|A leftover roasted sweet potato from the weekend’s cake and a few other random ingredients in my fridge made this meal come together. Swap the sweet potato for squash and the spinach for greens if that’s what you have on hand. And don’t mind my crumble of bacon in the picture.|
Sometimes my friends don’t believe my weeknight Instagram posts which I usually label quick and easy. They say “25 minutes?!? For me that would take an hour!” While it’s definitely true that sometimes I invest a little more time in my meals, my 25-minute concoctions really come together that quickly for two main reasons: (1) I approach cooking with confidence and (2) I’ve learned how to layer the processes and multi-task.
Cooking with confidence is easier advised than embraced, I know, but it comes with practice. My friend said it best the other day: once you start swapping out trips to the grocery store for menu hunting on Seamless.com, you develop a taste for your food that can’t be satisfied by restaurants and delivery. Along the way you also pick up some knife skills, a keen sense for controlling the temperature of the skillet, and enough recipes under your belt that you don’t have to spend time following the exact directions on a page. Following every word of a recipe wastes time you don’t have on a weeknight and money because you should be swapping ingredients for what is left over in your fridge, what’s in season in your area, or what is on sale at the grocery store. No hesitation because you want it to be perfect – feeding yourself any healthy meal made from scratch is already perfection.
Once you have the right can-do attitude, you’ll get faster and faster in the kitchen by layering cooking processes. Recipes are usually constructed so that the ingredients which take the longest are mentioned first, but to make the instructions clearest, sometimes the processes are not layered to save you time. For example, sweet potato comes first in the recipe below because it could take about 16 minutes to roast in the microwave. While it is roasting, and before you can cut it into cubes, you can move on to clean the spinach, chop and start to cook the other vegetables. The key is to read through or think about the entire recipe before you start so you can properly plan out your steps. With other dishes you will need to cut everything up and layer it in a pot or in the oven and let it cook for a while. Dishes with that top-heavy active time give you a chance to clean the kitchen before you eat so that burden is tucked away. Soon you’ll be making 6 dishes for a holiday feast all at once – like a boss.
So that’s the big secret. Plus maybe choosing ingredients that cook quickly (you see that trick with the sweet potato) and appreciating the healthiest near-raw state for fruits and vegetables. You can pull this together in about 25 minutes and maybe sear up a protein at the same time to make a full meal. Healthy, seasonal, quick, easy, and delicious.
Seeking more healthy recipes this holiday season? Discover #HealthyHolidays organized by Renee M Simpson RD of SoulFoodTherapy.com.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sauteed Spinach
1 8 ounce sweet potato
1 bunch spinach
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 fresh scallions, sliced
Pierce sweet potato all over with a fork and microwave on each side for 8 minutes. Peel away skins (or don’t) and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Clean spinach by soaking in a large bowl of cold water, allowing the grit to soak go the bottom. Repeat until the water runs clean. Rip away any tough stems and roughly chop.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet and cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic and cook a minute longer. Stir in sweet potato and cook for about 5 minutes. Add spinach and nutmeg along with 1/4 cup of water and cover with a lid. Stir and cook until spinach is just wilted. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with scallions.