With children at home asking for snacks every few hours, and the entire family at home, it’s definitely a challenge for anyone who is involved in cooking meals for the family. I have a couple of friends who are cooking for the first time in their lives because their apartment has imposed rules that do not permit cooks to enter the premises.
Are you struggling with cooking and providing healthy meals during the lockdown? Here are a few things you could definitely do to make your life easier....
Start by sharing your frustration!
If it is possible for you to have a conversation with everyone at home and reduce the level of your work, I suggest you begin with that.
Let’s face it, everyone needs to pitch in now! It’s time to get simple and efficient. Planning ahead and keeping cooking simple can help you sail through your week. This also depends on what you have access to. If you have access to groceries, then find one day of the week to just put basics together in your kitchen. If that seems like too much effort, then just do a few things every day to get you started.
Prep and plan
Start with the basics:
1. As soon as you get local leafy greens, gently put them in a cloth bag or wrap them with soft cloth. Moisten the bag to keep it fresh. During this time, choose greens which do not involve too much of cleaning. Methi leaves will take too much of your time!
2. Soak and pressure-cook chana, rajma, lobia (black-eyed beans) and black dal. Freeze them in little boxes to keep them handy at quick notice. They can be extremely useful when you have too much to do.
3. Make sure that you have idli batter or chilla (dosa) batter at hand. Making a large batch of this batter can be very useful.
4. If you have stocked up on too much fruit, find ways to preserve them. Apples can be stewed.
5. Stew large batches of tomatoes, skin them and make a thick paste. Box them in small portions for quick use.
One pot meals
1. Focus on one pot meals. A great option which is super healthy and flavourful is a soup.
Find two or three vegetables like carrots, beans, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potatoes or pumpkins. Chop them up. Fry some onions and garlic. Sauté the vegetables, add a box of cooked chana or lobia, some tomato paste, and you have yourself a superb meal. Add ample spices and some rice noodles as well! This simple one pot soup contains everything you need in perfect balance.
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If you include two or three vegetables in different colors, then you will ensure that there are a range of phytonutrients. Carrots have beta carotene for immune support. Broccoli has compounds to improve circulation and liver detoxification. Chickpeas have ample fibre and protein to stabilise your blood sugar! I like to think of this simple soup as an immune wonder!
2. If you have free range eggs in your kitchen and if everyone loves eggs, you can quickly put together an omelet with greens and mushrooms and coriander. This is a time when methi leaves (fenugreek) can be a great addition. It adds a fantastic flavour and adds nutrients to a simple old omelette.
Think of this simple meal as a brain booster! Choline and B Vitamins in eggs are brain nutrients that improve memory and reduce mental symptoms such as anxiety. Mushrooms are low glycemic, which means they will help keep your blood sugar stable. Did you know that excess blood sugar is a major trigger for brain degeneration? Whatever you can do to maintain blood sugar stability will support brain health as well.
3. Fill little glass bottles with rolled oats, coconut milk or almond milk, stewed apples and raisins. Soak them overnight in the fridge and you have many little meals ready. I do this every single day so that there is always a substantial meal ready at hand for anyone who is hungry. This super simple meal is a gut wonder. It has ample fibre to support healthy digestion.
When you cook apples, it releases more pectin, which behaves like a glue to seal any areas of damage on the gut walls. If you suffer from any health challenges, your gut might need some love and care. This is a simple way that you can do that.
4. When you are just too tired to plan a full meal, simply make some small uthappams with onions, tomatoes and chopped coriander. Add some chutney powder on top and put them into a casserole. Whenever anyone is hungry, they can go help themselves.
5. You could also season some cooked chana (chickpeas) with mustard, green chillies, lemon juice, grated coconut, asafetida and salt to make a sundal and have it in another casserole to provide protein. Both these can be done ahead of time so that you can sit back and relax. This has everything in balance but the greatest benefit is that it doesn’t take so much active time, and therefore will have you destress and relax!
Keep it simple
Find ways to bring in one pot meals often, or ways to include simple meals that can be made ahead of time and put into a hot box.
Always remember to communicate your need for support in the kitchen as well as your limitations given the level of work. This is the time when everyone in the family should come together to make things easier for everyone!
(Edited by Asha Chowdary)
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