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Our diets today are much higher in sodium and much lower in potassium than they used to be decades ago; as sodium goes up, potassium goes down. This is due in part to eating too many packaged foods that are high in sodium as well as too little fruits & vegetables that are high in potassium. Society as a whole today eats less than 4 fruits + vegetables/day; one of these being fried potatoes (French fries).

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As we age, we absorb less Vitamin B12, naturally. Many foods are sources of B12, chicken being an excellent and very high source, in particular, the darker meat.

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Yes, it is possible to cook great-tasting meals for one without breaking the budget or having leftovers for a week.

Over a quarter of Canadians live on their own, and that figure is rising. From 2006 to 2011 alone, it soared over 10 per cent.

Two very different age groups frequently face the challenge of solo cooking: students when they first leave home, and seniors living on their own.

For the younger age group, lack of time, money and lack of cooking skills can mean they down a bag of chips and call it dinner. Many seniors simply lack motivation and may end up eating toast-and-jam suppers.

Fact is, cooking for one definitely has its upside. You can buy and cook only what you love to eat, with no need to worry about pleasing others. The possibilities for treating yourself are unlimited—from what you buy, to how you cook and season it.

MEAL-IN-ONE

Making a meal-in-one avoids the need to have a bunch of pots brewing away at the same time—a skillet to fry meat, for example, plus a couple of pots with peas and potatoes—which can lead to a sink full of dirty dishes. Furthermore, if you’re just starting off, you may just own a single skillet and might have access to only a microwave or slow cooker to do all of your cooking.

Here are a few ways to reel in a nutritionally smart meal, from wrapping a complete dinner in foil or parchment, to cooking everything in a frying pan or single baking pan.

ALL WRAPPED UP

Cooking in packets is an easy way to make dinner, with no cleanup required. Check out Tomato Feta Chicken for One and Asparagus Chèvre for One at chicken.ca. Both of these nutritionally complete meals are enclosed in parchment paper using the fancy French technique known as “en papillote” (pah-pee-yoht). Foil also works well in these recipes; it’s just not as pretty.

Here’s a simple DIY idea: Start with one piece of chicken (whichever piece you prefer); place it on foil or parchment. Add a vegetable and cheese, if you want to include that recommended dairy component. Use whichever vegetables you have that will cook in the same time as the chicken, and any cheese you adore. A good sprinkling of poultry seasoning, tarragon or thyme adds flavour and fragrance. Then wrap, bake, and dinner is done.

ROAST

Got a hankering for an old-fashioned roast chicken dinner, but don’t want a ton of leftovers? Easy peasy! Choose a chicken leg or breast with skin on and bone in. Place on a pie plate or small foil pan. Add pudgy potato wedges, and a few carrots or slices of squash or pepper. Rub everything with butter. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and poultry seasoning, or sage and thyme. Paprika is perfect on the potatoes and dill on the carrots. Roast at 375°F (190°C) until golden, about an hour. Turn potatoes and carrots a couple of times.

Also try our Honey-Dijon Drumsticks and bake squash or half a sweet potato alongside.

SKILLET

For a fast healthy dinner in a frying pan, start by browning the chicken (a mix of butter and oil in the pan is best) over medium heat. The browning will take 2 to 3 minutes a side. Then lower the heat, cover and cook through. Count on 4 minutes per side for boneless thighs and as much as 12 minutes a side for a leg with thigh attached. Now, there is nothing taxing about this method.

To make it a complete dinner, throw in some cut-up fresh vegetables (from Bok Choy to pepper strips or inexpensive zucchini) or a handful of cherry tomatoes for the last few minutes of cooking. You could also add a few spoonfuls of water and either frozen or canned vegetables. Some quick-cooking rice, quinoa or pasta on the side, and it’s a wrap.

Glam up your meal a little by trying our Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken with Brie Mash and Green Beans. Use whichever creamy cheese you may have and whichever vegetable you like.

STIR-FRY

Stir-fries don’t need to be gargantuan. A frying pan is an excellent sub for a wok when cooking just for yourself. While most stir-fries are kick-started by sizzling onions and garlic in a generous splash of oil, you can keep the oil count low by simmering with a few spoonfuls of water instead. Alternatively, simply skip this step; instead, throw in green onion and garlic powder with the chicken. In place of frying cut-up chicken, add leftover cooked chicken from the fridge or freezer after stir-frying cut-up veggies. Add teriyaki or hoisin sauce thinned with water and let the chicken poach (or heat if previously cooked) in the sauce. You may also want to drizzle in a little honey.

To make it more interesting, check out our Chicken Stir-Fry with Peanut Miso Sauce. And remember, the easiest way to kick up a dish is to add a fiery touch—hot chili flakes, Asian chili garlic sauce or a big dash of hot sauce.  Learn more

Guest Author: Monda Rosenberg

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February is the month of love, romance and letting people know you care about them. It’s also Heart Month, so why not make a date with your heart this Valentine’s Day by taking the first step to eating healthy all year long. Eating well and exercising regularly are two of the most important gifts you can give yourself to maintain good cardiovascular health.

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Chicken can be a godsend to your grocery budget. Here’s how to make the most of it—no matter what cut you prefer.

BUY BIG

THE WHOLE BIRD

Take advantage of sale prices on whatever cuts you frequently use. Don’t hesitate to stockpile “sale” buys, even on whole chickens. It’s easy to freeze a whole chicken and even easier if you remove the backbone and flatten the bird. When going this route, consider adding a marinade or even salad dressing to the freezer bag. Chicken pieces are good for up to 6 months in the freezer, while whole birds are good for up to a year. Cooked chicken can also be frozen, but should only be kept in the freezer for 3 months.

To quickly roast a whole bird, if you want crispy skin and have time, liberally sprinkle the entire chicken with coarse salt and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight. Then, whether you salt or not, roast at 425°F (220°C) for 45 minutes to an hour, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 185°F (85°C).

STRIPPING THE BIRD

Always remember that every piece counts so once a roast chicken dinner is carved and served, there are always gems of chicken left clinging to the bones. Make the most of these leftovers! Keep the chicken intact if you know you can use it soon. Cooked chicken can be stored for 3 to 4 days in the fridge.

Once you’ve sliced off all the large pieces, use a sharp paring knife and your hands to scrape and pull off as much meat from the bones as you can. Turn the carcass over and dislodge those little morsels of meat from the bottom. They’ve simmered in all the chicken juices that collect in the bottom of the pan, creating the most succulent bits of chicken you could enjoy. I think of them as chicken oysters. If they don’t go directly into your mouth, use these juicy bits in lunch sammies and salads. Ever had a chicken omelette for dinner? These tiny pieces are ideal.

Divide the treasures you harvest from the carcass into at least three sizes and pop in separate freezer bags. The tiniest bits can be thrown into soup, or to mac and cheese if that is your kids’ go-to dinner. The next size up gets tossed into pasta sauces and stir-fries, and the largest ones reappear in casseroles, enchiladas, curries, entertaining pot pies and more. Each time you roast a whole chicken, the bags can be topped up.

Want to use a whole chicken in a recipe that calls just for parts? Then cut the bird into as equal-sized pieces as you can. That may mean that each breast is cut in two. For the easiest technique, go to HOW TO SECTION A CHICKEN on chicken.ca.

Some of the world’s best dishes—including Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic and Coq au Vin—classically start with a whole chicken that you cut into pieces. Neither requires expensive ingredients, but they are most impressive for entertaining and the bones add an incredible amount of flavour.

PARTS

When you snap up a load of cut-up pieces of chicken at a budget price spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm, then tumble into a freezer bag. This prevents them from sticking together, and makes it a snap to take out whatever number you need for dinner.

No matter which dish you want to make, many chicken parts are interchangeable. Hundreds of recipes on chicken.ca give a choice of either a whole chicken cut into serving-size pieces, or 4 breasts, or 8 thighs. Count on 2 thighs or drumsticks for every breast called for in a recipe.

It’s easy to cut those large leg and thigh portions in two and use them in separate recipes (thighs cook faster than legs) or any recipe calling for chicken parts. When entertaining, you can use these two budget pieces together in any of the many tagine recipes on chicken.ca.  Learn more

Guest Author: Monda Rosenberg

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