Many of us have fond memories of Mom or Grandma spending hours in the kitchen slicing veggies, trimming cuts of meat, carefully adding spices and patiently simmering…roasting…baking…steaming…and so on. But today, who has time for that? We’re pulled in so many directions that it seems like a victory if we sit still long enough to wolf down some takeout. In fact, a recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that among its 34 country members, Americans spend the least amount of time cooking and the third-least amount of time eating. So why is our obesity rate the highest of the bunch? Perhaps in part because too few of us have found the secret to making healthful meals fast enough to suit our busy schedules.
Well, here’s someone who has found that secret—Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, author of 25 books on nutrition and cooking, including Comfort Classics: Hearty Favorites Made Healthy. Magee has generously shared four recipes—each naturally low in calories and saturated fat yet high in flavor—that will let you put tasty, nutritious meals (dessert, too!) on the table in less than 15 minutes.
For breakfast: Very-Veggie Quesadilla. Why settle for boring cold cereal when you can kick off your day with a warm and quick quesadilla? To prepare: In a large skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, heat 1 cup egg substitute or egg whites over medium heat until semi-firm. Flip with a spatula. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. shredded reduced-fat cheese and 2 Tbsp. minced green onion, then top with a large whole-grain tortilla. When the underside of the egg is cooked, flip everything onto a plate, tortilla-side down. Sprinkle with diced tomatoes, avocado and bell pepper to taste. Top with a second large tortilla, then cut into wedges. Makes two servings.
For lunch: Cashew-Curry Chicken Salad Sandwich. If you’re used to thinking of chicken salad as a gooey mix of mayo and chicken, you’ll be delighted with the zesty taste and crunchy texture of this version. To prepare: Remove and chop the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Place 2 cups of the chicken in a medium-sized bowl (reserve any remainder for another use). Into the chicken, stir ? cup finely chopped celery…one finely chopped green onion…and ¼ cup cashew pieces. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together 4 tsp. nonfat plain yogurt…¼ cup fat-free sour cream…1 tsp. curry powder…and ¼ tsp. low-sodium chicken-broth powder. Stir mayonnaise mixture into chicken mixture. Use six slices of multigrain bread plus lettuce and sliced tomato to taste to make three chicken salad sandwiches.
For dinner: Turkey-Avocado Burgers. The typical turkey patty, while nutritious, is notoriously bland—but not this spiced-up version! To prepare: In a medium-sized bowl, combine one pound extra-lean ground turkey…¼ cup fine bread crumbs…¼ cup egg whites…2 Tbsp. soy sauce…2 Tbsp. minced onion…1 tsp. minced garlic…and 1 tsp. minced ginger. Shape into four patties. In a large skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, cook burgers over medium heat for about four minutes per side or until done (do not overcook). Place each burger on a whole-grain bun and top generously with sliced avocado and salsa. Makes four servings.
For dessert: Easy Crustless Apple Pie. This guilt-free indulgence takes just a few moments to make. To prepare: Core an apple and place in a microwavable dish. Into the center of the apple, spoon 1 tsp. brown sugar and ½ tsp. of whipped butter. Drizzle apple with lemon juice and sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Microwave on high three to four minutes or until tender. (If your microwave tray does not turn automatically, rotate the dish a quarter-turn halfway through the cooking time.) Makes one serving.