Lee says by organizing your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer -- and stocking them with go-to essentials -- dinner can be cooked and on the table quickly and easily.
Lee's suggestions, as see in in Parade magaine:
• Throw away anything past its expiration date and consolidate multiples of items that are half used.
• Transfer dry goods to airtight containers to prolong their shelf life.
• Label shelves so that everything has its place. Knowing where to find items makes cooking more efficient. Also, mark all foods that go in the freezer with the date.
• Always make a grocery list and divide it into sections for produce, meat, dairy, pantry, etc. This way, you won't waste time going back and forth between aisles.
• Check out the newspaper for sales. Make notes of specials and clip coupons for any of the items on your list. Avoid buying unnecessary products just because they are a good deal.
• Choose a time to shop that's convenient for you and during low-volume hours when the selection will be plentiful.
• Load up on dinner essentials. These items are versatile and can be used in many different dishes. Think bacon and eggs are only for breakfast? How's spaghetti carbonara sound?
Prep and Plan Ahead
• After you get home from the supermarket, wash and cut up all of your produce. When veggies are already diced, stir-fry is a breeze. Having salad greens already washed will also make it easier to reach for a healthy side dish.
• Divide freezer essentials like chicken and bacon into individual servings. Time for thawing will be cut significantly and you'll use only what you need.
Plan your meals at the beginning of the week to eliminate the question "What's for dinner?" each night.
• Make some meals multitask. If you're preparing tomato sauce for chicken parmigiana, cook extra to pair with spaghetti and frozen vegetables for pasta primavera another day.
• Make a big pot of rice at the beginning of the week and store in the fridge. It can be used as a speedy side dish. Or combine it with soy sauce, eggs, chicken, and a few other essentials for a delicious fried-rice dinner.
Bacon (freeze in individual portions)
Mixed frozen vegetables
Spaghetti + eggs + Parmesan + bacon = Spaghetti Carbonara
Rice + onions + soy sauce + eggs + ginger root + chicken + veggies = Chicken Fried Rice
Chicken + breadcrumbs + tomatoes + Parmesan = Chicken Parmigiana
Veggies + broth + beans + onion + garlic + tomatoes + broken spaghetti = Hearty Vegetable Soup
Chicken + raspberry jam + broth + balsamic vinegar + garlic = Glazed Chicken Breasts
1 lb. spaghetti
6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook spaghetti until al dente, about 8-9 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
In a large sauté pan, cook bacon until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Drain grease from pan.
In a bowl, whisk eggs, parmesan, pasta water, and pepper. Place pasta in large saute pan over medium-low heat. Quickly stir in egg mixture and reserved bacon and toss to coat. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Raspberry-Balsamic Glazed Chicken Breasts
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup raspberry jam
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bay leaf
In a medium bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, mustard, vinegar, and jam.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the hot oil and brown about 3 minutes per side.
Remove the chicken from pan and set aside. Add the chicken broth mixture to the pan and deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and bay leaf. Reduce heat to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan, cover and braise until just cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and tent lightly with foil to keep warm. Discard the garlic and bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a rapid boil and reduce to a thick glaze, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the glaze over the chicken and serve with steamed rice and spinach.
*Make extra and use the leftovers on a salad the next day for lunch!
**Experiment: This recipe works great with pork chops and apricot jam.
For a vegetable bean soup recipe, go to Page 2.