If putting together a healthy meal for you and your household feels like a struggle, one answer is doing some food preparation in advance. Spend some time on some advance planning and working on a few food building blocks, and you can build healthy meals for the rest of the week.
This collection of recipes and ideas will give you a head start.
1. Boil an egg
Having a few hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator means you are one step closer to a substantial salad. For hard boiled, lower the eggs carefully into a saucepan of boiling water for 7 to 8 minutes. If you are not using them straight away, you could mark them with a permanent marker to remind yourself which of the eggs in the fridge are hard boiled.
2. Cook some chicken
Poached chicken can be a very useful addition to all sorts of meals, salads or sandwiches. Bring some stock (or water with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, perhaps a splash of white wine and a handful of herbs) to the boil in a saucepan, reduce the heat to a simmer and gently lower pieces of chicken breast fillet into the pan. Cook with the lid on the pan on a very gentle heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the poaching liquid, check to ensure the chicken is cooked through, and allow to cool.
I often freeze poached chicken and pull it out when needed for lunch or dinner, in sandwiches, salads or pasta dishes.
Roasted vegetables are so tasty, as the roasting really brings out their sweetness and concentrates the flavour. If they already cooked and sitting there in your fridge or freezer, you now have one less reason not to eat your vegetables! Also, once they are cooked you can add them to your dinner, or make a roasted vegetable salad, or a healthy bowl of mixed ingredients for lunch.
Simply chop them into chunks and place them on an oiled tray and bake in the oven for about an hour, or until they are soft and the corners are starting to blacken. Some vegetables cook quicker than others, so put the hard ones like sweet potatoes in the oven first together with the carrots, then add the pumpkin, zucchini and other softer vegetables later.
4. Chop some salad vegetables
If they are already chopped, you are more likely to eat them – wouldn’t you agree? Chop them at lunchtime and then they are ready to add to your dinner. These days you can buy some great containers that keep vegetables crisp for longer, and these containers are perfect for this sort of advance meal preparation.
5. Make a salad sprinkle mix
If you are anything like me, you will eat more salad if the salad is a little more interesting than some lettuce and a few chopped vegetables. Here’s an easy way to dress up your salads even without a dressing – make up a mix of nuts and seeds which you can sprinkle on the salad, or on any dish where you want to add a little sparkle (and a little extra nutrition while you are at it). Store the mix in a bag or a jar in the refrigerator.
- sunflower seeds
- sesame seeds
6. Make some patties
Pulling a couple of patties out of the freezer is one way to turn a salad into a meal, or to make a start on a substantial lunch. These patties are salmon patties made with a can of salmon and some cooked sweet potato.
Makes approx 16 patties
- 210g (7.4 oz) tin of red or pink salmon, drained
- A large piece of uncooked sweet potato, approx. 400g in weight (which should then yield approx. 1½ cups of cooked and mashed sweet potato)
- ½ medium onion, finely diced
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to a moderate 180 °C. Grease or line one or two baking trays.
Peel the sweet potato and cut it into chunks, then cook it until tender, either in a saucepan of simmering water or steamed in the microwave. Drain and mash the cooked sweet potato and allow to cool. You should have approx. 1½ cups of mashed sweet potato for the patties.
Mix all ingredients for the patties together in a large bowl.
Spoon heaped tablespoons of the mixture onto the tray/s. Flatten each patty gently with the back of a fork.
Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until firm and lightly browned.
Leave the patties on the tray to cool for 10 – 15 minutes before gently lifting the patties from the tray. Eat now, or allow to cool, then refrigerate or freeze.
7. Make a sauce or dressing
A tasty sauce is another way to make an otherwise ordinary bowl of salad or vegetables into something special. Try the roast capsicum sauce from this post here (leave out the chilli if you prefer). Another option is the fabulous green dressing from an earlier post here.
8. Bake some bread
Yes, you can bake your own bread! It’s actually not that hard, particularly if you use a “no knead” method. This recipe is an even simpler version of the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method (see my review of the book in this post here).
The quantity in this recipe makes enough for one large loaf or two smaller ones. You can also use the dough for cinnamon scrolls like the scrolls in this post here.
No knead light wholemeal bread
- 1½ cups lukewarm water
- ½ tablespoon yeast
- 1½ cups plain (all purpose) wholemeal flour
- 1½ cups plain (all purpose) white flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
Pour the water into a large container, preferably one with a lid.
Add the yeast and mix into the water until it dissolves.
Add the flours and salt. Mix all ingredients together until combined.
Cover the dough with a cloth and leave it to rise in a warm place for approximately 2 hours.
At this stage, you could place the dough in the refrigerator in its container. Leave the container lid not completely closed, to allow some air flow.
If you are ready to bake, remove the portion of the dough you want to use and return the rest to the refrigerator.
Dust the surface of the dough with flour. Gently shape the dough into a ball, turning the ball in your hand until the top of the dough is fairly smooth. Leave the dough on a floured surface or a piece of baking paper on a board, covered with a cloth, to allow the dough to rise for another 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to a high 200 °C.
Slash the surface of the dough with a serrated knife. Sprinkle with seeds if you like. Slide the dough onto a baking tray and bake for approx. 30 to 35 minutes.
If you like, turn the loaf upside down for the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time, to allow the base of the loaf to firm up.
Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Allow me to let you in on the back story for this post: it’s really for my mum, but the magic of the internet means the rest of the world is welcome to look on. One of the reasons for starting this blog was to use it as an easy way to store and share recipes. This collection is made up of food my mum and I made together at her place recently, and this post is now an easy way for her (and you!) to access those recipe resources.
What are your favourite ideas for getting a head start on healthy food?
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