If you ever find yourself saying, “I never have time to cook,” this article will make you rethink the way you think about, shop for, and eat your food. Cooking does not have to be time consuming. In fact, provided you have some essential ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator, a variety of wholesome, quick meals could be on your plate in only minutes. While many of us succumb to the urge to simply place a take out order or pop a frozen meal into the microwave, consider that when you prepare your own food from scratch you are better in control of portion size and dietary value, not to mention your pocketbook.
Salads can be a complete quick meal if you assemble them correctly. Start with a base of green, leafy vegetables (arugula or spinach are great options). From here you can create a savory or a sweet version, depending on your preferences and mood. Both varieties require only olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing. The first type could include tomatoes, grated carrots, peas, artichokes, celery, walnuts, olives, and feta cheese. Its counterpart would instead have pears, pecans, dried plums, goat cheese, mandarin oranges, and pomegranate seeds. Something in between the two could consist of goat cheese, dried cranberries, raisins, pine nuts, avocados, and hearts of palm. Because typical salads by definition are light on protein, you can either infuse them with quinoa or top them with grilled chicken, salmon, shrimp, or tofu. A salad can represent the king of quick meals because it requires minimal preparation but gives maximum nutritional rewards.
Some people prefer the traditional idea of a protein, starch, and vegetable. For them, the combinations are endless. Start with a lean cut of baked or grilled chicken, fish, or pan seared beef. Salt and pepper are great basic seasonings, but do not be afraid to experiment with a spice rack. If you like a bit of spice, add some cayenne pepper. If you want a more Mediterranean experience, try oregano and thyme. Sweet potatoes, bulgur wheat, wild rice, and whole grain pasta are all great accompaniments to any protein. As for a vegetable side, try steaming kale, beets, green beans, or cauliflower.
If you are looking for a meal with a carbohydrate base, try making your own pizza. If you have children, this is a fun way to spend quality time and teach them the importance of smart food choices in the context of quick meals. Instead of arming them with the standard pepperoni and sausage, consider a moderate amount of fresh mozzarella and at least six different vegetables in order to encourage a more plant based diet. Peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, pineapple, onions, olives, fresh basil, and broccoli taste terrific on whole grain crust. Chicken continues to be a great finishing touch, but ham would also be a decent alternative.
You can take the quick meals idea one step further with leftovers. If you still find you have little time or energy to cook during the week, dedicating a few hours on a Sunday to food preparation for the week might be a reasonable solution. For example, you could cut, wash, and store your vegetables in containers; you could broil multiple chicken breasts and eat them over the course of a few days in different ways; you could make a huge pot of steamed rice. That way, when your stomach starts rumbling, all you have to do is open a door, pop a few lids, and be creative! Buen provecho!