We all want to eat better in the New Year, and it’s easy to incorporate healthy recipes into your weekly rotation. Ease into better eating habits with us in 2019!
By Zara Abbasi Photos by Katie Childs
Wait, what? It’s 2019?!? Remember when we all thought 1990 was 10 years ago? Well we’re inching toward 30 years on that. Remember when we said we were going to work out, eat better and finally make amazing life choices? Yeah, that seems equally a distant memory, too. Time is seriously whizzing by and I have tried every black magic on the internet to get it to stand still so I can hug on my kids a bit more, so I can finally complete that project, so I can finally shop better, eat better, live better and finally be who I wanted to be when I grew up. Well, the sad fact is that time is acting like one of my children and not listening to a dang thing I have to say. It’s going whether I have my life together or not. It reminds me that I keep putting things aside that I should do today. But when, dear friends? WHEN? How do we find the time to fulfill all those well meaning yet empty promises we made to ourselves when we have deadlines and jobs and families and friends and Netflix? WHEN?! Today. We start today. We start small. But we start today. The best revenge truly is to live in the now and make changes today so we stand proud in our tomorrows.
One great thing you can do today to help better your tomorrow is to incorporate healthier recipes into your meal prep rotation. The good thing is, you’re not alone in trying to eat healthier. That means there are a ton of recipes out there and you could read up on them all day. But that’s overwhelming. So, a simple way to take charge is to swap out one recipe at a time so you’re not overwhelmed and relapse into poor eating choices.
Discover your eating personality. Do you gravitate toward fried foods, comfort foods, carb-heavy things, all of the above? Then find one thing to substitute so you don’t feel like you’re just in a phase. Switch out unhealthy oils for more heart-healthy oils, or just learn to reduce the amount you use. Reduce the sugars you add to your food if switching to an alternative seems daunting. If carbs seem to be your nemesis, then eat what you usually do, but take out a serving or two weekly until you’ve weaned yourself from the foods that cause you to make unhealthy choices.
The recipes I’m providing here are a great way to add something new, yet healthy, into your weekly rotation without sacrificing taste or familiarity. Further, they’re adventurous enough to keep things interesting and still have a flavor profile that even my kids enjoy. Hope you’ll give these a try as you pursue a healthier and happier 2019. Happy New Year, friends!
Salmon with Cilantro ‘Pesto’ and Couscous Pilaf
This recipe really and truly is a staple in our home. It comes together quickly and has so many fresh flavors that it’s hard to turn it down as a healthy dinner option. It feels light and doesn’t weigh you down while still filling you up, and all three of my children love it, including our 18-month-old, who can have at least half my portion without batting an eye.
If you’re not a fan of cilantro, then this can easily be varied to substitute flat leaf parsley for the cilantro. Further, the couscous can also be substituted for quinoa or brown rice.
For the salmon:
1 fillet of salmon
½ bunch fresh cilantro
2 small cloves garlic
¼ cup good olive oil
½ lemon (juice and zest)
2 teaspoons cumin powder or seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil for sautéing
*Can replace cilantro with flat leaf parsley
1. In a blender or food processor, blend all the ingredients EXCEPT the salmon and the oil for cooking.
2. Spread the cilantro mixture all over the salmon.
3. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil for cooking to a pan and heat on medium high until oil is hot. Add salmon, marinade side down and cook for approximately two minutes until browned, then flip over, turn heat to medium and cook skin side down for 5-7 minutes. Keep coating both sides as you flip with the remaining marinade.
4. Keep checking the fish to make sure it doesn't burn. Cooking times will vary depending on the size and thickness of the fish. I really wish I could tell you to cook for "X" amount of minutes, but you honestly have to watch it and make sure not to overcook it. For fish, the best rule is: If in doubt, under cook. Why? Because there is residual cooking heat even after taking off the stove; and you can always cook a little more but can never un-cook.
For the couscous:
1 cup couscous
2 cups broth, either chicken or vegetable (I use vegetable)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup onion, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ lemon (zest and juice)
1. Heat a large pot or saucepan with the olive oil, add red onion and sauté until golden and translucent.
2. Add garlic and cook for barely a minute. Add dry couscous and stir to make sure it is well mixed with oil, onions and garlic.
3. Add broth and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover with lid for at least five minutes. The couscous will continue to cook with the steam in the pot. After five minutes, remove the lid, add tomatoes, lemon juice, zest, cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir well to combine and cover again until ready for use.
4. Serve immediately with seared salmon.
Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese
I had to give a comfort food recipe considering all the hardships we will endure while trying to keep our New Year’s resolutions. It’s going to be a sad few weeks without doughnuts and bread, so the least I can do is give you something that feels comfortable and familiar without derailing all the hard work you’re going to be doing! This recipe is obviously no match for the real thing, but it’s a variant and still really delicious. It’s also great to load this up with veggies for little kids, and because the butternut squash is a lovely cheesy color, you can convince them that they’re eating that blue box specialty. OK, maybe not, because if you have kids, you know that they can sniff out a fraud a mile away, so I never really trick them. I tell them exactly what they’re eating and why it’s important that they do so. I don’t know how much longer this truth-telling will work, but it hasn’t let me down yet and they really do love this dish even though they know exactly what’s in it.
1 whole butternut squash, peeled, seeded
and cut into bite-size chunks
3 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup vegetable broth
½ cup cream, milk or coconut milk
½ cup shredded cheddar or gouda
½ red onion, cut into thin slices
2½ cups broccoli florets or green peas
¾ pound chickpeas or whole wheat pasta
2 teaspoons dried sage
1. Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees. On a large sheet pan, add the cubed squash and garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast squash for 30-40 minutes, until tender and browned, flipping occasionally. Let cool.
2. Add roasted butternut squash, vegetable broth, onion powder, nutmeg, thyme, salt, pepper and smoked paprika to a blender and blend until a smooth sauce forms.
3. Heat a large pan over medium heat and coat the bottom with olive oil. Throw in red onion slices, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until onions soften and begin to brown.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta is two minutes from being finished, throw in the broccoli or peas. Drain pasta and vegetables and add to a large bowl. Add the onions, the butternut squash sauce, cream or milk of choice, cheese and sage and mix until combined. Season with salt if necessary.