Cook This (or heat it up, anyway): Quick Meals.

quick mealsTo say it’s been a busy month would be the understatement of the century. Year end inventory. Two newly trained front desk folks. Patients trying to get in before their deductibles reset. Then our freshly trained, lovely new front desk hire was offered a job closer to home, with better hours and in the field she’s been hoping to break into. We’re sad to see her go and wish her joy and success in her new venture. Her replacement, 2 days into training found it wasn’t the right fit for her skill set or personality. Another round of hiring and tomorrow we start afresh with training for our fabulous new office assistant.

What does that have to do with cooking? It means I haven’t. My weekend cooking days for the last 7 weeks have been spent nose to the grindstone behind my desk instead of flitting about the kitchen in my apron and slippers. Pizza and take out for my family seems to be the only way to go. But wait! We don’t do pizza and take-out. So my husband has been making gourmet meals and having them waiting for me on the table when I get home. But wait! My husband couldn’t cook his way out of a paper bag (ok, that’s an exaggeration but really, it’s not pretty.)

So…here are some ideas for quick dishes (or meals) that don’t require much prep time. Not as good as putting all the time and love into it that I usually do, but still landing healthy food on the table.

1. Spinach and garlic. Take 3 boxes of frozen spinach and put in a strainer. Run under hot water until thawed. Squeeze out well. Throw a big splash of olive oil in a sauté pan and add 5 cubes of frozen garlic (Trader Joes) or a tsp of pre-chopped garlic from a jar (New Seasons.) Cook garlic for a few minutes until just starting to brown and add spinach. Toss for 3 minutes or until warm.

2. Chicken sausage. Pick up chicken sausage from the meat department from the health food store. Boil until cooked. Brown in a pan. We also sometimes cook it then slice it and brown it in little slices. Cook extra and freeze it then next time you can just pull it out of the freezer in the morning and it will be ready for dinner.

3. Quinoa. Bring two cups of water or stock (I like pacific simply stock) to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add one cup of rinsed quinoa to the boiling liquid. Return to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Check the quinoa to make sure the water is absorbed into the grain if not, leave on a little longer. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for a few minutes.Fluff with fork.

1+2+3= fabulous meal combo separate or all mixed in a pan prior to serving.

4. Salad with protein. Salad mix (wash it, even if it is “pre-washed,” trust me.) Grate carrots and beets (peel first) into the salad. Toss in a few handfuls of nuts or seeds. Consider a thinly sliced apple or pear. Maybe some cucumber? Whatever you’ve got that sounds good. Protein options- poach salmon in a little water with a squeeze of lemon, canned tuna mixed with a bit of organic mayo, sliced steak, chicken breasts, deli turkey from the health food store chopped up into bite sized pieces. Again, whatever you’ve got.

5. Roasted chicken. Get a cooked chicken from the store. Serve with steamed broccoli, a salad and whole grain bread with olive oil and garlic.

6. Hot dogs and beans (a staple at our house and a Brody tradition on Christmas eve- don’t ask). Walnut acres baked beans. Whatever your regional well treated non-chemmie chicken hot dog brand happens to be. Heat beans in pan with sliced hot dogs. Serve with 1 or 2 veggie side dishes.

7. Tomato soup. I adapted this recipe from the Muir Glen website. Follow instructions but you can use frozen basil cubes from Trader Joes if you don’t have fresh herbs, olive oil not butter, skip the sugar (tomatoes are sweet enough) and use mimiccreme instead of whipping cream. Also I use pacific simply chicken stock or just water for the broth. We use a hand blender, which I highly recommend as part of your kitchen set up. Serve with whole grain toast and spinach (as above), steamed broccoli, or side salad.

8.Guatemalica (yes, we made that up). We adopted our son from Guatemala and when we were visiting him it was easier not to haul down to the restaurant every night so we had plenty of dinners in our tiny hotel apartment. The stand by? Just what they would serve us in the restaurant for breakfast (desayuno chapin). Eggs sauteéd with onion and tomato, sliced avocado, refried beans (from a pouch) and corn tortillas. I’m not sure why refried beans in Guatemala come in a pouch and in America they come in a can but other than that we have repeated it countless times. In Guatemala they serve it with plantains, which we didn’t do in our apartment, but we often do here, I’ll post that recipe soon.

9. Pasta and meat sauce. Cook some whole grain pasta, any shape, any size. While it is cooking, sauté an onion in a fry pan. Add a pound of range fed beef, buffalo, ground turkey, ground chicken or TVP if you must. When cooked through add a jar of muir glen or your favorite pasta sauce. Check the label though, many brands of commercial sauce are sweetened with corn syrup. Don’t eat that. Add a bag or two of frozen spinach to the sauce- we usually thaw and squeeze it out first so it doesn’t get too watery. It would be even better to add fresh spinach but we’re more likely to have frozen around for those quick meal nights. You can serve this with a side veggie too.

I can think of a few more but this post is getting a bit long so I’ll call it here.

Enjoy!

Dr Samantha

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