Chef Dez: Prepping good food for when you have no time

Have some quick and easy meal ideas in our home menu repertoires

Let’s admit it, no matter what time of the year it is, we all seem to lead very busy lives and it becomes an excuse frequently to not cook from scratch.

Having some quick and easy meal ideas in our home menu repertoires can make a world of difference when it comes to the stress level of preparing dinner.

Our society is bombarded with artificial solutions to our hectic lives, such as fast food restaurants and premade, prepackaged meals. It is a sad state of reality when quick and nutritious meals are only an idea away.

Yes, some planning needs to be involved, but it is not as challenging as one may first think. Furthermore, the more you do it, the better and faster you will become at it.

Slow cookers are the most obvious answer and many recipes can be found on the internet, your local library, or even in the cookbook collection you already have.

I was astounded when I first saw a commercial recently that advertised a prepackaged slow-cooker meal: a frozen one that is easily emptied from the bag into your crock pot. Yes, this is still better than deep fried fast-food, but it is basic cooking and not only is it costing you a fortune in comparison to making it yourself, you also have no control of any preservatives that may be included.

Casseroles are another resolution and popular with kids. Again, this requires some planning, but the most time efficient method would be to prepare two or three casseroles of the same dish at once. This would allow you to freeze the extra meals for an even quicker solution to your busiest evenings.

Other dishes that could fall under this same category would be meatloaves, lasagna, shepherd’s pies, cabbage rolls. For dishes like this that are to be made in abundance and kept frozen, find the day of the week that works best for you, like a Sunday afternoon.

A common practice in our household is to barbecue up a bunch of meat on Sunday night. This will then be not only our Sunday dinner, but also leftover meat to use in different applications for the busier weekdays ahead of us. We will transform these leftovers into stir-frys, hot sandwiches, hearty soups/stews, pizzas, as the most time-consuming part (the meat) is done already. Food is not only an avenue to keep us alive, but it is an opportunity to celebrate life, nutrition, and the joys of flavours.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, many people don’t see the appeal in bringing the family meal together and, as a result, we have classified cooking as a household chore.

A more accurate example of a household chore would be vacuuming, not cooking. How many times have you called up a friend and asked if they want to vacuum with you? Probably never. Such gatherings are almost always over dinner, lunch or coffee and a treat.

Food is life in so many ways: nutrition, building relationships, pleasure from flavours. And the first thing we need to change is our vision when it comes to food and cooking.

Look for the negatives in anything and you will find them. Look for the positives and your perception will change. Yes, my opinion is obviously biased, but what would you rather do: have pride in making (and eating) a great meal, or clean your carpet?

Chef Dez is a chef, writer and host (chefdez.com).

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