weekly make aheads
Making life easier in the kitchen is what we are all about. There are several items that we make on a regular basis so that we always have something tasty to snack on or reach for to pull a meal together. They are a bit like the backbone to our cooking. Helping us to speed things up in the kitchen when we are busy. You could set aside some time each week to make these, say a Sunday afternoon when things are less busy. Or make them throughout the week, whatever suits you. If you want to make sure you always have a well stocked kitchen to assist with getting ahead then do check out our blog post stocking a healthy kitchen.
A lot of people do meal prep where they make the whole weeks food in advance on Sunday. However we are not fans of this way of making ahead. Usually the meals are the same or very similar foods that week. Variety and eating a diverse range of foods has been shown to be much more beneficial for long term health. Also by cutting up and preparing vegetables too far in advance you lose some of the vitamin C. So those packs of stir-fry vegetables all cut up in the supermarket might look delicious, but many of the vitamins have been lost by being exposed to the air. Our meal prep takes a difference stance - by preparing some basics that can help save time in the week and lift a meal from boring to amazing!
We always have a salad dressing ‘on the go’. This means that pulling a salad together is so much easier. Usually it’s a simple Dijon dressing, but other weeks it might be more protein packed and be a tahini dressing. We make a big jar of salad dressing every week so that it’s easy to just add to a salad.
So easy - but a great addition to a salad to add a protein hit, especially for those looking to reducing their meat consumption. We have a pea and mint hummus on our website after I was challenged to make a pea hummus by a friend of ours! However some weeks we will make a plain hummus. We also love adding some cooked beetroot to the blender when making hummus to make a beetroot hummus - as well as adding a fantastic pop of colour - it’s another portion of vegetables too!
Forget a boring pesto and pasta dish - a pesto can lift many dishes. When we make a fish traybake we always add a dollop of pesto to the plates when we serve up. It totally lifts the dish. Pesto can also be added to chicken dishes. We have four pesto dishes on our website - a watercress pesto, a red pepper pesto, a pea shoot and cashew pesto and a forager’s pesto, which makes use of the wild garlic and nettles in the springtime. Most of the time we do a simple basil and spinach pesto as my children love basil!
Energy balls or healthy snack
As a rule we try not to snack too much - we like to give our digestion a break. However some busy weeks when I have clinic or meetings and might not have a lunch break until late, or Val is out exercising clients with not much break then having a healthy snack with us means we don’t reach for something unhealthy. We have loads of healthy snack options in our recipe section. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. I have got my 10-year old daughter involved and she will often make energy balls made with oats and seeds so that she can also take into school. She will add ginger or orange juice to flavour depending on what she fancies. Our simplest snacks are the no bake energy balls.
We always have a stash of tomato sauce in the freezer. We call it tomato sauce - but actually it contains many different types of vegetables. Regular readers will know by now that we are always looking for ways to increase vegetable consumption in both our own diet and those of our family. So our tomato sauces will contain many different types of vegetable - onion, garlic, celery, leeks, courgettes, peppers, carrots as well as a jar of passata! If you are looking for inspiration then Jamie Oliver has a very good “7-veg tomato sauce”. We use our tomato sauce in a variety of ways - as a simple sauce for some brown rice pasta for the children, on top of pitta bread to make a quick ‘pitta pizza’, with a simple roast chicken breast, used instead of a jar of passata in our Mediterranean Cod recipe.
Another simple tip when cooking is to increase the volume of food you are cooking. If you are going to roast a chicken for Sunday lunch then add another chicken. This then ensures you have meals for at least the next two nights - a chicken curry with the leftover chicken meat and then you make stock with the two chicken carcasses and have a chicken and noodle broth the day after the curry!
We also try and cook double when we make casseroles and curries. We then freeze the additional portions ready for another week.
Fridge ‘get readys’
Another food that’s useful to have in the fridge all ready prepared is roasted vegetables - ready to pop into salads and lunchboxes throughout the week. The hard work with roasting veg is all in the washing and peeling and after that the oven does the hard work. So, if you already have the oven on then prepare some roast vegetables to also place in the oven which makes economical sense too. Another food to get ahead with is cooking quinoa so you can throw into a salad to bulk it up. Cooked quinoa, roast veg with the pesto that you already have in the fridge would make a delicious lunch.
If you make a lot of smoothies in the summer then a good trick is to prepare all the ingredients into separate bags and place in the freezer (or fridge if only a day in advance) so that it’s all ready just to chuck into a blender with some milk or coconut water of your choice. This makes breakfast super speedy on your way out of the door.