As we hunker down at home in these unprecedented times of the Coronavirus pandemic, maintaining our health and fitness regimens is still of the utmost priority for many of us — perhaps even more than ever. With gyms and boutique fitness studios closed, digital and streaming workouts are replacing our regular bootcamp, yoga, cycling, barre, and Pilates classes. More on that to come in follow-up post tomorrow, but in the meantime check out 31 Days of Digital Fitness!
Healthy eating in these days has new challenges as well. While some store shelves are cleared of dry goods and non-perishables — for those of us who regularly choose fresh foods, keeping things like meat, fish, fruits and vegetables in our diet now requires a bit more planning.
I asked our friend Erin Parekh, Holistic Health Coach and Culinary Nutrition Expert, for some easy-to-make dishes to prepare now and freeze for later. If you’re craving some comfort food in these stressful days that’s healthy too, here are six recipes for both meat and plant-based eaters (marked PB), Erin shared with me that I’m passing on to you!
SAVORY ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP (PB, above)
Soup is surprisingly easy to make and freezes really well. This recipe is full of hearty root vegetables to both satisfy the palate and soothe the soul. Serves 4.
1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium rutabaga, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbs. olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
7-8 thyme springs
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
3-4 cups broth of choice
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Toss sweet potato, rutabaga, and carrots with 1 tbs. olive oil and a good sprinkling of sea salt. Roast for 35-40 minutes until vegetables are tender.
While vegetables are roasting, bring a stock pot to medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, diced onion, cumin, coriander, thyme sprigs, and a good pinch of salt. Cook for 8-10 minutes until onion is translucent and starting to brown around the edges. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds until fragrant.
Remove root vegetables from oven and combine them in the same pot as the onion and garlic. Add in 3 cups of broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Let soup cook for another 10-15 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs, then puree soup using an immersion blender. (Or remove soup in batches and puree in a regular blender.) Return soup to a simmer.
Taste — adding salt and pepper as needed. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add in the remaining 1 cup of broth. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh thyme, and cracked black pepper. Soup can be stored in the fridge for 4-5 days. It freezes very well for up to 3 months.
NOTE: This soup is also great for utilizing leftover roasted vegetables or baked sweet potatoes. Instead of roasting from scratch, use what’s already in your fridge. You’ll want approximately 4-5 cups of cooked vegetables.
APPLE CINNAMON SWEET POTATO MUFFINS (PB)
Start your day with a yummy muffin that’s low in sugar — and is as good as it is good for ya! Makes 12 regular sized muffins.
1 cup sweet potato puree
2 large eggs
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/3 cup raw coconut oil, melted and slightly cooked
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup sorghum or oat flour
1/4 cup ground flax meal
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 large apple, diced small
1/4 cup coconut sugar, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin tin with parchment paper muffin liners (or grease well with coconut oil).
To make the sweet potato puree, bake two medium sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for 40-60 minutes (depending on size). Once they are soft and can be easily pierced with a knife, let them cool. Then remove the skins, mash, and measure. Any leftover sweet potato is delicious seasoned with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil and served as a side.
In a medium bowl, combine sweet potato puree, eggs, maple syrup, apple sauce, coconut oil, and vanilla. In a large bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, oat flour, ground flax meal, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Gently fold the sweet potato mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined — do not over mix. Stir in the diced apple.
Evenly distribute the batter among the prepared muffin cups and sprinkle coconut sugar over the tops. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes, then remove muffins from tin and place on cooling rack until completely cooled.
NOTES: Muffins will keep at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the fridge for up to five day. Reheat in the toaster oven if desired.
Recipe adapted from The Ranch at Malibu Cookbook
GROWN-UP CHICKEN FINGERS
You know you love them – I’ve seen you grab one off your kids’ plate! Forget those fried and breaded store-bought freezer options. This is a perfect recipe for turning those frozen store-bought chicken fingers into something a little more fancy and fun — that both you and your kids will enjoy!
1 pound organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or tenders)
1/2 tsp. sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 tbs. arrowroot starch
2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 egg, scrambled
2-3 tbs. white wine or lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (see notes on variations)
(For a kid friendly version, simply omit the herbs and white wine/lemon juice.)
Cut chicken breasts vertically into 1-inch wide strips and place in a shallow dish or pie plate. Season with 1/2 tsp. salt and several grinds fresh black pepper, and toss to combine. Sprinkle arrowroot powder over seasoned chicken and stir to coat. Start with 1 tbs. and add additional as needed. You want a light coating on each strip. Add 1 tbs. olive oil and stir again to coat.
Place in the fridge and let sit 20 minutes. Then, add the egg, stir to coat, and let sit another 5-10 minutes while you chop the herbs and preheat the pan. To cook the tenders, bring a large non-stick skillet to medium-high heat and add the additional tablespoon of olive oil. Add tenders (in batches if needed), draining off any extra batter, and sauté, turning once, until each side is golden, 7-10 minutes.
When tenders are close to done, add herbs and stir to coat. Then add white wine and sauté until evaporated. (If you cooked tenders in batches, add them all back to the pan before tossing with herbs and wine.) Let tenders rest for several minutes and serve.
NOTES: No fresh herbs? Just add a teaspoon or so of dried when you whisk together the egg. Or, try adding 2 cups marinara, heating through, and finishing with 1/4 cup fresh basil. It’s delicious served over pasta or zucchini noodles. Cool completely and store well wrapped for up to one month in the freezer.
RED LENTIL ARRABBIATA SAUCE (PB)
This delicious sauce makes a great topper rice, pasta, and vegetables too — and even on those chicken fingers above! Serves 2-3 (easily doubles).
1/2 cup red lentils
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (to taste)
1/4 tsp. oregano
2 tbs. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 – 1 tsp. fine sea salt (to taste)
1/4 – 1/2 cup vegetable broth
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add red lentils, and reduce to a medium simmer. Cook for 15-18 minutes until tender, but not mushy. Be sure to watch the pot to ensure it doesn’t boil over. When lentils are finished, drain well, and season with a pinch of salt.
Meanwhile, bring a large skillet to medium heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Sauté briefly until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomato paste and paprika, incorporating them into the oil, and cook for another 30-60 seconds. Then, add the crushed tomatoes and salt. Simmer for 5-8 minutes until slightly thickened. Add cooked lentils and 1/4 cup vegetable broth. Let simmer another 5-8 minutes. Taste for salt and add as needed.
Serve with spiralized butternut squash, zucchini, brown rice or your favorite pasta. Top with vegan parmesan cheese (we promise it’s delicious!)
NOTES: As the sauce sits it will thicken. Add the additional 1/4 cup vegetable broth to thin to desired consistency (especially if reheated). This sauce keeps well and can be stored in the fridge for several days or frozen for 2-3 months.
TAPAS-STYLE BISON MEATBALLS WITH SMOKED PAPRIKA AND CARROTS
Why not add some yummy meatballs to that Pasta Arrabiata – or just make these bison meatballs a delicious meal on their own. Makes 12 larger or 20 small meatballs.
1 pound ground bison (substitute turkey, beef, or other meat of choice)
1 large carrot, grated
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Large handful parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
Several grinds black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients except bison in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add bison meat and gently mix together.
Wet hands to prevent sticking and roll mixture into uniform balls. Place onto prepared sheet pan, spaced 1-inch apart, and bake for 15-20 minutes depending on size (or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F).
NOTES: Meatballs will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
NO-BAKE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
We all need a little sweet treat right now. Here’s a wholesome option. Makes 12-14 cookies.
1 cup pitted medjool dates (about 12)
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup unsalted peanut butter (heaping)
2/3 cup rolled oats
2 tsp. maca powder (optional)
2 tbs. pure grade A maple syrup
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Optional: 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes
In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients (only ¼ tsp. salt). If the dates are hard, soak them in hot water for 10 minutes to soften (drain liquid well). Pulse until well combined and the mixture sticks together when pressed between your fingers. You still want to see small pieces of peanut and oat throughout. Taste for salt and add the extra ¼ tsp. if needed. I like a saltier cookie, but it’s a personal preference.
Roll the dough into heavy-handed tablespoon sized balls and lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet. You should get approximately 14 cookies. At this point, you can leave them as is in ball form, but I prefer to go the extra step and press them into the traditional peanut butter cookie shape. Just use the tines of a dinner fork to make a hashtag (#) pattern. Chill the cookies on the sheet pan for at least 30 minutes to firm up.
NOTES: Either store in a sealed container in the fridge for one week or freeze up to two months.
Erin is launching a virtual cooking club membership in the spirit of this feature with more recipes + meal plan + shopping lists! Click HERE for more info!
All recipes and photos by Erin Parekh.