5 TIPS FOR EASY, HEALTHY COOKING
Hello Nunchi World!
Happy New Year! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to kick ass this year. Don’t tell my mom I just cursed in a post. Here’s to a year of not just meeting goals but surpassing them. A year of greater connections around tables with good food and good people.
One goal that always seems to be on everyone’s list is to lead a healthier lifestyle. Every year around this time, people make plans to hit the gym, lose weight, get fit, and eat better. And somewhere around the third week of January, it all falls apart. Changing habits can be hard and especially when it comes to eating right, there are pitfalls everywhere. I’m a big fan of not really denying myself anything when it comes to food (I am a cook after all) but moderation is my game. If you want to eat healthy, cooking is the way to go. Use eating out or ordering in as the occasional treat rather than the norm. When you cook, you know EXACTLY what went into the food. And you can ensure the balance meets your nutrition and dietary needs. Now that all is easier said than done. You’re probably thinking of boring, repetitive meals with no flavor. Or, frankly where do you find the time? Those are two examples of roadblocks that can get in the way of a healthy lifestyle and after a bit of time, you fall back to your ‘easier’ habits.
When it comes to cooking, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a million diets out there of how to approach cooking and eating, especially when you’re working to change habits. The one that thing that is consistent across all of those options is planning. The degree of the planning depends on you, and how you like to cook, how often, how much time you have, and how it fits into your lifestyle. If your weeks tend to be crazy with work and multiple activities, having ready made meals might be the way to go, in which case you would prep all your meals on Sunday (or whichever day starts your week) and have everything ready to just grab, reheat, and go. You could go the way of the French, and stop in at your local butcher, and veggie stand daily for what you will be cooking and consuming that day. Or if you’re like me, you shop for the week, do some prepping, like marinating the meats and choose options that allow you to quickly put a meal together. It keeps things fresh, and interesting and there’s a feeling of accomplishment when you’ve cooked something, and I’m a bit additcted to that feeling.
So, how do you go about this ‘planning.’ It’s not as hard as you think or as time consuming, unless you want it to be. Here are 5 tips that will help you stick to your goals
Make a vinaigrette or two: yes, you could pick some up on the grocery run, but the store-bought version has added preservatives and other science experiments that really isn’t necessary. By changing up the vinegar or the oil, you change the taste. Now you have a flavor packed condiment that can be used as a marinade, a salad dressing, or a pan sauce. Making a bigger batch to keep on hand, saves you time later in the week. Here's one to get you started.
Order a CSA box: I’m a big fan of CSA boxes, they are a great way to change up your veggies and force you to think outside the box. But also having a variety of veggies on hand makes it easier to put a healthy meal together. Too many leafy greens in your box? No problem, use them them for green juices and smoothies. Have a hodgepodge leftover at the end of the week? Make some soup, you can eat half and freeze the rest for when you really don’t have time.
It’s all about protein: Whether you’re plant-based or a committed carnivore, it’s important to stock on up a variety of proteins. Or at least, change up the marinades and spices so your palate gets a workout. Stock up on fish, meat, beans, tofu, and quinoa. My go to every week is to pick up a whole chicken cut up into 8 pieces from the butcher. That’s always my baseline order, then I might pick up a skirt steak, or some ground turkey to add variety. With the chicken, half of it I marinate in a vinaigrette, and the other half I use dry spices. If it’s going to be more than a couple of days before I cook the chicken, I throw in the freezer. Easy to grab and cook or if frozen put in the fridge before the work day begins. Some weeks I go mostly seafood, then I will order a couple of different fishes, like salmon, or cod and shrimp. These are great options for quick cooking and seafood works well with a short marinating time. Beans are great in salads and soups, or make your own veggie burgers. Canned beans save you a ton of prep time.
Menu Planning: you don’t need to necessarily decide every last thing that you’re cooking for the week, but if you do the thinking up front and write it down, then all you have to do is execute. Any plan you come up with is not written in stone so you can always adjust on the fly. If I know my week is going to be crazy, then I pick up items that will cook quickly, things that will work in a quick stir fry, for example. Puréed soups like butternut squash soup are great quick meals and making a big batch means you can freeze it for later. Perhaps you’ll be home but don’t quite have time to be in the kitchen the entire time? A meal that you can set it and forget it works in a pinch. Roast chicken with roasted vegetables? Easy prep, throw it in the oven and 30 to 40 minutes later you’re eating.
Prep in advance: what do I mean by that? It’s not just about cooking everything on one day, but thinking ahead to use an ingredient in a couple of different dishes. If I’m cooking quinoa for example, I almost always make a double batch, one to be used for today’s dish and the rest I’ll remix in something else. You can chop onions, shallots, and garlic and keep them in airtight containers to be used throughout the week. An alternative is to create your own spice mixes, or flavor bombs to add to any dish. If you know you always use garlic, shallots, parsley and green peppers as your flavor base, then throw that mix with olive oil in a food processor or blender and keep in an airtight container in the fridge and, when you’re cooking you only have to grab a couple of spoonfuls rather than then having to chop all of those items every time.
Armed with these tips you should be well on your way to putting together healthy meals, without the hassle. I’m all about helping people unlock their creativity in the kitchen. Once you realize this is accessible, it takes the anxiety out of the process. No matter if you’re an absolute beginner or you know your way around the kitchen, changing things up is what keeps it fun. But it also doesn’t have to be that complicated, you can have beautiful, flavorful dishes in not a lot of time if you plan accordingly. And there’s nothing like eating or feeding people a tasty dish that you made yourself.
Keep an eye on our blog for more tips to help you in the kitchen. Looking to really kick-start your year? Join us for our next retreat where we drill the foundational techniques so you can have your kitchen adventures with confidence. Click here for more info.
See you in the kitchen!