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 Post subject: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 9:43 am 
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I don't think we've had a thread on this exactly, but from FB & other posts I think this is something we've all experienced before from either life events, depression, anxiety, stress, or disability wherein we stop cooking and maybe eating (or at least not eating enough).

I know we've talked about being in these ruts before but I don't recall if we've ever compiled a list of easy/simple foods we can feed ourselves even when we just don't feel like getting up. Maybe it would be useful to post some of those things here?

It kinda seems like our whole house is going through this now, which makes getting out of it harder but I've been trying to push through. Ideally low effort stuff that is relatively cheap or easy for you to make with what you have and bonus points if it dirties little dishes.

Food to put into your body when life is trying to keep you down:

Solution 1 pending funds is always take out. Because sometimes it is better to spend the extra $ if it means you'll actually eat something.

Baked potatoes are another frequent flier in our house, or microwaved potatoes w/ vegan bacon bits.
Smoothies if you have protein powder or frozen fruit.
Vegan grilled cheese or grilled cheese with fake meat.
Toast/PBJ
Canned soup, Instant Noodles, Frozen food, Miso soup. Taking just about anything out of the pantry/freezer and heating it up, because sometimes just eating something, anything helps get the rest of stuff moving.
Tea, herbal or otherwise. Loose leaf is more involved but I find it really comforting & the ritual of making tea can sometimes pull me out of a slump or at least get me moving. I find Chai, Cocoa Coconut Puerh, Lemon Green, Earl Grey Creme/Lavendar, & mint/sage/raspeberry leaf to be particularly helpful blends. I will sometimes just cold steep sage/mint/raspberry in the fridge and drink with fresh lemon.

What tea blends or foods are you go to when life is getting you down?

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 10:53 am 
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If you have a rice cooker, throwing some brown rice and lentils in there, or rice plus a can of beans, plus some salt and spices. Bonus points if you have a vegetable on the side but hey lentils and beans are kind of like vegetables so whatever.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:07 am 
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I've been pushing myself to make us breakfast burritos twice a week so we each have a decent breakfast 6 of the days, and we either go out or make pancakes on the off day.

Other than that, big pots of soup or chili that make 8+ servings.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:20 am 
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The thing that helps me eating well and cheaply with minimal effort is batch cooking. Every Sunday, I make a giant batch of grain (usually brown rice) in the rice cooker and some sort of dried bean (usually chickpeas) in the pressure cooker. It takes a minimal amount of effort once a week, and then I can use the grains and beans throughout the week for a variety of quick but easy meals:
- Soup with frozen vegetables, grains, and beans thrown into the pressure cooker or slow cooker.
- Tacos with beans, rice, jarred salsa, and nooch. My favorite quick snack/meal. I also love this combination in a bowl without the tortilla.
- Bean/grain salad with pre-washed salad mix, store-bought dressing or hummus or salsa, whatever veggies I have enough patience to cut up.
- Pasta with beans, jarred marinara sauce, frozen veggies

If batch cooking is not an option, then you could stock up on canned beans and frozen rice.

Breakfast ideas:
- Overnight oats
- Cereal with soy milk and sliced bananas
- Toast with hummus, canned refried beans, or avocado
- Green smoothies

I also love nibbling on baked tofu from Trader Joe's as a filling snack or on a quick sandwich with hummus.

Good luck to you B_A_D. Hope things start to get better soon!


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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:37 am 
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Oatmeal with peanut butter and fruit
Baked sweet potatoes with umeboshi vinegar
Steamed squash with EB and nooch
Spinach sautéed in veggie broth with garlic
Toast or bagel with avocado, Sriracha and salt
Canned beans with quick cook brown rice with salsa and avocado
Pasta with jarred sauce and chickpeas
Decaf teas - Irish breakfast or chai with creamer or soymilk
Instant miso soup
Bagged salad and dressing

I also like to get prepared tofu and eat it out of the package but it's pricy.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:45 am 
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Great thread idea. I've been in this boat for the last 6 months to a year and it's been really challenging for me. One of my fail safes is toast. I can almost always stomach toast. That or a smoothie.

I find other things with strong flavours (especially strong savoury flavours) or textures really throws my stomach off when I'm anxious or depressed. I've been known to just make mashed potatoes and eat that, since it's bland and I can season as much or as little as I can handle it.

You'll get through this...I will too...spring is coming. <3

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 1:57 pm 
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Things that work for me-roasted veggies plus a mix of grains/proteins cooked + peanut butter and curry powder. Not a huge amount of effort (especially if you've got frozen chopped veggies) and good, filling and healthy. Some days, it's pancakes or cereal for dinner (i'm a fan of breakfast).

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 2:06 pm 
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I have been having a really hard time of it with both depression AND anxiety. I find that cooking REALLY helps with anxiety, but if i am depressed it is super hard to get in the kitchen. Also, if I give in and eat junk or go out to eat, i just feel worse (unhealthy, and spent $ i should not be spending). So I try to keep up with cooking to cope.

What I do is meal prep and batch cook on Sundays. I try to make it something to look forward to, new recipes and/or fun foods. If I can't do that, I force myself to do it. This way, I have stuff during the week. and about 3/4 of the time, I enjoy it too. I pre-make all my breakfasts (tofu scramble - i love them) and put stuff together for lunches - salad and soup usually. Then for dinner something that I can have leftovers to re-purpose later in the week

slow cookers are lifesavers. I like to make really huge meals in the slow cooker and freeze them for easy meals later. Chili, beans, rice, soups, curries, stuff like that. Then when i am really down during the week and I don't want to make what I planned to make that might take more than 10 minutes, i can just heat something up. Bonus: its usually warm and comforting food.

Oh, and Terry's new book, Protein Ninja is pretty awesome. Really fast meals, and the toast chapter is great. Tonight i know is going to be a tough one (home alone) so i am making the Masala Toast recipe which is super easy and sounds very comforting on a rainy night. Toast is my ultimate comfort food


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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 2:39 pm 
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boil spaghetti and toss with margarine, liberal amounts of nooch, salt and pepper. if you add a bit of the boiling water it gets very creamy. this is waaay more satisfying and delicious than it sounds.

canned beans also save me - i will rinse them, then make a simple dressing with lemon juice/oil/dried dill/pepper/garlic or just oil/vinegar/salt and if i feel like it, will cut veg into it as well.

you can make couscous right in a bowl (just put the dry couscous in, and pour hot water over), and then i will add canned beans and soy/hot sauce or dried spices


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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 3:08 pm 
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I agree with the magic of toast and of mashed potatoes! Sometimes you just need something filling and soothing. I also love soup when I'm not up to cooking, along with some bread and houmous. Crackers are great too, with houmous or peanut butter or vegan cream cheese.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 3:09 pm 
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I tried to start a blog about eating vegan while depressed but...well, been too lethargic to do much with it.

One thing I've been doing is that when I feel well, I make large batches from The Homemade Vegan Kitchen. I made a batch of the unchicken breasts just before Christmas, and only just used the last one two days ago in a stew. I still have unpork in the freezer from ages ago. I like having it there in case I need a quick stir fry and don't want to cook much, just throw some unpork in with frozen stir fry mix and throw some rice in the slowcooker.

I've been loving Mastering The Art of Vegan Cooking so much lately too because it has so many cheap, quick recipes that don't really feel like other budget vegan books. I've been eating a lot more fresh produce thanks to it, and it really helps me feel better. One easy recipe I like is a pita filling with chickpeas, spinach, red onion, cucumber, tomato, and kalamata olives. Between the two of us it usually lasts a few days. Black bean and sweet potato tacos, Turkish pizza, aloo saag and goulash stew are all pretty easy and make me feel a lot more satisfied than a lot of my depressed eats.

I still cook a lot too from Fresh from the Vegan Slowcooker, the Curry Noodle Soup is my hands down favourite. I also have some "in case of terrible lethargy" food. I keep a few tubs of Crescent Rolls in the fridge for quick sandwich bread, and if I have no seitan for sandwiches I'll make chickpea "tuna" sandwiches instead.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 3:59 pm 
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I made a thread similar to this about a year or so ago. If I can find it, I'll link back to it so you'll have more ideas.

For me, when I'm depressed, I find it nearly impossible put anything in my mouth especially if it requires chewing. I find that keeping vegan protein+nutrient powder in my apt is helpful for that. I try to work with my body and I find drinking things easier and the powder+chocolate soy milk helps a lot.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 6:32 pm 
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I've been eating rice congee for a week with half assed toppings because I've been overwhelmed with life. It's not the greatest meal, but it's filling and easy. I try and always have frozen foods as a backup during these times. Also instant Top ramen (oriental and chili flavors are vegan) with maybe some tofu or frozen veggies thrown in.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 6:52 pm 
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I rely heavily on my slowcooker when I'm feeling shitty. My go to dishes are chili (I use the recipe in Eat Like You Give A Damn, because it's simple, cheap, tasty, and I can have it in the cooker in under 10 minutes) and veggie stew with potatoes or winter squash and whatever else I feel like throwing in there.

Aside from that, the cabbage and seitan dish from Appetite For Reduction is really quick and easy to throw together, and gives you a great hit of protein and fiber and stuff.

When I'm so stressed I don't feel like I can stomach anything, I do the smoothie thing (bonus if you can get some protein powder in there and/or some greens), and I'll also make simple soup by sauteeing onions, garlic and ginger, then adding veggie broth, rice noodles, and whatever veggies and/or tofu I feel like I can handle (frozen veggies are great for this).

Hope you feel better soon, duder.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 8:11 pm 
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This is a great idea for a discussion thread. I sometimes have no energy to cook and I rely too much on frozen dinners, so I would love to hear from others what they make in that situation.


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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:32 pm 
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I definitely agree with keeping your freezer stocked with frozen veg, and always having beans (either canned or precooked and frozen) on hand. You can really easily heat beans and vegetables without having to chop anything, and just make a sauce to go on them

You can use a premade sauce, like jarred marinara sauce if you really don't want to prep anything, but my favorite go-to when I know I need food but don't have the energy to cook is peanut sauce. Just thin peanut butter with hot water, soy sauce, hot sauce, powdered ginger, etc. according to taste and what you have on hand. The awesome thing about this sauce is it makes anything taste good, even things that have been in the freezer for way too long, and it has a lot of calories, so you don't need to eat a ton to get a proper meal into you if you're feeling down.

If you don't have or like peanut butter, you can do the same type of thing with storebought hummus (I often add curry powder and hot sauce and some water to thin to make a sauce).


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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 12:18 am 
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What a great thread idea. Prepackaged Ramen is a favorite easy meal. I make it more filling/nutritious by adding frozen veggies while cooking it, or mixing peanut butter into it (sounds weird but tastes amazing).

Breakfast for dinner. A lot of times, breakfast foods seem more appealing to me when I have no appetite. Big bowls of cereal, and I really like those frozen hashbrown rectangles that are cooked in the oven (TJ's are great, and I've seen them at other stores too). Toaster waffles.

+1 yummy to storebought baked tofu, especially the Trader Joe's kind (which I think is repackaged Wildwood). It is fairly cheap at TJ's.

Hummus on all of the things. . . baby carrots and/or tortilla chips and/or crackers and/or a spoon.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 1:29 am 
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these are great!
double +1 on store-bought baked tofu.

when I'm depressed or fatigued or sick I do a lot of weird eating where I'll do stuff like eat a whole thing of raw mushrooms because there's no way I'm going to cook them, or just like... arugula or half a box of crackers. having things to dip other things in (hummus, peanut butter, almond butter, etc) is my saving grace there. twice this week i've come home from work and had baby carrots dipped in peanut butter. this evening I came home from an opening and had to eat so I ate grape tomatoes dipped in hummus.

my problem with fatigue is that the idea of even turning on the stove seems like too much so simple pasta+sauce is like an event, plus I get anxious about the dishes I will surely fail to wash.
My #1 warm food for those times is quick oats (I have an electric kettle so I don't even have to turn on the stove) with a spoonful of peanut butter and some sort of dried fruit and raw almonds. it gets me through a couple hours and I can eat it like 3 times a day with slight variation.


also: actually using a recipe and cooking a thing from a cookbook (no matter how simple) is something I only do on Really Good Days (tm) so I'm impressed with everyone here who does that while they're feeling shitty!! you guys are champions!

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 2:12 am 
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ooooh - i forgot that i also make a 1-bowl meal with glass noodles or fine rice noodles where i cook the noodles in the bowl by pouring hot water over, but also add frozen hulled edamame - drain after 5-10 min and then add some soy sauce/rice vinegar/hot pepper flakes. if i can find them, some HFS near me have these dehydrated seitan/tvp veggie beef strips, and i'll rehydrate those in another bowl and mix with the noodles when i add seasoning.


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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 6:27 am 
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This is me a lot of the time, I suffer with depression/anxiety and feel drained a lot of the time. I'm often so tired when I get home from work, I mostly stick to things I can make in one pot...

Chickpea curry
Vegetable biriani
Dahl
Pasta bake with veggies chucked in
Mashed avo on toast with worcestershire sauce
Noodles with veg, in tahini or peanut butter and miso, maybe sriracha
Linda M sausages with veggies and sauce (sometimes by themselves if I'm really being lazy*)
Ainsley Harriot cous cous (ready flavoured so all you need is hot water)

Sometimes though it'll just be take away or toast or Fry's chicken nuggets with sauce ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

*I've actually had just a plate of Linda M sausages for dinner twice this week. Whoopsies.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:05 pm 
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Banned from Vegan Freaks.

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cooking just isn't even a thing in my life anymore because of fatigue/no appetite. i just assemble things. a few months ago though i had this amazing burst of energy and i made roasted vegetables. here's how i did it:

1. line the pan with tons of foil. wonder why molly mcintire had to save this stuff for the war effort but we don't even have to pay more tax.
2. check the expiry date on the pre-cut steam in bag veg mix from the grocery store. do a celebratory dance upon realizing that it's not out of date. vow to check before preparing the baking sheet next time.
3. put coconut oil and salt/pepper into the bag, close off with a rubber band, smush around until well coated. smush around some more, because it feels weird. dump on pan.
4. throw away bag. feel guilty.
5. put in oven that i forgot to tell you to preheat.
6. cook it.
)serves at least one very sleepy, food-indifferent person and 0 foodies.)

when i am not having that level of culinary adventure, i mostly just assemble food. things that help me are:
1. precut produce: i am eating cut cantaloupe right now. if you're able to cut your own stuff, then maybe just making it easier on yourself is enough. i have lots of little cutting mats and a whole bunch of knives so back when i could cut stuff more consistently, washing the knift and cutting board wasn't a big issue--i would just put them in the dishwasher. (i know so bad for the knives--but i can buy new knives. i can't buy new hands.)

2. incorporate prepared foods strategically: i use premade hummus, guacamole, etc. yes those are all cheaper to make but for me it's easier to buy them. my #1 favorite is steam in bag frozen rice. sometimes i add vegetables (usually frozen too), but often i just eat it plain. when i used to make fancy tofu things, i would eat them with the frozen rice. now i am more likely ot make the fancy sauce for the frozen rice/veg & maybe precooked tofu. today for my main meal i had a sandwich that was premade tabbouleh with premade hummus on store bought bread. this is one of my favorite things to have when i am able to tolerate onions/garlic.

3. i'm not above disposable dishes/cutlery: i realized at some point that i was skipping meals to avoid dishes. i try to minimize how often i use the throw away stuff, but not eating ends up being a costly proposition in the end too.

i also often line my plate with my napkin (say if i'm eating a sandwich or cookies), which makes doing dishes much easier. if i am baking something, e.g. gardein strips, i usually used the toaster oven & when i transfer to the plate, i grab the foil that i lined the tray with and put that on my plate. that makes washing the dishes easier.

4. i try to remember that eating something is better than nothing: if the only thing i can stomach is sour patch kids, i go for it. that often helps me eat more, but if not, it's something.

5. i try to be realistic about what i will do: maybe making daily smoothies is something i could do if i really invested the energy, but realistically i won't do it and i don't want to. shopping for smoothie stuff all the time does nothing but leave me without convenient food that i will actually eat.


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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:21 pm 
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Dying from Nooch Lung
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I'm going through this right now. For dinner I alternate between paying for meal delivery (basically someone cooks 3 dinners/week and delivers it in a bunch of tupperwares) or doing a delivery service like purple carrot. It's $$$ but I am fortunate to be able to afford it, for now, and it's healthier than the takeout I was getting. If I were living alone I would probably not do any of this and revert to my college days of vegetarian refried beans + salsa and frozen spinach + spaghetti sauce. It's healthy-ish and easy. My SO, however, will forsake health for flavor and if we don't have what he considers tasty meals (i.e., not spinach + spaghetti sauce), he will just eat lots of greasy non-vegan stuff like stouffers mac-and-cheese or red baron frozen pizzas.

For breakfast I am doing a spinach-blueberry-banana-almond milk smoothie, and when even that is too much to handle, I break into my emergency stash of Clif bars. Making coffee requires too many dishes (or whatever you call the filter thing you have to wash!), so I make black, unsweetened chai. My SO eats cereal and soy milk at work.

For lunch, I was buying pre-washed, pre-chopped salad ingredients from trader joes and assembling it at home or hauling everything to work to make on the spot, but I can't even get myself to do that lately. Right now my lunch is Amy's canned soups and an orange. For snacks I've been microwaving some bagged broccoli and b-nut squash and pouring trader joe's tahini sauce on top.

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Last edited by couroupita on Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:28 pm 
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paperweight - yess same to everything you said, I was having a hard time communicating the whole "assembling foods" tactic because cooking?? making a smoothie is like an entire day's worth of energy

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:31 pm 
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Dying from Nooch Lung
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booberthefraggle wrote:
paperweight - yess same to everything you said, I was having a hard time communicating the whole "assembling foods" tactic because cooking?? making a smoothie is like an entire day's worth of energy

Yes to this so much. When I'm depressed, stressed, or whatever, anything that requires assembly--even if it's no-cook--is totally out.

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 Post subject: Re: Low energy/depression cooking
PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:36 pm 
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Oh, I've also found that Asian grocery stories are really good for cheap frozen meals. I have a bamboo steamer that I line with parchment paper so unless I make rice as well, I only have my plate that takes any effort to clean. I can have a pretty great meal of dumplings, spicy vegetable buns, sweet buns and spring rolls that way. Serve with green tea and I can fool myself into thinking I've got my life together.

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