I love to cook. Why then, I asked myself a few months ago, was my "homemade" dinner a can of soup with a side of microwave popcorn? Easy: I'm busy. Plus, if I make a meal to savor solo, I will (1) down it in one sitting or (2) eat it for lunch and dinner until I can't stand it anymore and feel guilty when I toss the rest.
Then, a brainstorm: I'd start a supper club with my friends. We'd make healthy dinners, divide them into single servings (portion control!), swap andviolatasty meals for our freezers. Beautiful. And easy. You've got nothing to lose except some leftover chili.
GET IT TOGETHER
Find friends with similar eating preferences. Agree on a goal, however simple (my fellow clubbers and I vowed to "eat better"), but don't worry if you don't share all the same favorite foods. Having a vegetarian (Jess) among us was great. We learned to make our favorite meals meatless and picked up cooking techniques unfamiliar to most carnivores. Really, who knows how to press tofu?
Our guide: Thirty percent or less of the calories in our dishes could come from fat. But we had individual requests too: Holly wanted to increase her protein intake; Camille was looking to add color to a "beige" diet. We decided to meet monthly, clearing meals with each other in advance to make sure we'd have a variety of healthy helpings that sounded appetizing to everyone.
Stock up on plastic tubs and zipper bags for transporting and freezing.
DEVISE A DINNER PLAN
We took turns hosting. This was fair and justified lots of home purchases: a food processor, martini glassesit was supposed to be fun, after all.
For our first dinner, we arrived with eight servings of our dishes. We sampled some of each, then packed portions for freezing. Not the best plan: We all took home one and a half servings of every entrée, meaning we'd each eaten four half servings, or two full meals. We were stuffed; the kitchen was a wreck.
By the next time, we'd figured out it was better to pre-pack portions for distribution and serve one meal (plus dessert prepared by the hostess) that night. This left lots of time for gossiping and watching Sex and the City.
DIG IN (AGAIN)
Enjoy the fruits (and veggies and casseroles) of your labor. Then decide what to make for next month's eating meeting.
What to bring? Here's help
Some of our supper club's favorite recipe resources:
www.epicurious.com Search lowfat dishes among the 13,000-plus recipes that have appeared in Gourmet and Bon Appètit.
www.foodfit.com Looking to add more of the good while reducing the bad? This site's recipe finder offers dishes "rich in vegetables" or "rich in grains," among other categories.
Looneyspoons Low-Fat Food Made Fun! (Putnam) Sisters Janet and Greta Podleski present easy recipes in a lively way.
And don't forget SELF's regular Healthy Plate dish. None gets more than 30 percent of it's calories from fat.