Let’s Get Cooking! Here are a few cooking tips and tricks to help you get a tasty meal on the table in no time and feel good about what everyone is eating.
1. Plan Ahead
You’ll be more efficient and prepare healthier meals by planning ahead. Pick a day when you can take 20 minutes or so to inventory your fridge/pantry and to plan out your meals for the week. Prepare an organized grocery list and make a trip to the grocery store. Having a weekly meal plan will allow you to identify small do-ahead steps that you can knock out in advance; for example, making a marinade the entire night before intended for chicken cutlets or prepping several days associated with salad greens at once. No matter when you fit it in, planning ahead will set you up for fast (stress-free) healthy meals all week long.
2. Slow Cooker (aka crock pot)
Slow cookers prepare your meals for you while you are away so you can come home to a kitchen smelling like a yummy home-cooked meal. Slow-cooked dishes are ideal for making ahead and reheating for lunch or dinner tomorrow, or freezing for a quick meal next week.
3. Freezer Favorites
Stock your freezer with a few dishes that freeze and defrost easily so that all you have to do on those hectic weeknights is reheat. For example, bake a large tray of lasagna or a big pot of chili on the weekend, divide into 2 or 3 smaller meal-size portions, and freeze for easy reheating during the week.
4. Re-fresh Leftovers
Zapping leftovers in the microwave can definitely leave something to be desired. But when leftovers are transformed completely into another dish, it’s a whole different (delicious) story. Using leftover chicken as a filling for tacos or combining it with cooked rice and veggies to make a stir-fry is genius and easy.
5. One-Pot (or pan) Meals Make Clean-Up a Snap
A quick and easy route to a healthy quick dinner is to make it in one pot or on one baking sheet. Not only does this save you the time of preparing a main dish and two sides, you have significantly fewer dishes to wash at the end.
6. Invest in a Pressure Cooker
Pressure cookers are amazingly useful tools with the ability to quickly tenderize meat and vegetables, and extract their delicious flavors. These simple pots trap steam, which in turn builds pressure, creating higher cooking temperatures and reducing cooking time. Today’s models are nearly foolproof. A pressure cooker will put a hot meal on the table in less than 20 minutes. You can use them for almost any recipe that’s based on moist heat like braised meat, beans, or a stew.
7. Have a few go-to meals.
Always have healthy ingredients on hand for a couple quick go-to meals you can make on any given day. Keep these meals as simple as possible. Here are five ideas for healthy dinners you can have on the table in 20 minutes or less:
Grilled cheese or tuna melt with sliced tomato; cup of lentil soup; tossed green salad; and fruit
Pizza prepared on a toasted whole wheat English muffin or whole grain tortillas, topped with tomato sauce, chopped veggies, shredded cheese; tossed green salad; and fruit
Veggie omelet made with cheese and leftover veggies, whole wheat toast, and fruit
Stir-fry shrimp and veggies served with brown rice; tossed green salad and fruit
Microwaved sweet potato topped with black beans, salsa, and grated cheese; tossed green salad and fruit.