Eating whole foods every day, nourishing your body with real food without added chemicals, flavor enhancers, sugar and sodium is hugely beneficial for every aspect of your life. And, nourishing your body with the best food possible comes with one more fact: you must learn to enjoy cooking. Not just cook, but really like to cook. Why? Because you will be doing a lot of it!
It reminds me of the Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn movie The Break Up – “I don’t want you to just do the dishes. I want you to WANT to do the dishes.” It’s the mindset around the activity that matters.
As someone who is passionate about a whole foods, studying nutrition, and living as clean as possible, you’d expect me to love the kitchen. But I don’t. I cook because I want to eat the best food possible, even though I don’t actually love to cook.
Cooking is a common barrier to healthy eating because it is viewed as a chore. But it doesn’t have to be so complicated!
Instead of the place to ‘get dinner done’, convert your kitchen into an place of inspiring nourishment. I use the techniques below as a way to enjoy the kitchen by making the process and result more interesting and sustainable. Also, when I altered my mindset towards cooking – from being a chore to being a loving way I nourish myself and my family – daily cooking became much more enjoyable.
LEARN TO ENJOY THE KITCHEN
Make it simple
- One of the best habits for nightly cooking is to plan it out once a week. Meal planning takes so much stress and thought out of daily cooking. Pick one day a week to plan and shop, and then when you get home, PREP for the week. Chop veggies, make salad dressing, make broth, etc. so each night you just have to cook without the prep. It saves a ton of time and makes nightly cooking so much nicer.
-> I love Plan to Eat as a way to organize recipes and plan for the week. Their service lets you easily save your recipes in one spot, that looks somewhat like Pinterest. When you meal plan, you add the recipes you want to make into a calendar, which then creates a shopping list for you.
Have your quick-list
- Have a quick list of last minute ideas. Keep a running list of everything you make that is easy, liked by everyone in the family, and has simple ingredients. You will be so happy to have this list at 5:30pm one night with no dinner ideas.
-> These are a few of my go to recipes that take less than 30 minutes of prep time:
–Roast Chicken. It’s simple, versatile, and tastes good. Rub the chicken with butter or ghee; sprinkle with salt, pepper, dried herbs or poultry seasoning; roast for around an hour-1.5 hours (depending on size). Throw in some veggies around the chicken, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, broccoli or squash. Or, add a salad or green beans (the frozen ones take 10 minutes to prepare).
–Soup: Chicken; Minestrone; Lentil. Soups are very easy to prepare when you have broth in the freezer. Defrost the broth and throw in an array of veggies. I use everything from carrots and celery, to kale, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, squash – whatever I have on hand. Lentils are a great addition and are cooked in 20 minutes. If you eat grains, add rice noodles, rice, or quinoa. Full of nutrients, soothing, and easy = great dinner.
–Frozen fish. You can buy frozen, wild caught fish in bulk to make it much more affordable. I keep a bag in the freezer for quick dinners. Defrost in cold water for about 30 minutes (depending on size) then sauté garlic in butter or ghee in a non-stick pan, add the fish. Half way through the recommended cook time, flip the filet to brown both sides. Add sautéed greens, quickly prepped frozen veggies, or a salad.
Add a sauce
- Experiment with sauces and dips. Daily cooking can get a little repetitive when using the same basic ingredients, BUT adding a new sauce or dip can completely change a dish you often prepare. In the Fall, I tend to make roasted chicken and veggies A LOT, but whipping up new flavors in a sauce transforms the same dish. Here are my go-to’s:
-> Here are my super easy go-to sauces:
Tahini: 1/2 cup tahini sauce, juice from 1/2 a lemon, 1 garlic clove, minced (optional), 2 tsp tamari, and water to smoothen consistency. Add parsley or cilantro, finely chopped, if desired. Blend or whisk together.
Green-Goddess: from Oh She Glows. There are many variations for this type of sauce – find one that sounds good and go for it!
Asian-esque: 1/2 cup broth, 1/4 cup tamari, 2 T rice vinegar, 1 tsp garlic-pepper paste (or other hot sauce). Add sliced scallions if desired. Whisk together.
Very easy tahini sauce: Equal amounts of tahini and miso paste (any type you like). Add a bit of water to smoothen consistency. Whisk together.
- Make it inspirational. Get inspired to cook by checking out great recipes that you will actually do. Roast duck with cherry sauce looks beautiful, but will you really spend a few hours making this meal on a weeknight? Instead, a new way of roasting a chicken with veggies is more likely to happen and still delicious.
Find favorite food bloggers that share recipes that are simple to make, and have flavors and ingredients you know you like. Having to buy a bunch of new ingredients to make a meal we *hope* we will like is not inspiring on weeknights when you just want to make a quick dinner.
Some of my favorite food blogs right now are:
- www.OhSheGlows.com (vegan)
- http://deliciouslyorganic.net (whole foods, gluten-free, and special diets)
- http://plantpoweredkitchen.com (vegan-I have a few of her cookbooks too!)
- http://feedmephoebe.com (whole foods, options for special diets)
- http://www.realfoodwholelife.com (whole foods, gluten-free options)
Cooking can be meditation
- The stillness and quiet mind of meditation can be found in many ways. Use cooking as a way to practice meditation. Repetitive activity that involves your whole focus will calm your brain waves just as much as sitting and meditating. It can be an easier way to meditate because you are focused on something, and you will feel the calming and stress-reducing benefits of meditation.
- Plan it out
- Prep all at once
- Find your go to’s and simple recipes that you love
- Change up flavors with sauces
- Get re-inspired every few weeks with new recipes
- Get multiple benefits from the kitchen – great meals and meditation time
So many wins! The most important thing to keep in mind is to view cooking as a way to nourish yourself and your family, instead of making it a daily chore. I know that’s not always easy to remember at 6pm, but trying some of the techniques above can transform your kitchen into a place you want to be. Enjoy!