To A Better Life

Miso-glazed salmon with rice and spinach

If there is one thing you can do to make the world a better place, it’s cooking at home. Okay, that’s probably too strong a statement, but how about this: if there’s one thing you can do to improve your overall health and diet, it’s cooking at home.

Ah, much better. And so very true.

The nice thing about being gluten free is that driving through a fast food restaurant isn’t much of an option. The rough thing about being gluten free is that eating in slower, healthier restaurants (and I use these terms loosely) isn’t very easy.

As I’ve lost weight, my relationship with restaurant meals has changed yet again. It’s really hard to wrap my head around meals that top out over 1,000 calaries…and that’s before you add in a glass of wine. I end up taking most of my meal to go — which doesn’t always work out leftovers-wise — or wasting food. Sometimes I can split something with my husband, but that means we must both want the same thing.

So most of us view cooking at home as the safest, healthiest, and, frankly, easiest option. Except for the cooking part — even on Sundays, when I have all the time in the world, evening meals, in particular, seem thrown together.

The trick, I’ve learned is to rely on tried and true foods and techniques. This means saving recipes that look amazing, but have complicated processes — blanch, then braise, then do the hokey pokey — and an endless list of ingredients for the weekends (or days when I have a little more time than usual).

For me, this means meals that take under an hour to prepare, with the optimal time being about thirty minutes (though, in all honesty, most of those 30-minute dishes usually take about 45 minutes due to prep work). I love planning crockpot meals, and really need to get better about expanding my repertoire there.

My second trick is to plan my meals ahead of time. I’ve written about using a planner like Plan to Eat in the past, and I find the longer I use it, the more it makes my life simple. I’ve recently spent a lot of time organizing my recipes into more discrete categories, such as dividing main dishes into specific types, including vegetable, rice/grain, poultry, etc. Soups and stews have their categories, based on main ingredient. Even side dishes are well-organized.

This, plus liberal use of tagging (coconut milk, lemongrass, requires marinating) lets me sort through recipes quickly while focusing on the ingredients I have. From there, I can generate a shopping list that focuses on what I need. Trick one above only works if I have everything I need on hand.

Finally, I keep ready-to-nuke meals in the freezer. Or parts of ready-to-nuke meals. For example, when I make a Bolognese sauce, I freeze dinner-sized portions for later. Likewise with soups such as split pea. Having good, healthy, gluten-free options available makes my life so much easier.

I want to circle back to that health thing because it’s important. I’ve noted a huge shift in how we approach food in the past year or so. More people are looking at how what they eat impacts their health. Whether they’re trying to lose weight or trying to find out why they just can’t feel good, no matter what, people are exploring their relationship with what they eat.

Those of us who are gluten free know better than anyone how important it is to eat food that makes us healthy and happy. For me — and for many of us — this means making meals ourselves. The unexpected bonus is the pleasure that comes from making a delicious meal!

Tip of the Week

Keep a list somewhere handy of your favorite fast-to-prepare weeknight meals. It’s a lot easier to remember what works for you when you have it written down.

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

For really fast meals, I turn to fish. Our household loves fish, from tacos to meaty salmon steaks. In fact, just typing the word salmon has me craving it. Yes, I am *that* easy.

This week’s meal features salmon with a miso glaze — a bit salty and a bit sweet. While the salmon bakes, I’ll saute some greens with olive oil and garlic (and maybe a bit of the miso mixture to amp up the flavor). I usually make a large batch of rice in my rice cooker on Sunday for the week, so that’s ready to go. Of course, it only takes 20 minutes on the stove top, so, if necessary, I can get that started before the salmon goes in the oven.

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