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Guest Post – The Easy Healthy Pantry

03/02/2011

**I’m busy with meetings this week so I’ve asked some wonderful bloggers to fill in for some of the days.  Enjoy their fabulous perspectives and then go check out their blogs!**

Hi, It All Changes readers!  My name is Kara, and I’m a 27-year-old navigating life in NYC with my husband of almost 3 years and dog, Barkley.  I blog about life, weight loss, finding a healthy balance, and running – among other things – over at Kara’s Marathon.

IMG_1507I maintained a 70 lb. weight loss (thanks, Weight Watchers!) for over three years, but currently the number on the scale is creeping up, largely due to the small boy taking up residence in my uterus for the next few months. Open-mouthed smile

This year, the husband and I decided to institute a new house rule: take-out ordering will be limited to once a week. Part of the rationale for the new rule was financial – babies are expensive! So is living in NYC! The other part was health-related; when we would order out, more often than not we’d make unhealthy choices, like BBQ ribs or pizza with extra cheese…also known as the stuff we’d never make at home.
Unfortunately, my pregnancy complicated slightly our take-out once a week pledge.  Due to my husband’s crazy work schedule, I take care of most of the cooking in our family; if I didn’t, we’d be sitting down to dinner at 9:30/10 every night!  While I’ve been very fortunate to not experience much morning sickness or any of the other especially unpleasant pregnancy symptoms (*cough* hemorrhoids *cough*), I am exhausted most of the time.  Growing a person is hard work!

The solution? A pantry and refrigerator filled with healthy ingredients that require little-to-no time or effort to pull together into a hearty, delicious meal.  For those of you who already have kitchens full of fresh, nutritious foods, my suggestions will be a no-brainer, but it was a HUGE wake-up call to me as I changed my lifestyle and lost weight that whole foods don’t require much more time to prepare than their processed counterparts, and their nutritional benefits – not to mention taste!- blow stuff in a box out of the water.

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Some of my must-haves include:
•    Frozen veggies.  Even better, frozen veggies in the ready-to-steam bag.  I stock up when they are on sale; just toss them in the microwave and you’re good to go.
•   “Hearty” fresh veggies.  I’ll admit it – I’m not the best at using up fresh produce before it gets funky, so I tend to buy fresh vegetables with a long shelf life, like potatoes, carrots, and zucchini.  These veggies lend themselves to roasting; just wash, chop, toss in some olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 375 degrees for 25-40 minutes, depending on how big the pieces are and how well-done you like them. Know what you can do in 25 minutes?  Take a nap. Smile
•    Pasta and tomato sauce.  A no-brainer – there is really nothing easier than boiling water and tossing some pasta in.  Add some frozen veg and whatever protein you have on hand, and you’ve got a really filling, well-balanced dinner (and likely tons of leftovers).
•    Non-pasta whole grains.  Rice and couscous are the staples in our pantry – they cook up incredibly fast (couscous only takes 5 minutes!) and work universally and interchangeably with pretty much any vegetable, protein and seasoning you can think of.  Also, most of these grains have serious staying power in the fridge – cook up a few cups of rice on Sunday and use it up throughout the week.
•  Eggs.  While I love brinner (Breakfast-for-Dinner) just as much as the next person, eggs are a much more versatile protein than they get credit for.  Sure, scrambled eggs and French toast are great dinner options in a pinch, but frittatas are just as easy to throw together and unbelievably delicious.  Or, you could add eggs to a frozen pizza a la Meghann or make chilequiles like Monica. Suffer the dull egg and cheese sandwich no longer!
•    Lean proteins.  Buy in bulk, and preferably on sale, freeze into meal-sized portions, and defrost and enjoy!  My favorite no-fuss way to cook chicken and pork is poaching: add your protein of choice to a wide pan with high sides, then fill the pan with enough water, chicken stock, or some combination of the two to cover the meat.  Heat over low-medium heat – don’t let it boil –until cooked through, moist, tender and amazing!
•    Ground beef.  I know it technically counts as a lean protein (depending on the fat content), but it is such a staple in our household that it earned its own category.  Burgers are the most obvious option, but ground beef + frying pan + a few minutes + taco seasoning/tomato sauce/salsa/roasted veggies/anything else you can think of = a delicious meal.

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If you take an hour or two on a weekend to roast up some veggies, cook a big pot of rice and poach some protein, here are a few of the meals you can whip up in minutes during the week:
•    Burrito bowls. Shred or chop a poached chicken breast with two forks, then toss with rice and top with salsa and cheese/sour cream/guac.IMG_1942
•    Stir-fry (cubed protein, rice and a mix of frozen and roasted veggies heated together in a wok/frying pan with oil, soy sauce, and any other flavorings of your choice)
•    Burgers with “fries”, aka roasted potato wedges
•    Pasta Primavera IMG_1933
Enjoy, and happy easy cooking!

Thanks Kara.  Who doesn’t love a quick and easy meal at a fraction of the cost of eating out.

What is your go to quick meal?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 03/02/2011 4:28 PM

    this was such a helpful post, kara! anything to make preparing my own meals more convenient is much appreciated! 🙂

  2. 03/02/2011 6:49 PM

    Great post! I love quick meals. I don’t eat out very often, but I’ve fallen back on cereal for dinner. Never fun!

  3. 03/02/2011 9:34 PM

    Great post! Between working full-time and going to school full-time to continue my education, I’m always on the lookout for quick & easy meal ideas that won’t kill my daily points+ target. Thanks for the ideas!

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