Offset dining out with some simple, clean and delicious meal options when you’re home.
As spring makes its presence felt, it seems natural to spend more time out of the house for meals. But is it always the best option for your body?
Our family went out to dinner the other night and ordered what we thought was a healthy meal.
To my dismay, everyone came home with a stomachache. Even the vegetables were prepped with more salt and butter than the daily-recommended intake.
I’m not saying all restaurants are this way, but there’s a noticeable difference between dining out and preparing foods at home.
I like to offset dining out with some simple, clean and delicious meal options when you’re home.
Tri-Color Peppers and Portobello Mushrooms
This is a simple option and can be prepared in the oven or on the grill. The fresh tomato pulp brings a citric yet sweet flavor to an otherwise traditional marinade. We eat it as a side dish, but it can accompany many different protein choices as well.
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 large orange bell pepper, sliced
2 cups portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 large tomato on the vine
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. salt
2 tsps. pepper
2 Tbsps. freshly squeezed lemon juice
To Prepare Marinade: Cut the tomato in half. In a large mixing bowl, squeeze the juice from the middle of the tomato, adding everything but the skin to your bowl. Add the remaining marinade ingredients and quickly whip with a fork or electric mixer.
Stir in the peppers and mushrooms and toss until everything is well combined. You can do this ahead of time or the night before.
Place the mixture in a foil-lined pan and grill for 20 to 25 minutes, giving a quarter turn every 5 minutes until the peppers are charred.
If making in the oven, place the broiler on high or 500˚.
Make sure the pan is 9 inches away from the top of the broiler to avoid burning ingredients before they’re fully cooked. Use the same method as grilling.
Grilled Corn and Avocado Dip
This dish is so delicious you might want to ditch the chips and grab a spoon. Did you know that lemon and cilantro paired together have many benefits? To name a few, they aid digestion, relieve stomach pain and promote liver function. Now, that’s not so bad for a side dish.
2 large ears corn, grilled
2 large just-ripe avocados; sliced into 1-inch circles
1 medium lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp. canola oil, plus extra for basting
1⁄4 cup white wine vinegar
3⁄4 tsp. white sugar
2 Roma tomatoes, diced (approximately 1⁄2 cup)
1⁄2 small red onion, diced
1 can (2.25 oz.) sliced olives
1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro
1 tsp. salt
2 tsps. freshly ground pepper
2 tsps. garlic, minced
Preheat oven or grill to medium heat.
Baste corn and avocado slices with a pinch of oil.
Place the corn on the grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Kernels are fully cooked when pierced with a pairing knife. Meanwhile, place the avocado on the grill for the last 4 minutes — 2 minutes on each side.
Remove from grill or oven and let cool while you prepare the rest.
First whisk together the lemon juice, oil, vinegar and sugar. Then add the remaining ingredients to a large serving bowl.
Cut the avocado into 1⁄2-inch chunks and slice the corn kernels off the cob. Add contents to the bowl and toss for about 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container.
Potato Salad Lite
This versatile dish is great for big groups. While the ingredient list is small, each flavor is powerful. It’s simple to prepare and can be enjoyed at both warm and cold temperatures. I usually make this a day prior and let it marinate overnight.
2 Tbsps. red wine vinegar
6 oz. plain greek yogurt
1⁄2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
3 lbs. small red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
In a small bowl whisk together all the ingredients except for the potatoes and set aside in the fridge.
In a medium saucepan, add 2 inches of water on high heat. Add the potatoes and cover. Reduce to medium and steam for 15 minutes or until you can pierce with a fork. Remove from heat and let cool slightly (about 10 minutes).
Add potatoes to Greek yogurt mixture and toss until evenly coated.
Add salt and pepper and give it another stir. You can add additional tarragon to garnish if serving immediately.
These are healthier than most coconut macaroons and made without added sugar or corn syrup. Most of the fats are polyunsaturated, meaning the good kind. They also freeze well if you want to split the finished product in half and store for another time. Otherwise, it’s easy to eat the whole batch in one sitting.
41⁄2 cups organic shredded coconut, unsweetened
1⁄4 cup coconut oil
2 tsps. vanilla extract
2 Tbsps. vanilla almond milk
2 Tbsps. warm water (if necessary to get the blender going)
3⁄4 cup agave nectar
1⁄2 cup slivered almonds
3⁄4 cup chocolate chips
pinch of kosher salt to taste
Preheat your oven to 325˚.
In a blender, add 21⁄2 cups of shredded coconut, coconut oil, vanilla and vanilla almond milk. Blend on medium speed for about 12 to 15 minutes. Scrape the sides down halfway through. The consistency should resemble thick butter when finished.
Mix the coconut mixture with the remaining shredded coconut, nectar, almonds and chocolate chips. Stir with a large spoon or spatula until combined.
Drop by tablespoons onto cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. Sprinkle tops with touch of salt if desired.
Bake for 18 to 24 minutes until the tops are brown but not burnt.
Variation: During the holidays, I let the cookies cool and dab the bottoms into melted chocolate for a more professional look but a less healthier option.
Makes approximately 35 cookies.
Taylor Orlin, who works as an account executive for the Jewish Exponent, is a lifelong foodie. She has spent years developing and modifying recipes to adapt for specific dietary needs, including her own Crohn’s Disease. She also believes in instilling healthy eating habits at a young age.