A friend, sick of throwing leftovers in the trash and eating out every night, asked me for some tips on cooking healthful, delicious dinners for one without wasting a ton of food (and time). My advice is to steer away from big pots or large roasts and aim to fill the fridge with lots of prepped ingredients you can throw together in a variety of ways.
For example, instead of making a huge soup, keep broth, fresh vegetables, and a rotisserie chicken in your fridge. Combine them to make 1 or 2 servings of soup, and save the rest of the ingredients for something else, like a pasta dish or stir-fry. You can make a meal for dinner and lunch the next day instead of whipping up 4-6 servings at a time.
Now, I’m not much of a leftovers lover, and I think there really is an art to reusing foods. For me, that means making the leftovers look really appealing so that the next day when I open the fridge, I’ll see them as “ingredients” and not as yesterday’s rejects. I’ve also found that keeping a lot of elements on hand (a sauce, a hummus, some cooked rice, and hot sauce–always have hot sauce) makes it way easier to make healthier choices because it takes less effort to start snacking on one of those items than to go buy a cheeseburger or make (another) pot of parmesan pasta.
I made this fried quinoa, for example, from a bag of kale (that I had already washed), a container of cooked quinoa I’d used in a salad the day before, some fresh vegetables, and an egg. I made this for lunch the other day, and it’s pretty typical of the meals I used to eat almost every night when I was in grad school up north. Incidentally, fried rice was the first thing I ever cooked successfully, the first being a batch of eggs scrambled in corn syrup instead of vegetable oil. That I ate anyway. Twelve-year-old fail.
Asian Fried Quinoa with Kale
2 Tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
¼ cup onion, diced
1 garlic clove, sliced
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups thinly sliced kale
¼ cup chopped carrots (about 1-cm cubes works well)
¼ cup frozen green peas
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 Tablespoon soy sauce (use the gluten-free kind if desired)
1 teaspoon sesame oil for garnish (optional)
Sriracha or sambal oelek
1. In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sweat onion for 1-2 minutes, then add garlic, pepper flakes, and ginger. When translucent but not browned, add carrots and peas. When peas are bright green and no longer icy and carrots are beginning to soften (about 4-5 minutes), add kale and wilt slightly, about 3 minutes (for softer kale, cook up to 6 minutes). At this stage, I added about 2 Tablespoons of water because the vegetables were beginning to stick. If you need to add water at this stage, make sure it fully evaporates before moving on.
2. When vegetables are softened, add quinoa, stir, and let sit 1 minute to brown a bit. Stir and let sit again, 1 more minute.
3. When quinoa is warmed through and crisped on some spots, make a well in the middle of the pan and crack the egg into it. Scramble the egg in the well and then mix into the quinoa (about 30 seconds.)
4. Just as egg finishes cooking, stir in soy sauce and remove from heat.
5. Serve immediately with a drizzle of sesame oil and sriracha or sambal oelek.