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HOW TO EAT LIKE A CHEF


This theme runs through our entire business model and shows up in a number of places and I wanted to try and bring it all together in this post for y’all! My hope is that by describing how we eat, it’ll help you be able to eat (and cook) easier, more varied, and tastier food each and every day! Now it may come as no surprise that my wife and I cook almost every one of our meals, in fact, we only get a form of taking out 1-2 times a month! And like most people, we are super busy with my wife working 3 jobs (full-time job, consulting on a dissertation, plus 10-20 hrs/wk to become a Licensed Social Worker) and I run a small business that consumes somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-80++ hours a week, every week. So the need for quick food that stays interesting and healthy is paramount to us. And it doesn’t take a ton of my “chef skills” to make it happen or rely on packaged/processed ingredients; only a little forethought, and looking at food like a chef to make cooking healthy delicious food each and every day. Let me elaborate by meal times…


Most Important Meal of the Day

Everyone is typically their most rushed in the mornings, and we are no exception. So we looked at the specific things we needed out of breakfast options and then came up with a few plans to fit all our needs while keeping it interesting.


Fast (under 3-5 minutes), healthy (want to stay alive), hearty (I work with my body and my wife works out almost every day), and tasty (obviously).


We came up with Smoothies, Oatmeal, Yogurt Situations, and Quick Egg Sandwiches that would fit our world and take the thinking out of the equation each morning. Here is where the Healthy Start Breakfast Blend came from because we could make it in a big batch (2-3 months worth at a time), was filled with protein (for staying energy) and not that much fat/sugar (healthy). We realized that we could put that in smoothies (with banana, almond milk and spinach (for extra veggies/vitamins)) and have breakfast in 1-2 minutes. Or we could treat it as Oatmeal (for a hot breakfast) with fruit (apples, clementines, bananas, etc) to vary it up for a little different approach and still only spend 3-5 minutes making it. Or we could keep it cold and put it on top of yogurt with fruit and a little honey to give us another option that is great in the warmer weather and ready in 2-3 minutes!


Then there is eggs, one of our favorites! When we need a break from those options, we often will make a quick egg sandwich. There are a few things that we do to keep it just as quick as our standard breakfast options. First, keep a clean kitchen that is ready to cook. Next, I’ll turn on the pan and toaster before anything else. While they are heating up, get out the bread, eggs, and any toppings that you like on your sandwiches. Toss the bread in the toaster that is already warm, and by this time the pan is heated and ready to add butter and crack a few eggs into. Then make a few slices of onion, flip and season the eggs, and pull the toasted bread out. Eggs on bread, onions, ketchup, hot sauce, cheese and top piece of bread to make a quick egg sandwich in under 5 minutes. Or if not eating bread, grab a few clementines and a banana (or microwave half a cooked sweet potato- great with almond butter or hot sauce) to round out your egg breakfast without gluten.


Between these options, we have enough variety to keep us happy and fed each and every morning to give us what we need to tackle our biggest days!



Lunch on the Fly

Lunch is often one of the biggest issues now that we are all working even more, mostly at home, or have even less time than before the pandemic. We certainly are no exception here! This is actually where the whole Soup thing came from. Needing a healthy nourishing meal with 1-2 minutes of active time was where soup came from. For us, we just pull it out of the freezer, run it under hot water for a few seconds, put it in a pot with a little water, turn it on and get back to the computer while it heats up. I’ll bring my computer into the kitchen to stir it occasionally until it’s hot and put it in a bowl then keep working while we eat soup at our desks.


SALAD BOWLS

don’t forget to rotate the sauces to keep the flavors interesting!


We both work from home (when I’m not cooking) and that is our go to lunch when our days are at their busiest.

When we have a little time (5+ minutes to cook), we’ll make a quick salad with a little protein we have cooked (usually from dinner the night before). Or if no extra protein, we sear off a little chicken/pork to put on top with nuts, pickled/fresh veggies, or a little cheese that we build while we are searing the protein. Switching up the spices/herbs/vinegar in a vinaigrette keeps the flavor profile rotating or using some of the spreads (romesco, balsamic onion jam, blue cheese, ranch, etc) as a dressing keeps the flavor profiles from getting stuck in a rut.

Or make a quick sandwich of leftover protein/deli meat, leftover cooked veggies, spinach, cheese, and either mustard or a sauce/spread from my biz to keep it interesting and varied. Or if we’re not feeling any of the above, we’ll make some carrot/celery/cucumber sticks and put that with a spread (hummus, RRP feta, baba ghanouj, etc.) and maybe some nuts to make a mezze platter little lunch.


If all these options aren’t enticing us, a “one pan special” where I just toss whatever veggies and/or meat I have in a saute pan to get them cooked and add a little crushed red pepper or curry powder and eat them as is or over cooked sweet potatoes/potatoes/rice leftover from the night before. Maybe adding a sauce in here (or on top) depending on what’s hanging out in the fridge. Again, quick, easy, healthy, variable and tasty are the necessities that we are able to hit with this lineup.


What’s for Dinner?

As with a lot of us, weeknight dinners can be a struggle after very long days. Keep it simple! Our usual dinner conversation goes along this line- What Cuisine? What Protein? What Veggies? Sauce? What’s the form/how are we gonna cook all this (roast, saute, boil, braise)? Anything we’re missing or need to do ahead of time? And this can happen in the morning with coffee, the night before, at lunch, or even right before it’s time to start cooking! The earlier the better, but the more comfortable you get with this type of cooking, the easier it becomes!


Some of our favorite go-to dinners are Tacos/Enchiladas/Quesadillas/Nachos/Taco Bowls where we start rice (in a rice cooker) then just spice up a few veggies and proteins (cooked or raw) with latin spices (cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, etc.) and either put in tortillas, on Tortilla Chips, or add tomato juice to the pan and wrap in tortillas and bake topped with cheese and the residual sauce for enchiladas. Latin cuisines are fantastic at repurposing similar ingredients in different ways to keep it interesting and quick! Then just top with a few fresh herbs, sliced veggies and a squeeze of lime to make dinner easy, variable and delicious! Learning from these cuisines is a fantastic way to make your food easy and tasty while learning a little about other cultures!


Or if we are feeling Asian Inspired food, we do stir fried rice, again start rice (if none leftover), then veggies and protein in a pan, rice and a quick sauce of soy, sesame, chili crisp, rice vinegar, a little chili oil and maybe some herbs if we have them. Top with nuts and you have a 30 minute dinner in a bowl. Or a noodle soup (boil noodles), heat up some stock in the freezer (we have a Roasted Beef Stock on our weekly menu!) and toss in a little ginger, onion, garlic, star anise and finish with a little soy, sesame, and chili oil/fresh chilis and toss in whatever veggies and/or protein. Finish with a few herbs if you have them and call it dinner! Or we’ll go with fish sauce and maybe some coconut milk and make it a bit of a Pacific Island inspired soup. Again around 30 minutes and dinner is served!


Sheet Pan dinners are another favorite of ours where we just cut up 2-3 veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes (5-10 mins) and just roast with a protein of choice (usually chicken (legs/whole) or pork roast). By starting with turning the oven on and working with the longest cooking items first, you can get everything in or ready to go in the oven in 10-15 minutes and then just put things in when it’s their time. Usually it goes, protein first, wait about 10-15 minutes then put in potatoes (unless doing whole potatoes. If doing them whole, put those in first), give it another 10-15 minutes, then put in the veggies and in another 10-20 minutes everything is done or close to being done at the same time. And the great thing about these dinners is that if the timing is off, just pull things out when they’re done and you can put it back in for a minute or two, to reheat, when all is finished cooking. And presto, you have everything done and hot at the same time. Put a sauce with these dinners and dinner is done with about 10-15 minutes of active time! We do this when we need to catch up on housework or just chill in between checking things in the oven.


This is a great way to meal prep for the next day too because you can easily do more than you need for the evening and have lunch ready for the next day as well. We’ll often cook more than we need and thus saving us time for future meals! The oven is one of the best ways to cook a lot of food at one time! And when you get your timing down on the things you like to roast most often, you can put things together on the same tray so their flavors mingle together (and save dishes)! We often will start chicken, then toss the potatoes on the tray, give it 10-15 mins, then toss in the veggies and in another 10-15 dinner is done and all on one sheet tray! And if the chicken finishes early, we’ll just pull it off the tray and finish the veggies while it rests.


Another go to dinner for us using the oven is Spaghetti Squash. Just split it in half and scoop the seeds before roasting is face down with a garlic clove or two underneath. This takes about 5 minutes to toss in the oven and 30-45 minutes later it’s ready to scoop out and top with whatever pasta sauce and protein you have on hand. This is a great way to turn any left over protein into a super quick and easy dinner.


Last but not least of our oven dinner all stars is the Braised Pork Shoulder or Beef Pot Roast. This one is perfect for working from home and for bulk prepping protein. When having coffee in the morning, I’ll put the oven on 275 F and begin searing the cut of Pork or Beef in a large saute or cast iron pan. While it’s searing, I’ll pull out 2 qts of stock and get them heated in a pot then cut up a couple of onions and smash a few cloves of garlic. When the meat is seared nicely on all sides, I’ll put it in a dutch oven and saute the onions and garlic (in the residual fat rendered from the meat) until they have a little color and toss them in the dutch oven. If I’m feeling a french inspired braise, I’ll add a little wine or balsamic vinegar in the pan to deglaze before adding that to the dutch oven. Or soy and ginger if feeling asian inspired. Then taste and season the stock and put that in the dutch oven to almost cover the meat. Put this in the oven and cook for 5-7 hours, checking it every hour or so (after the initial 3-4 hours) until it’s fork tender. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get in the oven and you have cooked delicious protein for 2-8 meals! Then near dinner time, just roast a few potatoes and some veggies and use the braising liquid as the sauce and you have a pretty darn easy dinner and the bases of many more meals!


Nuts and Bolts

There are a few things that we try to always make sure we have ready or on hand to keep this way of eating super easy and variable based on what we feel.


  • Keeping our fridge stocked with basic proteins and veggies each week as well as dry staples like rice, pasta, spices, and condiments.

  • Keep stock in the Freezer ready to pull and heat.

  • Keeping Soup in the Freezer.

  • Always (for the most part) cooking more than we are going to eat at dinner so there are always leftovers to turn into lunch or the next night's dinners.

  • Keeping various sauces around, some in the freezer, so we have a start/finish to many meals. And knowing that some sauces are better for mixing with the veggies (curries/ pasta sauces) and some are better for topping finishing (gravies, bbq, peruvian green sauce, ranch, etc.)

  • Thinking about protein for dinner at breakfast/lunch (or the night before) so you have time to thaw it if necessary. You don’t need to have the entire dinner planned out, just what the star (protein) will be.

  • Keeping the pantry stocked with cuisine specific condiments (soy sauce, coconut milk, sesame oil, fish sauce, etc.) gives you the ability to cook many different inspired dishes without needing to run to the store for “that one thing” you need.

Those are many of the meal strategies that we use at our house and why we make many of the prepared foods that we do! Our goal with our prepared foods is to have many of these items prepped and ready for you to make your food simple, easy, variable, and tasty! That’s why we started with Soups (quick meals ready to go) then added sauces (the harder things for most people) and Healthy Start Breakfast Blend (healthy breakfast solution) before adding marinated meats (seasoned and ready to toss in the oven or on the grill) to our lineup.


The First Wealth

Now I am certainly no dietician/nutritionist/doctor by any means but I have seen article after article talking about how the typical American diet has way too many processed foods that lead to an unhealthy food life. One of the goals of Season to Taste is to help people have a better food life, and that translates into health as well! I have been cooking and eating like how I’ve described here for quite some time and I am super happy to report that during my last physical in January, my blood pressure is was low somewhere in the neighborhood of 105/75 (I don’t remember the exact number but the nurse did exclaim “wow, that’s good”) and my cholesterol was 135 (optimal range). And I certainly wouldn’t say I’m any sort of health nut by a long shot! I don’t exercise very regularly, I work too much and I don’t really watch what I eat, other than cooking most of my own meals and keep them vegetable focused. But I drink a little too much, eat a few too many sweets, and definitely enjoy my meat! I basically eat what I want, just I cook it all myself and that’s what I want to encourage YOU to do as well! I just wanted to share what I’ve learned at the doctor to hopefully illustrate how spending more time learning how to and cooking your own food can have even better effects on your life beyond just having tastier food!! And that we’re here to help with that as well!


We have a few more things up our sleeve to add to our lineup that will fit in this same philosophy to further help you Eat Like a Chef! But before going any further, I wanted to let y’all know how we think y’all can best use our current offerings to make your food that much easier and tastier! Now you don’t have to eat exactly like we do, but hopefully in describing how and why we eat the way we do, you’ll be better able to cook more often, with more ease, and more variety each and every day (with a little help from us!)! After all, the biggest problem for most diets is simply eating out too much or eating too many processed foods. Eating like a Chef does at home hopefully will give you more ability to eat your own food more often, eat healthier, and have a more enjoyable food life!!

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