I'll let you in on a secret. Bob and I are serious snack-a-holics. We could (and some weeks do) live on red wine, cheese, peanut butter and crackers with a couple of pizzas thrown in for good measure.
Curbing our cravings was easier when our son Cole lived at home. But now that we're empty nesters, cooking for two can seem like a chore. And with many recipes designed to serve at least four, it can mean:
It's far easier to pull out the Skippy Super Chunk and Triscuits (both with Reduced Fat, of course). Nothing goes better with a nice Cabernet at the end of a long day at the blog. Or to just throw in the towel and head to one of our local chain restaurants, where the options seem healthy but can be full of hidden fat, calories and salt (those same things our doctor warns against!).
Dr. Tim Harlan (Dr. Gourmet)
How can boomers like us getback into the kitchen without risking boredom or wasting money? Chef-turned-medical-doctor Tim Harlan (also known as Dr. Gourmet) recommends:
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Stock some basic ingredients in your fridge, freezer and pantry so you'll have the elements of a simple, healthy meal on hand.
For instance, whole wheat pasta and a jar of pasta sauce topped with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (the fresh cheese, not the stuff in the green box) make a good choice. Besides being quick, this meal's full of whole grains, vegetables and fruits (the pasta sauce), and that freshly-grated cheese means real Italian flavor. Look for a pasta sauce with no added sugar and less than 2 grams of fat.
Other great meals you can make quickly include:
Servings = 2; Serving size = 3 tacos. 309 calories/serving.
The filling for these tacos keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator.
Add the cumin, paprika, oregano, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.
As the tomatoes cook, the liquid will reduce and the tomatoes will thicken. At that point, add the corn and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Divide the grated cheese into two small piles. Using one pile, place a small amount of cheese in the bottom of each taco shell dividing the cheese evenly between the 6 tacos.
Add equal amounts of the tomato and corn mixture to the 6 tacos.
Top the taco filling with the remaining cheese divided evenly between the 6 tacos. Serve.
Servings = 1; Serving size = one pizza. 360 calories/ pizza.
This recipe does not make very good leftovers.
Place a cookie sheet in the oven and preheat to 325°F.
When the oven is hot, spread the tomato sauce on one side of the pita bread. Top with the pepperoni and then the mozzarella.
Place each of the pizzas you make on the cookie sheet in the oven.
It will take between 7 and 10 minutes for the pizza to cook depending on your oven. Watch closely and remove when cheese is melted and bubbly.
Servings = 4; Serving size = about 5 ounces cauliflower. 57 calories/serving
Place a medium-sized skillet in the oven and preheat to 300°F.
When the oven is hot, spray pan lightly with olive oil. Place the cauliflower in the pan, then spray cauliflower liberally with olive oil.
Place the pan back in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove and toss cauliflower and spray liberally with olive oil (again), then sprinkle with salt, pepper and curry powder. Return the pan to the oven for another 10 minutes or until cauliflower is al dente.
2. PLAN AHEAD.
Mapping out meals and shopping for the week ahead of time can help you avoid that last-minute run to the pizza place. Look for ways to reuse the ingredients you buy. For example, since you have that pasta sauce in the house, you can also make healthy favorites like this:
Servings = 1; Serving size = 1 pizza. 422 calories/ pizza
Leftovers are good cold for breakfast. This recipe requires making Pizza Dough (instructions follow) first.
Using 1/4 of the pizza dough recipe (for each pizza), gently stretch into an 8-inch round. Don't work too hard to get a perfectly round shape.
Once the dough is formed, place it on top of the hot pizza stone and top with 1/4 cup tomato sauce. Place the pepperoni discs on top of the sauce and top with the shredded mozzarella.
Bake for approximately 10 to 12 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Servings = enough dough for 4 individual pizzas; Serving size = 1 individual pizza. 284 calories/serving
This recipe is easily multiplied by 2 or cut in half. The dough will keep for about 36 hours in the refrigerator if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. However, it will not be as good as fresh.
Heat the water in the microwave until warm to touch - about 110°F to 115°F. (Use a thermometer for this because if the water is too hot you will kill the yeast.)
Place the yeast and honey in a large mixing bowl and pour the heated water over the mixture, stirring until well blended. Let the mixture stand for about 5 to 7 minutes until foamy.
Add the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt and stir with a fork until a coarse dough forms. Continue to mix by hand until a dough ball forms and all the flour is well blended.
Cover the bowl and place it in a sink with about 4 inches of hot water in the bottom. The heat from the warm water will help the dough rise. The dough will double in size in about 30 to 40 minutes. Punch it a few times with your fingers and let it rise another 30 minutes.
Remove from the bowl and cut the ball into four equal pieces. Cover the dough that you are not going to use immediately in plastic wrap and chill.
3. LOOK FOR RECIPES THAT SERVE ONE OR TWO.
They're not as hard to find as you might think. Many recipes can be halved to avoid having leftovers. You can find a list of recipes that serve one or two people at DrGourmet.com.
4. TRY COOKING SOMETHING NEW.
Break out of your cooking comfort zone and experiment with some new recipes. Asian food, for example, is easy to make at home and staying out of the restaurant can save you dozens of calories while helping you avoid MSG and other unhealthy ingredients. Two to try: Asian Lettuce Wraps and Shrimp Fried Rice below.
The corollary to this is trying new techniques like cooking in foil or parchment. The simple halibut recipe that follows is a great way to get those oh-so-important Omega-3 Fatty acids. And, since it's cooked in foil, clean-up is a breeze.
Servings = 2; Serving size = 4 wraps. 526 calories/serving
In a medium sauce pan, bring the water to a boil, then stir in the brown rice. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for about 15 minutes. Do not boil away all of the liquid and do not stir the rice. When a very small amount of liquid remains, remove the pan from the burner and let it stand, covered.
While the rice is cooking, place sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, to caramelize the onion. Do not allow the onion to burn.
When the onion is well caramelized, reduce the heat to medium and add the ginger, celery and carrots. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the chicken. Cook for another minute, then add the chicken stock, soy sauce and hoisin sauce, and stir, then add the water and reduce heat to medium-low.
Partially cover and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the water is nearly evaporated.
Add the red pepper, stir, and add the cooked rice. Cook for 1 minute to heat through and serve in a large bowl with 4 lettuce leaves per serving on the size.
To eat, scoop chicken and rice mixture into the lettuce cups, add about a tablespoon of cilantro for each cup, roll and chow down!
Servings = 2; Serving size = about 2 1/2 cups fried rice. 434 calories/serving
Place the water in a small sauce pan over high heat. When the water boils, add the rice and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Cook, partially covered, until the water evaporates. Do not stir the rice. When cooked, remove from the stove, let cool.
When ready to fry rice, place the sesame oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. When the oil is nearly smoking, add the onions and carrots. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until the onions begin to soften.
Add the peas and shrimp. Cook until the shrimp is pink, stirring frequently. Add the pepper and soy sauce.
Add the cooked rice and toss until the rice, veggies and shrimp are well blended. Let the rice rest for at least 45 seconds so that the pan reheats. Toss again.
Add the beaten egg and toss until the egg is cooked through. Serve.
Servings = 2; Serving size = 4 ounces fish with white beans. 498 calories/serving
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Fold two pieces of aluminum foil so that they are almost a square (15 inches x 12 inches). Starting at one end of the folded edge, cut a half of a heart shape in such a way that when the foil is opened it is in the shape of a heart.
Place half of the beans on top of one side of the heart shape for each of the pieces of foil. Top each with a halibut filet.
Add half of the yellow pepper strips, olives, capers, olive oil, white wine, green onion, salt, pepper and thyme to each pouch.
Close the foil by rolling the edge inward, starting at the point of the heart and working around to the base of the heart. The foil pouch with the fish inside will be in the shape of a large half circle.
Place the pouches on a cookie sheet and then into the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove each pouch to a plate and let stand 30 seconds before cutting the pouch open. There will be some hot steam that escapes when the foil is cut (be careful).
With a little planning, simple recipes and a willingness to try something new, cooking for one or two can be fun. As Dr. Gourmet says, eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
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