Food and feeding myself is something I’ve struggled with over the years, going through cycles of nourishing myself like a champ and relying mostly on Sandra Lee-style “semi-homemade” food. While I don’t feel great when I eat that way I count every meal I make for myself as a win–because some days the world and our lives and our stuff conspire to make feeding ourselves feel sisyphean. And when you have struggled with food stuff, sometimes eating a meal, any meal, is a real win.
Although I generally don’t mind (and sometimes even enjoy) cooking, I find coming home after work and cooking to be almost impossible. I’m generally too hungry and don’t have the emotional energy to cook, though that differs with my life circumstances. In my various years as a student I would cook three or four nights a week, trying out new recipes, enjoying the time that school affords you (and making the most of the creativity required by a stretched student budget).
When things are ticking along, I have a weekly food ritual, where I prep enough food to get me through dinners for the week. It takes about an hour and a half start-to-finish and gives me a base structure that I like but enough variety that I could eat a slightly different dinner every day.
I start with a couple of kinds of plant-based protein–usually tofu and either tempeh or beans. I marinate them and chuck them in the fridge. Then I start the oven pre-heating. Next I put on a pot of whatever grain I feel like (usually quinoa, brown rice, or an ancient grains mix) with some vegetable stock powder for the easiest, yummiest grains you’ll eat. Then I chop up some root veggies and/or squash, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, and throw in the oven. I toss the tofu/tempeh in at the same time and set the timer for 20-25 minutes. In that time I chop and tear and grate a bunch of veggies and make a dressing or two. By the time the oven timer goes off, the grains are done, I’ve got a variety of prepped veggies in my fridge, a couple kinds of protein, a yummy dressing or two, and I’m ready to eat!
Here’s what I did this week:
Black beans (canned)
Quinoa cooked in stock
Roasted butternut squash
Chopped bell pepper
I’ve now got a fridge full of the kind of food that makes me feel really good, and that excites me with its deliciousness. And I’ve got enough variety that I can mix-and-match to my heart’s content and not eat the same meal twice.
Putting together a bowl requires three things: a big bowl, a pair of tongs (these are in my top five kitchen tools**), and creativity. I start by laying a spoon or two full of dressing on the bottom then just toss in whatever sounds good, mix it all up with my beloved tongs, transfer to a nice bowl and go to town.
*Quick pickles are a constant and are one of my favourite tricks to fancy up anything. Got some toast with hummus? Add quick pickles! Made a (vegan) cheese platter? Quick pickles! Need some acid in your salad?
LSD! Quick pickles! Here’s what I do: slice pickles as thin as you can (I got a mandoline for Christmas and it makes these a breeze–there’s no way I could ever chop something that thin, and the paper-thin pickles are the best, if you ask me), toss in a jar, fill jar 2/3rds with white vinegar, add a pinch of salt, and a couple pinches of sugar, fill with water to the top. Put the lid on, shake it a few times, then into the fridge your little cucumbers go. In an hour they’ll magically be pickles! And they’ll get better the longer they sit (though I wouldn’t let them go more than 5-7 days).