Aaaannnnnd we’re back with part 3 of Kitchen Ninja aka How to Make a Quick Healthy Meal blog series. In parts 1 and 2, we talked about kitchen organization, types of cooking, tips, tricks and more. These are the tools I use when I need to step into a kitchen and be able to just throw a healthy meal together. Today I am going to just get to it and give you a quick and easy tool that will walk you through building these meals.
How to Make a Quick, Healthy Meal
Spices for a Quick Healthy Meal
As you can see in the above image, I included some basic spice combinations and ideas for putting some exciting flavor in your meals. If you have a certain favorite spice packet that you like to use, such as Hidden Valley ranch packets ( we love those! ) or others, feel free to incorporate those instead. Just be cautious, some of them are very high in sodium, so keep an eye out!
For those of you who might not even know what to do with half of the spices on your shelf, here is a bit more of an advanced look and what foods you can use them with!
Summary of Kitchen Ninja
Cooking really is a rabbit hole – once you start teaching and learning it, it could just keep going, and going and going. Hopefully this series has given you some things to think about and some tricks/tips for throwing together a healthy meal (quickly).
That being said, you really aren’t going to get better at cooking without PRACTICE and PLANNING. So don’t be discouraged. Here are my final tips.
Think about your dinner the night before. Decide what you want. Do you need to thaw any meat to prepare? Do you have the ingredients you need? If you don’t, think about substitutions you can make.
If this cooking thing is new to you…start by choosing ONE night a week where you put use these tools to put something together. Keep it that way until you feel more comfortable.
Always continue learning. There are mounds and mounds of recipes out there on PINTEREST or my personal favorite- bettycrocker.com
If you try to make stroganoff and you end up with a pile of mushroom slop (I’ve done that!), just laugh about it and go get Subway.
Don’t give up. Please don’t. The only place giving up gets you is the drive thru at McDonalds.
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You walk in the door after a long day, kids in tow from daycare. You are in need of a quick healthy meal but you’ve been sitting in traffic. You’re sweating because the A/C is broke in the car. The little ones are losing their minds because they are over tired and hungry. Walking over to the fridge you pass a sink full of dishes, of course containing your main frying pan and bake sheet from last night’s dinner. Opening the fridge you see a multitude of leftovers, some in there for a questionable amount of time. There is milk, but only enough for one glass. Your family likes chicken, but it’s all frozen. The dog pukes on the floor. Oh look. There’s your set of pantyhose you were looking for.
As you stand there in a fog, little humans and animals running around you, husband still stuck in traffic, you are faced with the insurmountable task of feeding these humans, or yourself, something nutrition. And something that will help promote the 25lb of baby weight you still need to lose.
Have you ever been there? Have you looked into your fridge or cupboard under extreme duress and not even know where to start? Yeah … me too. But not any more. Welcome to Kitchen Ninja my friends.
Let’s dive in!
Lay Your Ninja Kitchen Foundation
One of the most important things to have in place BEFORE you start to cook is having a good solid foundation within the walls of your kitchen. One of the biggest obstacles to making a quick healthy meal is being disorganized. How is looking for the garlic salt for 5 minutes conducive to getting a meal on the table so little Jimmy can stop losing his mind?
So let’s take a quick look at our disorganized kitchens for a minute.
Oh toughen up sister. 😉
For a Quick Healthy Meal … Open Your Refrigerator and Do an Assessment
Go through and throw away questionable leftovers, as well as condiments that date back to before the dawn of time (aka check all expiration dates)
Do a condiment purge. When is the last time you actually used that cherry BBQ wine flavor marmalade grilling sauce? Basically…if you haven’t used it recently, and aren’t sure when the next time you will….pitch it.
Put similar products together in sections
Consider creating an organizational system that works for you. There are people out there that do this kind of stuff for a living, and are WAY better at it than I am. And let’s be honest, every person’s refrigerator is different, and we have different preferences for how we organize. At the BOTTOM of this post, I have included a resource section with helpful links for you to get some ideas.
See below for a pretty basic idea of where certain things should be stored in your fridge. No eggs or dairy in the door because those are the lowest temperature places in the fridge. Meat on the bottom shelf to avoid contamination and leakage.
Open up your cupboard and do the same thing.
Cupboards are so different that an organizational structure can vary quite a bit, but here are a few tips:
Throw away expired products. For product expiring soon, either use them or pitch them!
Keep your commonly used products are eye level
Store common foods together. Here are some ideas
Side dishes (potatoes, rice, macaroni)
Snacks (chips, crackers, pretzels)
Baking staples (flour, sugar, baking powder etc)
Here’s a look at a before and after of my cupboard, including a look at how I separated my staples!
If this seems like a completely overwhelming task, do a little bit each day. For me to complete the task in the picture above, I set a timer for 10 minutes and just did whatever I could in that time! Do that every day for 7 days and you’ll be organized in no time!
Make Your Pans, Mixing Bowls and Utensils Easily Accessible
Get rid of excessive duplicate items, or store them away
Consider creating a pan storage system
Match up your Tupperware with their lids. Find a (recycle bin) home for your mismatched ones!
Ultimately when it comes to organizing your kitchen and ultimately being able to make a quick healthy meal, the end goal is making all of your food easily accessible. To be a kitchen ninja, you want to know what is there at all times and how to easily get what you need when you need it! Find the system that works for you (see end of the this post for additional resources)
Common Kitchen Cookware
To cook a good meal…you need to have some decent cookware! Now, you don’t need to have the most upscale, gravity defying, plated in gold pan to saute up some onions. It’s just not necessary! Sure, there are different qualities of items…but that’s not why we are here. Below is what I would consider necessary for getting a quick, hot meal on the table!
Cutting Board (one for meat, one for vegetable/fruits)
Mixing bowl set (various sizes)
Wooden spoon set
Spatula (such as for pancakes, scrambled eggs etc)
Two Pots (3 and 5 quart)
These items can be purchased at pretty much any multipurpose store, such as Target, Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond etc.
Common Kitchen Food Staples
In order to be able to make a quick healthy meal from scratch (and like a ninja), you’ve gotta be sure to have some things around the house all the time. AKA food staples! Many of the recipes and other things we talk about later in the #kitchenninja series utilize these things. If these food present a huge change for you, or too much money to stock because you have none of them…start by building your stock with the foods that I have starred.
Whole grain pasta (if you don’t like straight whole wheat, go for a brand like Barilla or a delicious low carb one like Dreamfield’s Pasta.
Whole wheat tortillas like Mission Plus. Aim for any tortilla that is whole wheat and has at least 3 grams of fiber per unit)
Ketchup (look for a low sugar version if possible)
Low fat mayo
Pumpkin pie spice (good for different desserts if you are into that flavor)
Whole wheat flour
All purpose flour
Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Dark chocolate baking chips
Butter (salted or unsalted)
WHEW. Deep breath folks! I know this article may not have been what you had originally expected….but in order to become a true ninja in the kitchen, ya gotta be organized and know right where stuff is. That’s enough for this week – you can spend the next 7 days doing a little to get organized.