| Make Ahead Med
The more you cook, the more you understand the importance of timing in keeping healthy food in front of you and your family. It's not just a question of getting the pasta out of the water before it turns mushy, but more the need to develop a sense of what works when. If you arrive home later than you thought and everyone in your household is starving, what do you do? How fast can you get a meal on the table?
Time and again, the simple, easy-to-prepare foods of the Mediterranean Diet will save the day, or night. If you keep simple Med Diet basics on hand - canned seafood, tomatoes, beans, pasta, whole grains, eggs, olives and olive oil, nuts, hard cheese, herbs and spices - you have the makings of a quick and easy meal anytime.
And, if you learn how to make food ahead of time that can simply be reheated when you want it, you master one of the great secrets to keeping healthy food within easy reach. Here are two ways to plan ahead:
· Roast Lots of Vegetables. Cut up a selection of fresh vegetables, toss them with olive oil, scatter on a baking sheet or two, and roast at about 425°F. Asparagus spears, peppers, mushrooms, onions, and zucchini need about 10-15 minutes; sweet potatoes, winter squash, potatoes, carrots, turnips, and whole Brussels sprouts can take 20-25 minutes. Experiment. The goal is to have vegetables that are soft, sweet, and lightly browned around the edges. Eat some hot. Store leftovers in the refrigerator to microwave for other dinners or enjoy cold in salads and sandwiches.
· Cook Whole Grains Before You Need Them. While it's not too hard to get water going for a pot of quick cooking whole grains such as bulgur, quinoa, farro, or frika, it's even easier on a busy night to simply reheat what's waiting for you, cooked, in the refrigerator or freezer. And cooking ahead gives you a ready-to-eat supply of barley, brown rice or steel cut oats, which need more time to become tender. (Tip: Cook them on the weekend when you're doing something else in the kitchen.) Store leftovers in the refrigerator. Or, freeze and microwave when you want them. Combine some reheated grains with reheated roasted vegetables, top with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and you have a healthy meal in five minutes. You can also toss cooked whole grains into soups and stews to give them more substance, or add to salads.
Here are two recipes that lend themselves to the cook-ahead mentality.
Spicy Chicken & Sesame Seed Balls Serves 4
These spicy golden balls, stir-fried with a hint of nuttiness, taste great hot or cold.
Use leftovers to top salads or take them to work for a quick lunch.
7-8 ounces boneless chicken breast
1 clove garlic
1 piece of ginger root, about an inch, peeled and grated
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup pistachio nuts, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil or extra-virgin olive oil
Put the chicken, garlic, ginger, egg white, and cornstarch in a food processor and blend to a smooth paste. Stir in the pistachio nuts and season with salt and pepper. Put the sesame seeds in a shallow flat dish. Roll the chicken mixture into small balls and then roll in the sesame seeds to coat.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, heat, and stir-fry the chicken balls, turning gently with a spoon, for about 10 minutes, until golden. Serve with salad.
Calories: 289, Fat: 21g, Sodium: 77mg, Carbohydrate: 9g, Protein: 18g
Recipe courtesy of International Collection
Muffin Pan Frittatas Serves 6
Here's a great way to use colorful vegetables such as zucchini, onions, and red bell peppers and pair them with eggs for an appetizer or light lunch. For a quick breakfast solution, bake the night before and refrigerate. Quickly re-warm in the microwave in the morning.
½ cup milk
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
¾ cup chopped zucchini
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl until blended. Add the cheese, zucchini, pepper and onion. Mix well. Spoon evenly into 12 greased muffin cups which hold about 1/4 cup each. Bake for 20-22 minutes, just until set. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Remove from the cups and serve warm.
Calories: 164, Fat: 11g, Sodium: 296mg, Carbohydrate: 3g, Protein: 12g
Recipe developed by Helenbeth Reynolds, American Egg Board, courtesy of Egg Nutrition Center