...hello real food. I decided for price and health reasons to give up Lean Cuisine and learn how to cook and eat better the real way. I figure it's going to be cheaper to buy staple foods and learn how to cook as well as better for me to eat fresh foods instead of frozen all of the time. So, if anyone has any tips... please PLEASE send them my way! I'm domestically challenged and only have to cook for one! Thanks guys!
09-02-2005, 01:11 PM
My mom hated to cook, so I grew up eating canned peas and burnt pot roast :lol:
I know planning meals for the week can be a drag and time consuming, but it can help save money grocery wise and help with not throwing away too much food either. I was on Jenny Craig for a while and that helped me to get into the habit of planning.
One thing I'd suggest is making enough of a dish to have it a couple of nights.
Freezing stuff helps too, throw a single serving in a freezer safe baggie and you can have a meal practically ready to go.
You might want to check out Penzeys spices; having a few bottles of choice spices/herbs can make a big difference in flavor.
I'll just add that when I start looking for a recipe (especially ones that will fit in well with my eating program), I've learned to think about whether it sounds like something I really want to eat. That may sound strange, but I've had to learn the hard way to trust my taste bud instincts! I believe you should eat to live, but then you have to eat, so the eatin' should be as good as it can be!
09-02-2005, 01:14 PM
:cp: Very, very, very, very good choice!
Check out the 'FOOD' section in the forums, lots of good stuff there. Click on people's fitday links and get nosy. Find out what everyone else is eating.
I can't tell you how excellent your decision is. :cp:
09-02-2005, 01:51 PM
Just some [basic] thoughts:
Get yourself a good chef's knife. You need it. Use it, wash it by hand, dry it, put it back either in a knife block or in a case where the blade won't be knocked around. Your knives are invaluable necessities.
Cut your veggies first, then your meat if you only have one cutting board. Use a nylon board for cutting meat, and wash it immediately.
To start, do simple things: add spaghetti sauce in a jar to cooked meat + veggies, and boil some whole wheat pasta. Throw it all together and you have a meal. Save the rest for 2 days max in the fridge, or freeze for later.
What do you like to eat? Walk through the grocery store and see what ideas you can find. Experiment, see what you can come up with.
Cooking is fun, ask questions! :)
09-02-2005, 02:01 PM
Good for you! Lean Cuisines are good in a pinch, but full of salt and not enough food for a real meal as far as I'm concerned!
Here's some fast and easy suggestions (I know I didn't want to spend a lot of time fussing when I was single and you can always make a big batch and keep individual portions for nuking later).
Chili - brown extra lean ground beef, drain, put back in pot with diced onions, celery, carrots, red/green/yellow peppers and fresh mushrooms. Add a can of red kidney beans, a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of V8 juice and add chili powder and whatever other seasonings you wish. Let it simmer for a couple of hours. Full of protein, veggies, fibre and flavour.
Pasta Sauce - same as above, but leave out the kidney beans, substitute oregano for chili powder and add garlic and a small can of tomato paste to thicken. Serve over whole wheat pasta.
Salad - buy a bag of pre-packaged salad (spinach, romaine, garden, etc.) and add "extras" (fresh diced tomatoes, for example). Add drained canned tuna (or tuna pouches) or grilled chicken and toss with fat-free dressing (leave out the croutons, but indulge in a garlic breadstick or two).
Chicken - buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or a whole chicken and remove the skin and de-bone). Pour fat-free Italian dressing or reduced fat mushroom soup over chicken and bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Serve with salad and/or steamed veggies (broccoli and cauliflower with a fat-free cheese slice melted over top is nice). Cook up 4 or more breasts and refrigerate or freeze remainder.
Fish - buy fresh or frozen fillets and grill under the broiler with freshly ground black pepper and a little lemon juice. Or bake with a little milk (for tenderness).
Veggies - thinly slice potato (skin on), onion, mushrooms, green and red pepper. Place on foil, spray with "I Can't Believe its Not Butter" or PAM (Olive oil spray is nice) and add seasonings. Close foil, poke a few holes in it and throw in the oven beside your chicken, fish or whatever else you're cooking.
Stir fry - mix in a small bowl a little cornstarch with V8 juice, soy sauce and a little ginger if you wish. Stir-fry skinless, boneless chicken breasts (cut into strips) in a little oil, remove from skillet or wok and set aside. Stirfry in the skillet a bag of frozen oriental vegetable combination and some minced garlic until tender crisp, then add the cornstarch mixture and cook until thickens (stir constantly). Add the chicken and heat through. Serve over brown or wild rice (or whole wheat noodles).
09-02-2005, 02:06 PM
Congratulations on your resolve to cook your own food!! Most nights I am cooking just for me. My daughter doesn't eat what I eat, and my husband is on a different schedule. Now I do love to cook, but most nights I have about half an hour to cook, so I go for simple. I don't buy frozen meals, because I don't want the salt and preservatives (and because when I go into the frozen meals section of the grocery store thefatgirlinside wants to go right to the Stouffers Macaroni and Cheese).
Don't be intimidated. With some planning and some basic staples in your kitchen, you can cook a healthy meal in very little time. Each time you go shopping, get a few more staples, and soon you'll be able to whip up just about anything.
Staples in my freezer:
meat: skinless boneless chicken breasts, meatballs, hamburgers, fish fillets (I buy them all pre-done, but you can buy the hamburger in bulk and make up a bunch of burgers to freeze -- just put waxed paper between them and put them in a freezer bag -- or meatballs)
produce: bags of spinach, broccoli, corn, peas, green beans, peaches, strawberries, blueberries
Staples in my cupboard/frig:
sauces: various salsas, spaghetti sauce, vinagrette dressing, blue cheese dressing, mustard, bbq sauce (if you like, you can eventually try things like peanut sauce, teriyaki, and various hot sauces)
flavorings: a couple different spice blends, curry, italian seasoning, sesame seeds, peanut butter
oils/fats: butter, olive oil, sesame oil, low-fat cream cheese (great for adding "creaminess" without as many calories as sour cream and butter)
produce: onions, garlic, carrots, celery, bags of broccoli/cauliflower mix or broccoli slaw, mushrooms, milk, eggs, cheese
starches: quick brown rice, rice & beans packs, whole wheat spaghetti, bulgar (quick-cooking cracked wheat), whole wheat bread
So I start with my protein -- what am I in the mood for?
Hamburgers are good plain, or with a sprinkle of bbq sauce. If you are using fresh meat, throw it in a bowl with some vinagrette for 20 minutes before you cook it. Yum!
Chicken is easily cooked in the microwave, and a teaspoon of blue cheese dressing adds a nice finish (2 minutes on the plate, turn, 2 more minutes, turn, add dressing, 2 more minutes, let sit a few minutes, eat).
Eggs are quick, and there are SO many easy ways to make them. I like to add a little curry powder to mine.
Then I think veggies.
Frozen are easy to microwave with a bit of butter or salsa for flavor. Or toss them with a bit of vinagrette once they're done and eat them at room temperature like a salad.
I often saute fresh veggies, starting with onions and mushrooms -- let them saute in a bit of oil or butter to develop their good flavors, then add your "main" vegetable (broccoli, zucchini, and carrots are my current faves).
I like to add a handful of frozen spinach for added vitamins, color to a lot of things -- spaghetti sauce, soups, stews, sauteed veggies. It's an easy way to "sneak in" some more healthy veggies.
If I'm making spaghetti, I'll sometimes add a handful of frozen veggies to the water in the last minute of cooking, then drain the whole lot of veggies/pasta and plop it in my bowl ready for my sauce. I love one-dish meals.
I love soups, so I tend to stock canned soups in my cupboard. If I've used up more calories than expected in lunch, and need a light dinner, I usually go for soup and veggies. I also find cheap veggies (zucchini lately) and make up a pot of soup on the weekend, and put it in 2-cup containers in the freezer, ready for quick eating. Vegetable soups are about the easiest thing to make, and there are a lot of easy recipes online.
I don't eat a lot of pasta or bread and such, so my dinners are mostly veggies and some protein. But I may round the meal out with whole wheat toast.
Sometimes I have pasta or noodles, either with butter or spaghetti sauce. Sometimes I'll boil a potato and mash it with some skim milk and a little bit of low-fat cream cheese for creaminess.
If I want something heavier, I may plan my meal around a grain pilaf. That's just a fancy word for sauteed-grain-and-veggie mix. You dice up some onion and garlic and start it in a frying pan with some oil. Meanwhile you start cooking up some quick rice or bulgar or other grain. Add some more diced veggies to the frying pan -- mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, peppers, squash. Whatever good stuff you like. When veggies are done and grain is cooked, mix 'em all up. Add some salt, pepper, herbs. Might finish with some toasted walnuts or pine nuts if you have them and like them. It should be moist and flavorful.
I often finish with fruit. A fruit smoothie is a nice evening snack.
09-02-2005, 02:07 PM
Marinades are a great way to liven up a plain old chicken breast.
CHINESE CHEER. Combine 3 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sherry (optional), 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno peppers (wear plastic gloves when handling), 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil and 1 teaspoon minced garlic. Makes about 1/3 cup or just over 5 tablespoons (per tablespoon with sherry - 54.3 calories/0.9 fat grams/0.1 fiber grams…without sherry - 50.2 calories/0.9 fat grams/0.1 fiber grams).
CITRUS GLAZE. Combine ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper. Makes about 1/3 cup or just over 5 tablespoons (per
tablespoon - 19.1 calories/0 fat grams/0.6 fiber grams).
CURRY YOGURT. Combine ½ cup nonfat plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon curry powder and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Makes about ½ cup or 8 tablespoons (per tablespoon - 20.2 calories/0.6 fat grams/0.1 fiber grams).
HONEY AND SPICE. Combine 3 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Makes about 1/3
cup or just over 5 tablespoons (per tablespoon - 50.7 calories/0.3 fat grams/0.1 fiber grams).
LATIN SALSA. Combine 1/3 cup mild or medium salsa, 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper and a pinch of salt. Makes about 1/3
cup or just over 5 tablespoons (per tablespoon - 15.2 calories/0.1 fat grams/0.3 fiber grams.
MAPLE MADNESS. Combine ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Makes about ½ cup or 8 tablespoons (per tablespoon - 25.7 calories/0.6 fat
grams/0 fiber grams).
TOMATO BLISS. Combine ¼ cup tomato puree, ¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 teaspoon sugar. Makes
about ½ cup or 8 tablespoons (per tablespoon - 11.1 calories/0.1 fat grams/0.3 fiber grams).
ZIPPY MUSTARD. Combine ¼ cup lemon or lime juice, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 teaspoon grated lemon or lime rind.
Makes about 1/3 cup or 5 tablespoons (per tablespoon with lemon juice - 6.7 calories/0.1 fat grams/0.1 fiber grams…with lime juice - 6.9 calories/0.2 fat grams/0.1 fiber grams).
09-03-2005, 03:30 AM
I love to cook, which was a bit of a downfall for me, because I enjoyed cooking pastry dishes and other delicious but evil things. The good thing is it's helped me a lot in being able to eat creatively but still healthily.
I bought a George Foreman grill and use it at least 5 days a week, it's brilliant, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to use it, and it cooks everything I like to eat, like hamburgers, steak, fish, veggies, chicken etc.
Try lots of new carbohydrates, there are some great rices, couscous, quinoa, pastas out there.
I love my veggies, and do them lots of different ways. I like to stir fry but I use a tablespoon or two of water instead of oil, or vegetable stock.
It'll soon be winter, and home made soups are easy, filling, and will last you a few days.
Good luck and keep us posted about how you get on.
09-03-2005, 08:26 AM
Ahhh, while they're great in a pinch, it's always so much better when you can eat wholesome, non-processed foods. Good for you, making the healthiest choices possible!
Thanks for the awesome marinades Sheila, I am definitely giving some of those a try in the very near future! YUM!
09-03-2005, 10:16 PM
I am the low sodium queen. I have to be. :)
BONELESS SKINLESS CHICKEN BREASTS, FROZEN IN A BIG BAG:
are soaked in brine before they are frozen & contain a TON of sodium as a result. What I do is wait til the fresh ones are on sale, and then season & freeze most of them & cook 1-2. That way, when you take them out to cook, they sit in the seasoning while they thaw.
McCormick's makes 5 kinds of spices w/o sodium, Penzey's makes about 18-20.
You can make a huge pot & freeze it in individual servings. I season it before I freeze it.
Make sure it's low sodium. Right now Campbell's only makes 4-6 varieties of Healthy Request soups, but in the future they might make more. :D
When I used to make my own 'Lean Cuisines', I used this formula:
1/2 cup vegetable, cooked (green beans, broccoli, spinach are my faves)
2 servings starch (2/3 cup cooked rice, 1 cup cooked pasta, 1/2 baked potato)
4 ounces meat (half a chicken breast, a gardenburger, small steak or hamburger, 4 ounces seafood such as shrimps, scallops, Louis Kemps, whatever you like)
A glass of milk & piece of fruit are optional, but round out the meal. I would always put a little real butter or ICBINB spray on the veggies & starch.
Synger, I love your posts. They are always so informative.
THANK YOUUUUUUUU for all those marinades, Sheila. :)
09-04-2005, 01:50 AM
Oh, you'll be so happy you made the change! I love to cook and, believe me, I'm self-taught. My father used to say that my mother was the only women he'd ever known that could burn cornflakes. :lol: Unfortunately, it was almost true! ;)
We eat very LITTLE processed foods anymore - well, my husband still does, ugh - he likes the most bizarre things that come from a can. :rolleyes:
ANYWAY - I'm a HUGE Rachael Ray fan on Food Network. You'd have to check your listings if you get the Food Channel. Her program is called 30 Minute Meals. She makes the most WONDERFUL food. She does use a lot of olive oil to cook with, but a lot of time, you can just use cooking spray instead. Even if you don't get the channel on TV, you can check out all her recipes (they are all posted online!) at www.foodtv.com Try a couple and watch the show if you can - and, before you know it, you'll be experimenting and really finding things that you like!
I have a ton of Rachael Ray recipes - and a ton of other ones that I've modified. I also cut recipes out of the paper if they look good or print them from online. With a few modifications (you'll learn as you go on) you can make most things in a healthy way. :)
09-06-2005, 08:17 AM
Thanks to everyone for all of your super tips. The response has been amazing and makes me feel confident that I really am making the right decision ditching the frozen meals! I think learning to cook is going to positive in many ways... healthier and I'm trying not to be so domestically challenged anymore! haha. Thanks again everyone!
09-06-2005, 09:14 AM
Good for you Sarah - I'm happy you posted this because I got to see so many yummy and interesting recipes.
Let us know how it all works out for you. Perhaps you'll be able to post a great recipe of your own very soon.
09-06-2005, 10:21 AM
i'm also glad you posted this because i went and checked all my lean gourmet meals nutrition facts and i couldn't believe how much cholesterol is in those things! so i have a feeling i won't be buying those anymore! thanks sarah for the heads up!