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  • Writer's pictureMax McCrory

Cooking with Max

With Omicron raging in the world, I haven't been eating out as frequently as I usually do. Instead, I've been cooking more at home! I've been experimenting with new dishes, like fried chicken, and whipping up old favorites, like shakshuka.

One of my resolutions this year was to plan out my meals for each week. So far, I've only successfully done this one week out of the year, but it was a game changer! No more scrambling to figure out what I'm going to have for dinner each night. I have everything I need to cook right at my fingertips (unless the grocery delivery is late)! It also prompted me to think about what I'm eating for lunch, too, and to make more thoughtful decisions, instead of scarfing down some pasta before going back to work. Meal planning made me excited for meal times.

Not everything went according to the plan (you'll notice 1/14 is missing: I ate a frozen pizza that day), but most days I was able to stick to what I had originally written down. Here are a few of my favorite dishes from the week!

1/8- Fried Chicken with Arugula and Tomato Salad

Technically this fried chicken was from the previous week and not part of my meal plan, but it was too delicious not to share. I didn't really use a recipe for this dish, I was inspired by a TikTok I saw. I had never fried chicken before, as I've been warned of splashing oil and other complications. While frying definitely wasn't easy (there was lots of shrieking), the end product was worth it. I paired the crispy fried chicken with an arugula salad with grape tomatoes, garlic, and parmesan topped with olive oil and lemon juice. I wanted to make the salad easy, so I could really focus on the chicken. The fresh and light salad was the perfect complement to the fried chicken. I'll definitely be making this again, especially during tomato season.

1/9- Charred Flatbread with Whipped Ricotta, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

This flatbread from Carla Lalli Music's new cookbook also wasn't apart of my meal plan, but it will definitely making some repeat appearances on my dinner table. The flatbread itself is super to easy make and can be prepped in the morning, then it will be ready to roll out and grill come dinner time. Other than the flatbread, it's just cutting and cooking the veggies, so it's fairly simple. I made a few tweaks to her recipe, including adding some lemon juice to the whipped ricotta mixture (there's already lemon zest), adding roasted tomatoes in addition to the mushrooms, and omitting the scallions. That's the great thing about the flatbread, the topping combinations are endless. Next time I make this, I want to add some sautéed garlic.

1/10- Tomato Basil Soup with Lemon Ricotta Crostini

Finally getting in to my meal plan for the week! I started the week with a tomato basil soup recipe from Natasha's Kitchen. I wanted something easy and delicious to start the week off. It was the perfect dish for a chilly winter night! I followed this simple recipe to a tee, except I omitted the sugar, as I don't think it really needs it. I paired the soup with some cheesy lemon ricotta crostini. All I did was bake a few slices of baguette with a little olive oil drizzle then I scrubbed some garlic on them. I made a ricotta mixture for the baked bread with olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest (similar to the whipped ricotta on the flatbread). It was the coziest meal and I had leftovers for lunch the next day!

1/11- Salmon Tacos

These salmon tacos were a creation of my own mind! I want tacos at least once a week. I marinated the salmon in soy sauce and chili garlic paste, then grilled it to flaky perfection. As for toppings, I grilled a jalapeño, sliced some avocado, and made a lemon-dill sour cream. I charred the tortillas on the stove to give them a little crispiness. Next time, I would incorporate the jalapeño into a slaw to add a little crunch.

1/12- Farro Salad with Asparagus, Peas, and Pecorino

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This farro salad from Lidey Heuck is so quick and easy! It's one of my favorite things to whip together for lunch or dinner. I use the 10 minute farro from Trader Joe's to make things even faster. I made a few alterations to her recipe, like cooking the asparagus and omitting the pistachios. It's a super light and fresh dish that's filling as well. Farro is a great grain, because unlike rice or pasta, it has a nutty flavor that adds to the dishes it's in. Farro is also extremely versatile! It can be paired with so many different vegetable and be eaten hot or cold.

1/13- Sheet-Pan Chicken With Potatoes, Arugula and Garlic Yogurt

I love sheet pan dinners, especially this chicken recipe from the NYT. This recipe is incredibly easy, which is what I want for week night dinners. All you have to do is marinate the chicken and potatoes in harissa, chop and season the leeks, and cook it in the oven. While it's cooking, you whip up a sauce with yogurt and garlic (I added a little lemon juice and zest to bring some brightness to the dish). When everything is ready, you plate and serve! It doesn't get much more simple than that!

1/15- Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese

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I've been making this penne recipe for years! It's another one that is so simple to put together. I used to watch Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis after school a lot and that's where I found it. This recipe requires minimal effort with maximum reward! The goat cheese and pasta water makes for a luscious sauce, while the butternut squash adds some sweetness and the walnuts add some crunch. It's the best cozy dish!

1/16- Shakshuka

Shakshuka is one of my absolute favorite dishes! How can you go wrong with tomatoes, eggs, and spice? You can find recipes for it everywhere, but I enjoy using this one from Binging with Babish. Overall, this recipe isn't too difficult, but I will say creating divots for the eggs always proves to be a challenge for me. The toppings (feta, parsley, and hot honey) and the crusty bread are the keys to this dish's success.

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