How do I find time to cook at home?
How do I prevent getting bored of the same foods when I am cooking for one?
How do I incorporate seasonal produce into my food routine?
These are typical questions that come up during a nutrition counseling session. My clients often want easy answers at first. They want a meal plan; they want to be told what to eat. But the more they learn about good nutrition, and the more they prepare their own food, the more they learn to eat their own favorite foods in different ways and to plan out their meals in a way that works for them.
Let me tell you about my experience when I first was learning to cook and feed myself. I remember when I started this blog, back in college, around 3-4 pm, I would start running through the mental inventory of the food in my fridge. Would I start with rice, pasta or tortillas? Did I have a good protein? Did I have leftovers I needed to use up?
By the time I was walking home after class, I already knew if I needed to pick up some ingredient from the convenience store on campus, or if I had everything I needed. My cooking was very basic at first - mushroom and onion sandwiches with melted provolone cheese, pasta salad with store-bought tortellini, stir-fry made from the vegetables you could find in the dining hall. Working off campus gave me the opportunity to go to better grocery stores and experiment with different cheeses, as well as a larger variety of produce. By senior year, I was baking cookies every other week, and my cholesterol went up 30 points in a 6-month period. Oops, I may have taken the whole home-cooked thing a little too far.
Now I have other health problems to contend with, so preparing food at home has become even more important to me. However, I still have to fit in exercise, make time to work night clinic, and see my friends and family. So, convenience is high on my priority list. Last Friday, I didn't leave the office until 6:30 pm, so I bee-lined to the grocery store to pick up a rotisserie chicken. That chicken has served me well over the past few days, and is just one example of how food need not be boring or repetitive.
Freshly cooked rotisserie chicken with asparagus roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper
Mixed greens salad with chopped, cold, diced rotisserie chicken, diced avocado, cooked corn kernels, chopped grape tomatoes, crumbled queso fresco, and cilantro lime vinaigrette.
Corn tostadas with mixed greens, chopped, cold, diced rotisserie chicken, diced avocado, cooked corn kernels, chopped grape tomatoes, crumbled queso fresco
Corn salad with cilantro lime vinaigrette, queso fresco, and fresh-ground black pepper on a bed of lettuce with a chicken breast
Some other ways to use leftover chicken?
Make a chicken salad sandwich - serve on crackers, whole grain bread, or your favorite whole wheat wrap.
Warm and serve beside any vegetable - sweet potato, corn, green beans, broccoli - there is no shame in frozen, steamed vegetables, but bonus points for a nice browning in the oven!
Throw the chicken in a wok with scrambled eggs, any vegetables that are leftover at the end of the week and make a fried rice.