There’s no need to endlessly slave in the kitchen in order to get a healthy dinner on the table that also tastes good. Healthy Eats spoke with Ellie Krieger, whose new cookbook Weeknight Wonders has 150 recipes that get the job done in 30 minutes or less.
Q.What are your time-saving shortcuts?
I have a three-pronged approach to fast, healthy recipes. One: Use quick-cooking proteins. Most lean meats like sirloin steak and pork tenderloin cook in minutes, as do boneless chicken and seafood. I also make great use of beans, eggs and nuts as proteins. Two: Use quick-cooking whole grains like quinoa, whole-grain pasta and bulgur. And three: Incorporate vegetables that require little or no prep, like snow peas, grape tomatoes and prewashed greens.
Q. What are five healthy ingredients you recommend always having on hand?
Always have prewashed baby spinach on hand, some shrimp in the freezer (it thaws in 10 minutes), good whole-grain bread (it freezes well too), canned low-sodium diced tomatoes and eggs. I have a full pantry list in the book, but these are several staples that I can’t live without.
Q. All of your recipes include minimally processed ingredients — there are no instant fat-free puddings or bottled salad dressings, even though those are quick and easy options. Why?
Taste is number one to me, and I find that ingredients that are highly processed and have a lot of artificial additives and preservatives (as so many convenience foods do) just taste inferior. Not to mention there are downsides to them health-wise. But there are so many healthy convenience foods to take advantage of that I use throughout the book, like prewashed and pre-cut produce, low-sodium canned tomatoes and beans, frozen peas and fruits, instant brown rice and so on. These ingredients can sometimes truly make it possible to cook at home and they are no compromise health-wise.
Q. How is it even possible to create 150 quick recipes that are also healthy?
Ha! I know, there is a big misconception that it takes a lot of time and effort to get fabulous, healthy meals on the table everyone will love. But it is really not true, and I prove it in this book. And I really mean it when I say 30 minutes — that includes all prep and pre-heating the oven. All the recipes have been rigorously taste-tested by my meat-and-potatoes husband and 11- year-old pickier-than-ever daughter, so I know they are winners!
Q. Could you share a recipe from the book?
Pureeing cashews into a savory carrot-ginger soup takes it from [a] delicious but somewhat expected [dish] to a richly satisfying main course that makes you say “wow!” The nuts add a lovely texture and body to the soup, not to mention protein and healthy fats. Their subtle sweetness plays off the sweetness of the carrots, while the ginger and allspice provide a fragrant, warming effect.
Savory Carrot-Cashew Soup
Makes 4 Servings
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger
1½ pounds carrots (5 large)
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ cup unsalted roasted cashews
2 teaspoon honey
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. While the broth is heating, chop the onion and mince the garlic and ginger. Slice all but one-quarter of one of the carrots into ¼-inch-thick coins.
Heat the oil in another medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the allspice and cook for 30 seconds.
Stir the carrot coins into the pot with the onions, then add the boiling broth, cover and return to a boil over a high heat. Lower the heat to medium, uncover, and simmer until the carrots are tender, 8 to 9 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the remaining carrot quarter and chop 2 tablespoons of the cashews to use for garnish.
Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the whole cashews, honey, salt, and pepper, and then puree the soup in 3 batches in a blender until smooth. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender.)
Serve garnished with the grated carrot and chopped cashews.
SERVING SIZE 1½ cups
CALORIES 250; Total Fat 13g (Sat Fat 2.5g, Mono Fat 7.8g, Poly Fat 2.2g); Protein 9g; Carb 29g; Fiber 5g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 620mg
EXCELLENT SOURCE OF Copper; Fiber; Manganese, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin K
GOOD SOURCE OF Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Protein, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Zinc
Recipe and photos reprinted with permission from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, from Weeknight Wonders by Ellie Krieger. Photography by Quentin Bacon. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.