So here’s the deal when you’re trying to follow any dietary protocol: you gotta plan. Someway, somehow, you’ve got to be ready for those inevitable moments. You know, the ones where you’re suddenly ravenously hungry but don’t have time to cook. Or the days when you get home and the idea of having to rummage through the fridge for sustenance, yet alone – heavens forfend! – having to turn on your oven and actually COOK, makes you want to just give up and dial for a takeout. Food blogger or not, I totally have those moments. And here’s the kicker: I live at least an hour from the nearest store and there isn’t a takeout place for miles, yet alone one that would deliver. Something about them not liking to drive for miles over pot-holed dirt roads… so I always have to be ready to whip up some easy AIP meals when hunger strikes!
Yup, I really, really need to be prepared when it comes to sticking to the AIP. But I have a little dirty kitchen secret. Despite how everyone and their mom will tell me about the wonders of meal planning, guess what? I really, really despise meal planning. It’s nothing personal, but I’m more of a “by the seat of my pants” kinda gal and I’m just not a fan of that kind of rigidity in the kitchen for myself. (If you can’t live life without meal planning, this is a no judgement zone! Everybody has to do what works for them!) Personally, if I’ve planned a particular recipe to cook on Wednesday night, for example, I can almost guarantee that I won’t feel like either cooking or eating that dish when Wednesday comes around. I can’t help it, I just like more spontaneity in the kitchen, since I like to play around and experiment rather than cook from recipes that I’ve planned out in advance. Here’s a fun fact: the only time I measure ingredients is when I’m recipe testing for you guys! So how do I reconcile those two sides? The free-for-all me and the one who has specific dietary needs while living in a location that means I can’t just “pop out” to either the store or a restaurant?
I keep a stash of what I nickname “flavor boosters” to hand at all time. Simple sauces, dressings, dips and condiments that can be added to the simplest of ingredients to jazz them up and make them into easy AIP meals. Each weekend, I’ll pick a couple of different condiments and whip up a quick batch that I can stash in the fridge, ready to have to hand when I need them. I also make sure to have a couple of different flavored olive oils and salts in my pantry for that finishing touch of flavor. It’s quicker than batch cooking full meals by far and means that I never have to eat a plain burger or salad again! So here’s an example of what I might make at a weekend, plus a couple of my pantry staples:
- BBQ Sauce: The recipe for my nightshade free recipe is exclusive to Nourish: The Paleo Healing Cookbook because it looks, tastes and can be used exactly like “traditional” BBQ sauces, but you can find other AIP recipes like this Cherry BBQ Sauce from Autoimmune Paleo or this Rhubarb BBQ Sauce from Beyond the Bite. Slather on top of burgers and grilled meats, as a dipping sauce or even as an alternative to salad dressing when thinned down a little.
- Dairy Free Cheese Sauce: Pile on top of a baked sweet potato with bacon and green onions, spoon it on top of burgers, drizzle it over your taco salads, or use it as a dip for roasted veggies. It’ll make a mean “queso” style dip for sweet potato chips and can level up your AIP nacho game. This stuff could make a flip flop taste like a decadent treat!
- Flavored Olive Oils: These are a great weapon to keep in your pantry, since they can liven up the simplest vegetable sides. I like to finish off my breakfast soups with a little lemon olive oil, drizzle roasted vegetables with basil olive oil or mash a little garlic olive oil into a baked sweet potato just before serving.
- Four Greens Pesto: This a great one to stash in the fridge, since it’s packed with hidden greens and keeps its bright, vibrant flavor for at least a week. I like to toss it with hot roasted veggies, thin it down into a salad dressing, mix it up with ground pork or chicken for some tasty meatballs, use it to dip crudités into, or just plain eat it off a spoon. It’s happened in my house, not gonna lie.
- Artichoke Hummus: You can use this as a traditional hummus for dipping, but don’t stop there! Use it to top protein-packed lettuce cups, whip it into salads as a mayo replacement or add it to a greek inspired burger or kebab!
- Finishing Salts: Pictured here are the Lavender-Marjoram and Rosemary-Leek finishing salts from my cookbook, but you can find a huge variety of choices to choose from that will make your meals shine with just this little extra touch! Try a porcini mushroom salt for extra umami, a lemon salt for a bright, zesty addition or an alderwood smoked salt for a little punch to your meats!
Once you have a couple of condiments like these ready to go, you’re all set for some easy AIP meals! I like to make sure that each week I have have some leftover or quick cooking proteins (ground meat of choice, good quality canned salmon or tuna), some salad greens (I eat the lighter quicker-to-go-bad varieties like spinach and arugula first, then move onto darker leafy greens like chard and kale later on in the week) and a few veggies of your choice, you’re only a quick chop and maybe a saute away from dinner in 30 minutes or less.
I pulled a few examples of recent weekday meals I’ve made using these condiments from my Instagram feed so you can see what I mean:
On the left, I made a speedy Taco Salad by cooking up some ground beef using my AIP Taco Seasoning (you can find that in Nourish), then piling it on top of shredded lettuce, mixed greens and carrots, drizzling it with Cheese Sauce and then topping everything with chopped radishes and green onions. Add a side of sliced avocado and you won’t miss the nightshades! On the right, I made a BBQ Burger Salad with a base of lettuce & greens to which I added roast cauliflower and carrots (20 minutes at 425F, or hit the hot bar on the way home if that’s an option for you!), topped with a chopped up burger patty and drizzled with some BBQ Sauce for a quick, tangy dressing.
On the left, I mixed up some good quality canned salmon with my Artichoke Hummus and a little extra lemon olive oil in place of mayo, then added lots of lemon, dill, red onion and capers. I piled that all on top of greens and grated carrot for a meal that took 10 minutes to go from kitchen to my face! On the right, I went with a “breakfast for dinner” theme, cooking up some bacon on the stove top, roasting up some quick white sweets (cut into breakfast hash sized pieces and tossed with a little oil, they take 20 minutes in the oven at 425F), then adding in the asparagus in the last 8 minutes so it was ready at the same time. I topped the asparagus with plenty of Four Greens Pesto for a boost of greens, healthy fat and flavor!
So, that’s the method to my weekday kitchen madness! Easy AIP meals means whipping up simple plates that are packed with veggies and pumping up the flavor by adding my favorite condiments. I find this is the simplest way for me to strike a balance between being prepared enough that I’m never permanently stuck in hangry-mode, but free enough that I’m not tied to a meal plan and can adapt my meals to what I have in the fridge, any leftovers I need to use up and being able to go with however my mood strikes me!
What’s your weekday food style? Do you find this inspiring, or does it freak you out more than watching a M. Night Shyalaman movie at night while home alone? (Is that just me?). Tell me in the comments below!
PS: If all this winging it talk gives you the heebie jeebies, you might want to check out the AIP Batch Cook program from Autoimmune Paleo, which will teach you how to cook up an entire week’s worth of food in 2 two-hour sessions!