Although it’s the dead of winter here in Chicago, January is certainly a time of renewal. We dive back into our routines after holiday travel and take a moment to reprioritize. On many peoples' lists is cooking at home more and eating better in general. So whether you are joining me for Clean Eating Boot Camp later this month, this week's sold out New Year, New You: Healthy Open House, or one of my many upcoming Clean Eating classes at The Chopping Block, I wanted to give you a few tips to streamline your energy and get you cooking this month.
3 Specific Strategies for Healthy Cooking in 2018
- Plan ahead (at least at little bit!)
There's no need to obsessively fill out a meal prep calendar or buy hundreds of dollars of groceries at once, but just a few minutes of thinking ahead can make your week come together so much more smoothly.
I do a modified meal prepping system for myself (you can read a little more about it here). Every Sunday I hit up the grocery store and plan a lunch for the week for me and my husband and then 2 dinners that I cook on Monday and Wednesday nights (I cook for 4 so we have leftovers on Tuesday and Thursday). I often cook a few more nights impromptu but just planning for those 2 dinners each week makes sure that I'm not overwhelmed or buying lots of groceries we won't use.
- Stock your pantry with clean staples.
The secret to whipping up a meal out of nowhere is having some solid staples in your pantry. A typical American pantry might include things like white flour, white sugar, ketchup, mayo, etc., but I tend to keep more meal-oriented staples in my pantry like canned beans, tomatoes, rice and whole grains, and seasonings like dijon, tamari, lemons, and good olive oil.
Having a set list of staples makes your shopping easier (just check your inventory before you go) and makes it more likely that you'll cook on one of these 7 degree nights when you don’t want to leave the house. Check out my Clean Eating Get Started guide to see the exact items I keep at home.
- Embrace tastes that you love.
I'm a big advocate for expanding your palate and trying new things, but I'm always surprised at how many people try to force themselves to eat "healthy" foods that they hate. It’s nearly impossible to keep up a healthy habit that you hate. Even if you do keep it up, you are unhappy so... what's the point?
One example of this for me is salads in the winter. I'm a healthy chef who doesn't like salad! I just can't get behind too many cold dishes in the winter. So I don't force myself to eat them or beat myself up that I'm not a salad girl. Instead I embrace tastes and textures that I love - warm food, drippy sauces, cozy spices - and eat my veggies in a curry, soup, or even a pasta dish. Or when I do make a winter salads, I incorporate those elements that I love and create something super hearty that has a cooked or toasted element to it.
Combine those tips into my Broccoli and Squash Thai Curry
In the spirit of those tips, I wanted to share a recipe that I've been cooking in my kitchen all winter: Broccoli and Squash Thai Curry. If I stock my pantry with healthy cooking staples like canned chickpeas, coconut milk, and Thai curry paste along with a few fresh veggies that I shop for on Sunday, I can whip up this dinner on a weeknight easily. There's just something so cozy about warm, creamy and vibrantly colored squash.
For this recipe, I wanted to create a meal-in-a-pot that would use up a whole squash, but you could easily use pre-chopped or even frozen squash if you don't have the time for full-on vegetable butchery after a workday. Chickpeas add protein and make this into a full meal, while broccoli adds just a touch of bitterness to make sure the squash doesn't make the dish too sweet. I don't use many prepared sauces or pastes but Thai curry paste is so helpful in a pinch and generally has an ultra clean label. Fresh turmeric and ginger customize the flavor and add an immune-boosting punch, a Chicago winter essential!
Broccoli and Squash Thai Curry
2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons grated or minced ginger
2 teaspoons grated or minced fresh turmeric (sub 1 teaspoon ground)
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (I like Thai Kitchens brand)
1 15-ounce can coconut milk (full fat)
1.5 cups vegetable broth
1 small winter squash (like kabocha, red kuri or butternut), peeled and cut into 3/4" pieces (3 cups)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 bunch broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets (4 cups)
1-2 limes, juiced
Salt to taste
- In a large pot with a lid, heat coconut oil on medium and saute ginger, turmeric, and red curry paste for 30 seconds. Add coconut milk and broth and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to make sure all the paste is incorporated.
- Add cubed squash and chickpeas and return to a simmer. Cover with the lid and simmer gently for 15 minutes or until squash is tender.
- Stir in broccoli until just cooked (about 1 minute), and then season to taste with lime juice (I like lots!) and salt. You can also add fresh herbs like cilantro or Thai basil or heat from chile flake or fresh green chiles. Serve with white rice, brown rice, or flatbread.
Let’s Follow Up!
Looking for a little more guidance and hands-on help on eating clean? Then join me at Clean Eating Boot Camp on Sunday, January 21, 10am-4pm, my signature hands-on course, where you will work with me to learn to create types of recipes and even improvise from what you have on hand. Each Clean Eating Boot Camp participant also gets a one-on-one meeting with me during the day so we can address any specific dietary issues, health concerns, or obstacles you may be facing at home.
Be sure to snag the two digital downloads I've created full of recipes, pantry staple items and more to get you started on a healthy and vibrant 2018. This year's updated versions include my recipe for Cold-Brew Hibiscus Tea! Just click on each box below to download each free guide.