If you usually cook for one or two people — or if members of your family rarely have time to eat together — you probably face such frustrations. But small-quantity cooking can be made easier and more interesting. Here's how:
Shop with convenience in mind. Buy frozen foods in bulk — fruits, vegetables, chicken breasts or fish fillets. Remove and thaw out only the amount you need. I buy Frozen Tilapia this way as well as turkey burgers, chicken breasts, and “naked” chicken tenders. Also, keep on hand ready-to-eat, low-fat, reduced-sodium canned soups .
- Take advantage of your freezer. You may be surprised to learn that many foods freeze well, including breads, meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. Even fresh fruit and veggies can freeze. Freezing food keeps it fresh longer and helps prevent waste. For best quality, freeze food while it's fresh. Don't wait until it's been refrigerated or left on your counter for several days.
- 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 foods 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 (made with turkey breast, white beans and tomatoes); and vegetarian chili with diced vegetables and beans. I am making a breakfast casserole at 1/5 the portion size for my breakfast the next two days.
- Use extras wisely. Plan meals so that you can use the extra food in new dishes. For example, cook rice as a side dish for one meal, then use the remainder in a casserole or rice pudding. Bake chicken for a meal and use the leftovers in sandwiches, soup or toss with greens, dried fruit, and nuts for a tasty salad. Or make a meatloaf mixture and bake some as a meatloaf and freeze the uncooked portion for later use in meatballs or stuffed peppers.
- Hit the books. Many cookbooks are available with recipes for one or two people. Not only are cookbooks a good source for recipes, but also they can provide practical advice and helpful tips on such things as selecting healthy foods, planning menus, shopping and reading food labels.
- Be creative and keep it fun. Mix things up and try a nutritious snack instead of a traditional meal when you're short on time or energy. For example, spread a brown rice cake with ricotta cheese and fresh strawberries or herbed goat cheese and sliced olives. Other snack-turned-meal ideas are corn muffins served with apple and cheese slices, or fat-free refried beans mixed with salsa, a small amount of low-fat sour cream and baked tortilla chips. Not too long ago I made mini-pizzas with my neighbor – check out that recipe for an easy and delicious single serving meal! I also posted a great steak and “steak fry” recipe that’s also filling, healthy, and fit for one (with a single serving of leftovers) or two! and below is the casserole I’m making tonight! Breakfast Casserole Ingredients: Olive Oil Cooking Spray 1 Cup Whole Grain flax bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes 1 tsp. Olive oil 1/2 chicken breast cooked and finely chopped 1 TBSP finely minced garlic 1 TBSP green onion chopped 1/4 cup skim milk 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper flakes 1 large egg white 1/4 cup low fat mozzarella cheese 1/2 TBSP finely chopped parsley 1 small plum tomato cut into 3 –5 slices Preheat oven to 375 and lightly mist a small casserole dish with cooking spray. Line the bottom with bread cubes in an even layer and set aside. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat add chicken, onion, and garlic. Cook together for about five minutes. Meanwhile, add egg whites, milk, pepper flakes, half of the cheese, and parsley to a blender and pulse until combined. Pour mixture over bread and spoon chicken mixture over the top. Finish with an even layer of the tomatoes. Gently push tomatoes into mixture a bit to moisten. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cheese and bake until puffed and golden brown on top – about 40 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Nutrition per 4 oz. serving: Calories: 226 Fat: 7g Saturated Fat: 3g Carbs: 23g Fiber: 7g Sugars 5g Protein: 17g Sodium 483 mg Cholesterol: 34 mg