Easy Meal Ideas
- Thursday, 25 February 2010
Time. There just never seems to be enough of it: time to finish tasks, time for family, time for friends and most importantly, time for ourselves. With such busy lifestyles, it especially seems as if we never have enough time to cook nutritious meals.
Unfortunately, when we think home cooking we falsely conjure up the image of somebody’s Grandma (apron and all) chopping, slicing and stirring for hours in a hot kitchen to create mouth watering, aromatic meals. It’s no wonder the idea of making home cooked meals sends us straight out of the kitchen and right to the phone to order take out. The truth is, nutritious and delicious meals do not have to complicated, and they certainly don’t require you to give up hours of your day.
Keep it simple
Delicious recipes do not have to include lengthy ingredient lists or hard to find herbs and spices. Often, less is more. Choose recipes that ask for no more than 5 to 7 ingredients. To create interesting flavor combinations, try combining contrasting flavors, (just like the chefs do). For example, adding strawberries (sweet) to arugula (spicy) creates a zesty flavorful salad. Throw in some nuts, seeds or beans and you have an instant, nutritionally balanced meal in no time at all.
Stay in Season
We all know that purchasing seasonal and local produce makes economic sense, but have you ever noticed how much better seasonal fruits and vegetables taste? Seasonal fruits and vegetables are bursting with so much flavor that you hardly need to add anything more to your recipe—no need for extra herbs, spices or condiments, which means less time digging through your pantry. And by using quick cooking methods like sautéing or steaming, not only do you save time, but you also lock in all the vegetables’ natural flavors that are often lost when vegetables are over boiled or baked.
Chop and Store
Pre washing and chopping may seem laborious at first, but trust me, you’ll be glad you did it, especially on those evenings when you are strapped for time and the kiddies need to get to soccer practice. On grocery day, instead of putting the lettuce, celery or other vegetables right into the fridge, take a few minutes to wash and chop what you might use in the next few days. Then, store the vegetables in containers and place in the refrigerator so they are ready to use right away.
Freeze for Ease
This is a great tip for creating tender, succulent meat, fish or poultry dishes that will taste as if they were slow cooking for hours: Place family sized portions of fresh chicken, meat or fish in a resealable plastic bag and toss in a homemade marinade, then freeze to use on another day. When you take out the frozen bags the chicken, meat or fish will marinate as it defrosts. Try the following for a quick and tasty marinade: olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, garlic clove, salt, pepper, bay leaf and any other herb of choice (parsley, rosemary, cilantro, chives), store at room temperature in an air-tight, dark glass container for optimal freshness.
Keep Some bottles Close By
Flavored oils add zest to any dish. Make small bottles of flavored olive oil by adding garlic, chilli, pepper, rosemary, thyme or any other herb or spice that suits you. By simply adding a sprinkle or two of flavored oil to cooked grains, meat, fish or poultry you can create a succulent meal in minutes.
When time really is of the essence, use quick cooking grains like couscous, millet and bulgur, rather than grains that require more cooking time— brown rice, barley or quinoa. Add a few sautéed vegetables, defrosted shelled edamame and voila, dinner in less than 20 minutes. Quick cooking grains can be easily added to leftover soups to instantly create a new meal.
Make it a Double
Sometimes it’s just as easy to make one batch of something as it is to make two. This is especially true when it comes to preparing beans, brown rice, tomato sauce and vegetable or chicken stock. Since these foods take a little extra time to prepare, they’re great to have on the weekends. I recommend making extra, store in the fridge and you've got a ready-to-eat meal during a busy workweek. Extra tomato sauce and beans can easily be turned into a weekday chile meal, and a vegetable broth can be turned into a rice and vegetable soup in minutes.
When you are first setting up house, your enthusiasm will probably steer you towards every kitchen appliance and gadget ever created. I’ve been there before—you believe all kitchen appliances are a must and each gadget will make your culinary experience more fun and efficient.
The following are helpful appliances:
Pressure Cookers: The cooking time of grains, beans and some cuts of meat and poultry are reduced by half in a pressure cooker.
Indoor Grills: Easy to use and comes in handy very often.
Steam Cookers/Steamers: Purchase a steamer with stackable levels, which allows for double the amount of food to be cooked in a short time.
Use some of these time-saving tips the next time you’re in the kitchen and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can create scrumptious meal your whole family will enjoy.