Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: healthy spring family dinners

Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of color, variety and freshness. This way it should be easier to make healthy choices. Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually, your diet will become healthier and more appealing.

Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Trying to make your diet healthy overnight isn’t realistic or smart. Changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different color vegetables) to your diet once a day or switching from butter to olive oil when cooking. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices to your diet.

Every change you make to improve your diet matters. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Don’t let your missteps derail you—every healthy food choice you make counts.

Spring brings lots of healthy produce, These include asparagus, broccoli, fresh herbs, and leafy greens, which can be found fresh at farmers’ markets and the produce section of supermarkets. Other healthy spring ingredients include strawberries, artichokes, arugula, radishes, garlic, peas and mushrooms. In addition to being loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, these spring ingredients tend to lend themselves to lighter preparations, such as steaming and roasting. Fresh produce is often more flavorful than food that’s been stored for a long time, so a bit of lemon juice and a sprinkling of fresh herbs can be all you need to season it.

So, in the spirit of spring — as the trees are beginning to bud, the flowers are starting to appear and the days are getting longer — I’ve gathered some recipes using the ingredients of spring to inspire us all to keep it fresh and healthy this season.

 

Risotto with Chicken and Spring Peas

Make it a vegetarian option by using vegetable broth and eliminating the chicken.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked arborio rice
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup loose-pack frozen tiny or regular-size peas
  • 1/4 cup coarsely shredded carrot
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, shredded
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme

Directions:

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender. Add the uncooked rice. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until the rice is golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring broth to boiling; reduce heat to keep broth simmering. Carefully add 1/2 cup of the broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until liquid is absorbed. Add another 1/2 cup of the broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue to cook, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until all the broth is used; stirring after each addition until the liquid is absorbed. (This should take 18 to 20 minutes total.)

Stir in the peas and carrots with the last addition of the broth. Cook and stir until rice is slightly firm (al dente) and creamy.

Stir in chicken, spinach, Parmesan cheese and thyme; heat through. Serve immediately.

 

Parmesan-Crusted Fish

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless cod fillets (1-1/2 pounds total) or white fish fillets of choice
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1- 10 ounce package julienned carrots (3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Fresh salad greens mixed with Italian dressing

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Rinse fish and pat dry; place on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl stir together panko and cheese; sprinkle on fish. Bake, uncovered, for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until crumbs are golden and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet bring the water to boiling; add carrots. Reduce heat. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover; cook for 2 minutes more. Add butter and oregano; toss.

Mix greens with dressing and place on dinner plates. Top with cooked fish.

Serve carrots on the side of the fish.

 

Tomato and Eggplant Fusilli

Ricotta salata is a salty, mild-flavored cheese with a crumbly texture similar to feta.

Serve this entre with a green salad and crusty whole grain Italian bread.

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 lb), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat fusilli
  • 1 cup fresh basil, hand torn
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded ricotta salata

Directions:

In a large lidded skillet, heat 1 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Stir in tomatoes and eggplant. Cook, covered, 15 minutes. (If skillet does not have a lid, cover tightly with aluminum foil.) Stir in garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt; cover and cook another 10 to 15 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook fusilli according to package directions, reserving 3/4 cups of the pasta water. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the fusilli to skillet with the tomato eggplant mixture. Stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta water, 3/4 cups of basil, 3/4 cups of ricotta salata, the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. (If pasta seems dry, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup pasta water.) Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup basil and 1/4 cup ricotta salata.

 

Pork Cacciatore

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 – 14-1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice or whole wheat orzo pasta

Directions:

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Stir in pork, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer on medium low, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Serve with the cooked rice or orzo and a green vegetable, such as asparagus.

 

Chicken Pomodoro and Garlic Spaghetti

Round out this meal with a green salad.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved, (about 8 oz. each)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk or half & half
  • cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions

Directions:

Season chicken with salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Coat a large saute pan with nonstick spray. Add oil and heat over medium-high.

Saute chicken until brown, 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to a plate.

Off heat, deglaze pan with vodka and cook until liquid evaporates. Add broth and milk and reduce until thick, 2–3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Return chicken to pan and simmer until chicken is cooked. Turn chicken over to coat in sauce before transferring to a serving plate.

Pour sauce over cutlets and garnish with scallions. Serve with Garlic Spaghetti, recipe below.

Garlic Spaghetti

Makes: 4 servings

  • 8 oz dried spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoons minced lemon zest
  • Salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions:

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain pasta.

Heat oil in the same pot over medium-high. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in pasta water, parsley, lemon zest and cooked and drained spaghetti; toss to coat.

Season spaghetti with additional salt, black pepperand red pepper flakes to taste.

 



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