Eating for Life

Zesty recipes for seniors

Cooking for one or two doesn't have to be a chore if you cook once and eat twice.

Instead of relying on high-sodium, high-fat, prepared meals from the grocer's freezer, make this recipe and use the freezer to keep a customized TV dinner made from the leftovers. Simply portion the servings into a plastic freezer bag or another airtight container then seal, label and date. Later, defrost in the refrigerator or microwave. To reheat, cover and place in the microwave or heat in a skillet and simmer, covered, with additional broth to keep it moist. Reheat until the dish is heated through rather than just comfortably warm to the palate. Of course, if you don't want to save portions for another day, invite a friend over for dinner instead. It's also a good dish to take to neighborhood potlucks and church socials.

Honey mustard chicken and carrots

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2/3 cup fat-free, sodium-reduced chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons honey mustard

1 (16-ounce) package fresh baby carrots

2 green onions, chopped

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown well on both sides. Stir together broth, thyme, lemon pepper, garlic powder and honey mustard; pour over chicken. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Add carrots, reduce heat to medium, and cook, covered, about 15 minutes for crisp-tender texture or 20 to 25 minutes for softer carrots; stir carrot and chicken mixture several times during cooking so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Chicken is fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees on a meat thermometer. Garnish with green onions. Serve about half of Honey Mustard Chicken and Carrots, and reserve half for Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Barley.

Per serving: 218 calories (25 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 66 milligrams cholesterol, 11 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams protein, 346 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Spinach frittata

For a super meatless main dish that's versatile enough to serve for breakfast or supper, try a frittata. Pronounced frih-TAH-tuh, it's simply an Italian omelet. Think of it as a quiche without a crust - or all the fat.

We've removed some of the fat by using reduced-calorie margarine and some of the cholesterol by using a pasteurized egg product. Next we added more than a handful of spinach, which has plenty of iron, phytochemicals and vitamin C.

Pump it up: If you're not concerned about the calorie count, substitute heart-healthy olive oil instead of margarine, which may contain trans fats.

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons reduced-calorie stick margarine

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

3 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach

1 1/2 cups cholesterol-free egg product

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

2 green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

Prepared salsa, for serving

Melt margarine in 9- to 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms and sauté until tender. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, just until wilted.

Stir together egg product, salt and hot pepper sauce; pour over spinach. Cook, covered, over low heat, until egg product is set, about 5 to 7 minutes. (Watch carefully, and lift edges of set egg product gently as needed to allow uncooked egg product to flow under cooked portion.) Garnish top with green onions and shredded mozzarella cheese. Cut into wedges to serve. Garnish each wedge with salsa.

Per serving: 92 calories (35 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 2 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, 324 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Roasted fish and vegetables

The American Heart Association encourages Americans to eat at least two fish meals a week. If fresh fish is difficult to keep on hand frozen fillets work well. We tested the recipe with orange roughy, but any firm white fish will do.

The roasted vegetables in this dish are beautiful to look at but also offer plenty of nutrition, including fiber, vitamins and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which may be a stronger antioxidant than even beta carotene. The red peppers add lutein and zeaxanthin to the diet, both antioxidants which may prevent cancer, heart disease, macular degeneration and possibly cataracts. Asparagus contains fiber as well as vitamin B6, which is believed to boost the immune system.

Cooking tip: To trim the asparagus, simply bend the stalk until it snaps; discard the woody end.

Makes 2 to 3 servings

1/2 small onion, cut into quarters

1/2 red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 small, new potatoes, scrubbed and halved

4 asparagus spears, tough stem ends removed

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, divided

2 (4-ounce) fish fillets, such as orange roughy, snapper, or cod

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place onion, red pepper, zucchini, potatoes and asparagus in resealable zip-top plastic bag. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over vegetables and sprinkle with salt, pepper and 61/47 teaspoon garlic powder; seal bag and shake to coat vegetables evenly. Arrange onion, red pepper, zucchini and potatoes in 9-by-13-inch baking dish. (Reserve asparagus). Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Brush fish with remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil. Stir vegetables, and move to sides of dish. Place fish fillets in center of dish. Blend tomatoes, remaining garlic powder and basil; pour tomatoes over fish. Arrange asparagus on top of tomatoes. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork and vegetables are crisp-tender.

Per serving, based on 2: 344 calories (5 percent from fat), 2 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), 23 milligrams cholesterol, 60 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 373 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.

Chicken with broccoli and rice casserole

Is it easy to overlook eating enough vegetables? Not if you incorporate them into one dish. We've paired chicken with broccoli, the superstar of vegetables if there ever was one. Brown rice adds fiber. And you won't notice the reduced fat in the cream soup because curry adds great flavor.

Cooking tip: In general, reduced-fat cheeses don't melt as well as full-fat varieties. In this recipe we went with the reduced-fat because the casserole is already quite creamy in texture.

Makes 6 servings

1 (16-ounce) package frozen broccoli florets

8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed reduced-fat cream of chicken soup

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt

1/4 cup skim milk

2 cups cooked brown rice

1 cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese

Cook broccoli according to package directions and set aside.

Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Spray a large skillet with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Add chicken and season with curry powder. Cook, stirring, until chicken is fully cooked; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a bowl, stir together reduced-fat soup, yogurt and milk. Stir in cooked chicken. Place the cooked rice on the bottom of the prepared dish. Top with cooked broccoli and then cover with chicken soup mixture. Top with cheese. Bake 25 to 35 minutes.

Per serving: 224 calories (14 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 33 milligrams cholesterol, 28 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 386 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.

Blueberry granola

Breakfast cereal is a favorite way to get whole grains into the diet, but often commercial granola brands are high in fat and added sugar. Make your own and you can control the ingredients. We added blueberries, which are bursting with phytochemicals that can improve your memory and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. We also added cashews because new research has found the fat in nuts is actually good for the heart.

If you don't want to give up your favorite breakfast cereal, simply add a little granola to it. It freezes well, so don't be shy about the large serving size.

Shopping tip: Look for dried blueberries in the produce aisle or the baking aisle with the dried fruits, such as raisins.

Pump it up: Add a sprinkle of granola to puddings, yogurt, ice cream, a bowl of fresh fruit. Or simply eat it out of hand. It's that good.

Makes 10 servings (about 1/2 cup each)

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2/3 cup unsalted cashew halves

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

1/3 cup molasses

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup dried blueberries

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.

Combine the oats, cashews, wheat germ and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the molasses, honey, oil, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour molasses mixture over oat mixture and stir well to combine. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake 30 minutes or until golden, stirring after 15 minutes and frequently after that. Remove from oven and cool completely. Stir blueberries into granola mixture.

Per serving: 317 calories (27 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 52 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 8 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber.

Chicken and vegetable soup with barley

The vegetables and barley add plenty of fiber to this soup. For ease of preparation, make some Honey Mustard Chicken and Carrots one day and enjoy this Chicken and Vegetable Barley Soup the next. Or you can save a few servings for a future meal as the soup freezes well.

Makes 6 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil

3/4 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth

1 cup water

2 cups chopped, cooked skinless chicken breast (may use a portion of Honey Mustard Chicken and Carrots)

1 cup chopped, cooked carrots (may use a portion of Honey Mustard Chicken and Carrots)

1/2 cup frozen peas or mixed vegetables

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup quick-cooking barley

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are very tender but not brown. Add remaining ingredients. Heat to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 to 25 minutes.

Per serving: 203 calories (13 percent from fat), 3 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 46 milligrams cholesterol, 17 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 354 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.

Cherry rice pudding

Scientists have found that as we age our taste buds become less sensitive. That's why it's often more difficult to sense thirst. So Tufts University created a Food Pyramid for older adults that places water at the bottom, a reminder to drink at least 8 glasses a day.

Of course, that doesn't mean just water, but foods with a high liquid content. Soups, puddings and watery vegetables such as cucumbers and celery count.

The soy milk in this recipe not only adds liquid to the diet, though; it also adds a raft of essential nutrients. This high-quality plant protein adds soluble fiber and loads of phytonutrients to the diet. It can even lower cholesterol levels. If tofu isn't your favorite form of soy, try vanilla-flavored soy milk. We think you'll change your mind.

Makes 4 servings

1 (3-ounce) package vanilla pudding mix (not instant)

1 1/2 cups vanilla soy milk

1 3/4 cups cooked brown rice

3 tablespoons dried cherries, chopped

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Combine pudding mix and milk in a saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Serve warm or chilled.

Per serving: 227 calories (10 percent from fat), 3 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 47 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 319 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.