Chef Explains How to Get Easy, Healthy Dinners on the Table, Fast

Let’s be real. It’s not always easy during the week to feed our families healthy and nutritious food. We’re busy. We’re on the go. We’re tired. Life, just sometimes gets in the way. But on today’s Indy Style, Registered Dietitian and Author Michelle DuDash shares a few tips that’ll at least get you started and help point you in the right direction!

  1. The weekend before, write down your dinner plans for each night of that week.

It is so important to look ahead for the week to figure out how many meals you will be home for. Meal planning can be as simple as writing out the days of the week on a Post-It and writing your meal intention for that day. Then just make sure you have all of the ingredients on your grocery list.

Do you eat leftovers in your house? Leftovers are a gift. If you like leftovers (I do!) those will free up time for other things you enjoy.

If the idea of finding recipes overwhelms you, just plan out a protein, vegetable, and grain for each meal and make sure that’s on your list. Like “chicken thighs and Brussels sprouts.”

    

  1. Try a meal kit delivery service to help you with meal planning and prep. 

Recently I partnered with California prunes to create three delicious recipes that you can now get through Chef’d, a popular online meal kit delivery service.

 One of the recipes that I created is Chicken Curry with California Prunes. I love using CA prunes in recipes because they add a naturally sweet taste and great texture to recipes with no added sugar. Plus, they have 3 g fiber per serving, which is 4-5 prunes, and may support healthy bones and maintain digestive health. These prunes are grown in California and are a premium crop.

The ingredients in Chef’d meal kits are pre-portioned and mostly ready to cook. I’ve tried a few of their other meals, too, and I can tell you that these recipes really work and taste amazing.

Visit www.chefd.com/californiaprunes for more info and to order meal kits.

 

  1. Make a healthy pasta or dinner scramble once per week to use ingredients you already have on hand.

I usually make this kind of dish on Mondays when I need to use up what’s left in my fridge. It’s a great way to start out healthy for the week.

Here’s my formula:

  • Whole-grain pasta or a pasta substitute.
  • Canned beans. In this recipe, we’re using black beans.
  • Vegetables. Use whatever you have on hand. Here we’re using baby kale, and red bell pepper.
  • Aromatics, like onion and garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Dried herbs, like Italian seasoning.
  • An acid, red wine vinegar.
  • Pasta water and/or vegetable broth to add moisture.


Chicken Curry with California Prunes and Brown Rice

Serves: 2

Estimated Cooking Time: 30 Minutes

About: This dish tastes creamy and comforting, yet still leaves you feeling light. Juicy chicken thighs are seared and then simmered in a coconut milk broth spiked with the warm flavors of curry and garam masala. CA Prunes really make this dish pop, adding natural sweetness with no added sugar, and a mellow, sophisticated deep flavor on your taste buds. Lemon zest and juice elevate and brighten the dish. Roasted broccoli balances the plate with a wholesome crunch!

Kitchen 411: Prunes tend to stick to the knife when slicing. A hack to avoid a sticky mess is to wet your knife with water or a thin spray of cooking oil before slicing.

What you’ll need:

From your pantry

  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Ingredients:

  • 1 Parchment paper
  • 2 Garlic clove
  • 1 White onion
  • 2tsp Curry powder
  • 1tsp Garam masala
  • 1 Lemon
  • 3/4 cup CA Prunes
  • 12oz Broccoli florets, bite-size (about 5 cups)
  • 4 Chicken thighs (4oz)
  • 1can Coconut milk (5.5oz)
  • 1/2tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Cooked brown rice

Let’s prep:

  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment; set aside.
  • Mince the garlic.
  • Peel and cut the onion into ¼-inch diced pieces.
  • Combine the curry powder, garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Mix well. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the mixture for step 3 and set aside the remaining spices for step 2.
  • In a small bowl, zest the lemon. In another small bowl, juice the lemon and discard any seeds.
  • Cut the prunes into ¼-inch pieces; set aside.

Let’s cook:

  • Add the broccoli to the prepared sheet pan. Toss with 2 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer and roast until the edges become crisp, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken.
  • Pat dry the chicken with paper towels. Season the chicken on both sides with the curry powder mixture.
  • Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and slice each thigh into 4 pieces.

 Simmering time:

  • To the same pan, add the onions and garlic and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved curry powder mixture and stir for 30 seconds.
  • Add the chicken back to the pan. Add the coconut milk, lemon zest and worcestershire. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer to finish cooking the chicken and thicken the sauce, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove lid and stir in the prunes and only HALF the lemon juice.
  • Poke a hole in the rice packaging and microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

(USDA recommends cooking chicken to a minimum 165°F)

Serve:

  • Toss the roasted broccoli with remaining lemon juice and transfer to a platter.
  • Divide the brown rice between two plates. Top with chicken curry. Serve with the broccoli on the side. Enjoy!

Chef Notes:

  1. Rinse and pat dry produce prior to use.
  2. Recommendations for salt and pepper have been provided. Please season to taste.

 

Spaghetti with Black Beans, Baby Kale, and Red Bell Pepper

3/4-inch grab of uncooked thin spaghetti

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil + 1 tablespoon

1/2 diced small onion (about 1 cup)

2 smashed and peeled garlic cloves

1 medium diced red (or yellow or orange) bell pepper

1-2 big handfuls of baby kale (about half or all of a 5-oz. bag)

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained (you can give them a quick rinse in the can)

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast seasoning or grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 good pinch salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cook spaghetti in salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking water and drain.

Heat a large skillet on medium, add oil and sauté onion and garlic cloves until translucent, about 5 minutes, reducing to low heat as needed. Add bell pepper and kale and sauté until tender, a few more minutes. Stir in beans, Italian seasoning, nutritional yeast seasoning or Parmesan, and red wine vinegar.

Add the cooked drained pasta, 1/3 cup reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Makes 3 servings, about 2 cups each

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

To learn more, visit www.michelledudash.com.