Like the rest of the world, once Monday afternoon hits I am in a constant whirlwind of movement until Friday afternoon arrives. Downtime? What downtime?! Preparing thoughtful, healthy meals?! Psssssshhhh, get out of town.
But over the summer when I was in a constant whirlwind of movement all of the time, I discovered a secret. Do the work once, just once!, and the week will go much smoother.
Case in point: this Sunday.
I usually break the 5 Things rule on Sundays because there is ample time to be productive after church so I try to make the most of it. I do things like returning all calls/texts/emails, paying bills, cleaning, and tidying up in general. Those things all set me on pace to have an effective week. There’s nothing worse than starting Monday in a mess.
But probably the most important thing that happens most Sundays is preparing food for the rest of the week. This makes healthy meal choices so much easier.
If When I’m running out the door I don’t have time to put together a huge salad with homemade dressing. I’ll grab a Luna bar and a banana and bolt to work. But by making and packaging huge salads with homemade dressing on Sunday, all I have to do is stop by the fridge on my way out the door and I’m good to go.
Those would have taken at least 10-15 minutes to prepare individually. Which, multiplied by 4, means I’d be working for an hour as opposed to 15 minutes. Not to mention I only cleaned one mess instead of four. Not to mention that during the week I wouldn’t have had time to clean up any of the messes in the first place which is why when I don’t do this on Sundays, my kitchen looks like it needs emergency relief from the Red Cross on Fridays.
Yesterday I spent about 2 and 1/2 hours in the kitchen, start to finish. It wouldn’t have taken quite as long if I wasn’t simultaneously watching the Ravens/Texans game, but hey, at least I had good entertainment. Here’s what I made in that time span:
1. Olive Oil Granola
Alterations: I only made 1/3 of the recipe, substituted apricots for figs and cherries for craisins, and added large flake coconut. Result: AMAZING. I think next time I’ll tone down the oil and agave just because it was a little too heavy for me, but all in all I’m totally enamored by this recipe. If you’ve never made your own granola I’m throwing down the gauntlet: you HAVE to try it! Seriously, it’s so much better than pre-packaged, so (SO) much cheaper, and infinitely healthier (in most cases). Plus, you get to pick all of the ingredients. Win-win-win-win! It’s like we’re living in a dream world!
2. Mixed Berry Lemon Oat Bars (Not Meatloaf…Which is Kind Of What This Looks Like…)
Alterations: I pressed the date mixture into the bottom of an 8×8 pan, then folded it into itself in thirds to create a rectangle, therefore making bars instead of squares (to-may-to, to-mah-to). I’ve done the strawberry topping (as suggested in the linked recipe) before and loved it, but since I already had a bag of Wegmans Frozen Mixed Berries in the freezer I decided to get a little crazy and make a simple compote:
Mixed Berry Lemon Compote:
Simmer until reduced by half. Cool, then spoon on top of bars.
Making your own compote is so gratifying. In addition to being healthier than most jams, it makes you feel like you’ve totally conquered the “I’m An Amateur Cook And I Usually Have No Idea What I’m Doing But Hey This Is GOOD!” world.
Then, to store, I just cut the parchment paper into lines where the bars were laying and folded the long ends over the compote to prevent sticking. I popped them into a container and stuck them in the fridge for a sweet accompaniment to these guys…
3. Avocado Wedge Salads
I decided I was making these salads while perusing the produce section and finding heirloom tomatoes and 3 for $5 avocados! Thanks, Wegmans! Here’s what’s in the mix:
Avocado Wedge Salads:
- 1 (generous) Cup Wegmans Organic Mixed Field Greens (in bulk)
- 1/4 Heirloom Tomato
- 1/4 Avocado
- 2 Tablespoons Grain Salad Dressing (Cooked Wheatberries, Corn, Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Lemon Juice – quantities to taste)
- 1 Tablespoon Hummus (I used Sabra’s Roasted Pine Nut)
4. This Week’s Dinner Challenge…here’s a sneak preview!
So in 2 and 1/2 hours I made 4 dinners, 4 lunches, 6 snacks, and enough granola to last me for at least a few weeks if not a month. I now know that I’m going to be eating well all week long. It just makes me happier on Monday morning and all throughout the week.
(Another proactive kitchen task that makes me happy on ANY morning: setting the coffee delay and my alarm for the same time. Smelling the coffee brewing keeps me from hitting snooze 18 times. I know it’s better to grind and brew instantly, but this method gets me out of bed in the morning, and really, that makes up for any flavor disadvantage.)
Like the idea of weekend kitchen productivity? Have some tricks up your sleeve that help maximize weekday meal efficiency? Please do share!