Author: Healthi Coach, Brianna Newton
Whether you’re cooking for two or cooking for nine (God bless you), mealtime can be stressful. Maybe you’re a meal prepping machine, maybe you fly by the seat of your pants 3 times a day 7 days a week. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of meal preparedness, it’s always important to know your basics, especially during a quarantine.
What do I mean by basics? The magical world of “base recipes”! Filling your culinary toolbox with recipes and methods that you know by heart will make grocery shopping and cooking much more manageable.
What Are Base Recipes?
Base recipes are simple, easy recipes that you know by heart and oftentimes have ingredients for on hand. In our house, they usually are comprised of a protein, a starch or grain, and a vegetable.
For example, one of my base recipes is grilled chicken, brown rice, and steamed vegetables. I can take this base recipe and change it up in a multitude of ways:
1. Lemon Pepper Grilled Chicken with Quinoa and Steamed Broccoli
2. BBQ Grilled Chicken with White Rice and Corn on the Cob
3. Teriyaki Grilled Chicken with White Rice and Steamed Asian Veggies
4. Grilled Chicken Kabob with Onions and Peppers, side of Farro
And the list goes on! As long as I have chicken breast (in the fridge OR the freezer), vegetables (fresh OR frozen), and healthy grains on hand, I know without a shadow of a doubt I can whip up a yummy, healthy dinner in under a half hour. Base recipes don’t have to be stove top, oven, or microwave meals. You can also easily create base recipes for your slow cooker or electric pressure cooker.
Alternating Your Protein
Once you find what kinds of base recipes work for your family, you can use those base recipes to make many types of meals by switching up your protein. Learning how to switch up ingredients in your base recipe is especially helpful while grocery stores are frequently out of certain items. Going off the list of meal ideas above, here are some ways we do this in our house:
1. Lemon Pepper Salmon with Quinoa and Steamed Broccoli
2. BBQ Boneless Pork Chops with White Rice and Corn on the Cob
3. Teriyaki Ground Turkey Lettuce Wraps with White Rice and Steamed Asian Veggies
4. Grilled Shrimp Kabob with Onions and Peppers, side of Farro
Alternating Your Sides
Just like alternating your proteins, you can alternate your sides and grains/starches to make completely new meals! (Perhaps you’re someone who really enjoys pasta, this would be a great spot to switch out that pasta for a healthy alternative.) My go to healthy grains are quinoa, farro, and rice. It’s easy to memorize how to cook these so make sure you always have them on hand!
For my sides, I almost always do steamed veggies. I buy bags of steam-able veggies and veggie mixes from Aldi that take 5-6 minutes in the microwave. Top it with some sea salt and you’re good to go! If you’re not into steamed veggies, check out the easy recipe below to make a super yummy, high nutrient, sautéed side dish.
Sautéed Chopped Kale Side:
One of my favorite shortcuts is to buy a bag of kale that’s already rinsed and chopped. For this side dish, you’ll need: 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 4 cups chopped kale, 1 cup shredded carrots, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1/3 cup chopped cashews (optional), salt, and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO in a pan over medium high heat for a couple minutes. Add in your kale and garlic. Stir until the kale is almost completely wilted and then add the shredded carrots and cashews. Stir for a few more minutes until the kale is completely wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy! Fool proof quinoa: Rinse one cup of quinoa and add it to a pot with two cups of chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, then cover the pot with a tight lid. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Presto! Perfect quinoa!
Don’t Do Anything Crazy
Base recipes aren’t supposed to be where you experiment with making fresh Maine lobster for the first time. And frankly, it’s alright for your base recipes to feel a bit boring. I’m not always wowed at the meals I make but I do try to make sure they are healthy and sustain me until the next meal. Because, mamas, let’s be honest, sometimes you just have to get through the day. Am I right??
Finding New Recipes
Finding new recipes is a great way to practice your cooking techniques and get inspired! For recipe ideas, you can browse the new recipe index in your Healthi app. Happy Cooking!