Ellie Berlin: Marketing and special events manager for designer Tory Burch

The Challenge:
Ellie, 27, works long hours and is seldom in the mood to cook at night. "By the time I get home, especially after working out at the gym, I am so exhausted that I just want to zone out," she says. "Since I live in New York City, it's really easy to order takeout." Ellie, whose dad is a great cook, admits that she would love to learn how to prepare dinners for herself and gain the confidence to entertain friends.

The Strategy: If Ellie takes some time on weekends to plan her weeknight meals and prepare a handful of dishes, she can come home to leftovers that she can reheat, eat cold, or add to other dishes—such as a room temperature salad or a store-bought soup. And she'd be wise to make extra of things like dressings and marinades, since they'll allow her to quickly cook flavorful meals later in the week. The garlicky hoisin marinade, for example, is used here with chicken, but is also delicious with pork loin, lamb chops, and shrimp. The lemon-soy dressing complements most vegetables, and she can add chopped garlic or fresh herbs (such as dill, cilantro, basil, or tarragon) to alter the flavor. Instant couscous, a grainlike pasta, takes mere minutes to cook and makes a satisfying side dish. With a single midweek grocery run for fresh meat and vegetables, Ellie can restock her leftover supply in under half an hour. And with the addition of a bottle of wine and a store-bought dessert, she has a menu suitable for entertaining.


Hoisin "Barbecued" Chicken

Crisp-Tender Broccoli in Lemon-Soy Dressing

Instant Couscous


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