In times of crisis, it’s common to yearn for comfort. Whether it’s being cocooned in a warm blanket or reaching for your favorite childhood snack, the sense of pleasure that these items give you is extremely comforting. However, as days turn to weeks of unknown certainties, these pleasure-seeking one-offs can turn into daily habits, having lasting negative effects on your mind and body. It is important to still find the courage to step out of your comfort zone, even if it is in the comfort of your own home.
One of the most beneficial things you can do for your body during times of stress is to support your immune system with vitamins and nutrients (the food type, not in pill form). As a health coach, I see a lot of people avoid cooking mainly because they are intimidated by it, which will seem like an extra daunting task during these hard times. But instead of bulk ordering boxes of mac and cheese, I’ll give you some easy ways you can start cooking your healthy meals and snacks. Not only will you be using your brain to learn something new, but you’ll gain a new comfort in knowing that you are nourishing your body.
These are not recipes, they are more guidelines to give you an opportunity on how to cook on your own. Have fun with it, get creative, and most importantly use whatever you have in the house.
Healthy Cooking Basics for Beginners
In the Oven (or even toaster)
The oven is one of the easiest ways to cook plant-based foods. Since most people don’t have a variety of pans and dishes, I will keep it very basic and just be using a cookie sheet. When using the oven, fresh produce is recommended. Save your frozen produce for cooking on the stove.
Drizzle a bit of oil (olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil) on the bottom of the sheet. Using your hands, rub the oil across the whole surface, making sure to do a thin coat across the whole pan. If you have parchment paper or a silicone cookie sheet cover, this works also.
Next, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the oven is heating, choose base veggies to chop up. Cut them into bite-size pieces or larger. Remember, they don’t have to be perfect pieces, just try to keep them around the same size. Once vegetables are chopped, place them in a large bowl. Each cookie tray should have only one type of produce. Recommended produce broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes.
Once in a large bowl, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil and a pinch of salt. More salt and pepper can be added after roasting. Using your hands, mix vegetables with olive oil to make sure the vegetables are lightly coated. Next, place vegetables in one layer on coated cookie sheets, leaving excess oil in the bowl to use for other purposes.
Put the cookie sheet in the oven. Now, every 10 minutes (or less depending on how bored you are), check on your veggies. Depending on what you're cooking, the timing will vary. This is a good opportunity to note how long it takes for future cooking. Once you notice some slight browning, flip the veggies onto their other side and for a few minutes.
That’s it- take it out and let cool for a couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and you're ready to go. If you’re feeling extra wild, maybe squeeze some lemon and add sprinkle some herbs on top and enjoy!
Veggie Soup Your Way
Vegetable soup is by far one of the best things to throw together using very minimal ingredients, plus you can mix and match to fit your taste.
First, use any or all of the following ingredients: garlic, onion, celery, carrots
Dice them up into small pieces, they don’t have to be pretty, just small. For a medium pot, use one onion, a few stalks of celery, a couple of carrots, and 3 cloves of garlic. For a large pot, use double.
Then, take your pot and drizzle it with oil you have on hand to coat the bottom. Put the flame on high and add diced veggies. Drizzle a little bit more oil and add a little salt and pepper. Now take a large non-metal spoon or spatula (if you don’t have a spoon) and stir for a few minutes, once you notice the ingredients start to soften.
Now, add water or broth of any type. For a medium-sized pot, use 4 cups, for a large pot use 8. You can always add more if you like. If you want to add a can of diced or crushed tomatoes, now is the time. Also, I recommend adding beans for protein at this time. If you have lentils, you can rinse a cup and add them in. The same goes for canned beans, but make sure to rinse them extra well.
Lower the flame to medium and start chopping some more vegetables to add in. Zucchini, mushrooms, potatoes, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower are good options. Chop them into bite-size pieces or smaller and add them to the pot. Add some more salt and pepper to taste. You can also add chili flakes for heat, cumin, and turmeric for some middle eastern vibes.
Once the soup begins to boil, lower the heat to low and cover. Let cook for around 30 minutes. Uncover and turn the heat off. Add leafy greens like kale and spinach if you have and stir. After a few minutes, taste the soup. Add more spices if necessary. I recommend a splash of vinegar or squeezing lemon or lime to add more flavor.
Place it into a bowl and enjoy it! Have leftovers, you can freeze remaining soup for 3 months