Sometimes, cooking for one or two may seem like it’s not worth the trouble; however, everyone needs a variety of foods to stay healthy. Homemade meals usually are more nutritious, better tasting and more economical, compared with restaurant meals. Planning makes a difference in eating healthy meals. Set a goal to plan menus for a week at a time, and incorporate your “planned-overs.” For example, making a small roast on Sunday could provide the meat for a sandwich on Monday and a vegetable beef stir-fry on Tuesday. To help plan, read your recipes ahead of time and refer to the grocery store flyers for other ideas. Organize your shopping list based on the grocery store layout. Keep a list handy in the kitchen, so jotting down when you need flour, sugar or other items is easy.
- Cook a batch and freeze single portions. For example, make a casserole or stew and freeze individual-size servings. Then take out only the amount of food you need. Be sure to write the date and contents on packages and move older packages forward as you add food to your freezer.
- Prepare one-dish meals. For quick and simple cooking, choose a dish that serves as the whole meal. Look for dishes that include items from several food groups, such as meats, whole grains, legumes and vegetables. Healthy examples include beef, barley and vegetable stew; chicken, vegetable and rice casserole; turkey and bean casserole; and vegetarian chili.
- Use extras wisely. Plan meals so that you can use the extra food in new dishes. For example, cook rice and use as a side dish for one meal and the remainder in a casserole or rice pudding. Bake chicken for a meal and use the leftovers in sandwiches or soup, or toss with greens, dried fruit and nuts for a salad. Or make a meatloaf mixture and bake some as a meatloaf and freeze the uncooked portion to use later in stuffed peppers.
- An economical strategy is to buy a family pack of chicken breasts, marinate them overnight in light salad dressing, then grill them. Slice the grilled chicken and portion it into airtight freezer bags. Then, the chicken portions to make pasta, tacos, barbeque chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken Caesar salad, etc. Preparing dinner is a cinch when the chicken is already cooked!
Reduce The Number Of Servings
Choose recipes that fit with your tastes and time requirements. Whether you’re a 20-something single person or an “empty nester couple” with grown children, you don’t need to throw out your favorite family recipes. You can adapt many of them to fit your current household size.
Try these tips to help reduce your recipes:
• Choose recipes that are easy to divide mathematically. Consult The Reducing Table, below, to help you reduce the number of servings in recipes.
• If a recipe calls for a can of beans or soup and you would like to divide the recipe in half, use what you need and either refrigerate or freeze the remaining food. Label the container with the contents and date.
• Add seasonings gradually. Sometimes you may need to add more (or less) to reach the desired flavor.
• Check for doneness of halved recipes five to 10 minutes sooner than the original recipe.
• Keep notes about what works — and what doesn’t!
Table For Reducing Ingredients
When the recipe calls for use:
1/4 cup…………….. 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup…………….. 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons
1/2 cup…………….. 1/4 cup
2/3 cup…………….. 1/3 cup
3/4 cup…………….. 6 tablespoons
1 tablespoon…….. 1 1/2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon……….. 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon…….. 1/4 teaspoon
Making One-third of a Recipe
1/4 cup…………….. 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon
1/3 cup…………….. 1 tablespoon + 2 1/3 teaspoons
Another key to quick, nutritious meals is to keep a variety of foods in your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. Whether you’re thinking about a pasta dish, salad, pizza, soup, sandwich, stew, or omelet, a well-stocked kitchen makes preparation fast and easy. In addition to lean meat, poultry, and fish, stock these tried-and-true ingredients:
- Whole-wheat rolls
- Bags of frozen fruits and vegetables
- Pre-cooked chicken strips
- Pizza shells
- Lean meats, poultry, and seafood
- Frozen entrees
- Canned and dry beans, peas, and lentils
- Whole-grain pasta, rice, and other grains
- Pasta sauce, pesto, tomatoes
- Dried and canned fruits
- Canned vegetables
- Nuts, seeds
- Salad dressings, oils, vinegar, and mustard
- Dry sauce mixes
- Jarred peppers, olives
- Whole-grain bread and crackers
- Canned fish in water
- Dairy foods — yogurt; cheese; skim or low-fat milk
- Fresh fruits, vegetables
- Pre-washed salads in bags
- Light margarine
- 100% fruit juice
2 servings, 2 cups each
- 4 small red potatoes, (1- to 2-inch diameter), quartered
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tilapia fillet, diced (about 5 ounces) or whatever fish is available
- 4 ounces bay scallops, patted dry
- 1 small sweet onion, sliced
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
- 1-2 teaspoons hot paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 plum tomatoes, diced
- Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add tilapia and scallops; cook, stirring once or twice, until just opaque, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onion to the pan and stir to coat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, add Italian seasoning, paprika to taste, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine, water and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the fish, scallops, potatoes and capers (if using), return to a simmer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if desired.
Fusilli with Italian Sausage & Arugula
2 servings, 2 cups each
- 4 ounces whole-wheat pasta, such as shells or fusilli
- 4 ounces hot Italian turkey sausage, removed from casing
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 cups arugula, or baby spinach
- 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano, or Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, arugula (or spinach) and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the greens wilt and the tomatoes begin to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and keep warm.
- Combine cheese, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid; drain the pasta. Whisk the cooking liquid and oil into the cheese mixture; add the pasta and toss to combine. Serve the pasta topped with the sausage-arugula mixture.
Baked Sea Scallops
- 8 sea scallops, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance Spread, melted
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 shallot, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- lemon wedges for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Place scallops, melted butter, garlic, and shallots in a bowl. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir gently to combine. Transfer to a casserole dish.
- In a separate bowl, combine bread crumbs and olive oil. Sprinkle some under and on top of scallops.
- Bake in preheated oven until crumbs are brown and scallops are done, about 11 to 14 minutes. Top with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Add a side of whole-wheat pasta, a salad and a glass of Pinot Noir.
2 turkey or pork or chicken cutlets, (8 ounces), pounded thin
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 cup dry sherry
1- 6-ounce bag baby spinach
1/4 cup finely shredded Fontina cheese
1 teaspoon butter
- Position oven rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat broiler.
- Sprinkle both sides of the cutlets with flour. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cutlets and cook until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the cutlets to a plate.
- Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and shallot to the pan; cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sherry and spinach; cook, stirring constantly, until the spinach is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Carefully mound equal portions of the spinach on top of the cutlets. Transfer the spinach-topped cutlet and any accumulated juices to the pan. Top the spinach with cheese and transfer to the oven. Broil until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Transfer the melts to 2 plates. Add the butter to the pan and whisk into the juices over medium-high heat until melted, about 30 seconds. Drizzle over the melts.
Eggs for Two
This combination of eggs braised in tomato sauce served on crusty bread is unusual but delicious. You might also try it over angel hair pasta.
Serve with broccoli or broccoli rabe.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 1/2 ounce pancetta, chopped (optional)
- 1 cup prepared marinara sauce
- 2 large eggs
- 3 large fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 slices whole-wheat country bread, toasted
- Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and pancetta (if using). Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Add marinara and adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Crack an egg into a small bowl, taking care not to break the yolk. Make a well in the sauce roughly large enough to hold the egg and slip it in so that the yolk and most of the white is contained (some white may spread out). Repeat with the remaining egg, spacing the eggs around the pan. Sprinkle the sauce with basil; cover and cook until the eggs are the desired doneness, 6 to 8 minutes for medium-set. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with Parmesan and pepper.
- To serve, top each slice of toasted bread with an egg and sauce.