Posts Tagged 'Cooking for One'

Simple Strawberry Smoothie

Dr. O and I have been in an undeniable breakfast rut.  I love egg sandwiches, but we’ve been eating them for breakfast almost every morning (weekends included) for months and months and months now.  I broke the monotony a bit last week because I needed to use strawberries left over from my party, but my go-to strawberry recipe (oatmeal with macerated strawberries) takes almost 15 minutes. In my quest to find a quick breakfast that would make use of the leftover fruit, I came up with a simple smoothie recipe.  Now that the party berries are gone, I’ve bought more so I can keep making this healthy, filling breakfast.

Simple Strawberry Smoothie
Makes about 20 ounces

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulls removed
1/2 cup milk (I use 1%)
1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, or agave nectar  (or more to taste)
6 ice cubes (exclude if using frozen fruit)

Method:
Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Process on the highest setting until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Simple Strawberry Smoothie

I love this smoothie!  The consistency is just right: thin enough to be drinkable, but thick enough to feel like a satisfying meal.  With just a hint of added sweetener, the flavor of the berries really shines through.  Plus, it’s infinitely adaptable since you can substitute any type of fruit for the strawberries.  I made one yesterday using a banana and some frozen mixed berries I had in the freezer.

The recipe does make enough for two people to share, but I’ll admit that I can put down a whole recipe by myself.  With only 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points for the whole smoothie, I figure it’s a great source protein, calcium, and vitamin C and a healthy way to start the day.

TIPS:  If you’re really in a hurry in the mornings, put all of the ingredients (except the ice cubes) in the blender jar the night before, put the lid on, and stash it in the refrigerator.  All you’ll have to do the next morning is blend for two minutes and go.

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Baby Spinach Salad with Tuna

Since I’m temporarily at home while we get our new place put together, I’ve had a little more time to think about what I want to eat for lunch.  I decided to step away from the Lean Cuisine (a rare occasion, for better or for worse!) and try the Baby Spinach Salad with Tuna recipe from the May 2006 issue of Everyday Food.  If you leave out the red onion (which I did, since there are few things in this world worse than raw red onion breath), the assembly time for this recipe is about the length of time it would take to heat up a frozen entree anyway.  Plus, it’s totally portable if you want to assemble it the night before and take it to work (or wherever).

To make the dressing, I whisked together 2 tablespoons of plain, low-fat yogurt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a small bowl.  (Use a small airtight container or a resealable plastic bag if it’s a “to go” salad.)  I seasoned the dressing with salt and pepper and set it aside.

Next, I placed 3 cups of loosely-packed baby spinach and 1/2 cup of seedless red grapes (halved lengthwise) in a separate bowl.  To finish the salad, I drained 3 ounces of tuna, added it to the salad, and topped the salad with the dressing.  That was it!

This salad was a nice change of pace…  I loved the lemony dressing and the bit of sweetness from the grapes.  (I think red grapes tend to be less sweet than green; green might have been too much for the salad. Plus, we would miss out on the gorgeous color of the red grapes.)  To really make this sing, I would add drained oil-packed tuna instead of water-packed tuna and toasted pecans.  (Candied pecans might be even better.)  If you want to keep it light, though, stick with the original plan.

TIPS:  The recipe calls for 3 ounces of tuna, but I was only able to find 6-ounce tins.  Keep this in mind when you’re shopping for ingredients.  I ended up adding an extra bit of tuna to my salad, and then I made Miss Mia a *very* happy cat.

Recipe link: Baby Spinach Salad with Tuna

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken and Roasted Green Beans

I adore prosciutto.  I’ve only really started eating it within the last year, but I’ve become a bit of an addict.  (I think the Pear and Prosciutto “Carpaccio” from Valentine’s Day has been my favorite so far.)  It’s a bit expensive ($23.99 per pound – yikes!), but thankfully, I usually only need a few slices for the recipes I make.  The amount of flavor added by even the smallest quantities is just incredible.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken and Roasted Green Beans from the April 2008 issue of Everyday Food is one of my favorite ways to enjoy prosciutto when Dr. O is traveling and I’m on my own.  There *is* a learning curve on this one, though…  Read and learn!

Preparation on this one is pretty simple.  I started by removing the stem ends from 4 ounces of fresh green beans.  I put the beans on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, tossed them with 1 teaspoon of oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and then pushed them to one side of the pan.

Next, I seasoned a chicken breast (about 6 ounces) with salt and pepper and wrapped it with 3 thin slices of prosciutto.  I placed the chicken (seam side down) on the other side of the baking sheet and rubbed it with 1 teaspoon of oil.

Here’s where the concept veers from good results.  The recipe says to broil the chicken and beans until the chicken is opaque throughout, 15 – 20 minutes.  The first time I made this recipe, I followed the instructions exactly…  I ended up with perfect chicken and blackened, smoky tasting beans.  Ick.  Someone posted a similar experience in the recipe comments online, so I know it wasn’t just me.

This time, I watched the beans and took them out when they looked perfect – at only 6 minutes!  BIG difference.  I put the beans on a plate, covered them to keep them warm, and then put the chicken back in the oven until 15 minutes had passed.  Perfect!

(Sorry – the color’s a bit funky on this one.  It was pretty dark when I took the photo.)

All in all, this is an easy and delicious meal for one.  I love the salty, smoky flavor of the prosciutto and the way it keeps the chicken moist.  Honestly, I prefer to boil my green beans (5 minutes) and then toss them with salt and butter, but the roasted beans weren’t half bad.  I would make this one again.

TIPS: It’s important to check the temperature of your chicken to make sure it’s cooked through, but don’t check it too early.  If you puncture the chicken and put it back in the oven (*especially* if you do this repeatedly), the juices will run out, which means you end up with a dry chicken breast.  Properly cooked chicken should be 165F.  The temperature will continue to rise after you remove the meat from the oven, so you can take it out at around 160F.

Recipe link: Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken and Roasted Green Beans

Cinnamon-Baked Bananas

I’ve noticed that when Dr. O goes out of town, I still make an effort to cook for myself, but I tend to make simpler food.  It might be a bit healthier, too! 🙂  Today’s dessert – Cinnamon-Baked Bananas – is no exception.  I tore this recipe out of Shape magazine months and months ago…  It seemed like a great way to treat myself with minimum effort using ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand.

Leaving the banana in its peel, I cut through the fruit lengthwise, leaving the bottom peel intact.  I also made two small horizontal slits at the top to make opening the fruit a bit easier.  I pulled the sides of the banana apart, dotted it with 1/2 teaspoon of butter, and then sprinkled it with 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.

To cook it, I closed the banana and wrapped it in foil.  I put the foil packet directly on my center oven rack and baked it at 400F until it was hot and soft (10 minutes).  I (carefully) removed the foil, opened the banana, and enjoyed my treat!

Yum-my!  This was so simple but so delicious.  If you’re trying to “be good,” this is a great way to trick your body into thinking you’re eating something more extravagant.  The banana was hot and soft, and the butter-cinnamon-sugar combination is so comforting.  The only change I’d make is that I might cook the banana just a bit longer next time.  The recipe said 10 – 15 minutes, so I went with 10; 12 might be just right.  I can’t wait to make this again to find out!

TIPS: “Dotting” something with butter just means cutting the butter into small pieces and placing the pieces randomly (or not so randomly!) on or in the dish.

Recipe link: Cinnamon-Baked Bananas
(This link has the original version of the recipe and the lighter version; I used the lighter version.)

Caribbean Shrimp Kebabs

Dr. O is out of town for a few days on business, so I thought his absence would be a great opportunity to do another “cooking for one” series. Today’s recipe – Caribbean Shrimp Kebabs from the July/August 2004 issue of Everyday Food – was actually written for 4 servings. I just cut the ingredients in half and split the skewers between dinner the first day and lunch the second day. Use the original recipe (via the recipe link at the bottom of the post) if you’d like to cook with the normal ingredient amounts.

First, I soaked eight 6-inch wooden skewers in water for 15 minutes to ensure they wouldn’t burn in my grill pan. While the skewers soaked, I cut 1 red bell pepper into 1 1/2-inch pieces. I also made Cilantro Dipping Sauce to go with the kebabs. In the small bowl of my food processor (a blender would work fine as well), I combined 1/4 cup of firmly packed cilantro leaves, 2 tablespoons of reduced-fat mayonnaise, 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon of dark rum, and 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder. I processed the mixture until it was smooth and then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

When the skewers had finished soaking, I assembled 4 kebabs (using 2 skewers each – they were parallel and about an inch apart to really secure the shrimp), alternating 3 shrimp with 2 pieces of bell pepper (1/2 pound of shrimp and 1 bell pepper total). The original recipe said to thread 4 shrimp and 3 pieces of pepper for each kebab, but my shrimp were pretty large. I put the kebabs in a shallow plastic container and set them aside.

To make the marinade, I combined 1 tablespoon of dark rum, 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon of curry powder, 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I spooned the marinade over the skewers and turned them to coat. I let them stand for 5 minutes (I heated my grill pan to medium-high during the wait) and then sprinkled them with salt.

This recipe was meant to be cooked on a standard grill, so I had to improvise a bit. The original recipe said to heat the grill to high, place the skewers on the grill, cover the grill, and then cook the shrimp for 2 – 3 minutes on each side. I tend to burn things whenever my grill pan is over high heat, which is why I went with medium-high heat. Also, my grill pan doesn’t have a lid or cover, so I had to plunk my largest skillet lid over the top. I cooked the kebabs, covered, until the shrimp were opaque and the peppers were charred (3 minutes per side). I served the kebabs drizzled with the cilantro sauce.

These kebabs were so, SO good. I was a bit worried that the rum in the marinade would be overpowering (I used nice, dark Bacardi 8 ) but the flavor of the shrimp was incredible. The cilantro sauce was very fresh tasting (love the lime!) and creamy – the dish just wouldn’t have been the same without it. I’ll admit that the kebabs were a bit messy to disassemble… Using two skewers per kebab really anchored the shrimp well! The upside is that if you did cook these on a regular grill, you wouldn’t have to worry about losing any yummy shrimp between the grates.

I enjoyed this so much I almost felt bad for leaving Dr. O out… I can’t wait to share this one with him!

TIPS: I have lots of tips on this one! If the “two skewers per kebab” concept isn’t really making sense, click on the recipe link below to see Everyday Food‘s picture of the kebabs. Avoid marinating the shrimp for more than 5 minutes – they’ll get tough. Perhaps most importantly, don’t let the night you try this recipe be the night you let the dishes sit until tomorrow morning… Curry stains. Your dishes would probably be fine, but white plastic would never be the same.

Recipe link: Caribbean Shrimp Kebabs and Cilantro Dipping Sauce

Dill Feta Scramble

I was looking through some breakfast recipes earlier this week when it occurred to me that I had all the ingredients for the Dill Feta Scramble recipe from the September 2007 issue of Everyday Food just sitting around – no planning necessary. It was fate! I enjoyed the one I made for myself on Thursday so much that I actually got out of bed early – cheerfully, even – and made one for Dr. O yesterday.

The scramble is super quick and easy, so it makes an ideal breakfast any day of the week. I cooked for one person each time, so double the ingredients for two or quadruple them for four.

In a medium bowl, I whisked together 1 large egg and 2 large egg whites. I seasoned with salt and pepper and then whisked in 2 tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese. I also chopped 1 tablespoon of fresh dill and set it aside.

I sprayed a small nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heated it over medium-low heat. (The cooking spray was a substitution; the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of olive oil.) I cooked the eggs, scraping the bottom of the pan frequently with a flexible heatproof spatula, until they were set. I added the dill and stirred the eggs to incorporate it.

I spooned the eggs into half of a whole-wheat pita and garnished with dill to serve.

Dill Feta Scramble

This was so tasty! It’s like a breakfast burrito with a Greek twist. Having all of the ingredients on hand was a fortuitous situation, but I enjoyed the scramble so much I’ll probably plan for it next time. I tend to make the same thing for breakfast every morning (during the week, at least)… This was a fantastic – and fast! – break from the norm.

TIPS: The recipe says to scramble the eggs for 1 – 2 minutes to set them. I prefer to have my eggs more dry than wet, though, so I scrambled them for about 3 minutes before adding the dill. If you already cook scrambled eggs regularly, just cook them how you like them.

Recipe link: Dill Feta Scramble

Egg-White Omelet with Spinach and Cottage Cheese

I tend to eat a standard meal for breakfast during the work week, but I like to branch out and try new things on the weekend. Since I had this Saturday to myself (a rare occurrence!), I decided to give another “cooking for one” recipe a shot – Egg-White Omelet with Spinach and Cottage Cheese from the January/February issue of Everyday Food. It’s quick (10 – 15 minutes), tasty, and the spinach and cottage cheese pack a great nutritional punch.

This one isn’t listed online, so here are the ingredients:

3 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup packed baby spinach
1/4 cup low-fat (1%) cottage cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

In a medium bowl, I whisked together the egg whites and 1 tablespoon of water. I seasoned with salt and pepper and set the whites aside.

Next, I heated the olive oil over medium-high heat in a nonstick omelet pan (8″ skillet). I added the spinach, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked it until it was wilted and tender (1 minute). I added the egg whites and cooked until they were nearly set, using a flexible heatproof spatula to lift the edges of the omelet to let the uncooked whites run underneath.

Once the eggs were cooked (about 2 minutes), I dolloped the cottage cheese on top of the omelet, sprinkled it with the Parmesan, and seasoned again with salt and pepper. I slid it gently onto a serving plate, folding it over itself by tipping the skillet.

Egg-White Omelet with Spinach and Cottage Cheese

I didn’t do such a great job of evenly distributing my cooked spinach in the skillet, so there’s lots of green on top. Pretty or not, this was really delicious. The cottage cheese tasted almost cream cheese-y… Mmmm. With this much flavor, I didn’t even miss the egg yolks.

TIPS: You have to move pretty quickly when making this omelet, so be sure to have all of your ingredients portioned out, ready, and waiting from the very beginning. Also, this is another one that calls for seasoning with salt and pepper 3 separate times, so season carefully.




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