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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Svelte, party of two! Your dinner is reheated.

I know you all probably think I'm some sort of super woman, breezing around the kitchen in my apron and pearls, whipping up delicious -- and svelte! -- creations for all the guests at my fabulous dinner parties. OK...maybe that's just a figment of my imagination. Truth be told, by the time I get home from work and the gym, I'm exhausted.

Yes, I "cook" most nights. And by definition, this means taking raw food and heating it to safe, edible temperatures. And that's about it. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder (SP&G) to grilled INSERT LEAN PROTEIN HERE, steam some INSERT VEGGIE here, and you have the basics of weeknight dinner in The Svelte Gourmet household. I do make the effort to throw together The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad every night, but only because it's so easy and it remains our favorite part of virtually every meal. I also try to shake things up by adding a new flavor to the meat or fish with SP&G...sesame oil and Sriracha for Asian, salsa and jalapenos for Mexican, or buffalo sauce and a sprinkling of blue cheese if I'm in the mood for wings. The point is, it's not take-out and it helps us stay in shape. But after a few nights of this, Keith isn't fooled. "Are you ever going to cook again?" "This IS cooking!" Ok, ok, I get it.

"Look, sweetie, lasagna! On a Wednesday!" "On this very special Thursday evening after yoga, your dinner will start off with a soup course, followed by salad, then entree." "Tuesday's lunch will be grilled chicken over mixed greens with a light sesame ginger dressing."

WOW. How does she do it?! I'll let you in on a little secret.

Keith isn't high maintenance, but he has some...er...idiosyncracies. One that pertains in this case is that he doesn't like "recent" leftovers. The problem is, most of the time I'm cooking for just Keith and me. Sometimes, if he's traveling, just me. And most of my recipes serve at least 4, and some up to 10 or 12. And that's how I prepare them. So I've solved the "recent leftover" problem by maintaining a full supply of "entree sized" containers that go easily from freezer to microwave. So when I make lasagna on the weekend, I immediately portion the leftovers into the individual containers and freeze them. If we want a little variety on a Wednesday night, I take two out of the freezer, pop them onto a plate, defrost and reheat! And it really does taste good -- nothing like those processed frozen dinners. I'll add a salad and we're good to go!

OR, try portioning a casserole recipe into individual foil mini-loaf tins (baking aisle of your grocery store, usually) BEFORE you bake it. This works like a charm, and the mini-casseroles usually cook a bit quicker than an entire pan. Then, if we need something to pack for lunch or want something special on a weeknight, we can go to the freezer and choose our entree -- a bowl of creamy broccoli soup, chili, spinach artichoke au gratin, lasagna, spaghetti, even pork loin or shrimp over basmati rice. It all freezes so well! TSG pizza is surprisingly good if reheated in the oven! And freezing it in individual portions means that you don't have to thaw out "dinner for 6," only to have it go in the garbage after you only eat one serving.

Fact is, many of my recipes are better the second day. My chili and broccoli soup are absolutely best after the flavors have had a chance to meld and the liquid thickens a bit. I almost always cook an extra chicken breast or two so we can eat it cold for lunch, alone or sliced over salad greens. (I will not eat reheated chicken. I think it tastes terrible!) Sirloin or London broil is great left over, cold or reheated just to take the chill off. Try tossing bite-sized pieces with a bowl of summer tomatoes (or Campari tomatoes in the winter....a very close second!). Yummy! I pack my lunch virtually every day -- to save money and calories -- so the extra protein from the previous night's dinner goes into the lunch box with whatever raw veggie I feel like that day. And an apple. And that's all I need! Keith can select something "not so recent" from the freezer.

So what, exactly, is my point? That you don't have to resort to take-out or drive-thru if you're tired after work. And you can have a delicious variety of meals throughout the week without producing a sink full of dirty dishes. I should note that most of the recipes in my cookbook can be on the table in 30 minutes or less -- but sometimes we don't feel like making a mess or stopping at the store for ingredients. I know I don't. I just want to come home from work and the gym, take a shower, have a nice dinner and relax (or vacuum, wash the dog, finish homework with the kids, do laundry, blog, watch INSERT FAVORITE GUILTY PLEASURE REALITY SHOW HERE, or whatever else it is that we busy people need to do every night!)

My point is that it isn't impossible to find the time to have a healthy lifestyle. We're all too busy, but sacrificing your health and well-being with unhealthy meals for the sake of convenience isn't worth it. Embrace those leftovers! They might save your life!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Perfect for healthy leftovers!


Amanda said...

Great ideas! I love making individual lasagnas in those little foil dishes and then cooking as needed ... much tastier than reheating a single slice. My favorite thing to do is roast a whole chicken on the weekends, then use it for quick meals (like in enchiladas, wraps or soups) during the week - it's leftovers, but doesn't taste like the same meal!

Danny Dave said...

Thanks for these ideas. Leftovers is really unavoidable when you cook something different every night and eventually you end up with no choice but to have a Leftover Dinner. It is up to our creativeness and innovation to make it look and taste good.