Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sometimes We Just Don't Have Time For Complicated Meals......

I'm sure you must think I spend hours making meals for my family (and you'd be right...) BUT, in my defense I have to say that during our time in Mexico and when I haven't been working, my energies are directed into planning fabulous meals and taking as much time as needed in order to produce perfect results..... no lie, ask my guys. However, during busy times and now that my "lazy period" is almost at an end, I do have lots of "under 30 minute meals" that everyone loves that I whip up when time is short.

I know most people don't have the time or desire to do long drawn out, work intensive meals and when they write me they tell me they live vicariously through the recipes I post, but these meals are right up everyone's alley and anyone will be able to make quick and easy.... plus, really tasty as well too (which is THE major requirement for any meal, right?)....

Let's take a look at some fast food (but healthy too) in the best meaning of the word and you too can plan something easy and quick to surprise your family with.....

Marsala Pork Chops.- Here's a low calorie and very healthy meal. Easy for any day of the week yet fancy enough to serve guests.... great!

4 boneless pork loin chops, trimmed of fat (or how you like them)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup sliced cremini or white mushrooms
1 med onion, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or fresh)
1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup Marsala wine (Jerez or your choice)

Evenly season pork chops, on both sides, with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper. In large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tsp oil on med high 1 min. Add chops and cook 6 min or until browned on the outside and still slightly pink in the center, turning over once. Transfer chops to platter; keep warm. In same skillet, heat remaining oil 1 min. Add mushrooms, onion, and thyme; cook 5 min or until mushrooms are browned and onion is softened. Meanwhile, place asparagus in glass pie plate with 2 tbl water; cover and cook in microwave on High 3 to 3 1/2 min or until fork-tender. Set aside. Add broth and wine to mushroom mixture; cook 2 min. Place chops on 4 dinner plates; top with wine sauce. Serve with asparagus and, if you like, rice.
NOTE: I have sometimes added some sour creme to the Marsala wine sauce to make it creamy and a touch of chives too.

Chicken and Pears in Balsamic Glaze.- Here's another healthy dinner option for you that can be ready in no time....

1 pkg frozen Roma beans (green beans and such are the same)
1 1/3 cup whole wheat couscous (pasta or rice can be used as well)
1 tbl olive oil
1 tsp olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves
2 Bosc pears, each unpeeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges
1 cup chicken broth
3 tbl balsamic vinegar
2 tsp cornstarch

Prepare Roma beans and couscous as usual. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat 1 tbl oil on medium until hot. Add chicken and cook 10 to 12 min or until juices run clear when thickest part is pierced with tip of knife, turning over once. Transfer chicken to plate. In same skillet, in remaining oil, cook pear wedges 3 to 4 min or until lightly browned and tender. In cup, mix broth, vinegar, and cornstarch; add to skillet with pears. Heat to boiling on medium-high. Boil 1 min. Return chicken and any juices on plate to skillet; heat through. Serve.

Warm Black Bean Salad with Shrimp.- Easy, fast, low calorie and healthy... what more could you ask for?......

1 1/4 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tsp olive oil
1 lime
1 onion, chopped
1 med red pepper, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (or cook your own, about 2 cups)
2 tbl chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp coarsely ground black pepper. In nonstick skillet, heat 1 tsp oil on med 1 min. Add shrimp and cook about 6 min or until shrimp turn opaque throughout, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, from lime, grate 1 tsp peel and squeeze 2 tbl juice; set aside. Transfer shrimp to small bowl; cover with foil to keep warm. In same skillet, heat remaining 1 tsp oil on med 1 min. Add onion and red pepper, and cook 8 min or until tender. Stir in cumin; cook 1 min. Add black beans, lime peel and juice, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper. Cook 3 min or until heated through. Spoon black bean mixture onto 4 dinner plates. Top with shrimp and any liquid in bowl; sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Broccoli and Orange Beef Stir Fry.- Very low calorie and high protein dish that's not only healthy but tasty too!

3 tbl cornstarch
1 large egg white
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbl reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp garlic paste
3 tbl canola oil
6 small whole dried chiles or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 navel orange
1 lb beef sirloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch slices
2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup shredded carrots

Remove the peel from orange (colored part only) using a vegetable peeler and reserve; juice orange and reserve. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 tbl of the orange juice, 2 tbl of the cornstarch, and egg white until blended; add beef strips; toss to coat. Cook broccoli in microwave with 2 tbl water in a microwave-safe bowl covered with vented plastic wrap 2 to 3 min on high, or until crisp-tender. Drain; refresh under cold water; reserve. Combine the remaining orange juice and cornstarch, broth, orange sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Drain beef; heat 2 tbl of the oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Cook beef, in 2 batches, 1 to 2 min per side until golden brown. Remove to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tbl oil to skillet; add orange peel and whole chiles and stir-fry 1 to 2 min, until peel and chiles begin to darken and smell fragrant. Pour reserved orange sauce mixture into skillet and cook, stirring, until bubbly and sauce starts to thicken. Add broccoli, beef, and carrot; continue to cook 2 min, stirring, until hot and coated with sauce. Serve over cooked rice.

Spicy Sausage Jambalaya.- Here's a slimmed down version of this classic Cajun dish.... a healthier version as well, full of flavor and a one dish meal too!
8 oz (1 cup) turkey andouille sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 green or yellow pepper, chopped
1 can stewed tomatoes (or use fresh, chopped tomatoes)
1 cup uncooked instant brown rice (or use uncooked and cook before hand
1 cup chicken tenders, each cut crosswise in half
1 bunch green onions, sliced

Heat 12-inch skillet on med until hot. Add sausage and pepper and cook 5 min, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, rice, chicken, 1/2 cup water, and 1/4 tsp salt; heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 min or until rice is just tender. Remove skillet from heat; stir in green onions.
NOTE: You can use pork sausage or any other kind but you will add more fat, your choice.

White Bean and Turkey Chili.- Here's an easy version of this favorite meal and when served with a side salad becomes a nutritious and flavorful complete meal in a hurry!

1 tbl olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 med onion, chopped
4 tsp chili powder
1 tbl ground cumin
1 can whole tomatoes in juice chopped (or fresh tomatoes)
1 can white kidney beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
1 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

In 12-inch skillet, heat oil on med-high until hot. Add turkey and 1/2 tsp salt, and cook 6 to 8 min or until turkey loses its pink color throughout, stirring to break it up with side of spoon. Add onion and red chili flakes, if using, and cook 4 min. Stir in chili powder and cumin; cook 1 min. Add tomatoes with their juice, beans, and 1/2 cup water; heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to med and cook, uncovered, 10 minu, stirring occasionally. Ladle chili into serving bowls and top with a dollop of yogurt.

Pasta with Grape Tomatoes and Herbed Ricotta.- Another great low calorie meal which paired with a salad makes a great meal for everyone. Easy and satisfying too!

Salt to taste
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
1 tbl fresh oregano leaves, chopped (can used dried too)
1/4 cup(plus additional for serving) grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or your choice)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
12 oz fusilli or corkscrew pasta
1 pint(2 cups) grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup black olives, pitted and cut in half
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat large covered pot of salted water to boiling on high. Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine ricotta, oregano, 1/4 cup Romano, and half of basil. Add pasta to boiling water and cook as usual, adding tomatoes when 3 min of cooking time remain. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and tomatoes; return to pot. Add reserved cooking water to ricotta mixture; stir into pasta, tomatoes and olives. Toss with remaining basil. Serve with additional cheese if you like.
NOTE: You could make it more exotic using Feta cheese, Kalamata olives and julienne strips if mint leaves and some green onions sliced fine, and some red pepper flakes.

Orange and Honey Sesame Chicken.- Everyone will love this light version of an all time favorite. Snap to make and sure to become a favorite ......

3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup orange blossom or clover honey
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Combine juice, honey, ginger, garlic, zest, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add chicken; stir to coat. Cover; refrigerate 30 min. Heat a skillet over med heat until hot; add vegetable oil and swirl to coat. Lift chicken from marinade and let excess drip back into bowl. When oil is hot, add chicken and cook over med heat 3 min per side, or until golden brown. Add reserved marinade to skillet and boil over med-high heat, turning chicken once or twice, 3 to 5 min, or until chicken is cooked through and sauce is reduced by half. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, cut into diagonal slices, and arrange on a platter. Stir sesame oil into thickened sauce and spoon it over chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

There you have over a week's worth of quick, healthy meals that will not only save you calories, but time too. I'm sure you can think of other things to do with the time you will have left over, especially during the late summer days.... So go ahead and serve your family these budget conscious meals and have a good time! Feel free to add or change the ingredients to make them a perfect fit to your busy lifestyle and particular tastes too... don't forget there are no rules here, just good times and lots of flavor..... Enjoy!

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