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3 Easy Things to Cook When Your Health Makes Meal Planning Feel Impossible

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Depression, chronic illness, and other mental health and physical conditions can make some of the most basic things in life seem virtually impossible. Eating can be one of the most overwhelming of these basics. Thankfully, many of us live in areas where takeout and delivery are only a quick phone call away. But… what if you want to make something simple to eat that doesn’t take much time and effort or leave behind a huge mess to clean up? For those who may want a few “chef-approved” go-to “recipes,” these are for you. Consider them less “recipes” in the formal sense as there won’t be super specific measurements or ingredients. These are more like guidelines or templates that you can adjust based on your likes and dislikes and what ingredients you have on hand in your pantry.

Breakfast: Veggie and Egg Beater Frittata


1 egg beater single-serve cup, thawed — You can purchase these and keep them in the freezer for up to a year.

1 spoonful of salsa — I keep some Pace Picante in the fridge at all times for a quick and easy way to kick up the flavor in anything.

1 handful of chopped veggies — Every grocery store sells precut vegetables either in the produce section or at a salad bar. Having some of these on hand or frozen can be a great way to add fresh vegetables to a recipe without the hassle of cleaning/chopping the veggies or messing up a knife and cutting board.

Optional: chopped ham, turkey, or other deli meat. 

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a loaf pan with cooking spray or line it with foil for quick cleanup. Whisk together all the ingredients, put them in the loaf pan and bake for approx. 20 mins or until the eggs are set. Serve immediately or refrigerate leftovers for a quick, easy-to-reheat meal any time of the day for up to four days.

Lunch: Easy Mediterranean Dump Salad

Mediterranean salad

This will make more than one serving worth of salad, which keeps great in the refrigerator for multiple meals.

1 can Bush’s Rustic Tuscan Flavored or Plain Chickpeas, drained

1 can artichoke heart quarters, drained

1 can roasted peppers, drained and chopped, or 1 can diced green chili peppers, drained

1 pouch vacuum-sealed mushrooms — Walmart carries Minute Mushroom-brand portobello mushrooms that give a great rich flavor.

1 pouch ready-to-eat quinoa or rice

2-3 spoons of your favorite salad dressing — I like to keep some Ken’s Steakhouse Sweet Vidalia Onion on hand but use whatever you like.

Optional: goat’s cheese or feta to garnish. 

Dump all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Stir well. Serve. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Dinner: Simple Pan Roasted Veggie Dinner

Pan-roasted vegetables.

Roasting vegetables is the easiest way to cook them so that the natural sugars caramelize and give the veggies great flavor. Use a foil-lined baking sheet for quick and easy cleanup. 

Again, you can purchase pre-chopped veggies for this to make for easier cleanup. I recommend cauliflower florets, peeled and cubed butternut squash, baby potatoes (halved), and Brussels sprouts (halved).

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the veggies on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil or sesame oil for a more pronounced nutty flavor. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and Italian seasoning. Toss to combine. Bake for approx. 30-40 mins, stirring the veggies occasionally to ensure they roast evenly. The veggies are cooked when they are tender to a paring knife and slightly browned.

To serve, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar and garnish with Parmesan cheese. The leftover veggies could be used to make the Veggie and Egg Beater Frittata recipe and could be added into the Easy Mediterranean Dump Salad!

I hope these “recipes” are a useful reference for when cooking just feels like too much work. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with not having the bandwidth for any food preparation. If a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, toast, oatmeal, or ramen noodles are all you have the energy for, that’s OK. As long as you are nourishing your body in some way when your illness hits hard, what you eat matters less than just eating something.

Originally published: April 13, 2022
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