Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Dinners & Lunches Ready in a Flash, First Installment: Beef & Pasta Goulash
The simple way to cook for one person is to cook a regular meal for 4-6 people and divide it up into single servings. That is what I do as a personal chef for my clients, and it's what I did for myself before my surgery so that I would have fast and easy meals to just pop in the microwave when I'm dining solo. You can do it, too.
First, plan a menu for a week's worth of dinners. Choose the recipes you want to use, make your grocery list, and gather all the ingredients together. You can make all the meals in one day, or split the cooking up into two days. You might do this on a Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, for example, or whenever you have two days off.
I prepared 7 different meals; some stews, some protein/veg/starch. I tried to stick to about 500 calories or fewer for each serving. You can figure that out for your own needs. Out of those 7 meals, I packaged a total of 35 individual servings. Then I stocked my freezer with the "Steamers" bags of frozen vegetables because, well, I just really like extra vegetables.
To save money, I purchased most frozen, canned, and dry goods at Wal-Mart, and meats and fresh vegetables at Bi-Lo or Harris Teeter because the quality and selection are better there than at Wal-Mart (that will be a future blog topic). I spent about $150 for 35 nutrient-packed and low fat meals cooked just to my taste. That's about $4.27 for each meal. Don't forget to supplement your meals with fresh fruit, whole grain snacks, or proteins such as 1/4 cup of dry roasted nuts, throughout the day so you won't be tempted to buy that huge peanut butter cookie for an afternoon snack that you'll probably and justifiably regret later. Go ahead and plan to go out with your friends to your favorite restaurant once a week. You've been so smart about how you're managing your budget and nutrition!
Beef & Pasta Goulash
1 pound extra-lean ground beef (You can substitute turkey if you like, but I like the taste of beef in this.)
1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 (28-oz.) can good quality diced tomatoes (such as Hunts or Furmano's)
2 (8-oz.) cans tomato sauce (low sodium if possible)
2 tablespoons sugar
-In a large saute pan sprayed with canola oil spray, combine beef, onion, and bell pepper. Stir and break up the beef as it browns and the vegetables soften.
-Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, and salt. Simmer for a few minutes, then pour the beef/tomato mixture into the pot with the drained pasta. Stir to combine, then spoon into 5-6 of the small 2.9 cup size Rubbermaid Take-Along sandwich containers. (Each container will hold 2 servings of this.) Cool, cover, and freeze.
Nutrition:Your servings will be about 550 calories each, with only 10g of fat, but a big 24g of fiber and 30g of protein. Serve with a low carb veg for a side, such as the celery in this photo, broccoli, or green beans.
Variations: Add garlic and dried Italian herbs to the onion, bell pepper, and beef when sauteeing, then toss in fresh chopped basil or parsley at the end for an Italian pasta dish. For Southwestern flavor, add a 4-oz. can of chopped green chiles, some chili powder, and hot sauce to taste.