This past weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting one of my best friends. She, like most 25 year old women with full time jobs and extracurricular commitments (or whatever extracurricular becomes when you know longer have a curriculum), doesn’t love cooking. She likes eating, sure, but cooking? It’s hard enough to remember you’re hungry, let alone anticipate said hunger and prepare accordingly.
What are we, boy scouts?
Well, I am. I’ve gotten the hang of cooking even though I have no time. And I have to diversify my diet, because that food three times a week rule still totally applies. Much as I like cooking, I like it a lot less than the bevy of other things I can do with my time, and I’d prefer to just eat.
So when my friend sought my advice for branching out beyond stir fry and pasta, I realized that even though I can eat a lot fewer items, I actually eat a lot more than the average person. So my advice to her becomes my advice to you:
1. Crock pot. Everyone says to use crock pots. And I actually don’t love using mine, because by mixing too many foods together, I waste foods for other times during the week. But then I realized I don’t like plain beans and lentils, and therefore, I don’t eat them. But, if they absorbed other flavors, I’d eat them gladly, and leave room for other foods. Five points to me.
I taught my friend how to make an easy turkey stew. A thoughtless turkey stew:
Throw turkey stew meat, a yam, millet (or rice if you have that luxury), beans (I used cannellini beans but any will do), and lentils into a crock pot. Add salt and pepper. Garlic and onion powder, too if you are able. Add enough water to just cover the food. Turn the crockpot on high. Walk away. Come back 6 hours later and eat.
Also good: chicken chili:
Take a can of corn, a can of black beans, two colorful peppers, chicken breasts (or ground chicken, or turkey, or whatever you want), some salsa (or not, I can’t eat salsa and it turns out just fine), salt, pepper, garlic and onion if you can, oil, cayenne pepper if you can, cajun seasoning if you can, and put them in the crock pot. Cover just enough with water (or less if the salsa is goopy). Turn the crock pot on. Six hours later. Chili. Yum.
2. Butternut Squash soup. Ok, so I stole this soup idea from my sister. But basically, make a big soup. Eat some, and save the rest for later. Next time you’re hungry and need something quickly, defrost homemade soup instead of soup in a can or Trader Joe’s or whatever. Healthier, cheaper, and you don’t need to shake anything first.
To make butternut squash soup, cut a butternut squash or buy some frozen cubes, and throw it in a pot with however much water fills the pot. Add salt and pepper. Nutmeg if you’re feeling adventurous. Boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. If you want it creamy, use an immersion blender to blend it. Eat.
3. Roasted chicken. This one takes a little longer to cook, so I recommend cooking it when you’re not hungry, and instead when you’re watching TV. Take a chicken (thighs, breasts, full chicken, whatever). Wash. Throw on salt, pepper, oil, and freshly squeezed lemon. Throw on extra oil if you want the skin to be delicious and crispy. Cook at 400 for around 42 minutes, or the duration of a TV drama without commercials (with commercials, check before the climax of the show, two commercials from the end). Stick a knife in, and if the juices run clear, you’re done. If they don’t, stick it back in the oven and keep checking at commercial breaks.
An alternative is to use garlic powder, onion powder basil, thyme, oregano, and rosemary in addition to salt and pepper. I can’t, but I used to, and it is goooood.
4. George Foreman Grill. Short on time but want meat? The George Foreman Grill will save your life. Just this past Friday, I realized that I’d forgotten to cook lamb and I had ten minutes until sundown. What to do? I quickly scrubbed my GFG, heated the grill on max for 4 minutes, and threw on a lamb patty (just ground lamb that I mushed into a patty, no additives) and cooked it for four minutes. Done. Sabbath observed. Lamb eaten. It was like being in the times of the temple only with electricity.
The GFG can be used for any kind of meat, and it’s always fast. Want chicken? Throw a breast with some seasonings of your choice on the grill. Want turkey? Turkey breast works just as well as chicken. Burgers? Steak? Lamb? Throw. It. On. The. Grill. Eight minutes max, and you’ve got food. Works for veggies too. Though, I prefer a grill pan for that, but it’s slower.
5. Baked potato/Baked sweet potato. Microwaves are incredible. I think I’m going to send some to Ethiopia so they can teach me how to properly cook teff (my new breakfast fave, better luck next time, oatmeal) in one. But here in America, they are good for a lot of things, not least of which are potatoes.
Take a potato. Put it in the microwave on the baked potato setting. Press start. When it beeps, take it out and cut the potato. Add seasonings. Or cheese, and stick it back in to melt for 30 seconds. In a past life, I thought broccoli tasted good on there too. And I can’t attest to it, but mushrooms have a good rap. Sweet potatoes or yams work just fine too, but put them in for 2-3 minutes instead of 4-5 (depending on size). DONE.SIES.
6. Dumpling Squash. You can microwave any squash. My favorite is dumpling squash. Wash, and microwave for 4-6 minutes. Open, scoop out the seeds, add salt, pepper, and oil, and eat.
7. Spaghetti squash. If you’ve got more time on your hands, buy a spaghetti squash. Poke holes in it with a fork and microwave for 12 minutes, turning the plate every 3. Let it cool for a little while, slice it open, scoop out the seeds, and comb the sides with a fork to get spaghetti pieces. Throw on your favorite pasta sauce, or if you’re like me, oil, salt, and pepper (and maybe some peppers), and eat it. This will make 4-6 portions, if you have a small squash, so you’re good for the rest of the week. And it takes 20 minutes, max.
And that’s just what’s quick. We haven’t even started on quinoa, eggplant, zucchini, or any baked goods. Cooking isn’t hard, and it doesn’t have to be time consuming. You can diversify your diet. I did. All it took was cutting out 60 or so foods to teach me that I can eat more variety.
PS: The (other) irony of this all is that I’m writing it while cooking turkey legs, which will be done any minute after an hour and a half of cooking. But it was easy…