March 16, 2024

Let’s be honest, after a hectic day, the least desirable activity is to dedicate hours to both cooking and dealing with the aftermath of dirty dishes. In the fast-paced world we live in, finding the time and energy to prepare nutritious meals can be a challenge. However, the secret to maintaining a healthy lifestyle may be simpler than you think.

It all starts with a plan! Before you dive into the seemingly unending recipe ideas found online, take inventory of your fridge, pantry and freezer. Toss outdated or spoiled items, organize ingredients in a way where they are easy to find, and make a list of anything you need to replace and keep on hand for easy meal prep. Then pick out one to two recipes to prep and set aside time in your week to physically prepare those meals. When selecting your recipes or planning your meals, include 3 to 5 food groups in each meal to cover a wide range of vitamins and minerals. For example, consider incorporating whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and dairy or dairy alternatives into your meals to achieve a well-rounded nutrient profile. Don’t forget: Not everything has to be made from scratch. Take short cuts such as purchasing precut or frozen vegetables, quick-cooking grains and premade dressings or sauces.

Now that it’s time to start cooking, consider how you can multitask. Can you cook up your grains on the stovetop while your veggies or protein cook in the oven? Can you find a slow cooker recipe that allows you to add all ingredients and simply leave it to cook throughout the day while another recipe cooks in your oven? After cooking, it’s time for food safety! It’s important to cool and store leftovers promptly. Ensure that individual portions are separated into their respective containers and are placed in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours. This helps expedite the cooling or freezing process. Leftovers and cooked foods can be stored in the fridge for 3 to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 to 4 months. When reheating refrigerated or frozen prepped meals, make sure to heat them to a safe temperature of at least 165°F, and for sauces and soups, bring them to a boil.

Not everyone is a fan of leftovers, but here are a few tips to make reheating and enjoying prep-ahead meals a good experience for everyone. First – add moisture. Adding moisture to your reheated meals can prevent them from drying out such as a splash of water or broth. Consider covering with a damp paper towel when reheating items like rice or pasta to maintain their original texture and prevent them from becoming too dry. Next – it’s not a race; reheat in intervals. Instead of setting a single extended cooking time, heat your meal in shorter intervals, stirring or flipping the food between each interval. This approach helps distribute heat more evenly, preventing unevenly heated or overcooked sections. Last – consider going beyond the microwave. For instance, using an oven or toaster oven can be ideal for items like casseroles or baked dishes, providing a more thorough and even reheating process. Experiment with stovetop reheating, steaming, or even grilling for certain dishes to preserve their original qualities.

Building a balanced yet flavorful meal with few ingredients is not only convenient but also allows for creativity in the kitchen. With a little planning and the right tools, you will be well on your way to enjoying delicious, balanced meals every day. If you’re ready to master the art of freezer meal prepping, register for our On-Demand Freezer Meal Prep Workshop where in 60 minutes you will prepare five freezer-ready meals perfect to feed a family of four to six people! Register today by reaching out to your Hy-Vee registered dietitian or following this link. If you’re ready for a quick and easy dinner tonight, try this Everything Bagel Alaska Salmon Salad. If prepping ahead, pre-cook the salmon and assemble the dressing, then simply serve over the salad kit when ready!

Everything Bagel Alaska Salmon Salad
Serves 4

All You Need:
1 (1 lb) pkg frozen Alaska Wild Sockeye Salmon fillet (thawed)
1 (10.6 oz) pkg Dole Everything Caesar chopped salad kit
2 tbsp Hy-Vee Everything Bagel Himalayan Pink Salt Seasoning, divided
2 oz Hy-Vee cream cheese (softened)
¼ cup Hy-Vee 2% reduced-fat milk
Black pepper, to taste

All you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a medium rimmed baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Pat salmon dry with paper towels. Cut salmon into 4 (4-oz) portions; place skin side down in prepared pan. Spread 1 teaspoon salad dressing from salad kit on each salmon portion. Sprinkle each with ½ teaspoon Hy-Vee Everything Bagel Seasoning. Bake for 4 to 8 minutes or just until fish flakes easily with a fork (145°F).
  3. Meanwhile, place cream cheese, milk, remaining dressing from salad kit and remaining Everything Bagel Seasoning in a mini food processor. Cover and pulse until smooth and creamy.
  4. Divide salad kit vegetables among 4 serving bowls. Place salmon on top; drizzle with cream cheese mixture. Top with croutons and Parmesan cheese from the salad kit. Season to taste with pepper.

Recipe source: The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.