I’ve been trying really hard lately to eat well; to have a healthier breakfast in the morning (first thing when I get up, rather than two hours later at work), snack on produce throughout the day, and have a more interesting, but healthy dinner.
A while back, I bought a book, “Mad Hungry,” by Lucinda Scala Quinn. It’s about how to feed men and boys; I got it because I thought there might be more recipes in there that B. would be interested in. I’ve found out, though, that there is so much more! She really tells you how to make cooking easier and more enjoyable; how to get the most out of your food and your day. There are tips galore. One of the main tips, which I’m now trying to get into, is to have an established routine because everything is easier when it’s all laid out before you.
So, this week I began a routine, planning out four meals (since the other three nights would be booked already): enchiladas salsa verde, coq au vin, potsticker dumplings, and chili.
The first thing I did was make a list of all the ingredients I didn’t have on hand, so B. and I could pick everything up Sunday and be prepared for the rest of the week. Usually, I’m so indecisive and feel like we don’t have enough variety in the cupboards, I end up making the same handful of dishes all the time. I usually default to pasta with tomatoes and herbs (actually, one of my favorite and most satisfying meals, though), steak with wine sauce and some type of potato, or baked chicken (plain, spiced, or curry) with, again, some type of potato or coconut rice. Without planned meals, I just don’t buy less common ingredients at the store. I figure, I don’t want to crowd my kitchen with food that never gets touched, because you know how easy it is to find something interesting, buy it, and never use it because you just don’t get to planning a dish to use it in.
Planning out the week completely changed this, though. Not only did we eat meals we’d never had at home before (or necessarily at all), but we had something vastly different every single night. With a plan, I was also comfortable cooking straight after work. Usually, I’ll sit down to relax first, mostly because I’m exhausted and just plain don’t want to cook, but not having any idea what to make compounds that. Cooking after work, though, rather than immediately sitting/laying down for an hour or so, gave me more energy to last the rest of the night! Cooking, itself, obviously kept me awake, but since I was eating at a decent time, I was given an energy burst that would last me until bedtime, rather than finding myself falling asleep in front of the television. I’ve ended up sleeping better, as well, because of the lack of any sort of nap.
I’ve been practicing, generally, the same routine in the morning. My main plan is to start cooking breakfast foods that can be taken to work, like frittatas, homemade Hot Pockets, hard boiled eggs, etc–things that are more hardy and will give us real energy boosts, unlike carbs. Both B. and I eat cereal for breakfast and, at least for me, it does nothing. I wait until work to eat (because I take so long to get ready), which makes it worse because that’s two hours between waking up and breakfast, which defeats the metabolic boost it’s supposed to give. Now, I haven’t actually done any of this yet; I literally haven’t had time this week…but I have been eating eggs daily for breakfast, directly after my shower, and I actually do feel the difference! I definitely feel much more awake at work. Being on a computer all day, my eyes get droopy pretty quickly, but I’ve been fine all this week until today…I’m guessing because I didn’t eat breakfast until about 10 and had sugary cereal instead of eggs (it’s not my fault, my dog kept me from getting up on time!).
Anyway, my point is that there really is something to this routine stuff. I think people find it difficult to cook not only because it takes effort that they don’t want to make after work, but because they’re unprepared, which makes it worse. Defaulting to what’s easiest is…easier! Even coming up with a plan or routine seems like unwanted work, but it’s not really. I think it’s actually fun because you get to look through a cookbook at all the different recipes, ogling the most delicious looking photos, and picking out what you want to try, as if you were at a restaurant. I mean, maybe it’s just me, but I love looking through restaurant menus to find the most appealing dish to order, so why wouldn’t I want to do that at home?
I’m just hoping I can continue this trend without giving into laziness and that more people discover how much easier cooking is with a routine and how food can truly enrich their lives…because I really do believe that most people love food (nearly) as much as I do.