One of the biggest obstacles to healthy eating is time. It’s so easy to fall back on the easy shortcuts of fast food and eating out. Cooking from scratch is undeniably time-consuming, but its benefits can be life (and health) altering. But rather than making hard-to-keep promises of cooking every night, aim for something more realistic: commit to cooking one night a week.
Just one evening of cooking can dramatically improve your eating habits, not to mention save you some cash. And with this one evening, consider a new practice: cook for leftovers. You’ll make your commitment count doubly by making food that serves several recipes. You’ll eat more healthfully by stocking your fridge, and you’ll reduce stress by taking the frenzy out of mealtime decision-making.
I find it most efficient to cook a sizable quantity of base ingredients simply—proteins, grains, vegetables, legumes—and customizing them for many of the week’s meals. I can eat the same thing four meals straight, but this gives me the option to mix it up if I find the energy.
Below, I’ll highlight two basic recipes, Quinoa and Swiss Chard, and tip my hat to a couple of ways to use them.
Tabbouleh-esque quinoa salad
- 1 qt quinoa
- 2 qt water
- 1 T kosher salt
Rinse 1 qt of quinoa in a fine mesh strainer under the faucet. In a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, bring water and quinoa together up to a boil, covered. Turn down to a simmer for 7 minutes, then turn off the flame and let steam for another 5-10 minutes, until all water has absorbed. (If quinoa feels too wet but is cooked through, return to strainer and drain for 5-10 minutes.)
Quinoa can be anything you want it to be; therein lies its beauty.
- Warm it in milk and top with honey and pistachios for breakfast
- Combine it with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh herbs for a hearty lunchtime tabbouleh-esque salad
- Sauté it in sesame oil with garlic and scallions for a nutritious alternative to fried rice
Steamed Swiss chard and eggs with side salad
Steamed Swiss Chard
- 3 bunches Swiss chard
- 1 qt water
Separate leaves from stalks. Rinse thoroughly. Cut leaves into 1” ribbons. Cut stalks into ¾” pieces. Set up a steamer- or a strainer fit snugly over a pot- bring water up to a boil and steam the leaves and stalks separately, for a couple minutes each, to the tenderness of your liking. Cool in a bowl.
Steaming is a highly underrated technique. I guarantee you’ll never taste Swiss chard that tastes as, well, Swiss chardy, as when steamed.
- Toss it in your scrambled eggs in the morning, or throw the eggs and greens together into the oven for a quick frittata that will hold perfectly for a packed lunch
- Chop it up with some herbs, fresh garlic and olive oil and spread it on toast any time of day
- Sauté with some onions and serve it with a piece of roast chicken or broiled fish
Flexible food can help when you have an inflexible schedule. There’s nothing like the reassurance of knowing that you have a few wholesome staples waiting in the fridge when you get home.