Healthy dinners for lazy peopleSeptember 12, 2016
One of life’s modern paradoxes it that the more we fetishise home cooking, the less time we actually have to spend in the kitchen.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us that the number of hours worked by full-time employees have been increasing over the last decades, and the long promised robot-induced leisure utopia is yet to materialise.
But convenience doesn’t mean you should be dropping your expectations for a healthy, fresh food. Lazy cooking days can still provide tasty meals. Below is our take on healthy dinners for lazy people (or busy people having lazy days).
The rules of healthy, tasty eating on a lazy day aren’t too different to cooking generally: resist the urge to heat and eat prepared meals from the supermarket. You don’t want the preservatives and you certainly want to taste more than just sugar and salt.
Anything that you ‘chuck together’ is going to be a winner. With this in mind, it’s hard to go past a juicy hamburger.
Meat patties can be quickly fried, and an egg fried with a runny yolk is a must. Insert into a bun with lettuce, beetroot, tinned pineapple and whatever else you have at hand, and before long you’ll be delighted by the egg yolk and hamburger juices running down your chin.
To keep the veg count up high, a quick stir fry should be one of your best friends. Using a hot wok, remember to fry whatever protein you use first and put aside to avoid it stewing whilst the vegetables cook. Put in your vegetables progressively depending on what cooks quickest, with a dash each of soy and rice wine vinegar and water. Pile in the Asian greens with capsicum, thinly sliced carrots, beans sprouts and whatever else appeals. Return the meat at the end to reheat and serve.
Although counter-intuitive, there are two reasons that baking can be the friend of the time-pressed cook. If you have time up your sleeve but other tasks to distract you from supervision or standing over a pan stirring, chucking a few ingredients into a pot for the oven is a winner. As an added bonus, most stews and casseroles require very little preparation and minimal cleaning up afterwards!
One of the most simple dishes to prepare this way is an Irish Stew. The better the ingredients, the less need to season this dish other than with a helping of pepper. Sliced medallions of potato layered with roughly chopped onions under lamb neck chops, topped only with water, in a hot oven for around an hour. So good!
The French version of a simple lamb stew is the navarin printanier. Lamb chops are browned in a casserole dish with onion and garlic, before herbs and diced carrot are added and topped with a few centimetres of water and added to a hot oven. An hour or two later the casserole is pulled out of the oven and boiled peas are stirred through with salt and pepper to taste.
The other advantage of baking is that it doesn’t have to be a slow cooking process, because a hot oven can quickly caramelise vegetables and toast breads. Yes, we’re talking about pizzas!
You’re feeling a bit lazy so it’s safe to assume you won’t be making pizza dough tonight. There are some decent commercial pizza bases available, but if you like crispy bases a large piece of pita bread is a good substitute. Spread tomato paste over the bread and cover with whatever toppings take your fancy. You can stay traditional with mozzarella and some herds, or add some meats, which are best pan-fried or roasted beforehand. Roasted root vegetables work well, and there’s nothing more delicious than the carbs-on-carbs fiesta of potato pizza. Drizzle with a little oil before 10 minutes in the oven.
The other go to timesaver is actually to spend a little more effort when you do have the time to cook. Left-overs pulled from the fridge, or frozen for longer periods, are so much better than buying pre-prepared meals from a supermarket. You’ve cooked it, you know what’s in it and you know how much more satisfying it’s going to be to eat. Do a double batch of risotto, lasagne or whatever Sunday night favourites and reheat later in the week with some fresh greens, you’ll be sorted.
Don’t get complacent on your midweek and post-work meals; they matter to your health just as much as any other. The ideas above are just a few to keep you well-fed week round.