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Tell me your favorite HEALTHY, but delicious recipes that may or may not require effort and are semi-exciting and creative! (Is that too tall of an order?)

Let me start by saying that I'm not one of those girls obsessed with staying thin. I don't count every calorie that goes into my mouth; I can't think of anything more cumbersome, or more of a buzz kill unless you're on a diet and trying to lose some weight, which I'm not. I just try to make sure that 5 days a week, I watch it, especially for breakfast and lunch. Friday night and Saturday and Sunday are when I might allow myself extra calories (not all day, but at least at one meal) and cook exciting new dishes or go out to dinner with family, friends, or my fiance.

But generally, I tend to be a good girl during the week for the sake of my figure, and that means I sometimes fall into a rut, especially once July hits. Does anyone else get like this, or am I the only one doing this entire season wrong? I mean, I ADORE the Farmer's Market. I delight in purple potatoes and heirloom tomatoes and gorgeous asparagus stalks and green garlic and summer squash and sweet corn and mango and strawberries and cherries and the 739282828 other items you can find around this time of year. And the seafood is amazing and people are busting out their barbecues and pouring a lot of fine wine.

Yet I find myself growing bored and restless with everything come the 4th of July. For months on end, I regularly wind up grilling chicken with herbs or broiling tilapia or salmon with fruit salsa or lemon and olive oil, and then sauteing or roasting vegetables, or sometimes having wheat pasta with grilled produce and protein. Or I make big salads with various greens and fruit and some grilled/roasted/lightly sauteed prawns. Yawn. It's all delicious from mid-March to late June, and then I hit a wall.

What recipes do you make when you want to:

1) Stay moderately healthy, at least in the sense that you are not drowning yourself in cream and butter and all things fried;
2) Eat something filled with flavor;
3) Fill your plate with a dish that isn't necessarily boring;
4) Say that you cooked something that takes more thought that throwing a steak on the grill and tossing a vinaigrette?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. It's funny, I get the same exact way, except in the winter time. I go crazy and say, "If I eat one more root vegetable or another helping of cranberry sauce, I'm gonna lose it!"

    For me, the solution is trying out food from different cultures and countries as often as possible. If you get creative, you can do this without a lot of extra kitchen time (I know the weekdays can be hard, with work and everything else going on) and too many added calories.

    The only chicken dish I will recommend to you is this:
    Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives
    http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/moro...

    The preserved lemon, cinnamon, paprika, and green olives have your whole house smelling delicious, and the taste is ridiculously delicious, as if you've made something far more complex than you actually have. I make it with couscous, but you can definitely substitute in some brown rice, and eat it with the breast rather than the thighs to keep it all relatively healthy.

    Other than that? Step away from the chicken! Most girls tend to turn to chicken breast over and over again in an attempt to keep their weight down, but that's the easiest way to get bored, and fast. Turn to turkey, lamb, even leaner cuts of beef, in the name of keeping it interesting.

    Turkey burgers with tomato jam, olives, and feta:
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

    I've made these several times, and they're always so good. I think if you had one with a small, simple side salad, your waistline would not suffer.

    Broiled Lamb Chops with Mint Chimichurri:
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

    I've made this four times, and I always get raves on it. It has a little butter and oil, but once again, if you keep everything else simple, like maybe some steamed vegetables, your mouth will be happy and you won't feel any guilt!

    I'd also try grilled fish tacos with tomatillo sauce and corn tortillas; grilled peaches and lettuces in your salads for interest and a new texture; Indian vegetables curries; Japanese miso soup; heirloom tomato gazpacho with some of those grilled prawns. Just don't be afraid to experiment on Tuesday the same way you say you do over the weekend!

    1. I know that feeling! Some ideas that may help
      - grilled portobello mushrooms
      - grilled tofu
      - chilled soup
      - veggie fritatta
      - tomato tart
      - stuffed baked potato
      - veggie pizza
      - arugula and mushroom salad

      1. I find that what I've grown tired of is actually the grilled flavor to every component of the meal. When that's the case, I switch out to doing some stir-fries in the wok with all those good summer veggies to refresh my palate.

        1. up here in the Pacific Northwest, we don't even start summer until July 4, and don't get any of the tomatoes and bg summer veg until even later, so your post makes me sad. But I soldier on ...

          For filling with flavor, I would look at Mexican, Indian, and Thai for ideas, especially for using spices and herbs in different and dramatic ways. You could make a Thai beef salad, or fish salad. Indian curries, or tandoori chicken. Mexican--tostadas, veg or fish or any meat tacos. You can use more of the flavorful ingredients and less of the protein. If corn tortillas don't fit your plan for healthy,make lettuce wraps.

          1. LIke cocktailhour said, try different ethnic food. We eat homestyle Indian vegetarian about 70% of the time, and this type of food:
            1. Never depends on butter, cream, ghee, etc for flavour; so my family has never fallen into the trap of thinking that wonderfully tasty food has to have such ingredients. Also, the reliance on seasonal vegetables, dals/lentils/beans, and partial whole grains, means that it can be very healthy.
            2. It is filled with flavour, by definition, with a symphonic use of spices - homestyle cooking uses far fewer spices, oil, and techniques than the restaurant classic dishes, and tastes much better
            3. Never boring - near infinite regional and cultural variety
            4. You can take as much or as little thought as you like.

            Other ethnicities: Thai, Mediterranean, etc. have similar features......

            1. i eat a lot of fish... i also eat egg white omelettes when i want something protein heavy but with flavor variability. some of my favorite dishes include (and let me know if you want me to expand upon any, rather than me wasting bandwidth if no one's interested):

              Leeks with Halibut or Scallops and Tarragon over Spaghetti Squash
              Halibut and Shellfish Stewish with Onions, Fennel, Tomatoes and Herbs
              Blackened Fish in Parchment with Herbs and Lemon
              Fire Roasted Corn and Green Chile Crustless Mini-Quiches with Cilantro Slurry
              Egg White Maple Custards
              Gluten Free Salmon Croquettes
              Broccoli Pie (crustless)
              Gluten Free Fat Free Choco cookies
              Sweet n Sour Cabbage with Lean Ground Turkey or TVP
              TVP patties
              Roasted Carrots, Onions and Chayote
              Cooked then Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Rosemary
              ...to name a few...

              7 Replies
              1. re: Emme

                can you type up your broccoli pie recipe? thanks!

                1. re: cheesecake17

                  okay, so it kind of varies but...

                  i take 2-3 heads of broccoli crowns, and nuke them for a few minutes til soft. i tend to just use the florets and eat the stalks myself later. i let them cool and break into pieces.
                  i nuke a medium onion til soft and cut into dices, and let cool.
                  4 eggs (or 2 eggs and 4 egg whites or 1 egg and 6 egg whites... whatever you prefer)
                  2 cups unsweetened nonfat almond milk
                  maybe 1/2 tsp salt
                  black pepper to taste
                  less than 1//4 tsp ground nutmeg
                  beat the liquid then stir in veggies
                  if you can have cheese, stir in 1 cup (or less if preferred) or grated parmesan
                  spray a rectangular (aluminum - i use this because i'm often giving it to people) pan with Pam; pour in custard -- i like my pan large enough so that the depth of the pie is 1 1/2 - 2 in deep. bake at 350 for 35-50 minutes (i start checking early, as i never want it to be rubbery) until egg is set. the top bits of broccoli will brown a bit, and this is a good thing :)

                2. re: Emme

                  Emme -- What are your egg white maple custards like? I love maple syrup and we have a good supply of it here in the northlands. And I love custards.

                  The idea of a healthy custard sounds divine.

                  Can I trouble you for the recipe?

                  1. re: karykat

                    i wish i had better measurements but...
                    i use 5 large egg whites or 6 medium egg whites, beaten together with maybe 1 to 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened nonfat almond milk. 2-3 tsp of vanilla. i whisk those together, and then whisk in sugar substitute that can be baked (Ideal is the one i use)... maybe 1/2 cup, maybe 1 cup... this is really to taste (sorry on this one). i'll drizzle in a little more almond milk if i feel like the sugar hasn't dissolved enough. (this is maybe what brings it up to 1 1/2 or 1 1/4 cups of the almond milk) i take muffin tins and spray with pam. then put a dollop of (sugar-free) maple syrup in the bottom of each cup and swirl around. i distribute the custard batter among the muffin cups. (sometimes i'll sprinkle a dash of cinnamon over the tops of a few of them). preheat oven to 350. then i take a baking sheet and pour in some hot water. i sit the muffin tins in the baking sheet, put in the oven, then reduce the oven temp to 315-325. let bake for 30-35 minutes. then turn off the oven and leave them in for maybe another 10 minutes... you might want to put liners in or parchment circles, so that they come out cleanly. i sometimes eat them out of the pan. for shame, i know. kind of vague, i know, and i'm sorry, but healthy and really malleable...

                    1. re: Emme

                      Sounds good. I've never tried almond milk so this is a good reason to do it.

                      The white part of the egg must be the thickening part (to set the custards). Which makes sense if you think about it for a bit.

                      Thanks much.

                      1. re: karykat

                        karykat, if you have a good source for inexpensive almonds, try making your own almond milk sometime - it's really wonderful.

                        1. re: karykat

                          i use almond milk in soooo many things now. i love the results.

                  2. I've been making the spicy shrimpcakes with corn and avocado salsa from Cooking Light quite a bit this summer. I've heard you can bake it to make it healthier, but I think it does pretty well on it's own. Also, I add halved grape tomatoes to the salsa and put it on just about everything - hamburgers, hot dogs, fish, etc.

                    http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: soypower

                      I love this thread!!

                      I like quiche made with pan fried ham (only takes a tiny bit of oil), veg, and mostly egg whites. I also like quinoa, which is easy to wilt spinach or something into. And I also like a soft boiled egg and beans in a fried corn tortilla, although I am not entirely sure if that qualifies as healthy. Would probably be even better with fresh beans. I am not much of a salad person, but I have found that if I toast some nuts in the oven and use a little goat cheese, it makes a world of difference, and I can usually manage to make it low carb.

                      I'd love to hear more about specific ethnic dishes that people make healthy.

                    2. My go to for this type of meal is to substitute lentils for any hamburger - whether it be tacos, chili, spaghetti, etc.

                      1. Grilled pizza with a nice salad on top. The key is to limit th cheese but use sharp highly flavor cheese in small amounts. So a nice grilled pizza brushed with garlic olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary and a salad with a lemon vinaigrette on top with shavings of parmesan.

                        1. One of my favorite things recently was inspired by an Epicurious recipe--fresh and hearty at the same time. One serving is:

                          Toss together 1/2 head radicchio thinly sliced/shredded and a decent handful of chopped parsley (maybe 1/4 c). Toss with a dressing made with juice from 1/2 lemon (maybe 1.5 tbsp), 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp grainy mustard, pepper. Top with drained canned sardines (I use a 4 oz can packed in EVOO) and half an avocado, sliced.

                          Sounds a little weird maybe, but soooo good. And very colorful!

                          1. If you get tired of eating your melons, berries, and stone fruits out of hand and don't want to bother with baking, try my lime and honey yogurt sauce. It takes about a minute to put together, and is delicious on just about any fruit you can think of. Works well on grilled pineapple too.

                            Opera Girl's Lime and Honey Yogurt Sauce

                            1/2 C. fat free Greek yogurt (I use Fage 0%)
                            2 Tbsp. honey
                            zest of 1 lime
                            juice of 1 lime

                            1. Stir ingredients together in a small bowl until honey dissolves.

                            http://operagirlcooks.com

                            1. I hear you. That's the whole reason I started a blog - to come up with great food that's not fried, has no cream or butter but is not boring! It's no easy task, but I have no choice because of my effin' cholesterol.

                              Here are a few of my faves that I've shared on chowhound:
                              Vegan lasagna with bechamel sauce
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7123...

                              Moroccan vegetable and chickpea stew
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7053...

                              Tuscan baked beans with tomato and sage
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3903...

                              Curried quinoa with cauliflower
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6184...

                              Hope this helps fulfill your tall order!

                              Cathy