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Cooking Made Easy

Posted Jun 03 2011 5:11pm

Covenience

Time is everyone’s battle in this fast-paced society. My sister is a great example of this. She demands varieties in every meal, she also wants convenience and of course she wants to be healthy. Like a lot of my patients she argues with me the inconvenience in cooking, preparing and cleaning up. She would much rather order in, heat up frozen food, eating leftover, or going out to eat. I agree. Majority of the population like her, brush past the need to prepare, cook and clean up, and yet, demands their body to be on top of the game. It is natural to look for shortcuts, and needless to say, it takes time and effort to live healthy.  Unfortunately, there is much to know about healthy than just counting calories, eating salads and consuming skinless chicken breast.

Two rules of thumb:

  1. Fresh ingredients always: like this  Unhappy Meal article , by Michael Pollan says, stray off packages that sells from the words like ‘low fat’, ‘cholesterol free’, and instead just opt for fresh ingredients.
  2. Don’t eat leftover: freeze it instead for another day, you want to keep our digestive system alert by constantly mixing meals up.

Here are my 6 steps in making cooking easier:

  1. Plan. It’s easier than you think. Weekends are usually a write off, and most likely Friday night is a write off as well. During the weekday there are probable chances you’ll be ordering in or eating out at least once. Realistically there are only 3 nights of real effort cooking, and soon enough after getting the hang of it, you’ll have enough varieties in the freezer piling up to make it through a week without even having to roll up your sleeves and chop away.
  2. Section off time in a week/or nights to make freezer-friendly meals.
  3. Make recipes that has less than 8 ingredients. The simpler the recipes, mentally it will make cooking easier, and of course it also saves a lot of time, ingredients and money.
  4. Have emergency recipes. You just didn’t have time to plan nor defrost. Well, buy a piece of meat next door along with something green; sear the meat with some salt, pepper and herbs, steam the greens, defrost some dinner roll, whip out some butter and you got yourself an impressive meal in less than 15 minutes.
  5. Make more and freeze right away.I like to make extra for at least 2 more meals. The night prior to using it, I’ll defrost one bag which equals 2 portions (carbs like rice, breads, tortillas, cookie dough, muffins etc freeze well and so does beans, meat, stocks and sauces. To contain the texture, quality and nutrition- vegetables and most fruits does not freeze well).
  6. HOGS FEND (herbs, oils, greens, savory snacks, fruits, eggs, nuts, diary). This is the essential grocery list when you shop. Sufficient enough of that sitting around the house will prevent hunger throughout the day; easy to throw together snacks, and veggie dishes to go with your mains, or even just putting a meal just as quickly as you take your shower.

Example of a stocked kitchen:

Pantry

  • pasta
  • onions, shallots and garlic
  • granola mix
  • sugars: brown sugar, cane sugar, honey, maple syrup
  • oils: vegetable oil, olive oil, peanut oil, other gourmet oils
  • vinegars: cider, balsamic, red wine, white wine, chinese
  • savory seasoning: soy sauce, salts, fish sauce, oyster sauce
  • dried herbs and seasoning
  • nuts: walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds
  • dried fruits: raisins, rasberries, bananas
  • oats
  • barley
  • rice
  • lentils
  • beans
  • tea
  • coffee
  • quinoa
  • millet
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • various flours
  • canned tomatoes
  • rice crackers/crackers
  • coconut milk
  • curry paste

Freezer

  • already-made stews, indian curry, thai curry, some kind of stir-fry, meat sauces, left-over pasta
  • some sort of frozen raw meats: chicken, steaks, salmon, seafood
  • stocks
  • cooked rice, tortillas, biscuits, breads, scones, muffin, dinner rolls
  • cookie doughs
  • a piece of chocolate cake
  • frozen berries

Refrigerator

  • lemons/limes
  • advocado
  • eggs
  • milk
  • heavy cream
  • yogurt
  • soft goat cheese, ricotta, cheddar
  • ham, prosciutto, bacon
  • butter
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • bell peppers
  • arugula
  • peanut butter
  • jams
  • apples
  • grapefruits
  • bananas
  • other fruits in season
  • hot sauce
  • ketchup
  • cucumber
  • mustards
  • mushrooms
  • basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, sage, rosemary, thyme, lime leaves, lemongrass
  • chilis

Example during the week

Monday: with a weekend of eating out, I usually want to keep it simple Monday. Breakfast will be something of an egg and carb, lunch will be whatever I can whip up in less than 10 minutes: salads, sandwich, snacks, yogurt. Since I usually shop veggies on Mondays, I’ll try to cook the fresh veggies and make it a meal: roasted vegetable, quinoa to go along with a seared chicken breast. I’m thinking about tomorrow’s dinner; have a busy day but I can make something of a lentil soup without defrosting something.

Tuesday: yogurt and granola for breakfast, by mid-morning I’ll grab a banana, and lunch I’ll have something of eggs and carbs. Dinner will be lentil soup, cucumber, carrot, mint and yogurt salad and nann that I defrosted- all less than 30 minutes with little prep. Don’t have time to plan dinner tomorrow so I’ll defrost a bag of stir-fry and a bag of already-made rice.

Wednesday: boil an egg, defrost a muffin for breakfast, eat out for lunch and steam some vegetable with my stir-fry for dinner. Hmm dessert. I throw a cookie into the oven and out comes a freshly baked cookie in 10 minutes. I’ll most likely eat out tomorrow night, so I won’t bother doing anything.

Thursday: scramble an egg with tortilla, avocado, cilantro and lime, yogurt for mid morning and out with friends for dinner. I don’t even bother thinking about Friday.

Friday: so tired after the whole week. Ending up staying home, throwing in some pasta in boiling water with canned tomato, herbs, spinach and some ham and cheese.

Saturday: bacon and eggs, scones for breakfast. defrost something for lunch and going out for dinner.

Sunday: do some work, shopping, stock up, make curry + extra, bake some breads, plan a bit for next week.

Monday: make some stir-fry + extra for freezing. defrost some chicken for tomorrow.

Tuesday: bake a chicken, potatoes and salad + shred the extra and use it for tomorrow.

Wednesday: shredded chicken with roasted vegetables for dinner. eat out tomorrow, don’t bother to defrost.

Thursday: grab some nuts in the afternoon since I’m eating out late, defrost something for Friday

Friday: reheat curry and throw in some veggies, eat with rice.

Saturday: eat out

Sunday: grocery shopping, work etc and depending on my time, I’ll make two dishes and freeze all the leftover.

and it goes on

 

 

 

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