After traveling through airports and hotels for 4 or 5 days, there is nothing better than coming home.  Sleeping in your own bed, seeing your family, getting back to a normal routine, eating fresh food, and resetting your internal clock just to name a few!  It can also be overwhelming.  Since you have been gone, some basic daily chores like laundry and food prep have piled up.  The food process can be the most daunting, if you don't know where to start.  Who wants to arrive home just to spend all day in the kitchen to enjoy fresh food?  No one!  We also want to eat healthy whole foods which inevitably requires a little work.  Can there be a balance?  Of course!

What follows is my general routine I follow in the kitchen right when I walk through the door (unless the surf is good).  This quick and easy process gets some basic food staples available for the rest of the week. This frees me up to enjoy the short time at home doing the things I love, while still having healthy plant-based whole foods at home.  This includes getting some grains and legumes ready, sauces/dips and toppings to have on hand, with healthy whole food munchies for everything in between.  Don't forget, this saves a ton of money from eating out or from eating snacks high in calories and poor in nutrition!

Baked sweet potato or winter gourds

Rinse 4-6 sweet potatoes and pierce several times with a fork.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for around an hour at 380° F.  Cooking time will vary based on how thick the potatoes are, so it helps to purchase them around the same size/thickness.  Remove from the oven and let cool and place in a storage container in the fridge.

This is also a great opportunity to make some delicious sweet potato fries!  With only 5 minutes of extra prep time, you can have delicious seasoned fries that are baked with no oil!  These will cook faster if you are pressed for time.

If you prefer, mix it up by cutting a few winter gourds in half and removing the sees, place cut side down/skin side up and bake at 380°F for 30-45 minutes.  Generally, the skin is edible, so peeling is a personal preference (except for butternut squash, which needs to be peeled).

Extra credit:  while the potatoes/gourds bake, add a tray of sliced Ezekiel Tortillas for homemade, oil free, sprouted grain tortilla/corn chips.

While these bake, move on to the next task!

cook grains

This is an easy one!  Measure out 2-3 cups of your favorite grain.  Choose from quinoa, millet, amaranth, long grain brown rice, or forbidden black rice.  Rinse the grains and add to your rice cooker.  Combine with water at a 2:1 ratio (2 cups water : 1 cup dry grain).  While this cooks, you can move on to the next tasks!

To increase your daily dark leafy green consumption without even trying, add a bag of frozen spinach or kale to the steamer basket and mix in when finished cooking.  It doesn't affect the flavor and you now have a satisfying base for meals or snacks that will be on hand later without any cooking required! (If you have time and want to reduce the phytic acid in these grains and increase the digestibility, you can soak them for 12 hours but this step is not necessary as with the legumes).

soak & prep legumes

Fill a large bowl (preferably a 4 qt bowl) with 3 cups of dry legumes of your choice:  chickpeas (garbanzo beans), black beans, kidney beans, etc.  (There is no need to soak lentils, split peas, or mung beans).  Top off with water, with at least an inch of water over the legumes to allow them to expand and soak up the water.  Now move on to the next task while these soak!  Let sit on the counter, out of sunlight for 12 hours.  Rinse, add to your pressure cooker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Legumes are an excellent plant based source of protein while providing many other nutrients and reducing risk of heart disease.  Cooking your own and having them available has many benefits.   By purchasing in bulk, you save money.  One can of beans can cost anywhere from $1 to $3 if you want them in a BPA free can which is only 15 ounces (roughly 1.5 cups), mostly water.  For around $2 of bulk dried legumes, you get about 4 cups of cooked legumes with no tin can (wasted resource) or worries of BPA.

Also, to cook them, you need to soak them for at least 12 hours.  This softens the bean as it absorbs water and reduces the phytic acids which act as an anti-nutrient; blocking the absorption of the other vitamins and minerals.  Phytic acid can also cause other digestive discomfort to those that are more sensitive.  If you are worried about flatulence (gas), then the soaking process dramatically reduces this effect.  Normally, you soak the legumes for 12 hours, but for better results, rinse them and soak for another 12 hours prior to cooking.  Now you can enjoy your legumes without the discomfort.

I cook legumes in a pressure cooker.  The Fagor pressure cooker is what we use and strongly recommend.  They are relatively inexpensive ($90) because they work on your stove top and made of stainless steel.  No worries about contamination from non stick coatings.  Normal stove top cooking times are about 90 minutes.  The pressure cooker reduces this to 8-9 minutes!  Completely worth the investment.

With a large bowl of garbanzo beans on hand, try out some humus.  If you went with black beans, try a black bean veggie burger, black bean nachos or black bean brownies for an amazing dessert alternative!

soak almonds and cashews for nut milks, nut cheeses, toppings, or dips 

For the cashew cheese, fill a bowl with 1 1/2 cups cashews and water, soak for 6 hours, drain and rinse.  When you bite into them, the inner cashew meat should be mostly translucent.  Nuts also contain phytic acid (anti-nutrient discussed above) and soaking them reduces this.  Click here for full Cashew Cheese Recipe.  Move on to the next task!

Another dish to get ready that takes minimal time is the Brazil Nut Cheese Recipe.  I usually have both of these as they go great with almost everything!

Make your own almond milk.  Watch our How to Make Almond Milk Video and have this better tasting, health promoting milk at home.  Fill a bowl with 1 cup of almonds and water, soak for 4-6 hours, drain and rinse.  Sweeten to your liking or even go with some cacao powder for chocolate milk.

A great side benefit of making your own almond milk is the pulp that is left over.  Just spread out over a dehydrator tray and dry for 5-6 hours, run once through the blender and you have your own almond flour.  You now have almond milk and almond flour (which is expensive) with no extra effort.  It's a 2 for 1 deal!

If you want to avoid the nuts and calories all together, whip our Creamy Un-Cheesy Spread Recipe!  This is a great alternative to the nut cheeses while still providing that wonderful cheddar flavor.  Just steam a butternut squash and in 12 minutes your finished ... next task!

I love to add nut cheeses to our dinners and nuts are a great source of minerals.  So this is a great way to incorporate nuts into your diet to enhance the flavor and satiety of your dishes without going overboard on the calories.  The nuts are easier to digest when soaked as well.  It is easy to get lost on eating handful after handful of nuts and trail mixes.  By using just a small dollop of nut cheese, you dramatically decrease your consumption without relying on unhealthy animal based cheeses.  By making your own almond milk, you can avoid the added sugars and thickening agents in conventional almond milk from the store.

slice vegetable sticks for snacks

This is the easiest of them all.  Rinse and slice up some of your favorite veggies into dipping sticks to satisfy those snack attacks.  Easy on the calories and loaded with nutrition.  My favorites are carrots, celery, and bell peppers.  Sliced, raw sweet potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli are great too. 

Dip these into the homemade humus from the garbanzo beans you cooked up, or try our simple recipe to make your own delicious Salsa.  Enjoy as much of this as you want!  Ditch the Doritos or oil laden tortilla chips and go with plant based whole food goodness with no oil or dense calories to fill you up with nothing but great nutrition!

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