14 November 2012

Healthy Cooking Challenge

This week marked the beginning of my Healthy Cooking Challenge. The idea is simple: Twice a week I will cook an actual dinner that is healthy. For some, this would not be a big deal, but for me, oh-sweet-mary-the-pain. Cooking a healthy dinner is a challenge for me for two reasons: 1) I don't like cooking and 2) I'm terrible at preparing to cook. I consistently forget to defrost, and I always procrastinate on grocery shopping.

I wish I could say that getting healthy was my only reason for completing this challenge, but alas, another motivation is what really got me going: Madison. Since she is starting to eat more table food - practically never eating baby food anymore - I thought learning how to cook healthy dishes would be an appropriate pursuit. I'm pretty sure putting her on mommy and daddy's typical diet is a seriously not good parenting strategy.

On a typical night, I suddenly realize that I am getting hungry around 5:30 and then I scramble around trying to figure out what to eat with nothing defrosted and no vegetables in sight. This usually ends in one of four ways: 1) Some sort of frozen meat/fish with a side dish of frozen french fries; 2) Ordering or making pizza; 3) Ordering Chinese food; or 4) Eating random crap in an attempt to get full while my husband eats whatever left-overs are in the fridge. Bad eating. Bad, bad eating.

When you combine this sort of unhealthy eating with an under-active metabolism and a serious lack of exercise, well, we all know what you get....

As such, the challenge. As with any non-cooker, one of our biggest problems is figuring out what to have, so I am down on my knees, ladies and gents, begging for healthy recipes. Email them to me, snail mail them to me, post them in the comments, heck, you can call me if you'd like (or better yet, stop by my house and show me how to cook the dish).


  1. I have a million of them, I wouldn't even know where to start. I am absolutely in love with the Cook's Illustrated Cookbook (it is huge and has a recipe for everything) and the America's Test Kitchen Crock Pot cookbook. And there is also the Internet! Crock pot could be the way to go for you. But here is the key. Sit down for an hour on Sunday and plan out what you are going to eat (allow for leftover days) and make a list of the ingredients you need. It makes it SO much easier. You can have the stuff thawed and ready.

  2. I like to take a roast, and two packets of Lipton's French Onion soup mix, and put them in the crockpot with 4 cups of water. Then you just let it cook all day. When you get it out, the meat falls off the roast, it's so tender, and you can even use tougher and less expensive meat. Then take the excess cooking liquid, and heat it while mixing in flour and water, and make a gravy. You can make instant mashed potatoes, and it takes about 15 minutes total, not including the cooking time. I start the roast at about noon.

  3. All I can say is that I'm really glad my husband cooks. I love food, I love eating, and after the way I grew up (eating the same meals every week, week after week), I'm one of those people who doesn't like to repeat meals very often.

    What's worked for us is planning the meals out every Friday, grocery shopping for all of those meals, and then sticking to it. Sometimes we even have to plan out which day we'll have which meal, particularly in the case of busy weeks with lots of evening activities going on. We used to be terrible about remembering to defrost and stuff. Now, to combat that, Jason has learned to microwave-defrost ground beef if a way that doesn't make me gag, and we buy chicken tenders (thin!) instead of breasts, so that we can just chop them up and have them defrost in whatever's cooking. I know, I know, it's bad of us, but I don't think that's something we'll ever get better at. We *do* try to look at our food the night before, so that we can get ready, but that only happens about half the time...

    As for recipes, I'll have to defer that one to Jason, though if you ever see anything I post about and want the recipe for it,I'm sure I can get it to you. :) Almost everything we make is fast and easy, because we simply don't have time for anything more.

  4. I'll see what I can round up for you. I've become much more of a diligent home cook and it has PAID OFF in a bunch of ways.

  5. About 2 years ago I couldn't make ANYTHING. I've been trying to teach myself how to cook and so far I've really started enjoying it. I had the same problem as you. We weren't being active and we were eating unhealthy foods. This is my favorite whole roast chicken recipe I've found...


    It taste great and it's super easy. I keep the ingredients on hand and at least one frozen whole chicken in the freezer so I can always make this in the crock pot if we need something.

  6. Yes, like some of the others said meal planning works wonders. If I'm feeling really organized (which sadly isn't terribly often these days because planning takes TIME), I list out the days for two weeks on one of those shopping list thingies (or any pad that will stick to your fridge). Then I start filling in the holes for what I want to cook and on which days.

    I do leave holes for leftovers and I try to alternate things that will have leftovers with things that won't have leftovers so we don't always have to eat the same thing two days in a row. Or the leftovers can go up to work. I also do not always stick to the actual days--but I find that having ideas written out in front of me and knowing that I have those ingredients in my fridge/pantry makes planning a bit easier.

    Good luck. Ding us on twitter if you ever need help or motivation!!

  7. The planning part is key...when I get it all together, everything just runs so much more smoothly during the week. Your described scenario of getting hungry around 5:30 and then scrambling around trying to figure out what's for supper sounds very familiar when I don't plan ahead. The crock-pot is a lifesaver no doubt. I'm even going to use it this Thanksgiving. I have a recipe for pork roast in the crock pot if you'd like it? Spectacular flavor brought out by Dr. Pepper and Chipotles in Adobo sauce (Pioneer Woman recipe). My entire family (5)eats this recipe like there's no tomorrow, and it will last for a couple of days at least.

  8. Your nightly ritual sounds very familiar to me so I look forward to hearing about what you decide to make!

  9. I am almost always in the same boat. I know all the phone numbers for take out food in my 'hood!
    I started seeing a nutritionist. she was very helpful and I lost 15 pounds. I would be more than willing to send you photocopies of everything she gave me including some recipes.

    1. just saw this Trish. I'm sorry, I suck for not visiting earlier. I think i have an email address for you. If you don't receive anything, drop me a line:


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