You have busy lives. I know this. We all want to eat well and be organised, but somehow the effort of making it happen - even to know how to make it happen - can be all too much. So a lot of us continue to stumble through our eating week, and inevitably either spend far too much time and money shopping for food – quite often several times a week - or worse, eating badly in food (particularly fast-food) outlets. Not that these are always inherently bad things; but if we are to be truly in control of what we eat - right down to the good and bad fats we’ve discussed - then we have to do more for ourselves, and be more prepared.
There is a way to address all of these seemingly conflicting elements: I call it 'upcycling'. And while some might call it 'using up leftovers', it’s more planned and organised than that.
What I have set out to show you with my upcycling recommendations on the recipes throughout the book is how to take one dish, and with just a small bit of planning, some creativity and a bit of tweaking, to have a whole new dish at the ready.
3 approaches, 1 concept: Upcycling. All of which is geared towards giving you one less thing to think about in your busy day.
Deeply decadent to hold, hugely simple in practice: just stuff, wrap, grab and bite. Very basic, very practical, sometimes messy, always extremely satisfying. Have your palm size portions ready, and all you’ll need to do is shred or chop, and assemble.
* Lay the wrap down on a flat surface.
* Spread with your avocado / pesto / nut butter / hummus / whatever spread you are using, as you would when making a sandwich.
* Sprinkle your chopped protein choice (beef, chicken, cheese, fish – or whatever yummy leftover you were clever enough to make more of!) in a thick line down one side of the wrap.
* Sprinkle the shredded vegetables (salad leaves, roasted tomatoes, sliced beetroot, roasted vegetable) over that.
* Season, to taste, or drizzle with a little oil
* Fold up the bottom to hold ingredients in place, roll the wrap gently but firmly from left to right, grip tight, and bite. If eating later they are best wrapped in baking parchment and tied with string (or, for a special occasion – such as a picnic or a child’s birthday party – a colourful ribbon). Pop in the fridge if they need to set, and just cut the whole thing with a sharp knife to serve.
Wraps can be fun and practical for picnics, feeding kids and teenagers, or putting in a back pack, and they can be as rustic or as sophisticated as you like. You may find that they can get a bit soggy if left for too long (depending of course on how “wet” your filling is) but this shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of them; if anything, having the flavours deepen and combine makes them taste even better!
There are a variety of wrap options available now: plain white, whole-wheat, corn - even gluten free; this is a sensational way to ensure you have a lunch that not only sustains you, but provides you with the components you needs keep your blood sugar levels steady, your brain fuelled, and muscles nourished. But while it’s undoubtedly doing a serious job, it’s still a fun meal.
A great substitute for the actual wrap is to use lettuce leaf instead. I love this as an alternative if I find that if I’m filling up too much on carbohydrates. Just wash and dry the largest leaf that covers the outside of the lettuce (iceberg is best) and use it in the way described above. Use your common sense – if you need 2 leaves to hold the filling, then use 2.
As ever, spreads such as hummus or nut-butters can be homemade or store bought; but wherever possible, use a homemade version.
Salads are a super way to upcycle food, being convenient, easy, fresh and budget-friendly. They are also a far cry from the limp offerings of lettuce and tomato which have given them a reputation that seems hard to shake.
It’s so easy to toss a very substantial main meal salad together if you’ve done your prep work: last night’s roast beef is tomorrow’s Very Pink Salad at the office. Or take a portion of cold new potatoes, of roasted sweet potato, or of cold wild rice, mix with some cooked veg and some lively herbs and dressing, to make a delightful and spontaneous new dish. Throwing in some pine kernels or cashew nuts will add to the interest, as will a splash of chilli oil... The combinations are endless.
Another wonderful meal option is the warm salad – a stunning combination of fresh crunchy leaves, reheated roasted vegetables or warmed cheese, or a generous helping of last night’s Jerk Chicken – which is guaranteed to satisfy you anytime.
So now, when we talk about salads, we no longer mean that limp lettuce and cucumber combo; we mean a meal to sustain you properly, to nourish and fill you, and to boost your energy levels. With upcycling, an “oh, it’s just something I prepared earlier” dish becomes the type of healthy, substantial dish you can throw together in an instant.
A word about bread. I need the discipline of the Rule of Palm here, more so than with any other food, as I would happily live on bread (and I think quite a few of you reading this would say the same thing). Bread has been given a bad name in recent years, largely because we haven’t learnt how to eat it as part of a balanced diet. That’s what’s so great about the Rule of Palm – it gives you a means to eat the right amount of good old-fashion comfort food, daily.
In addition, we don’t always eat good bread – by which I mean bread which has been baked using the minimum of ingredients, and relying on traditional baking methods. There are so many great bread varieties, and whenever possible I chose a non-wheat option – such as spelt or rye – as I find that the flavours are so much more intense and I get a longer-lasting energy boost.
Open sarnies are best eaten off a plate - for obvious reasons! – and having only one slice / portion of bread will help you maintain the Rule of Palm.
Like salads, building an open sandwich is not so much an art, as a process of creativity. This will be made easier by having wonderful ready-prepared, upcycled ingredients to hand – allowing you to transform a standard lunch option ('just a sarnie') into a gourmet dish!
Think for a moment of your standard ready-made sandwich: two pieces of lack-lustre bread enveloping a spoonful of almost unidentifiable protein oozing with some type of white binding spread. Now imagine what you can do with a thick slice of artisan bread, the remains of your Chicken with Whole Spices, a portion of Honey and Balsamic Roasted Vegetables, some home-made pesto, and a handful of baby leaves... Or with a wholewheat pitta pocket, the Tumeric Chicken Kebabs, and a portion of Beetroot Tzatziki...
As with our wraps or upcycled salads, the pairings really are endless. And because the sandwich police – who seem intent on us having the same sandwich combinations over and over again – aren’t watching, you can match your chosen bread base with whatever delicious dish you have leftover in your fridge.
It should take very little to convince you to include baked potatoes into your weekly plan – especially during the winter, when they are to be particularly appreciated as the ultimate in comfort and convenience food. As a happy aside, the health benefits I wish to promote work easily with a meal centred on a baked potato.
One downside to baked potatoes for many people is the length of time they take to cook. This is rarely a concern for me, as I almost always pop a few potatoes in the oven if I’m cooking anything which will take a while; I know that if they’re not eaten straight away I’ll upcycle them in the days to come. However, if you’re making them on their own, try starting them off in the microwave – about 10 minutes or so - and finishing them in the oven. That way you still get the lovely crispiness of the skin (always leave it on) but with the beautiful soft fluffiness inside.
For too long the humble baked potato has been paired with the usual suspects: grated cheese, baked beans, tinned sweetcorn (and sometimes all three!); instead, try upcycling them with some of the wonderful dishes in this book, to really make them shine. I absolutely love them stuffed with the remains of Courgettes and Goat’s Cheese & Lemongrass Pesto, which I can guarantee you’ll enjoy as much as I do. Another firm favourite is to stuff them with the upcycled Blue Cheese Burger. Or how about topping one with some Roasted Ratatouille? Or some Spinach with Cream Cheese and Lemon?
I’ll leave it to your imagination... It’s quite a decadent winner, as you’ll find.
Finally, some good stuff to know about potatoes: they help to raise serotonin levels, which is the feel-good hormone produced in the brain, therefore offering emotional comfort (like I said –comfort food). They’re also perfect for a late supper, to ensure deep dreamless sleep. And they help you feel fuller for longer, which is why I like them for lunch.
But mainly, they’re just jolly nice. A perfect reason for me to promote the baked potato!