Do you ever feel stuck when it comes to eating fresh produce? Sometimes, when I stare into my well-stocked refrigerator in search of a quick bite, no matter the amount of produce that seems to overflow from the shelves, I feel as if they aren’t a practical option for a fast lunch, an impromptu dinner, or a simple snack.
This past weekend I spent some time at The Big Summer Potluck, enjoying the weather in Murrieta, California and a picturesque organic avocado grove. During our Whole Foods’ catered lunch, they introduced this concept of a beans, greens, and grains bowl. A rainbow of produce was set out, red bell peppers, all shades of green from the pale green hue of a diced cucumber to the deep emerald green of sautéed collard greens and chard. Golden beets, tri-color quinoa, jet black beans, and sauces in a variety of shades were all available for consumption.
I found myself anticipating a meal composed of nothing but fresh ingredients, inspired by the food set out before me, and eager to dig in. It struck me, as it has often in the past, that sometimes what has me stopping short at eating healthy all meals and snacks of the day is not that I don’t crave fresh produce or enjoy eating it, but that I rationalize poor choices with a lack of time or the immediacy with which I need food to be available.
Like it or not, there are times that seem to force our hand to those aptly named convenience foods, making them look like reasonable options, perfectly packaged for just this occasion. Here are a few ways to help you see fresh produce and slow food as a legitimate option for those days that require a grab-and-go meal.
1.Keep it simple.
Produce often necessitates cooking. Rather than feel limited by time to wash and steam or blanch or sauté, stock your refrigerator with ingredients that can be eaten raw. Bell peppers, cucumbers, lettuces, tomatoes, carrots, avocados, and sprouts are all good options for things to have on hand. They aren’t the fanciest of vegetables, and they may not inspire a sautéed brussels sprouts and blue cheese dish, but they require little prep from fridge to table.
2. Prep is positive.
Part of my reluctance to reach for a full bell pepper for lunch is simply that getting a knife and cutting board out for multiple vegetables can seem like a production for a simple snack. Rather than halt your healthy eating, simply have a few containers of cut produce at the ready. Spend 10 minutes as you unload your groceries and create a few containers of chopped and diced vegetables that can be added to a salad or bowl without any forethought.
3. Canned beans are your friend.
While I find the process of soaking and cooking beans a bit therapeutic, it definitely falls under the “slow food” category and not “quick and easy.” Having a readily available protein for lunch can be as simple as opening a can. Stock your cupboard with a variety of BPA-free canned beans that can be used for just that purpose, and spend your soaking time for more well-planned meals.
4. Splash it with sauce.
Sauce is essential to a varied and interesting bowl of fresh. Stock your pantry with rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sriracha, and tabasco that will easily add flavor and character to your meal. Finish it up with fresh citrus juice and a splash of oil or a spoonful of your favorite salsa.
5.Don’t forget the finish.
Adding a bit of indulgence to a bowl of produce can make it stick with you and satiate your stomach for a longer period of time. A few sunflower seeds or nuts, a sprinkle of rich cheese or a spoonful of bacon bits can help take the bowl from blah to brilliant.
What are your favorite grab-and-go items to keep on hand?
|Shaina Olmanson is the freelance writer, photographer, and home cook behind Food for My Family. Cooking daily with and for her four kids and husband, Ole, drives her desire to inspire other families to do the same. Shaina is also the author of Desserts in Jars and contributes regularly to a variety of online sites and traditional print magazines.