Tag Archives: healthy dinner ideas

Creamy Peas and Panchetta Pasta

 

Nothing is quite so satisfying and delicious as enjoying a brief crop of produce in its prime.  Spring peas are a great example.  They burst into bloom in the early spring, swell to full pods, and then quickly disappear, leaving round seeds to dry and protect until next year.

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The beauty of frozen produce is that you can lock in all the enzymes and living nutrients of a fresh item and keep it for use many days or weeks or even months later.  Flash frozen vegetables can be the next best thing to right-from-the-dirt produce, and maybe even better because it is washed and minimally processed. This way, you can enjoy this fresh taste of spring any time of the year!

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The cream sauce is made with a minimal amount of fat. I used some half and half and some regular 2% milk. Add fresh grated Parmesan cheese and if you desire a tbsp or so of flour for a thick, creamy, salty sauce that tastes like velvet and will satisfy any Alfredo lover.  You can use other types of cheeses too, don’t be shy about trying mozzarella or reggiano, asiago or feta.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 – 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup torn greens of choice (kale, swiss chard, collards, spinach)
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon (optional, you can omit for a vegetarian recipe or use turkey bacon instead)
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated hard cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound cooked fresh pasta, drained

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Step 1: Boil and drain your pasta.  In a frying pan, cook the bacon until crispy.  Remove and drain all but about 2 tsp of fat*, and crumble the bacon.  Cook the peas and greens in the bacon fat for 5-10 minutes, until softened.

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Step 2: To the pan, add the milks and bring to a slow simmer.  Add the cheese and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well until thickened, add flour 1/2 tbsp at a time if desired.  Pour it over the hot drained pasta and top with a sprinkle of fresh grated cheese!

 

*If you want a vegetarian dish, omit the bacon and use vegetable of coconut oil instead!

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One-Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

 

 

Do you love tasty food?

Do you love having fewer dishes?

Do you love meals that you can make in under 30 minutes?

One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

You guys. You have to try this recipe. If you only try ONE recipe from this blog, make it this one. (Unless of course you are vegetarian or allergic to potatoes or whatever.)

This dish was inspired by one of my favorite blogs Don’t Waste the Crumbs, but upon Googling I found oodles of variations! You can use any vegetable your heart desires, change up the type of hot sauce, and add as much or as little of any type of cheese that you want. And the best part is that I nearly always have all the ingredients in the house already, so no extra trips to the store.

One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

Combined with the fact that the ingredients are all pretty darn frugal, that makes this dish an instant hit with me. Using on-sale potatoes, frozen on sale mixed veggies, and even with all the fixings, a 9×13 pan costs me under $10. It is now on my “mental rotation of last-minute meal ideas” along with stir fry, chili, and tortilla soup.

The crispy roasted potatoes, the tasty shredded chicken, spice from the hot sauce with the cooling sour cream, added health boost from the carrots and veggies… mmmm now I want some!

Pan of Baked Potato Wedges

As for the additional vegetables, I’d recommend things that you or your family like of course, and things that are quick cooking. Try spinach, peas, or thawed frozen veggies.

I used okra because I had some and I love the flavor, but go wild with mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, or broccoli. The more veggies you sneak in and slather in hot sauce the better!

Cup of Shredded Carrots

Ingredients:

  • 6-7 medium potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts
  • 2 cups vegetable of choice
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • Optional: 1/4 – 1/2 cup sour cream or Ranch
  • Optional: 1/2 – 1 cup shredded cheddar

Frying Chicken Breasts

Step 1: Dice the potatoes to about 1-inch cubes, and spread them in an oven-safe pan sprayed with cooking oil. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until soft inside and crispy outside.

While the potatoes bake, cook your chicken breasts by baking, broiling, boiling, or sauteing. Or you could start with already-cooked chicken to be ahead of the game.

Layered Baked Potato Shredded Carrots and Cooked Chicken

Step 2: Shred the cooked chicken and spread it over the baked crispy potatoes.  Add the shredded carrots and other veggies.

One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake with Sour Cream

Step 3: Layer on the hot sauce and sour cream or Ranch, if using.

One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

Step 4: Add the cheddar (or other cheese) if using. Bake at 350 for another 10-15 minutes.

One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

Step 5: Try to stop yourself from devouring the whole ooey-gooey pan all at once.

 

You are welcome.

 

One-Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

One-Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts
  • 2 cups vegetable of choice
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • Optional: 1/4 - 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Optional: 1/2 - 1 cup shredded cheddar

Instructions

  1. Cook your chicken breasts by baking, broiling, boiling, or sauteeing. Dice the potatoes and spread them in an oven-safe pan sprayed with cooking oil. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until soft inside and crispy outside.
  2. Shred the cooked chicken and spread it over the baked crispy potatoes. Add the shredded carrots and other veggies.
  3. Layer on the hot sauce and sour cream if using.
  4. Add the cheddar (or other cheese) if using. Bake at 350 for another 10-15 minutes.
  5. Try to stop yourself from devouring the whole ooey-gooey pan all at once.
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Cashew Ginger Chicken Stir Fry

 

You know my biggest topics I love to talk about are: 1) Healthy food, 2) Delicious & New foods, and 3) Affordable food, right?  Well, if you didn’t you do now.

Not much lights me up more than finding or creating a recipe that is good for you, quick and easy to make, and also draws rave reviews from a somewhat finicky eater.  Stir fry is almost always one of those meals.  Stir fry is always in my top ten for one simple reason: you can put just about anything in it.

Seriously.  Chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, scrambled eggs, fish, tofu, tempeh.  Broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, water chestnuts.  Ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, onions, garlic, nuts.

All of the above.

Sure, there are sometimes occasional fails (for the love of god, do not put oregano into your stir fry, just trust me. Also this is proof I’ve loved stir fry at least since 2011, and how far both my cooking and writing have come since then!).  But the majority of the time, the recipe of Protein + Veggie + Rice + Sauce = Magic.

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For this particular recipe, I had just made a batch of My Homemade Pickled Ginger and it had aged in the refrigerator a week or two, so I was eager to try it out.  I also had some black sesame seeds which had been a Christmas gift and I still hadn’t yet used.  Combine that with a cheap $1 store bagged mix of broccoli slaw, free green onions that grow wild in my yard, a cup of brown rice, and some other ingredients I always have on hand, and I had a super quick, super cheap, and super satisfying dinner.

A few notes on substitutions:  If you do not like cashews or don’t buy them because of cost, you can easily substitute peanuts or almonds.  Or if you’re allergic, definitely omit them!  (You could add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a boost of vitamins if you like).  If you don’t like onions, use chives, or parsley, or just don’t add it in.  I used brown rice because I like the texture and I like the nutrition as compared to white, but you can totally use white rice, or a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture!  You can use shredded or powdered ginger instead of fresh.  And if you don’t like bagged store mixes, feel free to shred your own broccoli, cabbage, and/or carrots.

Cashew Ginger Chicken Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked diced or shredded chicken
  • 1 bag broccoli slaw mix
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock (or veggie stock or water)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp sliced pickled ginger
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp crushed cashew pieces
  • 2 tbsp chopped green onion/chives
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

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Step 1: Put the bagged slaw mix and mushrooms in a large pan with the olive oil and stock or water and cover.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Once the veggies are softened, remove the lid and add the soy sauce and ginger.  Add in the chicken, mix well to coat, and let the liquid evaporate until most is gone.

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Step 2: Put about 1/2 cup cooked rice and 1/2 the cooked mixture on a place in whatever way visually pleases you.

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Step 3: Sprinkle the crushed cashews and green onions on top.  Add a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and enjoy!

Mediterranean Meatloaf Muffins

 

How many of you like food that is tasty?

Everyone? Yeah, I thought so.

How many of you like food that is really easy to prepare and cook?

Again, lots of hands.

And how about food that is actually healthy?

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What if I told you I can give you all three?

Oh yes, it is possible.

These Mediterranean meatloaf cakes are super easy, take less than 30 minutes to make, are fairly affordable, and overall quite healthy.  You can make a few dozen at a time and freeze them for later too, if you’re so inclined.  You can also make one large meatloaf using the same ingredients and a bread pan rather than muffins.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef, turkey, chicken or pork
  • 1/2 cup raw oats
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup greens (spinach, kale, collards, etc)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp garlic salt

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Step 1: In a large bowl, mix  together all your ingredients.  You can also grate the vegetables if you want them even more mixed in and less noticeable.  If you don’t want to use oats, you can use breadcrumbs or crackers instead.

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Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a muffin tin with vegetable oil, and pack about 1/4-1/3 cup into each muffin depression.

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Step 3: Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until totally cooked throughout.  You can top these with gravy, traditional meatloaf sauce, or just serve em up plain like I did.  They go great with baked or mashed potatoes on the side.

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And they’re so pretty!

Quinoa & Bean Quesadilla

 

In the pursuit of creating meals which are both vegan and yet so delicious my total carnivore fiancee doesn’t even notice it’s vegan, you win some & you lose some.

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This was a definite win.

The way I see it, it has all the things a quesadilla should: meaty fillings (‘meaty’ like you feel full after eating it, not actual meat; in this case beans & quinoa), gooey stick-together-ness (avocado), and lots of flavor (roasted peppers & spices). Warmed up for a crunchy exterior with soft goodness inside, this will make everyone happy regardless of dietary preference.

This makes 2 servings. And best of all, you sneak in almost a whole cup of veggies per serving! I won’t tell if you won’t.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tortillas
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper slices
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup cooked white beans
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • Cooking oil
  • Optional: nutritional yeast

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Step 1: Cook your quinoa according to package. Likely you mix 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup water, bring to a boil, then cover & let sit 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Set up your station.

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Step 2: If you have the time, caramelize your pepper pieces by heating in a frying pan over medium heat just until they begin to char. This brings out their innate sweetness. If not, raw pepper will work just as well, the finished product may be crunchier.

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Step 3: On one tortilla, cut half the avocado, &  spread it around. This acts like a paste to hold your quesadilla together. Layer on half the spinach, and season as you wish. (Basil, garlic salt, cilantro, lime…)

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Step 4: On the other tortilla, layer the quinoa, beans (cooked according to directions, or from a can), peppers, and if using sprinkle on some nutritional yeast. It is not required, it just gives an extra ‘cheesy’ taste & you guessed it, nutrition. (You can also use dairy cheese if not vegan).

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Step 5: Spray or grease a frying pan. Place the one tortilla on top of the other, carefully, and place in the pan. Fry for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown and crisp, then carefully flip the whole thing. Use two spatulas if you need to. Crisp the other side 4-5 minutes.

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Cut with a knife or pizza roller, and enjoy! This baby is chock-full of good stuff, and creates a great taste & texture combo that really satisfies.

 

Quinoa & Bean Quesadilla

Ingredients

  • 4 tortillas
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper slices
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup cooked white beans
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • Cooking oil
  • Optional: nutritional yeast

Instructions

  1. Cook your quinoa according to package. Likely you mix 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup water, bring to a boil, then cover & let sit 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Set up your station.
  2. If you have the time, caramelize your pepper pieces by heating in a frying pan over medium heat just until they begin to char. This brings out their innate sweetness. If not, raw pepper will work just as well, the finished product may be crunchier.
  3. On one tortilla, cut half the avocado, & spread it around. This acts like a paste to hold your quesadilla together. Layer on half the spinach, and season as you wish. (Basil, garlic salt, cilantro, lime...)
  4. On the other tortilla, layer the quinoa, beans (cooked according to directions, or from a can), peppers, and if using sprinkle on some nutritional yeast. It is not required, it just gives an extra 'cheesy' taste & you guessed it, nutrition. (You can also use dairy cheese if not vegan).
  5. Spray or grease a frying pan. Place the one tortilla on top of the other, carefully, and place in the pan. Fry for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown and crisp, then carefully flip the whole thing. Use two spatulas if you need to. Crisp the other side 4-5 minutes.
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Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

 

A favorite of some, a mystery to others, the sweet potato is a nutritional powerhouse long under-appreciated by the mainstream. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, copper, and several B vitamins. They also contain digestive-health-promoting fiber, potassium, and phosphorus.

Luckily more and more people are getting on the sweet potato band wagon. While delicious on its own baked or steamed with a drizzle of cinnamon-sugar or maple syrup, there are many ways to use this delightful vegetable. Cook as you would a regular white potato and use instead for healthful results.

This recipe takes a classic comfort food and switches up the ingredients to create a new classic that’s far more nutritious and healthy. Small swaps can lead to big results, and can introduce your taste buds to whole new worlds. Starting small is a good way to slowly introduce someone (or yourself) to a new flavor without being overwhelming.

I use half white and half sweet potatoes for the topping here, and create my own creamy filling to keep the fat content in check. Stuffing as many extra veggies as possible in is also a great addition.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 regular potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded cooked turkey or chicken
  • 1 16oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1/2 cup soy/almond milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt

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Step 1: Dice your potatoes into small chunks. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and simmer the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Drain, and mash together.

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Step 2: Spray an oven-safe pan, and add the frozen mixed vegetables. You could microwave and thaw them first if you have time. Add the milk, sour cream, and turkey and mix well. Leave the turkey out if you’d like a vegetarian dish.

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Step 3: Cover the veggies with the mashed potatoes. Pop into the oven at 350 for 45-60 minutes. Cook longer if you didn’t thaw the veggies first, less time if using fresh chopped veggies that are dry.

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Scoop out a helping and season as you wish. The sweet potatoes do live up to their name and will add a slight sweet taste to the dish. I think just about any mix of veggies would work here, but I especially liked the broccoli/cauliflower and zucchini. This dish has tons of healthy nutrients and minerals with very little fat.

 

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 regular potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded cooked turkey or chicken
  • 1 16oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1/2 cup soy/almond milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt

Instructions

  1. Dice your potatoes into small chunks. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and simmer the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Drain, and mash together.
  2. Spray an oven-safe pan, and add the frozen mixed vegetables. You could microwave and thaw them first if you have time. Add the milk, sour cream, and turkey and mix well. Leave the turkey out if you'd like a vegetarian dish.
  3. Cover the veggies with the mashed potatoes. Pop into the oven at 350 for 45-60 minutes. Cook longer if you didn't thaw the veggies first, less time if using fresh chopped veggies that are dry.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/comfort-food/sweet-potato-shepherds-pie/

How to health-ify pizza

 

Who doesn’t love pizza? Chewy dough, crispy crust, tangy sauce, myriad toppings. I adore pizza in all its many forms. Deep dish, thin crust, stuffed crust, veggie, pockets, rolls.

The problem is that chain pizza is really not healthy. We all know this. Mountains of cheese, grease that literally drips from each slice, fatty processed meats as the most popular toppings, and dough made with bleached white flour.

However, most people do not want to make a cauliflower crust, with ground flax and chia seed, all-veggie pizza with no sauce and kale.

There must be some middle ground.

Turns out there is! Good news, you can have you pie and eat it too. (Pizza pie that is) If you really have a craving, go ahead and order that $5 hot and ready. But every little step you take to healthify it will contribute to your long-term overall health.

Simply start with the addition of 1 cup of vegetables to your meal every day, and your body will thank you. It’s easier than you think!

Besides adding good stuff, you can also cut down on the not-so-good stuff. Try one step each time, and see which suit your tastes. Over time, your taste buds will become used to less and less fat and salt, and will come to appreciate new flavors.

Here are some tips:

  • Ask for half the amount of cheese, or no cheese at all
  • Opt for vegetable toppings like mushroom, onion, and spinach rather than bacon, sausage, or pepperoni
  • Make pizza at home with store-bought or preferably from scratch dough and fresh vegetables (a great way to clean the fridge!)
  • Just have one slice, and add a bowl of soup or salad to the meal
  • Buy a plain pizza (which will save you money too) and top with your own grilled vegetables at home
    • Topping ideas: wilted spinach, steamed kale, red bell peppers, sliced onions, banana peppers, microwaved sweet potato slices, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, squash, tomatoes

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Do you have any ideas of your own on how to health-ify pizza?