Thursday, February 7, 2013

Healthy Weeknight Cooking - Some Tips & A Recipe

I’ve been catching up with a lot of my friends lately and it seems that we’re all on the same page about one thing: it’s time to loose some weight! Whether it’s the typical New Years resolutions, the approaching bathing suit season, or looming 30th Birthdays it seems as if all of us have a goal to shed some pounds in the next few months.

From what I can tell, everyone has their gym memberships and workout schedules but a lot of my friends are having trouble in the kitchen and are asking me for some healthy cooking tips.  Now even though I love to cook, I’m a teacher by day, so I know first hand how hard it can be to work, commute home, and find the energy to make a healthy, home cooked meal.  Sometimes you just want to say forget it, and pick up fast food or heat up a microwave dinner.  But it is possible!! I do it all the time so I decided to share a few tips that help me.  The tips are below and if you keep them in mind, you can have a tasty, healthy dinner, like my Rosemary Crusted Salmon and Roasted Winter Vegetables, on the table in no time.

Tip #1 Start Your Prep As Soon As You Walk In- If you’re like me, the first thing you want to do when you get home is get out of your work clothes.  But if your planning on making dinner, get everything going in the kitchen before heading in the bedroom to change.  Pre-heat your oven, put your grill or sauté pan on low, and if you’re making pasta or boiling anything, fill the pot with water and get it on the stove.  THEN go change your clothes.  This will speed up the cooking process A LOT.

Tip #2 Cut Back on Fats, Bump Up the Spices and Herbs- In my salmon recipe below, I created a crust of rosemary, garlic, horseradish (my secret weapon), lemon juice and very little oil.  The garlic and herbs give it so much flavor that I forgot it was healthy.  I also tend to use dry spice rubs when trying to enhance the flavor and cut the fat.  I will rub steak, chicken, and fish with a dry rub and then throw them on my lightly oiled grill pan.  It’s a great way to get a yummy meal without the guilt.

Tip #3 Get Help From the Grocery Store- Don’t be afraid to buy the bags of pre-cut and washed vegetables for sautéing, roasting or grilling.  In this recipe, using a bagged vegetable medley cut my prep time in half.  Also, some cooks think fresh is always better but frozen vegetables have the same health benefits because they’re frozen in their prime without the added salt and preservatives that you find in canned vegetables.  So if you have frozen vegetables in the freezer, throwing them in a stir-fry or soup will only improve the health benefits of your meal.

Tip #4 If All Else Fails, Throw Everything in the Oven- If you’re wondering what I make on these cold winter nights when I’m tired but still trying to eat healthy, its roasted vegetables with roasted chicken or fish.  Like I said above, as soon as I walk in, I’ll crank up the oven, season my vegetables and protein and literally throw it all in the oven.  Next thing I know, my house smells amazing, my food is getting crispy and delicious, all while I relax, check my instgram and watch Jeopardy.  It’s the perfect cooking method for lazy weeknights.

So that was a lot of information but I hope some of you found it useful.  Now I will leave you with a recipe and if you follow my tips, this healthy and tasty meal can be ready in under and hour.

Rosemary Crusted Salmon w/ Roasted Winter Vegetables

 Ingredients: Makes 4 Servings
1 Bag Broccoli, Cauliflower, & Carrot Medley
1 Cup Baby Red Bliss or Baby Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 Cup Brussel Sprouts (Trimmed, Outside leaves removed)
1 small Onion
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 3 tablespoons
4 tablespoons Fresh Rosemary Leaves
1 tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice (About ½ a lemon)
1 tablespoon Prepared Horseradish
4 teaspoons Kosher Salt, divided
2 teaspoons Corse Black Pepper, divided
1 clove garlic
12-14 oz Salmon Filet (cut into 4 equal portions)
Additional Olive Oil, Salt, & Pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spread Broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot medley on a foil lined baking sheet.  Then halve the baby potatoes and brussell sprouts and add them to the sheet as well.  Finally halve and quarter the onion and spread the pieces over the other vegetables.  Toss all of the vegetables in 1/3 cup olive oil, season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and put it in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, REDUCE THE OVEN TEMPERATURE TO 350 degrees for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

While the vegetables are roasting, pre-heat a cast iron or non-stick (oven safe) skillet over medium heat.  Then prepare the crust for the salmon by finely chopping the rosemary.  Add it to a bowl with the lemon juice, horseradish, salt and pepper.  Then, using a microplane, grate the clove of garlic in the rosemary mixture, add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and whisk everything together thoroughly.

Next, prepare the salmon filets by brushing both sides of the fish with a little olive oil and sprinkling both sides with salt and pepper.  By now your pan should be screaming hot.  Place fillets flesh side down and allow to sear for 3-4 minutes.  Using tongs, flip the fillets over and allow to sear on the skin side.  Tip: you know the fish is ready to be flipped when you can easily remove the fish without it sticking.  If any part sticks, allow to cook for a minute more.

While the skin side is searing, spoon rosemary mixture over each of the fillets.  Then transfer the
salmon to the oven.  Remember it should be 350 degrees by now.  Allow filets to cook for about 5 minutes more.  Then remove from the oven and immediately transfer to a plate or serving dish to prevent from drying out.  Remove the vegetables from the oven as well, the potatoes should be fork tender and all veggies should be golden brown.

Serve salmon with vegetables.  Enjoy!

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