HOUR IN THE KITCHEN (FOOD PREP 101)
You’ve made the decision to up your healthy eating game.
You’ve even gone as far as learning where to get the best buys on organic veggies, which properly sourced proteins are most accessible to you seasonally and have begun a little foray here and there into the kitchen using a few delicious sounding recipes you’ve found on your favorite instagram pages.
You carved out the time to cook one of these recipes only to find that while you enjoyed the experience, it took much longer than anticipated and as a result, has left you feeling overwhelmed and perplexed.
After all, how can you keep up with healthy eating if you don’t have three spare hours to play with each and every day?
Enter the ‘hour in the kitchen’ or more simply put, Food Prep 101.
I first introduced this concept to my clients about 15 years ago and in fact, I also wrote about it in my second book, Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat (1).
It’s not complicated and it’s not even something that needs a recipe.
In fact, quite the opposite.
Since one of the goals here is to focus on what is local and in season where you live, suggesting that everyone reading this post should plan on preparing wild salmon and chicken along with raw kale salad and roasted root veggies would defeat the purpose!
Instead, think big picture and start with when you’re at your grocery store or farmer’s market. Not only will this be more cost effective since the food won’t have traveled as far, it will also result in better tasting food due to the simple fact that it was harvested more recently and hasn’t been sitting in a container for a long period of time.
Below is a cheat sheet of one way to approach your simple shop, followed by one hour prep.
At the end of the sessions, you’ll have three veggie dishes and three proteins ready to store in your glass containers in your fridge, so that all you’ll need to do in terms of preparing a meal is just choose which veggie you’d like to eat with which protein (or mix and match), add on your choice of fat from your staples, such as olive oil or fresh avocado and voila! A balanced meal ready in less than a few minutes.
- Choose three proteins. Perhaps one wild fish (make sure it’s sustainable : check the Marine Stewardship Council to help make sure you’re getting the best options for yourself and the planet!), one grass-fed and finished beef, such as ground beef, 85% fat and maybe two bone-in chicken quarters (go for pasture raised, not just free range).
- Select three veggies. Remember, we’re looking for simple and sometimes, going with what you’re already familiar with is the best bet. How does some simple, steamed broccoli sound? Grab some, along with some asparagus and a nice bunch of kale. Remember, these are just examples of what you might find, but stick with what looks good, fresh, and wallet- friendly.
- Grab a few lemons or limes to use while cooking.
- Last, make sure you’ve got some good fat options on hand. Grass fed butter or ghee is a great cooking fat, as are all the mindfully sourced animal fats (I love FatWorks Duck fat in particular). All have higher smoke points than olive oil, which make them better options to cook with. Olive oil is best eaten raw, so save that to pour onto a salad or veggies that are already steamed. Also be sure you have some salt on hand; I love to cook with Kosher Salt and top finished dishes with pink Himalayan.
Now the fun starts! * For purposes of illustration, we’ll keep the veggies and proteins listed above as examples in this one hour session.
- Heat the oven to 450.
- Place a large pot on the stove top with a few inches of water in it; bring to a simmer with a steamer basket inside.
- Wash your three veggies and let drain.
- Unwrap your proteins and place on separate plates to avoid cross contamination.
- Cut broccoli into even pieces
- Place broccoli in steamer basket and allow to cook until bright green. Remove and let cool on plate.
- Pat chicken dry and and place skin side up on wire rack on baking pan. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Place in oven for roughly 30 minutes. Check to see the temperature has reached 150, then remove and place on plate to cool with foil tent on top (this will allow the temp to rise to safe 160).
- Meanwhile, cut rough, woody ends off asparagus
- After broccoli is removed from steamer basket, place asparagus in basket to steam, then drain and let cool on plate
- Tear kale into pieces
- Place kale in ceramic or glass bowl with plenty of olive oil, some freshly squeezed lemon or lime and a nice sprinkling of salt.
- Simultaneously, place a cast iron skillet on the stove top. I love my Lodge Skillet – and use it every single day! Turn heat up to medium and place the ground beef inside. Stir once or twice until cooked to your preferred level of doneness.
- Remove from skillet, place on plate to cool.
- Using the same pan and the same fat, place the fish, skin side down in the skillet.
- Press down with a spatula and cook roughly 2 mins (depending on the type of fish and how rare you prefer it), then flip over and turn off heat. Place on a plate to cool; pour any remaining fat left in the skillet into a small glass container to use for cooking at a later time.
Once everything is cool, place in glass containers and store in your refrigerator.
When it’s time to eat, choose the veggie, the protein or a combination of what you’ve made and you’re all set in next to no time.