Countless times I have frowned at not being better organised for our evening meal or my packed lunch; finding that the heat of the day beats me when it comes to turning on the cooker during the summer months or a heatwave; or I have simply forgotten to shop for a meal from scratch. So been there and regretted that!
These days I won’t say I am better organised but I have developed an arsenal of tips, tricks and tactics to overcome malaise, frustration or simply throwing-in-the-towel when it comes to getting a bariatric-friendly meal on the table.
In the spirit of ‘togetherness’ (since we’re often all in this together, especially when that heatwave arrives and stays) here are some of my remedies to situations that look like they’re spiralling out of control … and the speed dial to the takeaway looks likely ….
Click on the recipe titles below to link to the recipes on the website.
It’s Too Hot or Too Late To Cook!
In high summer when the temperature soars, being a bit lazy in the kitchen isn’t a deadly sin but more a kitchen commandment – keep it cool! There’s no virtue in work for work’s sake. When you can’t really improve on produce at its seasonal best (I’m thinking tomatoes, herbs, fruit, salad etc) then why feel guilty when it only takes a few minutes to throw together a cold assembly? In fact why wouldn’t you eat meals like this in summer, when hot food is unwelcome and all sorts of gorgeous food in season is cheap and plentiful (and maybe just outside your kitchen door if you grow your own). Likewise your appetite often wanes with the heat and only returns at sundown – when you’re too tried/jaded to put on the apron or flash the pan.
This is the time when I might just make a simple tomato, mozzarella and basil platter; bean salad with some cold ham; layer hard-boiled/hard-cooked eggs with salad and seasonings; or chop tomatoes, cucumber, peppers/capsicums and herbs for a cold gazpacho soup. The deli counter of my local outlet invites me to be a creative with meats, olives, cheese, undressed salads, eggs, smoked fish and grains – simply arranging them attractively on a plate can brings oohs and aahs even at the end of a blisteringly hot day.
Summer grilling outside is also an option – I have been known to cook breakfast never mind lunch and dinner out on the grill. Keeps the house cool and the brain less frazzled. For this reason I always have a good store of bbq fare in my refrigerator and freezer when the forecast looks hot.
I’ve Forgotten To Cook!
So it’s late in the day (or evening) and you’re on your way home from work and not a food plan or meal on the horizon. Oh so tempting to pick up a fast-food alternative or ring for a take-away and then you’ve blown your resolve (these alternatives are full of fat, sugar and calories). Instead make a quick stop or detour to the rotisserie department of your local or nearest shop and pick up a ready-cooked chicken (or pieces) and use them for a meal with just a simple salad accompaniment.
If you don’t mind making a stir-fry but haven’t the time for a chopping session then drop by the salad bar and collect yourself a carton of mixed chopped vegetables like onions, peppers/capsicums/Chinese greens/baby corn/shredded cabbage and anything else that takes your fancy. Stir fry quickly at home with garlic, soy sauce, ginger and chilli as liked – a meal can be on the table in under 10 minutes – trust me this works every time! Add a few slivers of cooked chicken to make a heartier meal of it.
I Haven’t Time To Cook!
Well maybe you haven’t time to cook in the evening but there’s nothing to stop you utilising what time you do have to prepare for tomorrow or later in the week. My slow-cooker is a God-send when I know I have a busy time and late finishing times coming up. Load up your slow-cooker the night before you need it (or get up a little earlier than usual and do the same) then switch on and leave to cook on LOW while you’re away from home for the day. I have taken to make a batch of these, putting them in liners and freezing for such eventualities. One hour, a weekend a month, can give me about 6-8 meals stashed away to take care of such busy times. It also means I can take advantage of some bulk buy offers (like chicken thighs) and prepare them in different ways – say a Mexican, Chinese, Italian and BBQ flavoured version so that boredom doesn’t creep in. Mine tend to be one-pot dishes too so that no additional accompaniments are required save maybe a salad or a side helping of just-soak couscous.
The bonus is that this kind of food can be beautifully tender and suit the Amber stages of post-op eating too – any combo can be pureed, mashed or blended to the ideal consistency and you have the bonus of eating with the rest of the family rather than on your lonesome.
Of course there are some foods that need barely cooking at all which you can also fall back on – eggs are one and need barely any heat or time. Be imaginative with poached, scrambled and shirred eggs or make a speedy omelette in a couple of minutes. I’m also told that you can now buy ready-cooked hard-boiled eggs from the chiller section of the supermarket. Canned beans, fish and soups can also be jollied-up with some herbs, spices, garnishes and dressings so that it looks like you’ve been slaving for hours and faster on the plate than any take-away order.
My final flourish might well be a pâté, spread or dip – smoked fish, canned beans, peas and cheese all make good basics for a simple dish to serve with crackers or bread if tolerated and with vegetable crudités if watching or limiting the carbs. A quick whizz in the blender is all the work you might need to do.
Not forgetting pudding/dessert – just make a bee-line to the fruit bowl and toss a selection of fruits together for a salad or skewer to make kebabs to serve with a basic yogurt dip. Voila! SORTED!