simple healthful weeknight dinners for one
At the start of this week:
- Jesse traveled over to Kansas City, USA for a week of flight training
- Our food mail arrived, with a HUGE load of fresh vegetables
- I realized I had hit bit of a wall with my nutritional eating and workout plan – not a good thing to happen before winter even arrives!
A combination of the three forced me to, this week, focus on clean, quick, highly nutritious meals in order to 1. keep me sane in my empty nest 2. give me something to focus on after work and 3. take dinner time to a new level with wholefoods, plenty of vegetables and a range of sources of lean protein. Eating well does wonders for the self-esteem, not to mention energy levels. A bit of research, some forward planning and a fair deal of improvisation really pays off when it comes to great dinner time dishes. I’m all about recreating a meal with leftovers from the night before, and spending a bit of time prepping one or two things that can be used throughout the whole week.
Before starting to get serious about protein intake and well-balanced meals, I would NEVER sit down to eat a whole chicken breast. Jesse and I could always make one go a loong way (ie. feed four people in a stir fry!) and I thought that was being clever and frugal. Really, I was skimping myself on protein, and ended up filling up on the noodles or rice that accompanied it. Recently we got ourselves a massive box of free flow, frozen chicken breasts (its a lot easier to buy bulk meat here than it is in New Zealand, and it is SO much cheaper) and have slowly gotten used to eating more of the chicken itself and less of the accompaniment. The first time took me so long to get through the one breast (gosh I’ve said that word a lot) and I was super full afterwards. Now, we will do it at least once a week, served with plenty of greens and some sort of grain. This recipe here has to be my favorite way to eat a chicken breast. The mushrooms become crispy, the apricots puffy and juicy, and the chicken succulent. I ALWAYS rinse the defrosted chicken breast very well, I recommend you do too. I could not believe it when I read the ingredient list for our box of chicken breasts! Get as much of that muck off as possible, dry it well and commence with the recipe :D
Lime & Curry Tilapia on Oven Roasted Vegetables
Tilapia is a body builders dream! Not only is it the species of fish Peter was catching in the Gospel of Matthew when the miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth occurred, but it’s cheap, nutritious and protein RICH! Meaning it is filling, helps to recover muscles and has little carbohydrate and few calories. Tilapia fillets are easy enough to find in the supermarket – even here in our little Northern store they are reasonably priced and readily available. Cooking the fish in lime juice with a coating of spices makes a real meal out of a simple fillet. Drizzle with a yogurt dressing (plain yogurt, lime juice, salt and pepper) and serve over oven roasted potato, kumara, zucchini, capsicum, broccoli florets and onion.
Spicy Black Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayonnaise and Grilled Vegetable Spinach Salad
Finally! A successful black bean pattie! My last ones were very stodgy and not burger material. The trick? Puree the ingredients (including half the black beans) in food processor, smoosh into patties and freeze! Perfect patties – I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe. They are great for on the go, for a quick lunch (throw one into an English Muffin for a light burger!) and to fill out a vegetable based meal.
Of course I didn’t get my oven cranking all over again for these vegetables. I roasted enough the previous night for the whole week (I love having a pile of them in the fridge for an addition to lunch, to throw into a salad or as a pre-dinner nibble) so grabbed a cupful of those left over, pan fried them over a smokin’ hot pan until charred, and threw amongst some spinach and cherry tomatoes. Completed with a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar.
Red Lentil Curry with Lime, Yogurt and Roti
Very simple, economical, quick and, once again, protein rich. Hearty winter meals don’t have to be high in calories or overly rich. A curry like this doesn’t leave you feeling at all stodgy and bloated, yet is so hearty and filling a small portion goes a long way. If you’re after a low carb meal, cut out the rice and serve instead with a wholewheat, homemade roti. Further reduce carbohydrates by cutting out both, but I think carbohydrates are vital to good recovery. Serve with a dollop of natural yogurt and a squeeze of lime. As with all curries, this is even better the following day after the flavors have further infused!
Avocado & Peach Salsa on Spicy Chickpea Tacos
This salsa is a final taste of summer. Half way through dicing my ‘peach’ I discovered is was actually a nectarine.. And that worked a treat! The combination of fruit, lime juice, jalapenos and avocado make a salsa that is sweet, tangy, spicy and creamy all at once. I served this on a small roti, left over form last night’s curry, as my taco, with pan fried chickpeas (spiced with smoked paprika and cumin) and mixed greens.
Of course cooking for one is not much fun, but having a plan and something to look forward to definitely helps and the key to healthy eating. Enjoy these dishes, create some of your own, and share your recipes for quick, nutritious weeknight meals with me.