4 Easy Steps to Delicious, Nutritious Meals for 2

 

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.

tsharlanmd-350.jpgCurbing 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:

 

  • Eating lots of leftovers (talk about boor-ring)
  • A freezer filled with leftovers, which we end up tossing, wasting food (and money) 

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 get back 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:

 

Tacos

Servings = 2; Serving size = 3 tacos. 309 calories/serving.

 

The filling for these tacos keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator.

 

  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added, diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup no-salt-added frozen corn kernels
  • 6 taco shells (trans fat free)
  • 3 ounces reduced fat cheddar or Monterey jack cheese (grated)

Place the diced tomatoes in a medium skillet over medium heat. tacos-350.jpg

 

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.

 

Pita Bread Pepperoni Pizza

Servings = 1; Serving size = one pizza. 360 calories/ pizza.

 

This recipe does not make very good leftovers.

 

  • 1 whole wheat pita bread
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce of your choice
  • 8 slices reduced-fat turkey pepperoni
  • 1 1/2 ounces part-skim milk mozzarella (finely shredded)

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.

 

Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Servings = 4; Serving size = about 5 ounces cauliflower. 57 calories/serving

 

This recipe will keep for a few days in the fridge. Reheat gently or use in salcurriedcauliflower-350.jpgads.

 

  • 1 head cauliflower (broken into small flowerets)
  • Spray olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder

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:

 

Pepperoni Pizza

Servings = 1; Serving size = 1 pizza. 422 calories/ pizza  

 

Leftovers are good cold for breakfast. This recipe requires making Pizza Dough (instructions follow) first.

 

  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup shredded part skim milk mozzarella
  • 1/2 ounce Hormel Turkey Pepperoni
  • 1/4 whole wheat pizza dough

pizza-pepperoni-350.jpgPizza is best baked on a pizza stone but a cookie sheet will work as well. Place the baking stone or cookie sheet in an oven that has been preheated to 500°F. Allow the baking surface to heat for at least 15 to 20 minutes.

 

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.

 

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

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.

 

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (does not need to be sifted)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (does not need to be sifted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

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.

 

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Servings = 2; Serving size = 4 wraps. 526 calories/serving

 

asianlettucewrap-350.jpgLeftover filling will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Reheat gently.

 

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup brown rice
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 medium red onion (diced)
  • 1 large carrot (diced)
  • 2 large ribs celery (diced)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger (minced)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 8 ounces boneless skinless chicken thighs (diced)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 8 leaves iceberg lettuce (rinsed and patted dry)

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!

 

Shrimp Fried Rice

Servings = 2; Serving size = about 2 1/2 cups fried rice. 434 calories/serving

 

shrimpfriedrice-350.jpgThis recipe makes great leftovers.

 

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 medium white onion (diced)
  • 2 large carrots (peeled and diced)
  • 1 rib celery (diced)
  • 2/3 cup frozen peas (thawed)
  • 6 ounces shrimp (peeled, deveined & sliced in half lengthwise.)  Wild Planet Wild Pink Shrimp are a Boomer Brief favorite.
  • Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 4 teaspoons low sodium soy or tamari sauce
  • 1 large egg (beaten)

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.

 

Halibut in Foil with White Beans and Olives

Servings = 2; Serving size = 4 ounces fish with white beans. 498 calories/serving

 

halibutwhitebeans-301.jpgThis recipe does not make very good leftovers.

 

  • 1 (15=ounce) can no-salt-added white beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2, 4 ounce halibut filets
  • 1/2 large yellow pepper (julienned)
  • 4 large black olives (sliced into strips)
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 medium green onion (sliced crosswise)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

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!

 

Dr. Tim Harlan (Dr. Gourmet) is an internist and medical director of The Tulane University School of Medicine, as well as the creator of DrGourmet.com, a website dedicated to healthy living and eating.

 

 

 

 

 

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