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My daughter-in-law Jami is home for a couple of months with a new baby.photo-64 While this is a wondrous and incredible moment in time, she also has to come up with meals.  Just like many other people who talk to me about food, she says she simply has a hard time coming up with anything for dinner for her family.  Her husband, our son Sean, has often done the cooking in their household, but Sean is working nights and the dinner is, to coin a phrase, now on Jami’s plate.

IMG_6184I’m not sure why this is the case for so many people when the stores are full of food, the tv is even more full with its cooking or food shows, the internet is jammed with food blogs and magazines and recipes galore, but I can relate.  Here are a few thoughts followed by a group of recipes that might help solve the problem.

You must take a little time for organization/shopping and the dinners will be much easier.  Half the battle is in knowing what you’re going to make. It’s very worthwhile to plan; your health, wealth, and peace of mind depend upon it.   So:

1. Have a plan for two weeks, which for our purposes is 10 meals.  Maybe make a cooking calendar and put it on the fridge.  There’ll be some leftovers–YAY!! for great/inexpensive lunches or cook once, eat twice (three times?) dinners.

2.  Make a good grocery list and go shopping for as much as you can for that two-week period. Plan on a quick trip the following week for fresh items.

3.  Make a personal commitment to cooking on a regular basis.  Make the time for it and, if you don’t want to cook every night, cook a couple of big meals a week and eat off them.  Get someone else in the household to set/clear table and/or wash dishes on a permanent or rotating basis if at all possible.

4.  Have a couple of somethings in the fridge or in the pantry that you can just grab and eat or cook very quickly for an instant meal if need be. Keep your pantry and freezer stocked with staples you’ll be using — olive oil, vinegars, boxed broth, onions, garlic, potatoes, pasta, canned tomatoes and beans, frozen shrimp and bacon– for example. Make sure you’ve bought fresh greens, cherry tomatoes and/or other vegetables and fruit so you can have salad any time.  It’s the fastest meal around.  Make your own vinaigrette and store it in the fridge.

Examples of grab and eats:  Cottage cheese and fresh tomatoes with buttered whole wheat toast.  Boiled eggs and mayonnaise for egg salad and crackers.  Smoked salmon, sliced cheese, fresh fruit and crackers.  Apple and banana slices with peanut butter.  Granola and yogurt.  Fruit salad.  Green salad with canned tuna and vinaigrette.  Cheese quesadillas.  Omelet or scrambled eggs filled with cooked or fresh vegetables.  Microwaved baked potatoes or sweet potatoes with or without toppings.  Ok, you can top a baked potato with Wendy’s Chili you picked up in the drive-through. Beg for some sour cream from the clerk at the window; I won’t tell.  You can also put baked potatoes in the slow cooker in the morning–true.

Here are the ten healthy meals from my blogs More Time at the Table or Dinner Place.  Most can be simplified if need be; many can be doubled and the extra frozen or used later.  None are terribly complicated or costly.  Nearly all have fine leftover value.  Plan, shop, and cook on!  Smile a little while you’re doing it all and the food will taste much better.  Promise. You are, after all, taking very good care of yourself.

For information about how long food keeps, go to Still Tasty Dot Com.  Make a copy of the FDA meat safe temperatures chart, put it in a plastic cover, and tape inside a cabinet or in your favorite all-purpose cookbook.

NOTE:  CLICK ON THE RED TITLES FOR THE POST WITH THE RECIPE.

#1  BABY KALE AND KLUSKI NOODLES WITH CHICKEN AND TOMATOES

4+ servings.  Good cold for lunch or the next night’s dinner–perhaps for chicken quesadillas or tacos.  Can be made in the morning and heated later.   Don’t want to brown chicken in a skillet?  Just oven roast the oiled/salt and peppered pieces at 350 degrees F for 45 – 55 minute or until done through.

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#2  ONE-PAN SEARED SALMON WITH ONIONS AND TOMATOES ON LEMONY GREENS — in 10 minutes

Make extra salmon for a next day salad or omelet filling.

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#3 SRIRACHA EGGS OVER BISCUITS WITH BASIL SALSA

Toast works, too, or you can buy biscuits if there’s no time to make them. Buy the best eggs you can find.

#4  ONE-PAN PORK TENDERLOIN WITH ROSEMARY VEGETABLES

Invest in a 5 or 6-quart deep sauté pan for one-dish meals like this one.  Otherwise, brown the meat and vegetables in a large skillet in batches and transfer to a large casserole dish for the oven.  Use leftovers for lean pork tacos, in sandwiches, on top of buttered, parsley rice, or in a frittata.

#5  SHRIMP STIR-FRY

I love fresh shrimp, but often keep a bag of good-quality frozen shrimp in the freezer for this fast meal.  Best eaten the day it’s made. Make extra rice and store in the fridge for another day.

#6  VEGGIE TACOS WITH SALSA-RANCH DRESSING

I like to grill vegetables for these fast, healthy tacos, but you can just throw them in a skillet with oil if grilling isn’t an option.  Make lots and have leftovers.  Add scrambled eggs if you want them for breakfast or need more protein.  Whole wheat, low-calorie/high-fiber tortillas cut a lot of calories here.  La Tortilla makes some delicious ones for 50 calories per tortilla. The tortillas also make good quesadillas or peanut butter roll-ups.

#7  30-MINUTE VEGETABLE SOUP

Make a double batch and freeze some for later.  Add leftover chopped cooked chicken  or sliced, grilled chicken sausage if you want more protein.  I like it as is. Makes 5 quarts.

#8  HELEN AND ALYCE’S LENTIL SOUP WITH SAUSAGE

Lentil soup doesn’t take long at all, but make sure and rinse your lentils several times before cooking. This recipe calls for bulk breakfast sausage and kielbasa, but you could use all sausage or all kielbasa. Ham or fried bacon would work if you prefer them.  Great for small containers in the freezer to use for lunches or make two pots and freeze one.

#9  BUTTERNUT SQUASH-ZUCCHINI CURRY ON COUSCOUS

Acorn squash would work just as well, as would brown rice in place of the couscous — though couscous is much faster. If you do make the brown rice, go ahead and make a double batch; refrigerate extra for another meal.  Already peeled and chopped butternut squash makes this an even quicker meal.  I include lots of different vegetables, but the dish works just as well with fewer.  

#10 PASTA WITH YOUR VERY OWN MARINARA

Don’t underestimate the power of your own very versatile marinara.  Skip the jars of sweet sauce at the store. This sauce is made in just a few minutes, is lovely on it’s own, but also transforms things like a grilled tuna steak or a few slices of cold chicken.  Make a double batch and freeze one. For a larger meal, grill or fry up some Italian sausage links and cook up some tortellini instead of linguine or spaghetti.  I occasionally make a pot full of this sauce and then cook some shrimp with crushed red pepper in it to serve over the pasta. You can add chopped zucchini or other vegetables for a larger, more filling vegetarian sauce. Fresh pasta is best, but it’s also time-consuming or expensive.  I like Whole Foods 365 Whole Wheat linguine or spaghetti for everyday use.  

DSC03256Happy cooking and great health to you as you

Sing a new song,

Alyce