Healthy Dinner Recipes For Fun Nights In

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Yes really! Eating healthy food can be fun even without Jamie Oliver in the kitchen. Here are some ideas on how to create some basic recipes that you can change and adapt so you don’t get bored and you don’t have to be a master Chef to make them.

Before I start getting your creative kitchen juices flowing, I just want to mention that healthy eating means leaving out some things, like French fries and other deep fried foods, or at least only eating them now and then, and including plenty of raw stuff and a good mix of fruits and vegetables. Nuts and seeds are also great for healthy eating. Here are some ideas to get you started…

Minced beef paste (use good quality lean beef)

Because burgers are often a favourite I have found you a minced beef paste that is made of half finely minced beef and half grated carrots, which is what makes it much healthier than a pure beef paste. Add to it whatever seasoning you like – my favourite is finely chopped onion, ground black pepper, a liberal amount of crushed garlic gloves, salt to season and plenty of chopped fresh mint or dried mint leaves. The mint gives it an Arab kebab twist. You could use parsley, thyme, rosemary, watercress or add some hot pepper or curry peppers to spice it up.

Here is what you can do with it:

  • Form it into burgers or roll it into sausages glazed with olive oil and grill them
  • Form it into balls and put it into a tomato sauce to make meat balls
  • Form it into a loaf and bake it in a loaf tin for a meat loaf that can be eaten hot or cold and taken to work for lunch
  • Stuff red, green and yellow peppers with the paste and roast then in the oven to create a colourful and appetising dish

Serve with greens, broccoli or cauliflower and a mix of sweet-potatoes and standard potato, or if you made meatballs serve them on a bed of brown rice. Add a raw salad such as young spinach leaves, cucumber, spring onions and tomato or whatever you like eating raw. Sprinkle your salad with nuts and seeds for some added nutritional value.

Fish to tickle your fancy

I know that fish is not always a favourite and it is sometimes difficult to get hold of good quality fish, but the great thing about fish is that it is a fast food because it cooks so quickly. Buy a fresh or frozen fillet with the skin still on (haddock, cod or what-ever else looks good on the day). Lay it on a baking tray, skin side down and cover it with seasoned cold pressed olive oil. For the seasoning use a small amount of salt plus a handful of finely chopped parsley, a small onion finely chopped, one crushed clove of garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper – all mixed into the olive oil. Grill it under a moderate to hot grill and it will be ready in no time.

You can also use the same fish to make a fish stew by adding some tomato sauce and cooking it in a pan. Leave the skin on or remove it, whichever your prefer, I usually leave it on as I think the flavor is better and the fish holds together better as well. Replace the parsley with coriander for a more oriental flavour.

Serve it with whatever steamed vegetables and raw salad that takes your fancy.

Soup for all seasons

Soup can be a fantastic filler and is really easy to make. My favourite is a rustic bean and vegetable recipe that includes two varieties of beans (soaked for 24 hours before cooking), pearl barley, this is a ‘must have’ in the soup because it makes the soup thick and creamy, red lentils and brown rice. I usually soak the lentils, rice and barley for an hour before cooking. The beans and grains go into a large pan with three dried bay leaves, to boil briskly for 20 minutes then simmer slowly until cooked.

To the cooked grains and beans add plenty of diced or shredded vegetables and more water if needed, plus salt and pepper to season. Any vegetables except starchy things like potatoes are fine, for example carrots, green cabbage and sweet corn, peppers and green beans. I always add a large chopped onion and about four crushed cloves of garlic plus some fresh or dried herbs, such as rosemary to develop the flavour. If you want to get extra healthy throw in some nuts and seeds just before you serve the soup. A large pan of this soup can last for several servings if you wish.