Dining at home can be fun and relaxing whether you are alone or with the entire family.
Lentil soup mixed with red bell pepper, tomato, and spinach.
Quarantined or not, before we get to the food and meals below, start by making a comfortable environment, this means if your kitchen or dining area needs tidying up, get organized by clearing off counter space, or cleaning up any clutter and find a place to put it in a closet, drawer, or basket. Meals are always more appealing in an inviting environment. This goes beyond nutrition as it starts to incorporate a healthier lifestyle.
If you have the extra time and are looking to update your kitchen try rearranging items first, from tables and chairs to bookshelves or artwork. Often it only takes a little cleaning or polishing old cabinets, hardware, and changing your shelf lining. And if you’re ambitious, cabinets can always be painted, or new hardware can be ordered for knobs and handles. You can also paint tables and chairs at a minimum cost to brighten things up.
- As for dining, make it special most evenings by using your best dishes, decorative chargers, and stemware along with cloth napkins, whether you are alone or only having soup with the family. Light your candles or dim the lights, and play music, it’s all relaxing.
- Pouring your water into large wine goblets with lemon or lime or drinking seltzer from one of your best glasses or martini glass with added fruit is not only refreshing but enhances the meal too.
- If you have a fireplace, use it, or if you have an electric fireplace not being used, move it into the dining room or kitchen if space allows you too. This will add ambiance to your dining pleasure.
- Quick-fix meals include grilling up everything all at one time – chop a variety of vegetables, or frozen is okay too. Add sweet potato or baby potatoes with your meat of choice from fish, chicken, to vegetarian meat. Outdoor grill cooking may take around 20-30 minutes, indoor grills often cook everything within 10 minutes. This is good for serving up family-style too!
- A hint for indoor grills, use cooking spray or brush olive oil on the entire grill. When all is cooked and removed, unplug the grill and place a soaking wet paper towel onto the grill plates and close the cover before you eat. The paper towel will not burn, it will moisten the baked-on food while you eat to later wipe off easily making clean up fast.
- Grilled sandwiches or wraps. These are not only easy and nutritious, but they can be custom to each family member from cheese, meat with veggies, to all veggies with honey mustard or sauce of choice, but they can all grill up at the same time.
- Pizza night with a couple of different toppings to choose from – my favorite is spinach, tomato, finely chopped black olives, one-percent cottage cheese, and Italian shredded cheese. Pizza’s are easy whether you make your own dough, purchase dough, or purchase pre-made crust, most only take 10-15 minutes in the oven. If you are looking to reduce calories, add a salad to fill up with fiber, and eat less pizza.
- Homemade soups are easy by using what you have in your refrigerator for vegetables. Long grain rice can be added in soup for additional fullness and taste. Rice will take at least 30 minutes while simmering with vegetables, and canned beans rinsed well can be added in the last five minutes to a soup for increased fiber and protein. All this completes a meal.
- Cheater soups are ready in minutes! This is made by using one-part canned, preferably natural low sodium soup with adding your own vegetables or beans to make it hearty and nutritious.
- Appetizer nights are fun too! Make it simple with a spinach salad on the side, shrimp cocktail, crab cakes, or grilled veggie bites. Veggie bites can include thinly sliced zucchini dipped in egg or egg white, then lightly coated with olive oil or breadcrumbs, and baked for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Use your imagination and use what you have on hand.
Making soup with fresh vegetables.
Salmon and vegetables on indoor grill.
Appetizer night with water in martini glass.
Soup night with relaxing lighting.
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