Wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, "I could never go plant-based because it just takes so much time and you don't get it because you loooove cooking so much!! Actually, with all due respect, you don't get it!! O.K, ready... I'm gonna put out a little newsflash here... I do not love cooking! I don’t even really like it all that much. It's the means to an end and it gets my family eating right and ensures that we actually know what we're putting in our bodies. The acts of prepping, shopping, chopping, dicing, cooking and the worst part... cleaning up... are not something that I cherish. I didn't grow up cooking, and it's not something that is super comfortable for me. As soon as I was feeling good about cooking all of my chicken and beef dishes, I switched up the program. Granted, I've gotten a lot better at cooking veggie dishes, but it's taken a lot of practice and a good deal of frustration. I'm not this amazingly relaxed cook by any stretch of the imagination. I do not clean up as I go (when my husband reads this he will definitely be shaking his head and muttering "understatement") It is all about priorities, and too many people I know are getting sick right now, so I would love to disease proof us as much as I can since we can't live in a bubble. I am going to follow Hippocrates' advice and let food be "our" medicine.
I must say that I really do enjoy watching my family eat the amazing ( alright, some not amazing, but nevertheless homemade) meals that I make. So, the end point is definitely awesome. But for some reason, the act itself is not relaxing or joyful. I know many people who really cherish their time in the kitchen. They love the process. It is second nature to them. I wish I fell into that category, and maybe someday I will. Here are some of the things I do like about it, aside from the outcome of yummy, healthy food of which I know every awesome ingredient:
1. Sharing time with my kids. My boys do homework most nights as I cook. So I can cook and talk to them about their days, and just having them close is cool with me anytime.
2. It is a chance to be creative. Sometimes, like last night, I get an idea of what to do with some type of food and it works and that is awesome. I had made a batch of white beans with some tomatoes and herbs in my Instant Pot ( Just got it and I LOVE this thing!!!!) and knew that my husband wouldn't go for it. So I took some broth, and blended half of the the mixture with a bit of veggie broth then added some of the whole bean and tomato mixture, then threw it on the stove with a little bit of liquid smoke (which I just discovered... so cool) and it created the smoky flavor. He absolutely loved it. He asked for it for lunch the next day! If you've gone back in my blogs, you will know that this is a man who would not even consider eating a bean a year ago, let alone a smokey one.
3. If I'm cooking, then we are eating as a family and this is a great time to discuss our days and it is perfect bonding time. As my kids get older they are all over the place, but we can count on eating together because after making the effort to cook, I insist that we all eat it together!
It scares me because deliveries are making it easier and easier for people to get their food from other places. I know people who order dinner delivery every night. Used to be that we had to go somewhere and sit down, or even with grab and go, you had to make the effort to go out and get your food. Because of the effort, maybe cooking didn't sound so bad. It scares me how easy it is now. It takes no time at all so it is a no brainer for a lot of families. It is not cost effective to eat out or get delivery, and you can be sure that you really don't know what is in your food.
No, I don't work full-time. My hat's off to anyone that does, and I know it is harder to prepare dinner after a long day at work. When I do go through spurts where I'm working a lot or crazy busy and barely home, I do plan more than I do if I am not as busy. I am not able to go to the food store three times a week so I have to work our meals out ahead of time. It's all about priorities. We all have them. Mine is eating right. I am a firm believer that food is medicine as I have seen it work for so many people now. There's no way you know what you're getting when you go out to dinner or order in. Talk to a chef and you will find out that there's all too often bacon fat in your veggies and butter in just about everything. Why do you think it tastes so good at a restaurant?? Eat like I do for a while and restaurant food tastes way too have heavy, and too salty.
Planning does make my life a lot easier and cooking more pleasant. Here are some simple things and some recipes to make it easier on yourself and ensure that you get a freshly prepared meal on the table almost every night.
1. Keep it Simple. It doesn't always have to be elaborate. Don't go too crazy with the recipes every single night. If you are like me, you will burn out! A simple quinoa dish with lots of fresh veggies and edamame or tofu is often just enough to make everyone happy. I'm also tired of people telling me that they're sick of hearing about quinoa. How about this... I'm sick of hearing about chicken!! Quinoa takes the center stage for lots of plant-based eaters just as chicken does for meat bases eaters, so suck it quinoa haters.
2. Use a slowcooker or pressure cooker to cook your meals. I am definitely all over the pressure cooker right now. It cooks things with steam so they cook very quickly, evenly, and the flavors blend together beautifully. There are so many veggie recipes for the Instant Pot (the pressure cooker I just got) that are amazing!!
3. Prepare ahead of time. Make quinoa and brown rice or farro or whatever floats your boat in the beginning of the week or on Sunday evening. You will then have them for the next four days to add whatever recipes you are making. I often make a big pot of beans in the beginning of the week and use them in all different recipes (soups and burgers) over the course of the week. Chop up veggies and leave them in glass bowls so you have them for stir fry's, sauces, soups, and for roasting all week long.
4. I just found a meal planner that it is set up by Forks over Knives. It gives you a shopping list and sorts out your whole week of meals. Probably not great if you are picky, but you can look through the recipe box for the week and swap out meals that you don't like. I am going to try it for a month to see what I think and will weigh in later on this one. Looks pretty awesome though, and it should definitely calm the nerves of anyone thinking that they are not doing a plant-based diet the "right" way.
5. Communicate with your kids. I know that mine don't mind having the same foods a lot. One would have lentil soup every day when he walks in from school, and often does. The other will eat a ton of fruits and veggies when he walks in and could eat edamame, cucumbers, and red peppers with quinoa, or salmon, a potato and veggies for every meal. Go with what works. If they don't care about the variety, why should you? Yes, exposing them to different foods is great. But find the 10 meals they like and stick with them. I was forgetting what they like sometimes, so now I write them down.
6. Get fruits and veggies in during the day so you don't have to worry about having so many servings and trying to jam them all in at dinner. Dinner prep and dinner itself can be more simple this way. I harp a lot on that veggie tray before dinner, but it works. Especially for kids because they are hungry and eat it, and get lots of servings in before they even start with their meal. I don't find it fills them up either. Doesn't make a dent really, but pumps them up with antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients before they move onto dinner.
7. If you don't get the perfect meals in have a Sun Warrior protein shake to supplement your protein on days when your diet isn't perfect. On crazy busy days, I am often running low in protein. I aim for 8-10% a day and can still run low! Technically, if you eat a very well-rounded plant-based diet which I try to do, you will get 8 to 10% of your calories from protein. There are days though that I just know this just doesn't happen. The shake helps so much. I just tried their berry and mocha flavors and these are great because I can just shake them up with some almond milk and they have so much flavor. I don't have to mix them into a full on smoothie. They are good in a pinch and are a good blend of pea and rice protein and some other proteins so I feel like they are super satisfying. Good on-the- run nutrition.
8. Buy already chopped or frozen fruit and vegetables sometimes. It is nice to have a break once in a while!!
9. Have a schedule each week of what you are going to make. SUNDAY - Asian i.e. stir fry MONDAY - soup i.e. minestrone with beans TUESDAY - Taco Tues. i.e. sweet potato tacos wirh beans and rice WED- Italian night i.e. quinoa and lentil stuffed peppers THURSDAY - Buddah bowls i.e. tofu veggie curry bowls FRIDAY - Anything goes i.e. Beyond Meat bolognese or order vegan Thai and have it delivered.
10. Your turn! Come up with something that has been working for you, and post below in my comment section. My favorite suggestion gets a Sun Warrior Berry Warrior Blend protein powder!