With our second teen off to college, meals in our new “empty nest” look quite a bit different than they did when there were kids around. For one thing, food hangs around a lot longer (fewer people raiding the fridge), and leftovers seem to last a lot longer, too. (I’m learning to scale back on some recipes—or freeze half.) The newfound culinary situation has also reinvigorated our interest in trying new things—recipes we just didn’t find time for before when things were more hectic now can show up on the table on a regular Tuesday night! We are also cooking more meals at home, hence we keep a lot of pantry staples around, such as microwaveable plain rice, broths, and tomato products. Yes, we are enjoying the flexibility, but it still makes sense to plan how to use up ingredients instead of wasting food and money.
This nutritious spin on a Dutch baby pancake is a great dish to experiment with for a cozy weekend brunch, especially during apple season.View recipe »
I’ve put together a week of ideas (some breakfasts, some lunches, some dinners) for those of you who aren’t feeding a family. They are flexible recipes in terms of ingredients, meaning you can use up leftovers or adapt to your own taste. I hope it inspires you to rediscover your own culinary creativity.
Dinner: Slow Cooker Chicken and Potatoes. (Set aside 2 portions for Tuesday dinner.) Add a side of green salad topped with shredded carrots and a sprinkle of nuts. (Bagged salad is handy, and shred extra carrots for tomorrow’s breakfast.)
Breakfast: Carrot Cake Overnight Oatmeal. Use those extra shredded carrots and some of the leftover nuts from the salad. This recipe makes 2 portions, so share or have it twice this week!
Dinner: Chicken Pasta Bowl. Use leftover chicken from Sunday dinner for this, and just “doctor up” a jar of pasta sauce with whatever veggies and pasta cut you have on hand—feel free to stray from the simple recipe to make it your own. Add a side salad if you like. Take any leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
Dinner: Speedy Salmon. (Set aside 2 portions for Friday lunch). Serve salmon with steamed green beans and a package of microwavable rice—quick, easy and tasty dinner.
Dinner: 7-Minute Vegetable Soup. This is so easy and uses pantry and freezer staple ingredients. Feel free to toss in any leftover veggies as well. Serve with whole grain bread or rolls. (Set aside some bread for lunch tomorrow.)
Lunch: Salmon Black Bean Salad. Prepare the salad in the morning if you’re taking it with you to work. Swap out the smoked salmon and instead use leftover cooked salmon from Wednesday night. Serve with the leftover bread/rolls from last night or some crackers.
Brunch: Whole Wheat Dutch Baby Pancake with Cinnamon Apples. Add some protein to the meal by serving it with scrambled eggs (or some Greek yogurt sprinkled with leftover chopped nuts).
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1½ pounds salmon fillet or steaks
- 6 eggs
- Greek yogurt (optional)
- 3 potatoes (3 cups chopped)
- 1 head of lettuce (such as romaine) or 2 bags of pre-washed lettuce mix
- 3-4 large carrots
- 2-3 onions
- 3 apples
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 avocado
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- ½ pound green beans
- 1 lime
- 1 lemon
- 1 (26 oz.) jar star-rated pasta sauce
- 1 (15 oz.) can no-salt-added black beans
- 2 (8 oz). cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
- 1 (15 oz.) can Italian recipe diced tomatoes
- 1 package microwavable brown rice
- 1 can low-sodium chicken broth
- Light Italian salad dressing
- 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
- 1 lb. pasta (bowtie or your favorite shape)
- 1 cup steel cut oats (instant or regular)
- Quart skim milk
- 1 cup nuts (chopped)
- ¼ cup ground flax
- Maple syrup
- Unsweetened, shredded or flaked coconut
- 1 loaf whole-grain bread or rolls from in-store bakery or whole grain crackers
- Garlic powder
- Dried oregano
- Ground cumin
- Ground nutmeg
- Ground cinnamon
- Dried basil
- Salt, kosher salt
- Italian seasoning
- Yellow or Dijon Mustard
- Whole wheat flour
- Olive oil