Those who cook at home know just how extensive the process can be. Food prep, dicing, slicing, sautéing, baking, plating, eating, cleaning up, dishes, cutting board cleaning, stove cleaning, pots and pan cleaning, and so on; a freaking nightmare.
When coming home from a long day of work, the last thing I want to do is go through this process from start to finish. And I bet the same goes for you.
Cooking healthy food can a major hassle if you don’t plan ahead. One of the most prevalent reasons people don’t stick to their eating plans is a lack of food readily available. (Check out my new book to help with that.)
Food prep does take work and time, yes, we all know that, but that doesn’t mean you should succumb to cheap processed food just because it is convenient. The cons far far outweigh the pros when it comes to processed food. So what are we to do?
We are going to get smart.
Food research shows us that convenience and accessibility play a huge role in what we eat, how often we eat, and how much we eat. When food is difficult to prepare, it becomes much less likely you will eat it, and more likely to go for something else that is more convenient. This can work to your advantage by hiding sweets in hard-to-get places (or not buying altogether), or it can work against you if you have a bunch of raw ingredients in your fridge that need to be extensively prepared before being able to be eaten.
Luckily there is a solution to the problem of preparing yummy, healthy food quick and easy. It’s called the One-Pot meal. This meal can be prepared in a Crockpot, Dutch oven, baking pan, or any large cooking vessel. I love the Crockpot for it’s simplicity and fast clean up. You can throw a bunch of raw ingredients into the Crockpot, set it to low for 8-10 hours and bam: you have a fully cooked meal that is piping hot and ready to eat. One-Pot meals are a great “plan-ahead” way of combating the convenience trap that many of us fall into.
Always remember that clean food must be ubiquitous and easy to prepare. On the flip side, junk food should be as inaccessible as possible. If you keep it in your house, you will eat it. If you regularly keep junk food at home (maybe for other people) then make it as difficult as possible to get to. Hide it. Forget where you put it. Tell your family to hide it. And never keep it in sight sitting on the counter.
The single most effective technique that I have found for adhering to a clean diet is making one-pot meals. I always keep a leftover meal in the fridge that can be reheated and ready to eat in minutes.
Enter One-Pot meals…
First, buy a cast-iron Dutch oven or a Crockpot or slow cooker! My favorite brand for dutch ovens is Staub. The goal of One-Pot meals is to make extra and save the leftovers in the fridge for future meals.
The formula for One-Pot meals = Make extra food and save the leftovers!
Certain foods keep better in the fridge than others. Stews, soups, roasts, and braises are great as leftovers and even sometimes benefit from resting in the fridge for a day or two. I suggest making 2-3 of these big meals every week with the purpose of keeping the extra in the fridge. After each pot you prepare, you will have multiple meals waiting for you in the fridge anytime you are in a rush and don’t have time to cook.
There are two cooking methods for making one-pot meals that I use. Each method takes a small amount of prep work, long cooking times, and very little clean up. Recommend tools: Staub Dutch Oven – CrockPot – Wooden spoon – Ancient Sea Salt
Method 1#: Crock Pot
- Throw in bunch of: Protein and veggies
- Cover with stock, wine, and/or vinegar
- Flavor with: seasoning, herbs, spices
- Cook on low 8-10 hours.
*Garnish options: cream, fresh herbs, splash of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, hot sauce
Method: Dutch Oven
- Preheat Dutch oven – med heat
- Add oil
- Sear protein on each side 2-5 minutes until crust forms
- Remove protein
- Add various vegetables and cook until soft and browned (onion, carrots, leeks, celery, mushrooms, potatoes, etc)
- Add wine or vinegar or both and deglaze pan, scraping up browned bits at bottom of pan. Return meat to pan
- Add stock/broth/wine until fill to desired level. Optional: add tomato sauce/paste, or canned tomatoes
- Season and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover and cook until protein is tender 30 minutes to 2 hours depending.
- Eat and refrigerate leftovers
Print me and put me on your fridge…
The more you practice these methods, the better your dishes will get. Make sure to season each ingredient as you add it to the pot to develop that deep flavor. Taste throughout the cooking process and adjust with vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, herbs, and spices.
To serve: reheat in oven at 325 for ~15 minutes or microwave on low and stir every couple minutes.
Think of your meals as an investment in your health. Invest a couple hours each week and you will always have a quick and healthy meal in the fridge—and this can pay dividends in your health and results.
Always keep this food rule in your mind so you can use it to your advantage: The harder it is to get access to food the less likely you are to eat it. Use this to your advantage and be prepared. Now, get in the kitchen and make a one-pot meal for the upcoming week!