This afternoon I thought I’d whip together a quick lunch of the Guardian’s “fairly easy” tabbouleh salad with a few chickpeas. The plan seemed quick and painless: while I cooked my soaked chickpeas and soaked the bulgar wheat, I could let the food processor chop the parsley, and hand chop a tomato and some green onion. It should only take a few minutes (cooking time aside). But while I had chickpeas and the food processor going, I thought “why not make hummus“? This would require slicing veggies, which involved washing carrots, celery and cucumber. Tim added that we needed pita bread if we’re having hummus, so off he went to the store. Finally, after dirtying all the dishes in the house, I went to assemble the toubbuleh only to find that I had been soaking couscous, not bulgar wheat, all along. Disaster!
Yesterday I said to Tim, “now that working from home, I don’t imagine lunch will be more involved than what I did for work” (typically a salad I made the night before or leftover dal re-heated in the microwave). It didn’t take me long for me to get trapped in the kitchen.
Here’s the bottom line: I love cooking. Chopping vegetables relaxes me. I think it’s fun to think about different combinations of ingredients and spices. It’s almost an obsession (to which Tim would likely respond, “almost?”). The thing is, there isn’t always enough time in the day to cook elaborate gourmet meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and don’t forget about second breakfast). But I don’t have the money or the appetite for fast food or frozen pizza (though I do have a soft spot for the thin crust variety, but again, I can’t hold back from adding fresh-sliced onion and green pepper before putting the pizza into the oven).
John at Pick the Brain probably didn’t have me in mind when he wrote his post How to Prepare Healthy Meals Faster Than You Can Order Takeout. But just like the anti-chef can learn how to cook, food-obsessed folks like me can also learn that it’s okay to NOT cook fancy meals all the time.
For John, meat is a big part of his “slow carb” cooking regime; however, vegetarians can also just as easily learn from these three basic tenets:
- Stock up on food, such as frozen and canned foods that aren’t nasty, like frozen peas and tinned beans
- Prepare foods efficiently by learning a routine, cooking simple meals, and learning to multitask
- Embrace the microwave for defrosting frozen food, heating up beans, and cooking vegetables
Our freezer is a treasure trove of easy meals: I make big batches of dal and veggie chili and cornbread then freeze them in meal-sized portions.
Another great formula for a quick and healthy meal is beans + grains + vegetables. We often do puy lentils, which take about 30 minutes and are delicious enough just cooked with veggie stock. While those boil away, whip up some rice, quinoa or boiled potatoes (~10 mins) and steam some greens (~10 minutes to chop, wash and steam).
What are your quick and health cooking tips?