One of the biggest obstacles to making the transition to a healthier, tastier daily menu can simply be the perceived need for a lot of time to prepare balanced, nutritious meals. However, in this month’s article we’re going to show you just how quick preparing satisfying, tasty meals can be. After all, for most of us almost every day is busy and hectic, so you need plenty of creative ways to handle those last-minute meal preparations—without sacrificing your health in the process.
Last-Minute Pasta Dinner
Whole wheat pasta (or your favorite pasta)
Veggie ground round (usually available in either the produce or frozen foods section of your grocery store)
Garlic, onion and/or mushrooms (optional)
Meatless pasta sauce (try organic!)
Salad veggies (such as baby greens, baby carrots, cucumber, etc.)
Your favorite salad dressing
Wholegrain or Italian bread (optional)
You arrive home starving—and possibly to greet starving family members as well. What to do? Here’s a quick, easy dinner sure to satisfy the palate:
First, turn a burner on high and get a pot of water going for your pasta. For the nutritional boost of whole grains, try some of the new whole wheat pastas available in most grocery stores and all health food stores.
Sauté the veggie ground round in a little olive oil and, if you like, add some garlic and onion or mushrooms. Once it’s lightly browned, add a jar of your favorite meatless pasta sauce (preferably organic) and simmer for a few minutes.
In the meantime, throw together a quick tossed salad. Prewashed baby spinach and salad greens make salad easier than ever. (It’s always a good idea to give these an extra rinse.) Throw some baby carrots on top and garnish with whatever other salad veggies you have on hand. A little cheese always adds extra zest to a simple salad. Top with your favorite dressing. A little garlic bread (optional) adds a traditional complement to this tasty meal. (Try wholegrain bread!)
The Easiest Cheese Lasagna Ever!
This recipe is perfect for whenever you and your family and friends want a delicious, gourmet meal but you don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen. This lasagna takes only about 20 minutes to prepare but about 1½ to 2 hours to cook. (If needed, you can assemble it several hours ahead of baking time.)
1 package lasagna noodles
3 jars marinara pasta sauce
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 lb tofu (optional)
16 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
½ tsp dried basil for garnishing (optional)
½ tsp dried oregano for garnishing (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. This recipe doesn’t require pre-boiling the lasagna noodles (it’s not necessary to buy the no-bake kind) but you use plenty of sauce to compensate. It’s important to use marinara style sauce because the higher water content helps cook the noodles.
First, pour a good bit of sauce on the bottom of the pan and spread it out. Use enough sauce so that you can’t see the bottom of the pan at all (this usually amounts to about ¾ of a jar of sauce.) Then put your first layer of dry lasagna noodles down. Spread on the ricotta cheese (about half the container) and sprinkle with a little pepper.
Tofu/ricotta option: If you like, before you put the ricotta in the lasagna, mix some ricotta and tofu together in a 50:50 mixture, crumbling the tofu with your fingers. You (or your guests) will never know the tofu’s there, but it makes the lasagna come out nice and firm and it also provides all the nutritional benefits of soy.
After you spread the first layer of ricotta or ricotta/tofu mixture over the dry lasagna noodles, sprinkle on some shredded mozzarella cheese. Add another generous layer of pasta sauce, then lay down another layer of dry lasagna noodles and repeat with more ricotta or ricotta/tofu and mozzarella and sauce. Add one more layer of dry noodles and add some extra sauce over these noodles. Cover with a layer of ricotta.
Wrap the whole casserole tightly in aluminum foil (this is a crucial step because the sauce will steam the noodles, but the casserole needs to be tightly wrapped). Bake for 1½ to 2 hours. In the last 5 or 10 minutes, remove the foil and add a final layer of mozzarella cheese for an attractive presentation. (The mozzarella will stick to the foil, so don’t put the foil back on for this step.) If you like, sprinkle a little basil and oregano on for an added garnish.
There will usually be a little sauce left that you can warm up for those who like extra sauce with their lasagna. Served with a light salad and bread, this meal is both simple and delicious.
To make it easy, here’s a little summary of how to layer your lasagna:
1st and 2nd layers:
Mozzarella (added in last 10 minutes—remove foil)
Quick and Easy Salad Meal—Not Your Ordinary Salad
A hearty salad can make a delicious and satisfying meal—it’s all about including the right ingredients. There are no hard and fast rules for making a salad, but here are some suggestions. (By the way, wholegrain bread topped with a little butter makes a nice accompaniment to this nutrient-packed meal.)
Pre-washed salad greens, such as baby spinach, baby romaine, etc., make the base of your salad—these are generally easy to find organic. Throw in lots of your favorite veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, etc. For that hearty salad meal taste, add black or green olives, avocado, and/or crumbled or grated cheese. Balsamic vinegar splashed on your salad with a dash of olive oil and salt and pepper makes a great simple dressing, or choose your own favorite dressing. (Try to avoid creamy dressings or those with a lot of additives and preservatives. The idea is to get plenty of healthy fats from the salad ingredients themselves, such as the olives and avocado.)
Veggie Burgers and Fries: A Healthy Version of the American Favorite
It’s fun to serve this healthy, delicious version of an American favorite.
Veggie burgers (virtually every grocery store now has these in the frozen food section)
Olive oil or butter for pan-frying
Wholegrain hamburger buns (available at your local health food store and some grocery stores)
Ketchup, mustard, eggless mayonnaise (available in health food stores), etc.
Potato options: organic frozen french fries or baked potatoes
This meal is so easy to make! Just put a little olive oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Use enough oil to coat the pan. Sauté the veggie burgers on each side until they are lightly browned. Serve on wholegrain hamburger buns with lettuce, tomato, and all your favorite condiments. (You can also make this same meal with “veggie dogs” in place of veggie burgers.) Baby carrots make a quick and healthy side dish.
For a potato side dish, try the healthy organic versions of frozen french fries available in health food stores. Potatoes are naturally nutritious, and these healthy fries use only high-quality oils—no hydrogenated fats. They’re an easy solution for a busy or tired cook.
Baked potatoes are also easy, but they take longer to cook. (Bake at 375ºF for 45 minutes or longer, depending on the size of the potatoes. Poke with a fork to determine when they are done.) This is a pretty light meal, so topping your potato with some butter and/or a little grated cheese is fine. If you’re trying to eat very light, try plain low-fat yogurt on your baked potato in place of sour cream. It’s surprisingly tasty!
These meals are so easy to make and so delicious that you’ll soon find healthy cooking a breeze. Bon appetit from your friends at Wai Lana Yoga!