Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Making the Time to Cook

"One of the most common excuses for not eating a healthful, plant-based diet is 'I just don't have time to cook.' We've become so dependent on processed, packaged, frozen and fast food that our barometer for how much time we should spend on preparing our meals has been completely skewed.  Our idea of how long we should spend on cooking (and eating!) has become completely distorted.  Our threshold for chopping vegetables is about zero.

We need a new measuring stick.  It's true that cooking requires a little extra time, but compared to what? Compared to throwing a package of processed foodlike substances into the microwave? Sure, I'll concede.  Cooking requires more time than that, but is that really the measuring stick we want to use?"   

~Colleen Patrick Goudreau, The 30-Day-Vegan Challenge

Honestly, I don't understand the I-don-t-have-time-to-cook excuse and I just don't buy it. It's true that as a retired empty nester, I have all the time in the world to shop, chop & cook healthy meals for myself and my spouse, but that wasn't always the case.  I once was a busy mother of three, working outside of the home and/or running a home-based business.  At one point I had two kids in diapers, one in kindergarten, and a firefighter husband who was gone for 24 hour shifts, only to change clothes and leave for his second job.  I cooked. Oh, the food wasn't fancy and we had weekly pizza delivery as well as the occasional Chinese food take-out, but for the most part, I still cooked. I did my best to ensure that my family ate healthy, well-balanced meals that came from my kitchen, prepared by me.  It wasn't just my duty as a mom, it was a labor of love.

Over the years, I learned tips & tricks to make meal time easier. Batch cooking for the freezer.  Buying in bulk.  Starting dinner prep the night before. Using my slow cooker, a lot. Etc. etc. 

Kristyn & Lindsey, baking a cake - 1992
Mom & me, Thanksgiving 1988
Kristyn making bunny bread for Easter - 1990
 When the girls grew old enough, I included them in the process, choosing age-appropriate tasks for each one. They learned the importance of good food, enjoyed as a family, at the dinner table. That time was sacred, and I have such fond memories of the stories, laughs and discussions that took place around that table.  Every single moment of planning, shopping, preparing and cooking was worth it. I'd like to think that I gave my girls a good foundation, the basic culinary skills and nutrition information that they will carry on into their own kitchens and families one day. For the record: they're all very good cooks, so far so good!

So, whether you're running a corporation or a household, feeding just yourself or a large family, you can, and should, make the time to feed yourself well! 

You've heard this advice before: Plan your menu. If you can't plan a week in advance, at least figure out what you want to eat for the next few days. Make a list. Shop. When you bring home those nice fresh veggies, consider chopping some up before storing them in the fridge. When you get home from work, famished and tempted to call for take-out, you'll find a beautiful tray of carrot & celery sticks, or perhaps a big bowl of beautiful fresh berries in your refrigerator. Pour yourself a glass of wine or lemon water, put on some music and relax. Nibble on those fruits & veggies while you prepare yourself a healthy meal. You deserve it! Your body will thank you for it later, I promise. 

On weekends or whenever you have the time & energy to spend a little time in the kitchen, consider preparing a couple of meals at a time instead of just one.  You might even want to plan your weekly menu based on recipes with similar ingredients.  Last night's chili becomes the base for today's taco salad..tomorrow's stir fry leftovers can become a light soup for the next day's lunch.  You get the idea. 

Yesterday I had the house to myself, Chip went along to St Augustine and I stayed behind to do laundry, tidy up, etc.  Realizing that the campground we're staying at is a bit farther from shopping than I'm used to, I decided to bring along a few prepared meals for myself.  This way, if Chip gets stuck at work or we simply decide to stay "home" for dinner instead of dining out, I'm ready.  

The two recipes below use similar ingredients, making the preparation process a breeze. Each makes four servings, and since I don't mind repetition or leftovers, they'll get me through the next few days.  Both are from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's book, The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, which I highly recommend whether you're new to veganism or if you've been on this path for years.  Jam-packed with information, advice as well as delicious recipes, I firmly believe that every kitchen should have a copy. I myself am buying a few as gifts for veg-curious friends! Anyway, here you go..


                              Tofu Scramble
--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  1               Tbsp  olive oil for sauteeing
  1                cup  loosely packed spinach leaves
  1             medium  yellow onion or 3 scallions rinsed and patted dry -- finely chopped
 1/2             tsp turmeric
  1                tsp  minced garlic
  1                tsp  cumin
  1                     bell pepper (red -- yellow, orange or green), finely diced
 1/2             tsp paprika
  2               Tbsp  nutritional yeast
                        One package (16 ounces) extra-firm tofu -- drained and rinsed
  1                     ?4 tsp salt -- or to taste
                        Freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion and peppers are tender and turning a little brown.

Meanwhile, using your hands, crumble the tofu into a bowl to create the consistency of coarse bread crumbs. Add to the saute pan and stir to combine. Add the spinach, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and nutritional yeast, and saute for about 5–8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tofu is a bright yellow color (from the turmeric) and thoroughly heated.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with toast or tempeh bacon.

Saute sliced cremini mushrooms along with the onions and peppers.
    For a Mexican scramble, add 1 cup of your favorite salsa after the tofu is cooked, and allow it to heat through. Make a Breakfast Burrito by wrapping the scramble in a tortilla and serving with tortilla chips, avocado, and nondairy, nonhydrogenated sour cream.
    For an Italian twist, add fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary, and/or parsley, and some finely chopped Kalamata olives.

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Serves 2 or 4
; I split into four servings


                         Better-Than-Egg Salad
--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  1 1/2         pounds  extra-firm tofu
     1/2           cup  eggless mayonnaise
  2                     red bell peppers -- finely chopped (I used red & green)
  4                     scallions (white and green parts) -- finely chopped
  3             stalks  celery -- finely chopped
  2        tablespoons  fresh parsley -- finely chopped
  4          teaspoons  pickle relish
  1 1/2    tablespoons  prepared mustard
     3/4      teaspoon  turmeric
     1/2      teaspoon  salt -- or to taste
                        black pepper -- to taste

In a large bowl, mash tofu with a fork, potato masher, or your hands.

Add the mayonnaise, bell peppers, scallions, carrots, celery, parsley, relish, mustard, turmeric, salt, and pepper, and combine well.

Serving Suggestions: Serve on crackers as an appetizer or party dish.  Serve as a side salad - great for picnics and BBQ's.

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Makes 4 Servings or Sandwiches

So, there you go, two yummy, healthful breakfast and lunches you can be proud to serve yourself and/or your family! 



  1. This is a great post for everyone, no matter their current eating stance. I'd like to get to where I at least START to put vegetarian (I'm not ready for vegan yet) meals on the menu a few times a week. Our schedule is really crazy right now, with the two girls being gone a lot and us being gone a lot, we tend to do fast and easy but I still cook at least 1 or 2 times per week. Like you, I've always cooked and felt the importance of it, even during those phases of busy lifestyle.

    Thanks for the encouragement and the inspiration!

  2. Karla, you're absolutely right! No matter your current way of eating, we all need to put a few more veggies into our bodies! Good lucky with incorporating more vegetarian dishes, you know I'm here to help! :)