EASY RECIPES #448 02/23/2011
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You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.

Julia Child

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Recipe Tips for the Lazy Chef

By Joe Wilkes

A little later in this newsletter, you'll find an article I wrote about one-pot meals, with some cooking tips for people like me who want to limit their kitchen mess to one pot. After I wrote it, however, this question occurred to me: "Why wash even one pot?" And sure enough, there are many ways you can make yourself three hot meals a day without dirtying even one pot. All you need is a little ingenuity and a stark phobia of the kitchen sink.

Dirty Pots and Pans

Dishes! Foiled again! One of the greatest inventions ever for the lazy chef is something I call "packet cuisine." There's a wide variety of recipes you can make by placing all the ingredients on a piece of foil, folding it up tight to seal it, and placing it in a hot oven until everything's piping hot and infused with the flavorings you've included. One of my fast foil favorites is super-easy and mess-free. Place a piece of your favorite fish (I'm a big salmon fan) in the center of a large sheet of foil and pull up the sides a bit so the liquids won't run out while you're preparing the dish. Add some lemon juice, fresh dill, scallions, salt, pepper, and a splash of olive oil, then seal up the foil. Bake the fish packet in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, and you'll have a perfectly steamed piece of fish—with no dishes to wash. I know what you're thinking: "Sounds good. But won't I be up all night washing the knife and cutting board I used to chop the scallions and dill?" Not if you use one of modern man's handiest implements—the scissors! In the interest of hygiene, these should be a dedicated pair of scissors for food, not the ones you cut your hair with, and should, at the very least, be rinsed off between uses. But make sure to cut the scallions and dill or any other favorite herb over the fish, and voilà, flavor with much less fuss!

Salmon in FoilYou can use the foil packet technique to cook chicken breasts (they'll take longer to cook than fish—make sure all pink is gone from center of meat and juices run clear), and if you don't want them to be mushy, you can unwrap them after they've cooked through and toss them under the broiler (on a sheet of foil of course—no point in having to scrub the broiler pan!) to brown them. Pieces of lean beef and pork can go right under the broiler, again on a piece of foil. (Make sure you preheat the broiler first.) Five minutes on each side should give you a nice medium-rare steak (depending on thickness). Also, you can save cleanup time on any ovenware—broiler pan, baking pan, cookie sheet—by lining it with foil before you cook. (Please remember, though, never to use foil in the microwave.) When you're done cooking, pitch the foil, and your ovenware is clean! (And to be environmentally conscious, rinse off the foil and put it in your recycling bin.)

The nuclear option. Of course, the microwave oven has transformed the lazy cook movement more than any other appliance. You can make a variation of almost any dish with just a few ingredients, a paper plate, and some paper towels or plastic wrap.

Some may question whether using paper products is the most environmentally friendly option, and it's true that using a plastic or ceramic dish saves trees lost through excessive paper plate use. Then again, you're not using water to wash the paper plate or sending dishwashing detergent into the wastewater supply. Keep in mind, however, that although paper plates are recyclable, they can't be recycled once they've been soaked with grease or other cooking juices.

Woman Using a MicrowaveMy friend swears by Quick Rice Surprise. Stock up on rice. There are a bunch of microwaveable rice products on the market that work well—though we would recommend using brown rice or wild rice, so you get more fiber. First, prepare the rice according to the package instructions, then search your refrigerator for any condiments or leftovers that would go well with the rice (that's the surprise!). Salsa or hot sauce is a great addition to Quick Rice Surprise. Also consider using nonfat cheese, sour cream, or yogurt; any leftover turkey, chicken, or lunch meat; tuna; soy sauce; or your favorite spices. This is also a great way to use up any leftover fresh vegetables, or you could add some frozen, thawed vegetables to the mix.

Actually, frozen or leftover cooked fresh vegetables also make a great base for a yummy spur-of-the-moment microwave dish. I'm partial to nuking some Brussels sprouts and topping them with a little Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar for a tasty snack or side dish.

Cottage CheeseContainers contain the mess. Sure, we were brought up to believe that eating straight from the container or drinking straight from the milk carton was disgusting, but it can also be a very practical way of dining in. For example, I usually buy 16-ounce containers of nonfat cottage cheese. For my first serving, I usually empty half the container into a bowl (which I later have to wash—boooo!); doctor it up with my favorite salsas, hot sauces, or spices; and then eat. The only thing better is the second time I whip up my spicy cottage cheese mixture—in the container! Yes, you heard right. I mix it up and eat it right out of the container and then throw the container in the recycling bin! No fuss, no muss—just a high-protein low-calorie snack or meal! This technique also works great with yogurt and similar packaged items. Also, if you can bear doing a big load of dishes once a week, you can do what I do and cook up a big pot of healthy something or other and dispense the leftovers into recyclable plastic containers for later dishwashing-free (or -delayed) consumption.

Tortilla WrapThe food is the plate. Why do the dishes when you can eat the dishes? There are plenty of whole wheat breadstuffs that have enough structural integrity to be used as cooking and serving vessels. Try a mini-pizza on a whole wheat pizza shell, a whole wheat tortilla, an English muffin, or a lavash. A little tomato sauce, your favorite veggies, and some nonfat or low-fat mozzarella and you're good to go. Or you could make a run for the border. A friend of mine gave me this easy burrito-making tip. She spreads some nonfat refried beans and nonfat cheese on a whole wheat tortilla and sticks it in her toaster oven until the beans are warm and the cheese is melted. Then she adds a little salsa, nonfat sour cream, black olives, and some scissor-chopped scallions on top, and enjoys a healthy vegetarian meal, with no cleanup!

Related Articles
"11 Tips for Cooking Out Without Pigging Out"
"7 Days, 7 Dinners"
"5 Low-Cal, Peak-Performance Recipes"

Joe WilkesQuestions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, February 28th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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Down and Dirty One-Pot Meals

By Joe Wilkes

Meat and Vegetables in a Pot

For a lot of us, an elegant sit-down family dinner means serving the chicken without the bucket. Having to work until 5:00 or 6:00 at night and then having to come home and whip up something your children will eat that won't get you reported to Protective Services can be a challenge for anyone. Then after the cooking, the serving, and potentially the force-feeding, you get to spend the rest of the evening doing the dishes and cleaning your kitchen so you can do it all again tomorrow. They never show that part on Martha Stewart. No wonder you have the pizza place on speed-dial. But it's possible to eat both quickly and healthily. Here are a few ideas for getting something nutritious on the table in a hurry, and the best part? Only one pot to clean!

(And for single people, invest in some airtight containers, freeze your leftovers, and be a slave to Lean Cuisine® no more!)

  1. Vegetables in a WokGet to wok. Instead of summoning the deliverymen with the greasy white boxes, try making your own stir-fry feast. You can cut out most of the extra fat, corn syrup, and sodium your takeout place so kindly provides, and if you can enlist some prep help with the chopping, it takes only minutes to cook, and even less time to clean!

    • Heat enough olive, peanut, or sesame oil to keep food from sticking to the wok.
    • When the oil's hot, add sliced meat or tofu with some crushed ginger and/or garlic.
    • When the meat is cooked through, add your favorite chopped veggies, like carrots, celery, cabbage, onions, snow peas, or scallions (you can chop the veggies while the meat's cooking).
    • Add a dash of low-sodium soy sauce or tamari or a little orange juice to make a sauce and serve!
    If you're not watching your carbs and don't want to get another pot dirty, follow the microwaveable rice directions in the "Lazy Chef" article earlier in this newsletter. Same rule applies: Go for brown or wild rice. You can also make extra rice and make Quick Rice Surprise the next day, or stir-fry the extra rice with any leftover meat and vegetables. And if you scramble an egg into the mix, you've got healthy fried rice—increasing your meal output impressively for virtually the same amount of effort.

    Shortcut: Many grocery stores sell mixes of stir-fry vegetables already chopped and combined in their produce or frozen foods sections. They won't be quite as delicious as freshly chopped, but as long as they don't have any extra ingredients (frozen mixes especially might add some sauce or salt you don't want), they're just as healthy.

  2. MeatloafLoafing after work. The humble meatloaf. Most of us remember this classic treat from our childhood. It was usually an alchemic combination of ground beef, bread crumbs, ketchup, and whole eggs. Delicious? Yes. Nutritious? Not so much. Much of the deliciousness came from the beef fat soaking the bread crumbs and combining with the egg yolks to give us a couple of days' worth of saturated fat in one serving. Then there's all the extra salt and corn syrup the ketchup brings to the party. But it doesn't have to be this way—a healthy 'loaf can be made, still be flavorful without the fat, and still maintain enough structural integrity to be repurposed as a sandwich filling the next day.

    • Use extra-lean ground beef, or either ground turkey breast or extra-lean ground turkey. Check the label to be sure it's extra-lean—if it just says "ground turkey," it can have 15 percent or more fat, and what's the point of that?
    • Next, add some vegetables to the mix. You can add chopped or grated carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers, parsnips—whatever you like. Just watch the amounts of juicier veggies like tomatoes, which can turn your loaf into less appetizing soup. The amount of vegetables should be proportional to the meat. (This is also a great way of slipping veggies to the picky eaters in your family.)
    • Instead of adding bread crumbs, try a handful of rolled oats. You'll get more fiber and they won't absorb fat the way that bread crumbs will (not that there's all that much to absorb with this revamped approach to the 'loaf).
    • Add a couple of egg whites, which, along with the oats' gluten, will provide enough "glue" to hold the 'loaf together. Also add any fresh herbs, garlic, or other seasonings you enjoy. Mush it all together and shape into the familiar 'loaf form beloved throughout history.
    • Most meatloaf recipes bake in a 350ish-degree oven for an hour or so and call for the 'loaf to sit for at least 15 minutes to cool, letting the ingredients take time to cohere and giving the flavors time to marry fully.

    Shortcut: Take a look a little later on in this newsletter for a terrific reduced-fat meatloaf recipe that follows the principles we've just laid out for you. It's delish!

    Also, not good at separating eggs? Most grocery stores sell cartons of egg whites on their own. Or you can use egg substitutes, like Egg Beaters®. In addition to being healthier, they're also more convenient. No cracking, scrambling, or getting hands and bowls dirty. It may only save a couple of minutes, but those are minutes better devoted to serious 'loafing!

  3. Beef StewStew in your own juices. Stew. Or as I like to call it, my vegetables' last stop before Garbagetown. You're cooking and cleaning out your refrigerator—now that's multitasking! You can call it stew, goulash, gumbo, cassoulet, ratatouille, cioppino, or ragout, but most importantly, you can call it dinner.

    • Put a big pot on the stove. Put a little olive or canola oil in the bottom, and when it heats, brown some raw meat, poultry, fish (best if it's not too flaky or delicate), or tofu. (If you're using leftover or precooked meat, just throw it in with the vegetables, and ignore this and the next step.)
    • Put the cooked protein aside, drain the fat, and then deglaze the pot with a little red or white wine.
    • Next pay a visit to the vegetable morgue, also known as the crisper drawer, and add to the pot whatever looks like it won't make it through the night (some garlic and onions are always good, too—even if they're not at death's door). Root vegetables are traditional favorites here: carrots, turnips, parsnips, and potatoes are all great ingredients for a hearty stew. Smaller ones can be scrubbed, trimmed, and cooked whole; otherwise cut them in one- or two-inch chunks.
    • Once the veggies have softened and relinquished their juices, add the meat back in, add some low-sodium chicken, vegetable, or beef broth and/or some no-salt tomato sauce, and cook on low heat until it reaches the desired consistency (about 15 to 20 minutes).
    • If you're short on time after work, this could be thrown together in a Crock-Pot® or slow cooker in the morning, and when you return home, dinner's ready!

    Shortcut: Most supermarkets' meat departments sell pre-cut cubes of meat or fish, all wrapped up and ready to go. Also, it's always good to have a couple of favorite staple vegetables in the freezer or a can or two of beans on hand to throw into the pot.

  4. CasseroleThe casserole—a pan and a plan. How would the cream-of-anything soup industry stay in business without casseroles? Not to mention the canned-french-fried onion companies. Casseroles, in and of themselves, don't have to be bad for you. They start out with meat and vegetables, which are usually pretty healthy. It's the improvisations that usually get our diets in trouble.

    • To begin with, choose lean meats. Sausage-and-whatever casseroles are usually yummy because the other ingredients soak up all the artery-clogging fat from the sausage. Using lean meat or poultry will help keep it healthy from the get-go.
    • Also, keep the vegetable-to-meat ratio fairly high. Imagine what a serving of a casserole would look like spread out on a plate in its component parts. You probably wouldn't consider a pound of meat and a Brussels sprout a well-balanced meal. Try to keep the meat to about 4 ounces per serving and fill the rest of the pan with fiber-rich, filling, healthy vegetables (not just potatoes, either).
    • For sauces, try to avoid cheese and anything that begins with "cream of," as well as actual cream itself. Canned soups, a casserole staple, usually rely heavily on sodium for flavor. You can do much better by using a low-sodium broth, which you can whisk together with some nonfat powdered milk and corn starch to make a faux cream sauce.
    • If you like pasta in your casserole, try using a whole-grain variety.
    • And instead of adding french-fried onions, how about thinly sliced almonds to provide a little crunch?

    Shortcut: Most casseroles can be assembled a day ahead of time, so if you're anticipating a late day at the office, you can make the casserole the night before, and just pop it into the oven the next day. That overnight bonding time you give your ingredients will make the casserole that much tastier.

Related Articles
"4 Hearty, Healthy Winter Breakfasts"
"4 Hearty and Healthy Dips"
"4 Easy Steps for Healthy Salsa!"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, February 28th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

Submit A CommentTell A Friend Bookmark and Share

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Healthy Eating Tips: Baked Tempeh Squares

Missy Costello, Tony Horton's personal chef, walks you through how to make one of his favorite recipes, Baked Tempeh Squares. (Although when you watch the video, you'll notice that they're technically triangles. Yeah, we like to challenge traditional definitions here at Beachbody®.) Simple to make, gluten-free, savory, and delicious—whip some up today! Click here for the recipe.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Recipe: Reduced-Fat Meatloaf

Reduced-Fat Meatloaf

Who among us (carnivores and omnivores, at least) doesn't love a good meatloaf? And with 24 grams of protein per serving and lots of healthy veggies, this recipe will let you feed your craving for this classic American comfort food without sending your good eating habits off the rails.

  • 1-1/2 lbs. extra-lean ground beef, ground turkey breast, or extra-lean ground turkey
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened tomato sauce
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well with wooden spoons or hands. Place on board or waxed paper and shape into loaf, then place in loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour. Depending on the shape and thickness of the loaf, it may need to cook for slightly longer. Serves 6.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour

Nutritional Information (per serving)
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
257 24 grams 2 grams 13 grams 12 grams 4 grams

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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