We get it. After a full day of work, ordering takeout seems so much easier than prepping a dinner from scratch. But celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, host of Food Network’s Giada in Italy, knows that making your own meals can actually be faster than putting in a food order. That’s why we’ve partnered with Giada for the 30-Day No Takeout Challenge.
Here’s how the challenge works: We’ve come up with four weeks of weekday dinners built around four types of quick-cook themes. Saturdays and Sundays are built for shopping and meal prep. Monday through Friday—the days most people struggle to walk away from the takeout menu and back into the kitchen—you’ll use the recipe elements you’ve prepped over the weekend to make fast and delicious dinners. Then, since each recipe makes multiple servings, you can pack up your leftovers and eat them for lunch the following day.
In addition to the dishes being quick and flavorful (we promise!), many of the recipes feature inexpensive grains and vegetables. The best part of all? “You’ll know what’s in your food, so it will be healthier,” says Giada. “After 30 days, you’ll feel better.”
We’re ready. Are you?
Before you start…
Check your fridge and pantry. Do you have these items on hand? If not, add them to your grocery list, as you will be using them for the month.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Canola oil
- Sesame oil (or sub Canola oil)
- Balsamic vinegar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Sherry vinegar
- White wine vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- Whole-grain mustard
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Worcestershire sauce
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce
- Sesame seeds
- 1 head of garlic
- Cooking spray
- Yellow cornmeal
- All-purpose flour
- Dried basil
- Dried cranberries
- Chopped walnuts
- Ground cloves
- Cumin seeds
- Hot sauce
THEME: Pre-Prepped Veggies
Nothing halts your cooking motivation faster than having to wash, dry, and chop your veggies, so today, we’ll practice the habit of getting a week’s worth of vegetables recipe ready ahead of time. You’ll chop veggies and transfer them to sealable containers, making them easy to grab and go all week. You’ll also be sautéing kale in a spicy-savory mix of garlic and crushed red pepper, marinating lentils in a tangy Dijon mustard sauce, and prepping a fresh grape tomato salad. Yum! PLUS: Giada has a tried-and-true tip to ensure you’ll bring your lunch from home all week long in the video above.
Week 1 Grocery List:
- 1 ½-2 lb. kale
- 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded smoked mozzarella
- 1 prepared 12-inch thin-crust pizza crust, such as Boboli
- 2 lemons
- 1 orange
- 1 large or 2 small shallots
- 1 medium leek
- 1 red onion
- 2 pints grape tomatoes
- 8 oz. mushrooms, such as cremini, button, or stemmed shiitake
- 1, 8-oz. carton vegetable broth
- 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (1/4 cup), at room temperature
- 4, 10-inch high-fiber multigrain wraps
- 4, 5-oz. center-cut skinless salmon fillets
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2, 17-oz. (or 4, 9-oz.) packages lentils
- 8-oz. box farfalle
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- 1, 1-lb. flank steak, trimmed
- 4 cups baby arugula
- Fresh thyme
Weekend Meal Prep:
- Wash about 1 ½ lb. kale and tear into pieces. Divide torn kale in half; store one of the halves in a sealable container. In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 4 sliced large garlic cloves; sauté until just beginning to turn golden, about 1 minutes. Stir in a scant 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper. Add kale; cook, tossing for 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water; cover, reduce heat to medium and steam until kale is just tender, about 4 minutes. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to a bowl; let cool completely.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup each balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. kosher salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Gently break apart two 17-oz. (or four 9-oz.) packages steamed lentils; fold into vinaigrette until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a sealable container.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 3 Tbsp. each fresh lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil, 3/4 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Add 2 pints halved grape tomatoes, 1 minced large shallot and 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme; toss well. Transfer to a sealable container.
- Chop the rest of the veggies and transfer to sealable containers.
We’re starting the No Takeout Challenge boldly by putting the biggest takeout staple to the challenge: Pizza! This recipe packs a lot of flavor with just two big toppings. With a prep time of just 5 minutes, you can have a healthy and hearty pizza ready in less than 15 minutes—less time than it would take to have a pie delivered.
With all your vegetables pre-chopped and sliced, this vegetarian recipe can be started and finished in under 20 minutes. Sautéing the leeks, mushrooms, and kale in the broth creates a depth of flavor that feels rich and hearty without the meat—and the addition of tangy goat cheese and sweet cranberries will make your taste buds crave every bite.
Season your salmon fillets with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, sear them in a hot skillet, and voila—you’ve got an omega-3 packed protein source ready to eat in less than 10 minutes. While your fish is cooking, you’ll doctor up your pre-cooked lentils with the bright zing of some fresh squeeze orange and orange zest.
Tonight, you’ll toss freshly cooked farfalle with your pre-marinated grape tomatoes and feta cheese for a filling meal that’s vibrant and creamy. Best part? From start to finish, it will take you less than 10 minutes to prep.
Close out your first week’s meals with a flavorful seared flank steak that cooks quickly. On the side, treat the rest of your pre-marinated tomatoes as a tasty, chunky dressing: Just toss it with arugula and your meal is complete in minutes!
THEME: Proteins, Please
Giada gets it: Takeout is such a hard habit to kick because it’s so easy. But with some smart planning, you can turn your weeknight meals into healthy workday lunches. In this video, Giada shares her secret to making your own grab-and-go lunch.
One of the easiest ways to speed up weeknight dinner prep to be as fast as delivery is to pre-cook your proteins. That’s why for Week 2, you’ll be roasting a big chicken in the oven, and divvying it up into a fresh cobb salad, soft tacos with south-of-the-border flair, a hearty soup, and an Asian-inspired stir-fry that’s sure to satisfy.
Week 2 Grocery List
- 1 large roasting chicken (6 to 8 lb.)
- 2, 15-ounce cans low-sodium chickpeas
- Fresh dill
- 1 large head romaine lettuce
- 1 avocado
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 lemon
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- 4 radishes
- 1 small jalapeño
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1 cup cilantro sprigs
- 2 limes
- 5 thin slices speck or prosciutto
- ¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola dolce cheese
- 8 corn tortillas
- 2, 32-oz. boxes lower-sodium chicken broth
- 2 small carrots
- 8 oz. broccoli rabe (rapini)
- 8-oz. box orecchiette (a little ear-shaped pasta)
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- 2 Tbsp. grated, peeled fresh ginger
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper
- 12 oz. cauliflower florets
- 8 oz. green beans
Weekend Meal Prep:
- Roast a chicken. (Note: You could also buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.)
- Wash and chop all your vegetables. Store them in the fridge in sealable containers.
- Pre-make your dressing and marinated chickpeas for the salad you’ll be eating on Monday. For the dressing, whisk together 1 tsp. whole-grain mustard, 1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar, 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon salt. For the chickpeas, drain and rinse a 15-oz. can of low-sodium chickpeas, and mix with 1 Tbsp. chopped dill, 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, and ¼ tsp. salt.
Giada has mastered the elements of a main course salad with this quick and delicious recipe that combines two filling proteins—roasted chicken and chickpeas—with the light and crunchy textures of the lettuce and chopped vegetables.
Tacos are one of the easiest ways to turn fresh vegetables into a full meal simply by adding a flavorful protein—like more of this week’s roast chicken. Warm up your corn tortillas in the microwave for 1 minute, assemble your tacos, and enjoy your fiesta.
This soup tastes like it’s simmered on the stove for hours, but takes just 10 minutes to whip up. You’ll layer flavors by simmering your pre-chopped carrots in chicken broth, tossing in some dill, and then adding in 3 cups of your roast chicken with its juices for a warm, satisfying meal.
Giada loves simple pasta dishes with only a few fresh ingredients. For this one, you’ll toss a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas with flavorful broccoli rabe and parmesan cheese for a satisfying vegetarian dinner. (Note: You can switch out the pasta for farfalle or penne if it’s already in your pantry, and use regular broccoli if it’s easier to find in your local market.)
With just a few Asian flavors—sesame oil, soy sauce, and ginger—you can turn your basic vegetables and the last of this week’s roast chicken into a taste from the other side of the globe. Just stir-fry the veggies you chopped over the weekend, and you’ll have a meal on the table in less than 15 minutes.
THEME: Grainy Goodness
Giada loves to pre-cook her grains over the weekend and then use them as sides, toss them in salads, or top them with a protein and sauce throughout the busy workweek. In this video, Giada reveals her favorite grains, and shows us her method for using them in no-fuss meals that the whole family will enjoy.
Week 3 Grocery List
- 1, 24-oz. box low-sodium chicken broth
- 5 ½ oz. green beans
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 oz. each)
- Fresh mint
- 1, 6-oz. can pitted black olives
- 4 low-fat chicken sausages (about 12 oz.)
- 8 oz. mixed salad greens
- 1 1/2 lb. ripe tomatoes
- 2 small red onions
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 6 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1 jar salsa
- 1 bottle green goddess salad dressing (such as Annie’s)
- 1 large head broccoli
- 1 large orange bell pepper
- 12 oz. raw shrimp
- 4 scallions
- 2 cups uncooked faro
- 3 ¼ cups quinoa
- 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil (if needed, sub extra virgin olive oil or canola oil)
- 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 orange
- ½ cup dried cherries
- 1 English cucumber
- 1 container baby arugula
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- 1 small shallot
Weekend Meal Prep:
- Cook the two main grains featured in this week’s dishes—3 ¼ cups quinoa and 1 cup farro—following the package directions.
- Prep your vegetables (hopefully you’re starting to enjoy this weekend habit!): Clean and chop your kale, cucumber, red pepper, spinach, and green beans. Clean, dry, and chop all of the fresh herbs for this week (including mint, tarragon, and parsley) that vibrantly up the flavor in any grain.
Giada’s salad is simple, colorful, and has enough texture to keep you spooning it up. Creamy goat cheese, crisp English cucumbers, and tangy arugula are bursting with flavor. Though Giada’s recipe calls for farro to be cooked with shallots and oregano, you can speed up dinner prep simply by mixing those ingredients into your pre-cooked farro, along with the rest of the recipe ingredients.
Today’s recipe brings the intense flavors of black olives and fresh herbs to the otherwise plain taste of quinoa and baked chicken. Most of the work for this meal happens in the oven—all of it brightened at the end with lemon zest. You’ve already prepped your quinoa, so skip the first step of this recipe. Just line your baking dish with your pre-cooked quinoa, top it with the beans and chicken, and cook covered in tinfoil for 25 to 30 minutes.
Bell peppers, onions, broccoli, and shrimp come together in this Asian-inspired stir-fry. Saute your ingredients with a dressing of soy sauce, honey, and vinegar, and then serve over your pre-cooked farro for a meal that’s loaded with 22 grams of protein per serving.
Today’s protein is an easy-cook sausage that you will serve with sliced tomatoes over some of your pre-cooked quinoa. Your secret ingredient? Creamy, herby green goddess dressing. Though the recipe calls to make your own, you saved time by buying a bottle at the grocery store.
Who says quinoa has to be served on the side? You’ll never miss the meat in this dish when you make your grain the main event, simply by blending it with basil and parmesan and forming it into pancakes—just sear and serve with spinach. Plus, with your quinoa already cooked and waiting for you in the fridge, you’ll cut 20 minutes off this recipe’s prep time.
THEME: Dress It Up
You can completely change the flavor of a protein, pasta, salad, or grain simply by adding a unique sauce or dressing. What, for instance, is Giada’s favorite way to doctor up a big bowl of grains? A lemon vinaigrette. “Even just a dressing,” says Giada, “is going to add flavor in every bite.” In this video, Giada reveals her favorite salad dressing recipe.
Week 4 Grocery List
- 1 large shallot
- 1, 14.5-ounce can vegetable broth
- 1 ¼ cups quinoa
- 1, 1 ¼-pound eggplant
- 1 large Honey Crisp or Golden Delicious apple
- 1 large bunch watercress
- 3 onions
- 6-8 Swiss chard leaves
- 1, 15-oz. can green or brown lentils
- 1, 15.5-oz. can chickpeas
- Pomegranate molasses (or sub cranberry juice concentrate)
- 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 carrot
- 1 leek
- 1 rib celery
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ cup red wine (optional)
- ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk (or sub cow’s milk)
- 1, 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1, 6-oz. can tomato paste
- 8 oz. cooked whole-grain linguine, ziti, or penne
- Grated parmesan for serving, optional
- 1 lb. refrigerated fresh pizza dough or 1 prepared 12-inch thin-crust pizza crust, such as Boboli
- 5 applewood smoked bacon slices
- 2 cups grape tomatoes
- 1 jar lower-sodium marinara sauce
- 3 oz. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup baby arugula
Weekend Meal Prep:
- Make Giada’s cumin dressing for Monday/Tuesday’s quinoa salad: Toast 2 tsp. cumin seeds in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the seeds darken in color and become fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the seeds out onto a plate and let cool for a minute or two. Grind the seeds fine in a small spice or coffee grinder. Whisk ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1/8 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, and 1 ½ tsp. of the toasted cumin in a small bowl until thick and blended. Stir in 1 large shallot, finely chopped. Store in a sealable container.
- Prep your lentils for Wednesday’s dinner: Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan. Add onions to pan; sauté until soft, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add garlic. Cook until onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add Swiss chard leaves; cook until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Place 6 cups water in a pan; bring to a boil. Add lentils to pan. Reduce heat, and simmer; cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool before storing in a sealable container in the fridge.
- Wash, chop, and store the rest of your vegetables for this week.
This recipe highlights what Giada does best: hitting as many parts of your taste buds as possible in one simple dish, layering flavors from peppery to nutty to sweet, all topped off with the ultimate key: the cumin vinaigrette. This recipe yields six servings and takes a little longer to prep than some of the other meals you’ve whipped up during this challenge, so tomorrow, you’ll have leftovers.
It’s true—eating the same thing day after day can be boring. But it’s easy to modify yesterday’s quinoa-based salad to seem like a completely new meal. Scooping the salad over a handful of arugula will give you a dose of ultra-healthy leafy greens while also providing a crunchy, spicy kick to this meal.
This filling vegetarian meal gets its deep flavor from fresh chard and pomegranate molasses, all brightened with a lemony vinaigrette to balance the dish.
Sure, you had lentils with yesterday’s dinner. But with oregano, thyme, tomatoes, and basil the stars of this twist on the Italian classic, you won’t even notice that you’ve repeated an ingredient. Treat yourself and pair it with a glass of chianti—you deserve it.
We opened the 30-Day No Takeout challenge with pizza, so we’ll close with it, too. This recipe adds smoky and salty bacon to the sweetness of marinara, all of it balanced out with some peppery, fresh arugula. (If you’d like to cut down on prep time, then use a prepared pizza crust.) After one slice, you just may take your pizza delivery number off your speed dial once and for all.
DON’T FORGET SNACKS!
Throughout the 30-Day No Takeout Challenge, we’ve focused on creating fresh, fast weekday meals that you can partially prepare ahead of time. Now that you’re a no-takeout pro, there’s one goal Giada De Laurentiis wants you to strive for next: planning out your snacks. Watch the video for Giada’s snacking tips. PLUS: Try this recipe for Giada’s kale chips.
YOU DID IT!
Can you keep your cooking streak going?
Warm Chicken Parmesan Salad
Chia Seed Pudding
Lighter Macaroni and Cheese
Did you ever think you could make it through an entire month without once ordering pizza, picking up Chinese food, or stopping at a deli for a sandwich? As we wrap up these four weeks, you’ve picked up healthier habits, your wallet is probably a little fatter, and your waist might be a bit slimmer, too. See if you can continue your cooking streak with Giada’s bonus recipes.
Food – Health.com