One of the main obstacles that I’ve heard about for why people don’t cook very often is that it’s hard to buy groceries without wasting a lot of food. If you are only cooking for one or two people, I can understand how this is challenging. What works for me is to plan a few meals before I go shopping, and to try to overlap some of the main ingredients. I’ve outlined a few examples below.
When you are shopping for the week, be realistic about how often you cook. If you know that you will probably go out to eat one or two nights of the week, don’t buy enough groceries to make five dinners. If possible, shop somewhere where you can buy custom-sized portions (i.e., somewhere with a butcher’s counter and that allows you to buy produce by weight).
Sample week 1:
Grilled Chicken with Caprese Topping
Clams with Bacon, Corn, and Cherry Tomatoes (serve with leftover bread)
Barbeque Chicken Salad (use some of the cherry tomatoes from the caprese topping and leftover grilled chicken)
BLTs (use the remaining cherry tomatoes from the caprese, lettuce from the salad, and bread from the clams/caprese)
Pizza (use some of the leftover fresh mozzarella and grilled chicken)
Sample week 2:
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Meatball Subs (repurpose the leftover meatballs into meatball subs by melting fresh mozzarella from the salad on top and usung leftover bread from the salad)
Tacos (with unused ground beef or turkey from the meatballs)
Sample week 3:
Engagement Chicken with Roasted Potatoes
Chicken Salad (with leftover chicken)
Frittata (with leftover potatoes)
Sample week 4:
Polenta with Shrimp
Panzanella Salad (use remaining basil)
Pasta with Pesto and Shrimp (use remaining shrimp)
Slow-Roasted Tomato Soup (use remaining tomatoes and serve with leftover bread from the salad)
Chili cheese fries are one of my absolute favorite foods. They are a great thing to make at home because they are less greasy than the diner/bar versions, so they can be eaten for dinner.
Yesterday I made a turkey chili in the slow-cooker (similar to this chili recipe but with ground turkey). I used frozen french fries baked in the toaster oven (but you could also make these crispy oven fries), then topped them with chili, white cheddar, and green onions. I might have to try the same thing with baked sweet potato fries!
I am trying to cook meat-free meals this week, in honor of our upcoming vacation! I know we will be eating a lot of delicious meat and seafood in Vietnam, so I thought I would try to balance everything out by eating a few vegetarian meals before we go.
Paco worked late last night, so I made a roasted vegetable pasta sauce for myself. I have made Giada De Laurentiis’s Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree before, so this is my modified version of that. You could incorporate whatever vegetables you have on hand, but I happened to have eggplant and cherry tomatoes, which are used in the original recipe.
Pasta with Roasted Eggplant and Cherry Tomato Sauce (for one!)
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
1/3 medium-sized eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 c cherry tomatoes
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
10 leaves basil
1/4 lb of short pasta (I used elbow macaroni)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the eggplant and cherry tomatoes with olive oil on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish. Season with red pepper flakes and kosher salt. Roast for 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package. Cook until al dente, then drain, reserving a cup of the salted pasta water.
When the vegetables have been roasted, puree them in a food processor with the basil and some extra olive oil, if necessary. Taste to make sure that the sauce is adequately seasoned. (You will probably need to add additional salt.)
Add the sauce to the drained pasta. Add some of the hot pasta water, a little bit at the time, until the pasta is the right consistency. Top with grated parmesan.
Desperation chicken became chicken salad melts for lunch! Although I love chicken salad, I haven’t had it in melt-form for years.
Chicken Salad Melts
(Makes 2 sandwiches)
1 c chicken breast, diced
2 ribs celery, diced into small pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, diced into small pieces
2 T mayonnaise
4 slices of bread
2-4 strips of bacon, cooked
cheese of your choice
butter, room temperature
To make the chicken salad, combine the chicken, celery, bell pepper, mayonnaise, salt, black pepper, and lemon pepper in a medium-sized bowl, then taste it to make sure that the seasoning is correct. I cut my ingredients into smaller pieces than I usually would, so that they wouldn’t fall out as I grilled the sandwich.
To assemble the sandwiches, butter one side of each slice of bread. Place two pieces buttered-side-down, then add chicken salad, cheese, and bacon. Place the other piece of bread on top, buttered-side-up.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sandwiches to the skillet, allowing the first side to brown. Flip carefully, and brown the second side. When the sandwich is ready, the cheese should be melted. (You can cover the skillet with a lid for a few seconds to help melt the cheese if it doesn’t melt on its own.)
Serve with pickles slices on the side! I am obsessed with pickles lately.
I had never made enchilada sauce myself; it turns out that it is super simple! This was an easy way to turn leftover chicken into something new.
I made this just for myself, so double it if you’re cooking for two. Enchiladas are not very photogenic, but they tasted much better than they looked!
1 T vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic
1 T flour
1/2 c tomato sauce
1 T New Mexico chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
3/4 c water
1/2 c cooked, shredded chicken
2 c raw spinach, wilted (add 1 T water and microwave for 30 seconds)
3 corn tortillas
enchilada sauce (see above)
cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small saucepan, heat the vegetable oil and garlic until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add the flour and stir in with a whisk to make a roux. After the flour has cooked for about 30 seconds, add the tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, water, and a pinch of salt. Simmer for 10 minutes, taste, and add additional salt if necessary.
Spray a 9×9 inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each tortilla with spinach and chicken, then roll loosely, with the seam on the bottom. Cover in enchilada sauce and top with shredded cheese.
Bake for 12 minutes.