What makes a recipe healthy? To me, healthy eating means consuming a wide variety of whole foods, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting fat and sodium intake and trying to meet the minimum vitamin and mineral recommendations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Because we lead busy lives, we need healthy recipes that can be completed in a hurry and provide all those requirements.
Since many of us do use processed foods to cut down on time spent in the kitchen, learn to read nutrition labels. Make special note of the number of servings in each package, and the serving size. Most people eat far more than the recommended serving size of most foods. Also pay attention to ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ dates, to keep you and your family safe.
Besides the basics of paying attention to calories and serving size, here are a few tips from the Food and Drug Administration to guide you:
● Choose products with high daily value percentages (20 percent or more per serving) of fiber and of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.
● Look for low daily value percentages (5 percent or less) of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
● The following terms signal added sugars, which contain lots of calories but little nutritional value: corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey and maple syrup.
Ideally, if we had all the time in the world, we would cook everything from scratch for our families, using only the most fresh and organic products. But guess what? We don’t always have the time or energy. We know that life gets in the way of even the best plans, and sometimes we can use a little assistance in the form of a time saver when it comes to cooking. There are some convenience products that are great time-cutting products that, also, meet healthy standards for nutrition and flavor.
Here Are My Top 10. What Are Yours?
Using Healthy Convenience Foods for Quick Dinners
The recipes below have a low percentage of fat, lots of fiber, cruciferous vegetables, and fruits, and a wide variety of ingredients. They are ready in 30 minutes or less, or have a preparation time of 20 minutes or less. Try some of these recipes this week and feel good about the food you’re feeding your family.
Easy Baked Fish Fillets
Serve with quick cooking brown rice that cooks in 10 minutes.
- 4 (4 ounce) fish fillets, such as, tilapia, flounder, cod, grouper.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 (16 ounce) package frozen vegetables with broccoli and carrots (or any combination your family likes), defrosted and drained
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees F). Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
Place the fillets in the bottom of the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
Combine spices and sprinkle over top of each fillet. Top each one with a slice or two of lemon.
Arrange the frozen mixed vegetables around the fish, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Cover the dish and bake for 2o to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until vegetables are tender and fish flakes easily with a fork.
Cheese Ravioli with Veggies
Use any combination of frozen vegetables that you like in place of the California Blend.
- 1 package (16 ounces) frozen California-blend vegetables
- 1- 9 ounce package whole wheat cheese ravioli
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Mrs. Dash garlic herb salt-free seasoning blend
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Fill a Dutch oven two-thirds full with water; bring to a boil and add salt to the boiling water.
Add the frozen vegetables; cook for 5 minutes. Add the ravioli. Cook 5 minutes longer or until vegetables and ravioli are tender; drain.
Gently stir in oil. Sprinkle with seasoning blend and cheese.
Pork Chops With Chard and White Beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 boneless pork chops (3/4 inch thick; about 1 1/2 pounds total)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems thinly sliced and leaves torn into bite-size pieces (about 5 cups)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 15-16 ounce can low sodium cannellini beans, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the pork with the paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and tent with foil.
2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chard stems and onion and cook, tossing occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beans, chard leaves, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until the chard is wilted, 2 to 3 minutes more. Mix in the vinegar and serve with the pork.
For a bit of sweetness, add a handful of raisins to the bean mixture.
Baked Eggs Florentine
- 36 ounces frozen spinach
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing pan
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 8 large eggs
- 8 slices tomato
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook spinach according to package instructions. Wring out as much water as possible and stir in olive oil and butter. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread spinach over bottom of the dish. With a spoon, make 8 indentations; place tomato slices into indentations. Crack eggs over tomatoes and lightly season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Evenly divide and sprinkle parmesan over casserole.
Bake on middle rack of oven 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is golden and eggs are cooked to desired level of doneness.
Fettuccine with Scallops
Serve with a small salad on the side.
5 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each
- 8-9 ounces fresh whole-wheat fettuccine
- 1 pound sea scallops or bay scallops
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, (Wondra all purpose flour works well here)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
- 3/4 cup finely shredded Romano cheese, divided
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook fettuccine according to package instructions. Drain.
- Meanwhile, pat scallops dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and scallops and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
- Whisk milk, flour, white pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour the mixture into the skillet and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Return the scallops and any accumulated juices to the pan along with peas and return to a simmer. Stir in the fettuccine, 1/2 cup Romano cheese, chives, lemon zest and juice until combined. Serve with the remaining cheese sprinkled on top.
Quick Berry Cobbler
Self Rising Flour is a time saver. It is all purpose flour that already has the leavening ingredients (baking powder and salt) in it that gives quick breads, biscuits and other similar recipes the ability to rise. It is considered a convenience item for a baker because it cuts down on the number of ingredients to measure out.
- 1 cup of sugar ( or use 1/2 cup light sugar-Domino or Truvia)
- 1 cup of lowfat milk
- 1 cup of Self Rising Flour
- 1/2 cup of water
- 2 cups of fresh, washed berries *
- 4 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance Blend
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in a glass 8 inch square baking pan in the microwave.
Combine sugar, milk, water, and flour in a large measuring cup
Pour mixture over melted butter.
Pour berries over the top and spread them evenly.
Bake: 350° for 45 min.
* whatever berries are in season
- Quick Summer Side Dishes (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Speedy After-Work Dinners (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Recipe – Baked Fish with Herbs, Healthy, Delicious and Easy to cook! (ahdalin.wordpress.com)
Children can be picky about their food choices. Today they might like a particular food and tomorrow, they hate it! Sometimes a new presentation or a new ingredient can spark their interest. While french fries for breakfast, lunch and dinner might be what they want, getting children to select healthy options might not be that difficult. Kids are very proud of their accomplishments, so if they’ve helped make the dinner, they are more likely to eat it. Hopefully some of these recipes will work in your house.
Chicken Pasta Primavera
If broccoli isn’t a family favorite, you can substitute a 10 oz. package of defrosted frozen peas.
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or turkey breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- 1 1/2 cups carrots, 1/4 inch slices
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
- 3 small cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Wondra works well for sauces)
- 2 2/3 cups nonfat milk
- 1/4 cup reduced fat cream cheese, cut into pieces
- 1 1/2 cups grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 package ( 12-14 oz.) cooked whole grain rotini or penne pasta
In a large, deep skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and add chicken breast cubes. Saute until cooked through and lightly browned. Move chicken to pasta serving bowl; set aside. In the same skillet, heat remaining olive oil and add garlic, Italian seasoning and vegetables. Saute until cooked, but not limp. Add vegetables to bowl with chicken. Stir milk and Wondra flour together and pour into skillet. Cook 8 minutes or until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Stir in cream cheese, cook 2 minutes. Add 1 cup Parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until it melts.
Add hot cooked pasta, chicken and vegetables and toss well to coat. Pour into pasta serving bowl and top with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Serve with a green salad.
Parmesan Zucchini Cakes
- ¼ cup egg substitute
- 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (2-3 medium, about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cups Progresso Italian bread crumbs, divided
- Marinara Sauce, warmed, see post for recipe, http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.
- Use the large-holed side of a box grater to shred the zucchini. Place shredded squash in the center of a clean kitchen towel; gather up the ends and twist to squeeze out any liquid
- Mix together the egg substitute, onion, parsley, zucchini, cheese, ¼ cup bread crumbs, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl..
- With floured hands, shape zucchini mixture into smallish balls (about two tablespoons each) and roll in remaining bread crumbs and flatten slightly on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then turn each cake over and bake for another 10-15 minutes until browned.
Serve with warm marinara sauce.
For Snack Time
Rosemary-Lemon White Bean Dip
- 1 -15-ounce can cannellini beans (no salt added), drained or 2 cups cooked dried beans
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper
- Carrot and Celery Sticks
Puree first 5 ingredients in processor until almost smooth. Add salt and pepper. Transfer dip to serving bowl with carrot and celery sticks.
(Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Turkey Pizza Burger Sliders
Makes 8 sliders
- 1 1/4 pound lean ground turkey breast
- 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Olive oil, for brushing sliders
- 8 small slices fresh mozzarella
- Marinara Sauce
- Whole Wheat Potato Rolls
Place turkey, scallions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, oregano, basil 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Gently combine, without over mixing, until evenly incorporated.
Mix all the burger ingredients well and form into 2.5 ounce balls. Flatten into patties, about 3 inches in diameter. Brush with olive oil.
To grill the turkey burgers, preheat a grill to medium-high. Oil the grill rack. Grill the patties, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 165°F, 8 to 10 minutes total.
Place burgers on a whole wheat potato roll. Top sliders with a tablespoon of marinara sauce and a slice of mozzarella cheese.
Codfish cakes are made in many countries throughout the world. In Italy the recipe calls for dried salt cod, Baccala, but you can use any leftover (or even fresh) white-fleshed fish. Salt cod is often found in stores around the winter holidays because it’s almost a sacred food in many cultures — definitely so in Italian and Portuguese cuisines, for example.
My mother made these fish cakes when she had leftover baccala during the Christmas season but you have to soak the baccala overnight and it is still salty. Here’s a variation using fresh cod instead and children love them (its the mashed potatoes part that does that).
- 1 pound of cod fillets
- 2 medium-sized baking potatoes
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup egg substitute
- 3 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed and processed into crumbs (about 1 cup)
Boil and mash the potatoes, set them aside.
Poach the codfish until it flakes easily. Drain and add the fish to the potatoes. Mash together. Mix the fish, the potatoes and the next 7 ingredients together.
Form the mixture into 3 inch patties and lightly dredge in bread crumbs.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet well with olive oil cooking spray.
Place patties on prepared baking pan and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then flip patties, carefully, and bake an additional 15-20 minutes.
Makes 12 fish cakes. Serves 4-6.
Crispy Sweet Potato Fries
Oven baked sweet potatoes are a healthy choice, but there is a problem, they don’t get crispy. They get brown, but not crisp.
I have found a method that really works.
Cut 2 large sweet potatoes into finger size thicknesses.
Let potatoes soak in cold water for an hour. Drain but don’t dry on towels.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Place two tablespoons of cornstarch into a plastic bag.
Add sweet potatoes to the bag with the cornstarch. Twist the top of the bag so it forms a balloon with some air inside and shake the fries around until they’re lightly coated with the cornstarch.
Put the coated fries on a non stick baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the fries.
Using your hands, toss the potatoes to make sure the fries are well coated. Rearrange them on the sheet again, so that they have space between each fry.
The less fries on the pan the better because, if the potatoes are crowded, they will not get crispy. They’ll just steam. You might want to use 2 baking sheets. if you do not have a large enough pan.
Bake the fries in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.
- The Grand Kids Are Coming! (jovinacooksitalian.com)