What's for Dinner?
A dietitian's own strategies for fast weeknight meals.
It's late afternoon; I'm busy working in my office, and have no idea what I
am making for dinner tonight. Sound familiar?
I wish I was one of those people who spend Sunday afternoons prepping and
freezing dinners for the week. But frankly, after a long week, cooking is the
last thing I want to do. Sundays are my day of rest.
Now that both of my children are off at college, I only need to prepare
dinner for two. Luckily, my husband is happy to eat whatever I put in front of
him and, more important, he does the dishes!
In my house, we always try to eat healthy food and keep the calories in
check. I never put butter on veggies, and "fried" is a foreign word in
my kitchen. Meals are straightforward and simple because it takes less time,
and because we would rather enjoy a glass of wine or a scoop of low-fat ice
cream instead of a fancy cream sauce.
My strategy for quick and easy dinners starts in the grocery store. The
produce bins in my refrigerator are always full. In addition to fresh fruits
and veggies, I load the refrigerator with low-fat yogurt, fat-free
half-and-half (a cooking trick I learned from our "Recipe Doctor"
Elaine Magee), a variety of cheeses, hummus, eggs, and skim milk.
Depending on what is on sale, I stock my freezer with items such as pork and
beef tenderloin, salmon, tilapia, boneless chicken breasts, and lean ground
round. When I get home from the market, I divide these foods into portions for
two so I can easily defrost them a few hours before dinner. Also in my freezer
is a supply of whole-wheat rolls, ciabatta rolls, Lean Cuisine dinners, chicken
pot stickers (I toss them into chicken broth with mushrooms and scallions to
make soup), and bags of frozen veggies.
Staples in my pantry include cereal (Kashi Go Lean Crunch and Special K are
our favorites), brown rice (Uncle Ben's ready rice), whole-wheat blend pasta,
canned petite diced tomatoes, Mandarin orange segments, sweet potatoes, nuts, a
variety of canned beans, soup, coffee, and assorted teas (my afternoon
In the Kitchen
My favorite equipment for quick meals includes the grill, grill pan,
microwave, and toaster oven. Most fresh veggies are simply washed and lightly
steamed in the microwave, followed by a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkle
of lite Cajun seasoning. The exception -- asparagus, red peppers, zucchini, and
eggplant are pure perfection when grilled on the barbeque or in the grill pan.
Grilling these vegetables caramelizes the natural sugars so they melt in your
mouth. I have converted many a veggie-hater with these grilled delights.
Meat, poultry, and fish used to be considered the center of the plate, but
in my house, they are treated more like side dishes. The easiest and quickest
way to prepare meats and seafood is on the grill, in the grill pan (during
inclement weather), or in the toaster over.