A Practical Guide To Healthy Living
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Category — Dinner Ideas

Easy Pasta with Lentils, Spinach & Leeks

The other day, I did a group presentation on “superfoods.” You know, nutrient-dense, health-promoting foods? And when we came to a pause, I asked the crowd, “What is your biggest barrier to eating healthy?” “Time” was the overwhelming answer. [Read more →]

May 11, 2012   No Comments

8 Great Time-Saving Ingredients That’ll Perk Up Your Meals

I get asked, a lot, about what’s in my pantry and what others should stock in theirs. [Read more →]

May 4, 2012   6 Comments

Chili-Lime Cod With Sweet Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli


The only downer to trying to eat more fish is the fact that you have to buy your fish the day you’re going to prepare it.  And for many of us, that’s hard.  The best work-around I’ve come up with is to buy flash-frozen fillets from either Trader Joe’s or from Whole Foods.  These are fresh-tasting and can be kept around and defrosted when you’re hankering for fish, but I think the freezing changes the texture a bit in a way I don’t love.  I think that baking garners the best results from flash-frozen fish, so if you have some hanging around your freezer, you might want to give this recipe a whirl with those.

This chili-lime cod recipe is adapted from one in Real Simple that I found on-line.  It’s a departure from how I usually prepare cod – either steamed Asian-style or else baked with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  The spice combo here is simple, yet adds zingy flavor to the fish without overpowering it. 

Here, I give you the roadmap for a complete meal:  Fish, sweet potato and steamed broccoli on the side.  My adaptation calls for doubling the sauce recipe so that you can drizzle it over the broccoli too . . . . deeee-licious and super-speedy.  This entire meal can be ready in 20-30 minutes!

Chili-Lime Cod With Sweet Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli (adapted from Real Simple)

 1.5 pounds cod fillets
½ t. chili powder
½ t. dried oregano
3 T. unsalted butter
1 t. ground cumin
Juice of 4 limes
Kosher salt to taste
4 small sweet potatoes (organic if you can swing it)
Little bit of extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
1 lb. broccoli florets


Heat the oven to 450.  Coat a oven-safe baking dish with cooking spray.  Arrange the fillets in the pan and sprinkle with chili powder, oregano and salt.  Bake 5-7 minutes or until the cod is opaque and flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Meanwhile, scrub the sweet potatoes and prick each several times with a fork.  Arrange them on a paper towel in the microwave and microwave them in 2-minute intervals until they’re tender to the touch.

Place the broccoli in a microwave-safe covered dish and microwave in 1-minute intervals, stirring in between, until broccoli is bright green and tender.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet.  Cook, stirring constantly, until butter begins to brown.  Add the cumin and the lime juice and continue to cook (keep stirring!) about one minute more.

Remove the fish from the oven, drizzle ½ the butter mixture over the top of the fish and ½ over the steamed broccoli.  Serve the sweet potatoes with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a little salt sprinkled over the top.   

Serves 4.

April 6, 2010   No Comments

Moroccan Kofta and Carrot Slaw

morocco map

Have you ever had kofta? They’re essentially Middle Eastern meatballs, prepared with ground meat (usually beef and/or lamb) and sometimes with the addition of bulgur. I used to love a kofta plate from the Sultan’s Kitchen when I worked downtown. These are a loose interpretation – not authentic, but very very tasty. I made this last week and both D. and I loved it. Don’t be afraid of the ingredient list – these, the rice and the accompanying carrot slaw will all come together in 45 minutes tops.

Moroccan Kofta and Carrot Slaw (adapted from Cooking Light)

For the kofta:

2 T. tomato paste
½ t. salt
½ t. ground coriander
½ t. fennel seeds, crushed (use either a mortar and pestle, or else put ‘em in a heavy Ziploc bag and bang on them with a skillet)
¼ t. ground cumin
¼ t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. ground ginger
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 large egg
Cooking spray

For the sauce:

1 c. fat-free Greek yogurt
2 t. tahini
1 t. lemon zest (please splurge and buy an organic lemon for this!)
Juice of one lemon
1/8 t. salt
1 clove of garlic, minced

To accompany:

1 c. white basmati rice, cooked according to package directions

For the slaw:

2 T. lemon juice
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
½ t. ground cumin
¼ t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
4 c. shredded carrots (you can buy pre-shredded and make this super-fast)
½ c. green onions, light and dark-green parts only, very thinly sliced
½ c. dried currants

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To prepare the kofta, combine all the ingredients except the cooking spray in a large bowl. Shape into 4 equally-sized patties. Heat a large skillet (cast iron will give you a nice crispy char here) over medium-high heat and spray the pan with cooking spray. Add the kofta to the pan and cook until the center is only slightly pink, about 5 minutes each side.

To prepare the sauce, combine the ingredients in a medium bowl.

To prepare the slaw, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.

To serve: Spoon a mound of rice onto each of 4 plates, top with kofta, drizzle sauce over the lot and serve the slaw on the side.

Serves 4.

March 23, 2010   1 Comment

Thinking . . . Spring? Honey-Mustard Chicken, Barley Pilaf and Fruity Baby Spinach Salad With Oranges

crocus in snow

We are in that strange nether-place called March here in the Boston area.  It’s still quite chilly, but not thatcold.  It snows, but it doesn’t really stick.  And yet if you head into a store, it’s all about SPRING!  Bright colors, light fabrics, flowers, strappy shoes . . . really, it just serves to irritate me.  I want nothing more to be there, but, sigh.  I have to wait.  Just like every other year.

When it comes to food, I also feel in-between this time of year.  I’m all set with heavy comfort food.  I’ve got my sights set on fresh, light, leafy veggies and grilled meats.  Huge salads and big cold drinks.  Hell, I’d even settle for asparagus.  But even that’s a little premature.  So right now I’m doing in-between food.  Lightened up, but not all the way. 

This chicken, pilaf and salad combo will help tide you over ’til the really good stuff comes.  Like NO snow whatsoever.  Like birds chirping in the morning and dewy grass and patio parties.  Hang on with me, we’ll get there!

Honey Mustard Chicken

4 small (around 4 oz. each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. grainy mustard
4 T. honey
4 T. bottled minced garlic
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the chicken breasts on a large plate and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl, and spread on both sides of the chicken (some will come off on the plate, that’s OK).  Let sit for 15 minute to marinate.  Transfer the breasts to a large oven-safe baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Smear any leftover honey-mustard sauce over the top of the breasts.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the breasts are no longer pink.

Serves 4.

Barley Pilaf (adapted from the Food Network)

2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 c. pearled barley
1 t. extra-virgin olive oil
1 t. Kosher salt
1 c. chopped dried apricots
1/2 c. sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 scallion (white and green parts), finely chopped
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 t. honey
1/4 t. Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 more T. extra-virgin olive oil

Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add the barley, 1 t. oil, and salt. Bring back to a boil, adjust the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then gradually whisk in the oil.

Drain any excess liquid from the barley and transfer to a large bowl.  Toss with the remaining salad ingredients and the dressing.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4.

Fruity Spinach Salad

5-6 oz. tub or bag of baby spinach
2 small or 1 large can Mandarin oranges in juice
4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. fig vinegar*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Divide the spinach amongst 4 salad plates or bowls.  Divide the oranges among the plates. In a small bowl, whisk the oil and vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste.  Dress the salads immediately before serving.

Serves 4.

*Fig vinegar is my new love.  I found mine at Whole Foods, and it is fruity, tangy, and delicious on salads.  Tomorrow I’ll share with you the salad I’ve been eating over and over again since I found this stuff!

March 1, 2010   1 Comment

Sesame Garlic Chicken, Spinach With Tahini Sauce and Roasted Peanut Quinoa


This is an adaptation of a recipe from Clean Eating Magazine – it’s got an eclectic set of ingredients, but they work together well.  This is a fast, flavorful meal that will add flare to your weeknight repertoire.

Sesame Garlic Chicken, Spinach With Tahini Sauce and Roasted Peanut Quinoa

4 4-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 t. sesame seeds
6 T. lightly salted dry roasted peanuts, chopped coarsely
1 c. quinoa
2 c. low-sodium chicken stock
2 (16-oz.) bags of baby spinach, rinsed and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Tahini Sauce

3 T. tahini
2 T. rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
2 t. low-sodium soy sauce
2 t. agave nectar


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet.  With a sharp knife, make 3 slits in each chicken breast, taking care not to cut all the way through the breast.  Stuff the slits with garlic, dividing it evenly amongst the breasts.  Sprinkle each breast with salt, pepper and the sesame seeds.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until no longer pink.

Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa thoroughly with water and drain.  Combine the quinoa with the stock in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Add the peanuts to the quinoa and set aside.

Prepare the Tahini Sauce:  In a bowl, whisk together the tahini, vinegar, soy sauce, agave nectar and 1 t. of water until smooth and combined.

Steam the spinach, either in the microwave or in a metal steamer insert for a saucepan.

To serve, mound a portion of quinoa in the center of each plate.  Arrange the steamed spinach around and on top of the quinoa and drizzle some Tahini Sauce over the quinoa and the spinach.  Place a chicken breast on top and serve.

Serves 4.

February 10, 2010   8 Comments

Ginger Spiced Chicken & Rice

recipe box full size

Happy Tuesday, friends!  I hope your week is off to a good start.  Today’s recipe highlights the flavors of North Africa – and because it involves a marinade, it’s got great depth of flavor.  But best ever, once you’re ready to cook, it’s 30 minutes from counter to table.  Hooray!

Ginger Spiced Chicken And Rice

1 1/4-1 1/2 lbs. Chicken cutlets
4 Green onions, finely chopped
1/2 c. Freshly-squeezed orange juice (approximately 1 orange)
1 T. Brown sugar
1 T. Bottled minced ginger
1 T. Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t. Bottled crushed garlic
1 t. Ground corriander
1/2 t. Paprika
1/2 t. Kosher salt
1/4 t. Ground cinnamon
1/4 t. Freshly ground black pepper
2 c. Hot cooked brown rice (I use Whole Foods frozen brown rice often, because all you need to do is heat it up – super quick)


Put the chicken in a gallon sized zip-top bag.  For the marinade, combine green onions, orange juice, brown sugar, ginger, oil, garlic, corriander, paprika, salt, cinnamon and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour over the chicken, seal the bag, and mix the contents all around so the marinade covers the chicken.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or up to 6 hours, turning the bag occasionally. 

Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade.  Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Arrange the chicken in the dish and pour the remaining marinade over the chicken.

Bake, uncovered, in a 375 oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink.  Spoon the rice onto 4 dinner plates, and place the chicken atop the rice.  Spoon the remaining pan juices over the chicken and rice.  Serves 4.

Add some steamed green beans on the side, or try these:

Ginger and Honey-Glazed Carrots

3 c. Water
1 t. Kosher salt
1 1/2 lbs. Baby carrots
1 T. Unsalted butter
1 T. Honey
2 t. Bottled minced ginger


Line a baking sheet with paper towels.  In a large skillet, combine water and salt.  Bring to a boil and add carrots.  Return to boiling and then reduce heat, cover and simmer about 12 minutes or until carrots are just tender.  Drain carrots.  Turn the carrots out on to the baking sheet and pat them dry.

To make the glaze – in the same skillet combine butter, honey and ginger.  Stir constantly over medium heat until the butter is melted. 

Add the carrots to the glaze and toss gently until the carrots are throrughly coated with the glaze and are heated through.  To serve, divide carrots among the dinner plates and drizzle with the remaining glaze from the pan.  Serves 4-6.

Both recipes adapted from the Better Homes & Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook.

October 20, 2009   1 Comment

Healthy In A Hurry


We all have those nights – they happen more now that school’s in, I think.  The day gets away from you and you’re sitting at your desk (or in your car, mid-schlep) at 4:30 and you’re suddenly caught up short.  “What are we going to have for dinner?”  The easy choice is takeout or fast food, but the angel on your right shoulder says “You should be feeding your family something healthier.”  And face it, are you really going to be able to get to the market before you have to sling hash?  Probably not.

Enter Healthy Habits Kitchen of Wellesley.  I discovered Healthy Habits Kitchen last spring – I was Googling meal assembly places (a la Dream Dinners) nearby, and the HHK site showed up.  I put them on my to-try list and never got around to it.  Then the Foodie Mommy favorably reviewed HHK in early September.  Her review incentivized me to finally check it out.  [Read more →]

October 16, 2009   1 Comment