KISS the Cook: 3 Simple Recipes to Conquer Cooking
By Kimberly Alexander
Ah, the good ol’ days! Back when life was easy... Back when everyone was happy… Back when none of that was actually truer than it is or isn’t now.
You see, life has always been easy… and hard. People have always been happy… and unhappy. At some point in the future people will look back to our time now and reflect on “the good ol’ days of 2019.” It’s human nature for people to be dissatisfied with their circumstances; it’s what keeps societies “progressing.” The problem is that progress in one area seems to lead to degradation in another. Nothing comes without a cost. We soon forget about the benefit of what we developed and instead focus on how things are going wrong in another area. I’ll give you an example:
We developed cars that can take us from place to place super fast so we theoretically have more time to spend with our friends and families and do other things we want to do that day. But now we complain about traffic, road conditions, the price of gas, climate change, and low back pain and shoulder tension from all the time we spend sitting in our cars. Think about it – How many times have you heard a conversation about any of the negative things I just listed? In contrast, when was the last time you exclaimed to a friend, “Cars are amazing! They allow me to live in my favorite neighborhood in the house I want to live in and still keep my job across town and my gym membership across the bridge and still make it home in time to make dinner and watch GoT before bed!”
But out of our dissatisfaction, more “progress” is borne: Apps are developed that tell us alternate routes to avoid traffic (that we complain about when they get it wrong); taxes are imposed to improve road conditions (that we complain about being expensive and not wanting to pay); hybrid cars are developed to reduce gas consumption (but they are too expensive and their batteries are bad for the environment); you go see a chiropractor and massage therapist (but complain because they aren’t covered by your insurance).
Do you see where this is going?
One solution that would rid ourselves of all these problems is to strip away the “progress” of cars and return to walking or riding a horse everywhere we needed to go. But that is obviously unrealistic. And, while I could (and maybe should?) be writing about all the different ways we can get movement in our day to mimic the health benefits of walking and horseback-riding all day long, my inspiration for this blog was actually related to cooking.
Just as cars were developed to “help us” “save time” to do other things we wanted to do, so were processed and fast foods. This was the “progress” that was going to rid us of the burden of having to cook our meals. The trade-off was our health (and, in my opinion, a disconnection of ourselves from the ecology of life). Just as getting rid of cars would be the most effective solution to all the problems listed above, the most effective solution for all our health problems would be for us to start growing our own food or walking to market to buy fresh meat and produce from our neighbors, and then preparing each meal fresh right before eating it. This is obviously unrealistic in today’s society. But the solution is also not take-out. So what do we do?
If you are like most people who grew up in the era of processed food, you are probably new or new-ish to cooking and just don’t feel confident in the kitchen. Cooking meals probably takes a long time because you aren’t that good at it yet. Consequently, your home-cooked meals have probably looked like some version of chicken breast and steamed broccoli. Trust me, if that was what I was eating on the regular, I would want take-out, too!
Dirty Health is all about starting somewhere. Yes, it is ideal for your health to enjoy home-cooked meals most of the time, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. When it comes to your health, simple is better than not at all (and simple doesn’t have to mean boring chicken and broccoli!). Here are three recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that ANYONE with any level of experience can successfully make and actually WANT to eat regularly. Save “fancy” for a special occasion until you develop enough skill to whip up something different in the same amount of time it takes you to make these first. We believe that you can eat some iteration of these recipes every day of the week and not get bored, especially if you *occasionally* eat out once in a while.
Roasted veggies over greens with eggs and sauerkraut
1) Make a big batch of roasted veggies one day of the week. This could include green veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus, and root veggies, like sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, onions, garlic, and even lesser-known ones like turnips, parsnips, and rutabaga. Change up your veggies each week to avoid boredom and to get a variety of nutrients into your diet. *Yes, steaming veggies preserves more nutrients than roasting does, but I, personally, am much more likely to eat more veggies – and more variety of veggies – with roasting. They are more flavorful and keep their texture better as leftovers so I enjoy them more. Reheat them and add on top of some greens as the base for your protein. If you run out of veggies for the week, or just don’t have time to make them, a simple bed of greens is fine for the base, and faster to prep in the morning!
2) The ultimate ease would be to soft- or medium-boil a bunch of eggs at the same time you roast all your veggies so you can just grab-and-go, but let’s be honest – it doesn’t take very long to fry a couple eggs in the morning to have warm on top of your reheated veggies. Personally, I like my yolks runny to preserve their nutrients and to act as a bit of a “dressing” for this breakfast salad. You can substitute the eggs every so often for some grass-fed sausage or bacon to keep this meal from feeling redundant.
3) Top everything with a pinch of sea salt, some fresh ground pepper, and a forkful of fresh (not canned) sauerkraut to give your meal depth of flavor and more nutrients.
Bowls from around the world
1) Start with a bed of greens of your choice in the bottom of your bowl. Change it up! Mixed greens, spinach, arugula, baby kale… This can totally change the flavor, texture, and nutrient profile of your meal so you won’t feel like you are eating the same thing each night. If you are new to this concept, start with a variety you know you like and as many leaves as you think you can handle. You will soon appreciate the flavor and texture and probably start adding more.
2) OPTIONAL STEP – Add ¼ - ½ cup of a cooked grain. Cook enough to have all week and add on top of your greens. This could be brown, wild, basmati, or jasmine rice, quinoa, millet, or any other grain you like! As the greens, they will all have a different flavor, texture, and nutrient profile. Start with ones you know you like and branch out from there. For the less familiar grains, start out buying a package so you can read the cooking instructions. Once you are comfortable, purchase in bulk to save money and reduce plastic. *Instead of a grain you can also add the same size portion of beans as an optional starchy carbohydrate in your meal. Black, red, garbanzo, and kidney beans are all common choices.
3) Add a seasoned ground meat of your choice. Ground meat is cheap, quick to cook, easy to season, and hard to mess up. Change it up! Ground beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey are all readily available at most supermarkets. You can even find ground elk, venison, and buffalo in some places! All of these can be seasoned with different spice blends from around the world to give your bowls different flavors. Not sure how much seasoning to use? Start by salting and seasoning your meat just a little bit (like 1 tsp) before it is cooked. Ground meat is very forgiving, so if you taste it when it’s done and it is bland, you can add dashes of more salt and seasoning until it reaches your desired flavor. After a few times making this dish you will start to learn how much seasoning you like to use. (Hint - You will definitely use more than 1 tsp, but I think it’s good to have ownership of the process and learn what different quantities of seasonings taste like in recipes.)
4) Slice, chop, or shred some fresh veggies to add to your bowl – beets, cabbage, carrots, peppers, snap peas, and tomatoes are all great raw. You can also heat up and add your leftover roasted veggies from breakfast!
5) Depending on the type of seasoning you used, you can add appropriate sauces, toppings, and garnishes. For example, if you seasoned your meat with taco seasoning, add avocado, a dollop of sour cream and salsa, some shredded cheese, some chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. If you went with an Italian blend, add a drizzle of olive oil, some grated parmesan, some chopped parsley, and a squeeze of lemon. If Greek was your theme, top with tzatziki, feta, olives, and a squeeze of lemon. You can obviously make your own sauces, but there are plenty of great store-bought options available that don’t use vegetable oils, preservatives, gums, or other stabilizers.
Super Supper Salad
1) Honestly, this is just leftovers from your dinner. Since you are probably at work, the goal is ease and speed in addition to flavor, and nutrient density. If you don’t want the same protein again, then keep everything else the same but use boiled eggs or a can of sardines or oysters instead of the ground meat. You can also change the greens and add a splash of vinegar or some chopped nuts to make it feel like a different dish. It can be handy to keep small jars of sea salt and EVOO in your desk.
Try this structure out for a week and leave us a note in the comments to let us know how it went! Note: variations of each of these recipes exist in all our Batch Cooking Guides, where we take you step-by-step through cooking all your meals for the week in four hours or less!