Over the years, I have led myself to believe that I don’t enjoy cooking. Maybe it’s not my top choice for how to spend my free time, but I don’t think I dislike it like I thought I did. Part of this realization came when I started cooking meals that were much simpler. It’s surprising how the healthier you try to eat, how much simpler cooking actually becomes. It seems like a lot of casseroles and multi-step dishes are filled with extras like oils, cheese, salt and more food that isn’t really good for you to begin with, while the simpler meals are not only quicker and easier to prepare, but healthier as well.
This month, I am focusing on creating healthy, simple meals that my family and I can enjoy together. Since our move to Georgia, we
have been enjoying the benefits of having a farmer’s market close by, and shopping there for our produce, fruit, eggs and milk. I love the fresh taste of the food, as most of the farmer’s harvest the food the day before the market! In fact, last week as I was picking out some cucumbers, a customer next to me asked the farmer “Why aren’t the cucumbers shiny?” I would say he looked a little incredulous and responded “Because I just picked them yesterday! Only food that is sold through produce terminals is waxed.” That was a very interesting thought to me, I hadn’t ever thought about how our food is sold en masse and the type of processing it requires to distribute the food throughout the country to everyone. I don’t think produce terminals are bad, just not optimal. Now that I’ve had the luxury of purchasing very fresh foods, I’ll take those any day over shipped, older food.
We have also planted a garden since moving here, and it is growing like crazy! It seems like my husband is thinning the tomatoes, radishes and onions every day, and we have more herbs than we know what to do with. He has been drying them, making herbed olive oils and learning about the best methods to preserve them in the refrigerator. We also have strawberries, lettuce and bell peppers that are growing! We love it! So, what am I doing with all of this fresh food? Here’s where eating simpler meals comes into the picture.
Each week I make a menu (learned from my mother), so I know what items I need to have on hand and it makes the shopping much easier as well. The meals on our menu look something like this-
Oatmeal with fruit
Poached egg on muffin
Whole wheat pancake topped with yogurt and berries
Egg omelette and smoothie
Egg salad sandwiches
Turkey and spinach wrap
Grilled green apple and cheese Panini
Green smoothie and whole wheat raspberry fig bar
Fish with quinoa and steamed green beans
Lean steak, brown rice and vegetables
Grilled chicken, couscous and salad
Black bean burritos
Most of my meals are made with very few ingredients, which cuts down the time considerably that I spend in the kitchen, but also results in much healthier meals for my family. My children are developing tastes for healthy, simple dishes and realizing the difference in how much lighter they feel compared to when we go out to eat and they order heavier foods that sit longer in their stomachs and don’t feel as easy to digest.
Part of my morning routine is prepping food for lunch and dinner, to make the time spent in the kitchen less, and the cooking more enjoyable. It seems like in the morning, when everything is quiet and still, I actually enjoy chopping vegetables and making sauces, compared to the evening when I stop what I am normally concentrating on and the kids are running around asking ‘when is dinner?’, I become frazzled and would just like that part of the day to be over. With half of the food already prepped, I am actually looking forward to finishing the dish later and sitting down to a nice meal.
I love what Virginia Woolf had to say about meals, I think it has become my motto for cooking healthy, simple meals!-
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.