and healthy.


  • 1.5 lbs.  Beets
  • 3/4 lb.   Sweet Potato
  • 3              Carrots (large)
  •                 Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, and Garlic (minced fresh or powdered)
  • Servings:             5
  • Cost/Serving:    ~$1.18 (fair guesstimate)
  • Prep Time:          15 minutes active, 1 hour baking

 Preheat oven to 400oF.  Wash and/or peel all vegetables.  Chop the vegetables into 1-inch cubes.  Add to a large baking dish in a single layer so that the vegetables will brown nicely.  Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil then add salt and pepper, stirring to make sure all the vegetables are evenly coated.  Add to oven and bake, stirring every 20 minutes to make sure the veggies get even heat and are nice and browned on all sides. If you’re using fresh garlic, wait until right before you’re getting ready to take them out of the oven to add it.  This will prevent the garlic from getting overdone, which can make it a little bitter.  Just a warning: the veggies will shrink by the time they are done, concentrating their delicious goodness.


I love greens.  They are easy to make, healthy, and taste amazing.  If only they cost less you’d see a lot more posts about me eating nothing but greens and meat.  I used Lacinato Kale and Rainbow Chard here, but you can use any dark, substantial green you want.  Spinach tends to come out a bit limp, so it’s not really my favorite.  Chard is something not everyone has tried, but it’s like spinach with substance and a stalk that cooks down deliciously.  Try it next time you’re cooking!


  • 1 bch.    Lacinato Kale
  • 1 bch.    Rainbow Chard
  •              Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Salt, Pepper, and Garlic
  • Servings:             5
  • Cost/Serving:    $1.20
  • Prep Time:          5 minutes active, 10 minutes cooking

Heat a decent amount (~2 tbsp.?) of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Wash the greens if they need it, then chop them into squares about 2 inches a side, I like to leave them in bunches to make this easier.  Add the greens to the oil, stirring every few minutes until they’ve wilted completely.  Remove from heat, add salt, pepper, garlic, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice, stirring to mix everything around.  I used to use vinegar, but really prefer the freshness of lemon juice here.

Baked Chicken Breasts

So easy, my three-year-old niece could do it.  Feel free to mix this up with marinades and different spices, but sometimes it’s just good to keep things simple.  I bought fancy hippie chicken, but you should feel free to save some money by buying Tyson’s if you don’t roll like that.


  •  5            Chicken Breasts
  •                 Salt and Pepper
  •  Servings:             5
  • Cost/Serving:    $3.32 (total dinner cost: $5.70/very big plate)
  • Prep Time:          5 minutes active, 30 minutes cooking

 Allow chicken to come to room temperature, if you can.  This reduces cooking time, keeping the meat more moist on the inside.  Preheat the oven to 400oF.  Put the chicken breasts on a roasting pan/cookie sheet/old car hood/what have you, salt and pepper both sides.

Place in the oven for fifteen minutes, rotate the pan and cook for another 15 minutes.  At the end, the chicken should be whatever temperature, or just brown on the outside if you are as lazy as I am.  Let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes after taking it out of the oven.  While letting the meat rest, take a silicone brush and mix together the dripping and any burnt-on brown stuff into a delicious sauce and dab onto the chicken breasts.

The Summary

No, seriously, it's pretty good.

Lots of delicious food.

I cooked all this in less than three hours, which included significant time Firecrackering, washing dishes, and then drinking beer, then washing even more dishes.  First, I made the breakfast bake as far as putting it into the oven, then started the chili.  The chili was ready to simmer around the time the breakfast bake came out of the oven, so I started prepping the root vegetables.  While they baked, I did other stuff.  Right before they were done, I prepped the chicken so it went in as soon as the root veggies were done.  After rotating the pan, I started on the greens.  Everything was done all at once for dinner, so I sat down to eat victorious.

Remember folks, there’s always time for cooking and you’ll always be glad to have some healthy food on hand when things get seriously busy.  This was easily enough for the week (when supplemented with free lunches and a couple trips out for some food), yielding 17 meals out of 21.  Got some extra?  Freeze it!

Until next time, just remember when life gives you lemons, you can use their juice and zest to make delicious food.


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