Posted Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 1:59 PM
I think your direction is probably where I need to head to....processed foods are killer! And it's so hard to stay away from them when you're so busy and have so little time. Thanks for the reply
It really isn't harder if you set your mind to it and think "How can I prep once and cook twice (or more)?" If you're cooking rice, it doesn't take much if any extra time to cook 2 cups of rice instead of 1 cup for the current meal. Ditto for beans - cook double when you cook them. When you've got the time to chop celery, onion, carrots, bell peppers, double it. Store half. (onions and peppers freeze well if you plan to use them in soup or chili - they lose crispness when thawed so not as great for salads and such). Then mix and match things. That's one good thing about the kickstart - it encourages using day 2 dinner leftovers for day 3 lunches and so on. And, it's a MENU plan. Kickstart way back when (two years ago?) got us started using menu planning each week (or two week cycle, to match the bulk of the grocery shopping). So, if we have chili on Monday, we'll have extra beans to use in a beans & rice dish on Tuesday. Then, we can use chili over pasta or potatoes on Wednesday. Extra rice cooked on Tuesday can be the base for a stir fry on Thursday. Extra veggies chopped on Thursday are the base for a crock pot soup on Friday. Saturday can be leftovers (to clean the fridge out) or if there are no leftovers, something simple like pancakes for dinner (or salad/wraps in warmer weather). Sundays are a bit catch as catch can depending on what is scheduled. Following Monday, maybe a root veggie hash. Again, extra veg chopped up and used later in the week in a hearty soup or even tossed into the chili (we do chili weekly, year round - it's an easy crock pot recipe and even easier than the meat kind because you don't have to thaw and brown the meat ahead of time!) Beans cooked to go with the hash become part of nachos and the cheese sauce from the nachos becomes a potato topping with some steamed broccoli.
When we've got a stash of bits (beet tops, carrot ends, etc), we'll take an afternoon (weekend usually) and make a big batch of veggie stock to freeze. That means we can have a "stone soup" together in minutes either stove top or crock pot.
Learning how to handle grains is also a biggie. Rice, quinoa, barley, millet, etc. They are all basically similar and some things, like quinoa, cook even faster than doing rice! A go-to meal that is simple (and I think came from a kickstart recipe) is to cook some quinoa in veg stock (or water). Then use stock again to sweat onions and garlic then lightly wilt some greens (kale, spinach, etc). Add cooked chickpeas and the quinoa, mix, heat through. Season as desired (salt and pepper, soy sauce or Braggs aminos, spices if you like it spicy - curry, cumin, etc). Dinner is served in 30 minutes or less (depending on how big a quantity you are cooking and all - if you cook double the quinoa, you can reuse it in soup or other things later on).
A good whole grain pasta is also good to keep on hand for those in a pinch days (even though it is a processed food). Heat a can of crushed tomatoes, with some salt, pepper, Italian herbs, garlic, onions, mushrooms (if you have some handy), beans (whatever you've got in the pantry or fridge - adds protein and a meatier texture/look). That's a nice, simple, "minimally" processed sauce that takes minutes while the pasta cooks.
A big helper for us is a good pressure cooker/canner. We can cook potatoes in minutes and then finish them in the oven for a little crispy outside while the broccoli is steaming. Likewise, soaked beans can be cooked quickly in a pressure cooker (bring it up to pressure then turn off the heat - by the time the pressure drops enough to open the cooker, the beans are cooked!) Saves on energy usage too.