Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Week of Wholesome Food in 2.25 Hours

Raw ingredients
Preparing dishes and meal components for the week ahead is an important way to make eating whole, unprocessed foods realistic for busy singles, couples, and families.  Quantities for many make-ahead items can be easily scaled back for a single person or couple and ramped up for larger families.  Below is one example of foods prepared for an upcoming week.  When supplemented with a few minimally processed convenience products, this selection of food will feed a couple (in this case, my husband and I) for a week.  By investing just 2 ¼ hours during the weekend processing, baking, and cooking, you will easily save 15-20 minutes each workday normally spent getting lunches and dinners on the table.  Another important benefit to this type of plan is that your overall menu for the week will naturally include a wider variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains than it would otherwise.  For families with more mouths to feed, preparation strategy should include recruiting a spouse or older kids to slice and dice veggies and fruits or mix batter.

Total Weekend Time:  2 hours 15 minutes

On the Menu
·         Brown rice
·         Pumpkin banana quick bread
·         Pear-pineapple crisp with coconut crumb topping
·         Carrot-butternut squash soup
·         Chopped vegetables (variety of firm veggies)
·         Adzuki beans (must be soaked the night before)

To make the most of your time, pull all ingredients for all recipes out of the cupboards and the refrigerator and stack them together.  Collect all necessary pots, pans, measuring cups, knives, and utensils and stack them on the stove and counter—wherever you’ll need them.  Start by getting the brown rice heating.  While rice is coming to a boil, pre-heat the oven and then mix the pumpkin-banana bread batter.  By now, the rice will have boiled and should simmer away on its own for the next 45 minutes.  Pour the bread batter into a pan and start baking the loaf.  It will take close to an hour.  In the meantime, wash and chop all the vegetables and fruits needed for the soup, crisp, and a week’s worth of all-purpose chopped veggies.  As you chop, sort the produce by recipe into the plastic containers in which you’ll store them (or cooking pan for the crisp).  Once you’ve got 4-6 cups of chopped mixed veggies, store them in the fridge.  Now, start the soup cooking on the stove top.  Once the soup is simmering, the rice should be done.  Assemble the crisp and its crumb topping while the bread finishes baking.  The bread should be just about ready to come out of the oven when the crisp is ready to go in.  While the bread and rice cool, the soup stews, and the crisp bakes, bring the pressure cooker up to heat for the adzuki beans.  The soup will likely be done soon, and you can allow it to cool on the counter for a few minutes before pureeing it in a blender.  Finally, the crisp and the pressure cooked beans will be done around the same time.

This process should allow you enough time in between steps to clean dishes and utensils by hand or pack the dish washer as you go.

Supplements for the Shopping List
Purchase the following unprocessed or minimally processed convenience foods on Sunday to supplement the above home-cooked items for the week ahead.
·         Oatmeal (rolled or steel cut)
·         Whole wheat spaghetti (such as Safeway’s O brand) and jarred spaghetti sauce
·         Whole grain tortillas (wheat or corn)
·         Salsa
·         Bag or box of spinach or lettuce for salads and sandwiches
·         Cheddar and feta cheeses
·         Box of organic tomato soup
·         Frozen vanilla yogurt
·         Dried fruits such as cranberries or cherries
·         Oatmeal
·         Eggs
·         Fresh fruit

Menu for the Week
Breakfasts
·         Oatmeal with variety of fresh or dried fruit and nuts
·         Veggie omelet with pumpkin-banana bread or bagel
Finished Foods

Lunches
·         Stir fried veggies with one or more of the following each day:  brown rice, adzuki beans, eggs or feta cheese
·         Pumpkin-banana bread
·         Mixed veggie salad (with bagged spinach)
·         Bagels

Dinners
·         Carrot-butternut squash soup (two nights)
·         Veggie – Adzuki bean wraps (one night)
·         Spaghetti with mixed veggies added (one night)
·         Avocado cheddar sandwiches with boxed tomato soup (one night)

Desserts & Treats
·         Pear-pineapple crisp
·         Vanilla frozen yogurt

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