The combination of "quick and easy healthy recipes" excludes many foods. It also produces a new constellation of food and life-style when all are combined.
Easy foods to prepare require little preparation and simplicity during the cooking process. The demands on our attention such as the number of ingredients and different dishes and cooking processes occuring simultaneously or in sequence make it more difficult. The time pressure when dishes are perfect only at a certain point is also a factor which makes a dish more difficult. Foods which cook very slowly, and are therefore at perfection for a longer period, can be easier to cook, especially if they are largely left alone once in the pot.
What is ‘quick’ really ? Stephan has set some benchmarks. Under 15 minutes in total, on the day, during meal preparation is very quick and under 30 is moderately quick.
To be quick we need to cut down on both preparation and cooking time. Foods which cook more quickly are often thin, small or soft, like cous-cous, pasta and schnitzel, egg , leaf vegetables, shrimps and peas. Potatoes, rice and lentils are only moderately quick, taking 20-30 minutes. Foods with a large volume, like a big slow cooked casserole or hotpot, and massive foods like Gammon (pork leg) can take hours to cook
A lot of actions take more time, such as actions in series in the preparation of fine Indian curries, or a lot of ingredients which need to be added, as in the preparation of Ethiopian spiced butter, can also slow the process down.
Food which has other people’s time invested in the preparation like takeaways and pre prepared food like dried pasta, beans, bread and pickles is quicker on the day, but often less healthy.
Always include your own pre-cooking preparation in your estimates of time needed. Washing and chopping vegetables can be time consuming. Some vegetables which need a lot of washing like leeks, are slower. So salad isn’t really that quick, but it is so enormously healthy that we can compromise a little.
Always seek for diversity in your food intake. For a balanced meal with all the different food categories on the day, and for frequent variation with the seasons in the detail of the foods which fill these slots. For individual food choices to be healthy a general do-it-yourself and natural as possible ethos is applicable. Choose the form least damaged by processing, with the least additives involved in its preparation and preservation, grown most naturally, the age old way with the least agriculturual poisons. Eliminate or reduce the foods like sugar, salt and refined heated oils that were least likely to have occurred in large quantities thousands of years ago, and choose the food closest to the natural form in which it grows. Do as much as possible yourself to ensure quality of ingredients and freshness. This will generally give you healthy food. Apply these rules for ‘healthy’ to the ‘quick and easy’ requirement and it gets complicated.
With no preparation, cooking time and no trading complexity we would be limited to raw food like an apple we grew ourselves. Add cooking and we have a boiled vegetable, egg or steak (if we keep animals). From this point on, and to make it more delicious, diverse, Quick and easy healthy recipes require some time, more ingredients and reliance on other people to produce it.
healthy, quick and preparation juggling
To make meals more varied and delicious we need more time, but to keep them quick on the day we need to working intelligently with the preparation time. This means we have to resort to pre-prepared food or parallel preparation. Food pre-prepared by others is easier than doing it all yourself. A classic is the sandwich. We use bread, pickles and ham. If the time were to include the preparation of these it would encompass many months. Not quick and easy at all if you do it yourself and thus ensure that your prepartion methods are healthy. Or is it ?
You can get pre-preparation to not take up extra time by doubling up or working ‘in parallel’ with other things you have to do anyway. Months before you make the sandwich you can invite your friends round for a social evening of olive preparation. The time spent on pickling is then shortened due to shared labour, as well as negated by the fact that you were having a wonderful time chatting and laughing, which you have to do anyway, for your health, and you expanded your good food culture in the process, and did things the old way, keeping intelligent traditions alive, thus doing a bunch of good things at once.
You will not be able to pre-prepare everything and always find time for making pasta, or harvesting rice, so someone else’s work will do there. You may not have the inclination to make cheese or ham or pickles. The supermarket bought ones are usually pasteurized and contain no beneficial microorganisms for your gut, so to provide those, you can source organic producers who do not pasteurize. You may not have time to grow your own vegetables, but then you may have the cash to pay for organically grown ones. However buying cleaned and chopped up vegetables like baby carrots, prepared by other people in a factory and possibly frozen there means that your food has been oxidizing for ages, and will be lower in nutrients than if you chop it yourself. I make the exception for green peas as they are a lot of work per cupfull, and not chopped. It is healthy to use such prepared food if you balance it with real freshness, raw ingredients you have grown yourself for example, to ensure you get plenty of vitamins.
Another solution to quick food is not pre preparation but parallel preparation on the day. Think of a chef running around the kitchen tossing this, burning that, stirring something else, sweating profusely and generally, I’m afraid, shouting a lot. This type of quick is less possible to integrate with ‘easy’ unless you love the challenge of multitasking in the kitchen. It can be made a little less hectic if all the things doing at the same time can be left alone until they are cooked, or require less attention. Pasta and a simple sauce work well together in this way in terms of ergonomics.
Overlapping with laziness
Quick and easy healthy recipes fortunately overlap in the ‘raw. Eat raw food with each meal if possible, but not all raw food, it can strip your stomach lining temporarily and lead to ‘hurry’ and nutrient loss. To be healthy and quick, be lazy, wash but don't peel and core your fruit. Don't peel your tomatoes and potatoes either unless you are really old and weak with diverticulitis. Be lazy and wash but do not grate your carrot. Making a food into smaller pieces increases its surface area, and exposure to oxygen leads to loss of nutrients like vitamins through oxidation, as happnes in cooking. Instead of all the chopping involved in a ‘salad’ place some ungrated vegetables, fruit and pickles on a plate and dip them into the salad dressing as you eat. If the salad dressing is thin it will also mean you eat less of it, a double benefit.
Use Balance for quick and easy healthy recipes
Remember balancing in all of this. The added benefit of the side-dish of raw vegetables with our cooked food is that we are eating a more balanced meal. Balance raw and cooked, fast cooked and slow cooked. Think of slow cooking as time consuming but not energy consuming. Some slow cooked meals are very simple to make on low heat. Balance in terms of preparation time too. Add some aged foods like cheese and pickles to the fresh ones and you ensure gut health. Some reheated starch leftovers, or roughage in vegetables and oats act as cholesterol mops, cleaning up and absorbing lipids and cleansing your colon. Reheated food also saves time.
Quick and easy healthy recipes overlap in the eating of vegetables which are usually boiled, steamed or baked, without the dangerous fats. Periods of vegetarianism are healthy because real hunter gatherers went through long periods without meat. Pastoralists animals were precious and only slaughtered occasionally. Farmers produced more vegetable foods per acre than animal foods which were then as now heavy on water, land, labour, carbon dioxide and all of those environmental factors that also made them more valuable and eaten less often, or not eaten at all by the poor. Most of, I'm sure more than 99% of our ancestors long ago were poor. Due to the enormous increase in standards of living in the world, this is a logical fact. Let’s face it whether caveman, hunter, farmer or pastoralist, we have evolved to eat a poor man’s diet, and that is mostly vegetarian. The rich were the first to have access to refined foods and an excess of meat and they still kill us slowly. Occasional periods of fasting have been found to lengthen life by slowing the metabolism.
Spread vegetable diet over a diverse set of plant parts. Roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits all contain different concentrations of nutrients. The same applies to colour. Mix green, red, yellow, brown and black on your plate. High coloured vegetables contain antioxidants.
Caution with dry foods
Avoid dry powders, nuts, beans and seeds that have gone ‘off’. They can contain cancer causing fungal toxins.
Healthy food integrated with a healthy life
Take your healthy lifestyle beyond diet, but keep integrated with it and working in ‘parallel’ doing many good things at once with everything you do. This ‘makes’ you time. Growing your own food gives you healthier food, exercise and bliss. Think about the time you saved on gym rather than the time the vegetable garden ‘cost’ you. Pick fruit, harvest and winnow grains, do labour intensive baking and
preserving and share meals with your friends. Even trees have friends and need relationships. Ditch all but the most important electrical devices in your kitchen and hammer, kneed, chop and whip till you perspire gently. You may even save time, as these devices are often heavy on cleaning. Enjoy your craft in the kitchen and garden, and don’t worry about insect pests and dying plants or a failed batch of lacto-fermented cucumber. The failure rate is high in nature, its all part of the territory.
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