Posts Tagged ‘Meals for One’

Pasta with Prosciutto and Asparagus (Carbonara-style)– for 1, 2, or more

One of the many lucky things that came with being raised in my family is a love for cooking paired with a healthy disregard for recipes and tradition. My mother made me what she called pasta carbonara for lunch often when I was a child; it was my favorite, as well as being fast and easy. It wasn’t until I was on my own that I realized that not only was her version of this cheesy, bacon-y delight nontraditional, it was…. well nigh heretical. You see, my mother used cheddar in place of most of the Parmesan or Romano cheese– and it was delicious. I made the traditional version using recipes from blogs several times before I finally called her in despair to admit defeat. Because of the dish’s most obvious admirable characteristics– it’s cheap, fast, healthy and delicious– I’ve made it enough times to have a preferred version of my own… it’s all veggied up, of course!

Pasta with Prosciutto and Asparagus
A riff on Pasta Carbonara
Serves one, but easily scalable

3 oz dried pasta (I like shells or other small, asparagus-bite sized pieces)
1 t neutral oil
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
1 oz prosciutto, cut or torn into small pieces
1/4 medium onion, diced
3/4 c asparagus cut into small pieces (though peas and green beans are good substitutes, and red pepper subs in nicely for half)
1/2 egg (I mix mine in a container with a lid, use half for the recipe, and store half for next time)
1/4 c cheese (I prefer Romano, but any or a mix will do)
Minced fresh parsley, optional
Pepper, freshly cracked if possible

Bring a pot of salted water up to boil while you prep your vegetables. When it comes to a boil, add your pasta.
In a medium saute pan, “toast” your prosciutto on medium heat until slightly crispy, then remove to your bowl.

Add oil to the pan and cook the onions and red pepper flakes for ~ 1 minute or until fragrant. Add asparagus and cook until asparagus is at your preferred temperature. Remove to your bowl.

When the pasta is just a bit firmer than you’d like it to be, reserve 1/4 c of your cooking water. Drain the pasta and add it to your saute pan over medium heat immediately. Add in the egg, cheese, and half of the cooking water, stirring constantly until it forms a creamy sauce. Add the contents of your bowl, parsley, and as much pepper as you enjoy and stir another 30 seconds. Add the rest of the water if it isn’t saucy enough for you.

Toss back into your bowl and eat ASAP.


Filling under 500: Asian-Inspired Veggie-Loaded Chicken Noodle Soup

As some of you may know from life outside the blogosphere, my husband just won a Biggest Loser competition at his workplace. Other than the $350 prize, the main benefit of this was that he got to walk around all week saying “I’m the biggest loser!!!” Yep, he’s a funny one.

He did things the “usual” healthy way– exercised more, ate healthier. He isn’t much of a fan of any of the traditional healthy things– exercise, fruit, vegetables, lean meats, or whole grains, so this was a BIG challenge for him. He worked really hard, learned a lot of new things he liked, and lost 33 lbs in 3 months, or 15% of his body weight. As most people I know are struggling to maintain a healthy body weight and get all the nutrients they need, I thought I’d write a once-a-week series with filling meals we made for dinner while he was on this diet– they’re easy, fast enough for weeknights, packed with vegetable, lean protein, and whole-grain goodness, and delicious enough that a *very* skeptical meat and potatoes man looked forward to them.

I hear rumors that some people clean bowl rims before photographing.
Not me. Clearly.

What worked for him:

  • Every weekday: 2 c of fruit salad and a hard boiled egg for breakfast; a hearty salad (lettuce, diced tomatoes, red onions, mixed peppers, cucumbers, chicken, bleu cheese crumbles, egg whites and balsamic vinegar (no oil)) for lunch; a 1-200 calorie snack (Fiber One bars, nuts, dried apricots, rice cakes, etc.); and a filling, well-balanced under 500 calorie dinner.
  • Weekends: At least 1 “splurge” day not worrying about calories. Any restaurant visits happened on these days. The majority of foods consumed were still healthful, but they weren’t so regimented. Proof that splurge days worked for him: his biggest weight drops always came over the weekend.
  • 3x a week: Couch to 5k exercise program (he loves the iPhone app)

Why yes, I did eat half before taking this photo on my iPhone.

Now, onto the soup. This soup is my favorite soup to eat when I’m sick– between the comforting broth, the sinus-clearing spice and the throat-soothing noodles, it’s just what the doctor ordered. Of course, in theory, takeout would be better… and I do live in Brooklyn… but noone in delivery range makes acceptably delicious soup, so I’m forced (woe is me!) to make my own. Of course, it’s good when well, too.

The broth for this soup MUST be good. Nothing’s pureed into it, so if it isn’t a broth you like drinking, don’t bother. You can make perfectly acceptable vegetable broth in half an hour, great chicken broth in an hour, or make your own vegetable bouillon to store in the freezer, though, so don’t despair! Everything else is flexible, making it a great eat down the pantry dish. The basic rule is: if it would go in a stir fry, it goes in this dish. The recipe is easily scaled, infinitely flexible, and you can down two giant bowlfuls without cracking 400 calories. My favorite versions of this soup have chicken, soba noodles, and cabbage… but really, anything goes. The recipe below is for my favorite iteration.

Asian-Inspired Veggie-Loaded Chicken Soup

2 bowls– serves 2 sick patients or 1 hungry person (nutrition values are for the entire recipe.) Scales well.

2 t sesame oil (optional, can substitute any other oil)
2 oz boneless raw chicken, cubed
1/4 onion, diced
1-2 stalks thinly sliced celery
1/2 carrot, thinly sliced (or ~4 baby carrots)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1″ nub of ginger, minced
2 scallions (white and green parts divided)
1/3 c snow peas, cut into small pieces
1/3 c red pepper, cut into small pieces
1/2 c cabbage (I like napa)
3 c chicken stock
1.5 oz soba noodles (I’ve used rice and egg noodles w/ great success as well)
1 t low sodium soy sauce
1/2 t hot sauce
2 t lime juice
1/4 c cilantro, minced

In a soup pot, saute the chicken in sesame oil (if needed) over medium heat until just cooked through. Remove to your soup bowl.

Sautee ginger, garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and the white part of the scallions– basically, all aromatics and slow-cooking/ hard vegetables– over medium heat until the onions start to shrink down and the mixture is fragrant. 3-4 minutes. Add all other vegetables and cook until they start to soften, another 2-3 minutes. Toss in the cooked chicken and stock and bring to a low boil. Add noodles and cook on until soft enough to eat (for soba, ~5 minutes). Add soy sauce, hot sauce, lime juice, and cilantro to taste.

For extra credit, use more than 1/2 teaspoon of this stuff. Phew!

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1098 g
Amount Per Serving

Calories                              Calories from Fat

360                                     21
% Daily Value*

Total Fat            2.3g                                  4%

Saturated Fat  0.6g                                   3%

Trans Fat           0.0g

Cholesterol       33mg                             11%

Sodium             891mg                           37%

Total Carbohydrates 57.5g                19%

Dietary Fiber  6.7g                                27%

Sugars              9.8g

Protein             29.4g

Vitamin A 169% Vitamin C 162%
Calcium 13% Iron 29%
Nutrition Grade A
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Easy Sunshiney Lemon Pasta- for Gray Days

As I mentioned in my last post, I finally gave in and bought Meyer lemons for the first time this month. Easier than I thought, actually: Freshdirect suddenly has them, and who am I to argue with that? I threw a few pounds into my order and hoped for the best. They were delivered just before Brooklyn got 2′ of snow dumped on it, so I had several snowed-in days to experiment.

The first thing I did was make Meyer lemon curd. I know that here’s the place where I’m supposed to gush about how awesomely superior Meyer lemons are to other lemons and blah, blah, blah, but honestly– I couldn’t taste the difference in the curd. It was delicious– as lemon curd always is. However, it wasn’t until I tried it squeezed over my pasta that I could really taste the difference– it’s much mellower than I’m used to, but just as bright. I made up a super-quick recipe that would highlight the flavor– and liked it so much that I made it three days in a row! You can prep and make the sauce in its entirety in the time it takes spaghetti to cook with time left over– and if you choose to make it with angel hair, you can just start it while the water is heating up. I was out of strands, so I used super-fancy unlabeled pasta from a gift basket a friend gave us this time. Strands are better, but anything will work.

As you can see, I tossed a giant handful of basil on top. I was able to get microbasil from a stand at the farmer’s market this week– it was just so cute! Yep, it was an impulse buy, but a nice treat when it’s super gray out; any sweet herb will work in its place, or you could leave it out and the pasta would still be delicious.

Before the recipe, a quick note on my conflicted feelings about Freshdirect: I feel horrendously guilty having my groceries delivered. I have no kids, after all, and individual items are way more expensive. However, I justify it in the following ways: it’s really hard to get fresh produce and high quality meats within easy carrying distance of my apartment (within a mile or so, as I don’t have a car), and being able to see the total in my cart before I check out each week makes it much easier for me to stay within my budget– so I actually spend less in the end… so long as I remember to leave room for the farmers market.

Meyer Lemon Pasta with Basil

(serves 1, but easily scalable)

3 oz dried pasta of your choice
1/2 T butter
1/2 T olive oil (or other neutral oil of your choice)
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 Meyer lemon, separated into juice and zest (or half the equivalent amount of standard lemon)
1 T dairy liquid of your choice (I’ve been using buttermilk, but cream, sour cream, or milk would do fine)
1 T parmesan or romano cheese
1/4 c fresh basil or other sweet herb
Pinch freshly ground pepper

Boil  salted water. Put the pasta in the pot and stir once.

On medium-low heat, melt butter and oil in a mid-sized saute pan. Add crushed garlic and cook ~1 min, until fragrant but not brown. Add lemon zest and stir, then lemon juice. Turn off the burner, but don’t remove the pan.  Add dairy liquid. Stir. Reserve 1/4 c of cooking water for the pasta pot.

When pasta reaches al dente, drain, then dump into the pan with the lemon sauce. Turn the heat on low and toss until the pasta is coated. Add the cheese and pepper, then toss again. If more liquid is needed to coat the pasta evenly, add from the reserved cup, 1 T at at time. Turn off the heat, then toss in your herbs. Toss once more, then serve.

Parmesan Polenta w/ Garlic Kale & Egg

Sometimes I manage to cook myself a meal so good that it makes me want to marry myself. My fiance would probably object– if it weren’t for the fact that his mouth were full. This is one of those meals– except that he won’t eat it ’cause he objects to kale. Weirdo. Well, more for me.

This makes one generous main course serving. It’s perfect– cheap, healthy, fast, and delicious– except that you need two pots instead of one. Sniffle. If you can figure out how to fix that, let me know.

  • 1 t olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1/4 lb kale, cleaned and sliced into ribbons
  • salt, pepper, & red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 c water (or chicken stock)
  • 1/2 c skim milk (can use full-fat if you’d rather)
  • 1/4 c polenta
  • 2 T parmesan or romano cheese
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • optional: chives & parmesan for garnish

Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds (or until you can smell the delicious, then add kale, salt, and peppers. Stir occasionally until the greens wilt down.

Meanwhile, heat milk and water in a small pot until they begin to boil.

When kale is cooked to your taste, turn it into your bowl and return the pan to the heat. Crack an egg into the pan and let it cook.

While the egg is cooking, stir the polenta slowly into the water/milk mixture. It should cook very quickly. When it has finished cooking, stir in pepper and parmesan.

At this point, the egg should be done cooking (whites fully firm, yolk warm but still runny enough that its deliciousness will spread out all over your polenta and kale) — so turn the heat off.

Add polenta to the kale bowl, mix if desired, and top with egg. Add chives and more parmesan to garnish if desired.

Eat. Nom