The most difficult part of a paleo lifestyle is the demands on time it seems to place on us; there’s always another workout, always another meal to cook, and that’s without even thinking about our careers, our families, or our hobbies! Even when cooking is a hobby of yours, I’m here to give you a few tips so that eating paleo stays that way and not a maddening obsession (in a bad way, at least).
1. It’s a Meal, Not a Hunk of Meat
Searing meat is an essential skill that’ll have everyone thinking you’re a gourmand--you’ll want to heat the oil in the skillet up as high as possible without making it smoke--this is low for butter and olive oil, and much higher for coconut oil. Oil takes on a shimmery appearance just before it smokes, and that is the point that you’ll want to toss the meat in. This browns the meat, caramelizing the outside, creating a delicious crust, and making pieces of the meat stick to the pan.
To take it a step further, you can make a quick pan sauce: remove the meat once it’s done, sauté an aromatic (garlic, onion, shallots all work well), and deglaze with a liquid--lemon juice and wine are perfect. The liquid cools the pan down so much that it picks up all the pieces of the meat that burnt onto the pan--creating both an easier clean up and a tasty sauce. To finish, cook the liquid to about half its volume, stir in a pat of grass-fed butter, and pour over the dish.
2. Vegetables Don't Have to Suck
To go with that pan sauce and seared steak or pork chop, you’re gonna want to choose the right side dish.
Any vegetable can be easily dressed up--winter root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, onions, and butternut squash sprinkled with olive oil and roasted is a go-to during winter months. If you’ve already sliced the vegetables, it’s as easy as tossing a bit of oil and some rosemary, thyme, or sage on top, throwing them in the oven and coming back in thirty minutes or so.
Kale can be roasted quickly with olive oil and salt for delicious kale chips, and any number of leafy greens can be tossed into a blender for a good, filling green smoothie before work. In the late summer, sautéed pre-diced zucchini and bell peppers go so well stewed on the stovetop with fresh garden tomatoes.
3. Make Your Time Work Double-Time
Slow-cooking is also a huge timesaver, and can turn out some great meals. The basic gist of slow-cooking is that it allows you to cook the entire day, while you’re not home. It’s a perfect technique for when we’re all craving stews and roasts, in the winter and late fall. The technique is timeless, and the variations, endless. Just toss the pre-combined ingredients from Sunday into the slow cooker, turn it on, and leave!
The best cuts of meat to use for this are large, tough cuts. Whole pork shoulder liberally seasoned with chili and garlic powder and cubed beef chuck braised with stock, carrots, and onions are my two favorite basic variations.
4. Eggs, Eggs, Eggs!
Finally, we’re always gonna need something for those days when we’re on the run, and we just didn’t have any time to prep anything in the days before. You can always buy something--rotisserie chicken, avocado, or fajita salads from a Mexican restaurant. Sometimes, though, what you need is a bit of a slowdown, and just a little time to yourself.
Eggs are nature’s convenience foods, and they are so easy to prepare quickly once you learn. To scramble, just add a pinch of heavy cream or water and whisk, pour into a heated pan with oil, and cook ‘low and slow’ for best results--but don’t be afraid of turning the heat up a bit to get them done!
Finally, hardboiled eggs might be the most convenient paleo food we’ve got. To make them, simply toss a few into cold water in a pot, bring to a full-on boil, cover, turn the heat off, and wait for 12 minutes. Put them in ice-cold water immediately to make peeling much easier--they’ll last for a couple of days in the fridge, so make plenty at once! They go well with a bit of your favorite spice--I prefer salt and chili powder
5. Always Be Prepared
The number one technique, though, that will save you the most time while eating paleo is preparing food ahead. Use PrimalPal to make a plan and shopping list of what you plan on eating for the next few days, and spend an hour or two prepping everything. Cut vegetables for snacks, bag your snacks and ingredients for dinner together for easier access, and boil a few eggs. This not only saves you time on some nights, it may cut the time spent actively cooking on others to zero.