Think preparing traditional, nutrient dense food takes too much effort?
People always ask me, “How do you have the time and energy to cook all this food, raise two kids and work?”
Easy! When it comes to spending time in the kitchen, I'm mostly lazy and definitely too busy to spend long hours slaving over the stove.
On the average day, I cook breakfast (15 minutes), grab a quick lunch (2-15 minutes), and throw together a fast dinner (15-30 minutes). All this and still serve nutrient dense, super delicious food for me and my family.
My secrets to being a Real Food rock star
#1 – Have FUN!
Sure, you need to eat, but it doesn't need to be a chore. Food is delicious, and it is so rewarding to serve someone an amazing meal and witness their enjoyment. Don't like to bake? Then don't. Love salads? Then perfect them.
Figure out what inspires you, and start there.
#2 – Plan ahead
Some industrious homemakers I know do detailed, weekly meal plans down to the serving size of snacks per person.
While that is not my style, a bit of planning (usually whenever I remember) makes the week go more smoothly (in other words, there's food to eat in the kitchen). In fact, most of the following tips are mostly about planning ahead.
With a bit of practice, you will surprise yourself by how prepared you are!
#3 – Set aside one day (or a few hours) per week for kitchen time.
For me, this is Sunday when my husband entertains the kids. I make a few things for the week, including a grain or two and maybe beans (all soaked from the night before), a roast chicken, bone broth if we need some, a cultured condiment and cultured drink, and anything that inspires me in the moment.
None of these things take much prep time, so you can prepare an impressive amount of food in a short amount of time.
Aside from your staples, pick things that sound easy, delicious, and rewarding – I may make homemade crackers, an enchilada casserole, lamb stew, or a large kale salad. Some Sundays, I make nothing at all, and don't feel guilty about it because we always find a yummy meal to whip together on the fly.
#4 – Make extra and freeze
On the days you're feeling ambitious, make double and freeze half.
If you're sprouting grains, cooking beans, making dough, or preparing anything that is takes a bit more time, always make extra and freeze it. That way you're just a short defrost away from a quick meal.
#5- Soak in the PM
Before you go to bed, put your grains (oatmeal, rice, quinoa, etc), nuts, or beans you plan to use the next day in a large bowl and cover with water. Add a few tablespoons of fresh whey or lemon juice if you have some. The next morning, cook the grains while you prepare breakfast. This method, forgotten to modern Americans, has been done and is still done by traditional cultures throughout the rest of the world. The soaking will neutralize the anti-nutrient – phytic acid, improve flavor, and reduce cooking time.
#6 – Defrost in the AM
When you're cleaning up breakfast, remember to pull out any meat, stock, or frozen sprouted grains or beans for dinner to defrost. Place it in the sink or in a bowl of cold water.
#7 – Don't skimp on time saving kitchen equipment.
Some of my favorites include:
- Big food processor for chopping veggies, blending beans in to dip, pureeing sprouted grains, and even grinding pork fat to make rendered lard.
- Immersion blender for whipping up a quick soup in its pot or smoothie without making extra mess with a blender.
- Various strainers – I use mine to strain bacon fat, kefir grains, and chicken stock, rinse grains and beans, wash fruit and veg, and so much more.
- A good sharp knife…or two or three – makes such a difference.
- Canning jars – A traditional foods essential for culturing veggies and drinks, sprouting grains (with a mesh lid), and storing left overs. You can even use them for freezing.
- Tea towels – For straining yogurt and whey, keeping freshly heated bread warm on the table, and of course, cleaning up.
- Markers – Homemade food doesn't come in a labeled package, so make sure you have a dry erase marker for jar lids and sharpies for freezer bags and permanent storage.
#8 – Ditch the junk
You can't eat what you don't have, so get rid of your boxed cereals, canned soups, frozen dinners, and instant everything. Yes, they make life more convenient, but the cost to your health and well-being are simply not worth it.
#9 – Keep it simple!
Here are some examples of delicious nutrient dense meals that are prepared in 10 minutes or less.
- Scrambled eggs with raw cheese, sprouted toast with butter, and a cultured condiment like salsa, ketchup, or sauerkraut.
- Steel cut oats (soaked the night before and cooked in the morning) topped with butter, raw cream, fresh or frozen berries, and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Lunch or dinner:
- Sandwich – with leftover roast chicken, avocado, raw cheese and a side of cultured veggies.
- Soup – Drop washed and coarsely chopped fresh seasonal veggies into your defrosted, simmering chicken or beef stock. Blend when veggies are bright green and onions, carrots, potatoes are soft. Blend with an immersion blender. Season with herbs and sea salt, and top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.
- Quickie grains and veg – Chop some fresh seasonal veggies and toss into a big pan with a splash of stock or water. When wilted, throw in optional meat, some grains (you cooked on the weekend), mix in a big scoop of fat (butter, coconut oil, etc), top with some shredded raw cheese and/or herbs, and a dash of unpasteurized soy sauce.
- Slow cooker meal – Throw the ingredients in your crock pot in the am, turn it on, and forget about it. By dinner time, you'll have a house wafting with amazing smells, and a delicious meal of stew, chili, or the likes without barely lifting a finger.
- Pan grilled fish with steamed greens. Salt and season the fish, cook to desired doneness, remove from the pan. Toss in washed kale, collards, spinach, or chard, wilt, and top with a generous pat of butter. Enjoy.
- Sprouted crackers with raw cheese and/or pate, and seasonal fruit
- Lara Bars – My one exception to packaged foods, this raw nut and fruit bar is one of the only things in a wrapper that we eat in a pinch.
- Leftovers! When you make food this good, leftovers are a treat, not a burden.
Got any great time savers I've missed here?
I'd love to hear them.
Now go ROCK that kitchen…Happy eating!
P.S. Just after posting this article, I walked into my kitchen to discover a forgotten pot of white beans in tomato sauce simmering away and burning on the bottom. OOPS! Oh, well. Moral of the story: You don't need to be perfect to be a rockstar. Clean it up, and move on!
Najla Bose says
I cook most of my “meat” meals in a frying pan with water. For the baby food I don’t even need to defrost because I freeze 3ounces at a time.
Anyway, for regular meals, I do defrost the meat, put it in a frying pam and add a cup or so of water, slowly I simmer it (takes about 10 minutes) I will salt with sea salt, add in onions, tomatoes and spinich, and the the real secret is to add spices. Penzos on 4th street in Santa Monica gas amazing blends. You can also get wonderful blends at Cost Plus.
Basmathi rice cooks quicky and can be started and cooked simultaneously in a separate pot. You can also steam other veggies. I keep adding water until cooked. After it is done I add in a healthy oil over it. The entire meal takes about 15 mintes. Depending on the spice blend, even the same meats and veggies will taste completly different.
PS can you send the recipe for strawberry icecream that you did for us in Topanga?
rock-star-goddess, you are!
Wendi Wilkins says
Under #9, “Lunch or dinner,” at the end of “Quickie Grains and Veg,” is “unfermented soy sauce” a typo? Shouldn’t it read “naturally fermented” instead?
Thanks for pointing that out, Wendi. It should, in fact, be “unpasteurized soy sauce”… I will change it now. 🙂
Wendi Wilkins says
You’re welcome. 🙂
Question: Can a Vitamix take the place of a food processor?