As we wrote a few weeks ago, it’s important to take the time to slow down. But let’s be realistic. We all live busy lives, and as much as many of us would love to spend a couple of hours cooking a delicious meal with organic and local ingredients on a nightly basis, that’s not always possible. But don’t go throwing your healthy dinner plans out the window. Eating well doesn’t have to take an eternity. Here are five great dinners that won’t take up a whole evening, but will still keep you lean and green.
1. Green Pizza
Traditionally equated with college all-nighters, pizza doesn’t have to be unhealthy. With a prepared whole wheat pizza dough, or even a gluten free version, all you have to do is add your favorite organic toppings and a quick, good tasting dinner is on its way. Here’s a basic recipe adapted from Eating Well that can be easily tweaked according to what’s in your refrigerator. Tip: for a more diverse flavor, switch out the mozzarella for an artisanal chevre, and if you’re in need of protein, throw in a few walnuts or pecans!
1 pound prepared pizza dough, preferably whole-wheat
2 cups chopped organic broccoli florets
1/4 cup water
5 ounces arugula, any tough stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups)
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup prepared pesto
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Position oven rack in the lowest position; preheat to 450°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about the size of the baking sheet. Transfer to the baking sheet. Bake until puffed and lightly crisped on the bottom, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook broccoli and water in a large skillet over medium heat, covered, until the broccoli is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in arugula and cook, stirring, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread pesto evenly over the crust, top with the broccoli mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until crispy and golden and the cheese is melted, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Black Bean and Yam Quinoa Burgers with Guacamole
These aren’t your average burgers, in fact they’re a little more like glorified falafel. The black beans and quinoa make them protein packed, and the spices give them a good tex-mex flavor. Plus they’re gluten free! This mixture will also keep for two days in the refrigerator, so you can make it ahead of time and fry up the burgers when you’re ready to eat, saving you time. Serve with organic tortilla chips and guacamole for a southern inspired dinner.
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 baked yam
1 finely grated carrot
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 can organic black beans
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 of a white onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
a sprinkling of red pepper flakes (add more if you want a spicier taste)
oil for frying
Cook quinoa. To cook quinoa, bring two cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa and a dash of salt and let simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until water has cooked off.
Mix quinoa with baked yam, carrots, cilantro, salt, chipotle powder and chili flakes.
Sautee garlic and onions. Add in black beans and cumin powder combine with quinoa mixture.
Whisk egg. Add it and buckwheat flour to the mix.
Make balls a little smaller than your palm and flatten into patties. To make the burgers you can either fry them in the frying pan with a little oil, until they are browned on each side, or bake them in the oven.
Combine the following in a bowl and serve!
2 mashed organic avocados
1 finely chopped tomato
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and pepper to taste
Recipe copyright Anna Brones 2008.
3. Organic Saffron Couscous
Couscous is a common favorite both because it’s quick and easy, but also because it goes well on its own or with roasted meats like chicken or lamb, meaning you can choose to keep it vegetarian or not depending on who you’re serving. This version from Organic to Be uses saffron, a perfect aromatic addition.
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
½ cup raisins
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
2 cups couscous
½ cup pine nuts
4 green onions, thinly sliced
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add the raisins, butter, salt, and saffron, stirring until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and stir in the couscous. Cover tightly and set aside for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the pine nuts in a small heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, shaking the skillet often, or until lightly browned and toasted.
Fluff the couscous and stir in the pine nuts and green onions.
4. Tassajara Warm Red Cabbage Salad
Warm salads are the way to go if you’re looking for a quick and easy winter meal. This one from 101 Cookbooks is rich in color, texture and taste, giving you a great tasting and looking salad that you can whip up fast.
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 pound head of red cabbage or radicchio, quartered and cut into thin ribbons
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
2 ounces golden raisins (or other plump, chopped dried fruit)
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to garnish
Roast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown. Sprinkle on the sugar, and a couple pinches of salt. Stir until the sugar melts and coats the seeds (you pan will need to be hot enough). Transfer the seeds immediately to a plate so they don’t stick to the pan. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and saute the onion for a minutes or two with a couple pinches of salt. Stir in the garlic, and the cabbage, and a few more pinches of salt. Stir and cook for just a minute or so, or until the cabbage softens up just a touch. Then stir in the rosemary, most of the raisins, and the vinegar. The cabbage will continue to get more and more tender even after you remove it from the heat, so keep that in mind, and do your best to avoid overcooking it – where it collapses entirely. Fold in half of the feta cheese, most of the sunflower seeds, then taste. Season with more salt if needed. Serve garnished with the remaining raisins, feta, sunflower seeds and Parmesan cheese.
5. Stir Fry with Thai Peanut Sauce
Nothing’s simpler and fresher than a quick stir fry paired with brown rice or even rice noodles. You can use fresh vegetables, or even frozen organic ones, to make a simple stir fry. But any good stir fry needs a great sauce. This basic peanut sauce recipe will take any combination of veggies to the next level. It’s my go-to sauce when I need to add some flair to a basic meal, and you can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. Garnish the finish product with chopped peanuts.
If you’re not confident in your own stir fry skills, here’s a quick recipe to start with from Real Simple:
1 8-ounce package rice noodles or 12 ounces linguine
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 14-ounce package firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 carrots, cut into thin strips
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cups bean sprouts
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (optional)
Boil the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and return them to the pot.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, soy sauce, and lime juice. Gently press the tofu between layers of paper towels to remove excess liquid, then cut into ½-inch pieces.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, bell pepper, and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tofu and bean sprouts. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are slightly tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
Toss the noodles with half the soy sauce mixture and cook over medium-high heat until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter and top with the vegetables and the remaining soy sauce mixture. Sprinkle with the scallions, peanuts, and cilantro, if using.
Peanut Sauce Ingredients:
1/4 cup peanut butter (natural, no sugar added kind)
2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
1-2 teaspoons grated ginger
1/4 cup coconut milk or substitute with water
1/4 cup water
red chili flake to taste
chili garlic sauce to taste or 1 clove crushed garlic
rice wine vinegar
shallots sauteed till brown in oil
Combine all ingredients with a whisk in a small bowl, adding the water last. Pour into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until sauce begins to bubble and thicken. Experiment with this sauce adding a teaspoon at a time of one the optional additions and tasting as you go. Serve hot or cold.