Most of us don’t have the time cook meals from scratch every day. And when you’re gluten-free, eating out can be difficult, so finding a realistic way to eat-in most of the time is a must.
My motto is “cook once, eat twice.” If I am taking the time to cook, it makes sense to make just a little extra to have for another meal. You say your family complains if you use the same thing twice? I’ll show you how to put a twist on the extra to make it new and different. And get your family involved in the whole process. Just ten minutes of help from someone else can make a huge difference.
The first and most important step is to make a shopping list so that you can avoid extra trips to the market. Buy enough to take you through several days of meals. Put the list on your phone to make sure you’ll have it when you need it. Keep this list for the future and make changes as needed.
If it’s available, shop online and get your groceries delivered. This can be a big time saver if your schedule is tight.
Depending on your time constraints, you decide how much of what you buy is ready-made and how much requires prep or cooking. Some items that I’ll often buy prepared to use for quick meals are pesto, pasta sauce, gluten-free teriyaki sauce, sriracha, roasted chicken, gluten-free fresh pasta, pre-cut lettuce and vegetables. Always have a fully stocked spice cabinet with your favorite dried herbs, granulated garlic and onion and any other spices you prefer. I like to have fresh lemons and limes on hand to add some brightness to whatever I’m preparing.
Here’s an example of how my week might go.
Preparation: Day One
Pick a day when you have an hour to spend on meal planning. This will be your one day to spend a little extra time getting several items ready for the next few days. This will allow you to have meals ready in 15-20 minutes over the next few days. If you can’t spare an hour on any day, split it into two 30-minute days.
Make quinoa, rice and spaghetti squash
These can all be cooking at the same time. None of them take much prep time and they can all cook while you’re making something else. I make enough for a week. They all keep well in the fridge and can be a base for different flavors. One day I might add a squeeze of lemon or mix in some pesto. On another day I might add one to a green salad. They go well with so many flavors.
Make a few marinades/sauces
While the starches are cooking, get the marinades done. These can be used for the spaghetti squash, rice and quinoa or to marinate any protein or vegetable.
Take a quart sized zip top bag and add marinade ingredients. My favorite is Thai coconut sauce – just coconut milk, grated ginger, lime zest, chopped lemon grass and salt. Make your own teriyaki sauce with some gluten-free tamari, grated ginger, grated garlic, mirin (rice wine) and agave. Make a Mexican marinade with lime juice, olive oil, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Store in the fridge.
Cook one protein
Make enough for 2 meals. For example, grill chicken breast. Brush some teriyaki sauce on enough for tonight’s meal. Then take it off the grill, directly into a bowl with the teriyaki sauce. The hot chicken will absorb the flavors nicely. Serve it over the rice (reheat in the microwave if necessary with a splash of water) with some steamed sugar snap peas. Store the leftover chicken tightly wrapped, in the fridge.
Cook a different protein. Maybe tonight it’s shrimp or tofu. Both cook very quickly and can go with any flavor. Simmer the Thai coconut sauce in a pan for 5-10 minutes then strain. Sear the shrimp or tofu in a hot skillet, 30 seconds per side, add the coconut sauce and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. Serve over quinoa (heated in the microwave) with a squeeze of lime juice and some chopped cilantro. Add a side of steamed baby broccoli.
Shred the leftover chicken breast and heat it with the Mexican marinade to use for tacos. Serve it with chopped greens, ready-made salsa and guacamole. Make red (Mexican) rice. Sautee a little bit of minced onion for 3 minutes, add a minced garlic clove and stir 30 seconds. Add your leftover rice, a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and a splash or 2 of water and mix until the rice is heated. If you don’t care to chop onion and garlic, add 1/8 tsp each of granulated onion and garlic instead.
Vegetarian Day! Use your spaghetti squash and heat in a pan with pasta sauce, 3 tablespoons of pesto and garbanzo beans. Top with some fresh chopped basil, grated Romano cheese and walnuts.
Grill your favorite fish and serve with lemon wedges. Get some thick sliced zucchini, brush with olive oil, add a dash of salt and cook on the grill with the fish. Heat up the remaining quinoa with lemon zest and sautéed onion.
Remember just take a few minutes every week or every few days to think about how you can cook once and have enough for a couple of meals and meal planning will be a breeze!
Chef Janet is a Certified Culinarian with the American Culinary Federation and ServSafe® Certified with the National Restaurant Association. She studied culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu College. She has a master’s degree in education from UCLA, so she combines her skills as a teacher and chef to design customized lessons that include gluten-free recipes and menus. If you’d like to get more knowledge on creating gluten-free dishes that will satisfy even the fussiest eaters, visit Chef Janet’s website.