McKenzie and I both give workshops, teach cooking classes and see clients for private nutrition counseling appointments. Our most-asked client question is this: How do I make healthy lunches and dinners when I don’t like (or have time) to cook? I’m out of ideas.
Our answer: keep a variety of ingredients on hand so you can easily assemble beautiful, balanced meals in no time.
Here’s what you do:
1. At the beginning of the week (or whenever you have time), make a big pot of your favorite whole grain, like brown rice, wild rice, farro, barley or quinoa. If you can boil water, you can do it. It will keep in the refrigerator for about four to five days.
2. Buy a variety of your favorite vegetables, and then cook the ones you like cooked. Think about broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, green beans, butternut squash, sweet potatoes… Cut them up, put them on a roasting pan, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 450 degrees until caramelized and tender. Or steam or saute them. That's okay too. Let cool and then store in the refrigerator. These will keep for three to five days and be used for snacking, dipping, salads, pilafs and sides of vegetables for dinners. Just reheat as needed.
3. For the vegetables you like to eat raw, cut them up and store them in the refrigerator. Think about carrots, celery, bell peppers, lettuce… If they are washed, cut and ready to go, you’re more likely to eat them.
4. Stock up on a few pantry ingredients, like a variety of nuts and seeds, dried fruit, fresh fruit, corn tortillas, whole grain pasta, cans of beans, chicken or vegetable stock, and cheese, especially parmesan, goat cheese or feta.
If you have these ingredients on hand, you have instant meals in minutes.
Here’s one of our favorite recipes based on this concept—a roasted vegetable and farro salad with toasted hazelnuts and dried cranberries. But the options for this idea are limitless, based on what’s in your refrigerator. It could be…
wild rice and roasted butternut squash salad, with toasted almonds and currants, or
quinoa salad with roasted brussels sprouts, toasted pecans and dried cherries, or
brown rice & black bean salad with roasted red peppers and cilantro over a bed of cabbage, or
barley salad with massaged kale, toasted walnuts and raisins
See what we mean?
And for those who really like detailed instructions, here you go.
Make a pot of your favorite grain, like farro.
Roast your favorite vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower and onions.
Make a basic vinaigrette with lemon juice and grapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil. Be sure and include the zest of the lemon for a pop of flavor.
Toss the cooled grain with your favorite nuts, dried fruit, herbs and the vinaigrette.
And enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner, preferably with someone you love!
Please share your favorite combinations with us. We love to hear from you!
Roasted Vegetable Farro Salad
Serves 12 - 15
3 cups farro or other whole grain
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
2 onions, peeled and cut in wedges
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
apple cider vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Place farro in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 50 minutes or until farro is tender. Drain off excess water. Set aside farro to cool.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Toss cauliflower, broccoli and onion wedges in extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast until vegetables are caramelized, about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
To make the vinaigrette, zest and juice both lemons. Add lemon zest and juice to a glass measuring cup. Add additional apple cider vinegar to bring amount of juice and vinegar to ½ cup total. Season with sea salt. Add ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil and whisk to combine.
To cooled farro add roasted vegetables, hazelnuts, cranberries, parsley and vinaigrette. Toss gently and serve cold or at room temperature. Farro salad will keep about 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator, covered.