How to Make a Quick & Healthy Dinner

Anyone can be “the family chef”. You just need good recipes and techniques! Amy Fothergill shares her best recipes with you for quick and easy dishes with an emphasis on gluten-free.

Do you think that quick and healthy are words that don’t normally go together when planning dinner? All parents are busy and need ideas on how to feed the family healthy meals that don’t take hours to prepare. The simplest bit of advice is to keep it simple; use fresh ingredients that don’t need other ingredients and keep cooking methods easy as well. Make sure to serve a variety of all foods. A diet of pasta and hot dogs, even if they are whole grain and organic, isn’t a way to maximize your health.

When it comes to produce, seasonal is an obvious choice because the taste is usually so much better. Plus, when it’s local (and even better from an organic farm) the nutrient count tends to be higher because it has just been picked. Eat as much raw produce as you can and try to get the family into the habit of having a salad.

For the protein, use products that don’t need a lot of prep. Spend more money on chicken breast that is air chilled and trimmed. When you get home, it does not need to be rinsed (and then dried again) and there’s hardly any time spent cutting away fat. Spending the money up front saves you a lot of time and clean-up in the end.

Think outside the box of what you normally eat. Look through cookbooks, blogs and even Facebook to get inspired (people always post pictures of what they eat!). It’s ok to keep it simple; just keep it healthy, too. Here are some ideas for an easy dinner that can be put together in about 15 minutes. Enjoy.

7 Minute Sautéed Chicken

Here is the basic process:

*Start with boneless skinless chicken which is sliced thin or pounded; most meat departments in the grocery store will do this.

* Season the meat with your selection of herbs and spices.

* Heat a stainless steel pan first until hot. Add a little oil, then the meat. Make sure to hear the sizzle and adjust the heat if necessary. Then, step away from the stove!

* Do not move meat in pan. Turn meat over to cook other side. The whole cooking process should take about 7 minutes.

1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and/or connective tissue, flattened with a meat mallet

2 teaspoons olive oil

Optional: Juice of 1 lemon or ½ cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon butter, butter substitute, or unflavored coconut oil

  1. Mix herbs, spices and salt in a small dish or ramekin. Sprinkle half over chicken.
  2. Heat pan to medium or medium high. Once the pan is hot, add the oil and quickly place the chicken in the pan, seasoning side down, being careful not to crowd the pan. Season the other side of the chicken.
  3. Once the chicken is turning white on the edges, turn over and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes or until firm.
  4. Optionally pour lemon juice or chicken broth over chicken and cook one more minute. Finish with butter or oil if using.

Steamed Broccoli, Cauliflower, or Green Beans

For broccoli or cauliflower, cut about 1” from the flower to create florets. For the beans, use a kitchen scissor.  Cut the stem end of 4-6 beans at a time. This way you can prep a pound of green beans in about 5 minutes. If they are long, cut them one more time in the center.

Place them into a pot with a steamer basket. There should be enough water to cover the bottom of the pot but not too much that the water is above the steamer basket. Place a cover on top, set the heat to a little over medium and then lower it a bit when you hear the water boiling. In about five minutes, you should have a perfect steamed vegetable (the cauliflower might take a little longer). Try adding olive oil, butter or sesame oil with a little salt but when fresh, they are perfect plain.

Brown Rice

Brown rice has a much higher nutritional value than white rice. Try to get your family in the habit of eating this instead. Here are some strategies around how to have it ready for dinner.

-Make the rice on another night so it can be reheated with your meal (if you make a large batch, only reheat what you plan to eat that night). Use a ratio of 2 parts water or broth to 1 part long grain brown rice (e.g. 2 cups water to 1 cup of brown rice). For short grain, use a higher proportion of water; 2 ¼: 1, or 2 ¼ cups water to 1 cup of short grain rice.

-Use a frozen brown rice that can be microwaved. I like Trader Joe’s organic brown rice. It’s great for a quick meal.

Another Meal: Fried Rice

Take any leftovers from the above meal and use for fried rice.

In a large pan or wok, scramble 2 eggs with vegetable oil and set aside.

Add more oil and sauté ½ of a chopped onion. Add 1 cup chopped cooked chicken, 2-3 cups cooked brown rice, 1 cup cooked veggies (like broccoli, cauliflower, or green beans) and 1 cup frozen peas or corn. Once everything is hot, add the egg back into the pan then add 1 tablespoon soy sauce (we use gluten-free tamari) and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Cook for 1 more minute.  Serve!

Amy Fothergill was trained at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. She never thought her culinary skills would be necessary to manage her family’s special diet but has found her cooking knowledge has come in handy. Currently she is a cooking instructor, consultant, blogger, and author of a cookbook, perfect for any family: The Warm Kitchen: Glutenfree recipes anyone can make and everyone will love. She lives in the San Francisco bay area with her
husband and two children. Website: About the book: