Let’s face it.

When you arrive home at 5:30 PM, after work and those must-do errands, it is likely that you won’t feel like cooking dinner from scratch. Even though your fridge holds a head of cauliflower, some broccoli, red peppers, chicken breasts, feta cheese and kalamata olives, and in your pantry, there are jars of (uncooked) lentils and grains—it is going to feel like too much work to make a scratch-cooked dinner at that moment. You are tired, hungry, and of course, there is homework/housework/partnering/parenting/exercising [pick one, or more…] to do before you plop on the couch to veg in front of the TV.

Mindful self-care includes eating well—real food, cooked from scratch. Yes, there is a place in our meal choices for pizza delivery, fast-food pickup, and even a frozen entrée, but when those food choices become our “norm,” then we are consuming more health-depleting foods than we are health-sustaining foods. Our physical and emotional well-being can become compromised with the regular choice of processed, convenience foods.

The good news is that when you gift yourself 90-Minutes of Kitchen Zen™ time, you will create the foundation foods for several cooked-from-scratch meals that will feed you well during your busy week!

90-Minutes of Kitchen Zen™ simply means that you invest 90 minutes, once a week, to prep foods that can be utilized in a multitude of delicious ways throughout your week. The 90-minutes can be done with your family, neighbors, or friends, and certainly can be done alone as well. Think of this as an investment in your health and well-being – once you’ve practiced Kitchen Zen for a few weeks, it will become second nature, and you’ll wonder why you waited so long! So put on your favorite music, pour yourself a glass of whatever, and give yourself the gift of Kitchen Zen!

Below you’ll find some how-tos.

What is most important, however, is to understand the logistics.

Imagine this modified scenario: When you arrive home at 5:30, still tired and with the knowledge that you’ve got an evening of stuff to accomplish at home, you excitedly approach the fridge. Inside is a plethora of gorgeous, already-prepped fresh foods.

You grab the roasted peppers, onion, zucchini, cooked (or canned) cannellini beans, cooked quinoa, feta, olives, and chicken breasts. Then, toss them in a casserole dish with a jar of diced tomatoes; mix in dried basil; bake that gorgeousness for 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven, and voila! While you are sipping a glass of wine, or practicing yoga, or starting on homework, you’ve also got a fresh, delicious, health-sustaining dinner that is soon ready to eat! You can mix it up by going with jack or cheddar cheese instead of feta, black olives instead of kalamata, and salsa instead of the tomatoes, to create a Mexican-flavored casserole.

The next night, all of that goodness gets thrown into a pot, with broth, and you’ve got a fabulous soup to be enjoyed with a salad and cheese bread. As well, the roasted veggies can be used in salads and sandwiches… or you can toss it all to sauté with scrambled eggs! Who says eggs are just for breakfast?!

Kitchen Zen Benefits

Engage in healthful commitment

  • Delight in creating and sustaining your vibrant health
  • Shop for and eat local foods when possible
  • Support small farms using sustainable agricultural methods
  • Know that you are contributing to the health of the planet

Cultivate a time for mindfulness

  • Express gratitude for giving yourself the time and for the good quality food you are about to enjoy
  • Experience the “Zen” of cooking
  • Experiment during one or two dinners per week

Family Time

  • Age-appropriate kitchen and food preparation jobs
  • Quality time with your sweetheart, your children, your neighbors and friends
  • share the workload!
  • Role-model your commitment to the planet and your health
  • Opportunity to discuss the environment and the impact of your decisions
  • Create a comfort level in the kitchen for the next generation
  • Explore the benefits of eating “real food” versus drive-through food

kitchen zen

How To’s

Veggies

  • Cut ahead of time, air dry them well, then store them raw in glass, Tupperware or zip lock bag
  • They can be utilized in salads, casseroles, stir-fry
  • Grilled peppers, eggplant, zucchini, onion, you-name-it: brush with (garlic infused) olive oil; place under broiler on low or onto the grill for 3-ish minutes each side. These will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks! Be sure to keep the oil drippings—the flavor is divine!
  • Roast garlic, peel, and store in the fridge for added zip to any meal!
  • Wash greens and dry well. Tear into small pieces for salad mix
  • Makeup salads ahead and store in fridge
  • Add “wet” veggies at meal time to avoid a soggy salad
  • Cucumbers, or as I like to call them, ‘cukes,’ cut tomatoes, olives, onions…
  • Pre-cut veggies are available in the produce section of some grocery stores; they are more expensive but very convenient!

Fruits

  • Cut ahead of time, squeeze a drop of fresh lemon juice on top, and seal well in glass or Tupperware.
  • Perfect for smoothies, salad with yogurt or cottage cheese, or just as a snack.

Grains

  • Two parts water to 1 part grain
  • Bring to a boil, simmer for ½ hour
  • Brown rice, millet, couscous, barley, bulgur, buckwheat (gluten-free)

Exceptions

  • Polenta requires more water, longer cook time and constant stirring!
  • Quinoa cooks in 12 minutes
  • Cook up a pot of grains each week to be used in salads, casseroles, and soups

Meat, Tempeh, & Eggs

  • Marinade ahead of time (2 – 3 days), then cook; or
  • Bake tempeh or chicken breast early in the week for a yummy addition to a dinner casserole, a lunch sandwich, or on top of a salad
  • Hard-boil a half-dozen eggs for a salad topper or snack

Beans

  • Soak overnight
  • Rinse with fresh water. Add fresh water to the pot and bring to a boil, simmer 2 – 6 hours, depending on the bean
  • Cook up a pot of beans each week to be used in salads, casseroles, and soups
  • NEWS FLASH! Beans are available in BPA-free cans, with low or no salt

Nuts

  • Roasted: no oil needed; put in a pan on medium heat, often stirring, until they pop—about 5 minutes. Store in a glass jar, in your fridge
  • Not only are roasted nuts very high in nutritional value, but also add a lovely flavor to a salad or on top of a cooked casserole

Other Tidbits

  • Choose a small-sized plate; notice how gorgeously full of food it is!
  • Six colors on your plate.
  • Serve from the kitchen, taking your plate to the dining area. All leftovers go back into the fridge!
  • Each Day: unlimited veggies, 2 – 4 servings of fruit, 4 – 6 servings of whole grains, 2 – 3 servings of protein from small farms
  • Share an entrée with a friend, when eating out
  • Add raisins or dried apricots for flavor and interesting texture, especially with sun-dried tomatoes
  • Try one new recipe every other week!
  • If you make lasagna, soup, quiche, or a casserole, make a double portion so ½ can be frozen. You’ve now created an extra dinner for later that week or month, that only requires time to thaw, before baking. Yum!
  • A great time to talk about meal prep is during the WWC Family Meeting! Get your free copy by clicking here!
I'm so excited to try 90-minutes of KitchenZen™! Thank you Robin Mallery! Click To Tweet
Robin Mallery is passionate about food! Starting from where and how it’s grown, to how far that food travels to the dinner table, to how it is prepared and savored…Robin blends shopping, cooking, and eating tips with her unique Kitchen Zen and mindful meals approach to enjoying real food. While you are waiting for her to finish the upcoming book, “Kitchen Zen: The Journey to Nourish Body and Soul in Our Changing World,” you can find Robin’s sporadic blog posts here or on Facebook.