Quick ‘N Healthy Meals You Can Whip Up Without Any Fuss
Make your New Year’s resolution to start eating healthy stick this time around. The secret is in coming up with dishes you’ll actually look forward to enjoying. When we think of eating healthy, we tend to imagine flat, tasteless meals, unimaginative iceberg lettuce salads with a few token croutons, watery, bland oatmeal. But healthy and nutritious can be delicious, and quick and easy to prepare too! The emphasis here is on using the best and freshest ingredients (organic, if possible). All these meals can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.
Stuffed Eggplants with Mushrooms
Eggplants can be rather oily when they are fried, so we’ve opted to partially bake them here as ‘shells’ instead. Besides being healthier and less calorific, these baked eggplant shells also have a wonderfully smoky flavor that pairs very well with cheese, mushrooms, and fresh basil.
6 medium-sized eggplants
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. Slice eggplants in half lengthwise leaving the stem intact. Scoop out half of the eggplant flesh with a teaspoon and set aside. Brush the eggplants with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place the eggplants in a baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. While waiting, heat the remaining olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add onion and cook until soft. Chop the eggplant flesh and add it to the pan. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Remove eggplant shells from the oven. Add mushroom mixture to the eggplants shells. Top with cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese.
5. Return to oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Baked Fish with Mango Salsa
To keep the fish fillet from drying out in the oven while it’s baking, you may also choose to cook it en papillote, or sealed in parchment paper, so that it gently poaches in its own juices, together with the spices and the herbs. When stored in an airtight container, this mango salsa will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator. Make it ahead for easy plating, and use it as a dip or accompaniment for chips, or as topping for baked chicken breasts.
4 white fish fillets, 6 ounces each, like cobbler, cod, mahi-mahi, snapper, bass, trout
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
fresh cilantro, for garnish
1 ripe mango, large, peeled, pitted, diced
1/2 piece red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Arrange fish fillets in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, black pepper, and paprika. Sprinkle with garlic and parsley.
3. Place fish in the preheated oven and bake for 15 to 25 minutes or until cooked.
4. To make the salsa, in a large bowl, combine mango, red bell pepper, red onion, cilantro and jalapeño pepper. Add lime juice and lemon juice, and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
5. Top the fish with mango salsa or serve on the side. Garnish with cilantro.
Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps
These chicken lettuce wraps are very versatile: the breast meat acts as a blank slate which takes in the flavors of its marinade. The dish’s accompaniments (cucumber, green onions) are also interchangeable with other vegetables like carrots, jicama, etc. depending on your chosen flavor profile. For Asian soy-based flavor, go with green onions and cucumbers. For more Western flavors, like honey mustard, Fuji apples would be good as well. If Bibb lettuce isn’t available, try looking for any salad green (except arugula.
5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
5 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon cornstarch
sugar, to taste
6 chicken breast halves, boneless, skinless, sliced
2 tablespoons canola oil
12 Bibb lettuce leaves
2 cups Jasmine rice, cooked
2 English cucumbers, sliced round
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
6 stalks green onions, sliced 1/2 inch diagonally
1. In a medium bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken slices to the marinade and refrigerate for an hour. After 1 hour, remove chicken from the marinade. Set aside the marinade.
2. Add cornstarch and sugar to the reserved marinade. Mix well until it dissolves.
3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil and swirl pan to coat. Add chicken slices and cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from the pan and transfer to a plate.
4. In the same pan, add the marinade mixture, simmer and reduce to half, then transfer to a serving bowl.
4. Top each lettuce leaf with 2 to 3 tablespoons rice, chicken slices and 2 cucumber slices. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions. Serve with sauce on the side.
A longer version of this article appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 3, 2015
Recipes and styling by Nancy Dizon-Edralin
Photos by Paulo Valenzuela