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  • Julie Fingersh

The Impatient Chef: The Secret to Eating Healthy All Week

[In our last chat, we covered three ways to get sane about weight loss and a lifetime commitment to healthy eating. This week, we tackle the nuts and bolts.]

Finding the holy grail of healthy diet and weight control is a full time, unpaid job, where hope, thank God, springs eternal––especially on Mondays.

Yep, Mondays are a natural weekly reset day, a time to leave behind the sins of the weekend and begin anew.

Problem is, if you don’t come to Monday prepared, it’s easy to be dead in the water by Wednesday. This is how cereal leads to office donuts leads to an extra glass of wine leads to attacking your kids’ plate leads to you standing in the pantry naked at 2 a.m. eating peanut butter out of the jar with a serving spoon.

As an impatient cook who hates complicated recipes, my solution is binge-cooking and prepping a handful of dishes and snacks on Sunday so I can stay on track all week.

Why should binge-prepping be your new law? This:

Location. Sure, we all love eating out. But since most restaurant food is saturated with hidden salt, fat and sugar––even when it’s marketed as “healthy”––eating food you buy or cook is your only real chance of eating clean. Which is why I eat home cooked or prepped food 90% of the time. And your best chance of sticking with that? Filling your fridge with abundant, delicious food that’s easy to grab or make into a meal.

Laziness/efficiency quotient: Filling that fridge takes a lot of work. Like you, I don’t want to spend a million hours cooking and thinking about cooking all week. This is why Sunday binge-cooking is the best way to get it done.

Aesthetics and access. You can’t believe how much you’re going to want to eat everything good for you––say, steel cut oatmeal, sautéed veggies, whole wheat pasta, artichokes, blanched green beans, grapes, pineapple, cherries, blueberries, a rainbow of raw veggies––when it’s all put in clear glass containers and stowed right in front of your face.

Convinced? Great. Here we go.

First, if you’re an impatient chef like me, don’t sit down with an excel spreadsheet and a stack of cookbooks. Know why? Because that’s a nightmare.

Instead, do this: Decide on three dishes you’ll make for the week and save an extra thirty minutes for prepping easy breakfasts, meal add-ons and snacks.

Now get yourself to a market to shop for your three dishes, as well as great looking fruits, veggies, grains, and healthy breakfast ingredients.

Then go home and spend a few hours in your kitchen, making it all in one afternoon.

I can usually get most everything at Trader Joe’s, which has a mind-blowing variety of great choices, along with stopping at my fave fruit/veggie store. Of course, if you have a local farmer’s market, that’s where you’ll get the best.

Then I come home, put nothing in the fridge because I’m going to work with it all, put on music or a great podcast, and get ready to cook for a few hours.

Every week, I fill my fridge with:

—At least one kind of soup (Easy to make, versatile and great to have a bowl anytime you need a snack.)

—A giant tray of roasted or sautéed veggies

––A veggie-based pie dish (So I can feel like I’m eating pie)

––A big batch of oatmeal

––Tons of fruit and veggies that are rinsed, cut and ready to eat, put in glass containers at eye level.

––While my dishes are cooking, I'll often make a grain for the week that I can add in as a complete protein to veggies, soups and salads. Great ones are farro, bulgur, quinoa, wheat berries and wild rice.

To get you started, here are a few of my favorites:

Turkish Bride Red Lentil Soup


This soup is so easy to make and SO yum, especially with fresh mint torn and thrown on top along with thin slices of lemon.

Rustic Roasted Veggie Soup (adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe )

1 Eggplant

3 Zucchini

1 Onion

1 Box or large can of diced tomato

Spices: crushed red pepper, black pepper, fennel seeds

Chop up veggies, throw them on a cookie sheet, spray oil on them, roast at 450 till brown, around 25 minutes.

As they cook, sauté another chopped onion, add a box of tomatoes, spices, then throw in roasted veggies and let cook for another 10 minutes or so to combine flavors. Add parmesan cheese, basil, whatever floats your boat. Done and divine!

Ridiculously Good Roasted Veggies

Roasting veggies, like making corn on the cob, can sometimes feel like a whole thing. Here's my favorite way because it's fast, easy and unspeakably good right off the pan.

Buy whatever veggies you want––try slabs of cabbage, brocollini, onions, peppers, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, zucchini––anything!

Cut them and lay them out on a cookie sheet in a gorgeous array. Spray with a light mist of olive oil. (I love Traders Joe’s).

Cook at 450 till golden brown for around 25 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan if desired.

Key message––Always think in terms of food combos. How can I use everything in lots of ways––and how can I make it last? You can do innumerable things with these veggies, like:

––Add them to eggs

––Throw them in salad

––Roll them up in whole wheat tortillas with salsa and beans

––Put them on top of whole wheat bread or whole pita bread, sprinkle with cheese, then toast for veggie flatbread

––Stuff into a pita with hummus and hot sauce, plus some protein

––Add Rao’s tomato sauce (the best) to them and make pasta primavera.

Yummy, Easy Greens Pie

Here's the original recipe, and here's my simplified version:

Buy your favorite greens, which these days, you can usually find already washed, bagged and ready to go.

I get: spinach, kale, chard.

Two different kinds of onions: chives, scallions, leeks

Bunch of chopped asparagus

A few cloves of garlic

Good feta - as much as you like. I use a few handfuls.

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and throw everything in your skillet with garlic and sauté till soft.

Combine 1 1/2 cups of Italian bread crumbs with a couple tablespoons of olive oil on top and bake till golden brown at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Do you see the idea behind my method? You can look at any recipe and simplify with less oil and healthier ingredients.

Remember that after you cook your three dishes, take the time to clean, wash and put into clear glass containers all your fruit, veggies and grains.

Then be pleased with yourself all week…and feast!

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