When you’re cooking just for two, learning what portion sizes to cook will make shopping easier and help you manage the food you buy. You’ll minimize waste and end up with only the leftovers you want.
Most recipes are written for four to six servings. So, how do you get to amounts for two servings? Divide the ingredients by four? By six? In half and hope that the leftover portions are good reheated?
This is where knowing your portion sizes can be extremely helpful. If you’re looking at a recipe for pasta and you know that a healthful portion is two ounces, then cook four ounces for two servings . Sometimes there are two or more main ingredients to a recipe – pasta and a sauce, or meat and vegetables – in which case you want to think about portion sizes for all the elements. A food scale is also helpful to have in your kitchen.
Keep in mind, though, that reducing some ingredients depends not on portion size, but on pan size. If a recipe calls for one tablespoons of oil to coat a pan, and you’re dividing the recipe by six, that doesn’t mean you should use half a tablespoon of oil. You need enough to coat the pan that you use. If you’re deglazing with wine or another liquid, you need enough to coat the pan and dissolve the drippings. Likewise, if you’re topping a gratin with breadcrumbs or cheese, the amount you need will depend on the size of your gratin dish.
Sauces are particularly difficult to make in small amounts, especially if you’re not familiar with the techniques and ingredients. Sometimes, it is better to just cut the sauce for a dish in half. It may be more than you need, but it’s an easier reduction and the extra can be frozen or used later in the week for another dish.
Whether you’re looking for an easy weekend dinner or planning a special romantic Valentine’s Day meal, these healthy recipes for two will help you get dinner on the table without figuring portion sizes.
Dinner Menu 1
Golden Squash Soup
- 1 teaspoon of canola oil
- 1/4 cup of chopped onion
- 10 ounce package frozen pureed winter squash, thawed, or 2 cups cooked winter squash, mashed
- 1/2 cup of reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 3/4 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1/2 cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon of snipped fresh thyme
- Plain fat-free Greek yogurt (optional)
- Cracked black pepper
- Whole Grain Crackers
In a medium saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook until tender. Stir in squash, broth and turmeric. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Whisk in yogurt and thyme; heat through – do not boil.
Ladle soup into warm bowls. If desired, top with additional yogurt. Sprinkle with pepper and serve with crackers.
Beef Tenderloin with Marinated Tomatoes
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped, seeded plum tomato
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 4-5 ounces each)
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
In a small saucepan bring vinegar to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup. Stir tomatoes into the hot vinegar reduction. Set aside.
Trim fat from steaks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add steaks; reduce heat to medium. Cook to desired doneness, turning once. Allow 7 to 9 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees F) to medium (160 degrees F).
To serve, spoon tomato vinegar mixture over steaks. Sprinkle with thyme.
Romaine Hearts with Blue Cheese
- 1/2 of a heart of romaine lettuce (3 ounces)
- 1/4 cup of very thinly sliced red onion
- 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
- Ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
- 6 oz fat free yogurt
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt to taste
In a small bowl, mash blue cheese and yogurt together with a fork. Stir in mayonnaise, vinegar and garlic powder until well blended. Season to taste with salt. Makes 1 cup.
Halve heart of romaine lengthwise. Trim core at ends. Place 1 half on each salad plate. Top with red onion and walnuts. Drizzle with blue cheese salad dressing and crushed black pepper.
- 1 tablespoon of hot water
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/2 teaspoon sugar (such as, Domino Light or Truvia for Baking)
- 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso coffee powder or 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
- 1/4 cup of light tub-style cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup of frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
- 6 chocolate wafer cookies
- White chocolate curls and/or fresh raspberries (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine the water, sugar and espresso powder; stir until sugar and espresso powder are dissolved. Add cream cheese; whisk until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.
Spoon cream cheese mixture equally on top of each cookies. Chill for up to 4 hours.
To serve: top with white chocolate curls and/or raspberries, if desired.
Dinner Menu 2
Avocado and Grapefruit Salad
- 4 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
- 1 medium grapefruit, peeled
- 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1-1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Divide lettuce leaves between two salad plates. Section the grapefruit over a bowl to reserve juice. Arrange grapefruit sections and avocado slices on lettuce.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, honey, salt and 1-½ teaspoons reserved grapefruit juice. Drizzle over salads.
Baked Almond Fish with Crispy Potatoes
Put the potatoes in the oven about 15 minutes before you put the fish in the oven.
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 8 ounces fresh or frozen (thawed) skinless cod fish fillets or any white fish fillets of choice
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
- 2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 large baking potato or two small
- 1 ½ tablespoons butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with nonstick coating; set aside.
Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Cut into two serving-sized pieces. Measure thickness of fish.
Place flour in one shallow dish. In a second shallow dish whisk together egg white and milk together. In a third shallow dish combine bread crumbs, almonds and thyme. Coat both sides of fillets with flour. Dip fillets in the egg mixture and then in the bread crumb mixture to coat.
Place fish in prepared pan. Drizzle with oil. Bake until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork (allow 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish).
For the potatoes:
Thinly slice 1 large russet potato about 1/8 inch thick. If you have one, use a mandoline or vegetable slicer to slice the potatoes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Melt margarine or butter; drizzle over potatoes. Bake about 25 minutes or until browned.
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup minced shallot or red onion
- 10 ounces fresh spinach, tough stems removed
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot (or onion); cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl.
Heat butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, until smooth and bubbling, about 30 seconds. Add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Stir the spinach into the sauce. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.
Mocha Cream Shake
- 1 ¼ cups of low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
- 1/2 cup of strong brewed coffee, chilled
- 3 tablespoons of sugar-free chocolate-flavor syrup
- 1/2 cup of ice cubes
- Grated dark chocolate
In a blender combine frozen yogurt, coffee and chocolate syrup. Add ice cubes. Cover and blend until smooth. Divide mixture between 2 parfait glasses. Top each serving with grated chocolate, if desired.
Vegetarian Dinner Menu 3
Pesto Pita Crackers
Here is my post for homemade pesto: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/21/two-sauces-for-everyday-meals/
This sauce freezes wel,l so divide it into portion sizes and freeze for future use.
- 1 whole pita bread (6 inches)
- 3 tablespoons prepared pesto
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Split pita bread into two rounds. Spread with pesto and sprinkle with cheese. Cut each into six wedges.
Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until crisp. Serve warm.
Creamy Broccoli Soup
- 3/4 cups cubed peeled potatoes
- 1 medium carrot, sliced
- 2 cups frozen chopped broccoli
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups low-fat milk, divided
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- Dash ground nutmeg
- Dash pepper
- Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs
Place potatoes and carrot in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain potato mixture; cool slightly.
Cook broccoli according to package directions; drain and set aside.
In the saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add 1/2 cup milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Add the salt, thyme, nutmeg and pepper.
In a blender, combine the potato mixture, broccoli and remaining milk; cover and process until smooth. Add to the thickened milk mixture in the saucwpan. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Garnish with thyme.
Pasta with Garbanzo Bean Sauce
Makes: 2 Serving size: 1 1/2 cups
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)
- 3/4 cup garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 ounces dried whole wheat linguine, fettuccine or rigatoni
- 1/3 cup chopped tomato (1 small)
- 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh rosemary sprigs
In a large saucepan or skillet, cook onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper in hot oil about 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in the 2 cups chopped tomatoes, half of the garbanzo beans, the salt and black pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat until mixture is boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Carefully transfer the tomato mixture to a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Return to saucepan. You can also use an immersion blender right in the pot if you have one. Stir in the remaining garbanzo beans. Cook and stir over low heat until the sauce is heated through.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta.
To serve, toss cooked pasta with the sauce in the skillet. Divide mixture between two serving plates. Top with the 1/3 cup fresh chopped tomato and the feta cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with rosemary sprigs.
Sorbet and Melon Parfaits
- 2/3 cup of seeded watermelon balls
- 2/3 cup of cantaloupe balls
- 2/3 cup of honeydew melon balls
- 1/2 cup of mango or lemon sorbet
- 1/4 cup of champagne or sparkling grape juice, chilled
- Fresh mint sprigs (optional)
Arrange the watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew balls in 2 wine glasses or goblets. Place scoops of sorbet on top of the melon. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the champagne over the sorbet and melon in each glass. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve immediately.