I enjoy everything about cooking: the smell, taste, and texture of the ingredients. Plus I know the foods I choose to cook with actually benefit my overall health! I love to dig into my fridge, freezer, pantry and spice cabinet and get into the groove of creating a colorful, nutritious mini-feast. That being said, I don’t like to play in the kitchen every night. Many nights, time is an issue.
Here are some tips to help you create fast, nutrient-dense meals to get you through the week, without spending every night slicing and dicing.
1. Be Organized
On the weekend, make a double batch of hearty soup or lasagna and freeze half. Whole wheat noodles, and veggies such as tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and diced peppers, will give the dish a nutritional ‘bump’. Defrost in the fridge on a day when you know you’ll need it. When you get home, heat and serve with some additional veggies!
2. Stay Stocked
If you’ve ever had a hectic day and are unsure what to cook, you may end up sacrificing nutrition and taste, for speed. The trick is to keep your pantry well-stocked with healthy, convenient foods you can throw together in a hurry.
– Cans of beans for making soups, salads, tacos or quesadillas
– Tomatoes, pesto or olives for a sauce in which to simmer frozen fish
– Dried lentils: add water, veggies and curry spices and you’ll have a nice soup in 30-45 minutes
– Canned wild salmon, tuna or smoked trout to mix with panko-style seasoned bread crumbs and an egg to prepare easy fish cakes
*If you purchase high quality prepared foods, you won’t feel guilty about a meal of sandwiches and canned soup every now and then!
3. Embrace Salads
Not every meal has to consist of an entree and several side dishes. A substantial salad makes a great, quick meal. Just chop some veggies, toss in cherry tomatoes, peppers, carrots, nuts and dried fruit with your favorite protein and your dinner’s ready!
Some great combos include canned or wild salmon, smoked trout or tuna plus soft mozzarella cubes, hard-boiled egg, grilled chicken, fried tofu chunks plus peanuts, or flank steak plus blue cheese crumbles.
4. Grow a Garden
Maintain a small patio-type garden. Try planting a few herbs, lettuce or tomato plants in containers and you’ll have produce so fresh and tasty that no additional preparation is necessary.
Sliced homegrown tomatoes and fresh lettuce will compliment your grilled burger nicely. Fresh basil is a wonderful addition to any pasta dish!
– Liz Erker, RD