Healthy Cooking on the Cheap: Spicy Oven-Fried Chicken, One-Dish Couscous, and More
This week's menu is all about simple foods that shine with simple preparation.
By Jenna Weber
This week's menu is all about simple foods that shine with simple preparation. Using quality ingredients is the key, so I urge you to visit your local farmers' market or farm stands for the produce, if available in your area. Vegetarians can make the split pea soup minus ham hock, but I can't promise you it will taste the same. I'm a huge fan of vegan split pea soup as well, but there's just nothing like the smoky flavor that you get from pork in a thick, slow-cooked soup. The soup also freezes beautifully, so you might want to double the recipe. Currently my freezer is full of frozen soups of all kinds—they make for the perfect impromptu dinner when it's chilly outside and your pantry is running low.
- Grocery list:
- One 16-oz bag split peas
- 1 lb smoked ham hock
- 3 carrots
- 3 stalks celery
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 2 onions
- 4 delicata squash
- Thai red curry paste
- 1 can garbanzo beans
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- 2 large bunches cilantro
- 1 lb extra-firm tofu
- Brown sugar
- 3 sweet potatoes
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- All-purpose flour
- Cayenne pepper
- Sesame seeds
Smoky Split Pea Soup
All this recipe requires is a little time spent chopping, then you can relax while it simmers on the stove. I recommend you make this for a Sunday night supper then have the leftovers for lunch throughout the week.
1 lb green split peas
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 ham hock
2 quarts chicken stock
1 tsp sea salt
2 onions, chopped
Pinch of smoked paprika
1. Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about two hours, or until the soup is thick and the pork is falling off the bone. Remove ham hock and cut any remaining pork off the bone and add to the soup. Serve with hot, crusty bread and a green salad.
One Dish Couscous Curry With Squash
I love that I only have one pot to wash once this dish is done. Garbanzo beans and squash elevate this dish from a simple side to a hearty main course.
1 cup whole-wheat Moroccan-style couscous
2 delicata squash, sliced
1 jar premade all-natural Thai red curry sauce (I use Trader Joe's brand)
Pinch of sea salt
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups water
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Rub squash slices with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and let roast on a foil-lined baking sheet for roughly 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool.
2. Simmer water on the stove. Add couscous, turn off heat, and cover for 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork when done and add garbanzo beans, squash slices, and curry sauce. Top with cilantro and serve.
Pan Fried Tofu With Caramelized Pecans and Quinoa
Tofu skeptics will be forced to switch sides once they've tried this dish. Coconut oil, brown sugar, and pecans are sinfully good additions to this healthy vegetarian mainstay.
1 lb extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and cooled
4 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1. Bring water, cinnamon, 1/4 tsp salt, and quinoa to a simmer on the stove. Cover and cook for 12 minutes or until quinoa has soaked up all the liquid. Fluff with a fork and keep warm on stove while you prepare the tofu.
2. Heat coconut oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium/high heat. Add the tofu slices and a sprinkle of salt and lightly fry for about 4 minutes on each side, or until golden. Add the brown sugar and pecans and toss.
3. Add the quinoa to the tofu and gently combine. Serve topped with cilantro.
Spicy Oven-Fried Sesame Chicken With Sweet Potato Fries
I love fried chicken, but admittedly it's not the healthiest dinner choice. This recipe is a healthier take on a classic comfort food, and it's something the whole family will be sure to love.
3 large sweet potatoes, sliced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 4 ounces each
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, divided
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Rub sweet potato slices with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and cayenne pepper. Lay flat on foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, flipping each fry halfway through.
2. In a plastic bag, combine the flour, salt, sesame seeds, pepper, and the rest of the cayenne. Rub each piece of chicken with tamari before dropping and shaking in plastic bag.
3. Increase oven temperature to 450°and bake chicken for 30 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.