Make-ahead Meals Keep Diet (and Life) on Track – Fresh Tastes by Bev
By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB
Laura is a single IC patient who works hard eight to ten hours a day. When she leaves the office bone-tired at the end of the day she just wants some food on the table… quick. The first hour or so after work, she’ll admit, is the toughest time of the day for her to stick to her diet. She’s in no mood to make an elaborate meal from scratch using only fresh, preservative-free ingredients. So she often stops by the deli or picks something up from a fast food place, even though she may not know what’s in the food.
A bladder symptom flare up is a risk she’s willing to take. For her, the temptation to play diet roulette is directly related to the amount of overtime she works. Like most people, when Laura is tired she eats whatever is readily available. She knows she risks paying later with a flare that will keep her from getting a good night’s sleep. And the lack of sleep will make her even more tired the next day. It’s a vicious cycle that’s easy for us to fall into.
Keeping on track with a diet is hard. Ask anyone who’s tried to lose weight. According to weight loss clinics and dietitians, part of making any diet work is knowing yourself. When are you most likely to snack on “forbidden” foods or give in to the desire for some fast-food take out? Is it lunches?… or dinners? Do you pig out on diet no-no’s when you’re stressed or working furiously? Or is it more likely when you’re bored, with little to do? Do you cheat on your diet more when you’re alone or with others?
Knowing what drives you to indulge in that pizza slice is half the battle. The other half is making a battle plan for handling those “danger” times. To paraphrase a popular bumper sticker: if you’re too busy to take care of your body, you’re too busy. If you tend to cheat on your diet when you’re under pressure, consider a
lifestyle change to free up some time. If you can’t cut back on the tasks you need to accomplish, then consider working “smarter”, not harder. In terms of meal preparation, that can mean cooking up two or three meals at one time and packaging the excess for quick meals later. Just pop them in the microwave for a couple minutes and dinner’s ready. What could be more fuss- free?
Of course the make-it-ahead strategy doesn’t pay if you have to spend hours and hours cooking up the food in the first place. The best recipes for multi-meal cooking are ones that take little time to put together or prepare, can cook without constant supervision, require little clean- up, are easy to package for later use, and can withstand freezing or storage well. Ideally they still taste great when reheated. It’s a tall order, but there are plenty of foods to fill the bill.
Roasts and oven-baked meats are easy to prepare ahead and can be used for both dinners and lunches. For IC kids’ lunches, package foods separately but inventively. Little touches can make them feel special, not “different”. Roll up some thin-sliced beef roast and secure with a colorful fancy toothpick. Then spread a slice of bread with butter, cut in half, and put the halves together like a sandwich (sprinkle some brown sugar on the butter for a real treat!). Include some whole black olives (with holes for fingers, of course!) And string cheese (mozzarella in an easy-to-eat shape). Add crisp sliced veggies or an individual pop-top can of pears (sans citric acid and artificial sweeteners of course). Kids like “finger foods” so avoiding mayonnaise laden sandwiches is not too difficult.
Hard-boiled eggs are another versatile protein food that keep well and you can grab quickly breakfast or lunch. Here is a great recipe for oven-baked chicken that takes less than 45 minutes altogether to prepare and cook. It gives you plenty of extra chicken breasts for lunches or dinners later, and it both freezes and reheats well.
Anise Baked Chicken
– serves 6
- 6 Tbsp. margarine
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (rice flour works ok too)
- 4 egg whites, slightly beaten
- 1 c. unseasoned dry bread crumbs (Progresso is a good brand)
- 2-1/2 tsp. crushed anise seed
- 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 2 Tbsp. white wine (optional- see note)
- 6 boned and skinned chicken breasts
- Melt the margarine and pour into an 8 x11-inch baking dish, tilting the dish to thoroughly coat the entire bottom (you can also microwave the margarine in the dish to melt it). Line up three bowls…. soup bowls work nicely.
- In the first bowl, place the flour. In the second bowl, place the bread crumbs. Thoroughly mix the cinnamon, anise, allspice and coriander into the breadcrumbs. In the third bowl briefly whisk the four egg whites until they are somewhat frothy. Stir a tablespoon of white wine into the egg whites if desired.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Rinse each chicken breast and pat dry with a paper towel. Dredge each breast in the flour, brushing off the excess so only a fine coating remains. Dip into the egg white, covering the chicken piece. Next, dip each chicken breast into the breadcrumbs, rolling to thoroughly coat the breast on all sides. Lastly, place the chicken in the melted margarine and roll it over to get both sides coated. Dip back into the crumbs patting crumbs onto the breast, making sure it is evenly and thoroughly coated. Again, roll in the margarine, coating both sides. Leave the breast in the baking dish. Repeat the procedure with the other chicken breasts.
- Bake chicken uncovered at 375 degrees F. for 30 minutes or until breasts are done. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Note: The alcohol in the white wine burns off during cooking (alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water) and the alkaline egg white probably neutralizes the acidity. But if you’re nervous about even this tiny amount of wine, just omit it. The wine isn’t really necessary and the recipe is wonderful without it.
The old standby for summer picnics, fried chicken, also keeps well in the refrigerator and makes for tasty lunch fare on workdays. For sack lunches, take a small container of cottage cheese, some carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, and fried chicken. You can slice up a weeks worth of carrot sticks and bell pepper strips while the chicken fries. Pre-package the veggies in individual plastic bags in the refrigerator and all you have to do in the morning is grab and run. Freeze the chicken in individual freezer bags and you can let it defrost while cooling the rest of your sack lunch.
Cornbread goes great with chicken, works well as cold food in sack lunches and is easy to make ahead. Make an extra batch of this delicious cornbread and combine it with your extra cooked Anise Baked Chicken to make Chicken Cornbread Casserole (page 127 in my cookbook, A Taste of the Good Life: A Cookbook for an Interstitial Cystitis Diet). The casserole freezes and reheats well too!
– serves 8
- 1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1-1/4 c. milk
- 2 eggs plus 1 egg white, slightly beaten
- 6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 Tbsp. melted butter
- 3 Tbsp. 100% pure maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease or generously spray a loaf pan with a non-stick oil spray.
- Combine flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl.
- In a smaller bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, corn oil, melted butter, maple syrup, and vanilla.
- Add to the dry ingredients a stir just until well blended.
- Pour into prepared loaf pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees F. for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.