It’s a brand new year. Clean slate. Resolutions fresh in your mind. You’ve said goodbye to heavy, rich foods from the holidays and set your sights on these things called superfoods. Lighter, healthier food sounds good now, but how long can you keep up this determination? Well, with these easy recipes and some gentle reminders, you’ll be able to stay on track all year. Maybe forever!
(Chick)Peas and Love
Are crunchy, salty snacks the kryptonite to your healthy-eating plans? If so, the old saying, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” might be the best possible advice. Instead of cutting snacks completely, pick a healthy one you make for yourself. Spicy, roasted chickpeas are a perfect example. They’re “can’t stop” tasty but loaded with protein and fiber instead of fat.
They couldn’t be easier to make. Just rinse a can or two of chickpeas and dry them really well on paper towels.
While your oven is preheating to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, toss the chickpeas in a bowl with salt and pepper, a tiny drizzle of olive oil and equal parts ground cumin, coriander and your favorite chili powder. Add a bit of cayenne or smoky chipotle for a spicy version, if you want it hot. Roast the chickpeas for about a half hour, then store in an airtight jar.
Spice Up a Party
Setting out trays of high-fat temptation when you have friends over could be a potential pitfall. Spiced chickpeas are a good choice then, too. Just re-warm them for a few minutes in your toaster oven to bring out their full flavors, then serve in martini glasses for an elegant presentation. If you have them in “regular” and “spicy,” garnish the spicy version with a dried red pepper as a warning to guests with sensitive palates.
Hitting the Bar
Getting the hungries when you’re between meals or don’t have time for one can be a resolution-killer. Instead of grabbing junk food or processed snacks, prep up a batch of homemade energy bars. They do have calories — that’s where the energy comes from — but they’re good calories from healthy sources. They’re easy to make, and you can customize them to suit your own taste.
To make the simplest energy bars, all you need is a good blender and equal amounts of pitted dates, nuts or seeds and some other dried fruit for flavor. Your nuts or seeds could be peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds or anything else you like. The dried fruit could be chopped apricots, cherries or prunes. Just process them to a thick paste in your blender, then press the mixture into a parchment-lined baking pan and refrigerate until firm before cutting. Choose sweet fruit for sweeter bars, and tart fruit if you like them less sweet.
If you work out — or plan to — you might need a bar with more carbs and less sweet fruit. You can still use the three equal measures technique, just to keep things simple. One third should be rolled oats, pulsed in the blender to break them up a bit. One third remains your mixture of nuts and seeds. You’ll need moisture for the oats, so substitute mashed banana for about three-fourths of the dates. Blend the mixture together until it makes a dough, then spread it into a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
When the weather outside is cold and harsh, a nice bowl of soup is a good warmer-upper. Seasonal soups are often thick and creamy, but you can come up with resolution-friendly alternatives easily enough. Tuscan kale and white bean soup is a good example. It’s fast, simple, healthy and tasty, and it is made of impeccably wintry ingredients.
This soup comes together in a hurry. Start by gently sauteing onions and garlic in the bottom of a soup pot, then add vegetable or chicken broth. Toss in some thin-sliced carrots and several handfuls of chopped kale. Stir in a can or two of well-rinsed white beans and simmer it all together until the flavors have melded. Add fried and drained low-fat sausage, if you wish, for added flavor. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and serve with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of fresh-grated Parmesan.
Getting Past Pasta
If carbs are your weakness, cutting out pasta can be a real challenge. It’s so good and so cheap and so kid-friendly, it’s hard to do without. But there’s an excellent substitute in the produce section of your supermarket. Spaghetti squash doesn’t have the orange color and sweet flavor of most winter squashes. Instead, it has a fresh, zucchini-like flavor that can help you pretend all that snow isn’t really outside your window.
Spaghetti squash is easy to prepare. Just cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, then bake it cut-side down at 350 degrees for about an hour. Once the flesh is tender, take out the squash and let it rest until it’s cool enough to handle. Scrape out the spaghetti-like strands with a fork into a large mixing bowl. You get a lot out of one squash, enough for a family-sized meal or two smaller ones.
For a bright, cheerful mid-winter meal, roast or sauté a selection of Mediterranean-style vegetables: colorful bell pepper slices, fennel, artichoke hearts or anything else that appeals to you. Drop a spoon or two of store-bought pesto sauce with olive oil in a second mixing bowl, then toss it with the hot — or reheated — spaghetti squash. Top or toss it with your vegetables, then portion it into individual bowls.
Whatever form your own resolutions take this year, building a strong support system will go a long way to help keep you on track. You can never have too many healthy recipes bookmarked. Sharing ideas helps everyone keep their promises to make healthy food choices. What are some of your healthy, go-to recipes for the cold months?