I will bet that you think this string of words definitely doesn’t belong in the same universe, much less being pasted together to form the acronym H.E.A.D, standing for Healthy Enjoyable Achievable Dining relating to preparation and dining of those much coveted home-cooked meals.
AU CONTRAIRE!!! I had the pleasure of teaching an adult cooking class last night and yes, we not only talked about strategies for achieving healthy but convenient home-cooked meals, we actually COOKED THEM!
I have also added, for your salubrious but express dining pleasure, a mouthwatering recipe (I say mouthwatering because my husband/food tester Randy has also used that adjective for it’s description) for Mozzarella Chicken With Swiss Chard Farro Salad all within the confines of a 30 minute meal prep time!
First, the strategies of H.E.A.D.:
Healthy- Try to think of your dinner plate as a template for a variety of healthy choices that have these three components: fats, carbohydrates and proteins. My top choices for fats would be healthy Omega 3s like wild caught salmon for their inflammation fighting properties and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil for cooking. Lean meats like skinless chicken, fish, pork and grass-fed beef would be my top protein picks. Finally, non-starchy vegetables are the king of all of my top carbohydrate picks for their unsurpassed free-radical quenching qualities, with the class of cruciferous vegetables like swiss chard, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage winning the prize in my book for their cancer-fighting punch. Finally, ancient grains, i.e. quinoa, farro, freekah and legumes (think beans here) have the decided fiber, protein and nutrient edge for the starchy carb portion of your plate.
Enjoyable- Take a minute and think about what type of foods you really enjoy on your dinner plate. What is the mouthfeel, or the combination of taste, temperature, texture and smell of your food that you enjoy the most? I’m asking you this, all in the context of marrying your healthy food choices with the mouthfeel enjoyment factor you crave. As an example, the Mozzarella Chicken With Swiss Chard Farro Salad I demonstrated to the class last night (see below) had tastes of sweetness from the balsamic vinegar paired with the bitterness of the swiss chard and umami, i.e. meaty, unctuous taste of the seared chicken. The textures of creaminess were evident in the mozzarella and swiss chard pesto along with the crunchiness of the crumbled bacon that topped the dish. You will not be on board with healthy foods unless you get to the point that you crave the combination of tastes, i.e. sour, sweet, bitter, salty and umami and textures like crunchy and creamy to the same extent you do now with your alter “unhealthy food choice” self. This would also mean you really need to slow down when you eat and actually savor the tastes, smells, temperatures and textures of your food. I promise you, it is worth the food analysis effort on your part, turning you into a healthy food-craving machine!
Achievable- The key to making those healthy home cooked meals a daily reality in your very busy life is pre-planning. Tips like preparing a couple of batches of different ancient grains on a weekend and bringing them out as part of your meal during the week. Know what you will be eating for dinner at least one day in advance and mise en place or put in place your dry ingredients and equipment, along with a quick inventory of items you will need in the fridge for your next day’s meal either the night before or the morning of your night time meal. Having a supply of healthy ingredients on hand like a variety of mustards, spices, oils and vinegars at all times to quickly put together sauces, marinades or vinaigrettes is key also. And finally, make it a habit of scanning recipes you really enjoy and set them up in a file system in your computer with all of the categories, i.e. entrees, sauces, salads. This will really knock out that frustration time you will have in frantically looking for a beloved recipe in a huge unorganized stack. Ok, I speak from experience on this one!!
Everyone in the “Quick, Convenient and Healthy” class last night was assigned a meal. Every meal had all of the healthy components: lean protein, free-radical fighting vegetables, healthy fats and high fiber, high protein starchy carbohydrates. We completed six dishes in class and I brought in one healthy crock-pot meal. The entire class did an incredible job of not only understanding the essence of each recipe but also following through with a wonderful finished dish! Great job team!
At the close of the class everyone presented their dish with their own culinary flair:
This class was compliments of the ISU Extension & Outreach of Davis County in Bloomfield, Iowa with Stephanie Knox as the Program Coordinator, where health and education is their chief priority.
Here is that recipe I promised. Not to brag but this definitely fits the criteria of using your H. E. A. D. or Healthy Enjoyable Achievable Dining! Bon Appetit!!
MOZZARELLA CHICKEN WITH SWISS CHARD FARRO SALAD
Equipment: stove, food processor, 12” non-stick skillet w/lid, tongs, large and small bowl
1 bunch of swiss chard (cut into bite-sized pieces with ribs removed)
¼ cup fresh parmesan
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons virgin olive oil
4 (4 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 (4 oz. ball) fresh mozzarella, sliced in 4 equal parts
10 oz. grape tomatoes (cut in half)
1 cup pre-cooked and pre-refrigerated farro (or whatever ancient grain you have on hand)
2 tsp. pre-cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)
- Process 2 cups of swiss chard, parmesan, ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, garlic, ¾ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper in food processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside ¼ cup pesto for serving. Transfer remaining pesto to large bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat remaining 2 Tablespoons virgin olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook chicken until golden brown and registers 160 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Top each breast with 1 piece mozzarella, cover skillet, and let sit off heat until cheese is melted, about 4 minutes.
- Add grape tomatoes and remainder of swiss chard to bowl with pesto and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Arrange on serving platter, top with chicken and drizzle reserved pesto. Top each chicken breast with 1 tsp. of bacon crumbles. Serve and enjoy!!!
*Recipe adapted from 7/15 Cook’s Country
Stay tuned for more Healthy Convenient Achievable Dining posts coming up…