Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Q & A

Krissie asked a question in the comments on my veggie tally post:

..... here is what I'd love to know: HOW do you do it? And no, this is not a "how" which is awe-struck or amazed or has its jaw on the floor or anything of the kind. It's a practical, efficient, busy "how" which wants to duplicate your success and learn. Don't say: "just chop/slice/shred the veg" and add it to your food.

The how wants to know: how does your grocery list look like? do you plan which and how many (and how much) veg you'll eat over the next week, or do you work with what you have in the house?

Most importantly, the how wants to know what happens with the veg, step by step, from the moment they leave the supermarket/market with you. Do they get dumped in the fidge and then scrambled for when you need them? Do they get cleaned, sorted, chopped, stored away in neat containers right after you get home? Do you do a veg washing & chopping session every morning/evening? The how will never ever believe you have the time to clean, peel, chop/slice/shred/whatever 6-10 different vegetables three times a day...

Wow, that’s about the longest question I’ve ever had…..

Um…I was a bit nonplussed by this one at first. I mean, I dunno, I just DO it. It’s what you do when you cook. Isn’t it?

OK, let’s break this down:

Shopping/Grocery list - Ours normally has a few things that we’ve run out of, and maybe some ingredients we want especially for a meal we plan to make. But the rest is just the stuff we always buy. I mean, we always, ALWAYS buy onions, broccoli, carrots, bananas, apples, mushrooms, capsicums, tomatoes, and a whole heap of other things. Then we pick up things that are in season and cheap, or just things that look good or make us go “ah! Parsnips! We’ll do some roasted veggies this weekend!”

So some of what we buy is for regular meals we make. Some is for a specific recipe we don’t make often or a new one that we’ve come across somewhere. And the rest is whatever inspires us at the shops.

Storage. We generally just unpack all the shopping (remember, there are 5 of us, and we shop every two weeks, so it’s a LOT of stuff!) and put it away. Veggies go in the crisper, just as they are. Fruit goes in the fruit bowl or the fridge. That’s it. Uncomplicated.

Preparation. This one varies a lot. It depends on the meal, the day, how much time we have, what’s in the fridge and so on. Probably the best I can do is run through a day like today:

Breakfast – I opened the fridge, got out 2 large mushrooms, a bag of pre-washed baby spinach, a tomato and half an onion that was leftover from the day before. I diced half the tomato and some of the onion, wrapped the rest and put it back in the fridge. I sliced the mushrooms. I grabbed a huge handful of spinach and put the rest back. Then I cooked them, set them aside, added my eggs while my toast cooked and voila! Breakfast in way less than 10 minutes.

Morning tea didn’t include veg today…it was between clients, and eaten on the run, so I was prepared with a cooler bag containing my cottage cheese/yoghurt/diced pear/blueberries and some Protein Crunch. And a spoon. Never forget your spoon. :o)

Lunch – THIS one I did some prep in advance, because I knew I’d be flying in the door starving around 1:00pm after training clients. So last night while I was making dinner, I chopped extra veggies – bok choy, red and green capsicum, red cabbage, some onion (which explains the leftover half onion), some coriander leaves – and put them in a covered container in the fridge. When I got home, I stir-fried some chicken, added the veg, some soy sauce and peanut butter and heated some leftover rice we had. Lunch took maybe 15 minutes to make today. Oh – and I cooked twice as much as I needed, so tomorrow’s lunch is already done, just needs reheating.

Afternoon tea – again, this was leftovers. Some slaw I made the other day, red cabbage, carrot, zucchini. I added a can of tuna and diced half an apple that was in the fridge and threw that in too. That took a minute or two.

Dinner – Fish, with a cauliflower dish I made yesterday (it made a lot), and a salad from ingredients in the fridge – rocket, red onion, orange segments and juice, red basil leaves, pepper. About 10-15 minutes, including cooking the fish.

So today was a mixture of pre-prepared, leftover and freshly made stuff. I always manage to use up leftovers. If you looked in my fridge, you’d often find half a banana, half an apple, half an onion, half a tomato…..those things always get used and sometimes dictate what I’m going to eat, because I hate to waste food.

I do take a few shortcuts – I buy pre-washed bags of salad leaves, and always have some individual packs of frozen veg in the freezer. I keep sundried tomatoes on hand (not the oil-packed ones in jars), and we usually have canned tomatoes, chickpeas, straw mushrooms and baby corn in the pantry. So, even if the fridge is looking grim at the end of the week, we’ll have enough veg to make do.

I honestly don’t see taking a few minutes to chop some veggies as a problem – I mean, you have to cook, and that’s just part of the deal. If you’re smart about it, you can save yourself some time, but if I had to cook every meal from scratch, it wouldn’t be a problem. I’d just approach it using the same rule I always apply for good nutrition, training and getting kids out the door every day with lunches, homework, bus tickets and so on: preparation.

As the saying goes: When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

P.S. I also took the time while preparing dinner to make a batch of zucchini pancakes, which will be the base for my afternoon snacks for the next two days (served with cottage cheese and a home-made salsa - which I also made today). Grated zucchini & carrot in these....yum!

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