Most advice for a healthy diet includes making your own meals from scratch – easier said than done. It’s tempting to pick up prepared food or use packaged dishes that simply require microwaving, even if the ingredients aren’t the healthiest. But homemade meals don’t have to be difficult to prepare.
The trick is to plan ahead, shop smart and use recipes that fit into a tight schedule. The cookbook "Cooking with Trader Joe’s: Dinner’s Done!" is designed to help its readers do just that.
As the title implies, it uses many products from Trader Joe’s chain of stores. But if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood, that’s not a problem, because the same types of convenient ingredients are also found in other stores around the country.
Bottom line, most of these recipes only require between 5 and 20 minutes to prepare, although with some, cooking may take longer. The dishes are healthy and recipes include nutritional information. And, if you’re trying to limit meat or avoid gluten, vegetarian and gluten-free recipes are clearly marked and easy to find.Streamline With Simple Steps
Co-author Wona Miniati tells me that her cookbook is so simple, it transformed one reader’s husband from a guy who had never cooked into a real chef. While she doesn’t guarantee that the same will happen for every other non-cook out there, Miniati does offer these tips:
• Shop in advance. Make a grocery list for the recipes you plan to make and shop ahead for the week. A well-stocked fridge and pantry are your best friends when you need a dinner solution fast.
• Use prepped ingredients and shortcuts. Take advantage of bagged salads, cut and peeled vegetables, prepared sauces and curries, prepared dough, marinated meats, frozen brown rice, and ready-made ingredients like hummus, guacamole, pesto, and salsa.
• Keep a fridge calendar. Keep notes on the fridge of which meal is planned for each day, with the recipe nearby. It keeps you organized and allows everyone in your family to pitch in and get dinner started in your absence.
• Include kids and spouses in the kitchen. Even young children can stir or do other simple tasks. And spouses may discover that cooking is more fun than they imagined.
• Streamline your kitchen and workspace. Most kitchens are overstuffed with unused tools and duplicate gadgets. Clear out cluttered drawers, cabinets, and countertops, keeping only the items you use regularly.
Anything made with fresh ingredients tastes better and is more nutritious than a packaged version. As an example of an easy recipe, try this one from Miniati’s book:Instant Homemade Guacamole
Prep time: 5 minutes
By mixing salsa into mashed avocado, you can customize guacamole without the effort of chopping and mixing. Adjust heat by varying the amount and spiciness of the salsa you use. Serve guacamole with tortilla or pita chips, on quesadillas or tacos, or on any sandwich.
2 ripe avocados
Juice of ½ lime
2 tablespoons of salsa
I teaspoon of finely chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)
1. In a small bowl, mash avocado. Stir in lime juice.
2. Add salsa and cilantro, stirring just until combined. Do not overmix, or guacamole will turn grayish.
Per serving: 118 calories, 11 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 7 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 65 mg sodium
For more recipes and tips, check out www.cookingwithtraderjoes.com