Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cooking for newbies

I thought about titling this post "Cooking for Dummies" but that seemed a bit offensive. Plus most people I know who don't cook aren't intimidated by it, they're just too busy. I promise these are both quick AND easy!

I don't cook as often as I'd like, but I do have some parameters under which most of my meals fall.

1. I prefer to cook in one set afternoon and freeze the meals, thawing weekly as needed. My favorite resource for freezer meals is Definitely go check it out! (They even have gluten free, vegetarian, and kid-friendly menus!)

2. I try to make healthy, nutritious meals, not just processed stuff. I could make boxed mac & cheese or Hamburger Helper every night, but if you're going to do that, you might as well go through the drive thru!

3. If I'm not thawing a freezer meal, I usually have an hour or less from figuring out what we're going to eat until dinnertime. Fast is a must!

4. Spend some time at the beginning of the week making a meal plan. You will be less likely to eat out or eat junk food! I found this great project on Pinterest to help me do that more often.

5. I stockpile groceries based on sales so that I have staples on hand when I need to come up with something to eat. There are plenty of websites out there that will let you insert the ingredients that you have and spit out a recipe. I like the Kraft website for this reason. Plus most of their recipes are inexpensive, have few ingredients, and quick to prepare! Obviously they're promoting their products above others, but I trust you're intelligent enough to work around that. :)

Here's what I stockpile at my house for meal planning purposes:

  • Proteins
    • chicken breast
    • ground turkey
    • deli meat (go for the low fat, low sodium options)
    • Boca meatless crumbles
    • We don't eat much red meat (my choice) or fish (hubby's choice) in our house, but if you do, go for the lean versions!
  • Carbs
    • Pasta, particularly spaghetti (I do equal portions regular and whole grain as a compromise for my picky eater)
    • Brown rice, not the instant kind
    • Thomas' Light English muffins
    • Sara Lee Whole Grain White bread (again, best compromise I have found)
    • La Tortilla Factory high fiber tortillas
  • Produce
    • Fresh onion, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, baby carrots, and fruits (Should I buy organic or conventional? Check out this list of the worst offenders!)
    • Frozen mixed veggies, broccoli, cauliflower, Ore Ida Steam and Mash potatoes, green beans, corn
  • Dairy
    • Skim milk
    • sour cream
    • plain yogurt
    • vanilla yogurt
    • cream cheese
    • shredded cheese
    • sliced cheese
    • Laughing Cow cheese wedges (Not technically dairy, but that's where you'll find it at the grocery store. Did you know it doesn't have to be refrigerated? Scary!)
  • Canned items
    • Progresso soups (look for "low point" options)
    • marinara sauce
    • "Cream of" soups (look for low fat, low sodium options)
    • Broth

I have a few favorite entrees I always fall back on, served with steamed veggies or a salad and fresh fruit. Keep in mind we're very chicken-happy in my house because it's one of the few proteins that we can agree on. Here they are!

If I don't have time to cook and I'm starving, I try to avoid snacking. Instead, make:
  • La Tortilla Factory tortilla (2 points) + Laughing Cow cheese (1 point) + deli turkey (1-2 points depending on serving size) + 0 points options (lettuce, tomato, mustard) = 5 points!
  • La Tortilla Factory tortilla (2 points) + 1/4 cup low-fat shredded cheese (4 points) + salsa = 6 points
  • Thomas' Light English muffin (3 points) + Laughing Cow cheese (1 point) + 1/4 Cup Egg Beaters (2 points) = 6 points
Coming soon, SNACKING!

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