Cooking can be a pleasurable activity that enhances your life and your health. Claire Robinson, host of "Five Ingredient Fix," a Food Network show that showcases recipes made with five ingredients or less, is a believer in the idea of less-is-more cooking. "Delicious dishes only need five ingredients or fewer to make cooking easier, faster and down right irresistible," her website says. The Mayo Clinic suggests shopping with a focus on fresh and unprocessed food, and including more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet. Don't be afraid to experiment with flavors you love, and simplify your favorite recipes to create a healthy meal with just a few ingredients.
Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
You can swap out vegetable choices and spices if you prefer (other root vegetables work well in place of the potatoes). This dish is as good for leftovers as it is out of the oven. You need:
1½ pounds of potatoes (red works best), cut into chunks
1 large onion (white or yellow is fine) cut into wedges
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into strips or chunks
1 bag of fresh spinach (stems removed)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F. Combine potatoes, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary and olive oil in a large roasting pan; make sure the vegetables are coated. Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper, then add to the vegetable mix, again making sure everything is fully coated. Roast for 15 to 20 more minutes. Put the spinach over the chicken and roast for five more minutes, or until the spinach is wilted. Toss the ingredients together before serving.
Pasta With Asparagus and Mushrooms
You can add or substitute your favorite vegetables in this recipe, including bell peppers or onions. Shrimp or chicken also work well mixed in the dish or on the side. You need:
1½ pounds of fresh or frozen asparagus, trimmed and cut into small pieces
¼ cup vegetable broth (chicken broth will work fine too)
½ pound of chopped fresh mushrooms
8 ounces of the whole wheat pasta of your choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare pasta according to instructions, drain and set it aside. While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large (nonstick) skillet over medium-high heat. Once it's hot, add the asparagus and cook for around three minutes, stirring a few times. Add the broth and the mushrooms, and cook for four or five more minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Then take them off the heat. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and mix with the vegetables. Add the Parmesan cheese and red pepper and toss again. Then season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
In the publication "Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals," the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests you build a meal around whole grains like brown rice or pasta. Starting with that as your main ingredient, you can then add a protein such as fish, chicken or lean meat; your favorite vegetables; and the spices and flavors of your choice. The same can be done with salad greens; use the greens as your base, and add as few or as many ingredients as you like. Proteins like hard-boiled eggs, tuna and grilled chicken or fish go well with most vegetables and allow you to make a wide variety of salads without a lot of effort.
When you build your recipe from scratch, you control the type and number of ingredients, and ultimately the health level and taste of your meal.