I enjoy cooking. I like knowing exactly what (and how much) I am eating; how the food was made; I take pride in feeding my family; and I like knowing that the meals will be good. I fancy myself a bit of a chef – to be clear, I am NOT the sort of chef that you throw in a strange kitchen, give me some sort of strange cucumber sauce, and then tell me to whip up something that looks fancy. I am the sort of the chef that you want to go over to that person’s house for dinner – you know the food will be good, you’ll be able to make it healthy if you want, and if you are so inclined there will be a lot of it.
I talk to people all the time that struggle to eat tasty, reasonably healthy meals and they get super bored with just eating the same thing all of the time. At same time giving someone a list of 15 ingredients and complicated cooking directions is a huge turnoff. I have about 10 reasonably simple, very tasty meals that I make pretty regularly. My kids like them, my wife likes them, I like them, my guests like them, so I am guessing that you will like them too.
Here are three of those classics, most of these take 30-60 minutes to prepare and most of that prep time is not solid work. I try to take out the dishes, set the table, helps the kids with their homework, maybe even check a few emails, and go through the mail when I am cooking just to save some time.
The Athlete’s Breakfast – Scrambled Eggs, Potatoes, and Peas
What you need:
4 whole eggs
Whole milk – 1.5 oz
Sour cream – optional
1 Baked Potato
2 servings of peas
As Bill Starr has stated, the egg is the perfect food from which all other food should be judged. Athletes are always eating eggs for their protein and fatty acids. Not to brag, but I make awesome scrambled eggs (my wife told me this so it has to be true), which I learned how to do from my dad.
There are 2 keys to good scrambled eggs:
- Constant stirring
Scrambled Eggs: crack the 4 eggs into a container, add 1.5 oz of whole milk (or about .3 oz per egg – just a little bit), and mix until it is an even yellow color.
Spray frying pan with Pam, preheat on medium high heat (about a 7) until pan is hot but before Pam starts to collect in puddles.
Add eggs. Stir occasionally in the beginning, if pan is broad the eggs will cook much faster (good) but are more likely to get burnt (bad). As more and more of the eggs get cooked, you have to stir more. Near the end for the last minute or two you want to stir constantly so the eggs don’t burn. Remove from heat, cover. This whole process will take about 10 minutes.
Potatoes: Baked potatoes are ungodly easy to make, they just take some time. You can cook them in the microwave but I can’t stand how they taste that way, I always use the oven. It is very simple. Stab a potato with a fork about 6-8 times in various places. Put the potato in the oven in the middle rack. Heat at 450 Degrees, how long you cook it varies due to the size of the potato but generally an hour is good. You can go much longer and it still tastes fine. When you cut the potato the knife should slice easily through the flesh (The skin will be hard), if it doesn’t the potato isn’t cooked enough. I just throw the potato in the oven early (on some ovens you can just set the timer and you can put the potato in there over night and it will cook while you are in dreamland that last hour) and then I amuse myself for 45 minutes before I cook the rest of the breakfast.
Cooking it this way will make the skin pretty hard, I usually don’t eat the skin. If you want to eat the skin and you like it soft wrap the potato in aluminum foil and cook it the same way, you can salt the potato beforehand if you want.
I find just chopping the potato in half (width ways) and then scooping the insides out with a fork to be the easiest. Add butter and sour cream (optional) as you desire, obviously more butter and sour cream tends to make it taste better but significantly increases the calories.
Peas – I always have bags of frozen peas in the freezer (canned peas suck and I think Whole Foods has the best peas, which is where I get the majority of my food anyway). Open up the bag, pour 1-2 servings of peas into a dish, add just a little bit of water (few ounces) and put them in the microwave. I would cook them in 30 second increments, 30 seconds is good for a very small amount of peas, most are cooked by 1:30 even for a decent amount. If you over cook them they will pop and they will look kind of deflated (and not taste very good). With the microwave it is easy to cook more but you can’t undo extra cooking so start off with a short cooking time. I try to have veggies with every meal, including breakfast.
And that is it. Put the eggs on the plate, add the potatoes (which I mash up with the butter), add the peas, salt the eggs and potatoes if you want, and there is a good meal to give you lots of energy to start the day. As a 200 lb male, these are the proportions I use in various stages of changing my body composition. You can add in a protein shake, a smoothie, and/or bacon if you really want to compliment this breakfast. You can substitute in any veggie you want (broccoli, sliced peppers, etc). The “maintain” proportion is what is shown in the picture.
|Get Lean||Maintain||Get Big|
|3-4 Eggs||4 eggs||5+ eggs|
|½ potato||1 potato||1-2 potatoes|
|1 pat of butter||2 pats of butter||2+ pats of butter + sour cream|
|2 servings of peas||2 servings of peas||2 servings of peas|
|Maybe 3-4 pieces of bacon|
Dad’s Porkchops – Pork Chops, Rice, Gravy, Peas, Applesauce
I love me some pork chops (particularly with apple sauce). I don’t eat this meal as much when I am trying to get lean mainly because it is so good it is hard for me to eat just a little bit of it. Here is what you’ll need:
1 lb of porkchops – bone is in juicier, bone out is likely to be leaner, keep the fat on either way
2 cups of uncooked rice
2 cans of Campbell’s Original Cream of Celery soup
1-2 servings of peas
Here’s what you do:
Take a glass baking dish and put one can of the Cream of Celery soup in the bottom (if that soup sounds nasty trust me – with this combo is it is glorious), spread it out so it covers the bottom. Put the pork chops in the pan and then cook them for about 20 min (less if they are thin thin) at 350 degrees on the middle rack.
Make the rice – personally I have a rice cooker which I love and recommend. You just put in the two cups of uncooked rice (you can use whatever type of rice you want, I usually choose Basmati Rice) and I add in some melted butter (3-4 pats) and then the necessary water. The rice cooker I use is Panasonic SR-DE103 Multi Cooker. This will take about 25 minutes or so to cook and it will keep it warm indefinitely. If you don’t have a rice cooker just make the rice the classic way by cooking rice in water until the water is absorbed as per the directions on the box.
After cooking the pork chops for about 20 mins or so (the pork will start to turn that grayish white instead of pink color) put the other can of cream of celery soup on top of them (no need to turn them over). Cook for another 10 minutes or so, cooking time will vary due to the thickness of the chop.
Heat up some peas as described previously.
Prepare the applesauce as you like it (out of the jar is fine, some add cinnamon).
When the rice is done, put desired amount on the plate (2 cups of uncooked rice makes a lot of cooked rice), put 1-2 pork chops on the rice, pour the gravy (the heated up cream of celery soup and pork fat) over the pork chops and rice, add the peas, add the applesauce if you wish (I like the combo of the hot rice and pork chops and the cold applesauce – my wife doesn’t so she skips that part). Enjoy. If you got bones with the pork don’t be afraid to pick those up and clean them off, few things better than gnawing on a pork bone. The “maintain” portion is what is shown in the picture.
|Get Lean||Maintain||Get Big|
|1 pork chop (4 oz)||1-2 pork chops||2-4 pork chops|
|1 serving of rice||2 servings of rice||2-3 servings of rice|
|1 serving spoonful of gravy||2-3 serving spoonfuls of gravy||3+ serving spoonfuls of gravy|
|2 servings of peas||2 servings of peas||2 servings of peas|
|Minimal applesauce||1-2 servings of applesauce||Lots of applesauce|
Swordfish – Swordfish, Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli
A lot of people are intimidated to cook fish but you don’t need to be. I personally find swordfish to be easy to cook, it consistently turns out well, and it is super healthy in my opinion. The only negative is that will spoil if you don’t cook it soon and it is pretty expensive if you get it fresh.
Here’s what you need:
1 lb of swordfish steak (won’t have skin on one side)
Maple Bourbon sauce – optional
1 lb of fresh broccoli
Cook the sweet potato just like the baked potato, stab it, and stick it in the oven. You have to more careful about cooking it too long and sometimes stuff leaks out of where you stabbed it and might make your oven a bit dirty. I would suggest putting some aluminum foil underneath the sweet potato to prevent the smoke alarm from going off. It will take about 45 minutes, maybe 60, to cook a normal sized sweet potato (just as a note adding more of them does not increase cooking time).
You can grill the swordfish but I find it to be easier and more consistent on the stove. In a frying pan large enough to hold the fish, spray the pan with Pam and cook the fish on medium high heat (about a 7). Squish 1-2 slices of lemon over the fish so the juice comes out, enough to make the top of the fish pretty wet when you start. Salt if desired. Cover, cook for 10-15 minutes.
To cook the broccoli just get a big pot of water, bring it to a boil. Dump the broccoli in there, if it is too big chop off some of the bottom stalks. Periodically move the broccoli around so the same part isn’t always out of the water. Cook for about 10-15 minutes with the water boiling, it should turn a brighter green and get softer but if it just starts falling apart and the water is super green you probably over cooked it. You can substitute in/add another veggie if you want and you can use frozen broccoli too (treat the same as the peas but cook for another 30-60 seconds)
At this point flip the fish (easy rule of thumb, if one side of the fish has the skin you don’t flip it, if it doesn’t you can flip it), spray the lemon again, salt, and pour on some of the Maple Bourbon sauce (optional – it will taste pretty good with no sauce at all). Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Check to see if it is done, the flesh should be firm and flaky, if it seems really dry you over cooked it (use more lemon, add butter, and/or more sauce to cover up this ‘mistake’). It is okay to over-cook it by a minute or two – just don’t forget about it and overcook it for 15 minutes.
Scoop out the sweet potato just like a mashed potato (again I don’t eat the skin but you can if you want to), put on 1-2 pats of butter, add cinnamon if you like. Serve up the fish, add more maple bourbon if you want, a few dollops for every 8 oz works well. The picture shown is the “get lean” proportion.
|Get Lean||Maintain||Get Big|
|Swordfish steak (4 oz)||Swordfish steak (8 oz)||Swordfish steak (8+ oz)|
|½ of sweet potato||1 sweet potato||1-2 sweet potatoes|
|2 pats of butter||3 pats of butter||3+ pats of butter|
|1-2 servings of broccoli||1-2 servings of broccoli||1-2 servings of broccoli|
|Some maple bourbon sauce||Maple bourbon sauce||Maple bourbon sauce|
With all of these meals it is pretty easy to change the proportions and it doesn’t change how they are prepared too much. The pork chops and the swordfish make great left overs as well. Once you are familiar with these meals you can start to make substitutions and add in/take away things as you see fit. Making your own meals doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating (and it is a great way to impress a date), all it takes is a bit of practice.
Try these out and let me what you think in the comments.