In order to maintain healthy, unprocessed eating habits, you have to do some advance planning and thinking. This will prevent you from loading up on junk food and then feeling sluggish and guilty afterward. I always make a tentative meal plan each Sunday morning (before heading out to the farmers market). I pin recipes I want to try, analyze the items I have in the fridge, and make a grocery list. Then, I head off to the Farmer’s Market. The planning process takes me about 15 minutes, (sometimes longer if I get distracted by all of my cookbooks and pins). I also always default to a few staple recipes, so I make sure my pantry and fridge is always stocked with the items needed. Of course, it took me a little longer when I first started this planning process. Since the both of us work from home, I plan out lunches too. Though, even if we were commuting to an office, we would take a bagged lunch (more on that later). I like to spend 30-40 minutes in the kitchen each day and then be done with cooking and cleaning. I also like making large quantities at once, so we can eat the leftovers or transform them to something else rest of the week. Two vegetarian staples I always keep on hand and make in large quantities are quinoa and French green lentils. I always have these two in my pantry, because they store well and they are cheaper to buy in bulk. Also, when my fridge is empty and I don’t have any fresh vegetables, I can make do with these two. (A lot healthier and tastier than pasta.)
1. Quinoa– Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is a South American complete protein grain. A complete protein grain means that it has a balance of essential amin0 acids (needed for tissue development), vitamins, and minerals. Quinoa has a nutty flavor and is rich in antioxidants. Even though, quinoa is not a true grain, it is used as a grain and substituted for grains because of it’s cooking characteristics. It has the same preparation method as rice, taking only 15 minutes to cook, and can be used in casseroles, soups, salads, stir-fries, and stews. Quinoa tastes even better when it’s Fair-Trade!
2. Lentils– Lentils are widely used in India, Africa, and Europe and boasts many health benefits. They can be cooked in a variety of ways and have an earthy flavor. Lentils are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world. They also contain fiber, folate, vitamin B1 and minerals. Lentils are not as daunting to cook once you give it a try. Some lentils are super easy and quick, others require overnight soaking or a pressure cooker. I like using French Green Lentils (FGL), because they are super easy to prepare, higher in fiber, and I have mastered them.
I cook large batches of either quinoa or FGL (sometimes both) at the beginning of the week and use them as a base for our meals or quick snack. For instance, I can spruce up cooked quinoa with dried fruit and nuts for a power snack. Or, I can mix in vegetables with the lentils and have it be dinner. On Meatless Mondays, I usually center one meal around either the quinoa or lentils.
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