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Healthy New Year's Cooking Inspiration

Like many others in the new year, I'm trying to start off with a return to healthy eating habits. Since my fiancee and I moved in together over the summer, my eating habits have gotten much more carb and fat heavy. I sort of limped along until the holidays when, well, I'm sure you all know. I got a bit caught up in the fun of having someone to cook for (he can barely make toast) and he got caught up in not eating frozen food and take-out all the time. The reality of having someone taking wedding pics in 7 months has made up both realize we're looking a bit rounder than we were when we started dating.

I've seen plenty of recipes for "healthy" cooking but I find they often lack real depth of flavor when they're prepared. However, I've made enough delicious healthy food to know it can be just as wonderful as the heavy holiday foods. Especially now when I find myself burned out on rich and decadent and craving clean and simple flavors.

So, chowhounds, I'm asking you to inspire me. What are your favorite tried-and-true healthy recipes you find yourself going to again and again? My sweetie and I are pretty adventurous eaters and I live in a place with a wide variety of grocery stores and availability of ingredients. I have medical reasons for needing to keep my simple carbs low and my protein pretty high, but I'm otherwise open to most anything. Extra bonus points for keeping things in the "oh my god, I'm planning a wedding" budget range but if you have something a little decadent by all means share. There's something to said for an occasional splurge that's also healthy.

I can do this perfectly competently on my own, but I'm always impressed with the ideas other people have that just never occurred to me when I was busy with work and life and in a kitchen rut.

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  1. Eating Well magazine is a wonderful online or offline resource. They know a thing or two about flavor and creativity while eating plenty of the good stuff and they'll help you create some wonderful recipes typically considered heavier fare using lighter subs. If you love produce, this magazine is delightful. Happy New Year!

    1 Reply
    1. re: HillJ

      I will second Eating Well. I use their recipes pretty often, and if you intend to track your caloric intake, a lot of their recipes are in the Livestrong/Daily Plate database.

      Some favorites include:
      http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/rav...
      (I think this is better with tortellini, and I also added a bag of baby spinach.

      )

      http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/her...

      http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/fre...

      This is one of the fastest recipes ever:
      http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec...

      This isn't so much a recipe, but to get back in the swing of healthy eating after being on vacation, this week, dinner is a big salad of baby spinach, a serving of black beans, and a healthy dose of salsa mixed with a bit of sour cream. It's very filling and flavorful. I've used Cuban style black beans from Trader Joe's and this week I'm trying their refried black beans.

      I can attest that all of these are pretty budget friendly in addition to being low-cal and reasonably low in sodium.

    2. I love Eating Well Magazine, too - their recipes are reliable and emphasize whole, fresh, seasonal ingredients. Everyday Food Magazine is another favorite - not all the recipes are "healthy" - but many are and they too are reliable and easy. That magazine is the #1 source of my "keeper" recipes from magazines/newspapers, etc. I don't love Cooking Light Magazine - not enough bang for my buck, recipe-wise.

      Beans are easy, cheap and healthy . . . I love mixing them with quinoa, throwing them into soups, topping salads with them, etc. etc. Lots of fiber and protein. An easy little lunch salad I often do is 1 avocado, chopped, 1 can black beans (rinsed & drained), a chopped tomato (or 1/2 pint of grape tomatoes, halved) - mixed those all together gently and then top with some sherry vinegar, a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper. If you want to stretch it further, try it on top of baby spinach.

      Cheers and best wishes on your wedding!

      GG
      http://www.semisweetonline.com

      1. #1. Same story, different generation, same solution: tonight's meal at our house, Cheat Fajitas for Two.

        6oz grilling steak cut in strips and marinating in salsa, red and yellow peppers and onions cut, dowsed with Texmex seasoning and ready to go...will slice avacado and dole out a smidge of low fat sour cream to smear on whole grain (small) tortillas as I quick stir fry steak and veggies(you could grill but we live in a very cold part of Canada so BBQ does not appeal). The "pow" of the seasonings means we don't dwell on the small amount of meat and with a blood orange and parsley salad dressedin lemon and EVOO, whose going to miss the carbs and calories?

        #2. Just picked up an issue of a magazine called Clean Eating that had some great recipes, including a low fat Version of that famous but deadly Wifesaver as a brunch dish that you prep the night before (this one has turkey sausage). I haven't cooked from this mag yet, but I was impressed with the attitude and the ideas seemed sound (It is a little 'dumbed down' in some articles, though).

        3 Replies
        1. re: LJS

          LJS - word to the wise re Clean Eating magazine - they're slowly getting their act together, but I bought a few of their more debut issues and found the recipes to be off - and the editing to be horrendous (obvious typos and grammatical errors and in some cases, nutrition information that just could *not* be correct). The photos are nice, the concept is great, but the execution is really lacking - so much so that this self-professed magazine-junkie usually passes that one by at the checkout.

          GG
          http://www.semisweetonline.com

          1. re: gansu girl

            Thanks for the tip...based on one issue looks okay (lots of recipes for my celiac daughter that don't call for bean flour and xanthun gum!), but I think I will test-drive a couple more issues before gettting a sub.

          2. re: LJS

            Just finished Cheat Fajitas-really good and could have done this with just 4 oz. of beef as 6oz produced leftover.

          3. Thai turkey wraps. Healthy, low carb, tons of flavor. Cook ground turkey with green onions, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, ginger, and garlic. Use romaine leaves to wrap the turkey, add Thai basil, cilantro, chopped peanuts, and jalapenos (or Thai bird peppers) to taste as you make your wrap.

            1. The reason why diets always fail is that people miss what they used to eat and eventually succumb. So, just don't change what you eat. Reduce portion size and substitute/lower ingredients. Instead of looking for new recipes, play around with your old favorites. Just keep the ingredients that are essential to the food, but cut/reduce/substitute others. Also, rediscover and love salads. Even simple changes like adding a fruit and making your own vinaigrette make a huge difference.

              http://www.chow.com/food-news/57481/h...

              One of the stages of being a good cook is to losing the recipe book and creating (or adjusting) your own. So, go to the market, pick out what's good/fresh/healthy/sale, look at the tools you have in the kitchen and work it out. As long as your pantry is well-stocked, it will turn out fine.

              1. Mark Bittman of The New York Times mentioned a few months back that he tried to "eat vegan until dinner." I think that is a great idea and have been doing it myself for a few weeks--ignoring the holiday extravaganza. It really makes things much easier during the day and it certainly helps me get all the fruits and vegetables I should.

                1. Stuffed peppers or zuchini. Make a savory stuffing of meat, rice, tomatoes, onions and cheese and stuff your veg and bake. You can control the amount of fat and carbs in the filling and the proportion of filling to veg. I have used sour cream as a binder with panko and jack cheese or go low cal and use chopped cooked eggplant, parmesan and V8. Remember garlic is a zero calorie food

                  Another favorite is sauted sausages with lots of cabbage, leek and some potatoes. Simmer in broth and white wine. If you use chicken sausage or the reduced fat kielbasa it isn't too bad and a little sausage goes a long way. This requires a crusty bread for dipping.

                  Low fat cheese is okay the first time but doesn't reheat well. A little velveeta mixed in seems to help- I never thought I'd have the stuff in my fridge but it is useful for a low fat mac and cheese that tastes good.

                  I hope to get some new ideas too so thanks for staring this thread!

                  1. Soups! I always feel so good after a nice soup for dinner. My favorites to make and eat are black bean, lentil, split pea (all of which can be livened up with some meat additions if you need, lots of great recipes with lots of veggies too), minestrone, chicken tortellini, squash soups with endless variations on spices, seafood chowders (up the veggies and reduce the dairy, they can still be great without tons of cream/butter).
                    The volume of liquid makes you feel fuller, and using a good stock gives a good deep flavor. Serve with a salad and some whole grain bread.

                    1. I just made a delicious chick pea and sausage soup with smoked paprika - very filling and delicious, and pretty healthy without feeling like deprivation. I used 1lb chickpeas, 4 smoked sausages, onion, carrots, smoked parika, water -- into the crockpot, yum!