Post 1.1 - Cleaning the Plate

Errands again on Monday, April 18th, so posting this a few hours early on Sunday.

The dumbest things that parents do is say, "you're not leaving the table until you clean your plate." When kids are small, maybe that is important, because parents are handling the portioning and trying to get the right nutrients into the kid. But it has to end somewhere, and frequently, it doesn't.

Some of us also have the experience of being born into families where affection is shown with food. Thanksgiving  with my stepfather's Italian family was one such example. My step-grandmother would prepare some form of elaborate pasta dish - like stuffed manicotti, stuffed shells - plus an escarole (a somewhat heavy, spinach-based soup), plus the turkey, stuffing, more vegetables, and then a selection of pies, antipasto - the list goes on and on. The total gathering was never more than 10-12 people, but there was enough food to feed far more. And of course, even once you finished a certain amount, you were always "encouraged" to have more.

It was exhausting.

So if you haven't guessed, portion control has always been an issue for me. Even if I am just cooking for two, somehow, we end up eating more than we should. If I make an entree that is supposed to serve four, we both take seconds. While this is nice sometimes, it can't be a habit.

I am not a chef, but I do love to cook. I love flavorful cuisine, whether it be American, French, Italian, Greek, Mexican, or what-have-you.  Keeping food flavorful is also the secret to feeling satisfied, both with what you're eating and the size of the portion. And to control portions, I will prepare a 6-8 serving recipe, then divide it into the actual serving sizes, set out what should be eaten, and then freeze the rest. I select items that will freeze and reheat well, and then I vacuum seal them.

Right now, in my freezer, I have one or more portions of:

  • spinach chicken parmesan
  • coconut pecan chicken
  • tomato-walnut pesto penne with chicken
  • fettuccine with chicken, zucchini, mushrooms and broccoli in a light cream sauce
  • honey mustard chicken breast
  • chicken parmagiana
  • mushroom risotto
And the fridge, I have tuna salad wraps.

All of these recipes are under 400 calories per serving; most are under 300. I review several websites for recipes, read a lot of articles, and find what I want or need in all sorts of places. The fettuccine in that list above is my own recipe, as is the tuna salad, so the calorie content is an educated guess.

But in this way, if I have unexpected guests, or people want to eat lunch or dinner at different times, or people want different things, or I just don't feel like cooking, I have tons of stuff at the ready that can be prepared in under 5 minutes. And with vacuum sealing, it tastes as fresh as the day I first made it.

And damn, it's good, it's healthy, and the portions are what they should be. And I save a significant amount on groceries, because if I cook a recipe for 8, that's anywhere from 1-8 meals. I'm not throwing out leftovers, things aren't going bad, and people aren't getting tired of any particular dish.

I typically modify most recipes I find to replace out ingredients for health reasons, such as fat content, sugar content, or food allergies. So any recipes I post here, I will post a link to the original, if it exists, but my modified recipe will appear in the blog. And I am looking for gluten-free recipes, both because I want to try them and because some of you out there are seeking these recipes, too. I'll give a review of anything I try.

So here's a quick recipe: Italian Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. The original recipe clocks in at about 394 calories, but it's easily adjustable, using the low-fat cheese of your choice, whole wheat bread, low-fat butter or margarine (though I'd recommend against something like Smart Balance, since the omega-3 can make it taste a little fishy to me). A sandwich with a bowl of vegetable soup can be a nice, fulfilling lunch.

Yields 6 sandwiches.

12 slices of white bread (can use wheat, can use gluten-free)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (amount approximate, I use 2% or part-skim, which comes in 2-cup bags, and use what I need)
1/4 cup of butter or margarine (1/2 stick)
1 tsp minced garlic or garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
dash black pepper

Preheat your broiler (on high, if your broiler has different settings).

Lay out 6 slices of bread on a foil-lined baking sheet and cover each with a good handful of cheese (I like to spread out the cheese so it covers the entire surface of the bread evenly). Cover each with a slice of bread.

Mix together butter, garlic, onion powder and black pepper. You can quickly melt the butter in 15 seconds in the microwave to make it easier to work with. Once blended thoroughly, lightly spread mixture on each sandwich with a brush or the back of a teaspoon. Sprinkle oregano flakes on bread. Broil for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from broiler and flip sandwiches. Again, lightly spread butter mixture on each sandwich to coat and sprinkle with oregano flakes. Broil for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.

Slice sandwiches diagonally and serve with marinara for dipping, if desired. Again, goes well with soup or a small serving of vegetables.


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  1. When I was pregnant I read that you should never tell a kid to clean their plate- it causes them to override their satiety sensors which can be very problematic if it happens a lot. My son doesn't seem to eat much and is not adventurous in his food choices but he continues to grow, is active and healthy so I don't stress about it. thanks for the recipe, I'll give it a try.


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