We all have times when we're too busy to cook, too exhausted to care what's on our plate and fall back on takeaway food to feed our family. PHS Columnist, Tara Taylor-Quinn, shares a few pick-me-up tricks and encourages us all to bring on the bowls!
I have a love/hate relationship with food. I have to have it. I don’t like to be bothered with eating it. Oddly, though, I love to cook. I love to look at dishes that have been beautifully plated. To smell great cooking. Or great smelling cookies!
In a normal day in ttq world, food is the last thing on my mind. I have stories in my head. Deadlines. Articles to write. And these days, boxes to unpack as we settle into a new home. Still, if I don’t eat, there will be no energy to do any of these things. My brain needs food or it won’t work for me. So I’ve developed some tricks that I’ll share with you.
First, brain food. There are all kinds of things that will help stimulate your thinking processes. A few you can keep with you, to access immediately in a crunch. One of them is peppermints. A small pack in your purse could keep you sharp when you need it most, like going into a test or an interview. Or starting a new chapter on a book. (Not to be used as a dietary supplement, however. These are just momentary focusers!)
Peppermint stimulates the portion of your brain that helps you think. Another is peanut butter. When I’m driving a usually try to keep a pack of peanut butter crackers handy. A third is dark chocolate. Again, not as a meal, but as a quick pick me up. Not white chocolate. Or milk chocolate. Just dark chocolate. (Which I, personally, don’t like…back to my love/hate with food thing.)
The other trick I’ve learned it to prepare food in greater quantities. Leftovers usually have the rap of being various things that you have a little of, but not enough of to make a whole meal.
When I cook, I make leftovers and then eat off from them over the course of the next few days. It saves money, but also saves a lot of time and I get good, home-cooked food quickly.
My current favorite meal is what we call ‘bowls.’ My husband and I have perfected our variety of them and will eat them for several meals during the week that we have them. The first night we have bowls, we make large quantities of everything we like in them. The great thing about bowls is that you can change up what’s in them. We’ve gotten really creative, sometimes just by being forced to use what we have on hand.
We start out with rice. Brown is best. It’s healthiest and, I think, stays fresh the longest.
Next, we pick a meat. Sometimes it’s chicken because I always keep a bag of Costco Chicken Breasts or Thighs in the freezer. We always have chicken. My husband will grill them with a little vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, and then I cut them up in little bite-sized pieces and store them in an air-tight bag in the meet keeper drawer. Another favorite is pork. We’ll get a full pork roast and smoke it, then cut it off the bone and I cut it up into little bite-sized pieces and store as I do the chicken, or in an air-tight bowl.
Next are the beans. We buy cases of black and green beans at Costco and use those, but any kind of beans you prefer would work. Our daughter uses corn in her bowls. Again, we heat enough for a few days, and store the leftovers in containers in the fridge. Next is onion. I chop a full onion finely and store it in an air tight bag in the crisper drawer.
Next we make dressing. Our favorite is barbecue-ranch. Super simple. Add barbecue sauce to your ranch dressing until it tastes the best! We do about ¼ barbecue to 1 ranch, in whatever measurement we choose.
The final ingredients take little preparation. Cheese. Lettuce. And that’s it. When we’re hungry, we simply pull out the bowls/bags of food, heat them, and build our bowls! We start with the rice in the bottom, then add the meat, onion, beans and cheese, and top it all with lettuce and then the dressing. If we’re bored, we might cook up some chicken one night, instead of the pork, or brown some ground beef.
We’ve also used baked beans instead of black beans and those were a great change. We experiment with different dressings. And when I had left-over baked potato I cut that up and used it instead of rice one night. I’ve also crunched up tortilla chips and put them on top of the lettuce. Many times we’ve eaten off from one night’s cooking for an entire week (five day week) and were both satisfied. Clean up is a breeze, too!
We do have other meals we prepare. A lot of them. And we have signature dishes that others repeatedly ask us to prepare for them! This is just my current favorite!
Happy eating, everyone!
Tara's latest release, For Joy's Sake, is out now. For more information about her and her writing, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
What would you put in your bowl? Do you have a go-to recipe for the times you're swamped by work? Tell us in the comments or share your #DeadlineFood tips on Social Media to join the #PHS Community's discussion on the subject.