Kat Barry: Eat smarter by preparing ahead

Published 7:40 am Friday, April 26, 2013

The last few weeks have been hectic. My work and social schedule have been booked to the max, leaving time for only the sparsest meal prep. There were dinners and business lunches out multiple times per week, and, next thing you know, I have rotten veggies in the fridge, an empty bank account and a tight waist line. It was time to get back on the wagon so Monday I spent exactly two hours in the kitchen preparing meals for another busy week ahead.
Having salads, dressings, greens and snacks ready to go will keep me on track with clean eating on days when I can’t get up early enough to make my lunch or I get home too late to really cook anything.
One key trick I’ve found to eating better and cooking smarter is making my own salad dressing. It takes less than five minutes to make dressing, and it usually requires about four natural ingredients you always have around costing you next to nothing. Homemade dressings also have no preservatives and lower sugar.
I’m trying to cut back on my oil intake and I love creamy dressings, so I’m really into tahini-based dressings. Tahini is basically roasted or raw sesame seed paste.
It’s sort of the consistency of natural creamy peanut butter but is lighter in color. Since sesame seeds naturally contain oil, there’s no need to add more.
I used the spicy tahini dressing right away on some pinto bean tacos and saved the rest to toss on an arugula and sprout salad I made to eat for lunch the first few days of the week. In addition to the arugula sprout salad, I made a variation of my tofu ricotta recipe and turned it into a kale and tofu salad that I can eat for dinner with a baked sweet potato, toss in pasta or eat by itself for lunch.
The versatility of this tofu kale recipe is endless. I’ve even used it as a pizza topping. I make it with spinach a lot, too, but kale is perfect for salads you want to keep for a few days because of its hardy leaves.
Another trick  I use to stay on track with healthy eating is keeping small containers of trail mix in my backpack, my car and at my desk.
I have containers with measurements on the sides so I put in a cup or two of two to three raw nuts and sometimes some dried fruit, stir it up, scoop out three 8-ounce containers and store the rest in the lazy Susan until it’s time to refill.
Boom! Health foodie on the go!
Spicy tahini dressing
Yield: About 8 to 10 ounces dressing
2/3 cup tahini (I prefer raw but roasted is fine)
3 cloves garlic
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp. cumin
¾ tsp. sea salt
Black pepper
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
¼ cup plus 1 Tbs. water — add more by the tablespoon until you find the right consistency.

Finely chop the parsley and mince the garlic. Whisk together all ingredients, slowly adding water.
Keep in mind that the tahini dressing thickens over time, so you may want to add a little more water than you initially think.
The roasted tahini requires more water than the raw.

Tofu and kale salad
Yield: about 4 cups salad
1 small yellow onion chopped
1 package extra firm tofu drained and crumbled
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 Tbs. grapeseed oil
3 cups kale, washed, massaged and torn into 1/2-inch pieces
Drain tofu on a paper towel for 30 to 60 minutes. Heat a skillet over medium low.  Add the oil, and, once it’s warm, add the onion.  Saute the onion until nearly translucent, then add the garlic. Once this mixture cools, the tofu should be ready. Toss everything in a large mixing bowl.  Combine thoroughly with clean hands. Enjoy as a snack, tossed in pasta or as a lasagna stuffing.

Pepita trail mix
Yield: 6 cups trail mix
2 cups raw pepitas
2 cups raisins or dried cherries
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup raw pecans

Mix together in a measure container or large mixing bowl. Portion out and store in pantry.