Healthy Cooking Challenge

This past week, I set a new goal for myself to make at least one new healthy dish per week. For me, the most difficult part about maintaining a healthy lifestyle is having a variety in the food I’m eating and finding time to actually prepare the food (mostly the ladder). While there are tons of resources for finding healthy recipes, there is very little cooking advice for people like me: single, working, attending school, and on a tight budget. Not to mention moonlighting as a titleholder in the Miss America Organization, which means a lot of my free time is spent volunteering, promoting my platform, and being actively involved in my community–all while living an active and healthy lifestyle. This also means the last thing I want to do when I come home is cook for myself; thus began my healthy cooking for one challenge. I’m hoping this helps me find ways to make cooking for myself a little easier (and fun)!

Let me first start off by saying that I am so happy I set this goal for myself because this first week’s dish was amazing and the experience was even more so! Ever since I found out there would be a P.F. Chang’s opening in Syracuse, I could not stop thinking about their chicken lettuce wraps. They’ve literally been taunting me in my dreams. After googling “healthy lettuce wraps recipes”, I decided to try out Joy Bauer’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

And boy, was it good. Really good. I’m talking “is this actually healthy” kinda good.

Chicken-Wraps

*Okay, so the picture isn’t actually mine, but they really did look like this and tasted even better!

Here are a few crucial things I learned this week while embarking on my healthy cooking for one challenge:

1. Plan ahead. This is much easier said than done. As for myself, I’m way more likely to cook earlier in the week because that’s when I’m most motivated. By the end of the week, I’m ready to throw in the towel and resort back to my lifeless (no pun intended) grilled chicken or skip dinner altogether and head straight for happy hour (come on, we’ve all done it).

2. Be smart about investing in ingredients. This recipe called for a lot of asian ingredients. Thankfully, I already had quite a few of them, but I don’t know if I would have made it otherwise because it would have been pricey! I was also mindful of prices while I was shopping. For example, I left out the cashews because they were an expensive ingredient; however, the upside to this was that it ultimately lessened the overall calorie count! Happy wallet and happy waist!

3. Prepare your ingredients. If you’ve ever watched the Food Network, you’ve probably noticed most of the chefs on television breeze through their recipes. This is because they have all of the ingredients chopped up and ready to go. To unleash the inner “Food Network Star” in me, I decided to put this into practice and prepare my veggies the night before. The lettuce wraps called for “finely diced” carrots, celery, peppers, water chestnuts, and scallions. I chopped up the veggies on Sunday night, which took me about 15 minutes, and stored them in a large container overnight. On Monday night after a long day of work, studying, and Bikram Yoga, I came home, threw the pre-chopped ingredients into my wok and had dinner in less than 12 minutes. There was no chance I would have made this if I hadn’t done the prep work before. I will definitely keep doing this because it was a huge time saver. And trust me, it’s worth it.

4. Make the entire recipe. I struggled a lot with this living alone and cooking for one. I would always try to half recipes and use the ingredients for something else, but one thing or another would always go to waste. This time, I made the whole recipe and it worked out really well! The entire recipe makes 6 cups of filling, so I froze 3 cups and refrigerated the other 3. I ate the entire dish over the course of one week: 3 lunches and 2 dinners to be specific! That may seem a little monotonous, but I spaced it out and changed it up for lunch to make it more like an asian salad by chopping up the lettuce and tossing it with the filling.

Shopping List

  • 1 pound organic ground chicken ($7.99)
  • Celery ($1.79)
  • 1 red pepper ($1.50)
  • Green Onions ($0.69)
  • Rice Vinegar ($2.50)
  • Plum sauce ($2.50)
  • 1 can water chestnuts ($0.69)
  • Lettuce head ($1.70)

I already had the following: sriracha (chili paste), soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and carrots (a staple veggie I buy weekly).

Total: $19.47 for 5 servings which comes to a grand total of $3.89 per serving! Honestly, you really can’t beat that.

Bottom Line: Love, love, love! For the price, taste, quality of ingredients, level of ease, and storage, I give this recipe 5 stars! I will definitely be making this again very soon and it will most likely become one of my staples. Overall, a successful first week of said challenge.

What about you? Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to cooking for one? I’d love to hear what works for others. Post in the comments below! 🙂

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