Today is bittersweet because we’re wrapping up Season #1 of The Grapefruit & Granola Podcast. Thanks for hanging out with me over these past 15 episodes!
I love this last episode! I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Harrington from RDelicious Kitchen all about meal prep tips from a dietitian chef. She had some great advice and I learned a lot. See below for show notes!
Simple Cooking and Meal Prep Tips from a Chef
Julie went to Johnson & Wales to obtain her culinary degree and complete her DPD courses in order to be eligible to become a registered dietitian.
Advice for people who don’t have time to cook
Julie recommends identifying the reason WHY you don’t have time to cook and create. What is your core barrier?
- Is it because you need some basic cooking skills?
- Are you stocking your fridge properly?
- Do you *know* what to prepare at home?
Once you identify the specific reason, you can pinpoint a few ways to improve in that specific area.
If your barrier is time, is it that you don’t have time to grocery shop? Maybe you could order groceries or do 1 big grocery trip where you buy 2 week’s worth of groceries. Is it time in the sense that you get home and you don’t have time to cook a meal? Maybe you can meal prep in advance.
If you want to start meal prepping, go ahead and ask yourself- “How can I start the prep process?”
Ex: if you just bought a head of broccoli, begin the prep process when you first bring the broccoli home. Go ahead and wash it and trim it. Keep it in a mesh produce bag. Now that broccoli is ready for you when you get home from work and it can be cooked immediately. Begin the process as soon as possible to make it easier on yourself later.
Meal prep can be getting smaller items together instead of worring about complete meals. Why is prepping big meals not the best idea? Think about what you’re craving for the day – how will your prepped meal fit in with that? You may be more or less hungry on the day of as well.
Yes, you’re meal prepping but you’re not prepping an entire meal.
Prep 1 full tray of roasted vegetables. You can then use them in different dishes.
Meal prep for grains
Batch cook 1 grain for the week. Batch cook it with plain with water so you can use it for anything.
Purchasing bulk grains is most cost effective but then you have to cook them.
Frozen whole grains on hand in the freezer is always handy for times when you don’t feel like cooking or going to the store.
Purchasing the tearable pouch is another great option.
Is Cooking Expensive?
Julie doesn’t think so but you have to prioritize.
Eating healthy on a budget is definitely doable. Julie learned some great tips when she was a supermarket RD.
Shop seasonal. Everything that’s seasonal will be more affordable because it’s more readily available.
You’re going to pay for convenience, so weigh the pros and cons of that. What’s more convenient for you? The broccoli crowns will be cheaper than the pre-chopped vegetables.
A lot of times, the store brand products are actually a name brand with a new label on it. For example, maybe a store brand hummus is actually the same as a name brand hummus except they changed 1 ingredient.
The store brands are much more affordable.
Julie makes smoothie bags by pre-measuring items and putting them in little ziploc bags. Then she freezes them in advance.
Purchase meats on sale, especially seafood, and then freeze them until you’re ready to use them. Make sure you wrap it in plastic and tin foil so that there’s no air getting in.
Basic Cooking Skills
Julie says the #1 skill is cutting skills: holding a knife properly and chopping skills.
Julie recommends holding your hand on the handle as far up as you can (closer to the blade). The further back you hold your knife, the less control you have. Do NOT put your finger on the top of the blade because you’re using a grip by not using all of your fingers.
You don’t need super fancy knives, you just need a sharp knife. The two she recommends are a chef’s knife and a paring knife.
Chef’s knife (utility knife or home cook knife):
This is the most common type of kitchen knife. It comes in different lengths and the shorter length provides more control. Length is mostly about preference. Chef’s knives come in French tip and Japanese style for different types of tips, and whichever you prefer is a personal preference.
A paring knife is smaller than a chef’s knife. It is great for cutting finer things, like segmenting citrus or peeling something back.
Knife Safety Skills
#1 – hold knife properly
#2- round your guiding hand (not the hand holding the knife) so that your knuckles are rounded. This will prevent your fingers from getting chopped if your knife slips.
#3- if you’re really new, get a cut glove to protect your fingers.
A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife. There are a couple of ways you can sharpen them!
- Buy a small handheld sharpener that comes with a coarse side and a fine side. Julie recommends this one (which is the exact same one that I have!)
- You can guy a fancier stone knife sharpener with oil.
- Or you can send your knives out and get them sharpened professionally.
Sharpen your knives at least twice per week if you use them often, or once per week if you don’t use them a lot.
Brands of Knives
Wusthof knives are Julie’s favorites. They are more pricey but she only has 2 (a chef’s knife and a paring knife) – she recommends this set.
She also recommends this J.A. Henckles knife.
Global knives like these are very lightweight
Kitchen Aid also has some really great knives at affordable prices
Julie’s Meal Prep Tips
Stir fry: frozen rice, edamame, frozen vegetables and a touch of soy sauce
Pantry staples: canned beans, grains because they’re easy to store
Julie likes to keep things simple. Sometimes we really overdo it- we actually want to taste the food :) You don’t want to mask it with too many seasonings.
Salt and Pepper is a great, simple choice.
Seasoning blends- Julie recommends italian seasoning, poultry blend, cajun blend, etc.
Fattier meats = more flavor
But that doesn’t mean that leaner cuts of meats can’t have flavor, though. Julie recommends using some sort of acid to break down the meat. Marinade a meat for at least a couple of hours. Here’s her recipe for a flank steak marinade!
For just a plain chicken breast, Julie recommends using a marinade a seasoning rub or searing the chicken. The simplest way to cook chicken is to use a few seasonings and then bake it. She recommends using a digital meat thermometer so that you’re not cutting into the meat to see if it’s cooked (and losing the juices).
Recommendations for Beginners
Start very small, like with 1 item. Maybe it’s a side vegetable. Maybe it’s a sauce. Just master one thing before you move on to the next.
For overall healthy cooking, you don’t need
Microplane / zester (here) – you can add a lot of flavor with lemon or lime zest, fresh parmesan cheese, fresh nutmeg or cinnamon.
Digital Meat Thermometer – Julie recommends this one
Salad Spinner – can also be used to wash berries, rinse beans, wash your greens ahead of time. (like this one)
About Julie Harrington
Julie is the Registered Dietitian and Culinary Nutrition Chef behind her blog RDelicious Kitchen, based in New Jersey. Her passion is educating about nutrition through food! Her blog features nourishing recipes with creative culinary ideas to help everyone gain culinary confidence and cook a little more in their kitchens.Along with being a cookbook author, most recently, her recipes have been featured in SHAPE, Huffington Post, US News & World Report and Healthy Aperture. Along with running her own business, Julie is the Culinary Nutrition Program Coordinator of Living Plate, where she teaches cooking classes and involves culinary instruction with nutrition education. With previous experience as a supermarket RD, Julie partners with like-minded food brands and organizations on recipe development, food photography/videography, nutrition communications, and media work.