Tag Archives: favourite things

Favourite Things: Healthy (but not so whole) Foods

1 Jul

First things first: HAPPY CANADA DAY to all my fellow Canadians! Even though we don’t have all the great healthy/natural food options that our American neighbours do, I still think that our country is pretty darn great! As I mentioned yesterday, I am being un-patriotic and am currently on a shopping excursion in Buffalo.

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So today’s favourite things post might be somewhat controversial – allow me to explain. In the healthy living community, and in many of the blogs/magazines/sites I read, there is definitely a movement towards whole over processed foods – which I totally agree with! I will NEVER tell you that something out of a box or bag is better than the stuff that grows on God’s green earth. In the healthy living community, I find in general that “fake” food is shunned, and it’s all about the real stuff. I will say again, I am totally on board with that, but….

….there are some “not-so-whole” foods I’m not ready to give up. Let me explain… basically, I’m coming off years of the “diet” mentality. Even before I started losing weight, I was always wanting to, so calories were (and to a large extent, still are) the bottom line. So, if something was/is made in a lower fat/calorie (or fat-free) version, I’d go for it. My way of thinking,is that if it’s available for less calories, why wouldn’t I go for that version? So the “processed” stuff I’m talking about isn’t cheesies and chips, it’s more like low-cal breads, Splenda, that kind of thing.

I still think I heat a healthy diet, and really, as you can see from this blog, I incorporate a lot of whole foods. However, not everything I eat is something my ancestors would recognize, or fresh from the field. I like things like:

Splenda I know this is a huge no-no in the healthy living community (it’s fake! it’s artificial! it’s all chemicals!)….I know, I know, I know (thankfully, Donna has also confessed her love for the stuff, so I feel a little less guilty). But here’s the deal: I. LOVE. SWEET. And if I added sugar (or even honey or agave nectar) to get all the sweetness I wanted in every day food, the calories would pile up quickly. I haven’t seen any studies which directly link Splenda to cancer, so, until I do, I’m probably still going to keep using it. I haven’t tried Stevia, but I’ve heard it has a weird aftertaste (anyone tried it and have an opinion? I’d love to know).

Light breads/wraps/buns I will always love carbs. And while there are some delicious (and totally healthy) breads out there made with lots of whole grains, seeds, etc, calories can add up quickly. I just don’t want the bread I eat on a day-to-day basis to add over 200 calories to a meal, especially when I want that meal to include meat and other side dishes. Since I like to eat BIG meals, I go for foods that give me the biggest bang for my calorie buck. I’d rather have the bun, the burger, and some sides rather than have to cut back on my other food because I’ve got a ginormous bun. Same goes for wraps, English muffins and regular breads. Again, I will eat “regular” bread on occasion, but for the very day, 100 calorie will be king for me (despite the longer ingredient list).

Fat-free spray-on Margarine Yikes! I’m starting to feel a little sheepish, but I’ll admit it: I love this stuff (I’m even buying in bulk today in Buffalo because I can’t seem to find it in Canada anymore). We’re big popcorn eaters in our house, and like to make the air-popped kind. Some would say we’re ruining a healthy, whole snack like that by topping it off with a bunch of chemicals. I say, by using a “whole food” (butter) to top if off, you’re taking an extremely low-calorie snack and making in extremely high in calories. I guess you just have to pick your priorities. This stuff is also great for corn on the cob and grilled cheese.

Fat-free Sugar-free JELL-O Puddings (and Kozy Shack fat-free rice and tapioca puddings) I’ll say it again – I need sweet! Whatever can help me get it for no fat, and 60 calories or less, I’ll take it. I almost never eat one of these guys on their own, but they’re the perfect base for any number of desserts – mix with Cool Whip, cream cheese, or ricotta. Crumble or dip in 100 calorie pack cookies (another guilty pleasure). Use as the base of a fruit dip. These guys do it all, and at a very reasonable caloric price tag.

Fat-free Italian Salad Dressing As you’ve seen all over this blog, I love salads. And while many healthy living experts out there tell you do use less dressing or go without, I love my dressing. I don’t need my salad totally swimming it it, but I like each leaf to have good coverage. I ALWAYS make my own dressing, but if just using olive oil and vinegar, the oil calories go up quickly when making the amount of dressing I’d like to use. So I add some of the fat-free stuff to my homemade vinaigrette to bump up the volume for less calories. My typical “recipe” for one serving is a teaspoon of olive oil, and a splash each of Dijon mustard, fat-free Italian and some type of vinegar. I play with it from there –adding different herbs/seasonings, etc. I figure that using a small amount of store-bought dressing in my own homemade version is better than dousing the whole thing completely with store-bought vinaigrette.

Frozen Yogurt, Light Ice Cream, and “novelties” (ice cream sandwiches, sundae cups) I’ll admit, I eat a lot less of this stuff since discovering banana soft serve and all its spin-offs. However, if I need a quick sweet, creamy, caramel and/or chocolate fix, these are my go-to options. They let me eat flavours I love without totally splurging. Obviously, the ingredient list is longer than my homemade soft serve, but these items aren’t stuff I can easily replicate at home.

So…those are my confessions, I’ve put it out there….do you still love me? Like I said, this post may be slightly controversial, and you may disagree with me, and that’s fine. I’d love to know your thoughts though. Are there any “healthy” processed food that you’re not willing to give up? Do you shun anything out of a box/bag or can or do you incorporate some of these foods into a more whole foods approach?

Favourite Things: Simply Strawberries

22 Jun

It’s strawberry season here in Southern Ontario!IMG_1840 SmileThat means berries aplenty here in HHH world for the next couple of weeks. Did you know that ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than oranges? (I heard that somewhere awhile back, don’t ask me where). There are SO MANY wonderful ways to enjoy these beauties, here are some of my favs. Don’t waste time – get the berries before they’re gone and whip up a tasty treat!

1. Dip in brown sugar (twin) and sour cream (or Greek yogurt) Quite some time ago, a family friend let us in on this delicious flavour combination. While it may sound a little strange, it’s actually quite delicious. Nowadays, to boost protein and cut calories, I substitute fat-free Greek yogurt for the sour cream and brown sugar twin for the sugar – equally delicious! Try either variation for a tasty snack or light dessert.

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2. Make your own tasty dips. Like I did for Father’s Day, whip up some lime or chocolate dip. Or change up the flavours and create your own unique concoction. Both of the recipes above are pretty basic, so they can easily be personalized to suit your flavour preference.

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3. Top off your favourite cereal. This is an oldie, but a goodie (I know you can’t tell from the photo, but there is cereal under there, I promise!). This combo (and my personal favourite) is one cup of Wildroots Organic Triple Berry Morning Bliss (from Costco) topped with one and a half cups of sliced fresh strawberries, 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk and just a touch of brown sugar twin.

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4. Make a breakfast (or dessert) berry quesadilla. This is a dish that I make with apples or or pears in the winter, but is easily summer-ized. Spray one side of a light tortilla with no-stick spray, sprinkle with Splenda and cinnamon. Mix a few tablespoons fat-free cream cheese with vanilla extract and sweetener of your choice to taste (I used splenda). Spread on one half of the non-sprayed side of the tortilla. Top with an even layer of sliced berries. Fold other half over the berry side. Cook in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat – brown on one side, flip, then brown on the other. Optional but delicious: serve with a side of stewed rhubarb for dipping.

5. Use ‘em in a yogurt parfait. While we’re on the subject of stewed rhubarb, why not stir some of it, along with chopped berries into some yogurt (plain, flavoured, Greek, sweetened or not, your choice) and top off with cereal for a cool and crunchy breakfast treat. Don’t have the rhubarb? No worries! Go all berry, or mix with another fruit of your choice.

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6. Top off French toast. Make my usual French toast, and top with sliced fresh berries (and if you’ve got the stewed rhubarb, add some of that too). For an extra treat, top with 1/4 cup light ricotta, lightly sweetened and mixed with vanilla.

IMG_17147. Make a tasty toast. This is another ricotta special, and with similar flavours to the French toast, but quicker and easier for a weekday breakfast. Just lightly spray a thin bun or English muffin with PAM, sprinkle with cinnamon and Splenda, then toast. Mix 1/4 cup light ricotta with a splash of vanilla and some Splenda. Spread this over the toast, then top with sliced berries (I know I sound like a broken record, but also good if you add stewed rhubarb to the party). This is another breakfast that works with almost any fruit all year long.

8. Top off your favourite fro yo. Any kind of ice cream or frozen yogurt gets a boost from delicious fresh berries (and who can argue with something that means dessert contains a serving of fruit?). Add a bit of light chocolate syrup and/or a chocolate vitatop and make it a sundae! Also try berries in a soft serve sundae…mmmm!

9. Go Savoury. I know so far that all of my ideas have been sweet, but strawberries also work well in savoury applications. Try stirring a few into salsa for a different dip or topper for grilled meats. Or throw some strawberries into your typical salad for something deliciously different (I LOVE salads with fruit in them).

10. Make a trifle or top a cake. Here’s my basic trifle recipe. Just use fresh berries in place of the fruits I’ve used, and add any other to suit your tastes. You can also go basic and top off any number of cake flavours with fresh berries. For optimum flavours, slice the berries and let sit for 30 minutes or so (with or without added sweeteners) to let the juice develop. Easiest dessert ever? Buy an angel food cake, top with slice berries and some frozen yogurt or Cool Whip.

11. Chill out! Strawberries will never be as delicious, fresh and cheap as they IMG_0641-1are now (California strawberries DO NOT count…they don’t taste nearly as delicious), so why not freeze them to enjoy all year long? You can use them in everything from smoothies to soft serve even in the midst of a winter storm. To freeze my berries, I wash them, hull them, and freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once they’re frozen, I transfer to a re-sealable plastic bag. *Tip: If you want a large amount of berries for freezing – pick ‘em yourself….WAAAAAY cheaper!

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12. Once you’ve got your frozen berries, make these. What are “these,” you may ask? They are Hungry Girl’s Freezylicious Strawberry Squares  and you should really give them a try. One warning: this recipe uses half a can of sweetened condensed milk. While I love, appreciate and respect Hungry IMG_1805Girl, I think this is stupid and dangerous. I think sweetened condensed milk is basically the nectar of the Gods, and kind of like crack. Some of you out there may say it’s too sweet, but I disagree. I can (and do) eat it straight from the can and be completely satisfied. In fact, I think it would make the perfect dessert on its own. Sadly, even the low fat stuff is way higher in calories than I’d like to know about. But, I was smart, planned ahead, and made a half batch of cookie dough truffles so I’d have somewhere (other than my mouth) to put the other half of the can.

Freezylicious Strawberry Squares
PER SERVING (1 square, about 2.5" X 2.5"): 173 calories, 2.75g fat, 5 g fibre
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For Crust
1/4 cup light whipped butter or light buttery spread (I use low fat becel)
1 cup Fiber One bran cereal (original)
1 cup Fiber One Caramel Delight cereal (I didn’t have, so I used my trusty Triple Berry Organic Bliss)
3 tbsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)
1 tsp. cinnamon
For Filling
Half a 14-oz. can (1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp.) fat-free sweetened condensed milk
2 cups frozen strawberries, slightly thawed
16 oz. (2 cups) fat-free strawberry yogurt (I used cherry, because I bought more than I needed for this recipe, which I tried and didn’t like anyway)

1 cup Cool Whip Free, slightly thawed
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine butter with 2 tbsp. water. Microwave until just melted; set aside.

In a blender or food processor, grind both types of cereal to a breadcrumb-like consistency. Transfer to a bowl, and add butter mixture, Splenda, and cinnamon. Stir until mixed well.

Spray an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish (I used 11 x 7) with nonstick spray. Evenly distribute crust mixture along the bottom of the dish, using your hands or a flat utensil to firmly press and form the crust. Press it into the edges, but not up the sides.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes; remove and let cool.

Clean and dry blender (if you used it earlier), and add all ingredients for filling. Blend at high speed until completely mixed and smooth. Pour evenly over the crust in the baking dish, covering it completely. Cover and freeze for 6 hours, or until firm.

Before serving, remove from freezer and let thaw for 5 – 10 minutes. Cut into 9 squares and enjoy!
MAKES 9 SERVINGS

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Feelin’ crusty: crust is baked and ready to go and filling all blended and ready to go on top.

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Optional: serve the squares topped with mint leaves, cool whip and a whole strawberry and drink tea out of a fancy cup for a nice, blog-worthy photo.

While we’re on the subject of strawberries, I thought I’d share some web-spiration with you. I subscribe to and LOVE Food Network Magazine and each month they do a feature with 30 days of a certain food. June was strawberries. While I can’t find the exact article online, here’s a link to 30 days of berries (they use other kinds of berries, so you can come back to this all summer).

Canadian Living’s Health and Wellness Blog has 5 reasons strawberries are good for you plus 5 strawberry recipes to check out online.

Joy the Baker kicks banana bread up a notch with Brown Butter Banana Strawberry Bread…oh yeah!

Count on Martha for a beautiful photo gallery and 50 strawberry recipes to go with it!

Those are just some of my favourite ways to use the beautiful berry – what are yours?

Favourite Things: Online HG Recipes

19 May

I was scrolling through pictures on my computer, looking for un-posted ones that I could write into a post for this week. I found a couple of photos from my recent catering extravaganza of a favourite Hungry Girl recipe of mine. Then I thought, why not make a post dedicated to my favourites? I was just going to make it a regular post, but then I thought another favourite things post would be fun for while I’m away. So without further ado, I give you some of my favourite online HG recipes (some of her recipes are cookbook exclusives, for this post, I’m just using the ones online, and I’m just giving you the links, rather than typing out all the recipes here).

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Hungry, Hungry Artichoke Hummus This is the recipe in the pictures above, the one that inspired this post. Obviously, you know it’s a good recipe if it’s a healthy one that’s good enough to use for catering! And I’ve already told you how I love artichokes. Just a heads-up on one ingredient: the fat-free Greek yogurt can be swapped for regular plain yogurt or sour cream. This recipe originally comes from the 200 under 200 cookbook, and once I made it – I fell in love! Luckily for you, it’s available online. Winking smile

Fettuccini Girl-Fredo I consider this one of HG’s greatest hits. I hardly ever eat it as is though. I like to top it off with grilled or roasted veggies, some cheese, and maybe a homemade tomato sauce. It’s totally worth seeking out tofu shirataki noodles to make this. Another note: I always use the whole wedge of Laughing Cow even though the recipe only calls for half – FYI: Canadian Laughing Cow is lower in calories and fat than American – great, eh? ‘Winking smile 

HG’s Fiber-ific Chicken Parm It’s chicken parm, without the harm! Cheesy, braded foods are NOT off-limits. Try this, you’ll love it! And pair it with the above recipe and a salad, and you’ve got an Italian feast fit for a queen.

HG’s Top Banana Bread Who doesn’t love banana bread? Even my brother-in-law, who doesn’t like bananas, likes banana bread. The only thing better than banana bread (which, although it’s made with fruit, is also usually high in fat and sugar) is guilt-free banana bread. This recipe makes 8 HUGE delicious, slices!

HG’s Bake-tastic Butternut Squash Fries I love squash. I love fries. When they unite, it is SO good! I like seasoning mine with garlic salt and cumin, maybe a few other Epicure seasonings, and whipping up some sort of dip on the side (of course, ketchup always works).

HG’s Lord of the Onion Rings It’s been a while since I made these things, but it’s not because they’re not delicious. It does take a bit of time to grind up the cereal, slice up the onions, then dip them in the egg substitute and cereal, but it’s well worth it. Try adding different spices to the breadcrumbs for your own delicious variations.

HG’s Raspberry Mocha Madness Swappucino I LOVE this drink…make it so much. Although sugar-free raspberry syrup is hard to find (you can order online here, but I’ve found mine several times at Home Sense/Winners….random, eh?), it’s worth seeking out for this drink. I have the recipe in an HG cookbook, the only difference to the online version is that you can use any type of milk you want – I usually go for skim.

HG’s Sweet ‘n Salty Caramel Cocoa You have to go to Buffalo (or another US city) to get most of the ingredients for this drink, but it’s well worth it. If you’re a sweet and salty fan like me, you’ll love this great drink.

HG’s Swirls Gone Wild and Nutty-good PB Brownies  I just made the peanut butter variation a couple weeks back. You heard how good they are. And as I said before, the cheesecake version is basically the same recipe, only with a cheesecake swirl instead of a peanut butter one. Both are delicious and guilt-free. Try one recipe, or try both and pick your favourite!

I could go on and on, but I think I’ll stop here. There are SO MANY more HG recipes that I love, these are just some of my favourites. Are there any you think I’ve missed? Do you have a favourite HG (or other online) recipe?

Favourite Things: Low Season Produce Boosters

4 Apr

I’ve made a couple more recipes from my new Hungry Girl cookbook, but I thought I’d give you a bitIMG_0640 of a break today for another edition of my Favourite Things. The title may be a bit confusing, but once I explain further, I think you’ll get it. I try to eat seasonally and locally when I can. Let me emphasize again – try! I certainly do buy produce frown in other countries, but if there is something local available, that’s always my first choice. I love fresh, crisp apples in the fall, and happily eat squash all winter long. Of course, I love the wide variety of fresh fruit in the summer, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of fresh, local asparagus. But right now, we’re in a bit of a lull. Apples and pears are getting old, citrus is past its peak, squash is now shipped in from Mexico (although I do still buy it), and asparagus and strawberries are a month away. Lest I (and you) get scurvy, I have a few tricks to get you through the produce doldrums…take heart, before you know it, we’ll be drowning in fresh asparagus and eating rhubarb crisp (drool, sigh)!

1. Canned Tomatoes I’ve written before about my love for this pantry staple. They are so inexpensive and you can use them in so many ways. Add them to a soup or cook them as a sauce (sauté garlic and chili flakes in olive oil, add tomatoes, season with salt and simmer). On the weekend, I even tried them in a salad. Since fresh tomatoes are expensive (and pretty tasteless) this time of year, canned just make sense. Plus, you don’t need to worry about peeling and chopping…just open a can and pour right in. Depending on your recipe/preferences, you can buy them whole, chopped or crushed. There are lots of varieties available with different seasonings too if you want to be different. Check out one of my favourite quick, easy and healthy recipes for eggs poached in tomato sauce from Smitten Kitchen (I haven’t made this one in forever – I need to get on it) – a great way to put those canned tomatoes to use.

IMG_0641 2. Frozen Berries (or any fruit) (if you’re wondering why this is such a strange and frosty-looking phot0, it’s because it’s right out of my freezer…I just went down to my basement and snapped away) I am blessed to live in a region where fresh fruit is widely grown in the summer. That means that it’s also inexpensive, especially if you pick it yourself. So every summer, I freeze lots of berries – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. After I get over the sore back and sunburn that often accompanies the strawberry picking (I usually buy the other 2), I’m always glad to have my stash stored away in the freezer. Locally grown taste so much better than those imported from Florida or California, and you can’t argue with the price! To freeze the berries, I wash first (and hull, if using strawberries), then spread in a single layer on metal baking sheets. After they’re frozen, I transfer them to resealable plastic bags. Frozen aren’t the same as fresh (and I’ll admit, this time of year, I sometimes break down and buy the strawberries…who can say no when they’re 3 boxes for $5?!), but I manage to use them in a variety of ways. Smoothies are the most obvious route. I also like to thaw the berries and stir into yogurt or oatmeal at breakfast. You can bake them into muffins, or make a great sauce (just boil the berries down with a bit of the sweetener of your choice) for pancakes, French toast, or ice cream. I’m always motivated to use up my stash at this time of the year too, because I know that the fresh ones will be here in a few months, and I want to make room in my freezer!

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3. Frozen Spinach This stuff is one of the biggest bargains in the grocery store freezer! When you look at the amount of spinach you get, then think about how much fresh stuff you’d have to cook down to get that much…it’s a steal! And now you don’t have to just buy the one big block of frozen spinach (great if you need the whole thing for a big batch of tasty spinach dip, not-so-much if you just want to add a handful to your recipes), you can buy bags like the one pictured (brands vary depending on where you shop) of chopped spinach pieces/nuggets, so you can just take out as much spinach as you want then re-seal the bag. Just a tip when using this stuff, I like to take out the amount I want and pop it in the microwave for a minute before using. That way I can drain the excess water (I like to just dab with a paper towel), which can affect the flavour/texture of recipes. Once drained, I’ll add the spinach to pasta dishes, soups, or stir frys. I also like to add the drained spinach to a mushroom sauté and then sandwich it between bread with cheese (goat cheese tastes AMAZING)  and grill for a yummy panini. I will often add spinach to my own dip creations – some mix of cream cheese, sour cream and Miracle Whip (all fat free, of course), seasonings (like Epicure dip mixes, garlic salt or herbs) and then toss in the spinach for your own signature dip! Another great use for the green stuff? Add to an egg scramble for a tasty veggie omelette! In short, any where you see a recipe/meal that you think is a little shy on veggies or nutrients, break out the bag of frozen spinach and make Popeye proud!

Well, hopefully these tips have helped keep scurvy away and your teeth intact! Smile Do you have any other tips for incorporating fruits and veggies in your diet, even when the fresh selection leaves a lot to be desired? Do tell!

My Favourite Things – meals for one

27 Jan

Time for another installment of My Favourite Things. As per a request after my last post, this one is devoted to some of my favourite meals/cooking tips for one person. I lived on my own for three years during university, and I am alone for meals a lot of the time now, so cooking, shopping and eating for one have become second nature to me. I really didn’t even realize that cooking for one is a challenge for some people until my sister mentioned it to me. So here are a few of my best tricks/favourite meals.

A nice big pasta supper. See my basic recipe for pasta with meat and veggies. Then you can change up the veggies and meat (or go meatless, use cheese or beans) and play with it until you have the flavours you like. Pasta is a fairly inexpensive meal that comes together quickly, which is great after the end of a long day.

Soup and Sandwich Supper

The nice thing about eating alone is that you have no one to answer to. If you just feel like a soup and sandwich, you can go for it! The sandwich can be whatever you like – grilled cheese, meat, both, veggie. You can use any kind of bread – make a quesadilla with a tortilla (or roll it into a wrap), use normal bread, a bagel, pita or English muffin. I really love sandwiches made with grilled or roasted veggies (and you can make these ahead – use them in salads or soups too) and goat cheese. Sandwich these between bread, grill it in a panini press/grill pan/frying pan and enjoy cheesy deliciousness. 🙂 Grilled portabello mushrooms also make FABULOUS vegetarian sandwiches. Grilled cheese sandwiches with a little bit of fruit (sliced apples are great) are another favourite of mine. If you want a meatier option, sandwich meat is always a quick option, or you can use up your leftovers to make another meal. And if all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with a good old peanut butter sandwich for supper.

As for soup? Mmmm…love it, especially this time of year! Here are a few of my favourite soup tips:

Classic quick chicken noodle

Veggie puree – I love vegetable cream soups…with just about any veggie. Broccoli; cauliflower; squash and apple is a great combo; zucchini…the list goes on.Basically, you just cook the veggies (I usually saute in a bit of olive oil), puree with a bit of liquid (you can just use water and salt or use broth), add milk (or fat free cream cheese or laughing cow cheese are really great), season and heat through. Nutmeg is always good in veggie cream soups. Squash soups taste great with a bit of cinnamon mixed in, or curry is good if you like it (I am not a huge curry person myself though). I love using my immersion blender to make soups (LOVE this gadget, one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received…seriously).

A lot of canned goods are inexpensive and great for adding to soups. Canned beans make a great healthy, tasty and cheap addition to soups for protein. Canned tomatoes are excellent for adding volume/liquid to soups, particularly veggie ones. You can add the trinity of southwestern flavour (as I like to call them) – paprika, chilli powder and cumin – and do a yummy southwestern veggie soup. Tomatoes, corn and black beans work well together.

Chili

I love a nice pot of chili. I never use a recipe – like many other things I make, it depends on my mood/what’s on hand. Quite often, I make vegetarian chili using just beans, or sometimes add soy crumbles. You can use whatever meat (or not) is your preference.  Two of my favourite “secret” ingredients are a pinch of cocoa powder and coffee (either add liquid or even some dried instant coffee). Both add a nice depth of flavour to chili – try it sometime! Even if you’re only cooking for one, make a big batch. Chili freezes well and is GREAT for leftovers. You can use leftover chili to: top a baked (or “microwave-baked”) potato, put on a taco salad, top chili fries (either make homemade regular or sweet potato fries, or use frozen ones) or nachos (and of course, don’t forget the cheese!) and to make a dip – nothing like a good old Mexican layered dip with chili – you can do one layer of taco seasoning mixed with cream cheese/sour cream, a chili layer, then cheese over all, microwave and enjoy (ok, I know that last one is not a traditional “meal,” but it sure is a tasty way to use up chili).  You know what’s great about all of these recipes? If you don’t feel like/don’t have time to make chili, they all work with canned chili (such as my FAVOURITE one).

Stir Fries

Stir fry is a healthy, quick meal that can be easily reduced or expanded depending on how many people you are serving. Again, you can use whatever protein (chicken, pork, beef, tofu, shrimp) and veggies you have on hand. For me, garlic is a must for seasoning. Fresh ginger adds a nice Asian flair. And, if you’re like me and can take the heat, dried chili flakes are great too. I start by having my ingredients all chopped and ready to go. The basic method is to heat a pan (non-stick is best) till it’s nice and hot over medium-high heat, add a pit of oil (or use PAM), then add your meat and garlic (and ginger and chili flakes if using), cook until the meat is almost done, stirring occasionally but not too often (or the meat won’t brown). Then add all your veggies, cooking and stirring until crisp-tender. Near the end comes the fun part – seasoning! Now, if you’ve used ginger, garlic or chili flakes, you can just add salt and pepper and call it a day. But in the last few years I’ve discovered some Asian sauces that make your stir-fry taste decidedly more “restaurant-y.” Try any of these on their own, or mix and match to create your own “secret sauce.” Soy sauce is a classic, Teryaki is great, but my three new favourites are black bean sauce, oyster-flavoured sauce (doesn’t taste fishy, trust me, I HATE all fish/seafood) and chili garlic sauce. I bought these because I was making recipes that called for them, and now I love them on their own. They are available in the Asian section of most grocery stores (even here in Simcoe!). Once you’ve sauced and seasoned your stir-fry, cook and stir a few minutes more. You can serve your stir fry over rice, pasta, bulgur, couscous or quinoa (all of which are pretty cheap and easy to make).

I have more ideas, but this is a long enough post already. These are just some of the classic single stand-bys. It looks like I’ll have to do a Part II of favourite meals for one.

Let me know if you have any great single meal ideas or if you have any requests for favourite things posts.