Put Down the Peanut Butter, Depressed Friend

Happy Wednesday to you, reader. I’m sharing part two of my series on mental wellness. Part one was about keeping your living space clean during a mental health struggle. Today is all about quick and easy meals for your low-energy days.

First off, I want to explain that my cooking habits have really only recently improved. I’m much happier munching on some popcorn or ordering delivery than cooking for myself. But, reader, there comes a time in your life when you can’t live on peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon because you’re feeling too low to make yourself a decent meal.

Also I want to note that maybe, like me, cooking isn’t the whole problem. It’s cooking, doing dishes, putting those dishes away, etc. One pan or one sheet recipes can be really helpful! I’ll try to keep my recipes as simple as possible, but if you’re finding the dishes more daunting than the meal, try calling a friend while you scrub, or do it in quick, 5-minute intervals. Try to clean up right after you’re done eating to minimize Dish Mountain. If you can, compromise with your partner or roommate–you cook, they clean.

BREAKFASTS

Eggs are cheap, readers. I cook with a lot of eggs. Prepare for easy, eggy breakfasts. Also, Instant oatmeal is a lifesaver.

Sunday Morning Omelette

  • You’ll need:
    • Handful of spinach
    • 1 green onion
    • 2 TBSP olive oil
    • Herbs of your choice (I’m partial to basil and rosemary)
    • 2 eggs
    • Optional: cheese
    • A medium pan
    • Knife
    • Spatula
  • Put 1 TBSP olive oil in the pan and hear on medium-high until hot. Use your knife to roughly chop the spinach and green onion. Stir frequently for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the greens are wilted. Take it off the heat. Chop up your herbs and throw them in the pan. Beat the egg and remaining olive oil. Putting the pan back on the heat, pour the egg mixture into the pan, coating the bottom. If you’re a cheese fan, sprinkle your cheese on top of the egg. It should take about 3-4 minutes to cook through. Fold it over using your spatula and voilà. Omelette.

Yogurt, granola, and fruit

  • This is what I eat for breakfast almost every day. I’ll mix yogurt, granola, and fruit together in a mason jar and eat it at work. There’s literally endless combinations of flavors but my go-to is strawberry yogurt with chocolate granola and banana.

Toast

  • Toast is another endless combination option. Here are some of my favorite, quick takes on toast:
    • Avocado and Tajin (throw an egg on there if you’re up for it)
    • Peanut butter and banana
    • Cream cheese and apple or pear
    • Avocado, mango (hot tip: grab some pre-cut mango from the store and freeze half of it to use in smoothies later) , and hot sauce.

Smoothies

  • The world is a beautiful place where you can buy frozen smoothie mixes at the grocery store now. Dole has some great single-serve mixes that you can just throw in your blender with some liquid and go.

Protein Pancakes

  • These will keep you full for a while and give you some energy, so they’re a great breakfast! This makes 3 small pancakes.
  • You’ll need:
    • 1 Banana
    • 2 small eggs
    • Protein powder of your choice (I use Vega One cause I’m dairy free!)
    • Fork
    • Bowl
    • Pan
  • Use your fork to mash up the banana in the bowl. Add the eggs. Mix. Add 1 serving of the protein powder. Mix. Heat pan to medium-high. Pour 1/3 of the mix into the pan. Let it fry for about a minute, then flip. Let the other side fry for a minute and you’ve got a pancake! Repeat.

LUNCH

Quick Sandwich Options

  • Lunch is all about sandwiches, y’all. Here are some quick ones:
    • PB & J is a classic for a reason. Try chunky PB or different jellies to mix it up.
    • You can make an easy egg salad by cracking two eggs in an oiled pan with cheese or herbs, cooking them through, and then spreading it on bread with mayo. (Sriracha mayo is even better, imo).
    • Stick some sandwich meat and hummus on a toasted English muffin for a high-protein sandwich option.
    • Spread some guac on the inside of your grilled cheese and add pre-sliced peppers for a twist on a classic. (P.S. mayo is cheap and makes a great grilled cheese instead of butter)

Microwave Meals (I don’t mean a Lean Cuisine, the most depressing of the microwavable food options.)

  • Chipotle-Lime Edamame
    • You’ll need:
      • One bag frozen, microwavable, shelled edamame
      • 1-2 limes
      • Shelled pumpkin or sunflower seeds
      • Chipotle powder
      • Salt and pepper
    • Cook edamame according to instructions on the bag. Cut limes into quarters and squeeze onto edamame. Add chipotle powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Sprinkle seeds on top.
  • Vegetarian Burrito Bowl
    • You’ll need:
      • 1 cup cooked brown rice (use pre-cooked or minute rice!)
      • 1/3 cup drained and rinsed black beans
      • 3 tablespoons salsa
      • 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt (PLAIN!)
      • 1 tablespoon Mexican-blend cheese or shredded cheddar
      • 1 cup frozen corn
      • 1 avocado
    • Prepare brown rice and corn according to instructions. Combine rice, beans, salsa, yogurt, and shredded cheese in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Top with avocado!
  • Microwave Egg Whites & Veggie Sandwich
    • You’ll need:
      • 1 everything bagel
      • 3/4 cup of egg whites
      • 10 spinach leaves
      • 1 wedge of spreadable cheese (i.e. Laughing Cow)
      • 3 cherry tomatoes
      • 1/2 avocado or some guac
      • Kosher salt
      • Hot sauce
    • Toast bagel. In a small bowl, mix egg whites and spinach. Season with kosher salt. Place in the microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds. Spread cheese onto toasted bagel. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and arrange them on the bagel. Spoon the egg out of the bowl and place it on top of the cheese and tomatoes. Top with avocado or guac and hot sauce.

How to make pre-packed salad mix not suck

  • Cook bacon in the oven, try not to eat it all immediately, and put some in the fridge to sprinkle over salads later.
  • You already know I’m gonna say “put an egg on it” here.
  • Use nuts or seeds for crunch!
  • Dried fruits are great on salads and last way longer than fresh fruit!
  • A lot of dressings can double as marinades, if you want to have a variety of frugal options. (Literally, put a chicken breast in Italian dressing overnight and then cook it. Delicious.)
  • Hot tip: when you get the mix home, open the bag and put a paper towel in there. It will soak up the moisture and keep your greens fresher for longer if you’re like me and have thrown away so many sad, unopened bags.)

DINNER

Dinners are hardest for me, but I’ve got a Crock-Pot and that makes everything okay.

Barbecue Slow-Cooker Chicken and Instant Mashed Potatoes

  • My mom makes this in the winter and it’s a. super filling and b. great as leftovers (which is good, cause this makes a lot of chicken). It looks complicated, but it’s really a “throw it all together and go” kind of meal.
  • You’ll need:
    • 2 cups of barbecue sauce
    • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
    • 1/3 cup lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
    • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon black pepper
    • 3 to 4 chicken breasts
    • 1 packet instant mashed potatoes
  • Line your crock-pot with a liner bag. Cut each chicken breast into 3 large-ish pieces. Place them in the crock-pot. Combine barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, brown sugar, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Pour over the chicken. Stir to coat the chicken pieces. Cook on high for 6 hours. Remove chicken from crock-pot. If you want, use a fork to shred the chicken into a pulled-pork-esque texture. Prepare instant mashed potatoes as packet instructs. Serve chicken over mashed potatoes.
  • (I also like it on a soft roll as a leftover option)

“Mexican” Lasagna

  • My pal Violet makes this to last her a full week of leftover meals!
  • You’ll need:
    • Tortilla shells
    • 1-2 lbs cooked ground beef
    • Taco seasoning packet
    • 2-4 cans of black beans, drained
    • Diced onions
    • 1 can of corn, drained
    • 16-32 ounces of your favorite salsa
    • Shredded Mexican-blend cheese
    • Sour cream
    • Casserole pan or aluminium roasting pan
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make a layer of tortilla shells at on the bottom of the pan. Mix corn, beans, meat, onion, and salsa. Layer mixture on top of the shells. Cover with cheese. Repeat a second layer of shells, corn/bean/meat/onion/salsa, and cheese. Sprinkle taco seasoning on top of the cheese. Do one more layer of tortilla shells and cheese. Put it in the oven and bake for a half and hour to 45 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream!

Instant Mug Mac and Cheese

  • If you just want a single serving dinner, try this one!
  • You’ll need:
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/2 cup elbow macaroni
    • 1/2 cup cheese of your choice
  • Put the macaroni in a large mug and pour in water. (There should be enough water to completely cover the noodles). Microwave for 5 minutes. Check to see if you need more water, add it if necessary. Microwave for another 3 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Add your cheese and mix with remaining water. If your cheese isn’t melting, pop it back in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir again. Done!

SNACKS

Boiled Eggs

  • I’ll put some hot sauce (we’re a Cholula house) on a hard-boiled egg as a snack or a soft-boiled egg in literal dollar ramen to make it more filling. I make my boiled eggs in large batches so I can have them on hand.

Nuts

  • A handful of cashews can really turn my whole day around. I keep single serve packs of nuts (like the kind you find in a convenience store) in my car, my desk, my pantry, my purse–they’re everywhere.

Granola Bars

  • I pretty much lived on Lemon Luna Bars in college, and while it isn’t a great meal, they do make a filling and relatively healthy snack.

Crackers

  • Growing up, Goldfish constituted a whole food group. I can’t eat them now, but I understand the merits of Pepperidge Farms’ most famous cracker shape.
  • Ritz and Peanut Butter mini sandwiches are bae.
  • Top a plain Triscuit with hummus and chili flakes. Another fave is deli meat + pre-cut cantaloupe + Rosemary/Olive Oil Triscuit.

Whew, this was a long one. I hope this helps you take care of yourself the next time you’re feeling low! What are your go-to meals? Tell me in the comments!

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