Resolve to Cook More!
If December is the month of over-doing, then January is the month of do-overs. This is when we look to right our wrongs, temper our bad habits and generally strive for a better version of ourselves. Whether it’s improving our health, spending more time with the family, or managing our money, the first part of the year is the time we seek out practical things we can do to “do it better this year”. I propose a simple step you can take this year to support your goals, whether they be around health, family time, the bottom-line, or all three; cook more.
It seems too simple, right? But in reality, the day-in-day-out practice of cooking at home can be a challenge amidst the busyness of life. The drive-thru or pizza delivery service beckon at the end of a long day, especially when evening commitments squeeze the dinner hour. Sometimes it can hardly seem worth the effort of getting out the pots and pans when dinner can be a phone call or quick zap in the microwave away.
Benefits of Cooking More
And yet, it is well established that cooking at home produces meals that are inherently healthier. Home cooked meals contain less calories, fat, and added sugar than those eaten away from home. A recent study showed that an average restaurant meal can contain between 800 – 1500 calories. Given that the daily recommended caloric intake for most women is somewhere around 1500 – 1800 calories, it’s easy to see how eating out regularly can lead to over-consumption of calories. Plus when you are the chef you have control over the quality and amounts of each ingredient. Ever read the ingredient list of a frozen convenience meal? If you do it’s easy to understand how cooking your own meals leads to cleaner, more wholesome eating.
No less important than health benefits is the quality time that gathering around the kitchen table offers. Studies have shown that children who grow up in families that regularly eat together have lower incidences of obesity, depression and drug abuse and higher grades and self-esteem. That’s a pretty impressive potential for return on investment. Not to mention the practical benefits of participating in meal decisions, preparation and clean up – these basic kitchen skills are acquired through home meal preparation and will serve kids for a lifetime.
And unless a fast-food dollar menu is your primary locale for eating out, foods prepared at home will almost always be more economical. For families that eat out often, more home cooked meals can lead to significant savings. A mommy blogger posted recently that her family had saved $2600 dollars in the past year by cutting down from eating out 3-4 times a week to only once. That’s a significant savings!
You Can’t Go Wrong with Cooking More
So if looser pants, a fatter wallet and a deeper connection with the kids sound enticing for the new year, scrounge up some new recipes and head to the kitchen. Though none of these outcomes is a guarantee, you can’t go wrong with cooking more!
Weeknight meals needn’t be a gourmet affair to be healthful and nourishing. Simple meals like soup and sandwiches, entree salads, or omelets can be assembled and prepared in minutes with a minimum of dirty dishes.
This month’s recipe is a good example, Lemony Chicken and Spinach Soup with Feta Cheese. It’s a simple Greek-inspired chicken soup that requires very little prep time, cooks in 25 minutes and can be the centerpiece of a weeknight meal. Pair it with pita bread and a green salad for a comforting and quick family dinner that’s light and lean.
Lemony Chicken and Spinach Soup with Feta Cheese
Chicken & Spinach Soup with Feta Cheese
- Dutch oven or soup pot
- 1 lb. gound chicken
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 15 oz. can white bean (Great Northern or Cannellini), drained
- 48 oz. chicken broth
- juice of half of a lemon
- 5 oz. container of spinach
- 1 cup crumbled feta
- 1 Tbsp chopped parsley (optional)
- In a soup pot, cook onion in olive oil until onions start to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add ground chicken to pot and cook, breaking chicken into bite size crumbles. Cook chicken thoroughly.
- Add garlic and oregano and cook for an additional minute. Add beans, broth, salt and juice of half lemon. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook at a simmer for 15 minutes to combine flavors and reduce slightly.
- Rough chop the spinach and add to the hot soup. Cook until just wilted. Add crumbled feta, lemon peel, and chopped parsley. Cook, stirring until feta has melted and soup is slightly thickened. Serve immediately.