A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Healthy Canned and Frozen Foods for Quick-Prep Meals

Kelley and I just sold our home and moved into an apartment to wait while our new home is built. This one sentence makes it sound like a fairly simple event, but it was a very busy weekend! With the help of a friend and some family, we loaded a 24 foot truck basically full of our belongings in the warm 108+ degree Texas heat; then we unloaded it into storage. Our bodies were pretty worn and sore, but now we are very close to work which makes the daily commute a LOT better than before. Needless to say, there was no time the kitchen like I usually have, so I am depending on most of my meals to be made from microwaving frozen beans and veggies. Plus, the “new” kitchen I have to use is uninspiring and makes me realize how nice it was before. I can’t wait for our new home!!
Some no salt added canned tuna and a jar of salsa is a great, easy mix-in with a mound of microwave-steamed veggies. It’s actually nice to not try as hard by cooking on the stove top as much, but still have a healthy meal to bring to work as well as for dinner. As someone who spouts out how healthy can be quick and simple, I can now walk the walk and put my words to practice.

Here are a few items I used to put together some easy and healthy meals:

- Libby’s canned 100% pure pumpkin puree (not the pumpkin pie mix)
- Frozen sweet peas
- Frozen Stir-fry mix of celery, mushrooms, red peppers, green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower
- Canned black beans, cannellini beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), and pinto beans (I look for no or low sodium, but either way will drain and rinse)
- Frozen brussel sprouts
- Frozen green beans
- Frozen onions and green peppers
- Frozen bell peppers with onions
- Frozen fiesta mix consisting of kidney beans, navy beans, red peppers, broccoli, corn kernels, and carrots
- Jar of medium salsa; I try to look for a lower sodium content and a salsa that does not have sugar added
- Bottle of spicy brown mustard and horseradish mustard
- Low sodium or no salt added canned tuna and salmon
- Frozen spinach or collard greens
- Herbs and spices including garlic powder, onion powder, Cayenne powder, ground cumin, dill weed, basil, cilantro, oregano, paprika, turmeric, and ground fennel
- Plain non-fat Greek or regular yogurt
- Frozen strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries

With these items on hand, many combinations are possible. To cook the frozen veggies, I throw the desired amount into a microwave safe bowl, cover, and cook on high for 3 to 6 minutes depending on the amount. Obviously, the more you have, the longer the cooking time will be. Let the produce steam in the microwave, drain off the excess water, and then add herbs and spices to your liking.
One of my favorites is to steam brussel sprouts with bell peppers and onions, and season with pepper, cayenne, cumin, cilantro, oregano, and ground fennel. To this mix, I will add about 1 tablespoon of mustard, a half cup of salsa, half the can of drained tuna, and toss in some black beans. Stir everything together and you have a very healthy lunch for work or dinner in no time!
For something sweet, I add 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree, a handful of frozen berries, a scoop of stevia sweetened whey protein (optional), 1/4 cup water, 1/3 cup almond milk (any milk will work), a dollop of yogurt, and 10 drops of liquid stevia to a blender; then I blend everything together adding a little milk if it’s too thick, and pour into a cup. The end result should be a cool treat with the consistency of soft serve yogurt, but wayyyyyy better! Toss some roasted almonds or pistachios for a flavorful crunch and you’re sure to be satisfied.
To make it easy on yourself, drain, rinse, and steam all of the items and store in individual containers in the fridge. This way all you need to do is heat and eat, or just enjoy a cool meal on those hot days.

Whatever the reason, having these items will help keep you eating healthy meals and still add variety to avoid burn out. Try combining different foods and see what you get, that’s part of the fun and experience to cooking (fast) in the kitchen.
Do you have any favorite quick combos you like to create when in a time crunch?

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