A Month of Healthy Dinner Recipes
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If you’ve decided to commit to cooking more for yourself and your family, good for you! Doing so is one of the biggest things you can do to take control of your health, as it puts you in direct control of exactly what goes into your body. Research shows that you’ll be taking in fewer calories and less sodium than if you were relying on takeout or convenience meals. And, when you’re cooking for those you love, you inevitably work more vegetables onto the plate. To help you get started—and hopefully get hooked—we’ve done the meal planning for you and put together a 31-day calendar of easy meals.
Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Penne
OK, Day 1, here we go! To get you started on your cook-more-at-home commitment, here’s an easy, veggie-packed pasta dish that gets loads of savory flavor from smoked chicken sausage. And did we mention that it takes less than 20 minutes to pull together? Broccoli rabe gives the pasta toss a slightly bitter bite, but if you’d like something milder, switch to broccoli or Broccolini.
Two-Cheese Veggie Nachos
You’ll be a dinnertime hero if you bring sheet pan nachos to the table. It's fun to keep it all on the baking pan and serve as a shared platter. You’ll love the double-cheese contrast here: Shredded cheese melts into a bubbly blanket over the tortillas, while crumbly queso fresco covers the veggies with a salty kick. If you can’t find fresh corn, frozen works just as well.
Almond-Crusted Trout with Dill and Fresh Brussels Sprouts Salad with Dijon Dressing
Mild-flavored trout filets get an extra-crispy crust from almonds. You could sub flounder or tilapia for the trout and pecans or walnuts for the almonds. Serve with Fresh Brussels Sprouts Salad with Dijon Dressing. Fresh Brussels sprouts are faintly nutty and crunchy, sturdy enough for bold vinaigrettes yet mild enough to pair with delicate mixed greens. Trim the ends and outer leaves, and then use a mandoline or a sharp knife to slice. Or do yourself one better and seek out shaved Brussels sprouts at your supermarket.
Quick Chicken Minestrone and French Bread with Cauliflower Cheese Sauce
Brightly colored vegetables add some welcome vibrancy to this easy soup that’s just comforting enough for cooler nights and fresh enough for any time. Have fun with the noodle shape, or use any small pasta you have on hand. If you'd like, sprinkle each serving with freshly ground black pepper for a finishing touch. Serve with ooey-gooey French Bread with Cauliflower Cheese Sauce that has a secret extra dose of vegetables (and more creaminess) from steamed cauliflower.
Cook's Night Off
Photo: Mary Britton Senseney
You’ve cooked four nights in a row and deserve a break tonight! Tell the family to meet you at the car, and let someone else cook for you this evening. Try to stay within your new healthy eating goals, though. To help you out, here’s our list of the 10 best restaurants for clean eating.
Sweet and Tangy Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Red Potato Mash and Sauteed Almond Green Beans
With a few flavor embellishments (vinegar and shallots), humble grape jelly transforms into a glossy, delicious glaze for roast pork. Using jelly rather than preserves in the glaze helps maintain a smooth texture, but you can use either. Instead of grape, you can also try strawberry, cherry, red currant, or even jellied cranberry sauce. Serve with Sauteed Almond Green Beans.
Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato-Basil Sauce
What’s better than homemade meatballs in tomato sauce? Having another batch of them at the ready. You’ll make this recipe and enjoy half of it tonight (to feed four). Then freeze the rest (four servings)—it will pay off big time down the road. (Just take a little sneak peek ahead to Day 26.)
One-Pot Chicken with Farro
This easy dish is perfect for a casual get-together with friends, or a family-friendly dinner with leftovers for you to take to work. Cumin, saffron, and oregano season rich chicken thighs and nutty farro as the dish simmers. If using saffron, deploy it sparingly; those tiny threads bring subtle flavor and a little color to the dish, but too much will yield a medicinal taste. Serve with a side salad to complete the meal.
Whole-Grain Veggie Burrito Bowl and Orange, Red Onion, and Cilantro Salad
Photo: Jennifer Causey; Prop: Lindsey Lower
This is a Tex-Mex riff on the Korean rice dish bibimbap, in which various toppings are arranged over a bed of rice. Here, burrito bowl must-haves such as smoky black beans, fresh pico de gallo, and slaw top brown rice. Orange, Red Onion, and Cilantro Salad is a great accompaniment, but you may find that all you need are the burrito bowls themselves.
The Cheeseburger Salad
Classic burger elements become a fast, fun salad--a deconstructed take on a diner favorite. Instead of four burger patties, we cook just two, then chop and sprinkle them over the top. A handful of crushed potato chips adds crunch. Kick up the dressing with a pinch of ground red pepper.
Quick Chicken Fajitas
The gang’s all here—smoky sautéed chicken and peppers, mashed avocado, sour cream, and hearty corn tortillas. The recipe serves 4, but you can easily double it to feed a larger crowd. For a quick, easy side, combine shredded red or green cabbage, toasted hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), and crumbled queso fresco. Toss with a simple dressing of lime juice and olive oil.
Kale Pesto Pasta with Shrimp
Making pesto out of leafy greens is a great way to pack lots of veggies into each serving of pasta. While traditional pesto uses basil, a kale pesto is equally hearty and fresh, plus it's loaded with antioxidants and protein. Make the pesto in advance if you're short on time and store it in the refrigerator, although it's best eaten the day of.
Steak Diane with Sautéed Haricots Verts with Red Bell Pepper and Lemon
Steak Diane was born in upscale American restaurants decades ago but couldn’t be easier to make at home for a perfect, and wonderfully retro, date-night supper. While brandy is traditional in the sauce, you can substitute Madeira or dry white wine. The alcohol will cook off quickly, leaving smoky, caramel-like notes. Serve with Sautéed Haricots Verts with Red Bell Pepper and Lemon, or keep frozen vegetables on hand for a last-minute steam for a simple side.
Cook’s Night Off
Congratulate yourself for making it two weeks in! You’ve earned a modest splurge tonight. Order in, and treat yourself to a cocktail. Our Maple-Bourbon Sour might just do the trick, while keeping you within the 1.5-ounce serving recommendation for hard liquor.
Cheesy Sausage, Broccoli, and Quinoa Casserole
Here again, a little extra effort tonight will pay off a couple of weeks later (see Day 31). Freeze an extra pan of this whole-grain main for kid-friendly comfort that’s in the bag. For this casserole, we traded white rice for whole-grain quinoa and kicked out any processed ingredients for a new take on the comfort classic.
20-Minute Black Bean Burgers and Pickled Onion Slaw
Don’t we all need a great 20-minute veggie burger recipe in our back pocket? These burgers also work with any other canned bean variety, so you can venture beyond black beans. The dressing for the Pickled Onion Slaw is fairly mild, allowing the pop of the pickled onions to shine. Try to slice the cabbage as thinly as you can; the fine shreds have a terrific texture, wilting down slightly after standing for 10 minutes with the dressing.
Chicken Poblano Tortilla Soup and Cilantro-Kale Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Claire Spollen
Here’s a 20-minute version of a guaranteed family-friendly soup. Top with tortilla chips, or make your own crispy tortilla strips as shown, especially if you have leftover corn tortillas hanging around: Cut 4 (6-inch) corn tortillas into 1/2-inch strips and bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Crush half the strips for the soup and garnish with the rest. Round out the meal with an easy Cilantro-Kale Salad with Buttermilk Dressing.
Cook’s Night Off
Photo: Allison Miksch; Styling: Lindsey Lower
Treat yourself this week to a different kind of goodie. Whip up a quick batch of Goat Cheese Cheesecake Bites, and pat yourself on the back. A serving of three little cheesecakes contains only 150 calories, so you don’t have to feel bad if you go back for just one more.
Pork Chops with Herbed Goat Cheese Butter and Green Beans and Savory Sweet Potato Mash
Photo: Greg Dupree; Styling: Lindsey Lower
This speedy main feels restaurant-worthy, but it couldn’t be easier or more affordable (just $2.70 a serving). Stirring fresh herbs, garlic, or lemon rind into softened butter, called compound butter, is a brilliant topper for simply cooked meats or fish, a pile of steamed vegetables, or as a spread for crostini. We stretch the butter with softened goat cheese to lower the saturated fat and add a tangy, luxuriously creamy finish. Dollop the goat cheese mixture over the pork chops and cover the plate with foil so it will melt slightly while you cook the green beans. Bulk up the plate with a simple side of Savory Sweet Potato Mash.
Steak and Mushroom Pizza-Dillas with Blistered Asparagus
When stuffed tortillas are bound with gooey mozzarella and dunked into warm marinara, you end up with a pizza-quesadilla hybrid, or a pizza-dilla. The Blistered Asparagus technique is a super-fast way to get “roasted” results on the stovetop.
Salmon with Potatoes and Horseradish Sauce and Green Beans with Lime
You can never go wrong when you start with salmon and a sour cream sauce, especially if that sauce is flavored with dill and horseradish. Fill out the plate with a side of lime-scented haricots verts (slender French green beans). Ready-to-cook bags of haricots verts cut down on your prep time.
Tuscan Chicken with White Beans and Kale
The main (chicken), starch (white beans), and veggie side (carrots, kale, and tomatoes) are all included in this true one-dish stovetop dinner. And it all comes together in only 22 minutes. Feel free to use bumpy lacinato kale or sturdy curly kale; just be sure to remove the tough stems first.
Nutty Fried Rice
We incorporate lots of nutty flavor into traditional fried rice using toasted sesame oil, cashews, peanut butter, and sesame seeds. It’s a 20-minute vegetarian dinner that’s no short of “meatiness,” thanks to the chew of shiitake mushrooms and heft of cashews. For a vegan version, you can simply omit the eggs.
Broccoli-Bacon Skillet Pizza and Browned Butter Green Beans
Instead of traditional red sauce, we opt for a white sauce made from Parmesan-enriched ricotta cheese. Microwave-in-bag fresh vegetables help this meal come together lickety-split with Browned Butter Green Beans. A hot cast-iron skillet helps to crisp the bottom of the crust while the surface gets golden brown under the broiler--no baking required.
Ginger-Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin and Chili-Spiced Potatoes
Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner
A sweet and sour glaze makes this pork tenderloin lip-smacking good. If you don't have sherry vinegar, sub red wine vinegar or cider vinegar. We love the look of watermelon radishes in this fresh, crisp salad, but any radish will work. The real star in the meal just might be the potatoes, though. A little sweet and spice adds a smoky, caramelized crust with just a few ingredients and in only about 20 minutes. . You can also round out this meal with Chili-Spiced Potatoes for a comforting side.
Hallelujah! Remember that wee bit of extra effort you put in on Day 7, when you stashed away half of your Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato Basil Sauce? Well, now you get to pull it from the freezer, reheat, and pat yourself on the back for thinking and planning ahead.
Cook’s Night Off
Illustration: Christina Harrison Text: Daniel Boone
Once again, you’ve earned a night off from cooking. Ask the kids or your spouse to make dinner for you. Take it easy on them, though. They can shop the frozen food aisle and come home with healthy, delicious options. Just have them check out our guide to the healthiest frozen foods, where we cover everything from frozen pizza to tamales to veggie burgers to soups.
Mongolian Beef and Vegetables and Sesame Soba Noodles
This takeout favorite is typically laden with beef and coated with a sticky-sweet sauce. Our makeover makes crisp-tender snow peas, broccoli, and carrots the star, with seared flank steak as the supporting player. We also balanced the blend of brown sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil in the sauce. We’ve kept our version family friendly by omitting the heat, but you can add a sliced red chile or a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper if you like. You can also change up the vegetables: Try snap peas, mushrooms, red bell pepper, or cauliflower florets. Sesame Soba Noodles are made of buckwheat flour and have a toasty, nutty flavor. You can sub whole-wheat linguine if you can't find them.
Grilled Salmon with White Bean and Arugula Salad
Some nights, you need to go a little lighter and a lot fresher. This dinner is just right for those times. Pan-grilled salmon sits on tart, lemon-dressed salad featuring arugula and Great Northern beans. Any white bean will do, so you can swap in navy beans or cannellini beans. And if you don’t have capers, try chopped olives. Ask for salmon fillets from the head end of the fish--the tail end is much thinner.
Beef and Broccoli Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Buttery Roasted Cauliflower
Russets aren't the only spuds worth stuffing. Smoke and heat, achieved with chili powder and ground red pepper, work particularly well with sweet potatoes. The melted cheese on top pulls all the flavors together and seals in the stuffed components. A side of Buttery Roasted Cauliflower is the perfect finishing touch.
It seems only fitting that you get to finish the 31-Day Meal Planner on a high note—that is, you get to finish by pulling that other Cheesy Sausage, Broccoli, and Quinoa Casserole (from Day 15) out of the freezer and simply reheat and eat. Good for you!
To Reheat: Cover with foil and bake at 375° for 25 minutes ; then broil 5 minutes or until golden brown.