Here are tips for transitioning into the spring season with energy-boosting foods and ways to shorten time spent in the kitchen.
• A dose of bittersweet chocolate (with cocoa content over 70 percent) contains 300 substances, including anandamide, which mocks marijuana’s mellow effect on the noggin for a blissful buzz.
• If you like heat, chiles or hot peppers containing capsaicin will hot-wire the brain to release endorphins and energize. Chips and salsa, anyone?
• Bananas are a tropical treat packed with potassium and magnesium to energize the brain and brawn.
• A steamy infusion of herbal tea always seems to electrify the soul. Peppermint, rosehips and hibiscus teas are cups of uppers, whilst black and green tea brews provide a caffeine lift.
Carve out an hour or so each week for kitchen prep, including chopping onions, celery and carrots, and popping in the freezer for future use. Wash and dry all produce promptly upon your return from the market, and store in airtight containers.
Prepare blends with assorted lettuces, chopped cucumber, cauliflower and broccoli florets and store in zip bags for instant salads. Boil a half-dozen eggs, peel and have them on call.
Spring soups and pasta dishes can be prepared and frozen for weeks, ready to heat and eat at a moment’s notice. Store bought, organic rotisserie chicken is a multi-tasking lifesaver for creating numerous meals from sandwiches and stir-fries to burritos and chopped salads.
Set It and Forget It
After prepping your meats and veggies, the Crock-Pot runs the show. Everything from chicken gumbos, cacciatores and vegetarian curries to lamb stews and turkey chilis can be started in the morning, warm and ready hours later upon your return. The Cadillac Crock-Pots have non-stick removable stoneware inserts for attractive table service, which also saves on the cleanup.
My family’s favorite one-pot meal is Spain’s signature paella, an extravaganza of assorted treasures from the land and sea, rice and golden saffron. Alas, this version is a simple one in keeping with the spirit of curtailing kitchen time, but is still scrumptious and divine. (Serves 6)
2 cups organic short grain rice
2 cups boiling water
1 pound each jumbo shrimps and deep-sea scallops
3 spicy Italian sausages (I prefer chicken), sliced in 1-inch coins
1 lobster tail, steamed, cut in bite-size chunks (optional)
1 pound chicken breasts, cut in bite-size pieces
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon saffron
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
Method: In a paella pan or large covered skillet, heat half the oil on medium; add the chicken and garlic, season with pepper, salt and oregano. Cook until the chicken is golden brown.
Add the remaining oil, onion, sausage, green pepper. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and rice; cook for 5 minutes.
Add the shrimps, scallops, saffron and boiling water. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Blend in the lobster and make a well in the center for the peas. Cover and cook another 5 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges.