Sorry if you received notification of me posting today without actually seeing a post or only seeing a pictures of a strainer. lol WordPress was behaving really weird for me- freezing and doing things I didn’t tell it to do. It seems fine now though.
I have a million things to tell you about and am planning an epic post at after finals- which will be soooon! Woo!
In honor of finals, and all other things that keep us busy, I want to share some tips with you on how to prepare homemade, whole foods meals that take hardly any time at all.
I have a few weapons in this fight of health vs. busy schedule:
1) A fine mesh strainer
I use this baby to rinse and drain beans and to easily wash veggies. If I’m chopping a lot of veggies, holding them under the water individually can be tedious. Instead, I chop a large batch at once and pile them in the strainer to rinse them. I have this same model and purchased it last summer at the local Fred Meyer’s.
2) A salad spinner
I have the large size, of course ;). My mom got it for me from Amazon this past fall, but just last week I noticed that they had them at Fred’s in the kitchen section. I spin everything I need for about 4 days at once. Then I dump the water out of the bottom and store the lettuce in the spinner. The pump at the top can lock down for easier storage. If you click the photo and check out the amazon pictures, they show lettuce being stored in it without the basket. I prefer to store my lettuce with the basket in and any extra moisture just drips off. If you don’t eat it as quickly as I do, you can store the lettuce this way for about a week.
3) A crockpot
It need not be fancy shmancy like this one, but when my current crockpot finally putters out, I know what I have my eye on! My current crockpot is almost 30 years old- I think my parents got it as a wedding present. I think… I’m sure my mom will let us know if I’m wrong! :P It only has a high and a low setting and no timer, but that’s really all you need! I just set it on low and leave it alone for a day (less or more depending upon what I’m cooking) and then I have fresh awesome protein. If I want soup, I add a bunch of veggies halfway through and forget about it for a while.
If you eat a lot of beans and lentils like I do, a crockpot is your best friend. I buy dried beans from the bulk section at the grocery store. If you’re here in Fairbanks, Alaska Feed Company has a number of food grade, organic dried legumes. I just had some of their lentils with my dinner and I swear to you that they are tastier than the regular old non-organic lentils you can find at Fred’s!
You rinse them (in your fine mesh strainer!) and then soak the beans in plain water for 8-12 hours. I let them soak overnight or while I’m at work. If you leave them for longer than a day, they’ll start to ferment and it tastes pretty gross. This is the voice of experience here! The soaking process makes them easier to digest. I have always drained them after soaking because, well it just seemed common sense to me to throw out the gross looking soak water. As it turns out, there is a bit of science behind it. Check out this article if you have access to the Wiley Online Library.
I then toss the beans in the crockpot with broth or water and sometimes some seasoning. Recently, I’ve started adding a strip of kombu to the pot when I make beans as I’ve heard that this helps with digestion. I’m not really sure if it helps or not as simply soaking them makes them digestible for me, but it does seem to enhance the flavor of the beans. Locally, kombu at be found at Sunshine Health Foods.
4) An electric steamer
This is the exact model that I have and I LOVE it. I got it on Amazon- click the pic for a link. I put some water in the bottom, and then veggies, protein, spices, and maybe some sort of sauce in the reservoirs, set the timer and ignore it until the timer dings. I love that the reservoirs have bottoms instead of just being steaming baskets so that I can add some coconut milk, shoyu, or any other liquid to give my veggies a different flavor. It has three tiers so I can make three different dishes at once or steam three different things with different cook times at once, with the items requiring the longest cook time on the bottom. For a super fast meal, I’ll toss in frozen veggies. It’s about the same amount of work as tossing a gas station burrito in the microwave, but WAY healthier.
5) Herbs and spices
When I’m really busy, I usually make batches of two different types of beans of lentils and eat them throughout the week, putting them on salads and in steamed dishes. I also go grocery shopping once a week. This means I have the same proteins and the same veggies for an entire week. This does NOT have to be boring! I use different combinations of veggies, protein, spices, sauces, and oils to keep all of my dishes tasty and satisfying. One of the ways I save time is by buying spice blends- cajun, curry, mexican, italian, spike, and then it’s one shake for a depth of flavors. Pantry goods that I like to have on hand for quick flavor additions to steamed meals include tomato paste or canned roasted tomatoes, coconut milk, and vegetable broth. For salads, in addition to having a ton of fresh veggies, beans, kelp noodles, flax seed crackers (‘croutons’ in my world), and other delicious salad components, I keep on hand flax seed oil, tahini, basalmic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and lemons (oranges also work well). Various combinations of these, along with added herbs and spices, make for a great arsenal of salad dressings.
6) Fast proteins!
I love my protein, but let’s face it, how many beans do I actually want to consume in a day? That’s why I love nutritional yeast and protein powders. Nutritional yeast, not to be confused with brewers yeast, has a sort of cheesy flavor, B vitamins, and 8 grams of protein per table spoon. This is great news as I put about two tablespoons on many of my salads just because I enjoy the taste. I also add it to some of my steamed foods as well for a savory flavor. I’ve been on a serious protein shake kick lately. In my cupboard I have hemp protein, vanilla, chocolate, and natural proteins. In addition I keep, almond extract, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, lucuma, and stevia on hand to make different flavor combinations. I think adding cherry, raspberry, caramel, and maple extracts to my collection would be awesome as well! To make a low-sugar, delicious smoothie, I use ice, hemp milk or water, a combination of protein powders, spirulina, maca, leafy greens, and any flavor add-ins. If I need extra calories, I’ll add flax or coconut oil or chia seeds. You can also add nuts and fruits. As a side note, I’m avoiding most nuts, all grains, and all fruits rights now, as it turns out, my initial speculation that I was having a hard time digesting fats was wrong- food sensitivities are tricky buggers! Anyway, I’ll save that for a different post. I’ve been making a shake to drink in the morning and a second shake to take with me to make sure I’m getting enough protein in the afternoon. For me, the trick to having a drinkable smoothie that was blended hours prior is to make it thin and then it just tastes like I’m drinking flavored milk- yum!
The last thing I want to mention are no sugar, chocolate peanut butter cups… oh my- yum! They were devised by Lisa at Thrive Style and the recipe can be found here. These are a great source of calories and good fats and taste awesome! They take only a few minutes to make. I’ve been making mine with equal parts coconut oil and peanut butter and adding chia seeds, maca, and spirulina to the chocolate part. I brought some to work and they were a hit! The one caution I have is to make sure you are using the mini sized cupcake liners for these. I used the large liners and it’s just too much richness at once!
I hope this helps you incorporate healthy eating into your busy lifestyle and for those of you who have finals like I do- good luck!