I had a slow cooker growing up in the 1960’s. She was called Mom. Instead of a machine to do the cooking, there was Mom, a machine all in her own right. She could crank out meals with the best of them and most of all she did it slowly with a labor of love in every stir. She enjoyed all the little nuances of putting a meal on the table and even after a long tough day at the office ( my Mom was about the only one who did work on our block), she made the time to arrange the parsley garnish just so because to her, it all made a difference.

Because of all her efforts while being a busy career woman, I chose to make food my profession. Her passion for always presenting a meal in its best light stirred my creativity and desire to feed the mass public. But as busy as my mother was between working and raising a family, life today is on turbo speed, so much more so than mid-last century.

Today my own teachings include a few shortcuts designed not to cut corners on the quality of meal, but to meet the realistic demands of the hectic lives of my clients today. For instance, it’s not a shame to relinquish chopping vegetables in favor of picking up a few pre-chopped vegetables from the salad bar ( in my mother’s time there weren’t such things). I have no objection to prewashed bagged greens. Heat and serve brown rice is sitting in my pantry right now. Knowing there is a need to getting a nutritious meal on the table swiftly these days but without relying on totally pre-prepared food, I was curious what my creative colleagues offer as advice to their own clients.

Karen Buch, RDN, LDN

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Karen Buch of Nutrition Connections, is all about organization.

Schedule a consistent time each week to plan weekly meals and grocery shopping. Keep favorite recipe books, grocery store sales flyers, markers, notepad, coupons and other supplies together in one labeled organizer bin.

Make a weekly meal planner (electronic or hard copy) that includes recipe ideas and shopping list of ingredients. Keep these plans stored in your phone, on your computer or in a binder for future use. You may decide to repeat a favorite meal on your menu rotation. I like to jot down my family’s reactions to the meal and any suggested ideas for recipe modifications or substitutions to try next time.

I often use a specific recipe for my main dish and then note specific side dishes that will round out the meal. For example, each time I make stuffed shells, I also serve a tossed salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Whenever I make spicy turkey burritos, I add fresh mango salsa and steamed carrots. I love to pair fresh caprese salad with steamed or grilled asparagus. I’m always thinking about the meal as a whole rather than its individual parts to make sure I’ve included at least one serving of fruit and vegetable in a meal.

Roxana Begum, PhD, RD, LDN

Roxana blogs at The Delicious Crescent.com . Roxana believes in advance planning.or grocery shopping, I write down as and when I think of things that I need, on my phone notepad. And I think that most people these days tend to have their phone pretty handy. So, I enter the items in my list by the aisle/department in my notepad, such as dairy, produce, baking, cleaning supplies, frozen section etc. When I go shopping. I quickly grab my things in an organized manner. I don’t have to go back to the previous aisle or department.

I use a lot of herbs in my cooking. When I say lot, I mean like 6 to 8 kinds of fresh herbs plus other greens and in large quantities. For many recipes I would need like 6 cups or more of fresh herbs. It is not always possible to have them handy and fresh in the refrigerator. And preparing them just before cooking can be a hassle. So, I buy them in bulk. I pick a time when I am free, clean all of them quickly, rinse, put them through my salad spinner, chop and freeze in large freezer ziploc bags. While many people may not use large quantities as I do, it may still be useful to have herbs that have been frozen when fresh. They can be handy to enhance the nutrition and flavor of most cooked dishes. I find them easily in big bunches and pretty inexpensive in several Indian, Asian and other international stores, as they buy in bulk from farmers markets.

I make a lot of soups, so I keep some lamb/beef bones in the freezer. These I use to make my flavorful concentrated broth and freeze them as large size ice cubes in my silicon ice cube tray. When frozen, I slip the cubes out and put them in large freezer safe ziploc bags ready to make “from scratch” tasty soups anytime.

When I make a whole chicken roast in the oven, I collect the juices that drain out during the roasting process and freeze them as ice cubes too. Those juices are pretty concentrated and full of flavor.

Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE

Vandana sheth

Spokesperson for The Academy Of Nutritionand Dietetics. She has a 7 point plan!

1) Buy frozen veggies to use in place of fresh for a quick side dish – reduces prep time and more cost-effective
2) Buy food from bulk bins (beans, grains, nuts, etc) when able as you can get exactly the amount you want and it will be more cost-effective
3) Take inventory of your fridge, freezer, pantry before you go shopping
4) Nutritious and delicious meals do not have to be complicated
5) Cook once, eat twice. Try to make double batches and freeze one batch for a future meal
6) Plan your weekly menu to stay organized
7) Try to shop and prep over the weekend so weekday meals are easy to plan

 

Layne Lieberman, MS, RD, CDN

Award-winning culinary nutritionist and author of Beyond The Mediterranean Diet:European Secrets Of The Super-Healthy. Her advice is all about simplicity and embracing the seasons as a way to create the easiest of meals.

Cooking is about the season, so for summer, keep it light and bright!

FLayne-Liebermanirst and foremost, keep healthy basics on hand like baby spinach, cut up carrots, precooked beets, tomatoes, tofu, eggs, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, sourdough wholegrain bread, seasonal fruit and any other ready-to-eat favorites like yogurt, hummus and fresh cheese. With these ingredients it’s easy to put a meal together in minutes!

A fresh lemon in the fridge brightens up dishes and organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the pantry come in handy.

Now just add on seasonal and local favorites — whether it’s seafood from the coast, berries from the farm or zucchini from the garden!

Whether roasting, baking or steaming — keep it simple with a few fresh herbs and spices. When you use quality ingredients there’s no need to doctor-up any dish.

Hannah Russell, RD believes in “work horses” for your meal planning.

Prep “multi-taskers” before the start of your work week. A healthy stir fry seems less intimidating when you have brown rice ready to go in the fridge! This same rice could be use in other dishes throughout the week.

Have a ready to grab snacks section in your fridge. I love to prep fruits and veggies, put them in snack size zip top bags, and store them in a very visible part of the fridge. This makes it always easy to grab something healthy on my way out the door.

Christy Wilson, RDN

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Christy Wilson Consulting, has a savior in the form of a slow cooker- the modern version of my mother’s labors.

My slow cooker is one of my favorite time savers of all. The night before, I put the chicken or beef in the refrigerator to defrost and cut up all of my vegetables. In the morning, I toss everything into the slow cooker, season it, add some broth to it, then set it and forget it for about 8 to 10 hours. When I get home from work, my house smells great and dinner is ready in a flash! The bonus here is that I oftentimes have leftovers, which saves time for another meal the following day.