Nourish.

the best teas you can buy for a cold.

the best teas you can buy for a cold. 150 150 fortheindoorsy

I don’t think I’ve ever had a common cold for longer than a week — until recently. I picked up a bug while traveling, and it. has. been. ugly.

Every day has been a new symptom, and like most people who worry they will never be able to properly breathe through their nose again, I have been consuming hot tea and soup like a maniac, hoping it will help with congestion and mend my throat that is making it sound like I smoke a pack a day and also might be a man.

As any doctor that you visit will tell you when you’re sick: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And if you’re on the sugar-laden Gatorade train (srsly it’s more than the stick of cotton candy your mom instantly regretted buying you at the carnival), step away and aspire to the higher adult-version of yourself and start drinking tea. Obviously, being that it is water, tea helps with hydration. 😑 But a few things we miss in our standard American diet are herbs and spices. And if you’re thinking about the Spice Girls and how involved they were in your life like I am rn, remember they were British.

One of the things I learned from meeting Dr. Axe a few months ago following a presentation he gave is that a cold is actually termed a “cold” because of its probability of occurring in the colder months, when your body is physically cold internally as well. Hence why we are naturally drawn to warm comfort foods in the winter months and aren’t craving salads in January (granted I pretty much never crave a salad, so there’s that.)

And to really maximize the impact of slurping hot soup and drinking/spilling tea (I mean who doesn’t love half-baked office gossip amirite?), there are also a ton of warming spices that can help preserve heat in our bodies. And while some of y’all might be on board and already thinking that Sriracha would make a great tea, just chill for a sec (lol *chill*); there are some better options, I swear.

Now, let me skip on back to me being sick and having a serious case of RBF as I strolled through the grocery store looking like death. I was on a mission to get in and get out of that store as fast as possible, and I am navigating through the store like MarioKart on Rainbow Road — until I get to the tea aisle.

Alright, let’s just pause to reflect on why there is so much tea on the tea aisle.

So. Much. Tea.

types of tea to heal a cold

My brain can only process a very finite amount of information when I feel like hell, and I’m not even off to a good start since I don’t even technically know what Earl Grey is when I’m healthy. Is Earl Grey a band? A flower? An herb? A blend? Will he/they/it make me feel better?

Too many colors, boxes, brands, labels. I go to the bulk section of my grocery store, which is a more simplified section of the pre-packed tea, lined only with bins of tea leaves and their ingredients. I decide I can hang with this. With a nose that can’t decide whether to drip uncontrollably or to completely plug up, I looked for teas with spices and other herbs, and based on my large intake of tea over the last 7 days, I’ve compiled the best teas to drink when you’re sick.

Herbal, Rooibos or Green Teas

Because caffeine can dehydrate you, I avoided black teas or teas with a high level of caffeine. I opted for caffeine-free herbal & Rooibos teas and lower-caffeine green teas if they had an ingredient I thought would be helpful.

Turmeric

If you’re new to trying to eat better (good on you!) or not a big fan of Indian food, you might not have heard of turmeric, but it has been in the spotlight for the last few years because of its superfood qualities. Almost all sickness starts from inflammation, and turmeric is packed with both antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, so it’s a good idea to have it as much as possible basically year-round, but especially when I’m feeling sick.

Ginger

Ginger is spicccyyyy (just like me, heeyyy) and will def warm you up. It is also an anti-inflammatory, but it will seriously help you in the middle of a coughing attack and help with congestion.

Warming Spices (cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, pepper)

If you’re suffering from chills, reach for a tea with one of these as the headliner. While the tea will make you warm, these spices will keep you warm. Also they’re just really good and there’s so many herbal teas that make them dessert-y tasting and I am always down for that.

Peppermint

Okay, so peppermint can be cooling, BUT peppermint is a natural decongestant. I didn’t even know that until recently, but that makes total sense because duh: Vick’s Vapo Rub and menthol.

Citrus or Berry teas

Cuz Vitamin C duh.

Licorice Root

Honestly, I didn’t know about this until a few months ago when found out that licorice is pretty much used globally to treat coughs and colds. So I bought it separate and add it to whatever blend I’m making. And it is a gamechanger. I woke up in a fit of coughing again last night, so I wandered into the kitchen to boil water and sleepily threw in the licorice root shavings I bought before stirring in some honey. I chugged it down (not the root shavings, y’all don’t worry) and went right to sleep. I’ve noticed this helps a lot with my cough more than congestion.

Okay, so if you’re on board with this but new to loose-leaf teas, great — go buy this. You’ll spoon the tea in there, pour water over it and call it good.

Oh, honey honey.

So one other thing. Honey or no honey? If you have a cough or sore throat, then absolutely yes.

I would wake up in the middle of the night coughing hysterically. I would saunter into the kitchen, throw a glass of water in the microwave for a minute, and stir in two solid squeezes of honey. When I did that, I could sleep through the night. This study conducted with 270 kids also confirms its effectiveness for gnarly coughs. Count me kid #271.

If you don’t believe me, go ask Grandpa Fred if he thinks a Hot Toddy or whiskey shot can help heal a cold. If he says yes, that’s because whiskey is the warmest liquor there is, so just like these teas, it can help you feel better more quickly.

And if he says no, he’s a wise man and you def shouldn’t be throwing back whiskey shots when you’re sick.

All the best,
Bailey

healthy greens for cooking at home

Swap these foods to make cooking easier and healthier.

Swap these foods to make cooking easier and healthier. 729 729 fortheindoorsy

Cooking at home is a big task. And to be honest, before I met Zach, I never, ever did it. I was always fast food or bust. But I think we’re all in agreement that eating out is really not that great for you. Sure there are exceptions (Zoe’s Kitchen, ily), but when I go to Texas Roadhouse with the purest intentions of ordering a salad, I can’t resist that freshly baked bread and cinnamon butter, and when that basket hits my table, all bets are off.

But the alternative of cooking at home is really not very appealing to me. First of all, lol cooking. Second of all, it can easily be just as expensive as going out to eat. And at that point, if it’s expensive and more difficult, I’m not doing it. Even if it is healthier.

So I’m all about simplifying and working with what you have. TBH though, I learned how to cook from Zach’s mom and Bon Appetit. But when I first started cooking, I was cooking v impressive meals that were v expensive (“2 saffron threads are $20 and I need 4 of them?!”). But as I watched Zach’s mom, I watched her adapt recipes to make the process of cooking way simpler and much more approachable.

easy ways to add vegetables to make your dinners healthier

The more I cooked and followed recipes, the more I realized all ingredients fall into categories. I’m not talking categories like proteins, carbs, and vegetables — I’m talking categories of flavors and textures. And the more I got used to the layouts of recipes, the more I became okay with substituting ingredients. And as that happened, I realized I could make recipes healthier.

And if I really didn’t feel like cooking and dealing with the complexity of a recipe (which is pretty much me all the time now), I could go rogue and cook without a recipe.

Now, for those of you who grew up with a chef like my mother-in-law, that last sentence is probably funny for you.

“Of course you can cook at home without a recipe LOL” *hair flip in slow motion* *laughs and rolls eyes while looking at friends (also laughing) crowded around you in a circle as you casually stroll away with your hair blowing in the wind and leave me by myself with a cracked egg I dropped on the floor*

BUT *LOL* NO I COULDN’T DON’T BE RUDE, REGINA GEORGE. My pantry is bare and cooking with what I had on hand was pretty much impossible.

So for all the people who don’t do things like Painting with a Twist and decorate cupcakes for fun, this is for you. Here is how you can cook things that aren’t pretentious, just healthy and good, with what you have in your pantry. And when you follow recipes that call for things you def don’t have (lol @ the fact all my food magazines seem to think I have whole green cardamom pods on hand), here are the things you can substitute that won’t mess up what you’re cooking.

replacing unhealthy ingredients (on the cheap!)

So if you stumble across a recipe online that has one of the ingredients on the list below, try to swap it for something in the same category. If you don’t have a recipe, I’ve outlined some base recipes that you can experiment with at the bottom of this post!

Before we even start though, here is one key principle for slacking off when it comes to recipes and still achieving a good result:

Ingredients with adjectives are a turnoff.

When I’m cooking preserved lemon is just as good as lemon, Aleppo-style pepper turns into any type of pepper, smoked paprika is paprika, bow-tie pasta = spaghetti. Yes, you might lose one element of flavor or texture, but you can add it in with something else (like salt for preserved lemon). Or you can just ignore it. Unlike the Cup Song, you’re not gonna miss it when it’s gone and it’s definitely not a reason to ignore a recipe.

And in the spirit of channeling every top reviewer on AllRecipes (“I made it exactly as the recipe stated except I replaced 100% of the ingredients. Def will make again!”), here are the things I substitute most frequently.

Herbs –

the easiest swaps ever. If you’re going from fresh to dried, use a little less and add a tiny bit of an acid (see below) to make it feel even fresher.

  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Bay leaves

Indian Spices –

mixing & matching is great here. I have a bunch of these and while it may not necessarily be authentic, the flavors are $$$$. Plus, it turns out a lot of Indian and Moroccan spice blends are actually just combinations of other spices. Mix whatever, but keep the amounts the same. And Google to search for substitutes if you aren’t feeling too adventurous.

  • Tandoori spice
  • Garam Masala
  • Turmeric
  • Vadouvan
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Curry
  • Cardamom pods

Crunchy stuff

some discretion required. I wouldn’t ever try to crust a chicken in water chestnuts for example, but if you’re just looking for some bite on a salad or in a lettuce wrap, it would work.

  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Fried Onions
  • Croutons
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Rice cakes

cook what's in your pantry

Sugar –

basically the enemy. This swap is always one-way.

  • Raisins
  • Cranberries
  • Dried apricots
  • Dates
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Balsamic vinegar

Butters & Oils

this is actually pretty complex; I could honestly do a whole post on this, but for now I’ll just put these in order of highest to lowest smoke point (AKA the temp when an oil starts smoking and releasing carcinogens). Lighter-colored oils are generally more refined and thus, have a higher smoke point but might be less nutritionally dense than others. Because most unrefined oils are complete shit for you (unless they’re naturally refined), I’m just leaving those out.

  • Clarified butter (ghee)
  • Virgin Olive Oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Vegetable oil*
    *this is refined but I’m adding it to the list because it’s in so many recipes. Don’t even bother using this; anything is better for you — even refined canola oil!
  • Coconut oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Hempseed oil
  • Peanut/Soybean/Walnut oils
  • Canola oil
  • Butter

Carbs & grains –

probably the second easiest things to swap besides herbs. Check cooking times because they may vary, but most grains (except for quick-cooking) have a 2:1 water:grain ratio.

  • Barley
  • Farro
  • Couscous*
    *not very good for you; it’s actually just a pasta, so swap this out for sure
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Lentils
  • Millet
  • Quinoa

Sour cream & mayonnaise

just use greek yogurt.

Earthy vegetables

most of these are root vegetables or grow in the same season, so that’s one way to identify good vegetables to swap!

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Butternut squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Brown/red potatoes

Greens

this is actually a fun one because the different textures of the vegetables in this list doesn’t really throw things off as much as you might think, especially in pastas or side dishes.

  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Rainbow or Swiss chard

healthy greens for cooking at home

Pops of Color

think salad bar toppings. These are usually vegetables added to pastas or other dishes to add variety and nutritional value.

  • Celery
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Red/yellow/orange bell peppers
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber

An onion’s an onion

any color really because all of the things listed below are expensive, hard to come by, or never in my fridge.

  • Leeks
  • Chives
  • Shallots
  • Green onions

Acids

not the drug. This list has both foods that can make a dish interesting and some liquids that sauces call for because who knows what life will throw at you.

  • Lemon juice or zest
  • Lime juice or zest
  • Grapefruit
  • Artichokes*
    *honestly, just use canned because steaming these things is so not worth it
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Red Wine vinegar
  • White Wine vinegar
  • Balsamic Vinegar*
    *this is generally sweeter, but if you want to minimize the sweetness, avoid cooking it down AKA heating it too long that it becomes a syrup.

Bacon

deserving of its own category. You’d be surprised how much a little bit of bacon can bring to a dish, but if you’re just not into saturated fat or if you’re vegetarian/vegan you’d be surprised how many things can go in its place.

  • Pancetta
  • Deli meat
  • Salted, shelled, roasted sunflower seeds
  • Olives
  • Corn nuts*
    *no, not a joke. Throw it in your potato soup, then who’s laughing?

adapting recipes to eat healthier

Now, put this new knowledge to work and try out some of these recipes. I’ve included what I do with them based on everything listed above; don’t be afraid to play — you won’t mess them up!

Bacon and Scallion Farroto

  • Use regular onions, any whole grain, and sub out the bacon. Add more chicken broth instead of white wine if you aren’t into getting a little drunk while cooking (I cannot relate)

Roasted Salmon with Celery and Bulgur

  • Swap out the bulgur for another grain, add cucumber or another vegetable for a pop of color and change out the root vegetable. For that bite of sweetness, swap the raisins for another dried fruit (see the “Sugar” section below)

Mascarpone Pasta with Artichokes and Hazelnuts

  • This is a tried and true for me. I sub out the milk, keep the mascarpone, use any kind of nut I have, use dried pasta, and add lots of vegetable for Pops of Color. This is one where ignoring adjectives is key. Basically the only thing I keep here is the sauce.

Baked Salmon with Lemon and Herbs

  • So simple — just sub out the herbs and the grain!

Cauliflower Ragu

  • I use any kind of onion, chicken broth if I drank all the wine, any type of herb, any type of pepper instead of the chili flakes, oil instead of butter, and this is one of my very favorite dishes.

Tandoori Carrots with Vadouvan Spice and Yogurt

  • I still don’t know what Vadouvan is, so I just mix a bunch of Indian spices together in the same amount and this. is. so. good.

If you have any suggestions, thoughts or things you’ve tried when cooking at home, leave me a comment to let me know!

Cheers,

Bailey

 

kitchen design to avoid eating unhealthy

How to organize your pantry to eat better.

How to organize your pantry to eat better. 4414 2943 fortheindoorsy
how to organize your pantry to eat better

Raise your hand if you’ve ever set a goal to eat better. 🙋‍♀️ 

Raise your hand if after 3 days of making this goal you slammed what was left of the girl scout cookies sitting in your pantry. 🙋‍♀️ (#thosecarameldelitestho)

Ah yes — a personal favorite of mine: the aspirational “I probably won’t meet this, but why not at least try” goal. These are the types of goals that require a ton of willpower, so if/when we achieve them we’re super impressed with ourselves. Now, I don’t know about you, but my track record with these goals is 1-50 (with the 1 time being me killin’ it for 3 weeks, then totally losing any morsel of discipline I had and returning to my Netflix binge while eating popcorn, Ritz crackers, and whatever else I could scavenge for dinner because absolutely 0% of me felt like cooking). Ah, yes. Those goals.

So it is safe to assume that any goal requiring willpower or discipline isn’t going to work out for me.

But as I slowly became a BBQ potato chip connoisseur I realized I really needed to change my go-to snack. The only problem is that chips are so convenient and so satisfying, and all other substitutes doesn’t really meet both of those criteria.

Basically, convenience + deliciousness = I want it.

kitchen organization for healthy eating habits

If you know me, you know I like to make yearly food resolutions. Some are pure fun (2016 was the year of perfecting the cheesecake) and some are related to health (2018 is the year of eating more grains I can’t pronounce). So I had grains on the brain and a “back away from the bbq” mantra.

I also looked at our pantry and 👏 could. 👏 not.👏 deal.

So I threw the chips out (which was really just crumbs at the bottom of the bag if we’re being honest here) and got to work on improving our pantry organization. I took inventory of what we had and made a list of all the healthy foods I wanted to start eating that I didn’t currently have — things like freekeh and buckwheat (wtf is amaranth?) Then I went to the Container Store, decided I couldn’t afford it, and went to Hobby Lobby instead to get every glass canister they had (on sale for 50% off heyyyyooo).

pantry organization to eat healthy

Now, our pantry organization is as follows:

  • Things I want to eat more of:
    • Make them visible, at eye-level, and easily accessible | I put all the healthy foods (and generally under-consumed) in glass canisters, labeled them, and loaded them at the very front of the middle shelves with nothing blocking their view. If it was in a box, I removed it from the box and got rid of any packaging so there were absolutely zero obstacles to physically accessing the food. I did this with grains, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
  • Things I want to eat less of:
    • Block their view and make it hard to get to them | Girl scout lemon cookies went on the very top shelf where I have to get a stool to access them. Chips now belong at the back of the bottom drawer, so I have to pull it out to see them and move about 10 bottles of oil and vinegars to get them. All canned goods and boxed crackers are behind the glass jars, and since the jars are so tall and fit snugly in our pantry, I have to pull at least 3 out (I can’t just shove them around) before I can get the box of crackers; you’d actually be surprised at how truly annoying this is.

why you can't eat healthy

This strategy is effective because it directly alters the convenience of foods. For example, if I hide the BBQ chips on the top shelf behind a bunch of stacked cans and I have to pull a chair over that I have to step on to get to them, they’re inherently less desirable because I’ve decreased their convenience (AKA I’m lazy and don’t feel like doing all that to get a chip, no matter how delicious).kitchen pantry organization: before and after

After 6 months with this method of pantry organization, I’ve come to realize that while this was initially set up mostly as a way to reduce clutter, my food habits have changed dramatically. I seriously have made more smoothies in the past 5 months than I have in my entire life just because it’s so easy to pour nuts and seeds and oats and powders into a blender with frozen fruit, especially when they’re the first thing you see and you don’t have any packaging to deal with. Also as a result our new and improved pantry organization, Zach now eats either pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews or almonds every single day when he gets home from work just because he can grab them directly from the jar and they’re the first snack he sees.

All of this made me realize that the functional design of your home is absolutely critical to achieving your goals.

kitchen design to avoid eating unhealthy

I’ve read so many self-help books it’s honestly kind of embarrassing and every single one argues that willpower will never be enough to achieve your goals; goals are established through habits. The problem I’ve found with this theory is that establishing these habits still require willpower — ie. choosing the less desirable option pretty much all the time, which brings us to the other problem: that isn’t going to happen; if what I want is in front of me, imma take it.

Thus, the solution is design, and more specifically, design for wellness.

Ultimately, in order for healthy eating to be sustainable it cannot be a decision; it has to be obvious and take zero brain power. It has to be as convenient as BBQ chips– there needs to be no downtime between seeing the food and reaching for it; otherwise, your brain will start second-guessing the decision and any obstacle at all will become a deterrent to eating that food, (but you can use that to your advantage on foods you want to avoid). All of this means that pantry organization is the natural place to start when thinking critically about our food choices.

Yesterday, as we were unloading groceries, Zach was trying to put some crackers away behind the glass canisters and he commented on how annoying the pantry organization was because some of the items were so cumbersome to get to. He did this all while snacking away on nuts though, not chips.

Instances like this have me fully convinced that home wellness is a thing. The home isn’t a thing to “keep” and it shouldn’t stress you out. Instead, your home should exist as a tool to help you live better and achieve the things you want to achieve.

But if you ever want to chat this out over a smoothie, I’ve got you covered.

healthy kitchen organization

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conquering the Dinner Party: how to pull it off without stressing yourself out

Conquering the Dinner Party

Conquering the Dinner Party 3415 2561 fortheindoorsy

Conquering the Dinner Party: how to pull it off without stressing yourself out

I’ve learned that I very much view “hosting” as a skill. I was definitely not born knowing how to throw a killer dinner party, and I’m sure there’s a ton I could improve on, but let me tell you what — I freakin’ love it.

I was talking to my friend Emily about it one day and she mentioned she enjoys it because she loves to be the one providing the stellar experience to people; her thrill comes from watching people have fun. Isn’t that sweet.

But not me.

No, I like the feeling of conquering the dinner party prep. That’s right folks, I view hosting a dinner party like a battle. Sure, I may have signed up to cook eight things but be prepared for me to only bring two because it was an all out battlefield in the kitchen. And when you come over and I say “Oh my gosh, I totally forgot to make the creme brulee — I am SO sorry!” you can be absolutely certain that I, in fact, did not forget and I did in fact, run out of time (because who the hell knew macarons were so demanding amirite?)

But an hour later when the crew is either sprawled on the living room floor or slouched in the mismatched chairs at the dinner table and our conversation revolves around how uncomfortably full we all are, my internal reaction is that of a Miss America pageant contestant batting away her tears as she is crowned. Because despite the burnt food remnants etched into my stove, the flour that is now wedged in the cracks of my iPhone screen, and the mounds of dishes piled in the sink that I secretly am hoping someone else will wash, I somehow pulled it off. And beyond that, I think two of these people were actually a little impressed.

This was the case with Easter. Each time I have people over I think I do just a little bit better than the last. I still can’t hold a candle to Zach’s mom, who taught me everything I know, but it’s always fun enough to do again.

Conquering the Dinner Party: how to pull it off without stressing yourself out

These are the tips I’ve learned (so far) that help me conquer the dinner party:

1. Plan ahead (kind of).

The key to planning ahead is to plan ahead as much as is necessary so that you don’t stress yourself out because you don’t think you have a plan. However, if you’re ever stressed because it might not be perfect or the food might come out too late, let me just go ahead and tell you that I am not on your level. The only objectives I ever have are to make food that is a) good b) gram-worthy (yeah, yeah, I’m a millennial) and c) feeds the crowd. Timing, the mixing of flavors, wine pairings, etc. is beyond my pay grade and really just an added bonus.

So to plan ahead, my absolute must is to draft the menu and grocery shop at least one day before. Also, if it’s a dish with a weird ingredient, it probably won’t make the cut because I never plan far enough ahead to secure said ingredient. Basically, if Amazon Prime doesn’t have it, it ain’t happenin’.

If you’re wanting to decorate and go all out, don’t even think about trying to do that on the same day that you’re cooking because let me just tell you: it will not happen. Same goes for cleaning your apartment. The only fight an old roommate and I ever got in was when we were scrambling to clean before our President’s Day Party (talk about a celebratory day in history, I know) when she rushed to put the vaccuum cleaner in the closet and finish tidying up as I was plating the food. We exchanged words, with those words being “ALEX!!!! WHY WOULD YOU EVER PUT A TWENTY-DOLLAR VACCUM CLEANER ON A THREE-HUNDRED DOLLAR PAIR OF SHOES?!?!?”

Don’t let this be you.

2. Overcommit and under-deliver.

As mentioned, I get real ambitious when it comes to cooking for a crowd. I treat it like Iron Chef where I have 5 hours to make 6 dishes. The only problem is that I generally have no sous chef and I, myself, am not an iron chef. Thus, 1-2 things that I wrote on my notepad don’t ever come into existence. Because I know this about myself, I rank the things that absolutely have to get done. So when it comes to that second dessert I just really want to make, if it’s that important, I need to either make it a day early or accept that it just might not happen. And generally, I find that I don’t actually want it as bad as I thought because 100% of the time, I never make food ahead of time.

3. Map out your food placement.

On my very first Christmas dinner, the biggest faux-pas was realizing I don’t live in a mansion and my oven is actually not big enough to fit a roasting pan full of pork and a casserole dish. I was stressed and all of that could have been prevented if I would have coordinated a teensy bit more. Nothing sucks more than having an amazing dinner and then realizing you have to subdivide the meal onto paper plates to fit on your table, which effectively ruins any and all photo evidence you have to prove you are adulting and can make meals other than Lean Cuisine.

This is why I suggest figuring out what food fits onto which plates and then figuring out which plates fit onto the bar or table. I actually only did this for the first time this past weekend (see: post-it notes below), but it was a game-changer. With multiple cooks in the kitchen, it was so much easier to tell people exactly which dishes to use instead of having them guess and still not having everything fit on the table.

4. If you’re gettin’ real fancy, make a timeline.

The biggest obstacle I always encounter: cooking multiple dishes at the same time. Balancing chopping with reading a recipe with making a sauce generally results in at least one stovetop boil-over. The very first Christmas dinner party I hosted was a complete nightmare because I could not get the timing right. For the second Christmas dinner, I came prepared:

In a notebook, I wrote down all the dishes that required the highly-coveted oven. Alongside each dish, I wrote down how long they needed to cook and the corresponding temperature. Once I had all that, I figured out what could be cooked at the same time. If there was a dish that was cooked at 425º and another cooked at 450º, you can bet I threw those bad boys in at the same time and just cooked one of the dishes longer.

As for cooking order, anything that needed to be cooked but would have to be reheated went in first, followed by food that could retain heat the longest (a gratin or a casserole for example), with the main dish (typically a meat) getting cooked last. As soon as the meat came out of the oven, I’d cover it with foil and let it rest for 15ish minutes while I reheated the food that needed it.

All of this coordination and my horribly sketched notes were a massive lifesaver and Christmas II went significantly better than the first. Apparently the Martha Stewarts of the world never have to do this because they’ve gotten so good at it over time, but I have about 0 Martha in my blood.

5. Don’t even try to get fancy with appetizers.

Grab some cheese and salami from Costco (seriously so much cheaper than the grocery store it is honestly insane), a loaf of french bread, some hummus & veggies, and call it good. Maybe it’s just me, but the space in my stomach is valuable real estate and there is 0% chance of me wanting to fill it with a mediocre eggplant dip or store-bought guacamole when there is a pile of cheese and bread sitting in front of me.

6. Ask people to bring things.

I love pretending I’m an independent woman who can do it all, some unique combination of Wonder Woman and Beyonce. But when it comes to the dinner party, that thinking is out because it is impossible and 100% not fun to cook all the things. Ask your friends to bring wine, a dip, a side, more wine — whatever you want, but this will save your wallet and your sanity.

Conquering the Dinner Party: how to pull it off without stressing yourself out

Now before everyone goes off thinking I’m missing the whole point, let’s clarify the most important thing: a great dinner party really just equates to using food as an excuse to get the people you like the most together in one room. I strongly believe food is the one common thread across cultures that brings people together and that shouldn’t be lost. If you totally bomb the dinner and end up ordering Domino’s, don’t beat yourself up. Just grab the wine your friend brought, brush it off, and remember we’ve all been there.

But if you’re anything like me and you’re able to pull off just some of the things you set out to do, you’ll feel like you truly conquered the dinner party.

 

Faster than Fast Food // quick + healthy baked salmon (in less than 20 mins)

Faster than Fast Food (seriously): Baked Salmon

Faster than Fast Food (seriously): Baked Salmon 2767 3754 fortheindoorsy

So let’s talk about dinner.

When you’re working 8-5 and sometimes longer than you’d like to admit, the worst thing in the world seems like cooking. Cooking for parties, sure. Cooking for a date, great. But cooking for yourself can be a major bummer, mostly because you’re tired AF and when it comes to prioritizing sleeping or eating, sometimes you’d rather just sleep (and do not sit there with your judgement and tell me I’m the only one who has wished I could do both simultaneously). But as soon as I think that, I catch my brain flipping through goals I’ve filed away like an old rolodex from the 80s: saving money, not eating food that is horrible for me, eating less red meat, etc. etc.

Now, let’s set the record straight: it took me a very, very long time to be convinced that cooking took just as long as picking up food. I grew up in a household where fast food was a staple, so 10-minute trips to Whataburger were a-ok because it was either Whataburger or bust. When I met Zach in college, he cooked, and that was very weird to me. We’d come home from the bars, I’d stumble into my room to change into pajamas and by the time I got back, I’d find Zach in a half-buttoned t-shirt and boxers heating up some potatoes in a cast-iron skillet. And when we got a little bit older, I’d call him after work lamenting about my day, asking him if we could just snag some fast food really quick instead of cooking. But he always insisted it would take just as long to cook.

Now, let’s be real: cooking for one isn’t the cheapest thing in the world, and the time required to cook vs. pick up food isn’t vastly different, but I think we can all agree there is a huge difference in the nutritional value between the two.

In the summer of 2012, I worked at a place chock-full of general athletes and health nuts and ex-Olympians (note: not an exaggeration) who lived incredibly healthy lives. At the same time, I was living in a spare bedroom at my friend’s parents’ house, and out of courtesy, I never wanted to occupy their kitchen for too long. Feeling the pressures of each environment, I got really damn good at the 15-minute dinner.

These recipes have become our staples, but they all have one thing in common: they are truly fast. For me, the advantage of take-out is the time savings, so I’ve designed these recipes so that they require approximately the same amount of time as driving to the nearest fast-food chain (about 7 minutes), waiting in line (about 5 minutes), and driving back home (about 20 minutes total time). They also are healthier and approximately as cost-effective (though TBH I am willing to pay a bit more for the added nutritional benefit).

Ultimately, I’ve created these recipes to be so mindless that not making them puts me in a whole other category of stubbornness that I am just not willing to admit to. They have multiple options for one ingredient in case you don’t have something on hand and are almost endlessly modifiable. Let the record show that I’m fully aware the techniques I outline break well-established rules. I’m sure Chef Gordon Ramsay would roast me for advising anyone to let the steam escape from the rice and I’m sure Betty Crocker is reeling from me not mentioning it should be fluffed with a fork. But these recipes are made for real life, not tv characters or advertisers, and I hope you find them helpful in breaking your raccoon-like eating habits of rummaging through the pantry and deciding to eat Triscuits for dinner (because we’ve all been there).

healthy salmon rice dinner recipe

BAKED SALMON IN PARCHMENT PAPER

*Indicates potential substitutes available, see notes below recipe

  • 6 oz. fresh salmon filet
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 handful fresh basil, thyme, sage, or some other herb you like*
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced**
  • 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil or Nonstick Cooking Spray***
  • Uncle Ben’s Fast Cook Long Grain & Wild Rice
  • Parchment Paper
  • Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.

Cook rice on stovetop according to package instructions. For faster cooking, keep water boiling with lid on, shaking pot to ensure rice doesn’t stick to bottom of the pan.

Remove peel and chop garlic. Set aside in a little pile. (Garlic sucks to peel. To speed this up, put garlic on its side, lay knife or something flat on top of it, and bang down on flat side of knife. This should smash the garlic and allow you to remove the peel easily; 10-second high-quality video clip here)

Chop/cut herbs into small pieces about the same size as garlic pieces. Sprinkle over salmon.

Grab a grater and zest the lemon directly over the salmon until salmon is lightly covered. If you don’t have a grater, hang on to your lemon until after the salmon is cooked.

Meanwhile, tear off parchment paper the length of a cookie sheet (roughly 3-4x the width of your salmon). Fold in half (hamburger half, not hotdog half) to crease. Unfold and place on cookie sheet.

Once rice has absorbed all the liquid, remove it from the stove and scoop it onto one side of the parchment paper. Put salmon directly on top of rice, skin side down.

Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over salmon. Sprinkle garlic over salmon.

Spray top of salmon with nonstick cooking spray, ensuring salmon is covered. Alternatively, pour the oil on the salmon and rub in with the toppings.

Flip the 2nd half of the parchment paper over the top of the salmon and fold matching edges together to create a loose seal.

Cook for 12-15 minutes until salmon is opaque and flakes off easily with a fork.

Slide food off parchment paper onto a plate and squeeze lemon on top.

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* 1/2 tsp dried herbs will work too

** if you’ve only got garlic powder, 1/4 tsp of that’ll do, and fun fact: minced garlic in a jar is even better for you!

*** I recommend Coconut Oil Cooking Spray because it’s easiest and it’s near impossible to mess up; totally okay if you have canola oil, avocado oil, etc. instead