Quicken Your Cooking

When school starts back in September, the glory days of summer fade in an instant. We’re stocking up on school supplies and new shoes and packing healthy lunches becomes another item on the daily to-do list. By the time dinner hour arrives it can be overwhelming to think up and prepare a family meal, so we often fall victim to the drive-thru or picking up a pre-made meal like a frozen pizza. Although these treats are fun now and again, if they are a regular part of the routine, we could easily be overconsuming unhealthy nutrients like sodium, sugar and saturated fat and falling short on key foods like veggies and whole grains.
We all need quick meal ideas that can be on the table in 15 or 20 minutes but making it healthy doesn’t mean it has to be completely from scratch. Using a few simple starters can add convenience to your cooking without depriving your family of important nutrients.
Take packaged soup for example, whether a can or a tetra-pak. On its own, it is incredibly high in sodium, but if we just use it as a base, we can skip some of the work of chopping aromatic ingredients like onion and garlic. Soup up these soups by adding protein from legumes like canned chickpeas or white beans. Add ½ cup of quinoa or buckwheat for a quick-cooking whole grain to fill the family up. Finally toss in any favourite veggies or what you have to use up from the fridge. Kale is easy to freeze and crumble into any soup, sauce, curry or pasta dish.
Canned fish, especially salmon, is a pantry staple that can turn into a quick meal, whether made into tuna melts or patties or added into whole grain pasta. Canned or frozen legumes are another quick protein source that can be used for nachos, quesadillas or try out our Med Spread idea and make a simple chickpea salad or buy pre-made hummus. Just try to always include vegetables for essential nutrients, like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, as well as fibre that fills us up longer.
If you have to stop at the grocery store to get dinner on the table, consider a rotisserie chicken. At many stores the only thing added is a spice rub so they are often as simple and affordable as if you’d made it yourself. Serve immediately with a big salad and then pull off leftover chicken for sandwiches or wraps for lunch the next day or for another dinner the next night, like a simple stir-fry. Smoked tofu works well too.
Eggs are also a fast meal—think breakfast for dinner! A simple veggie scramble with whole grain avocado toast is well-balanced and takes no time to prepare. Or keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge and pop them onto a quick buddha bowl with quinoa and veggies.
Of course, one of the best strategies for a quick meal is to double-up on your cooking endeavours on another occasion, like the weekend, and freeze a batch. You could even do it as a fun family activity!