I went to French culinary school. People ask me often if I cook a lot. I don’t come home after a long day and make myself coq-au-vin. I don’t prepare cassoulet after a busy day. I’m not in my kitchen at 10 o’clock on a Wednesday putting the finishing touches on blanquette de veau. These dishes are delicious, decadent delights. And I do occasionally make those dishes. On Saturday, I made Pots de Crème with Riesling-Poached Grapes for a dinner party. These little desserts are divine. The recipe also calls for 2 ¼ cups of heavy cream. The active time took me over 40 minutes and with baking and chilling, the total time for the recipe is over 5 hours and 40 minutes. Just the pots de crème (without the poached grapes) have approximately 417 calories per serving. It’s a wonderful indulgence. It’s not something to make or eat everyday.
Most nights I do cook for myself and finding a balanced meal between veal in cream sauce and eating yogurt for dinner keeps me fit to lead. I would like to make myself a three-course dinner with a side and a salad or a healthy soup, but even if it were very healthy, doing that every night, my jeans wouldn’t fit day after day. Also, when I come in the door at eight or nine o’clock, I want dinner right away. So if I haven’t made something in advance, some night I do something I call “fixing the freezer.” I take a veggie burger base of some kind and I add something to it. I like ones where you can actually add something you have cooked best. My preference is low-sugar eating so I always skip the bun. These burgers are pretty low in fat, calories and carbohydrates so you can add a lot if you’re skipping the bun trying to make a meal. Here are a few of my favorite fixes.
Veggie with an Egg Top
1 Plain or “Breakfast” veggie burger
2-4 tablespoons salsa
1 45-calorie thin-slice cheddar cheese
Non-stick cooking spray
Suggested Directions: Microwave the veggie patty. While it’s cooking, spray a skillet with non-stick cooking spray, heat and crack and egg in the pan. Cook the egg. The burger and the egg may finish at roughly the same time. When they do, layer the cheese, then the egg and spoon the salsa on top.
Bacon, soy or turkey
Suggested Directions: Cook burger. Cook bacon to taste or package instructions. I prefer to do turkey bacon in a skillet but it can be done in the microwave or the over. I’m not a vegetarian anymore, so I have no problem mixing meat and soy. For those looking for a strict veggie meal, try a veggie product that can be done in the microwave when your burger is done. Layer lettuce, tomato, bacon, or lettuce, bacon, tomato or to taste.
California Turkey Burgers
1 “Turkey” veggie burger
Suggested Assembly: Cook burger. Layer avocado, tomato, lettuce and sprouts according to taste.
1 tomato-basil veggie burger
1 slice fresh mozzarella cheese or 1 40 calorie thin-slice mozzarella cheese
1 slice tomato
1 basil, sliced to top
Suggested Assembly: Cook burger. Slice basil. Layer cheese, tomato and top with chiffonade of basil.
1 plain veggie burger
Low Fat, Fat Free or Zero Calorie Thousand Island Dressing
1 slice 45 calorie thin cheese
No sugar pickles
Red onion, sliced
Optional, one slice turkey or soy bacon
Suggested Directions: Cook burger and bacon according to taste. Spread dressing on the patty. Top with cheese. Top with pickles. Add slice of onion.
It is not cassoulet, but at eight o’clock on a weekday night, these are filling, balanced dinners that leave me feeling refreshed after and recharged both in mind and body because I am nourished, satisfied and feel fit to lead!
 Recipe available at Epicurious, Christensen, Ashley. “Pots De Crème with Riesling-Poached Grapes.” Epicurious. Bon Appétit, Sept. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. <http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/pots-de-creme-with-riesling-poached-grapes-367175>.
 Nutritional calculation provided by SuperTracker, available at https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/myrecipe.aspx