5 Meals Every Woman Should Know How to Cook

THE RIGHT RECIPE CAN MAKE OR BREAK AN IMPORTANT EVENT. OUR EXPERTS DISH UP ADVICE FOR PREPARING FOOD THAT WILL WOW AT CRITICAL MOMENTS.

BY MAUREEN CALLAHAN, R.D.



THE SITUATION:
Breakfast the First Morning After

PERFECT MEAL TO MAKE:
Cinnamon-Vanilla French Toast with Bacon

 This French toast fills the air with vanilla and cinnamon, two scents that can help trigger arousal (round two after breakfast?). Throw some bacon in the oven (splurge on a premium variety such as Dakin Farm, Niman Ranch, Benton's Hickory Smoked Country Bacon, or Nueske's) to add protein for stamina, as well as a salty counterpoint to the sweet. He'll be in hog heaven.



4 slices premium center-cut or thick-cut bacon

2/3 cup 1% milk

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

4 slices hearty whole-grain bread Cooking spray Berries or apple slices (optional)

2 Tbsp real maple syrup

1/ Preheat oven to 375°F. Place bacon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; bake for 18 to 20

minutes or until crispy. Remove from oven and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

2/ While bacon is cooking, combine milk, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl; whisk until well blended. Pour mixture into a pie plate or shallow bowl.

3/ Dip 2 bread slices into egg mixture and let stand 30 seconds to absorb the liquid. Flip bread over and let stand in mixture another 30 seconds.

4/ Heat a nonstick skillet lightly coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add 2 dipped bread slices and cook for 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Flip over and continue cooking for 1 minute or until done. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with remaining 2 bread slices.

5/ On each plate, place 2 strips of bacon and 2 slices of French toast. Garnish with berries or apple slices, if you'd like, and serve with syrup.

MAKES 2 SERVINGS. Per serving: 374 cal, 12g fat (4g sat), 48 g carbs, 683 mg sodium, 5g fiber, 19 g protein

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THE SITUATION:
You Need an Impressive (but Easy) Party Dish

PERFECT MEAL TO MAKE:
Green Goddess Dip with Vegetables & Homemade Pita Chips

OK, so it's not a meal exactly. But showing up with a crowd-pleasing signature appetizer will always inspire great praise. This surprisingly simple yet elegant dish fits the bill.



3 6-inch whole-wheat pitas

2 tsp canola oil Cumin Chili powder Kosher salt

2 cups chopped avocado (about 2)

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (such as Fage) or plain nonfat yogurt

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2/3 cup chopped fresh chives, divided

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

7 cups assorted fresh vegetables, raw or lightly steamed (e.g., beet slices, baby carrots, sliced fennel, julienned jicama, snow peas)

1/ Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut each pita into 8 wedges. Brush with oil and sprinkle with ground cumin, chili powder, and kosher salt--all to taste. Bake for 8 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Turn off oven and let chips stand for 15 minutes or until crispy.

2/ Meanwhile, put avocado, yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, 1/3 cup chives, parsley, and salt to taste in a small food processor or blender and puree until creamy. Stir in most of remaining chives, reserving some to garnish dip.

3/ To serve, spoon the dip into a small bowl and surround with vegetables and pita chips on a platter.

MAKES 20 SERVINGS.

Per serving (2 Tbsp dip, 1/3 cup vegetables, and 1 chip): 77 cal, 3 g fat (<1 g sat), 11 g carbs, 135 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 3 g protein

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THE SITUATION:
Important Business Dinner

PERFECT MEAL TO MAKE:
Lemon-Tarragon Halibut en Papillote

The right meal (and the proper presentation) shows you're sophisticated and serious about your career, and that you have creativity and flair. Sealing fish and vegetables en papillote (French for "in paper") steams it gently, producing a foolproof moist result every time. (And the ease of preparation and cleanup gives you more time to dazzle your guests.) While these ingredients complement each other nicely, you can vary the vegetables and fish according to what's in season or your personal preference.

 

Parchment paper

1 cup thinly sliced fennel, julienned

3/4 cup snow peas, cut diagonally into thirds

1/2 cup shredded carrots

4 halibut fillets (5 oz each)

1 lemon

1 1/2 Tbsp butter, softened

2 tsp finely chopped fresh tarragon

1/ Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut parchment paper into four 18-inch-long pieces. Fold each piece in half and draw a large half heart on each piece, using the fold as the heart's center. Cut out the shape and unfold.

2/ Place fennel, snow peas, and carrots in a microwave-safe bowl with 1/4 cup water; microwave on high for 4 minutes. Drain well. Divide vegetable mixture among parchment pieces, spooning it in a shallow layer along the fold. Place fillets on top of vegetables and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper to taste.

3/ Slice lemon in half crosswise. Cut one half crosswise into 8 thin slices, then juice the remaining half. Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice, butter, and tarragon. Divide butter mixture evenly among fish packages, dotting over tops of fish. Top each fillet with 2 lemon slices. Starting at the top of each heart, fold the edges of parchment in, tucking the edges as you go. Twist the end tip to secure tightly. Place packets on baking sheet.

4/ Bake for 12 minutes or until the parchment puffs up. Place on serving plates; cut open and serve immediately.

MAKES 4 SERVINGS.

Per serving: 225 cal, 8 g fat (3 g sat), 7 g carbs, 426 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 31 g protein

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THE SITUATION: Your Best Friend's Heart Has Just Been Trampled

PERFECT MEAL TO MAKE:
Chocolate Fondue


This is your BFF we're talking about here--screw eating ice cream out of the carton. Fondue is easy and comforting, and studies show that chocolate actually helps improve mood, so she'll feel better right away. Chocolate is the star of the show, so buy the highest-quality bars and cocoa you can afford. A tiny bit of coffee, while optional, helps intensify the chocolate flavor.


2/3 cup evaporated skim milk

3 Tbsp agave nectar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee granules (optional)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 oz bittersweet chocolate (such as Ghirardelli), chopped

1 cup cubed angel food cake

2 cups fresh fruit (sliced kiwi, bananas, and mango*)

1/ Combine evaporated milk, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and espresso powder in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook until mixture begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat.

2/ Whisk in cocoa powder until well blended. Add chocolate. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk until chocolate is well blended; pour mixture into a fondue pot to keep it warm. (Add more milk if mixture becomes too thick.)

3/ Use forks or skewers to dip cake and fruit into chocolate.

MAKES 4 SERVINGS.

Per serving (1/4 cup fondue, 1/4 cup cake, and 1/2 cup fruit): 291 cal, 10 g fat (6 g sat), 52 g carbs, 146 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 7 g protein

*Note: If fresh seasonal fruits are sparse, try dipping dried fruits such as apricots, figs, apples, and dates.

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THE SITUATION: Meeting His Parents

PERFECT MEAL TO MAKE:
Classic Roast Chicken

If you prepare a dinner that's too fancy, they might wonder if you think you're too good for them. But if it's too down home, they may think you're not good enough for him! The solution? A beautiful roast chicken, with baby potatoes and colorful steamed veggies such as carrots, green beans, or broccoli.

 

1 roasting chicken (about 4 1/2 lbs)

1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme

10 thyme sprigs, divided

3 lemons, quartered Cooking spray

1/ Preheat oven to 375°F. Meanwhile, remove giblets and neck from chicken cavity; discard. Trim excess fat from chicken. Loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers and gently pushing between skin and meat.

2/ Combine chopped thyme with salt and pepper to taste, and use your fingers to rub it under chicken skin. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste inside body cavity. Place 5 thyme sprigs and 4 lemon wedges inside the cavity.

3/ Put the chicken, breast side up, on a rack coated with cooking spray. Tuck remaining lemon wedges around chicken. Place rack in roasting pan. Bake chicken for 60 to 75 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the meaty part of a thigh registers 165°F.

4/ Remove chicken from pan and put it on a plate, breast side down; let stand 15 minutes (this allows juices to flow back into breast meat). Remove skin (keep it and serve it, if desired). Carve chicken and garnish it with roasted lemon wedges and remaining sprigs of thyme.

MAKES 4 SERVINGS.

Per serving (without skin): 185 cal, 7 g fat (2 g sat), 0 g carbs, 81 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 28 g protein

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