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Quick tips for speedy suppers

The biggest part of any job is to organize the effort. The same goes with cooking. Take a few steps to organize your efforts and the "job" of cooking will be easy.

Give yourself an hour each week to process your meals for the next few days. Think bulk when purchasing meats. Divide into mealtime portions and freeze. Here are some suggestions:

Ground beef

Purchase approximately 1 pound of extra lean ground beef. Make a patty for grilling from about one fourth of the meat. Brown and drain the remaining meat. Divide into thirds. Put each portion in a Ziplock sandwich bag and freeze.

SUPER TACOS: Combine one portion with 2 tablespoons of prepared salsa and 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder and/or ground cumin. Stuff this mixture into a tortilla. Top with low-fat shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, and chopped tomatoes.

TACO SALAD: Use the same seasoned ground beef mixture as for the tacos above. Top a bowl of fresh salad greens with the seasoned beef, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, diced bell peppers, etc. Serve with baked tortilla chips.

SPEEDY SPAGHETTI: Combine 1/2 cup prepared spaghetti sauce with 1 package of ground beef. Warm slightly and serve over cooked pasta.

SLOPPY JOES: Purchase a prepared sloppy joe sauce. Combine one package of ground beef with 1/2 cup sauce. Warm and serve on a bun or toast. This is also good prepared open faced with melted cheese.

Roast beef

Purchase a small sirloin tip or Rump Roast. Prepare as a pot roast for the first meal. Divide remaining beef in 4-6 ounce portions. Shred one portion for barbeque (add bottled barbeque sauce), use another for vegetable soup and a third for Philly-beef sandwiches (see note under sandwiches)

Quick chicken

Purchase a package of 4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Place in individual Ziplock bags. Use these simple marinades to create easy meals straight from the freezer. Combine the marinade ingredients together and pour over the chicken breast in the bag. The marinade can be used either before the breasts are frozen or as the chicken thaws. Allow the marinade to remain on the chicken for at least 30 minutes. These marinade recipes are for 1-2 chicken breasts.

Oriental: Combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon ginger. Teriyaki sauce also works well and can be diluted with pineapple.

Sweet and sour: Use a bottled sauce to short cut this marinade. Spoon 2 tablespoons of sweet and sour sauce over each chicken breast.

Lemon and dill: Combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon dried dill.

Brandied marmalade: Spoon 2 tablespoons of marmalade (orange, apricot or peach) over chicken breast, add 1 tablespoon brandy and just a few crushed almonds or other nuts.

Barbecue sauce: Spoon 2 tablespoons of prepared barbeque sauce over chicken. This make a great dish when the chicken is grilled in foil, chopped and added to 1/2 cup rice with additional barbecue sauce. Stuff a pita or tortilla with chicken and rice mixture for an easy meal.

London broil: This works well with chicken, beef, pork and fish. Combine 1 tablespoon each of wine, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Add 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard.

Honey and garlic: Spoon 1 tablespoon honey plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon soy sauce over chicken. Add 1/8 teaspoon minced garlic. Freeze, grill or bake.

Tarragon and wine: Combine 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard, 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon and salt and pepper to taste.

and the list goes on?..super simple ideas for solo meals

Foccacia frenzy

Purchase a personal size Bomboli or foccacia shell. Try a few of these topping combinations or create your own. It is an easy way to introduce a variety of colors, textures and tastes. Bake each foccacia at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Pizza foccacia: Layer with fresh spinach; follow with fresh thinly sliced tomatoes and mushrooms. Top with 2 tablespoons of crumbled Feta cheese (look in the specialty cheese section for small amounts) and garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheeses.

Chicken and artichoke: Layer fresh spinach, chopped cooked chicken, chopped artichokes and red onion. Top with your favorite low fat shredded cheese. (mozzarella, feta, or Parmesan).

Have it your way foccacia: Layer any combination of the following items: grilled chicken, ground beef (lean, browned and drained), bell peppers, broccoli, olives, mushrooms, onions, spinach, fresh tomato slices, etc. Top with your favorite lowfat shredded cheese if desired.

Mexican madness

Use prepared salsa, canned beans, lowfat cheese, rice, and tortillas to create speedy Mexican flavored meals.

Quick beans and rice: Combine 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed, with 1/2 cup salsa. Warm mixture in microwave. Serve over rice. May top with lowfat shredded Mexican cheese blend if desired.

Black bean salad: Combine 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed, with 1/2 cup frozen corn, 1/2 cup salsa, and 1/4 teaspoon cumin or chili powder. Good either chilled as a salad or warmed as a side dish.

Black bean wrap: Add leftover rice to above bean, corn, and salsa mixture. Place in a flour tortilla, sprinkle with lowfat shredded cheese. Fold bottom of tortilla over and roll up. Cover with damp paper towel and microwave for about 1 minute.

Quesadillas: Quesadillas are simply 2 tortillas with a warm cheesy filling in the middle. You can fill them with a variety of ingredients, but you need at least some lowfat cheese to hold it all together. Place desired filling on one tortilla. Top with the second tortilla. Warm in either microwave or oven. To warm in microwave, cover all with a damp paper towel. Microwave for about 1 minute. To warm in oven and produce a crisper crust, assemble quesadillas on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until light brown. Cut into pizza-shaped wedges to serve.

Cheese quesadillas: Use 3 tablespoons shredded lowfat Mexican cheese blend. If desired, add 1 tablespoon finely diced bell peppers, green chilies, or pimentos.

Bean quesadillas: Spread 1/4 cup fat-free refried beans over tortilla. Top with 2-3 tablespoons shredded lowfat cheese. If desired, add 2 tablespoons salsa and/or green chilies.

Have it your way: A variety of fillings can be used for quesadillas. Try shredded cooked chicken, drained and rinsed black beans, onions, jalapeno peppers, thin tomato slices, etc. Top filling with lowfat shredded cheese before warming to hold the tortillas together.

Something's fishy

Try some of these flavorful marinades for fish. Each marinade should be enough for about 1/2 pound of fish. Fish is so tender, try to limit the time for the fish to marinade to no longer than 30 minutes. Try any of these combinations:

  • 2 tablespoons each of honey and soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of honey-mustard barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil mixed with 3 tablespoons apricot preserves, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/2 tablespoon of sherry, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar and a dash of hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and white wine mixed with 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard, minced garlic and ginger
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice and soy sauce and a dash of white wine
  • 1/2 cup salsa and 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 tablespoon Canola oil, 1/2 tablespoon lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon honey, 1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper, 1/2 teaspoon lemon peel, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano


Chicken Breasts Dijon    

3 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried whole thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves

Combine first 4 ingredients in a shallow dish. Brush mustard-mayonnaise blend evenly over both sides of chicken. Dredge chicken in breadcrumb mixture.

Coat baking pan or rack of shallow roasting pan with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Place chicken on roasting rack or baking pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

  Crunchy Salmon Patties  

1 6 1/2 oz. can salmon
1/2 cup cornflake crumbs
1 tablespoon fat-free mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 egg whites
1 green onion
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard

In medium mixing bowl, combine salmon, 1/4 cup cereal crumbs, mayonnaise, egg white, lemon juice, onion and mustard. Shape into 2 patties about 4 inches in diameter. Put remaining crumbs in plastic sandwich sized baggie. Drop salmon patties in bag, turning until coated with crumbs.

Place patties in glass casserole dish, sprayed with vegetable oil. Microwave on high for 4 minutes or until firm and hot. The salmon patties can also be baked in a conventional oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

    Oven Fried Fish

2 orange roughy fillets
dash salt
dash pepper
dash cayenne pepper
3/4 cup cornbread mix

Spray baking sheet with non-stick vegetable oil spray.

Rinse orange roughy fillets with water. Lightly season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper if desired.

Place dry cornbread mix in a Ziploc bag. Place orange roughy fillet in bag and gently shake to coat all sides of the fillet with the cornbread mix. Place fillet on baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining fish fillets.

Lightly spray the non-stick vegetable spray on the tops of the cornmeal coated orange roughy fillets.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

  Oven-fried Sesame Chicken  

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
dash salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
vegetable oil spray

Combine sesame seeds, flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish or Ziplock bag.

In another shallow dish, place soy sauce. Add chicken, turning to coat all sides. Remove chicken from soy sauce and place in sesame seed mixture. Coat all sides of chicken with sesame seed mixture.

Coat baking pan or roasting rack of shallow roasting pan with non stick vegetable oil cooking spray. Place chicken in pan. Spritz chicken breasts lightly with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

Salmon With Mustard Ranch Sauce    

1 6 ounce salmon fillet
1 small zucchini
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 medium tomato
1/4 cup fat-free ranch salad dressing
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Spray baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Place salmon skin side down in dish. Surround fish with tomatoes and zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until fork inserted in center flakes easily.

In separate bowl combine mustard and dressing. Spread over fish. Return to oven to bake for 2-3 minutes.

  Teryaki Swordfish Steaks  

6 ounces swordfish steak
1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in Ziplock bag. Press fish into mixture until all surfaces are coated. Marinate refrigerated for about 1 hour.

Wrap in foil. Grill on hot surface for 8-10 minutes. Serve with vegetables and hard rolls.

    Melon-Chicken Salad

3 ounces cooked chicken
3/4 cup cantaloupe
1/4 cup sliced celery
1 teaspoon sliced green onions
1 tablespoon nonfat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon nonfat mayonnaise
1 large lettuce leaf

Combine chicken, cantaloupe, celery, and onion. Mix yogurt and mayonnaise together in small bowl. Pour over chicken mixture and stir until well combined.

Serve immediately or cover and chill until serving time. Serve on lettuce leaf.

  Versatile Pasta Salad  

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup broccoli
1 cup pasta
1 cup chicken breast
1 tablespoon fat-free Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in storable plastic container with lid. This is great at room temperature or chilled. Refrigerate leftovers.

Fried Rice    

3/4 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup carrots
2 tablespoons green onion
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in hot skillet, coated with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently.

  Mediterranean Spinach  

5 ounces spinach
1/4 cup onion
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1 tablespoon Feta cheese

Cook spinach, adding onions, according to package directions. Drain. Add remaining ingredients except feta. Stir until well combined. Sprinkle with feta and toss to combine.

    Microwave Fries

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 medium potato
1 tablespoon fat-free Parmesan cheese

In medium bowl, combine garlic salt, paprika, pepper and oil. Cut each potato wedge into 3-4 thin wedges. Toss potato wedges in spice mixture, turning to coat.

Spray cookie sheet with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Spread potatoes on cookie sheet to bake. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees.


1/4 cup zucchini slices
2 tablespoons green pepper
1 tablespoon onion
1/4 cup mushrooms
1/4 cup tomatoes
2 tablespoons pasta sauce
1/4 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons fat-free mozzarella cheese

Layer vegetables in an individual casserole dish. Cover with tomato sauce. Sprinkle with oregano. Top with cheese.

Cook on high setting of microwave oven for 8 minutes or bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Roasted Asparagus    

1/2 pound asparagus
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fresh garlic
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
fresh garlic

Coat asparagus with olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Place asparagus on cookie sheet and roast at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Drizzle with orange juice, balsamic vinegar, and minced garlic to taste.

  Spinach-Stuffed Potato  

1 large baking potato
1 cup spinach, frozen
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese
1 teaspoon fat-free Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Prick skin of potato and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until fork comes out clean when pricked.

Cook spinach in microwave oven for 3 minutes. Drain. Stir in carrots, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and pepper. Stuff this mixture into split potato. Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes or until hot.

    Greek Bean Soup

1 (15 ounce) can great northern beans
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onions, celery, and carrots for 3-5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Freeze leftovers if desired.

  Spicy Cabbage-Beef Soup  

1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 large onion
5 cups cabbage
2 16 oz. cans red beans
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
1 green bell pepper
3/4 cup picante sauce
1 beef bouillon cube
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Brown ground beef and onion over medium heat in a skillet. Drain well. Pour into crock-pot. Add remaining ingredients and stir well.

Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours or high 3 to 4 hours. Serve when cabbage is tender.

Tomato Soup    

2 chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon onion
1 tablespoon celery
1 tablespoon green pepper
1/4 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon soft margarine
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups skim milk
dash salt

Cook tomatoes, onion, celery, green pepper, and basil in a saucepan over medium heat until vegetables are tender, about 10- 15 minutes. Add margarine, if desired.

Microwave milk for 1-2 minutes to warm. Add baking soda to tomato mixture, mix well. Gradually add warm milk to tomato mixture, stirring to blend.

If a more
soup is desired, puree the soup in small batches in a blender.

  End of the Season Soup  

2 cups fresh mushrooms
1 cup zucchini
1 cup yellow squash
1 cup onion
2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups chicken broth
2 (15 ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon fresh basil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
15 individual tortellini, cheese-filled

Saute garlic in olive oil. Add vegetables and continue to saute for five minutes. Add broth and tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Drop in tortellini, return to a boil for 30 seconds. Reduce heat. Simmer for 2 additional minutes.