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Crossover meals that are fun, economical

June 16, 2008 6:31:57 AM PDT
Cooking once, eating it twice or even three times can save time and money. But there's no reason to bore your family with the same scenario for two, three nights in a row.The new way to cook is to think about that second so-called crossover meal that can be fast, fun and flavorful.

"The new way to cook, because we're tight on time and we're tight on money these days, is to cook once, eat it three times or more, but never have a leftover meal," said dietitian Patricia Bannan.

Bannan says often the key is cooking one main protein and one main starch in large quantity and saving some for meals later in the week.

"You can add different vegetables, different seasonings, you can cut it different ways," said Bannan.

Example: Night one, Bannan made a skillet chicken and vegetable dinner over brown rice. Night two, she added grilled tofu to the mix and stir-fried the dish. Night three, she stretched the remaining combination into a casserole with beans, along with a can of soup and extra veggies.

Each night she stretched the protein, the cost of the meal was less. The first night was $12, the second was $10, and the third night just $8.

"Since the word 'leftover' has a connotation of something unwanted and unloved, many who cook prefer to look at these foods as 'convenient ingredients,'" said Bannan.

Like leftover pasta or rice. These two cooked starches, in combination with a simple can of tuna, make an elegant meal.

Like a tuna and white bean salad with roasted tomatoes and spices on leftover spaghetti. Or a fried-rice Nicoise with tuna, chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted bell pepper, mixed with brown rice and fresh basil.

"Brown rice, you can cook that up and leave it in the fridge for five days," said Bannan. "You can mix it different ways -- you can make fajitas, you can make a casserole."

The main idea is to plan ahead, visit the market just once, and if you work it right, do the lion's share of the cooking one time as well.

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Recipes for Patricia Bannan's 3 nights:

NIGHT #1: EASY ELEGANT CHICKEN (Recipes from USA Rice)
Yield: Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 14-1/2 ounces can stewed tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 cup sherry wine
3 cups cooked brown rice

Sprinkle chicken with 1/2-teaspoon salt and 1/4-teaspoon pepper. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook chicken about 5 minutes or until light brown. Add green pepper and mushrooms; cook 2 to 4 minutes, stirring, until vegetables are tender. Add chopped tomatoes, remaining 1/2-teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4-teaspoon pepper and sherry. Cook 5 minutes, stirring several times. Serve over hot cooked rice.

NIGHT #2: STIR FRY MEAL-IN-ONE
Yield: Makes 4 servings

1/3 cup chopped onion
8 ounces firm tofu, cut into strips
1 pound boned and skinned chicken breast strips
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
3 cups cooked brown rice
3/4 cup cooked green peas
1 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained
1/4 cup diced pimientos

Spray pan with cooking spray. Cook onion in large skillet over medium-low heat until onion is transparent. Add tofu and chicken, salt and pepper; continue cooking about 5 minutes. Stir in rice, peas, mushrooms and pimientos. Toss lightly and heat thoroughly.

NIGHT #3: BROCCOLI RICE-CHICKEN
Yield: Makes 4 servings

1 package broccoli au gratin rice mix, prepared according to package directions
1 15-ounce can black beans
1 10-ounce package frozen broccoli
1 cup cubed cooked chicken or turkey
1 10-3/4-ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup milk
Butter cracker crumbs

Combine rice and beans; spoon mixture into 8x8x2-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange broccoli over rice; top with turkey. Combine soup and milk in small bowl; pour over chicken. Top with butter cracker crumbs. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Recipes for leftover rice or pasta:

"Fried Rice Nicoise"
Makes 4 servings

3 cups leftover cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives or olive tapenade
1/4 cup roasted peppers (Trader Joe's jarred peppers)
1 tablespoon chopped sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
1 6-oz. can chunk light tuna in water

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and sauté the rice until browned. Open, drain and flake the tuna, add the remaining ingredients into the pan to heat and coat.

Tuna and white bean pasta salad
Makes 4 servings

1 10-oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 6-oz. can tuna, drained and rinsed and flaked
2 cups leftover cooked whole wheat or other whole grain pasta
3 cups washed salad greens (washed bagged lettuce works well here)
1 can of drained chopped roasted tomatoes (like S&W ready-cut roasted tomatoes)
*Optional: 2 large fresh basil leaves (Trader Joe's now sells basil plants for $3.50 each - easy to grow all summer)

Combine tuna, tomatoes and beans in a bowl and microwave covered for 2 minutes. On a large platter, arrange salad greens, warm or room-temperature pasta, the mixture of tuna, tomatoes and beans on top. Drizzle salad dressing of choice. (Olive oil Italian works well.) Toss and serve.

 

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