Nina’s Tips & Techniques: New Year Fresh Start – Dining In

I have a super demanding work schedule and I eat out all the time. This year I’ve made a promise to myself that I will eat in more, but I’m worried I won’t have time to prepare all these meals and will fall back into my old habits – help!

Eating at home more is a great goal, as home cooked food can leave you feeling healthy and satisfied. My two best suggestions are to keep your dishes simple, and to do some  meal prep once a week. The times I fall down on my own at-home meals is when I get too ambitious with my recipes. I end up with a bunch of ingredients at home for a meal that takes way more time than I have to prepare. Then I’m either cooking til 10pm or changing course and wasting ingredients. So keep it simple. Think simple protein, vegetable and starch. I love to get creative with salads – like a great steak salad with roasted veggies and yummy seasoned steak. Or a big arugula salad with lots of roasted squash and brussels sprouts, roasted chicken, and spiced nuts. These ideas lead me to my second point, that a little meal planning or prep once a week can really help you stay on track with your goal. I like to plan 3-5 meals on Sundays and shop for all my ingredients. Then I take an hour or two to prep all my ingredient – I clean and prep all my veggies and proteins so I am not trimming steaks and cleaning brussels sprouts at 6:15 on a weeknight. Sometimes I even go ahead and cook elements ahead of time or make a couple salad dressings or sauces to go with my dishes. I keep roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes in my fridge at all times and 2-3 cooked vegetables that I can reheat super fast. This cuts my weeknight cooking time down to 15-30 minutes.

I’m single and cook only for myself. I find that everything is sold in such large packages, it’s so expensive and I always end up throwing food away. Eating out or getting take out tends to be cheaper – am I doing something wrong?

I think it is common to get left with a small amount of something after preparing a recipe – even if you are cooking for a crowd. I hate wasting, so I have tried to become a master of leftover planning and repurposing. Try to think about each ingredient as two meals. So for example…if you buy a 16oz ribeye and only eat half, take the second half and mix it with rice, veggies, and an egg in a quick fried rice preparation the next night. Same concept if you have leftover rice! If I have leftover chicken I chop it up on a salad or mince it and mix it with onion, pepper, garlic and spices to make a quick taco filling. Top it with an avocado and shredded cabbage. The concept has grown on me so much that I have actually started to over-prepare ingredients on purpose. I almost always buy an extra package of chicken or roast extra potatoes intentionally so that I have the beginning of a meal for the following day!

Featured Recipe: Harvest Grain Bowl with Salmon