My typical weeknight goes a little something like this… I walk through the door at 7pm, Brett’s just coming home from the gym; we kick off our shoes and glance at each other with pained looks on our face and say “takeout?”, or “why don’t we just go out”. Then it’s back out to the car for a trip to our favorite local restaurant, or worse…Chinese takeout…dun dun dahhh. There are so many quick and healthy weeknight meals we could whip up, but most of the time we’re simply unprepared or “too tired”! There’s always an excuse, but excuses no more! I’ve put together a list of ten healthy family meals that are simple to make, hopefully I’ll give some of these a try this week
Simple & Healthy Weeknight Meals
#1: Mac & Cheese with Roasted Chicken and Goat Cheese [recipe]
During the winter, I’m all about hearty comfort foods for dinner. I love warming up my belly with a nice, big Italian dish like Chicken Parmesan and Chicken Cacciatore…who doesn’t, right? These dishes taste great, but they won’t help you get bikini ready any quicker, that’s for sure! It was Brett’s turn to cook dinner the other night, so he made one of our favorite Italian dishes, only with a much healthier twist…I think I’ll keep him around after this yummy dish =) This is Brett’s very first recipe contribution on Picklee, introducing Brett’s Skinny Chicken Cacciatore recipe!
cooked whole wheat thin spaghetti (standard serving is one cup of cooked pasta per person)
In a large skillet, bring 1 tbsp. olive oil to medium heat. Lightly coat chicken with herbs de Provence, salt & pepper, then add to skillet. Cook chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden brown, then remove from pan and set aside.
In same skillet, bring remaining (1 tbsp) olive oil to medium heat. Add onion, carrots and bell peppers then saute for 4-5 minutes.
Add white wine and crushed garlic, cook on medium for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
Last, add crushed tomatoes and basil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Top whole wheat pasta with a chicken, then pour sauce on top. Sprinkle a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the sauce if you wish =)
I’m constantly finding myself stuck when it comes to weeknight meals…I always have trouble thinking of something quick, healthy and different to make. Pasta is usually my go-to dish, I like to load it up with veggies and add a basic sauce like tomato, but that tends to get old after a while. In an effort to mix things up, I experimented with a healthier pesto pasta dish the other night. I mixed up a simple, fresh pesto then added some green peas for an extra pop of flavor! I enjoyed this pasta as a main dish, but it would make a great side dish along too! Here’s my simple Pesto & Green Pea Pasta recipe…
Pesto & Green Pea Pasta [serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side]
1 pound wheat linguine
1 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed
3/4 cup packed torn basil leaves
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cook pasta according to directions. In a food processor or chopper, combine basil, olive oil and Parmesan cheese, blend until chopped and well mixed. In warm sauce pan, combine pasta and pesto sauce, then add thawed peas. Add salt and pepper to taste.
My sweet tooth gets the best of me WAY too often…which is why I’m always looking for healthier ways to satisfy it =) One of my favorite sweets is bread pudding, but making it is usually a long process that leaves me with a week worth of leftovers (which I’ll consume within the first two days…) You can only begin to imagine my delight when I came across this healthy bread pudding recipe on The Vegan Stoner recently, I knew that it was an immediate MUST TRY. I made a few modifications to the recipe, including cutting down the recipe to a single size serving
Banana Bread Pudding [for one]
1/8 cup brown sugar
1.8 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 slices of bread (your choice, I used sprouted wheat)
1 tbsp melted butter (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut banana into thin slices and toss with brown sugar, set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat coconut milk, sugar and vanilla extract (just until a very light simmer). Add bread to pan, allow the bread to soak in the liquid for one minute. In a small baking dish (or divided into two ramekins), add a layer of bread, then banana slices, bread again, then more banana slices. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until top is light golden brown.
Remove from oven and drizzle a bit of melted butter on top (optional). Bon appetite!
I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving! I feel like I ate enough to feed a family of four…but that’s okay, I enjoyed every second of it, along with spending some much needed quality time with friends and family =) Now that the feasts are over (well, at least for another three or four weeks), I’m working on getting back to making some of my “skinny“ meals. One of my favorite meals is good ol’ traditional beef stroganoff; but of course it’s not the healthiest option, so I’ve given this comfort dish a “skinny” twist! Surprisingly, I actually enjoy this much healthier version just as much as it’s guilty counterpart! Here’s my recipe for Healthy Turkey Stroganoff…
Make this recipe using your leftover Thanksgiving turkey too!
Healthy Turkey Stroganoff (recipe) Serves 4
one pound of ground turkey (or leftover turkey meat, diced)
one package of sliced mushroom
one large onion, diced
one cup fat free Greek yogurt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp worcheshire sauce
3/4 cup beef gravy
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb cooked egg noodles
Cook egg noodles according to instructions, strain then set aside.
Add olive oil to skillet and bring to medium heat, add mushrooms and onion and sautee for 3-4 minutes. Add ground turkey and sautee until turkey is cooked fully. If using leftover turkey meat, simply add turkey meat after mushrooms and onions have cooked for 6-8 minutes.
Once turkey meat, mushrooms & onions are cooked, add worcestershire sauce, Greek yogurt and gravy-continue to cook on medium heat for approx. 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve turkey stroganoff on a beg of egg noodles-enjoy!
I’m a huge snacker. I love to graze and pick on things all day long… in fact, most days I’d be perfectly content eating just snacks and no meals! This means one thing, I have to be really selective about the things I choose to snack on. If I had it my way, I’d eat nothing but Kit Kat’s, cheese puffs (man I love those things), and Goldfish crackers, but I’d rather not expand three sizes in a month! Instead, I try to mix in lots of healthy snacks, I’d say a ratio of 80% healthy to 20% not so much (this way I can still get my junk food fix!).
Some of the healthy snacks I incorporate often are carrots with hummus, raw almonds, trail mix bars, and animal crackers (for my sweet tooth!). These are great, but sometimes I need to switch it up. I recently found a recipe for baked zucchini chips that looked delish. Zucchini is one of my favorite veggies, it truly tastes great almost any way you prepare it. The zucchini chip recipe inspired me to experiment with some varieties of my own, so here’s what I ended up with:
Baked Zucchini Chips [recipe]
2 large, or 3 small zucchini (sliced into extra-thin rounds)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp season salt
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss zucchini slices, olive oil, season salt, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese. Once coated, spread zucchini onto a baking sheet. Bake for 2-3 hours until slices are completely crisp.
Once baked, let cool and enjoy your healthy snack!
The weekend’s a hop, skip and a jump away…and what could be better on a lazy Saturday than a big plate of warm, fluffy pancakes?? I know what… warm, fluffy pancakes WITH chocolate AND raisins…now that’s what I’m talking about! I absolutely love pancakes, and I’m pretty sure I’ve experimented with every single pancake variation known to man, so I’m like a kid in a candy store when I hit on something good. This happened recently when I took my favorite pancake recipe and made it even better (note: I said better, not healthier…) by adding a touch of sweetness, that’s where the Raisinettes come in! I made myself feel better about the indulgence since my pancake recipe is about as skinny as it gets to start, so adding a few Raisinettes doesn’t really hurt, right ;)?
Raisinette Pancakes [recipe]
*You can use just about any pancake recipe as the base before adding the Raisinettes, but I like to use my favorite Skinny Greek Yogurt Pancakes, they are the perfect fluffy consistancy and healthy too! Here’s the recipe using my yogurt pancakes:
6 oz of fat free plain Greek yogurt
2 egg whites (or one egg)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
a few dashes of cinnamon
optional: one packet of Stevia natural sweetener (if you like your pancakes a little on the sweeter side)
1/2 cup Raisinettes
In a medium bowl, combine the Greek yogurt and egg whites and vanilla extract, whip together until smooth. Add flour, baking soda and cinnamon, stir until there are no lumps. Don’t add the Raisinettes to the batter yet, they will go on the pancakes once they’re on the griddle. Batter will be very thick, this is how it should be, but if you like very thin pancakes, you can always add a bit of milk to thin the batter.
Coat a griddle or large pan with a bit of non-stick spray or butter, bring to medium heat. Pour pancake batter into 6-8″ circles, quickly sprinkle a small hand full of Raisinettes on top of each pancake, wait for bubbles to appear on the tops, then flip! Each side should be golden brown.
Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top if you’d like, enjoy!
I’m always on the lookout for new quick & healthy weeknight meals. By now, you probably know that I have a major soft spot for Mexican food (like my yummy Mexican lasagna!)…which unfortunately isn’t always the healthiest option. So one simple meal I like to make a lot is quesadillas. Of course I (usually) try to include healthy ingredients and very light cheese, this makes me feel like I’m splurging without the guilt
Today’s recipe is a great example of exactly that. I love a good veggie quesadilla, but this recipe is truly a favorite. It combines simple and fresh ingredients with the authentic Mexican flavors that we’ve all come to love. Here’s the recipe, Garden Veggie Quesadilla’s with Black Bean & Corn Salsa…
Garden Vegetable Quesadilla’s with Black Bean & Corn Salsa
Recipe serves 2-3 as a meal (4-6 as an appetizer)
INGREDIENTS (for the quesadilla)
4 large flour tortillas (I used plain but any flavor will work)
one medium onions, cut into strips
one green bell pepper, cut into strips
one red pepper, cut into strips
one large zucchini, diced
one summer squash, diced
two ears of corn, cooked then kernels removed
one tbsp. olive oil
two cloves of minced garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
salt & pepper to taste
3/4 cup of shredded Mexican blend cheese
Add olive oil to medium skillet then bring to medium heat, add olive oil, then add onion, pepper, zucchini and squash. Saute for 4-5 minutes, then corn kernels and spices. Sautee together for 2 minutes. Remove vegetables from skillet and set aside.
Bring a medium skillet (large enough to fit your tortillas) to medium heat, add a bit of olive oil. Lay your first tortilla on the skillet, then top the tortilla with half your vegetable mixture, then sprinkle half of the shredded cheese. Lay the second tortilla on top of the cheese. Cook on one side for 1-2 minutes (until golden brown), then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, cut into slices and serve warm. Repeat these steps to make the second quesadilla using your remaining ingredients.
INGREDIENTS (for the Black Bean & Corn Salsa)
1 cup of black beans (I used canned)
one ear of corn, cooked then kernels removed
two medium-large tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup of minced green bell pepper
one clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
salt & pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients in a medium bowl. Chill before serving.
As we transition into Fall, I’d like to share one of my all time favorite salads with you (second only to the La Grande’ salad!). I usually associate this salad with Summer, but a few modifications (and variations) cozy it up perfectly for Fall. The best part about this salad is that it is so versatile. The spinach and strawberries are light and fresh, while the blue cheese and almonds hearty and savory. So here it is, The Spinach & Strawberry with Blue Cheese Salad…
Spinach & Strawberry Salad with Blue Cheese (and poppy seed dressing)
INGREDIENTS(for the salad)
1 package of baby spinach (washed & dried)
3/4 cup sliced strawberries
**You can swap out the strawberries for cranberries, blueberries, raspberries or just about any other fruit you like
1/4 cup sliced almonds (or halves if you prefer)
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
INGREDIENTS(for the poppy seed dressing)
1/2 small onion (minced)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp. poppy seed
Mix the salad ingredients in a large serving dish, set aside.
To prepare the poppy seed dressing, add all of the ingredients together in a blender and chop until dressing is blended well.
Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and toss. You will end up with extra dressing which can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
I love pizza…of course, who doesn’t!? Sadly, pizza is not exactly on the list of healthy dinner options =( So after a serious pizza craving the other night, I decided to make up a healthy pizza option (well, at least a MUCH healthier option) I grabbed a package of naan bread, which seemed perfect since it’s already in the pizza shape…and made up a mixture of toppings, starting with sweet potatoes! I was amazed at how delicious my healthy pizza turned out, the naan was perfectly crispy and the mixture of toppings blended just right! Of course I had to share, so here it is, the Chicken Sausage & Sweet Potato Naan Pizza…
Chicken Sausage & Sweet Potato Naan Pizza
Recipe Serves 3-4
1 package of naan bread (usually contains 2 pieces, this recipe requires 2 pieces)
1 large sweet potato
2 links of pre-cooked chicken sausage, diced (I used Al Fresco All Natural Sweet Italian)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped spinach
3 tbsp. skim milk
1 tsp. fresh sage, chopped
3/4-1 cup shredded cheese (your choice, I used a mixture of mozzarella and brie)
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a fork, pierce raw sweet potato several times. Bake on rack for approx. 45 minutes or until soft.
While sweet potato is baking, heat olive oil on a low heat in a medium skillet. Add onion and a dash of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes until onion has caramelized. Add spinach and cook until wilted, approx. 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Bring a small skillet to medium heat, add a dash of olive oil and diced chicken sausage. Sausage should already be pre-cooked, so just lightly saute it for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside.
Once potato is soft, scoop out the insides into a medium bowl. Add skim milk, sage and salt, mix until smooth. Keep oven heated to 400 degrees, the pizza’s going in soon!
Now it’s time to prepare the pizza! Lay out the two pieces of naan bread on a large baking sheet. Cover each piece with a layer of sweet potato, add onion and spinach mixture on top of the sweet potato. Last, add the chicken sausage to each piece, then sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.