Food For Tired Bunnies

This is not a post about rabbit food - although I do recommend rabbit food highly, look what it does for rabbits....

Moving swiftly on... one of the questions I'm asked most frequently by patients is what they should eat in the evening when they are tired, short of time and can't face the idea of peeling carrots - let alone cooking up a wholesome and nutritious meal. The high carb/low veg options we choose when tired and stressed often compound the situation by creating a carb roller coaster that dumps us out the other side feeling even worse. Well I can't wave a magic wand, and as much as I would like to order up a personal chef for each one of these tired people, some cooking is necessary in order to eat well. But it doesn't have to take hours, be boring or taste like rabbit food.

All you need is a few basic easy meals that are balanced to see you through to the weekend, when you can tinker about merrily getting excited about food and feeling homely. So I thought I would post some ideas for slow release suppers that you can vary by having a well stocked spice cupboard, some choice condiments, fresh herbs on hand and some useful store cupboard preserved items. I'm starting today with pasta and over the next little while will post ideas for some emergency suppers that require only a little bit of cooking and some that need no cooking at all.

Pasta is a great quick meal as long as you don't just boil up a big plateful of the white stuff and smother it in store bought pesto. Choose wholemeal wheat / spelt or buckwheat pasta. The pasta should make up only a quarter of this meal. Put a big pan of water on to boil.

While it's coming up to the boil, sort out the protein part of the meal - which should make up another quarter. You could use any of the following, but it's not an exhaustive list; anchovies, chickpeas, strips of flash fried pork or beef, tinned fish, fresh fish (steam above the pasta or grill), prawns, mozzarella chunks, salami, ham, soft boiled or poached egg (done in the pasta water), tofu, Quorn, feta cheese, bolognaise sauce that you make for the freezer.... Not all of these, you understand - make a choice of one!

Then sort out the veg component, again just choose one or two. Cherry tomatoes (just squish if you can't be bothered to chop), courgettes, frozen peas, fine beans (add to the pasta water half way through), spinach (chop into fine shreds after washing and stir into the hot pasta), fresh herbs, parsley, basil, oregano, mint, finely chopped rosemary, savoy or sweetheart cabbage (steamed above the pasta in a double boiler or sauteed briefly with a knob of butter and black pepper) rainbow chard steamed and drizzled with olive oil and lemon... You can even make a kind of pea pesto by briefly cooking frozen peas and blitzing them in the food processor with a big spoonful of bought pesto, some shaved Parmesan and if possible a handful of basil leaves.

Here's where it pays to have a well stocked cupboard. You could also add sun dried tomatoes in oil, olives, artichoke hearts, sweetcorn (go easy on this though), preserved mushrooms, peppers, aubergine - think anti-pasti ingredients. Or you can keep a jar of vinaigrette dressing in the fridge and just add leftover vegetables to it to pickle overnight. A note of caution though, don't just keep adding the veg or you will end up with sourdough starter! veg will keep for a few days like this but throw them out if you haven't used them by then. Green beans, carrots, cabbage, beets, even boiled potatoes all benefit from this treatment and can really lift the next dish you put them into. 

Flavoured oils  I have a big jar of rosemary oil (just fill a jar with fresh rosemary and pour in oil to cover - leave for at least a week making sure 
that the leaves don't poke up and go moldy. When it's strong enough, 
strain out the herbs and seal) You can do this with any fresh herb,
chillies (be careful!) lemon zest and so on.

Chuck the pasta into the boiling water and get the sauce and veg ready while it is cooking. I have suggested ways of doing that above. Below are some combinations that I would suggest - but basically just look in the cupboard and fridge and try not to reach for the biscuits while you're doing it.....

Slow cooked courgette and garlic with chickpeas

Pea pesto with crisp bacon or ham - have with greens on the side

Sun dried tomatoes, flash fried beef, cherry tomatoes and urfa biber chili flakes

Buttered pasta with wilted spinach and poached egg

Fine beans, tuna, rosemary oil and olives

Buckwheat pasta with mozzarella, fresh figs, basil and walnuts - eat with salad

Room temp pasta with feta, red onion, cucumber, olives and tomatoes

You can make these meals with rice or another grain instead of the pasta, just remember to balance that plate and get enough veg and protein on it! Have some real parmesan on hand in the fridge to shave over the top of any of these meals - don't use the ready grated stuff, no matter how tired you feel!