February 1, 2018
In our busy lives, it is sometimes hard to make time everyday to cook meals from scratch. However, there are ways to optimize your cooking time so you are not spending all your free time in the kitchen. Some strategies to use are:
- When you cook a dish, make a double batch. That way you can eat one now and freeze one for later. Generally, it doesn’t take that much longer to double the batch. This works great for soups, stews, chilies, and many main dishes.
- Make a double or triple batches of salad dressings to have on hand.
- Make a big batch of your favorite stir fry sauce. They will generally keep in the fridge for over a week, or you can freeze the in serving size amounts. Frozen mixed veggies are a great time saver. Add brown rice or whole grain noodles for a quick meal. Top with chick peas, toasted cashews, tofu or sesame seeds for an extra nutritional boost.
- For fast and easy breakfasts, prepare overnight oats the night before. In the morning, add plant milk and extra toppings and go. Or make a triple batch and have enough for three days.
- Keep hummus on hand for sandwiches, wraps and baked potatoes. Hummus is easy to make and freezes well.
In January, I spent three weeks with the grandkids, so I did quite a bit of food prep for the hubby back home before leaving. That way he could spend more time on my “Honey Do List” instead of cooking, LOL. In the week before leaving, I made extra of each dish I cooked, freezing one or two meals for later. I made several salad dressings, so throwing together a big Caesar, Spinach or Kale salad is a simple process. I also made a litre of Chinese 5 Spice stir fry sauce, to go with frozen veggies, rice or noodles. And for a treat, I made a batch of Sweet Potato Brownies which freeze really well. See below for the links and recipes.
Soups are a regular go to lunch meal for us in the winter, and I often make up several different soups each week. Since a pot of soup is generally three meals for us, it is easy to eat one and freeze two. Served with whole grain bread, a hearty soup is a comforting winter lunch. In the week before I left, I made four soups – Red Lentil Carrot and Coconut Soup, South American Black Bean Soup, 13 Bean Soup, and Caribbean Pepper Pot Soup. The recipes can be found here.
Hummus is another staple in our house. We use it instead of margarine or butter as a spread on bread or for topping a baked potato. Our favorite hummus is made with chickpeas (or while navy beans) and roasted sweet potato. I generally make a large batch and freeze it is smaller containers so we always have it on hand. This rich and creamy hummus, paired with a baked potato and green salad makes a delicious, easy to prepare and satisfying meal. It is also good as a pasta sauce.
The recipe for Sweet Potato Hummus can be found here. The recipe calls for cayenne pepper and is quite spicy. However, you can eliminate the cayenne all together for a delicious hummus for kids or those not fond of spices. This recipe, without the cayenne, is taste tested and approved by my granddaughter Astrid.
Another great quick and easy meal is a stir fry. Make a big batch of your favorite sauce and keep it on hand in the fridge, or freeze it. Frozen mixed vegetables are a real time saver. All you need to do is make a pot of rice or noodles and sauté the frozen veggies in a bit of broth and add the sauce. Top with cashews or sesame seeds and your set.
Don’t forget that rice also freezes well. When you cook rice, make a big pot. You can keep enough for a week in the fridge and freeze the rest in one meal portions.
My favorite recipe for Chinese Brown Sauce can be found at this link, along the recipe for Chinese 5 Spice Sauce, a spicier version of the same sauce. These sauces will keep in the fridge for at least 1 week. However, you can make a big batch and freeze in 1 meal portions.
A big pot of chilli makes a filling meal and is one of those dishes that tastes better the next day. While most chillis are meat based, they are also easy to make without any animal products. If you have a favorite recipe, make a plant based version using the same sauce and spice mixture. Add beans, lentils, veggies or mashed tofu to replace the meat. One of my favorite chilli recipe can be found here. Make up a big pot and freeze the leftovers for a later meal.
One Pot Meals
One pot meals are real time savers – in prep, cooking and cleanup. Chop up your veggies and throw them into a pot with the sauce, simmer and serve. Great when you need to get dinner on the table in a hurry.
Two of my favorite one pot meals are:
Rotini in a Coconut Sauce – I love this recipe because the pasta cooks in the sauce. No need to dirty another pot to cook pasta.
Mexican Quinoa – Quinoa is a quick cooking seed that packs a nutritional punch and has a pleasant nutty taste. This Mexican dish can be spiced up or down to suit everyone’s taste.
Salads make great quick, easy and hearty meals. Keep a couple of your favorite oil free salad dressings on hand in the fridge at all times. A great meal is a simple as tossing some greens with additional veggies, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, grains or beans. A salad with a baked potato or slice of hearty whole grain bread is a great meal. Oil free dressings are flavorful, easy to make and offer plenty of nutrition without the heavy calorie count. The recipes for some of my favorite salad dressings can be found here.
Sweet Potato Brownies
Its always nice to have a little something sweet in the freezer for capping off a meal. These brownies are just sweet enough to satisfy and nutritious enough to be served at any everyday meal. They are packed with sweet potato, dates, oats and almond flour. I find them perfect just as they are: however, if you wish, you can increase the maple syrup to make them a bit sweeter.
The recipe makes a large cookie sheet or about 30 brownie squares, so they last a while. Slice them up and freeze them. They are great straight out of the freezer. Find the recipe here.