After years of hearing health professionals tout the importance of eating a healthier diet, Americans are starting to listen. According to research reported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), adults in the U.S. are cutting back on fatty foods and increasing their fiber intake. The 5-year study said that 20% of the improvements can be attributed to cutting back on foods eaten away from home. Restaurants are starting to catch on as well and are offering healthier options.
The proliferation of grain bowls and kale salads on menus indicates this trend isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s great to have so many good-for-you options when eating out, yet many menus are starting to look exactly the same. And when it comes to cooking at home, it’s easy to fall into a rut. These 5 recipes keep the ingredients you love, but give them a completely different look. You’ll enjoy every last bite.
1. Instead of Kale Salad, make Braised Kale with Bacon and Mushrooms
By now, massaging raw kale is a regular part of making supper. It’s a natural choice for those looking to add a nutritional boost to their diets. While these types of salad are a great go-to when you want something fresh and crunchy, cooked kale offers a completely different texture and taste. This braised version with bacon and mushrooms from Food & Wine is just as easy, and delivers a warming heft that no raw preparation can match. If you like braised collard greens, you’ll love braised kale.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces sliced bacon
- 12 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ pounds kale, ribs removed, leaves chopped
- 1½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
Directions: In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil. Add bacon and cook over medium-high heat until crisp, turning once, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels and cool. Leave remaining fat in skillet. Coarsely chop bacon.
Add mushrooms to skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add onion and garlic. Cook stirring occasionally, until onions and softened and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add kale, season with salt and pepper, and toss to wilt. Stir in vinegar, cover, and cook over high heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in bacon. Serve immediately.
2. Instead of Greek Yogurt and Berries, make Minty Yogurt Parfaits
Don’t feel bad if you return to the same yogurt and fruit breakfast every day. Yogurt doesn’t have to be just for breakfast, or even sweet. Betacyanin’s tasty parfaits with creamy minted dairy, hearty chickpeas, and cool cucumbers taste just as great for lunch as they do in the morning. Raisins add a hint of sweetness and a sprinkle of walnuts offers a satisfying crunch.
This easy meal is a great choice for enjoying at home, but you can also pack it into jars to make it portable. Just screw on a lid, and it’s good to go. All you have to do is remember a spoon.
- 2 cups grated cucumber
- 2 cups Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint, plus more
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- Toasted walnuts
Directions: Gather grated cucumber in a paper towel or cheesecloth. Use hands to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Set wrapped cucumber over a colander to allow any excess juice to drain away.
Combine yogurt and mint. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Make parfaits by layering raisins, chickpeas, cucumbers, then yogurt evenly among four glasses or jars. Garnish each parfait with walnuts and additional mint. Serve.
3. Instead of a Quinoa Bowl, make Little Quinoa Patties
Though it’s technically a seed, quinoa plays a starring role in many grain bowls. With plenty of protein and fiber, it certainly deserves all of the attention. But if you find yourself getting bored with this standard lunch, give these pan-fried patties from Epicurious a try. Filled with garlic, chives, and cheese, they pack tons of flavor that no bowl of simply simmered quinoa could hope to deliver.
Just mix some cooked quinoa with eggs, cheese, breadcrumbs, and some seasonings, then form the mixture into cakes. Cook them in a bit of olive oil until they’re golden on both sides. Try them with a dollop of yogurt, alongside some steamed veggies, or on top of a salad.
- 2½ cups cooked quinoa, room temperature
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh chives
- 1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup whole grain bread crumbs, plus more
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Directions: Combine quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in chives, onion, cheese, and garlic. Add bread crumbs, stir, then let sit for a few minutes to allow crumbs to absorb moisture. The mixture should be moist, but not wet. Add additional bread crumbs if needed. If too dry, add a bit of water. Form mixture into 12 (1-inch) patties.
Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add 6 patties, being sure to space apart, cover, and cook 7 to 10 minutes, until bottoms are deeply browned. Adjust heat as needed.
Flip patties and cook on second side for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from skillet and cook on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining patties. Serve.
4. Instead of Avocado Toast, make Avocado Pasta
The simplicity of avocado toast makes it a winning dish for just about any meal. The creamy fruit is so delicious and versatile that you might want to start experimenting with other ways to use it. Introduce it to some new friends with this dreamy pasta from Damn Delicious. The no-cook sauce comes together in a food processor, so this meal is also super fast.
Just cook some pasta while you whir up the avocados with basil, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. Toss the noodles with the sauce, then mix in some corn kernels and halved cherry tomatoes. To get even more nutrients, opt for a whole-wheat pasta.
- 12 ounces spaghetti
- 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup fresh corn kernels, or canned kernels, drained
Directions: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain.
Combine avocados, basil, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. With motor running, stream in olive oil, until emulsified.
Combine pasta with sauce, tomatoes, and corn in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Serve at once.
5. Instead of Seared Salmon Fillets, make Black Bean Salmon Stir-Fry
There’s nothing wrong with simple sautéed or broiled salmon for lunch or dinner, it’s just that it can get a little bit old after a while. Reinvigorate your palate, and still get those omega-3s, with Eating Well’s zesty salmon stir-fry. A garlicky black bean sauce spiked with rice wine and chile flakes ensures this dish will have loads of flavor, and cutting the salmon into cubes means it will get onto the table fast. It doesn’t get much better than dinner in 20 minutes.
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons black bean and garlic sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 pound salmon, skinned, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 12 ounces mung bean sprouts
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced
Directions: Whisk water, vinegar, black bean sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, and crushed pepper flakes in a small bowl to combine.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon and cook, stirring gently, for 2 minutes. Add bean sprouts, scallions, and the sauce. Cook, stirring, until sprouts are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve.