After a grueling workout or a long day at the office, it’s all to easy to forgo cooking and opt for takeout or the nibble-on-everything-in-your-fridge strategy instead. But whipping up a nutritious meal doesn’t have to be challenging or time-consuming. In fact, there are plenty of clever, simple ways to make meal prep both easier and healthier. Here, Food & Wine editor Justin Chapple shares four of his go-to kitchen tricks from his new book Mad Genius Tips: Over 90 Expert Hacks + 100 Delicious Recipes ($30, amazon.com).
DIY a steamer
Steaming is one of the healthiest ways to prep food—it keeps nutrients in and excessive oils out. But if you haven’t added a steamer to your stock of kitchen supplies yet, there’s an easy solution: Create your own. All you need is some aluminum foil and a skillet. Start by crumpling up sheets of aluminum foil into balls, and placing them into a large, deep skillet. Next set a heat-proof plate on top of the foil balls, and place your veggie or fish on top. Then, just add water to the skillet, and cover to steam.
Try this recipe: Steamed Fish With Ratatouille
Bake hard-shell tacos
Craving crunchy tacos, but don’t want to deal with all the excess grease or frying? Luckily there’s a creative way to craft crispy shells in your oven. Simply break out a muffin tin and flip it over so the cups are facing up. Then fold your tortillas in half and stuff them between the cups. Place the muffin tin in the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, or until they’re crisp. All that’s left is filling the shells with your favorite taco ingredients.
Try this recipe: Adobe-Lime Chicken Tacos
Prep overnight oats
Oatmeal is a healthy, satisfying way to kick off your day. It’s loaded with fiber, omega-3s, folate, and potassium, to keep you fueled all morning long. But who actually has the time (or energy) to cook up a hearty bowl of oatmeal in the a.m.? Instead combine oats, almond milk, and your other mix-ins of choice in a Mason jar the night before. Shake well, then refrigerate. When you wake up the next morning, top off your mixture with almond butter or some fresh fruit.
Embrace cauliflower rice
If you want a healthy, low-carb option that’s just as satisfying as rice, cauliflower will be your new best friend. You’ve probably seen all kinds of cauliflower recipes, from pizza crust to tater tots, online. And while these trendy ideas may seem like they'd be time-consuming, cauliflower rice is actually incredibly simple to make. Start by coring and cutting a head of cauliflower into small florets. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until the pieces are finely chopped and resemble rice. You can refrigerate your rice in a bag for up to a week, and use it to make all kinds of delicious dishes, like couscous or stir-fried rice. The recipe below takes just 35 minutes.
Stir-Fried Cauliflower “Rice”
1 3/4 lbs. cauliflower, cored and cut into 1½-inch florets
1/3 cup canola oil
3 Tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 fresh hot red chiles, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower until finely chopped. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry over high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in the 1 cup of cilantro and the chiles, soy sauce, and lime juice. Season with salt, garnish with chopped cilantro, and serve.