Thanksgiving was last week and I think many may be suffering from “kitchen fatigue.” Whether it’s the limitless sides and casseroles and baking, or unending prep and clean up, I know there are many of you out there who just don’t want to think about food after a holiday.
So let’s get back to basics. Let’s keep it simple! Step inside my kitchen for a second, and I will share my favorite ways for simplifying cooking in a way that packs in the nutrients.
The first thing I do after a time of celebrating or a big holiday is consider how I can up my veggie load again. Veggies make me feel good and my brain clear, and even though I turned just about every vegetable I know of into some kind of casserole for Thanksgiving dinner, I missed the simplicity of roasting them or throwing them into a quick salad.
This is where my favorite tried and true principle of “cook once, eat a few times” comes in.
This weekend, the husband made a big batch of pulled pork in the crock pot that we turned into burrito bowls with lots of sautéed veggies, rice and guacamole. That pork will be repurposed this week to go on tostadas, quesadillas, nachos and/or baked potatoes… whatever we feel like in the moment. The leftover veggies will be thrown into egg scrambles or as more toppings for what we decide to make.
Another thing that lasts a while and is easy, nourishing, and veggie-packed – soup. This particular soup from The Defined Dish is on my list for the week, and I’ll admit, I go through seasons of cabbage obsession. It’s strange, I know. I especially crave it post holidays. I believe it’s a way for my body to regain balance. This soup will make a large enough batch that it will last for days for lunch or dinner, and I can even freeze half to pull out weeks later if I want. This potato soup is another family favorite that we can eat on for days that frequently pops up in the months of December and January.
When I first started upping my veggie content, I got really sick of the chopping and prep. So again, it’s helpful to chop and prep more than you will use at once. Gather bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, Brussels, sweet potatoes, squashes, and even my bestie, cabbage. (Side note – Some of these come pre-cut and you don’t have to worry about it! I found an awesome assortment of pre-cut root veggies at Costco recently that even included beets, which are a pain to cut up. They were delicious roasted with avocado oil, salt, pepper, turmeric, and garlic powder.) Turn on some music or a good podcast (I know of one *wink wink*) and get to chopping. Make it therapeutic. Then stick all diced and sliced veggies in the fridge and when needed, throw them in a salad raw with olive oil and vinegar and a squeeze of lemon, or season and roast on a baking pan at 400° for about 30 minutes. One concern many of my clients express is that they are afraid they will waste what they buy and not use the extra veggies at all. If you cut up what you have, they’re less likely to go to waste and more likely to get used. Cutting and slicing in bulk is the way to go!
Quick soapbox: we have been conditioned to rely on packaged pantry staples, so it takes some brain re-training to fill the majority of your shopping cart with fresh produce, and even more re-training to find ways to USE that produce. The reality is, it takes just as much time to roast veggies and meat for a sheet pan meal than to order and wait for a pizza to be delivered. It’s even quicker to grill some chicken and throw it on a salad or put together a quick stir fry. But our brains have decided making food at home is hard, and we are biologically wired to avoid that which is hard.
Another simplicity tip – rotisserie chicken. This pairs well with any vegetable, can be thrown into a bowl with rice and veggies, eaten plain, or added to a salad. Not all rotisserie chickens are created equal. You may have to try a few different kinds from various stores to get the one you like. My favorite is the Simple Truth organic by Kroger – it packs the most flavor and just falls off the bone.
Breakfast for dinner is always a classic. We often make bacon and eggs, breakfast tacos, oatmeal, even pancakes, that I bulk up with collagen protein. It’s easy and makes everyone happy.
Sheet pan meals, as I mentioned above, are great ways to use a lot of veggies and throw things together when you really don’t feel like taking the time or energy to follow a recipe. This is a great resource for how to do it, with suggestions for combinations.
I love having protein powder on hand for quick snacking, or if I don’t have time to do lunch or feel like having something heavy for dinner, I blend with frozen cauliflower rice (I promise you don’t taste it), frozen banana, spinach, some cacao, cinnamon, almond or coconut milk, and done! Avocado is good in there as well, or even pumpkin purée for creaminess – if you’re not sick of pumpkin. There are a lot of great protein powders out there to choose from, but we really like the Orgain brand for a plant-based option or Plexus Lean Whey for a whey option. I’m also a fan of unflavored collagen powder or bone broth collagen, which I can toss into anything I bake!
Along the same lines (and I guess we’re back to veggies again), I like throwing celery, cucumber, greens, lemon, a little ginger and water into my high powered blender, blend it like crazy, then pour into a cup over a wire mesh strainer to access the juice or I drink as is for the fiber content. It’s a little strange, but I happen to like the flavors and find it extremely rehydrating!
The last thing I will mention is how much I love throwing random leftover stuff in a pan on the stove and seeing what happens. It is fast and tasty and makes the food taste brand new! I don’t like reheating food in a microwave, for both texture and health reasons, so a pan is my best friend for “breaking my fast,” or dinner when I don’t know what to have.
For kid-friendly meals and snacks, check out my resources page to download my FREE ebook, created with pediatrician, Dr. Alina Olteanu. If you want to hear us talk about making snacks and lunches nutritious, watch our YouTube video here:
Happy December! I hope this is a month that is nourishing for you on every level!