Thursday, August 11, 2016

Seven Super Easy, Healthy Recipes I Love

Fajita mix with peppers, onions, and tomatoes from the farmers' market, plus a couple peppers from my garden

The definition of the word “easy” is up for debate, especially where cooking is concerned. Many recipes are labeled “easy,” but take an hour or more to make, while others are so simple that it’s hard to call them recipes (“Ingredients: 1 pizza crust, 1 jar pizza sauce, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese”). I fall somewhere in the middle— I don’t mind spending half an hour on dinner (although I want breakfast in five minutes flat), but to be “easy,” a recipe should be straightforward and full of interchangeable ingredients that I always have lying around the house. In my quest to learn more about whole-foods cooking, I’ve come across some recipes that fit the bill.

(Side note: The Stone Soup is a fantastic resource for easy, whole-foods recipes. If you haven’t visited the site yet, be sure to check it out! No one’s paying me to say that, I just really like their whole approach to recipes.)

Not everyone will consider these recipes healthy, but I believe that eating anything made with whole foods can’t be that bad for you. And most importantly, it’s good to have some recipes in your repertoire that turn out beautifully every time. Here are mine.


Overnight Chocolate Oatmeal:

I eat this for breakfast almost every day— it’s one of the few meals that I can stomach in the morning (eggs turn my tummy before noon) that gives me adequate protein to get through to lunch. Plus, it’s really tasty!

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup kefir, milk, or a combination
A tablespoon or two of cocoa powder
A drizzle of maple syrup
Protein— almonds, pecans, walnuts, chia seeds, etc.
Tiny sprinkle of salt
Cacao nibs (optional, but tasty)

Combine everything in a bowl and leave in the fridge overnight. Eat cold in the morning for a breakfast that tastes like dessert. 

Berry Breakfast Smoothie:

My favorite smoothie. If you include the chia seeds, it’s usually filling enough to last to lunchtime.

1/2 cup kefir or yogurt
Tablespoon of chia seeds (optional)
Big handful of greens (kale, spinach, lettuce, etc.)
1/2 banana
Handful of mixed berries

Blend the kefir thoroughly with the chia seeds and greens first, then add the banana and berries and blend till smooth. 


Refried Beans:

This recipe, by 100 Days of Real Food, is something I make every other week— we love our refried beans! This recipe is super simple, and I usually double it (in my 8-quart crock pot), put the leftovers into old salsa jars with an inch of headroom, then freeze them. This recipe thaws beautifully.

Vegetarian Fajitas:

This is one of my favorite meals to make— it’s a bit “fancier” than just plain burritos, and packs in more veggies, too. Adding chicken is a great carnivorous option, but you can also easily make this recipe vegan. 

2 onions
3-4 bell peppers, any color (a mix is nice, but green peppers are usually cheaper)
Refried beans (from a can, or see the recipe above)
I've made homemade tortillas before, but it takes forever...
Oil (I usually use butter)
Fajita seasoning, or a mix of chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper
Lime or lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
Lettuce salad (if you want to be really healthy) or tortillas (if you don’t mind something less healthy)
Toppings: sour cream (my favorite), cheddar cheese, salsa, hot sauce, fresh tomatoes, etc.

Preheat a cast iron skillet with a generous dose of oil. Peel the onions and cut them in half, then into thin strips. I like to toss them on the skillet and let them cook for a while before adding the peppers because Zach doesn’t like crunchy onions. Slice the peppers into strips, discarding the innards, and toss peppers and onions in the pan. Sprinkle with fajita seasoning and a bit of lemon or lime juice and stir frequently. I often put a lid on the pan at this point to help the veggies steam, but you also want to sauté them a bit so they stay crispy. They should have a bit of crunch to them, but also be tender. This takes 5-15 minutes, depending on how you cook them.

In the meantime, heat up the refried beans and tortillas and set out the toppings. The fajita filling works great on top of a bed of greens, but for the carb-lovers among us, it’s hard to beat a warm tortilla. 

This recipe also freezes/thaws well.

Stir-Fry with a Fried Egg:

Using a fried egg as a protein in a stir-fry is something I’ve just recently discovered— when the yolk mixes with the quinoa, the taste and texture are divine! I’ve been buying pastured eggs from the farmers’ market, which makes this recipe extra delicious.

A cup or two of cooked quinoa or brown rice
Cooking oil (I like coconut oil, but butter or lard or any other oil will work)
An onion (or scallion or green onion)
Random veggies: Ginger (if you have it), carrot (shredded or finely sliced), celery (diced), broccoli, cooked sweet potato (cubed), peppers, kale, chard, and/or peas. 
Soy sauce
An egg
Other sauces: I love toasted sesame oil and Sriracha

Make a batch of quinoa or brown rice. In the meantime, chop all the vegetables, sorting them by cooking time (onions and carrots take the longest). Put a bit of oil in a cast-iron skillet and wait for it to get hot. Sauté the onions and garlic for a little bit, then add the other veggies, starting with the toughest and moving to the softest. Sauté them until they reach your desired level of doneness, then dump in your desired amount of quinoa/rice and stir, adding a little soy sauce and any other seasonings you want.

When the stir-fry is almost done, heat up a little skillet and fry an egg in it. Leave the yolk a little runny. Serve up a bowl of stir-fry with the egg on top. Delicious!


Double-Chocolate Banana Muffins

When I found this recipe by Red and Honey, I thought it sounded good. But it isn’t good— it’s amazing. Not only is it my all-time favorite muffin, but it’s my go-to snack to bring to potlucks. People always ask for the recipe. It is sweetened by mostly natural sugars (and doesn’t require a ton of expensive maple syrup, like most whole-foods recipes). Plus, I can make these muffins for my gluten-free friends!

Some notes about the recipe: I always make a double batch because they’re so good. I prefer to use chunks of chocolate instead of mini chocolate chips for texture (in my most recent batch I used bits of 85% cacoa chocolate and it was divine), and I often use butter instead of coconut oil. The only “weird” ingredient in the recipe is the coconut flour, which you can buy in the gluten-free section of Walmart, and probably lots of other stores as well. It’s pretty expensive, but a little bit goes a long way.

Chocolate Banana “Ice Cream”:

Okay, I’ll admit, this doesn’t taste exactly like ice cream— it has a distinct banana taste. But it is creamy, cold, and chocolatey, perfect for a summer day (or anytime, really). 

A few tablespoons of dairy (kefir, coconut milk, yogurt, milk, etc.)
A small handful of walnuts (or pecans, or a couple teaspoons peanut butter)
A tablespoon or two of cocoa powder
1 frozen banana, cut into chunks and thawed ever so slightly (unless you have a really good blender)
Optional toppings: shredded coconut, walnuts, cacoa nibs, whipped cream, etc.

Blend the milk, walnuts, and cocoa powder until smooth, then add the banana chunks and blend until smooth, adding more milk as needed. You want something the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Pour into a bowl, add toppings, and enjoy the chocolatey goodness!

Your turn! What are your favorite easy, healthy recipes?


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