All About "dinner" and "healthy"

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Butternut Bisque with Buttered Nuts

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Come fall, winter squash are everywhere in farmer's markets and grocery stores, stacked everywhere like an odd assortment of mutant pumpkins. Don't be daunted: pear-shaped butternuts, the best of these vitamin-packed powerhouses, are dense-fleshed and enticingly sweet--plus, they keep well and are available long after summer's bounty has dwindled. This velvety-rich soup gets added sweetness from a bit of maple syrup, and buttery crunch from toasted pecans. Delicious.

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Lemony Broccoli Pasta with Chicken

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Wildly nutritious broccoli gets a starring role in this zingy, substantial pasta dish. For the highest yum factor, try to get your hands on a bunch of super-freshly grown broccoli -- and don't discard the stems! Peeled and sliced, they add a sweet, mild crunch to this lightly sauced and deeply flavorful pasta.

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Hashed Potatoes with Greens and Cheese

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The familiar yum factor of fried potatoes and melted cheese just might persuade your family to give greens a chance -- and because it's all so perfectly mixed together, they will just have to. Plus, this luscious hash -- with a side of fried or scrambled eggs, if you like -- feels an awful lot like breakfast for dinner, which everybody loves.

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Orange-Scented White Fish with Caramelized Fennel

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That sounds fancy, right? It's a way of describing how something the kids may never have eaten (fennel) is going to persuade them to love something they may never have liked (fish). Do you know fennel? The bulb is crisp and white, like a pale, overgrown celery bottom, and it smells yummily like licorice. It's delicious raw -- let your kids crunch on some while you're making dinner -- but caramelized until it's meltingly sweet? It's out of this world. Fish can be hard on the budget, but this dish is so packed with flavor that you can plan on small servings.

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Dinner Beans

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This is a real workhorse of a recipe: a cheap, virtually instant supper that is yummy and nutritious. I have always felt profoundly nourished by an honest plate of beans and rice, but you may want to make the beans and scoop them up with warmed tortillas or wrap them up with cheese into plump little burritos. Of course, if you need to make these beans this minute and have no smoked anything in the house, you can add cumin or regular paprika or both, and they will still be very good.

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Soy-Glazed Tofu

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Ah, tofu. We eat a lot of it. It's inexpensive, it's incredibly good for you, our kids love it, and you can treat it like a blank canvas. The trick is to use tofu's mild sponginess to your own advantage, preferably by impelling it to soak up a lot of salt and butter. Hence the following, which is our current go-to recipe, and we eat it at least once a week. Allowed to brown in a pan with soy sauce and lemon juice, the tofu gets crispy-edged and tangily addictive. Just be sure to buy extra-firm tofu, since any other style will fall all to pieces in the pan -- especially "silken tofu" which has the texture of jellied library paste.

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Butternut Squash Soup

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With just a hint of curry, this gorgeous soup smells almost as wonderful as it tastes. I like to make it in large batches and freeze it for a quick supper all winter long. Add a crusty loaf of bread and a salad and you're got a light, yet satisfying meal. This would also make for an elegant first course at your holiday feast.

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The Soup of 1000 Vegetables

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This is the method from an old Marcella Hazan minestrone recipe, and it's an economical use of your time, and also a great way to get lots of flavor into the soup, since everything gets to sauté for a nice long time. A really good bowl of soup is less of a recipe than a formula. And the formula is this: a beany something + a starchy something + a tomato something + loads of random veggies + broth. You begin sautéing whatever onion/garlic type thing you're going to use, and then you prep the veggies one at a time and add them to the pot and stir them as they're done.

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Borscht

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An excellent way of using up root vegetables, Borscht is a sweet and vibrantly pink soup. In their very popular article "The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating," The New York Times listed beets as number 1 thanks to all their lovely folates and antioxidants. I admit they recommend eating them raw for maximum nutrition -- but they're still plenty healthy cooked. Plus, when you stir a bloop of sour cream into it, it turns almost fluorescently pink

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More About soups, dinner, healthy