We've all had those nights where we can't even fathom spending 15 minutes on dinner, much less 30. But how about 5 minutes?
A whole foods, healthy, customizable dinner that takes 5 minutes or less? How is that even possible?!
Enter my good friend Sara Bradford. Sara is a good friend of mine who is a fellow holistic nutritionist who's a wizard in the kitchen, but still has one food in the real world (you know, the one where you need a good cocktail and dinner to come from a can at the end of a trying day).
Read on for Sara's no-BS take on how to get dinner on the table while keeping your sanity, hormones, stress and energy levels intact.
We mamas KNOW that creating healthy (or any) food, while raising small children, and potentially having one (or two) hanging off your breast while doing it, is QUITE a challenge.
Yeah, kitchen prep is TRICKY. Tricky, as in IMPOSSIBLE. Or at least it feels that way sometimes. So I get why suddenly our time in the kitchen reduces to nothing, and we begin to actually eat like sh-t.
But guess what?!?! It’s also not okay. If you are undernourished, then your brain is undernourished, your stress levels increase, your energy levels decrease. And soon it’ll begin to feel normal. How does anyone win when you feel wiped out?
Mama, it is essential you take care of you — for everybody’s sake.
So the idea of creating meals and being in the kitchen feels overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Start by looking at ways to simply EVERYTHING.
- Create a Master List (roster of foods you love that are nourishing, quick and easy to throw together — or can be made in batches)
- Embrace eating meals with fewer ingredients
- Use a slow cooker and/or food processor
- Begin to Meal Plan — or think ahead (the less trips to the grocery store the better)
- Create big batches — double or triple things you can freeze (or just make a big container of granola)
- Keep pantry stocked
Each week I make sure I have the staples I need to create fast meals. Eggs, ingredients for overnight oats, greens, fruit, ingredients for super fast tacos. I always have sausages or chicken marinating. And I make sure my vegetables are on hand and possibly even prepped ahead.
Then when I happen to get some extra time I create batches of things for the freezer or roast an entire chicken for smaller meals all week.
My meal planning has simplified so much over this past year, I barely have to even think about it. Time in the kitchen is still required but I don’t feel it daunting anymore. It takes practice to see what will work for you. But it’s entirely worth it.
Finding recipes that are TASTY, use few ingredients, and take less time to prepare are always the way to go. And that’s where this recipe comes in.
I love this salad. Because it’s everything you need: Simple, easy, fast, tasty, inexpensive, satisfying, healthy.
TUNA FAGIOLI (Bean Salad)
This salad takes about as long as it takes to open up two cans, plus 5 minutes.
I’ve included substitutions to show you how incredibly versatile this is. Consider it a base for your imagination (or what happens to be in your fridge).
- 1 can solid albacore tuna, drained
- 1 can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained, rinsed
- 1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 stalk celery, very thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 Tbsp raw cider vinegar
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- handful Italian parsley, chopped
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- Combine all the ingredients, except cherry tomatoes. This can sit in the fridge for a few days, letting flavours meld, and giving you a chance to dig in when it’s most convenient.
- When you’re ready to eat it, toss in the cherry tomatoes. Fix seasoning, if necessary. Be prepared to eat the entire bowl in one sitting. It’s that good.
SUBSTITUTIONS / OTHER OPTIONS
For canned tuna: fresh tuna, leftover roasted chicken, hunks of smoked trout or salmon, leftover fish, smoked mackerel, proscuitto, hard-boiled egg, cubed cheese or goats cheese
For white kidney beans: lentils, chickpeas, butter beans
For cider vinegar: red wine vinegar, more lemon juice, sherry vinegar
For parsley: chives, any other fresh herb
Additional vegetables: roasted or fresh bell pepper, roasted beets, thinly sliced fennel, peas, sugar snap peas, shredded spinach, asparagus
And that’s how you need to start looking at food. What can I create that is nutritious but takes minutes to throw together? What can I prep ahead of time that will provide many meals over time?
Some of the foods we are creating on the New Mama Dump are EXACTLY in this category:
- Buckwheat Quinoa Granola (lasts at least 8 breakfasts or snacks)
- Simple Roasted Chicken (provides many meals over the week, including a simple, Slow Cooker Bone Broth
- Overnight Oats (can be made up in bigger batches and kept in the fridge for days)
- Eggs are the fastest meal, or snack, ever (hard-boiled included)
- Smoothie Freezer Bags (nothing better than tossing this in a blender for an instant meal IF the weather is appropriate and enough fat is tossed in there)
- Bean or Ground Meat Patties (take minutes to prepare, and can be frozen individually for a quick grab)
- Hearty Stews (the easy ones take no time, can be made up in the slow cooker, and provide MANY meals for your fridge over the week, or the freezer for future)
- Famous Almond Sauce (Ashely will confirm this is like crack, and can be a dip for veggies or rolls, a sauce for stir-fry or noodles, a drizzle for a baked sweet potato or a wrap.)
You can find those recipes, AND WAY MORE, on the upcoming New Mama Community Dump.
I created the New Mama Dump for one reason. My crazy-popular Seasonal Community Dumps needed to be turned into something special for moms who are nursing or have smaller kids. (I guess it’s a food cleanse, but it’s really so much more than that.)
We also dive into other SUPER important stuff. Like that self-care piece everyone whispers about when their kids are small, but never take action on. Or movement that is doable, healthy AND fun. Or community — something moms tend to lack in the isolation of their own homes.
The fact is…it doesn’t have to be crazy-town in the kitchen — or elsewhere. It only has to be sensible. And you won’t regret (for a second) putting yourself first sometimes.
Sara Bradford is as passionate about her cocktails and duck fat as she is about green smoothies. And thinks real, whole, awesome food should taste delicious no matter what. As a culinary nutritionist, she tackles the world of cleansing from a pain-free, realistic (delicious) perspective — all the while knowing the most toxic ingredient is guilt.
Her company, Nourish ~ Real Food, allows her to wade through the nutrition B.S. by providing hilarious wisdom and delicious recipes. She lives in Stratford, Ontario, with her two kids and her ridiculously extensive collection of Le Creuset cookware.