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

Monday, August 29, 2011

One Pot Meals – Quick & Healthy

What type of cooking (if you cook) do you do most of the time? The majority of my cooking consists of one pot meals where, as you might guess, you cook everything for the meal in one pot. To me dear wife, Kelley, I am sorry for the lack of visual appeal for these meals; at least they’re very nutritious for all of the running we do!

Since I usually try to prepare a week’s worth of meals all on Sunday, one pot dishes are the most efficient way to cook. I’ll admit, and I’m sure Kelley agrees, they can get old, but the pure simplicity makes them hard to get away from.
Most of my meals consist of a grain, veggies, and protein source. I try to mix it up and have some vegetarian and some meat dishes. Canned tuna is a major time savor to add to a rice and veggie pot. Look for the “no salt added” canned tuna whenever possible. At the store, I look for new dry beans or grains to use to keep things varied. When I’m feeling adventurous, I enjoy mixing some soft goat cheese into the pot to create a great flavor and happy wife (not too much though, or she’ll be a mad wife for using her goat cheese).

Constructing your own one pot creation is simple; below is a list of grains, veggies, and proteins I like to use. Just pick something from each category and cook in one pot…..simple!

- Short, Medium, or Long Grain Brown Rice
- Whole Quinoa
- Hulled Barley; this is less processed than the more common Pearled Barley, so use if you can find it
- Whole Millet
- Hard Red or Soft Wheat Berries; the berries are what you have before wheat is ground into flour and processed/refined so much that essential nutrients are lost
- Whole Spelt; a variety of wheat
- Whole Kamut; another wheat variety said to have more nutrients
- Corn; yes, it’s a grain
- Steel Cut Oats

- Broccoli
- Cauliflower
- Carrots
- Green Beans
- Spinach
- Tomatoes; I use low sodium or no salt added canned tomatoes most often, but cut fresh are the best
- Asparagus
- Celery
- Red, Green, and Yellow Bell Peppers
- Squash: both summer and winter varieties
- Okra
- Eggplant

- Water Dwellers: Canned or Fresh Tuna/Salmon, Tilapia, Shrimp, Scallops, Mahi Mahi, Trout, etc.
- Land Animals: Boneless, Skinless Chicken, Pork Chop or Loin (usually the leanest cut of meat, I ask the meat guys to pound it flat and trim the fat on the edges), Grass-fed Beef or Bison (this is the only red meat I’ll have, and since it is a little higher in price, it’s not often)
- Beans: Small Red, Garbanzo (Chickpeas), Cannellini (White Kidney), Dark Red Kidney, Navy, etc
- Lentils: Red, Green, French, or Brown
- Cheese; usually just goat cheese if I’m going to add anything, but a small amount of parmesan can really boost flavor
Of course there are more options than what I have listed, but these are the main ingredients I use is most meals. I will start by sautéing chopped garlic (a lot) and onions, adding a grain to lightly toast it, a liquid like chicken broth or the juice of canned tomatoes, and then tossing in my veggies of choice. As you can see, there are plenty of options to use for a different meal combination; try picking some of your favorite ingredients to see what you create.

Beware, cooking times vary for different grains, make sure you know how long to cook each one before using to avoid over-cooking. Many of these veggies are on the “No” list for Kelley, so I have to add them separately to my lunch container; just an option many of you may have to make too. Another plus is that you can use a slow-cooker to just toss all ingredients in, turn to low or high, and forget about it until everything is cooked.
Keep food combining in mind when selecting to ensure you are getting complete nutrients in your meals. For example, beans and rice each have certain amino acids the other one lacks; when combined you get all essential amino acids for a complete protein!

If you are not happy with the looks of your meal, just puree it! The puree makes a great creamy soup or hearty dip for bread, raw veggies, or crackers.

Do you have a favorite one pot meal?

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