We all have a pretty good idea of what it means to eat healthy. While the exact foods and meals vary from person to person, the general idea remains to eat more whole and natural plant foods and limit the amount of prepackaged or fast food (a.k.a “processed junk”). But this can be a huge challenge, especially when it comes to making dinner. After you’ve had such an incredibly long day, don’t you sometimes feel entitled to go the easy route, which is usually some quick and cheap processed junk?
Every day this week, I spent several hours on campus surviving on bagels and Starbucks coffee. I was mentally and physically exhausted by the time Thursday came around and knew that I needed some real food. My dilemma was real though: It’s 6 pm and I haven’t eaten any real food all day. What can I make that is healthy and satisfying, but won’t take forever and cost my whole paycheck?
To be honest, I was really tempted to drop by and get some processed junk. Instead, I dropped by the store really quick and made this for me and my roommates.
Spinach Tomato Feta Pasta
3/4 box pasta of choice (or roughly 1/4 box of three different kinds of pasta if you forgot to buy more, like I did…)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried basil
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper
Cook pasta according to package. In a large saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat and saute’e garlic, red pepper, and basil until the garlic is slightly golden. Stir in spinach and cook until slightly wilted, stirring frequently. Add grape tomatoes, reduce heat, and cover, allowing mixture to heat gently for about 3 minutes. Serve over pasta and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serves 4 (with some leftovers)
So that wasn’t so bad, right? It was something whole, not too processed, and healthy, and it took me no longer than 30 minutes to make. That’s definitely the ideal dinner right there!
Maybe you’re not a fan of pasta, though, and want some more meat in your meal. This taco recipe is another quick favorite of mine.
Simple Chicken Tacos
1/4 onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb skinless chicken breast
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of white pepper (or black pepper is fine, but white pepper is awesome)
Kale, shredded cheese, and tomato (for topping).
Heat corn tortillas on a saucepan until each is soft and browned in several spots. In a saucepan, heat oil and cook onion until translucent. Rub spices onto chicken breast and place into the saucepan. Cover with water (or chicken broth), bring to a boil, and then simmer, covered, for 10-12 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and water is evaporated. Once chicken is cooked, shred with a fork, and serve on tortillas with desired toppings.
These are just a few examples of some convenient dinner recipes you can all try. Here are a few other deliciously fall-themed recipes you should definitely try too, provided by my friend and fellow Nutrition Sciences student, Meagan Levitt (and excellent commentary courtesy of her as well).
If you have a favorite dinner recipe you just can’t keep to yourself, feel free to share in the comments!
Meg’s Cranberry Sriracha Baked Wings
With Football, studying, and cooler weather upon us this is a wonderful fall dish that is great for get togethers or study benders. These wings offer a sweet and spicy flavor that will aim to please all tastes. Enjoy friends!
● ½ cup jellied cranberry sauce
● 2 tbsp sriracha
● ½ tsp salt
● 3 limes quartered (to squeeze over cooked wings)
● Fresh pineapple spears
● 2 oranges cut into wedges
● 1 tsp garlic
● This is also a great glaze for vegetarian options as well such as cauliflower wingz, zucchini and sweet potato spears, or firm tofu spears.
1. Combine all ingredients except wings inside a large ziplock bag; seal and mix well.
2. Remove ¼ cup of marinade and set aside. Add Wings, or vegetarian option to bag and seal. Turn ingredients over in bag to coat contents and refrigerate for one hour.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour chicken and marinade into an ungreased baking dish, and bake for 45 minutes. Periodically turn and brush with remaining marinade.
4. Transfer to a nice long plate with cut limes, pineapple and oranges.
Meg’s Farmhouse Kale and Butternut Squash Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
As a person from one of the leading maple syrup producing states, I can tell you this salad provides healthy ingredients and a mapley delicious taste. Whether it is served as is or in a warm whole wheat wrap with hummus, I promise you this dish is addicting.
● 8 cups chopped kale leaves
● ½ large apple
● 1 cup cubed + cooked butternut squash, cool before adding
● ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
● ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
● ¼ cup chopped pecans, roasted
In a mason jar combine:
● 2 Tbsp. olive oil
● 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
● 2 tsp. maple syrup
● 1 Tbsp. mustard
● salt and fresh ground black pepper
● Place lid on mason jar and shake
1. In a large bowl, toss kale leaves with half of the Maple Vinaigrette
2. Add apples, butternut squash, red onion, feta, and pecans on top of the kale leaves. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and serve.
Meg’s Rad Vegetarian Curried Butternut Squash Spiralized Noodles
(Perfect for trying out a veggie spiralizer, if you have one!)
Keeping it fall, fresh and green with this dish. Please feel free to add it to 1 cup of vegetable broth and 2 cups of unsweetened coconut milk for a delicious soup.
1 lbs Medium butternut squash
1 Large Red onion
1 cup frozen green peas
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Maple syrup
½ Tbsp Sea salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp Yellow curry powder
¼ Cup Pecans finely chopped + additional for garnish
⅓ Cup Medjool dates chopped
½ cup cilantro
Optional: Jalapenos, red chili flakes or chili oil, or tabasco taste great with it
1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Chop the bulbous end of the butternut squash off, as well as top stem, leaving just the straight part in the middle. Peel off the skin (I find it easier just to cut it off) and chop it in half, so it’s easier to spiralize.
3. Spiralize the squash so it turns into thick noodles. Place into a very large bowl.
4. Cut the apples in half and cut out out the core. Cut the round part of each apple half off slightly, so that it’s flat. Don’t cut too much, or the apple will split when spiralizing. Place onto the Inspiralizer and spiralize each cut half. Place into the bowl with the squash noodles.
5. Thinly slice red onion, place with Squash noodles
6. Toss the noodles with the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, ginger, curry powder, and pepper.
7. Transfer the noodles, being sure to scrape up all the oil and syrup from the bottom of the bowl, into a large baking or casserole dish and cover with 1/4 cup of the chopped pecans.
8. Bake for 10 minutes, stir around and then bake again until the squash noodles
are fork-tender and the apples and syrup has begun to caramelize, about another 10-15 minutes.
9. Immediately stir in the cilantro and dates, and then let cool for 5 minutes.
Meg’s Stupid Good Jamaican Jerk Eggplant
The street food in Negril, Jamaica is unbelievable. It is so delicious, I felt I had to share
it with my favorite people. One of the greatest gifts I have learned about the cuisine from
Jamaica is that it incorporates heat, sweet, love and fresh ingredients. In fact, this
Summer I asked a chef when I was visiting there what his secret was in his delicious
food, and he said, “When I cook for people, they know I put my heart and soul into their
meal”. At this point in the semester we could use a boost, and this dish has a kick.
Since none of us will be going to the Caribbean anytime soon because we are all hard
at work, and for some of us, a semester away from graduating; I figured I’d bring a part
of the Caribbean to you. I have made this dish with Brown rice with lime, and with
Cauliflower rice. Enjoy!
1-2 tablespoons of Jerk seasoning
1/2 tsp each sea salt and black pepper
2 Tbsp garlic
3 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp maple syrup
4 Tbsp melted coconut oil, plus more for grilling
3 green onions or scallions, thinly sliced
1 thinly sliced serrano, seeds removed
1 large or 2 small eggplants
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1 Tbsp (15 ml) lime juice
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp maple syrup
Pinch each sea salt and black pepper
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1. In a small mixing bowl, mix together all dry ingredients, lime juice, soy sauce, maple syrup, coconut oil, green onions, and serrano.
2. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more soy sauce for saltiness, lime
juice for acidity, fresh herbs for earthy flavor, maple syrup for sweetness, pepper for heat, or garlic for bite.
3. Slice eggplant vertically (lengthwise) into 1/2-inch- thick “steaks” and generously brush both sides with the marinade.
4. Heat up a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat and lightly oil / grease to prevent the eggplant from sticking. Once hot, add eggplant and grill on both sides until golden brown and grill marks are present – about 3-5 minutes each side.
5. In the meantime, prepare sauce (optional!) by adding BBQ sauce, lime juice, oil, maple syrup, salt, pepper, onion, to a small and whisking to combine. Taste and adjust flavor as needed.
6. Serve over rice, over cauliflower rice, or with sauce (optional), and garnish with fresh herbs, such as parsley or green onion.