My friends frequently ask me where I get the time and energy to cook at home, or how I plan my recipes, or how I manage to (somewhat) maintain my weight with the storms that I cook up on a regular basis. Truth is, I really don’t have time. As a graduate student I have to teach, grade, read, and write every day; and also take baths, occasionally. So, cooking is basically the last thing on my to-do list. But it also helps that as a graduate student I barely have any money to eat out regularly, so I am forced to make cooking one of my priorities. Not that I don’t love to cook, I do; but when you are faced with multiple deadlines, you have to put even your deepest passions on the back burner. That’s my relationship with cooking, something like a long-distance relationship. But to answer those questions, I think there definitely is a relation between cooking at home and staying healthy. So whenever I do get a chance to cook, I try to make the most of it.
To ensure regular home cooking and healthy eating I try to make cooking fun for me (and for others who may join me in the kitchen) by experimenting endlessly with ingredients and techniques. I never make the same thing twice unless requested by family/friends. It is the challenge of making new things every time that makes me want to cook. I let ingredients rather than recipes inspire me. In fact, I hardly ever follow any recipes (unless I am baking), but when I do I modify them to my likings (frequently with devastating results). I only make what I want to eat. It may take me 30 extra minutes to make soup than to make a peanut butter sandwich, but a satisfying and balanced meal makes me enjoy my food, gives me more energy, and mitigates any urges of eating out. I play peppy Bollywood music while I cook and dance through the entire process. Sometimes I also pretend to be Ina Garten, which is ironic because I never use “only good quality” anything, because, again, a grad student(!).
I always keep my pantry and refrigerator adequately stocked with healthy grains, nuts, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and spices such that I can fix myself a healthy plate whenever I feel hungry. I never buy any processed meats, soups, salads, dressings, or sauces (except Thai curry pastes). Those things are loaded with preservatives and sugar.
Anyway, if these strategies are not enough to inspire/force you to cook at home then you should read this. This study that was recently published in the journal of Public Health Nutrition shows that “People who frequently cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less”. And this is linked to the “relatively lower energy, fat, and sugar contents in foods cooked at home compared with convenience foods or foods consumed away from home,” they explain.
Today, I am sharing with you a quick, super easy, nutrition loaded, grad school-friendly recipe that ANYONE can cook. The best thing about this recipe is that you will need just one big pot to make this, so no dishwashing! I use my favorite veggies, but you can add whatever you like. Skip the shrimp and turn it into a vegan soup, if you like. Stays for a week in the fridge, and longer if you freeze it. Carries well too.
Here is a longer list of easy to make recipes at home that I am sure you will find useful.
Thai coconut shrimp noodle soup
- 4 oz rice noodles approximately 115 grams
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 lb tofu approximately 450 grams
- 14 oz coconut milk
- 2 tbsp Thai green curry paste
- 2 tsp fish sauce optional
- 2 tbsp brown sugar optional
- 32 oz low sodium organic vegetable/chicken broth approximately 1 liter
- 1 lb shrimp/chicken optional
- 1 cup sliced bok choy
- 1 red bell pepper sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped spring/green onions
- 2 red chilies sliced
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- Cook the rice noodles according to package instructions, refresh in running water and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large pan and sear the tofu. Transfer to a plate lined with tissue paper and set aside.
- To the same oil add coconut milk, Thai green curry paste, fish oil, brown sugar, and broth and bring to a boil.
- Add shrimps, fried tofu, and all the veggies. Let cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add cooked rice noodles and bean sprouts and turn off heat.
- Check for seasonings. Serve hot.