In today’s world, we are either ahead of the game or behind the eight ball. When it comes to cooking and eating, most of us are looking for almost any way we can to save time. Unfortunately, this combination of time pressure and our desire for convenience has changed the way most of us live and eat to the point that much of what we buy at the grocery store doesn’t really resemble food anymore.
Besides sleeping and working, shopping for, cooking and eating our food is the thing we do most with our lives. It is no wonder that we look for the short cuts that we do. I have primarily been eating for my health for over 18 years and I am generally a pretty busy person. Over time, I have come up with a basic plan and some really good habits that allow me to eat as well as I want with minimal effort during the work week. My secret is called a Grandmother Day. It is probably the most helpful advice that I could ever give anyone.
Having a Grandmother Day
A Grandmother Day is the one day a week that you spend two or three hours making meal components and preparing most of the ingredients for the week ahead. This may sound like a lot of work, but if you add up all of the time it would take to prepare these kinds of meals from scratch every day it would probably take three times longer. I usually do this on Sunday afternoon while I am making supper, and I usually plan to use the leftovers from that supper for at least three other meals.I begin my Grandmother Day by choosing some really fun music or a pretty long movie. It is all about pleasure and balancing out the “chore” experience with the weekend experience. Once the fun has started, I then decide what I want to roast for the week. A couple of chickens, perhaps? Maybe a fish and some grass-fed Bison? A Nice organic turkey makes food to be enjoyed for weeks to come. Regardless of what goes in the oven, I always make sure to roast it over a liquid marinade so that, as the fats melt off of the roast, it lands in a liquid that protects the fat.
As my roasts are roasting, I cut up a few pounds of healthy roots and boil them. As they are boiling I melt some butter in a pan, add some spices and let it simmer low and slow. Once the roots are soft I mash them up with the flavored butter and then add some grated unpasteurized cheese and some organic yogurt or sour cream. Cumin and green onions add a nice touch, as well.
After checking on what is in the oven and mashing up the root smash, I start chopping three or four days worth of vegetables (organic, of course), in this case vegetables that have no risk of wilting. My favorites are carrots, celery, cucumber, cabbage, zucchini, daikon radish, broccoli florets and some cherry tomatoes (not too many, they are a nightshade). I then make about three cups of delicious and rich salad dressing (Caesar dressing is a favorite). In a large seal-able container I make a salad that will not wilt and will last for about four days in the fridge.
Depending on how much protein is coming out of the oven, or if I have leftover turkey, chicken or fish, I may decide to make a protein based sandwich spread, but I don’t use bread to eat it. By mixing shredded animal protein or chopped eggs with some healthy mayonnaise, some spices and some vegetables, I will have another healthy source of fat, protein and plants to enjoy for the week. My favorite is salmon rillettes (sandwich spread), as I can add it to my pre-made salad or put it on top of some fresh greens. Yummy!
Depending on the season or how much exercise I am going to get I may also make some traditional old-school oatmeal to have for breakfast for a few mornings. This takes three days to make properly, so I usually start it Friday night when I am making supper. Believe me, this is a delicious and enriching breakfast treat. I may also make some Risotto or Jambalaya if I feel that I need that much energy from my food and if my health is strong enough to handle the burden of grains in my diet.
After the roasted meat has been out of the oven long enough to cool, I will most likely make a gravy from the fat that has fallen into the marinating liquid. As the gravy is thickening, I will break up some of the roasted meat (chicken, turkey, beef, bison, venison, etc), put it in a container (or zip-lock bag) and cover it with the gravy. I can either put it in the fridge for the week ahead or put it in the freezer for a few months. I call this ‘ready meat’. Whenever I need to make a stew or stir fry I just bring out some ready meat, chop up some veggies and in a few minutes I have a meal and something to put in my thermos for tomorrow. Finally, I will make a nutrient dense pesto or a spicy and flavorful chutney to enjoy for a couple of weeks.
A Universal Recipe for Stews, Soups and Stir Fry’s
One of the best ways to cook meat on the top of your stove is called a floating sauté. This way of cooking meat protects the protein, fat and medicinal foods like garlic from getting to a temperature that will cause any damage.
Place ½ cup of water, stock or bone broth, some wine, vinegar and tamari in your wok, frying pan or stew pot).
Pour 2-3 Tablespoons of healthy cooking oil, butter or into the stock and then add flavorings like ginger, garlic, onions, chilies or dried spices.
Turn your stove to high and wait until the sauté begins to boil.
Add whatever meat you are cooking.
Turn your stove down to medium high.
Stir and cover alternately for two to three minutes, until all the flavors are mixed together, making sure that there is always enough liquid to avoid overheating your oils.
Turn your stove to medium low and add all of the chopped veggies, and then stir. Add water, broth or coconut milk (the amount depends on whether this is to be a stir fry, stew or soup) and cover, stirring every few minutes until done. You may want to turn your stove off at this point to avoid overcooking.
If you like a thicker consistency to your stir-fry’s and stews, add some arrowroot powder (1 – 2 tsp) to ¾ cup of warm water, stir and add to your meal. Keep stirring for two minutes. Another option for thicken food is beef gelatin granules. Cooking this way usually takes 10 – 20 minutes in total, so it is advisable to have everything chopped and ready when you turn the stove on. If you are cooking a grain to accompany the meal, you’ll want to time things just right.This is my favorite way to cook because I can put on a pot of healthy roots, chop and prepare my veggies and protein, assemble all my favorite condiments next to the stove, and by the time the roots are cooked, everything is ready. Just think, you could put on some music, dance around your kitchen as you cook and have a delicious and healthy meal prepared in about 20 minutes.
Another useful hint is to get a pot that has an optional steaming tray insert. When you cook roots or grains, you can prepare some veggies and steam them during the last few minutes of their cooking time. I mentioned music and dancing in the kitchen earlier, and I wasn’t kidding. Cooking is a celebration of Life. It can be a time of family fun. I love it when my whole family is in the kitchen, pets and all, chopping and nibbling and laughing. I believe that cooking for health brings out the best in people. When cooking becomes an irritating chore that someone else should do we start making fewer and fewer healthy decisions every day. Cooking for health is a great chance to fall back in love with your life and your kitchen.
My final advice is to join a local fresh and healthy food delivery service. I honestly had no idea that this was a possibility until a few years a go. Locally we are luckily to have Endless Harvest which delivers some of the best organic produce, meats, coffee and even bones for bone broth when they can find them. You can check out their website here.
If you are joining the Spring Health Challenge you will get a generous discount on all of the yummy food that Endless Harvest provides!