Eating well is a proven foundation for healthy living for everyone. But this is especially true of those who have been battling addiction, since their bodies tend to lack some essential nutrients. Simply knowing the facts, however, doesn’t always lead a person to change. Figuring out what to buy for a balanced diet and learning how to prepare new dishes can also seem like an overwhelming project.
I understand. I’ve gone the total-overhaul-at-once route myself, and it has never led to lasting change. I finally realized that for me, making small changes is the most effective way. So, I started re-thinking my eating plan one meal at a time, and chose dinner first.
Before I share some easy and good recipes I make a lot, here is a list of kitchen staples to have on hand. You can use this as the basis of your regular shopping list. Believe me, once you have a pantry stocked with healthy ingredients, you’ll find it much easier to make a habit of making nutritious meals.
Dinner Staple Ideas
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Canola or Vegetable oil
- Assorted Spices and seasonings - rosemary, thyme, or basil, cumin, curry or cayenne pepper (Try some new flavors!)
- Canned tomatoes
- Fresh, frozen or canned veggies such as peas, cauliflower, carrots and squash
- Sugar: white and brown
- Flour: enriched white, wheat or gluten-free
- Pasta: whole grain, wheat or gluten-free
- Brown rice
- Meats, like pork (loin or chops), chicken or ground turkey
Now, here are 3 basic recipes I’ve found to be pretty quick and very delicious.
1. Tomato Marinara Sauce
Heart-healthy tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C and other antioxidants.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Yield: 3 cups sauce
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 1/3 cup onion, diced
- 1 can whole peeled tomatoes, or 4-5 fresh tomatoes, peeled
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tbsp butter or margarine, (optional)
- In a large sauce pan, heat up the olive oil on medium for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat back and add the onion, cooking it for about 3 minutes until the pieces are tender and translucent.
- Spoon the tomatoes into the pan, reserving the juice. After about 30 seconds, gently break each one into pieces with your spatula or spoon. Add a teaspoon of sugar (to help ease some of the acidity), and leave the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Then, add in the reserved juice and cook for another 10 minutes. Take the pot off the stove and transfer the sauce to a food processor. (You can also use an immersion blender right in the pan). Pulse on high until the sauce is broken down but still a bit chunky.
- Return the sauce to the pot, add the pat of butter if desired. Turn the burner heat to low and let it sit until you want to serve it. Or, keep it off the heat to cool and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Note: Try adding sausage or sauteed vegetables for variety.
2. Easy Roast Chicken and Vegetables
This one-pan meal combines lean protein with fiber-loaded veggies for nutrient power.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 ½ - 2 ½ hours
Yield: Serves up to 4 people
- Whole chicken, 3-4 pounds is a good amount for up to 4 people
- Dried seasoning “mix” - ¼ tsp each of sage, thyme, parsley
- Wedge of lemon
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Carrots, potatoes, onions - 1 cup each
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Prep the bird by patting it dry with a paper towel. Next, salt and pepper it lightly. Then, using your hands, rub the seasoning mix evenly under the skin. Insert about a teaspoon of the mix and the lemon wedge into the cavity. Let it sit for at least a half hour in the refrigerator.
- Chop up all the vegetables into smaller chunks. Put them into a bowl and drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil, sprinkling them with salt. Gently stir them to make sure every piece has oil and salt on it.
- Place the chicken into a roasting pan. Pour about ⅓ cup of olive oil on the chicken and distribute it evenly all over. Surround it with the vegetables (they should be in a single layer to roast evenly).
- Roast the chicken for about 1 ½ hours, then baste with the juices. Let it cook another ½ hour. Check if done by inserting a meat thermometer into the thigh (it should read 165 degrees F) or by cutting into the thigh with a knife (clear juice should come out, not red or pink). Cover with aluminum foil and let it sit on counter for about 15 minutes before carving and serving.
3. Bean Soup
A cozy meal filled with fiber from the beans and veggies. Thyme alone contains manganese and several other antioxidants.
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: About 3 cups
- ¼ cup onion, diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1 can cannallini beans, with juice
- ½ cup each fresh spinach and carrots, if desired (you can also use the frozen variety, just thaw them first)
- Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the onion and thyme for about 2 minutes, until onion is softened. Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Then, turn the heat back and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour the beans with juice into a food processor or blender. Pulse till the beans are partially chopped up (the consistency should still be thick). If using the spinach and carrots, chop them into small pieces.
- When broth has cooked down, add in the beans and the vegetables, and let them cook for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately, or let it cool and put into an airtight container. Will last in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Note: Try having it with a piece whole grain bread.