Getting a healthy, homemade dinner on the table in around 30 minutes sounds easy, but then when you try it’s like mission impossible. Can you really find a recipe that meets ALL the requirements: healthy, quick, delicious, filling, and seasonal?
I’ve always been a meal planner, because food is more than sustenance to me. I love a good meal, and I’m sure you do too or you wouldn’t be here. But many times when I come up with dishes to make, there’s always a sacrifice to be made. Sometimes it isn’t exactly the healthiest. And when I do find a healthy, delicious meal I want to cook, it requires hours of my time. To come up with meals that check off every (or the majority of) item on my list, it takes plenty of planning time.
Quick: I work from home so I can get a meal on the table at a reasonable hour. But there are still those busy days where I look up at the clock and it’s already 6:30pm and I haven’t done anything to prepare for dinner. Getting dinner together in 30-45 minutes can be done, when you choose the right ingredients and FOCUS! I find that if I actually pay attention to what I’m doing (instead of having re-runs of Friends on in the background) I can get a meal together fairly quickly.
Delicious: Well this is a no-brainer. But deliciousness is relative. In the recipes I have shared below, you might choose to skip over the calamari. But I try to give myself a variety of different types of meals, ranging from comfort food to lighter bites, so I can choose from the list depending on my mood. This helps for those who get bored easily. Another tip: explore foods outside of your typical cuisine. Spanish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern are all great food cultures to explore, and you might find that they have quickly, healthy meals that you enjoy that you’ve never even heard of.
Filling: Is there anything less filling than a simple green salad? Don’t get me wrong, some salads are great, but you won’t find me eating JUST a salad for dinner unless it has some kind of filling-factor. Greens by themselves just don’t cut it. So I rely on grains, legumes, cheese, potatoes and other foods to help keep me full until it’s time to break the fast.
Healthy: I’m not one to deprive myself, nor do I embrace diets that limit particular foods. I’m a believer in “everything in moderation” and try to build meals that are balanced in all aspects (calories, fat, nutrients, etc.) But I do try and limit cooking meat to 2x a week. Recently I have started measuring my oils when I cook as well, something I hate doing but those tablespoons do add up!
Seasonal Farm Fresh:If the health factor is an important one for you, then seasonal should be too. But if you’re committed to eating seasonally and from local farms, this throws an even bigger wrench in the plan, particularly in these pesky winter months. We are limited to eating what’s available to us, which can sometimes make meal planning harder. But thankfully I love all vegetables and fruits, and as long as you can find a way to prepare them that you love, it shouldn’t be a problem. If eating seasonally hasn’t really mattered to you in the past, just know this: the local farm-fresh foods that are in season (not to mention animals that are raised humanely on these farms) typically have more nutrients and good health benefits than what you find at the grocery store.
When I go to the market during the winter, I’m presented with a lot of wonderful produce, including beets, broccoli, potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage, kale, squash and mushrooms. So I thought I’d share with you what a typical month of weekday cooking looks like in my household, and hopefully it will cut down some of the time you spend meal planning.
I cook dinner Sunday – Thursday on a typical week, so that means I need to plan for four quick & healthy meals a week (Sunday is my freebie cooking day). 80% of the time I do not follow recipes and these are dishes I have just come up with over the years or dishes inspired by meals at my favorite restaurants. But I have tried to link to recipes you could try that would be similar. I’ve notated with a star the linked recipes that I have actually tried and had success with. Happy cooking!
Mushrooms over spinach polenta with poached eggs (Suggested Recipe)
Halloumi and quinoa salad with beets and herb vinaigrette (Suggested Recipe)
Root vegetable flatbread with brussels sprouts, pancetta and squash (Suggested Recipe)*
Roasted cauliflower sweet potato farro salad with kale pesto (Suggested Recipe)
Soba noodle miso soup with mushrooms and spiralized kohlrabi (Suggested Recipe)
Roasted broccoli burrata salad with pine nuts and toasted breadcrumbs (Suggested Recipe)*
Kale salad with roasted beets, orange segments and feta in pistachio dressing (Suggested Recipe)
Socca with feta, greens and olive dressing (Suggested Recipe)
Winter panzanella Salad (Suggested Recipe)
Pasta with radicchio, ricotta, walnuts and cured pork (optional) (Suggested Recipe)*
Crispy skin salmon with sautéed cabbage and bacon (Suggested Recipe)
Calamari fra diavolo with crisp salad (Suggested Recipe)
Seared Scallops with lemon herb-risotto (Suggested Recipe)
Fish taco bowl with cabbage and quinoa (Suggested Recipe)*
Singapore Noodles with Shrimp, bok choy and radishes (Suggested Recipe)*
Citrus soy ginger pork chops with Brussels sprouts and mashed sweet potatoes (Suggested Recipe)
Blacked chicken breasts with orzo in a (light) creamy Cajun sauce and side of roasted broccoli (Suggested Recipe)
Lamb kofta with roasted cauliflower and mint sauce (Suggested Recipe)
Seasonal vegetable chicken potpie (with pre-made puff pastry) (Suggested Recipe)
Chicken shawarma with roasted red onions & carrots (Suggested Recipe)*