FOR regular weeknights, building up a repertoire of fast, tasty and healthy versions of your favorite dishes is the best strategy to avoid gorging on the least healthy of meals, like fast food. Since it’s nice to have a speedy, lower fat version for an average weeknight dishes, here are healthy recipes you can turn to when the cravings set in.
Kung Pao Cod
Start to finish: 25 minutes
6 fillets of cod, or other firm fish about 2 pounds total
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons neutral oil, like grapeseed oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup thinly sliced bell pepper (red, orange or yellow preferred)
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, shelled
1/2 cup chopped green onion
cilantro leaves for garnish, optional
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2/3 cup water
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 teaspoon (to taste) red pepper flakes (or Szechuan seasoning, or chili paste)
Heat a large nonstick saute pan on medium high heat. On a cutting board or plate, drizzle the tablespoon of soy sauce over both sides of the cod fillets, and gently pat away the excess with a paper towel. Sprinkle the cornstarch over both sides of the fish, and gently pat away or brush away any excess. (They should barely be dusted with cornstarch.) Place the neutral oil in the pan, and once hot, cook the cod just until golden brown and cooked through, turning once, about 4 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, whisk all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. Remove cod from heat and set aside on a warm plate. Add the sesame oil, mushrooms and sliced peppers to the pan and cook a minute or two until vegetables begin to soften. Add the peanuts and half of the green onion and cook another minute.
Pour all of the sauce ingredients from the bowl into the pan. It will thicken almost immediately. Stir and remove from heat. Spoon the Kung Pao sauce over the fish to serve, and sprinkle with remaining green onion and cilantro, if using.
Lightened Italian Meatballs
Start to finish: 40 minutes
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped, about 3/4 cup
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 pound 93 percent lean ground beef
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup oats, pulsed or blended into a coarse powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups jarred marinara sauce, with no sugar added
Place the sliced mushrooms in a food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times, until the mushrooms are the texture of coarse couscous. Do not over-process or it will become pasty. Heat a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil, onion, and mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until onion and mushrooms are softened, and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 12 minutes.
Add the garlic, Italian herb blend, salt and pepper, give it a quick stir, and then remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes. In a large bowl, mix together the egg white and the cooled mushroom mixture. Add the ground beef and mix together, using hands if necessary. Add the parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, fresh basil and ground oats and mix together, just until blended.
Use a small ice cream scoop to portion out uniform meatballs, and roll them gently together in your hands. (You will have approximately 26 meatballs 1.5 inch in diameter.) Pour the marinara sauce into a heavy sauce pan or small Dutch over. Gently place the meatballs in the sauce. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and let simmer gently for 20 minutes, removing the cover about halfway through the cook time. Serve.
Chef’s Note: This recipe yields tender, juicy meatballs, but for caramelized, crustier meatballs, bake on a foil-lined baking sheet for 20-25 minutes at 375 F, and then toss in sauce.)
Pork Medallions with Lemon Thyme Sauce
Start to finish: 25 minutes
2 pork tenderloins, about 1.25 lb. each, trimmed of fat and silver skin
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup finely chopped green onion
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven on a burner at medium high heat. Season the whole tenderloins with salt and pepper and rub with the Dijon mustard to coat. Rub the olive oil all over the outside of the roasts to keep from sticking to the pan. Brown the roasts in the skillet until golden brown crust forms, turning so all sides are golden, about 10 minutes total. Use tongs to remove the roasts and place on foil-lined baking tray, or keep in skillet if oven-safe, and place the roasts in the oven. Cook until 155 degrees on the inside, about 12-15 minutes depending on the roast thickness. (Use a thermometer).
Meanwhile, make the sauce: place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. As soon as the mixture begins to bubble, give the sauce a stir and turn off the heat. (This will be quick.)
Once the meat is removed from the oven, let it rest for five full minutes. Slice the meat and spoon the sauce on top to serve.
Lightened Apple Crumble
Start to finish: 1 hour
3 large or 4 medium baking apples, (mostly) peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, about 5 cups
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon raw sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary, fresh or dried (or more if desired!)
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chia seed (white, if available)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup whole oats
2 tablespoons almond flour (or very finely chopped almonds)
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 F, spray a 2-quart baking dish with an oil mister or nonstick spray. Make the filling: in a large bowl, toss apple cubes in the lemon juice, sugar, rosemary, lemon zest and salt. If the apple cubes seem dry, add an extra tablespoon or two of water to the mixture. Add the chia seeds and stir well.
Make the topping: in a large bowl, mix together all the topping ingredients with a fork. The mixture should look like clumpy sand. Place the filling into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the topping evenly over the top. Cover baking dish with lid or foil and bake until apples are tender and topping is golden, about 45 minutes.
Remove the lid or foil for the last 15 minutes of baking time. Once baked, allow the crumble to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.