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Recipe Tips

Recipe Tips for the Lazy Chef

By Joe Wilkes
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to Win!

Empty SinkSeveral months ago I wrote an article on One-Pot Meals, with some cooking tips for people like me who wanted to contain the kitchen mess to one pot. After the article ran, I was inundated with comments from readers and friends who asked, "Who are you, Martha Stewart? Why wash even one pot?" And sure enough, there are many ways you can make yourself three hot meals a day without dirtying even one pot. All you need is a little ingenuity and a stark phobia of the kitchen sink.

Dishes! Foiled again!

Salmon DinnerThis is one of the greatest inventions ever for the lazy chef. There are a wide variety of recipes you can make using what I call "packet cuisine." One of my fast foil favorites is super easy and mess-free. Take a piece of your favorite fish (I'm a big salmon fan). Using a large sheet of foil, place the fish in the center, and pull up the sides of the foil to make a bowl. Then, add some lemon juice, fresh dill, scallions, salt, pepper, and a splash of olive oil, and seal up the foil. Bake the fish packet in the oven at 350° for about 15 to 20 minutes, and you'll have a perfectly steamed piece of fish, with no dishes to wash! I know what you're thinking: "Sounds good. But won't I be up all night washing the knife and cutting board I used to chop the scallions and dill?" Not if you use one of modern man's handiest implementsthe scissors! In the interest of hygiene, these should be a dedicated pair of scissors for food, not the ones you cut your hair with. But make sure to cut the scallions and dill or any other favorite herb over the fish, and voilà, flavor without the fuss!

You can use the packet technique to cook chicken breasts (they'll take longer to cook than fish), and if you don't want them to be mushy, you can unwrap them after they've cooked through and toss them into the broiler pan (on a sheet of foil of course—no point in having to scrub the broiler pan!) to brown them. Pieces of lean beef and pork can go right into the broiler pan on a piece of foil. Make sure you preheat the broiler first. Five minutes on each side should you give you a nice medium-rare steak. Also, you can save cleanup time on your ovenware by lining it with foil before you cook. When you're done cooking, pitch the foil, and the ovenware is clean!

The nuclear option

MicrowaveOf course, the microwave oven has transformed the lazy cook movement more than any other appliance. You can make a variation of almost any dish with just a few ingredients, a paper plate and some plastic wrap. (Some may question whether using paper products is the most environmentally friendly option, and it's true that a dish is better for the trees than a paper plate. But you're not using water to wash the paper plate or sending dishwashing detergent into the wastewater supply. Plus, the paper plate is recyclable, so you're not a complete jerk if you use paper.) My friend swears by Minute Rice Surprise. Stock up on rice. There are a bunch of microwaveable rice products on the market that work wellthough we would recommend using brown rice or wild rice, so you get more fiber. First, prepare the rice according to the package instructions, then search your refrigerator for any condiments or leftovers that would go well with the rice (that's the surprise!). Salsa or hot sauce is a great addition to Minute Rice Surprise. Also consider using nonfat cheese, sour cream, or yogurt; any leftover turkey, chicken, or lunch meat; tuna; soy sauce; or your favorite spices. This is also a great way to use up any leftover fresh vegetables, or add some frozen, thawed vegetables to the mix. Frozen vegetables are another great base for a yummy microwave dish. I'm partial to nuking some Brussels sprouts and topping them with a little Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar for a tasty snack or side dish.

Containers to contain the mess

Cottage Cheese ContainerSure, we were brought up to believe that eating straight from the container or drinking straight from the milk carton was disgusting, but it can also be a very practical way of dining in. For example, I usually buy 16-ounce containers of nonfat cottage cheese. For my first serving, I usually empty half the container into a bowl (which I later have to washboooo!); doctor it up with my favorite salsas, hot sauces, or spices; and then eat. The only thing better is the second time I whip up my spicy cottage cheese mixturein the container! Yes, you heard right. I mix it up and eat it right out of the container and then throw the container in the recycling bin! No fuss, no mussjust a high-protein low-calorie snack or meal! This technique also works great with yogurt and other similarly packaged items. Also, if you can bear doing a big load of dishes once a week, you can do what I do and cook up a big pot of healthy something or other and dispense the leftovers into recyclable plastic containers for later dishwashing-free consumption.

The plate IS the food

TortillaWhy do the dishes when you can eat the dishes? There are plenty of whole-wheat breadstuffs that have enough structural integrity that you can use them for cooking and serving. Try a mini-pizza on a whole-wheat pizza shell, a whole-wheat tortilla, an English muffin, or a lavash. A little tomato sauce, your favorite veggies, and some nonfat or low-fat mozzarella and you're good to go. Or you could make a run for the border. A friend of mine gave me this easy burrito-making tip. She spreads some nonfat refried beans and nonfat cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla and sticks it in her toaster oven until the beans are warm and the cheese is melted. Then she adds a little salsa, nonfat sour cream, black olives, and some scissor-chopped scallions to top, and enjoys a healthy vegetarian meal, with no cleanup!

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