For as long as I can remember I’ve loved planning menus, organizing dinner parties and generally just daydreaming about foodstuff.
At school, I doodled appetizer ideas in the margins of my math book — calculus equations blended into lists of fried zucchini flowers, salmon blinis, and morsels of sweet splendor.
After class I would come home and pull down every cookbook from the shelf above the fridge, sit down with a cup of tea and a notepad, and get to work on organizing what the family would eat for dinner that week.
My suggestions regularly included things like:
Tuesday: 8 hour lamb ragu over polenta
Wednesday: braised quail with wild mushrooms
Thursday: spinach and ricotta stuffed conchiglioni with scratch-made marina sauce
By the time my mum got home from work I had the shopping lists made, the recipe pages marked, and I was ready to hit the grocery store and start work in the kitchen.
Oddly, Mum wasn’t as keen on whipping up a three-course meal as I might have thought, which always confused me as she loved food and cooking as much as I did. All she had to do was work an 8+ hour day, look after two kids, a dog, and a massive garden, pay bills, exercise, stay up to date on current affairs…I mean, what gives?
Fast forward ten years and the ball has dropped. I totally get it. The last thing that I want to do after a busy work day is spend hours in the kitchen on a meal that, to be honest, I may end up eating in front of an episode of Grace & Frankie.
(In hindsight my mum was actually a domestic goddess, serving up exotic stir-fry, handmade chicken pot pie, and incredible salads on a nightly basis.)
That isn’t to say that I don’t still spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about dinner parties and planning lovely menus, but my weekly rotation is a heck of a lot more simple than it used to be.
These days I’m happy with simple food, like baked salmon and veggies, chicken and rice soup, or tossing something on the grill.
Because as my mum knew, choosing food that is tasty, nourishing and quick to prepare makes it easy to consistently eat healthy meals.
With that in mind, try using these three tips this week, to simplify your healthy weeknight cooking routine.
Make Healthy Weeknight Cooking A Breeze
Tip #1: Use one cooking method
You can boil, steam, roast, grill or serve raw…but don’t try to do them all at once.
Roast: In the same oven you can roast vegetables (zucchini, asparagus, tomato, fennel, sweet potato…) and cook a bit of protein (chicken, fish, tofu, lamb chops, meatballs…).
Steam: Use a large saucepan with a steaming insert to simultaneously cook rice, and steam greens and chicken or fish on top; squeeze with lemon and drizzle with sesame oil to serve.
Grill: Cut vegetables into thin strips, brush them with coconut oil and season to taste, then cook alongside whatever meat or fish you’re grilling; it’s also delicious to skip the meat and serve with grilled haloumi cheese instead.
Raw: Go vegan and make a chopped salad with any raw vegetables that you like, a can of drained chickpeas, and lashings of olive oil and lemon juice.
Tip #2: Cook once, eat thrice
Cooking from scratch every day is not time-efficient.
In fact, it takes the same amount of time to roast one or two chickens, to bake multiple sweet potatoes, or to cook four cups of quinoa. You can even batch make salads and leave undressed until serving. (Cheeky salad!)
Leftovers become the saving grace of healthy eating during the week, so I recommend that you regularly plan to cook more than you need and reserve the rest for another meal; store in the fridge for quick assembly over the next couple of day, or freeze them for future use.
(We’ve just discovered that chopped and roasted sweet potatoes actually defrost really well…this was a very happy realization in my house, where the sweet potato currently reigns supreme!)
Tip #3: Keep it simple
The benefit of simple cooking is three-fold:
- It eliminates the challenge of meal planning and makes preparing food feel manageable, even for the novice cook
- You’ll save money on groceries as you’ll buy fewer ingredients and use them all
- And it helps keep you honest about what is on your plate and how much you’re eating
This week I challenge you to keep it simple in the kitchen: choose one meal, one cooking method and use six ingredients or less. Make a double batch and repurpose it for lunch or dinner the next day.
Here’s What I’m Doing Tonight — Grilled Lamb Chops
- Lamb loin chops
- Sweet potato
- Coconut Oil
- Salt and Pepper
Cut the vegetables into 1/4” strips, brush with coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Cook the lamb chops and vegetables until done to deliciousness. Serve.
Leftovers: slice leftover lamb and vegetables and toss it over lettuce for a lunch salad.
Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below.