One of the best ways to eat healthily is to prepare your own food – it makes it easier to avoid the temptation of the local cafe, the chocolate bars by the till at the shop and the junk food you’d normally reach for. On the down-side it’s time consuming and can be expensive if you’re not cunning.
The past week I was managing the build of a garden at Chelsea Flower Show, something requiring quite a bit of physical labour on a site which only sells burgers and bacon sandwiches. I spent the day before it started preparing loads of food and since I’d had in mind to do a blog post with some quick and easy meal ideas so I thought it was the perfect time to snap some photos and get on it.
Firstly, this is a photo of the shop for food [I thought] would last me the week:
Lots of vegetables, meat (organic chicken thighs and some turkey breast), fish (mostly canned along with some half-price smoked salmon to go with eggs for a quick dinner), fruit, eggs and some snacks – dark chocolate rice cakes and dark chocolate. You will also notice a can of dry shampoo – the perfect solution to getting up at 5.45am and not having to deal with hair washing and drying ;)
First up I made a Big Ass Salad, the idea for which came from one of my tutoring students, Butter. You will notice the theme throughout these three “recipes” is basically to make a big amount of something. This makes life much easier and you will then have a lot of food and save time. You can do different things with your prepped food, for example the salad could be served warm with butter as a side dish for some hot food.
- 1 x pointed cabbage
- 1 x head of broccoli
- 1 x cauliflower
- 1 x bunch of celery
- 1 x red onion
- Toasted nuts/seeds (eg. toasted almonds)
- Fresh herbs (eg. dill)
- Dried fruit like raisins or chopped apricots
Chop into bite-size pieces and lightly steam the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower (you will need to do this in several batches). They don’t need to be totally cooked. Let them cool. Cut up the red onion and celery, mix together with the cooled steamed veggies well and let the whole lot chill in a covered bowl in the fridge. Take out what you need each day and put in a tupperware container, put some dressing in a little jar (would go soggy if you dressed it in the morning) and go!
You could put anything in the salad – lettuce, spinach, baby corn, mange tout, peas – the only limit is that it’s better if they’re on the dry side, as it will keep longer. Things like tomatoes and cucumber will be wet and reduce the amount of time you can keep it for before it goes a bit manky.
To go with the salad I made some Tasty Grilled Meat. In this case turkey breast covered with chilli powder, smoked paprika, jerk seasoning powder, garlic and salt.
To reduce washing up and hassle, put some oil (about 2 x dessertspoons) in a cup and mix the spice powder and salt into it. Spread the chopped meat on your board, pour the spice mix on top and smoosh it in with your hands. Helps if you’ve already prepped your baking sheet to put it straight on to!
Cook it under the grill until it goes brown on top and is cooked (check with a knife if in doubt).
You will end up with lots of grilled meat for salads but also quick stir fries (basically stir fried veg with added microwaved chicken – no need to spend time making sure the meat is cooked, plus loads easier to clean up afterwards) or any other dish that could be improved by the addition of grilled meat.
Needless to say this could work with any kind of meat, and actually would probnably be a pretty tasty marinade for tofu too.
There are loads of good spice mixes in the supermarket, and it’s worth getting a bit of a collection. Makes life easier and also a bit more varied.
Last up is one of my random Slow Cooker Stews. The slow cooker I got cost a mere £15 from Morrison’s, and last time I went in it was on offer for £13. You can fill it and put it on before bed, or do quick stews during the day on a higher heat setting. It’s awesome. Only downside is it fills your house with the smell of whatever you’re cooking – a double edged sword if you’re hungry all the time ;)
- 8 x chicken thighs, skinned
- 1 x Savoy cabbage
- 6 x carrots
- 2 x onions
- Preserved lemons
- Cinnamon stick
- Bay leaf
Chop everything up:
And put it in the slow cooker, with about two thirds full of water:
I forgot to take a photo of the finished article! But it was tasty – kind of a Moroccan vibe with the preserved lemons, raisons and cinnamon.
You could put anything in the slow cooker – minced beef, lamb stew, coq au vin, Chinese style pork belly…