Healthy Tasty Easy Recipes
Who has time to cook? Well, I usually don't, but I also refuse to eat most of the ready-to-eat meals or microwave dinners that one can easily find at the grocery store. Most of these have mile-long lists of ingredients that can't possibly be good for you. Furthermore, at least to my finicky French palate, these are not very good tasting either. So, I have to be more creative.
Here are some of my favorite recipes, among many that I invented or adapted over the years from more traditional recipes, focusing on preparations that are easy to make, fast, and yet nutritious and tasty. I have also listed a couple of my mom's traditional French recipes. I make these occasionally when we "need" a special treat.
Note that I am not giving a lot of details. There are many sites where you can find recipes described in excruciating details. The major point here to give you ideas. Most of these recipes are fast, fast, fast, and yet GOOD.
Do yourself a favor and buy a rice cooker. Prepare large amounts when you have time (I often use Basmati rice, which has this wonderful nutty aroma, and goes well with most dishes). Place single or double servings in little plastic bags, which you flatten before freezing (this makes thawing easier, and even allows you to break out a smaller portion if needed without thawing the whole thing).
In my own rice cooker, I need 2 volumes of water for each volume of Basmati rice. For brown rice, I use instead 3 volumes of water, and I add a cube of beef broth and a little bit of red pepper. Having bags of frozen brown rice in the freezer is useful when you are particularly hungry (see brown rice and steamed zucchinis recipe below).
Other foods and ingredients that are good to keep in the freezer:
- Wheat tortillas and breads (my favorites are Afghan and various Indian breads). Just pop these in the microwave as needed.
- Chopped shallots and parsley, frozen separately in plastic bags.
- Fresh pasta (keep an assortment: linguini, fettuccini, ravioli, etc.)
- Pesto sauce. Buy the best one you can find or afford. Freeze as a thin layer in a plastic bag, so that you can easily cut out a piece of the appropriate size.
Perfect breakfast has to include fruit and a source of complex carbohydrates. Most commercially available cereals contain a lot of sugar and additional vitamins, which you absolutely don't need if you eat a balanced diet. Here is what I finally decided was the "perfect", easy-to-prepare breakfast:
Fruit and rice:
Preparation is less than 3 min: Transfer frozen rice from one pouch (see above) into microwave-compatible bowl. Microwave 1-2 min. Add fruit (apples, bananas, pears, melon, grapes, whatever you prefer). My personal favorite is rice and mango!
Banana and cashew nuts:
No preparation needed except for peeling the banana. Can you handle that? Eat both together: satisfying and yummy!
Rice and fruit: the perfect breakfast
SUPERQUICK-YET-TASTY LUNCH IDEAS
Preparation time: 2 min
Cut 1/2 avocado in pieces, lay on top of naam bread (buy these in packs, keep in freezer, thaw one slice at a time 20-30 sec in microwave). You can use a wheat tortilla instead of naam bread.
Preparation time: 3 min
Peel a piece of daicon and cut it into very thin slices. Alternatively, you can also use regular pink radishes. Lay on tope of toasted white bread with mayonnaise.
Thaw frozen vegetable burger in microwave (1 min). I use a type that contains spicy black beans and is delicious as compared to many other brands. Meanwhile, toast some bread. Make burger sandwich with lots of good mustard and ketchup.
Variety here is only limited by your imagination (and the current content of your fridge and cupboards). Here are some of the simple salads that I often make:
1) Lettuce, red kidney beans and tomatoes, topped with some sunflower seeds.
2) Lettuce, tomatoes and tuna fish. Top with your favorite croutons.
3) Endives, apples, and walnuts. A surprisingly delicious combination!
Salad dressing: 3 parts of olive oil to 2 parts of vinegar (buy a really great vinegar made from a good red wine), salt and black pepper to taste. Add chopped shallots (very important ingredient), and, if desired, chopped parsley.
For variety, you can occasionally replace the olive oil by cream (crema mexicana type).
Sweet pea salad:
Preparation: <5 min
Buy frozen baby sweet peas. Thaw by running hot water over the peas placed in a colander for a minute or two. Serve with the dressing of your choice. I use a mixture of a good mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper.
Steamed zucchinis and brown rice:
Preparation and cooking time: 15-20 min
Wash and peel zucchinis. Cut in 1/2 inch slices and steam (takes about 13 min). Serve with brown rice. You can sprinkle a little black pepper and parmesan cheese on top of the zucchinis if you want.
Pasta al pesto:
Preparation: 10 min
Bring salted water to a boil. Add linguini (use fresh pasta stored either in the fridge or frozen). Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and cook for just a few minutes (do not overcook!). Drain pasta in colander. Serve with pesto sauce and topped with shredded parmesan cheese.
FRENCH FRIES AND OTHER "JUNK FOODS"
French fries: Yes! French fries! Perhaps not as fast as you would like, but as simple to prepare and as healthy as it comes for French fries.
Preparation: < 5 min. Cooking time: 25 min
Turn on oven to 450 (do not preheat). Spread frozen French fries (buy some that are not too greasy) onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and a generous amount of paprika. Place in the middle of the oven and cook for 25 min.
Preparation: <2 min.
Spread corn chips on a microwavable plate and top with pieces of non-fat cheddar cheese slices. Sprinkle a little bit of Swiss cheese on top. Microwave for 30 sec.
IF YOU HAVE A LITTLE MORE TIME
Yummy veggies and fresh pasta: This recipe is healthy, incredibly good, and very, very satisfying.
Needed ingredients: Tomatoes, zucchinis, shallots, parsley, olive oil, fines herbes, salt, pepper, pasta, parmesan cheese
Preparation: Cut tomatoes and zucchinis in slices (about equal volumes). Mix in large baking dish after adding generous amounts of chopped shallots and parsley. Sprinkle with fines herbes, black pepper to taste, and a little bit of olive oil. Bake at 425 for 30-40 min, stirring occasionally to distribute the moisture after the first 25 min. When the vegetables are nearly cooked, spread grated parmesan cheese on top and cook for an additional 5 min.
Serve with whole-wheat pasta.
Variant: For a change, use as main vegetables mushrooms, bok choi and green onions. In this case, you may need to add a little bit of chicken broth to keep the vegetable moist during cooking.
Portabello mushroom and cheese sauce wrap:
Ingredients: For 2-3 servings, use 2 mushrooms and 1 large red bell pepper, and some chicken broth. You also need Montery Jack cheese or sliced Mozarella cheese (in either case, I use a non-fat variety, but you can use the regular type if you prefer) .
Preparation: Cut the mushrooms and peppers in 1/2 inch pieces. Start cooking in a pan containing a little bit of olive oil and a teaspoon of crushed garlic. Stir occasionally. Keep cooking for about 5-8 min, adding a little chicken broth from time to time to make sure that the vegetables stay moist. Meanwhile, prepare a creamy sauce by melting the cheese in a little bit of milk, stirring often. Also heat wheat tortillas for 10 sec (20 sec. if kept frozen) in the microwave.
Prepare the wraps by spreading the cooked vegetables on the tortillas, top with the melted cheese and roll. Enjoy!
Here again, you need to use your imagination to invent recipes that fit your taste and the content of your fridge. Most vegetables are delicious if you just chop them and cook them in broth. If you are particularly hungry, add some pasta (e.g., vermicelli). You can also thicken the soup by adding some mash potato flakes just before serving.
Spinach, black beans and spicy sausage: Simple to make, hearty, and surprisingly good.
Ingredients for 3-4 servings: 1 quart of chicken broth, 1/2 pound of frozen spinach, 1 link (or other type of spicy sausage), 1 can of black bean soup.
Preparation: Cut sausage in very thin slices (if you keep these in the freezer, just thaw it first for 20-30s in the microwave). Place broth, sausage slices and spinach in pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 5-10 min. Add can of black bean soup, mix and serve.
Tarte aux poires (pear pie):
Ingredients: The best pears you can find, cinnamon, sugar, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla, and a frozen pie shell.
Preheat over to 385o.
Peel the pears and cut them in slices. Place the pear pieces in an artistic, decorative fashion on top of the frozen pie crust (like real chefs do) or just toss them in there randomly like I do (the taste will be the same). Sprinkle with sugar and a lot of powdered cinnamon.
In a bowl, place 2 eggs, 2-3 table spoons of sugar (adjust to taste, but if the pears are ripe, you don't need a lot of sugar), a little bit of vanilla, a pinch of salt, and 3/4 cup of milk. Beat with a fork, and spread the mixture over the fruit.
Bake at 385oC for 40 min. This pie is just delicious if eaten warm. It is also quite good cold.
Tarte à l'orange (orange pie):
Ingredients: 1 pie crust, 1 egg, 5 heaping table spoons of sugar, 1/3 stick of butter, the juice of one orange (with the pulp), 2 table spoons of (dried) orange peel
Preheat oven to 385.
Preparation (5 min): Melt the butter in a small pan over very low heat. Beat the egg with the sugar. Add the orange juice into the egg and sugar mixture, then add the melted butter and orange peel. Mix again. Pour into pie crust. Bake for 30 min.
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