6 (mostly) Healthy Recipes that Helped Pull Me Past My Quarantine Bake-off and onto More Healthy and Refreshing Meals
Anyone else try their hand at the pandemic trend baking homemade bread?
By Kim Crowley
When the current health crisis first began and the coronavirus stay-at-home order was first announced, it felt like the long-anticipated snow days of the south had finally come! You know how our snow days go – everything closes, we get to stay home from work and school for a couple of days, play games and watch movies, and EAT! Snow days have always been open game for our family when it comes to eating. When everyone else runs to the store for bread and milk, I head for coffee, wine and chocolate chips (and whatever else I need to bake something decadent, sweet and warm)!
In this way, “quarantining” started off the same for my family – my sons were loving my new energy for baking cookies, brownies, quick breads and even bagels! But, as all good things must come to an end, it was time to get back on a (somewhat) healthy-eating track!
So, these are some of the dishes I turned to freshen up our plates.
The first is not really a recipe, just an idea that a friend of my husband’s had posted on her Facebook page. She had dubbed it her “Quarantine Salad” and she said it reminded her of sunshine. The mangoes that I’ve bought this spring have been extremely good after a few days on the counter to ripen and they made this whole salad nice and sweet! I’ve renamed it.
1. Sunshine Salad
Wash, peel, cut up, mix and enjoy!
Next up, two options for strawberries!
Unfortunately, our local strawberry season is over but these are both so excellent, I urge you to hold onto them until next year, though you may still find some good strawberries in the grocery store from areas not too far.
First, Strawberry Chia Seed Jam. I was surprised to learn that when the chia seeds cook and then sit, they act like pectin for the jam and help thicken it up. The texture of the chia seeds are similar to the strawberry seeds in this so if you don’t like strawberry seeds, you probably won’t like this recipe but I LOVED it. I ate it on sprouted grain toast (I’ll admit that I sometimes combined it with the leftover cream cheese from when we had the bagels!) and added it to Greek yogurt with nuts. This recipe comes from @busybakerblog and lasts about two weeks in the refrigerator. (Link: https://thebusybaker.ca/homemade-chia-seed-jam/)
2. Strawberry Chia Seed Jam
1 pound fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
3 tbsp honey (add 1 more tablespoon if you like your jam very sweet, or other vegan honey substitute)
2 tbsp chia seeds
- Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the strawberries and honey.
- Stir the strawberries as they begin to soften over the heat.
- Once the berries start to fall apart, use a potato masher or fork to break them up even more.
- Let the mixture come to a slow boil, stirring almost continually. When you see some big bubbles break the surface, add the chia seeds.
- The chia seeds will help the jam achieve a gelatinous texture while also adding fiber, protein and healthy Omega-3 fats.
- Continue stirring the mixture over low heat for about 15 minutes, and then remove the pan from the stove.
- If you enjoy jam with small chunks of fruit in it, then you’re done! Simply pour the mixture into a mason jar and cover it tightly with a lid.
- If you’d prefer jam with a smoother texture, pour the mixture in your blender and pulse it a few times before pouring it into a mason jar. Or, use an immersion blender and pulse only a few times.
- While the jam is still hot it may seem more fluid than you would expect. The chia seeds need a bit of time to do their work, so let the jam cool to room temperature in the jar and then place it in the fridge for a few hours to achieve the perfect texture.
- Enjoy on toast, gluten-free crackers or scones, over yogurt or even ice cream.
- The jam keeps for a couple weeks in the fridge but beware: since it doesn’t contain any preservatives and hasn’t undergone the proper canning process, it must be kept refrigerated.
- This jam can be canned, but please follow proper canning instructions to ensure food safety.
Another quick and delicious strawberry treat, this Strawberry Sauce is from one of my favorite food blogs, @100daysofrealfood. This is sweet and delicious!! My sweet tooth was obviously still firmly intact but next time, I will try it with a little less maple syrup! We enjoyed this on ice cream (like I said, my sweet tooth….) (Link: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/recipe-berry-sauce/)
3. Berry Sauce
¾ cup frozen berries
1 ½ – 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, depending on how sweet you like it
¼ cup water
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a light simmer.
- Cook until the berries have softened, about 5 – 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and puree with a hand immersion blender or countertop blender.
- Use immediately or store in the fridge for later.
I love leafy greens! Really. LOVE them all. I grew up with grandparents that had big gardens and cooked them all: turnips, mustard, kale, spinach, collards, lettuces and more! I prepare them differently than they used to, usually either gently sauteed or in salads, I especially love kale salads, but after making the same kale and quinoa salad for the past year, I was wanting something different. This great recipe was recommended by Riki (@pilateswithriki) and it is from 101cookbooks.
It can stand alone or is great with pan-seared salmon, if you eat fish. I omitted the brussels sprouts (though I’m sure that would be good!) and just used more kale. Here is the Link.
Important note: Riki shared a step for kale salads from another recipe that was a game-changer. Basically, once the kale is clean and dry, drizzle the kale lightly with EVOO and sprinkle with salt. Then, using your hands, massage the oil and salt into the leaves for about a minute. Let sit in the refrigerator for about an hour then move onto your kale salad recipe. Though I already loved kale, my husband did not. He loved this salad and I’m pretty sure it is due to this step, which breaks down the kale leaves a bit.
4. Lacinato Kale and Pecorino Salad
1 finely chopped shallot
Scant 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons tahini
Honey and salt to taste
1 bunch of lacinato kale, finely shredded
12 brussels sprouts, finely shredded
3 green onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 cup toasted pecans, sliced
20 large green olives, pitted and sliced
2/3 cup shredded pecorino cheese
- Start by making the dressing. In a small bowl, combine the shallot with the lemon juice. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before whisking in the olive oil, tahini, honey, and salt.
- Toss the kale, sprouts, and green onions with the dressing. Really mix it well, preferably with your hands, and then allow it to rest for ten minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add the pecans, olives, and pecorino, and gently toss once more before serving topped with chopped herbs and/or herb blossoms.
Did I mention that about five weeks after the stay-at-home order took place that my stove quit on me? At that point, I decided the universe was clearly trying to send me a message!! It’s been out since then and in exchange, I’ve learned new ways to cook many of the vegetables that I normally roasted in the oven. If you don’t have a grill basket for sauteing vegetables on the grill, I urge you to get one! Plus, so much less clean up!! We’ve cooked sweet potatoes, white potatoes, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and more either in the basket or straight on the grill.
This next recipe was just an inspiration for using the extra leeks I had bought at the farmer’s market for the kale salad. Simple, healthy and delicious! I made it even more simple by cutting the vegetables up first and cooking in the grill basket. This recipe is from Epicurious.
5. Grilled Zucchini and Leeks with Walnuts and Herbs
1/3 cup walnuts
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise with some root attached
2 large zucchini (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise
1/2 cup (lightly packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
- Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Toast walnuts in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing often, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Chop very coarsely. Toss warm walnuts with garlic, lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.
- Brush leeks and zucchini with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill vegetables, turning often, until tender and charred in spots, 5-8 minutes for leeks, 8-10 minutes for zucchini.
- Transfer vegetables to a cutting board. Trim roots from leeks and cut leeks and zucchini into bite-size pieces. Add vegetables and parsley to bowl with walnuts and toss to combine; season vegetables with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.
One last recipe. One of my sisters-in-law sent this one to me. Chickpea and Poblano Quesadillas.
Again, easy, mostly healthy, and delicious. This is how I like to cook. My boys didn’t want to try them so they got plain cheese quesadillas and my husband and I got leftovers! They were possibly even more delicious the next day warmed up for lunch! The recipe originates from Cook’s Country and can be found on this blog: https://www.mystoryinrecipes.com/blog-posts/chickpea-and-poblano-quesadillas.
6. Chickpea and Poblano Quesadillas
2 ripe avocados
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lime juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
15 oz can chickpeas
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 poblano chili, seeded and chopped fine
3 scallions, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 flour tortillas
2 tablespoons canola oil
- Process avocados, water, lime juice and 1/4 t. salt in a blender until smooth.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir in cilantro.
- Process chickpeas and poblano in a blender.
- Add cheese, scallions, pepper and 1/4 t. salt.
- Spread 1 c. chickpea mixture over half of each tortilla leaving 1/2″ border.
- Fold in half.
- Heat oil in a skillet. Brown quesadillas, 1 at a time, using a saucepan to flatten.
- Flip and brown on the other side.
- Cut into wedges.
There’s a lot of recipes out there to try that are simple, healthy and delicious. I love to cook and I love to eat, so it works out nicely. These are just a few of the dishes that I’ve tried recently and really enjoyed. Hope you will, too!