By Ann Sullivan
For many people eating healthy and cooking quickly can be challenging. With a little planning and the right ingredients, however, it’s possible to make quick meals which are healthy and taste great too. One key to this is to keep a list of ingredients for the recipes on your smart phone, so if you need to shop for a meal, you have a ready-made list. Non-perishable ingredients, such as basic spices, can be kept in stock and ready to use. These recipes can be prepared in 20 to 45 minutes, and will keep you eating healthy without a lot of prep time.
1) Baked Salmon with Mandarin Oranges
Start with a fresh piece of salmon – preferably wild-caught. Wash and pat the fish dry. Wipe a little olive oil over the inside surface of a glass baking dish. Place the salmon skin side down. Drizzle a little honey or agave nectar all over the fish. Sprinkle some parsley, salt & pepper over the top. Peel the orange and dice the slices, placing on top. Use the juice of a couple of slices to add some liquid to the pan. This will also help to caramelize the skin, so it comes out crispy. Alternatively, you can used canned Mandarin oranges. Bake at 350 degrees until the fish is cooked through and flakes with a fork. Baking time is approximately 20 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. Serve with a side of asparagus or other green vegetable for a complete healthy meal.
2) Shrimp Scampi with Carrots & Yellow Zucchini
Here’s an easy recipe for shrimp lovers. Start with a pound of cleaned raw shrimp. It’s okay to leave the tails on because they add flavor, but remove them before serving. Dice one large yellow zucchini. Peel one large carrot and cut into thin slices. Alternatively, you can use frozen carrots in a pinch. Dice up a few cloves of garlic and add them to a skillet with some olive oil and butter. When the garlic begins to heat up stir and add the carrots and zucchini. Add a sprinkle of fresh parsley, with a dash of salt and pepper. Cook until tender, then add the shrimp. Be careful not to over cook the shrimp. You’ll know it’s ready when the shrimp turns completely pink. If you are using shrimp which has been previously cooked, sauté it into the vegetables until it’s heated. Serve over angel hair pasta, or thin linguine.
3) Roasted Chicken with Rosemary Garlic Potatoes
Start with some cuts of chicken, thighs and legs usually work well for this. Alternatively, you can use chicken breasts. Wash the chicken pieces in a little salt water and pat dry. Rub some olive oil and a pat of butter in the bottom of a glass or ceramic baking dish. Add the chicken pieces with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of smoked paprika on top. Leave space for the potatoes. Dice up a few potatoes with a few cloves of garlic and add a little rosemary, salt and pepper. Toss together and then add it around the chicken pieces. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for another 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken pieces) so everything crisps up a bit.
4) Fresh Sauce with Ravioli
In Italian, it’s called Salsa Fresca, which means Fresh Sauce. It’s very easy to make, and quick as well. You can use either fresh tomatoes or a large can of crushed tomatoes. If you do use canned tomatoes, choose a good brand with nothing extra added. You want the fresh taste of sweet tomatoes, not a tart canned flavor. Start by sautéing a few cloves of garlic and a little finely chopped onion in some olive oil. Add the tomatoes with basil, parsley, salt, and pepper and just a small pinch of oregano, and a dash of sugar, which helps reduce the acidity. While the sauce is sautéing, cook the ravioli. The entire dish only takes about 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can substitute a vegetable pasta, tortellini, or any pasta of your choice. Serve hot with some freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
5) Fresh Tuna with Onions
Start with a good-sized piece of fresh tuna – at least a pound in size. Cut a large sweet Vidalia onion into big thick slices. Coat the bottom of the skillet with apple cider vinegar and a little water. Be sure to use fermented apple cider vinegar that has the “mother” in it (that’s the fuzzy looking substance at the bottom of the bottle). Place the fish in the skillet with the onions around it. Add some salt and pepper to taste and cover it. When the fish is cooked on one side turn it over and place some of the onions on top and cook the rest of the way. While the fish is cooking, chop up some a half head of fresh cauliflower into florets. Cauliflower is a great substitute for starch because it’s filling and loaded with nutrients. Sauté the florets in some olive oil with salt and pepper until tender.
6) Boneless Pork Chops with Sauerkraut & Apples
For this dish, use a stove-top casserole dish or skillet. Wash the pork chops and pat dry. Place some of the sauerkraut in the pan with the pork chops on top. Add the rest of the sauerkraut on top of the chops with some apple slices or wedges. You can also add a little cinnamon for an extra bit of spice. Cook on a medium heat until there is no pink in the center of the pork chops. Alternatively, you can use bone-in pork chops, depending on your preference. You can also bake this dish in the oven. Just be sure to keep the cover on the casserole dish so the juice from the sauerkraut doesn’t dry out. It’s that liquid which will cook the pork chops. When choosing sauerkraut, it’s best to use the fresh variety, which can be found in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores.
7) Thin Spaghetti with Zucchini Tomato Sauce
Here’s another super easy and quick meal. Start with two medium-sized fresh green or yellow zucchinis. Cut into thick slices and then in half. Add to a cooking pot with enough water to coat the bottom of the pot. Add some fresh chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and a dash of basil. Cover and simmer until the zucchini is half cooked. Then add one small can of plain tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. Add the equivalent can size of water. Cover and cook until the zucchini is tender but not mushy. The sauce should be almost a soup consistency. While the zucchini is simmering, you can cook your favorite angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti. Prep time for this dish is about 10-minutes and total cooking time is about 20-minutes. So, if you’re short on time, this is a delicious dish you can make in a half hour. Top with a little freshly grated cheese.
8) Baked Eggplant & Tomato Parmesan
Here’s a healthier alternative to frying eggplant to make baked eggplant Parmesan. Start with a good-sized eggplant or two small ones. Wash and cut into medium slices. Coat the bottom of a glass baking dish with olive oil and some chopped garlic. Then lightly brush each eggplant slice on both sides with olive oil and place one layer in the dish. For every slice of eggplant, cut an equal slice of beefsteak tomato and place one on top of each eggplant slice. Then add another slice of eggplant. Once your layers are assembled, pour some crushed tomatoes around the layers and add some basil, salt and pepper. Top with fresh mozzarella cheese over the top. Cover the dish and bake for 40 or so minutes on 350. Remove the cover before the last 5 minutes of baking.
9) Skillet Coconut Chicken with Vegetables
Start with medium thickness boneless chicken breasts. Lightly oil the bottom of the skillet with coconut oil. Cut the chicken into medium sized pieces and place in the center of the skillet. Dice up your fresh veggies and put them in the skillet around the chicken. You can use what you have on hand or anything you like. Add chopped onions, peas, carrots, green beans, bell peppers, broccoli florets, or whatever you like. If you don’t have fresh veggies, you can substitute frozen vegetables. Add just a little bit of water so the veggies start to steam while the chicken begins cooking. Sprinkle in some salt, pepper, and a little parsley. Cover and cook until the veggies are tender, and the chicken is cooked through with no pink in the center. Stir halfway through so the flavors blend. Then turn the chicken over so each side browns evenly.
10) Thin Linguini with Clam Sauce
For this recipe you can use 2 small cans of chopped clams or fresh clams. Drain the clams but reserve the juice. Add the equivalent of two cans of water the size of the small can the clams were in. If you use fresh clams simply wash them and place them in a pot with water to steam them open. Reserve the water and let the clams cool a bit so you can scoop the clam meat out of each shell. Add to the reserved water some olive oil, an additional can of clam stock, white wine, oregano, basil, salt, and red or black pepper and bring it to a simmer. Add the clams to the simmering water but be careful not to overcook them or they will become chewy. Simultaneously, cook your pasta. Toss the pasta with the clam sauce in a large bowl. Serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
11) Chicken Taco Salad
Here’s an easy recipe full of flavor and textures. Start with fresh chopped chicken meat or chicken breasts (diced after cooking). Sauté in a skillet with a drizzle of oil and finely chopped onions. When the chicken is almost cooked, add enough taco sauce to coat the chicken but not oversaturate it. While the chicken is cooking shred some lettuce, dice up a tomato and a red onion. Toss together in a bowl and add some black beans or chick peas and a little cooked corn. You can prepare the beans ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator. Or, use a canned variety, just rinse well before adding to the salad. When the chicken is cooked, toss it in the salad and top it with whipped or sliced avocado. You don’t need taco shells, if you’d prefer to skip the calories, but you can use some tortilla chips on top for a crunchy element without having a full taco shell.