Cereal for dinner? No way. You deserve a lovely meal. Cooking for yourself has many advantages.
You can 1) eat what you really enjoy, without catering to other’s tastes, 2) save money, it’s cheaper than eating out or buying prepared foods, 3) use fresh ingredients and not ingest fats and additives (and perhaps contaminants) in prepared and frozen foods, 4) exercise your creativity, and 5) create a nice transition into evening.
So you can benefit your health, waistline, and pocketbook at the same time.
Make cooking dinner a “welcome home” event.
Pouring yourself a glass of wine while preparing dinner can facilitate winding down. Personally, I find chopping vegetables or ripping lettuce relaxing (does anyone else?) and can often get kind of “Zen” even without the wine.
Create Something Fresh – a signature salad
Try different combinations of fresh greens and veggies, it’s creative and fun. You can put a wide variety of greens, vegetables, nuts, meats, seafood, and beans in salads and they seem to taste great (of course, the dressing contributes a lot to this. See below for a simple and tasty dressing).
Start with a base of romaine lettuce because romaine has more vitamins (Lots of Vitamins K, A, C, folate, and magnesium) than others types of lettuce and also is said to prevent cancer. According to Wikipedia, romaine may reduce levels of colon and liver cancer carcinogens. Romaine may seem light, but it is heavy on health!
Add to your base of romaine any number of things – fresh spinach, escarole, red cabbage, lightly cooked broccoli and/or carrots (if you boil carrots for a couple of minutes you get more vitamins from them), beets, nuts, cheese, tuna, hardboiled egg, chickpeas, black beans, dried cranberries, chicken, fresh pear slices….. etc., etc. The combinations are seemingly endless. Add some high-quality bread (a French baguette or ciabatta) and you have dinner you can feel good about.
Green Tip: Mix your own salad dressing
Why buy a bottle of something with preservatives when it is so, so, so easy to make your own salad dressing?
I find a ratio of about 3 to 1 (3 times more vinegar than olive oil – yes, this is unconventional) makes a tasty salad dressing. Add a bit of salt and pepper, and even a bit of delicate mustard, and you have a zippy, tasty salad. If you have aged balsamic, you might even dress your salad with that and just forget the oil.
Mixing your own also can save a bottle from going in the landfill or through the recycling process, save refrigerator space, and make you feel good for having made something pure and healthful.
Roast Some Veggies
Lately I’ve become excited about roasting vegetables. Here is a nice dish – it’s adapted from a recipe from the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens. It was touted as a side dish, my adaptation make is more of a light dinner. You can eat this with sauteed chicken, or a salad, and some nice warm bread.
Roasting is a fast (very little prep time) and easy way to cook. It also warms the house in winter and creates wonderful smells to tantalize your appetite. The BHG recipe uses two kinds of potatoes, white and sweet, and no zucchini, green beans or peppers. My adaptation is less starchy. But you can experiment with various veggies to suit your own taste.
Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas
1 carrot (or 2) peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small zucchini, washed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 small red onion, peeled, halved and cut into 1 inch wedges
Optional – 10 fresh whole green beans or 4 3/4-inch pieces of green pepper
8 ounces of chick peas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained*
2 garlic cloves
1 to 3 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 teas. dried crushed rosemary
1 teas. brown sugar
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 teas. ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place all veggies, garlic, and chickpeas in a shallow roasting pan (Better not to use glass as veggies do not brown, use an enamel or metal pan).
In a small bowl, mix together the oil, rosemary, sugar, salt, and pepper. Drizzle over the vegetables and mix to coat.
Roast, uncovered for about 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, stirring twice.
To cut down on trash in the landfill and the extra costs and steps in recycling, plus to avoid the leaching of chemicals from the can’s lining, I use dried chickpeas that I have soaked overnight and cooked for an hour or two. You can do this on Saturday and use some of the chickpeas to make a great humus for spreads and sandwiches by simply blending the chickpeas with some of their liquid, some lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, and garlic to taste.
In my new appreciation of roasting, I wondered if you could roast broccoli. A quick web search netted this wonderful recipe. I’ve made this twice in the last few days – it was so delicious! The touch of parmesan, garlic, and lemon somehow makes this great taste treat!
6 to 8 broccoli florets about 1 and 1/2 inches wide with an inch or 2 of stem. (I peel the stems so they are a bit more tender).
1 clove garlic – minced
1 to 2 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. grated parmesan cheese (it’s best if you grate this yourself, the flavor is so much better!)
Heat the oven to 425. Spread the olive oil in a roasting pan, put in the broccoli and roll it around to coat, sprinkle with the garlic, salt and pepper. Roast 15 to 20 minutes, turning once to twice. When tender, take from the oven, sprinkle the lemon juice and cheese.
You can also roast some sweet potatoes with this – even in the same pan. (I don’t put garlic on those) and serve with sauteed chicken or make a meal of broccoli and sweet potatoes. One plus to this – it looks great on the plate!
Story and photos by Bojinka Bishop.
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