Sadly, the latest release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is not going to tell you to eat less meat. I, on the other hand, am less worried about profits in the meat industry than I am about a collapsing climate and the brutal reality that at current consumption rates, our children will be facing food and water shortages in the alarmingly near future. So, let me take it from here, America: let’s think about eating a little less meat!
I already try to work a lot of meatless meals into my routine, but following the politics around these guidelines has gotten me riled up and feeling motivated to put more effort into to upping my diet’s sustainability factor. Which brings us to today’s recipe: when it comes to planet-friendly eating, these nuggets are gold.
I happen to love tofu. If you don’t, believe me, I get it. It’s not a mandatory ingredient for plant-based eating, but if you just haven’t developed a taste for it yet, maybe it’s time to give this powerful protein a chance.
Today’s recipe features a crispy coating that commemorates our environmentally friendly efforts with the superstar sustainable wonder crop: hemp! Hemp is a resilient, fast-growing crop that doesn’t require much land or water. It’s also a source of complete protein and healthy omega-3 fats, and its seeds happen to be the perfect toasty/nutty ingredient to mix together with cornstarch for a simple crunchy (gluten free) breading for your tofu nuggets.
Hot out of the saute pan, these tofu fingers are addictive. The breading is neutrally seasoned, so they pair equally well with the full spectrum of dipping sauces. My choice? Hot honey mustard. It’s a 3-ingredient, 30-second recipe (ie. an instant classic).
Through the lens of crispy tofu, I hope I was able to share a few nuggets of inspiration to look at the big picture and consider sustainability when feeding ourselves. It’s not always easy, but our choices matter. If you’re interested in more practical tips for sustainable eating, let me know in the comments – I’m hoping to make time to write another post on this topic soon.
Finally, if the disappointing results of the Dietary Guidelines have gotten you riled up too, let me share this way to take action: help set things straight and call the document what it really is: “Food Policy Guidelines for America.” Dr. David Katz has set up a petition on change.org calling upon the USDA and HHS to clarify that the Guidelines are not intended as expert dietary health guidance, but rather, as Katz puts it, “what politicians think should be done with the best, expert advice in an effort to balance public health against corporate profits.” Right now it has about 75% of the signatures needed, so it needs your support!
Press the tofu by placing it between two plates with a heavy object on top to drain excess liquid. Prepare two shallow bowls for breading stations: in the first, whisk together the egg and soy sauce; in the second, combine the hemp seeds, cornstarch and salt/pepper.
After the tofu has pressed for 10 minutes, slice it into 8 equal planks and heat a tablespoon or two of oil a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat each tofu nugget with the egg wash, dredge in the hemp seed breading, and add to the skillet to pan fry. Cook the tofu in batches if needed to avoid crowding the pan, and when both sides are golden brown, transfer the nuggets to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (for hot honey mustard: combine hot sauce, honey and mustard... enjoy!)
Most of the time, I love to cook. But some nights, I wish dinner would just cook itself.
Thankfully, I finally figured out the solution to my problem. And knowing myself, I really shouldn’t be surprised that it involves Instant Pot, my loyal kitchen companion. I’ve learned that with the magic of pressure-cooking, I can effortlessly cook chicken breasts from frozen. Yes, STRAIGHT FROM THE FREEZER! Each pound yields enough shredded meat for dinner + leftovers for 2. The chicken braises itself into tender, moist perfection with the help of whatever flavorful liquid your heart desires. Along with the rest of my Instant Pot recipes, it’s really been a game-changer for my weeknight cooking. If you’re a fellow pressure-cooking devotee, read on for the simple steps!
Start with about a pound of frozen chicken breasts. It’s difficult to tell, but this photo actually shows a single very large breast that weighs a full pound. Optimal cooking time is affected by the size of your chicken breasts (more on that later).
Then decide what you’d like your chicken to taste like. You’ll want 1/2 cup of something tasty, and 1/2 cup of water to dilute. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and I’ll share some of my favorite combos below, but for this example I’m keeping it simple: storebought salsa!
After you mix in the water to make a full cup of liquid, pour it over the chicken in your pressure cooker. Close the lid and set the cooking time based on the size of your poultry portions. On the low end of the spectrum, small 4-6 oz. portions of frozen chicken cook through in about 15 minutes, while the large 16 oz. cut above needs 30 minutes; if your portions fall somewhere in the middle, adjust accordingly. I’ve used both the manual setting and poultry program on Instant Pot, and have not observed any real difference in the results.
After the cook time is up, let the pot rest for 10 minutes to naturally release pressure before opening the lid and and removing the chicken to shred it. If by chance you find that your chicken is undercooked, never fear – just shred it as best you can and return it to the pot with Slow Cooker or Saute mode turned on until it’s cooked through.
And tada! It really is that easy. This is a glimpse at the finished product from my post on Chimichurri in a Hurry.
On weeknights, I throw the chicken and sauce into the cooker, and then begin my relaxed 30-minute countdown/meditation of figuring out what else is going into our dinner. I might be reheating leftover brown rice and chopping up fixin’s to top burrito bowls, or I might be toasting buns and tossing a side salad, or whatever else sounds good in the moment!
Or on weekends, I can take a couple of minutes while I’m at home to cook up some healthy protein that I can bank on later in the week. For example, the salsa Insta-Chicken from these photos later went on to play a starring role in a killer taco pie / enchilada bake (you can thank fellow RD blogger at Fearless Flying Kitchen for the recipe).
And the real beauty of this technique: endless flavor possibilities. Variety is the spice of life, of course! Starting with the easy Mexican chicken we walked through in the photos, here are 5 of my favorite flavor combinations that I’ve tried so far:
Simple Salsa: 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
BBQ: 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce + a splash of apple cider vinegar for extra tang
Teriyaki: 1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup soy sauce + 1/4 cup orange juice + 1 Tbsp. brown sugar + a squirt of sriracha
Cuban Mojo: 1/2 cup water + 1/3 cup orange juice + juice from 1/2 lime + 1-2 cloves of minced garlic + 1/2 tsp. cumin + salt/pepper
OK, I lied: I can’t stop at 5! I’m going to continue to update this post with more simple sauces whenever I try one that strikes my fancy. Fellow experimenters, I’d LOVE to hear about your successes in the comments!
Honey Dijon: 1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup whole grain mustard + 1/4 cup honey + hot sauce (if desired)
Lemon Garlic Herb: 1/2 cup water + juice from 1/2 lemon + 2 cloves minced garlic + 1/2 tsp. dried basil + salt/pepper
Jamaican Jerk: 1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup molasses + 2 Tbsp. lime juice + 2 Tbsp. orange juice + generous sprinkles of dried thyme/allspice/salt to taste + a handful of fresh sliced garlic and ginger (and hot peppers if desired)
Chile Verde: one 10-oz. can green enchilada sauce (no need to dilute with water)
Thai Curry: 1 cup canned coconut milk + 1-2 Tbsp. Thai curry paste of your choice (no need to dilute with water)
1/2 cup flavorful liquid of your choice (see suggestions above)
In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix together the water and flavorful liquid of your choice. Place the frozen chicken in the Instant Pot liner, and pour the liquid over the chicken. Close the lid (with vent set to sealing position), press the 'Poultry' button and use the +/- buttons to adjust the cooking time. For standard chicken breasts (~4-6 oz. each), cook for 15 minutes; for extra-large chicken breasts (~1 lb. each), cook for 30 minutes. In between these two sizes, scale your cook time accordingly.
After the cooking program completes, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes before opening the lid. If you're in a hurry, it is not hazardous to manually "quick-release" the pressure - but this may toughen the chicken's texture. Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and shred into bite-sized pieces with two forks. While you shred the chicken, you can optionally turn on Instant Pot's 'Saute' mode to reduce the sauce if it is too thin for your taste. Return the shredded chicken to the sauce and toss to coat.
These days I do most of my recipe-clipping on Pinterest, but I still have a recipe folder on my browser’s bookmarks bar dating back from the days before ‘pinning’ was a household term (shocking, I know). The heart of the collection is a sub-folder marked “Tried and True,” which holds those special recipes that I’ve come back to again and again… the keepers! Along with the formula behind killer pumpkin garlic knots, this folder is also home to an unassuming yellow dal bookmarked from Smitten Kitchen. I made this recipe for the first time in college, just starting to dip my toes into Indian cooking, and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve served it up since then!
This dish has been a dinner staple in my house for a lot of reasons. For one, the recipe is really straightforward, easy enough to commit to memory. It’s also super inexpensive. I do my best to cook with economy and grace, and these tasty lentils make it easy: all of the budget-friendly benefits of dried beans, but with no soaking needed. It’s a hearty vegetarian (easily vegan) source of protein – about 14 grams per serving, before the yogurt garnish. And those healthy legumes are filled out with plenty of vegetables and nutritious spices. I’ve been putting more focus on anti-inflammatory foods in my diet lately, and the turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne and garlic in this recipe all offer functional health benefits to reduce inflammation in the body. This is definitely an example of getting your flavor from real food, and this enticing combination is so nutritious that it’s practically medicinal!
National Nutrition Month is coming to a close, but we still have time to bite into one more tasty variation on the MyPlate Bake! So far we’ve cranked up the oven for Maple Dijon Chicken with broccoli and potato wedges, Sriracha BBQ Tofu with spiralized zucchini medley and sweet potatoes, and SuperFood Salmon with crispy kale and tiny perfect roasted potatoes. Yeah… the flavorRD household has been eating well this month!
And that’s what this project is really all about: eating well. Life gets crazy and complicated, but it’s so important to make it a priority to take care of our well-being. If I’ve helped even one person to feed themselves good food with a minimum of stress and a maximum of flavor, I consider that a win.
For our last venture into effortlessly balanced one-pan meals, we’re going Greek! This wholesome meal is built on fresh veggies and lean protein, and made irresistible with savory Mediterranean-style flavors. If you’ve already been tuning in for this series, I’m sure you’ve got the hang of this method by now. But let’s take one last time to break down exactly how simple this is…
Already have enough recipes for healthy, easy, one-pan, perfectly balanced weeknight dinners? Yeah, I didn’t think so. So here comes variation #3 for my National Nutrition Month series of MyPlate Bakes… and this time, we’re packing some major superfoods! This one-pan-meal is filled to the brim with omega 3’s, leafy greens, antioxidants, fiber, protein, potassium, along with your recommended daily allowance of deliciousness!
Ready for take two? In case you missed it last week, this is the second installation of flavorRD’s special feature for National Nutrition Month. Every week in March, we’re biting into a healthy lifestyle with a new balanced recipe inspired by USDA’s MyPlate: the idea is that 1/4 protein + 1/4 carbs + 1/2 veggies = healthy dinnertime success made easy, all on a single sheet pan. This time around, we’re catering to the plant-powered people out there! Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just trying to work in some Meatless Mondays, this spicy sweet garlicky goodness is a full-flavored way to power up your weeknight dinner table.
March is National Nutrition Month, and it’s prime time for talking up my favorite subject: healthy food, and how to enjoy it!
This year’s theme is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” and I’m celebrating by biting into an exciting new series of recipes inspired by USDA’s MyPlate. I’m a big fan of the simplicity of this food icon, designed to make it easy to build a healthier diet, one plate at a time. If you ask me, striving to make your plates look more like MyPlate (with half of the real estate covered by fruits and veggies) is one of the most straightforward ways to shift your eating habits to become healthier than ever.
For this recipe series, I’m calling my invention the MyPlate Bake. The concept is to follow the MyPlate formula of 1/2 veggies + 1/4 carbs + 1/4 protein, and roast it all together on a single sheet pan. This results in a healthy home-cooked dinner for two, made from scratch with whole food ingredients, in under an hour (prep and clean-up included). Believe it!
I’ll be updating the blog every week this month with a tasty new variation, so stay tuned! First up is an instant classic that I already know will be a go-to in my kitchen: the Maple Dijon Chicken MyPlate Bake.
Don’t tell me… I know why you’re browsing the food blogs today… because you need a festive brunch recipe to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday next week, duh!
No? OK, well, it was worth a shot. I didn’t actually plan it that way, but I couldn’t ignore the good timing. Really, this is just another easy way to fix ourselves a tasty balanced meal for brunch, dinner, or for packing up lunches for the week. Children’s literature theme optional!!
Fall is taking its sweet time making its way to San Diego. And the infinite scroll on my Pinterest feed just offers too many pages of impeccably styled autumnal foods for my own good. With the allure of cool days and pumpkin-everything, there’s only so much more I can take of ice water and chopped salads for dinner. If you’re in the same boat, I wish I had a better solution than this one: let’s pretend. This week, I suspended my disbelief long enough to fire up the oven and whip up this roasted seasonal squashy treat. So worth it!
The result was savory, satisfying, and absolutely LOADED with nutrition. And while it gives off the vibe of a fancier weekend dinner, this thing is a 40 minute meal! I can hardly think of an easier way to break into the new season and fulfill your hearty home-cooking dreams.
Had a hard week? You need an easy weeknight dinner. Fortunately for us, this one is packed with nutrient dense vegetables and layers of slow-cooked flavors… without the slow-cooking. The veggies all cook quickly, so there’s no advance planning needed. Just a little therapeutic chopping and simmering while you decompress from the challenges of the day, and you can have this wholesome vegan dinner on the table in no time.
If you’re a seasoned Caribbean foodie, please note that I’m not claiming any authenticity. When I dreamed up this stew, I was going for a hearty foundation of powerful plant foods, tempered with tropical coconut milk and some warm spices as my simplified allusion to Jamaican jerk-style seasoning. Authentic cuisine? Not exactly. Super satisfying healthy dinner? Most definitely!