With life’s hectic pace it’s easier for many people to drive through for a quick meal instead of preparing it. This isn’t in the least little bit surprising. Restaurants, drive-throughs, and convenience stores are everywhere, dotting every street corner especially in cities. Even supermarkets — the very place where you’re supposed to buy the ingredients to cook your own dinner — have sections for prepared meals.
On top of that, apps for food delivery give even more options. With such ease within reach, it’s no wonder why only a few folks bother to cook.
Preparing your own meals is good for several reasons. One, you save money when you buy ingredients and prepare your own food. (I never realized how much I spent at Starbucks until I got my own French Press and Vanilla flavoring. I saved $120 the first month just by making coffee for me and my husband at home!) Two, you know exactly what you eat. This is especially important if you have allergies or other dietary restrictions. Three, have your food just the way you want it — extra spicy, more cheese, less salt, it’s all up to you. Four, get to eat healthy because you don’t eat high calorie, low nutrition processed food anymore.
Of course, if you don’t have a lot of experience with preparing your own meal, you’ve got to start slow. Something quick and easy to whip up in the morning before you go to work or school, and in the evening after a long and busy day. If you have only half an hour or less to spare on weekdays, do away with dishes with long prep and/or cooking time.
So where to begin? Try out Taste of Home’s Ginger Salmon with Green Beans. Salmon is rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins, while green beans are a good source of calcium, potassium, and folic acid. Also, the recipe calls for the use of an oven, so you won’t have to fry anything. Best of all, it takes 30 minutes tops to prepare this meal that looks and tastes straight out of a top-rated restaurant.
Ginger Salmon with Green Beans
1/4 cup lemon juice
1T rice vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
2t minced fresh ginger root
2 4 oz salmon filets
1 med lemon sliced
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 lb green beans, trimmed
2t olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Mix salmon ingredients. Place each filet on an 18 x 12 in a piece of foil and fold up the edges to create a rim around the fish. Spoon lemon mixture over salmon and top with lemon slices. Fold foil around fish, sealing tightly.
Place in 15 x 10 pan and bake 15-20 min until fish just begins to flake easily with a fork.
Place green beans in water and oil and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and cook uncovered until beans are crisp-tender.
Don’t like green beans? I use asparagus too!
Not a fan of fish? No problem! Check out the Food Network’s Chicken Summer Rolls. Not only are they perfect for the season, but they’re also light yet filling. They’re Vietnamese style, so if you’re craving for some Asian fare, this recipe should more than satisfy. They’re quite portable too, so they’re easy to pack in a container and take to lunch.
Chicken Summer Rolls
1/4 cup + 1 to 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
1 cup shredded carrot
12 (8 1/2-inch) rice paper wrappers (Buy these in the Asian food aisle of your grocery store)
1 cup cucumber peeled and julienned
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 cup fresh basil or cilantro
12 Boston lettuce leaves
1/2 cup cooked brown or white rice
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
Whisk 1/4 cup rice vinegar with 2 teaspoons sugar in a medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Add chicken and carrot, season with salt to taste, set aside.
Fill a large bowl with warm water. Working with 2 sheets of rice paper at a time (keep others covered with a barely damp cloth to prevent curling), immerse papers in the warm water until slightly softened (about 15 seconds). Remove and spread out on a clean surface or cutting board. Pat dry with a towel to remove excess water. Lay 2 pieces of lettuce over the bottom third of the rice paper, leaving about 1/2-inch clear on edges. Place about 1/3 cup chicken and carrot mixture on the lettuce, top with 4 to 5 pieces cucumber, scallion, several basil leaves and about 1 heaping tablespoon of rice. Roll up the paper halfway into a cylinder. Fold both edges in to tuck while continuing to roll the paper to seal. Place the rolls on a plate covered with a damp towel so they stay moist as you prepare the remaining rolls. Cut rolls in half and wrap in plastic wrap or place in an air-tight container.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the peanut butter with the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoon rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and water until smooth. Put sauce in sealed containers.
I let the kids help with rolling up the ingredients for one on one time with them.
But what if you’re vegan? Don’t worry, we got you covered. Give the Kitchn’s Creamy Skillet Tortellini with Sweet Potato and Spinach a shot. This dish needs only one pot, so you won’t have to spend extra time washing a ton of cookware post-meal. The recipe is also quite flexible, so you can throw in other vegetables if you want to switch up the flavor.
This is one of my favorites!
Creamy Tortellini with Sweet Potato and Spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large sweet potato peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach or 1 large bunch spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 12-ounce bag of frozen cheese tortellini
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat.
Stir in the sweet potato cubes, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are just starting to soften.
Uncover the skillet and add the broth, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula to dissolve the browned bits. Add the spinach in handfuls, stirring until it wilts down, before adding more.
Stir in the half-and-half, then cover once more and bring the liquid to a simmer.
Uncover and stir in the tortellini. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tortellini are plump and cooked through.
Making your own meals may seem intimidating and overwhelming at first, but in the long run, you’ll enjoy it and your body will thank you. It may even become a hobby!
Don’t be scared to give it a try for the sake of your taste buds and for your health as well. It’s a decision you won’t regret.