Remember that time you made an elaborate, tasty meal only to realize when you finished eating that every single pot and pan you own lay splayed around your kitchen, the remnants of the meal's many different layers crusting like blood on their sides and bottoms. Yes, you massacred your kitchen and, if you're being honest, you probably walked away from the mess hoping you would wake up to find it inexplicably cleaned... Or maybe you don't really cook because you want to avoid the above scenario. Sure, eating out or ordering in fits really well with your busy lifestyle and, damn, it tastes good. It's expensive, though – especially if you're trying to be on the healthy side of spectrum – and it's not exactly conducive to the light fitness lifestyle you're cultivating. NBD. That's why I put together a list of five quick and easy meals to make for one, even if you don't like cooking.
For the exhausted woman just dipping her toes in the exercise waters (on top of the million other things she's doing), taking the time to cook can be hard to justify in her busy schedule, but as nutritionist David O'Dwyer rightly points out, "The combined benefits of changing an unhealthy diet, along with an increase in physical activity is far greater than just increasing your physical activity while maintaining an unhealthy diet." O'Dwyer's focus isn't on superficial physical effects either, he believes a healthy diet (of course in moderation) helps sharpen you mentally.
"You might temporarily 'feel great' after you start exercising while continuing to eat poorly," O'Dwyer continues, "but I promise this effect will plateau and before you know it, you'll probably stop exercising. The improvements in mood, sleep, and overall well-being is what this change should be about, and I guarantee that a combined change in diet and exercise is the best route to achieve this."
Sign me up. So, if you're looking for a way to be happier, sleep better, save money, eat pretty healthy, and/or still have time for all the other stuff in your power-woman life, take a look at the recipes below. Most of these can make a little more than one serving. So even if you're dining alone... hello, leftovers!
1. The Unicorn "Three Ingredients Or Fewer" Rice Dish
The unicorn food trend is over, right? OK, good, because I'm starting a new trend where we call tasty dishes made with three or fewer ingredients unicorn food. Why call them unicorn food? Because they're rare, that's why. And this dish? Total unicorn because all you need are beans, miso paste, and brown rice.
Here's what you'll need (for two servings): - 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed - White or yellow miso paste - Brown rice
First, make your rice.
Making perfectly fluffy rice is tricky. Whenever I cook stovetop rice, it's always too sticky (rhyme unintended). So, I bought a rice cooker, and it changed my life. If you don't already have one, here's a recipe for perfect brown rice, but do yourself a solid and get one in the near future. Mine was $20 and produces perfect rice every time. All I have to do is put the measured rice and water in and then flick a switch.
In the 30 minutes it takes the rice to cook, you can pass the time in a number of ways. I watched an episode of Parks and Recreation I've already seen 15 times, had an existential crisis, and removed my way too old toenail polish. Any of these options might work for you...
Now, the rice is done! See how pretty it is?
Now, on to the beans. Pour them into a preheated pot and sauté over medium heat until they are warm. Add your heaping tablespoon of miso paste and reduce the heat to low. Then, mix until miso coats all of the beans.
PSA: Don't mix the miso for too long because it loses its beneficial properties when exposed to high temperatures. Two minutes should be good.
You can add some avocado, an egg, or even both to the finished dish, if you'd like. I like to add Furikake, a Japanese seasoning you can find in East Asian markets or on Amazon.
Now grab your favorite utensil (I'm not the only one who has a favorite utensil, right?) and put this delicious, cheap, easy meal in your belly.
Once you've taken the spoon off your face, feel free to enjoy the food you cooked.
2. The "It's All Greek To Me" Salad
You know what takes really long? Saying Greek words. Try this one: galaktoboureko. You know what doesn't take long? Making this Greek salad. Boom.
Here's what you'll need (for two servings): - 3 medium tomatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces - 1 cucumber, chopped into bite-size pieces - ½ red onion, sliced - ½ lb. feta - ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives - Dried oregano, to taste - Extra virgin olive oil, to taste - Vinegar to taste - Salt to taste
Before I get into how to make the salad, I want to say two things. First, if you're not a fan of raw onions, try soaking those babies in some vinegar. This will cut down on the spicy, acrid flavor. Also, you won't have dragon breath after eating them. Second, if you live somewhere where you have access to feta cut from a block (found in Mediterranean/Balkan shops or at the cheese counter of some supermarkets), use this kind in your salad. Like my rice cooker, it has changed my life.
Directions: To make your salad, first chop the tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion. Knives are intimidating, so here's a quick video about basic knife skills that will help prevent you from cutting yourself. Next, put your chopped veggies in a big bowl and add a pinch of salt (go easy here since there are a lot of salty ingredients in this salad) and a drizzle of oil and vinegar. Add the olives. Mix. Top with feta and dried oregano.
3. The "So Cute You Won't Mind Making It" Chicken Patty Dish
These chicken patties with quinoa and roasted sweet potatoes are so cute you may not want to eat them! Just kidding, food is for eating, not cooing over as you would a baby wearing glasses.
Here's what you'll need (for two servings): - 1 lb. of ground chicken - 1 shallot, diced - ¼ cup chopped parsley - 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and some extra for drizzling on the veggies - 1 ½ teaspoons salt and extra for mixing with the veggies - Pepper, to taste - 1 cup quinoa - 2 cups water - 1 large sweet potato
Directions: First, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Wait, no. If you have some pots and pans living in your oven because you have a tiny kitchen with no storage like I do, remove those pots and pans first, and then preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Using your newly learned ninja-like knife skills, chop the sweet potato into 1-inch pieces and put in a bowl with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix. Lay out on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pop into the oven. Set a timer for 35 minutes. Now dice and chop your shallot and parsley.
Start making your quinoa – here's how.
While the sweet potato is roasting and the quinoa is cooking (you're a multitasking queen), combine the ground chicken, shallot, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix with your hands. Using a soup spoon, scoop out a portion of the chicken mixture and form into a patty with about the width of your palm. It should look like this:
Continue until all the chicken is formed into patties – there should be about eight to 10. Preheat a pan (preferably non-stick) on medium-high heat. Add the oil and then the patties. Cook the patties for three to four minutes on each side or until nicely browned. Once your sweet potatoes and quinoa are done, plate everything and chow down!
Note: Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have in your kitchen, but be aware that roasting times for different vegetables vary.
4. The "Wait, But How Can This Be Healthy?" Pasta Dish
You're probably like, “Wait, pasta with tomato sauce isn't healthy.” But it's not not healthy. It's also easy, quick, and nourishes the soul, which is definitely part of that whole wellness thing that is going on right now.
Here's what you'll need (for one to two servings) - 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil - 1 medium yellow onion, diced - 2 cloves garlic, diced - 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes (San Marzanos are the best) - ¼–½ lb. spaghetti or penne or bucatini (depends how much pasta you feel like eating) - Salt - Parmesan or pecorino Romano, to taste, for serving (optional)
Note: Cutting onions is actually a painful activity. Onions produce a chemical irritant that will cause your eyes to sting and then release tears. It's really distracting when you're wielding a sharp knife. There are multiple tricks out there that people claim will prevent you from crying. Cutting them next to a glass filled with water, cutting them with a very sharp knife, etc. The only thing I have found that works is wearing goggles. I'm serious. I have goggles hanging in my kitchen, and I wear them when I cut onions.
Directions: Put your goggles on and dice your onions and garlic. Then, heat a wide pan over medium flame. Add the oil and then the diced onions. Hopefully, you've removed your goggles by now. Add a pinch of salt to onions and then sauté until translucent, about seven to 10 minutes.
Make sure to keep an eye on the onions and stir them often to prevent burning. Diced onions sautéing in oil are sneaky little bastards and will burn in less time than it takes you to pour yourself a glass of wine, which, if you drink, you should definitely do – just not when the onions are cooking. I know it sounds boring to tend to onions for 10 minutes, but it will be worth it. Listen to a podcast or something. And if the pan is getting dry, make sure to add more oil.
Keeping a vigilant eye on my onions! Actually, some of my onions burned while I was taking this picture.
Once onions are cooked, add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add your canned tomatoes and smash them with a large spoon or potato masher. Be careful here because the juice from the tomatoes may squirt onto your clothing. It happens to me every. Single. Time. And yet, I still don't own an apron. Then, bring the sauce to a boil and reduce to low, crushing the tomatoes periodically.
Put a large pot of water to boil and cover.
Once the water is boiling, salt it until it tastes slightly less salty than the sea. This is the secret to amazing pasta and now you know it! Then, cook pasta according to package directions. Before draining, reserve one cup of the pasta water; this will help bind the sauce to the pasta – another secret!
Once the tomatoes have been simmering for about 35 minutes, add ½ cup of the pasta water. Feel free to add more to get it to the consistency you prefer. Season with salt to taste... be careful, though; it's easy to be heavy handed with the salt (I always am). Start with a little at first, then taste, add more, and so on until you've got a sauce that makes your mouth happy. Then, mix the pasta with the sauce. Plate and grate some cheese over the pasta, if you'd like.
This recipe makes one to two servings depending on how much pasta you use, but you will have some leftover sauce. Read on to the next recipe to see what to do with it.
5. The "Too Many Names For Delicious" Egg Dish
Israelis call it shakshuka. Italians call it uovo in purgatorio. Whatever you call it, it's a really easy, comforting meal that offers lots of protein from possibly the most versatile thing on the planet: eggs.
Here's what you'll need (for one to two servings): - Leftover tomato sauce from previous recipe - 2–4 eggs, depending on how much sauce you have - Crusty, whole-grain bread - Grated cheese (optional)
Directions: Start by heating the leftover tomato sauce in a pan over medium heat. Once heated through, make little holes for the eggs and crack them into the pan. Your pan should look something like this:
Once your eggs are nestled in the tomatoes, cover the pan and cook for five minutes or until the egg yolk is at the consistency you want it. I'm a runny egg yolk kind of girl, but you do you. Top with grated cheese if you'd like. Eat it with some crusty, whole grain bread, and cry at how simple that was.
Welcome to No Sweat: an exhausted girl's guide to squeezing in fitness. This content package is for the woman who wants to find an exercise routine that doesn't feel like a chore. No Sweat isn't changing the shape of your body; it's about feeling stronger, happier, and more energetic. Because working out doesn't mean you have to break a sweat.