A healthy dinner of Red Lentil and Spinach Soup with Lemon Paprika Chicken

Red Lentil and Spinach Soup with Lemon Paprika Chicken

Whether you need something for to take the edge off a cold spell, or are looking for a quick, easy, healthy dinner, this soup will do the trick! You might be surprised at how healthy and delicious this is, given the simple ingredient list and easy instructions (they might look long but they’re straightforward). And don’t forget to check out the recipe notes at the end of the page – you’ll find some helpful tips for turning this into a five-star dinner that will quickly slide into your standard list of healthy meals.

Red Lentil and Spinach Soup with Lemon Paprika Chicken
Adapted from Donna Hay’s 10 Minute Meals

For the soup:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
  • Zest of one lemon (see note)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup red lentils, washed and picked through (see note)
  • 4 cups/1 litre chicken stock
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach (see note)
  • Juice of one lemon (approximately 2 tablespoons), or to taste

For the chicken:

  • 1 chicken breast
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Small pinch of chili powder
  • 1 tsp olive oil or coconut oil (see note)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock

Prepare the chicken: Turn the breast on it’s side and cut down the length to get 2-3 pieces of about equal thickness. Combine lemon zest (half of a lemon), smoked paprika, chili powder, oil, and stock in a medium bowl and mix well. Add chicken pieces and coat thoroughly. Set aside.

Start the soup: Spray a medium pot with oil and add the onion, garlic, lemon zest (whole lemon), and cumin. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent. Add lentils and stock. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer 10-12 minutes or until lentils are soft.

Cook the chicken: While soup is simmering, spray a non-stick pan with oil and put on high heat. After 15-20 seconds, place the chicken strips into the pan, leaving a little space between each, and turn down heat to medium. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Remove from heat and let rest while you finish the soup.

Finish it off: When lentils are soft, stir through spinach, allowing it to wilt and mix through evenly. Stir through lemon juice. Slice the chicken into strips. Ladle soup into bowls, top with chicken, and enjoy!

 

Recipe notes:

  • Lemon zest is a great way to add flavor without additional calories. The easiest way to zest a lemon is with a microplane, but you can also use the smallest setting on a box grater.
  • Dry lentils, beans, and other pulses can sometimes hide small rocks that stems from the processing. This is normal, but you still want to pour everything onto a plate and check it over to make sure you’re only eating what you want to.
  • If you don’t have fresh packed spinach on hand, try whole leaf frozen spinach.
  • Olive oil has a relatively low smoke point, which means that over anything but high heat, the oil can break down and lose it’s health benefits. Coconut oil has a much higher smoke point, has positive health benefits, and won’t impart a coconut flavor to your food.

 

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Healthy lunch of Fresh colorful tomato and cucumber salad

Eat More, Lose Weight, Get Healthy

Ever thought you’d hear someone tell you that you could lose weight and get healthy by eating a huge plate of food at every meal?

We are hard wired for survival, and to our brains, that means food. Though it’s a small percentage of your body weight, your brain uses approximately 20% of your daily energy! And in order to keep itself and the rest of you going, it drives you towards food. Lots of food, if possible. While that’s great for survival when food is scarce, we live where it generally isn’t scarce. Good for us, but your subconscious brain is not good at recognizing this. So the drive to eat will continue, which means even when you’re working hard to lose weight or body fat, you can still be outsmarted.

The good news is that we can turn the tables, and use this survival drive in our favor. I’ve long been a supporter of “eat more good stuff” rather than the “eat less of the bad stuff/everything” approach that is the hallmark of most diets.

Your eating experience is about far more than putting food in your mouth. In fact, scientists are still unclear about exactly what factors cause us to feel full, though the best theories propose a combination of visual and scent cues, the amount you chew your food, and the overall time you take to eat a meal. Vision is super important in this. Part of our drive for food means that we’ll subconsciously gravitate towards food as long as it’s available. This means a full plate. Probably second servings, even if that means just picking at leftover bits. Your subconscious wants it all!

Satisfy that drive for more by giving yourself more of the good – or good for you – stuff. This will not be the first time you’ve been introduced to the concept of Eat More Vegetables, but that concept has stuck around because it works. Find vegetable or fresh fruit dishes that you enjoy and load up on them, or learn to pad the steak and potato dinner with half a plate of broccoli and green beans. This is what allows you to have a huge plate of food without the big calorie counts. If you’re working to lose weight, it’s a major factor in eating healthy meals without feeling deprived. It’s how you keep enjoying that delicious mashed potato without the guilt that comes from eating it out of the pot (I’m sure I’m not the only one who does that, right?!?!).

For a big meals thats filling, satisfying, and still healthy and supporting weight loss, fitness, or health goals,  try these

  • BIG Salads: Lots of greens, with enough beans, hard cooked eggs, steamed and fresh veggies, and small pieces of chicken, steak, or pork. Aim for mostly leafy greens with each bite, but enough of the other stuff that you actually get some flavor with it! Bonus – no dressing needed.
  • Half a plate of veggies: Steamed is the most common “healthy” suggestion, and it’s a good one. But I’m especially taken with roasted everything: Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts,  zucchini, peppers, pumpkin – anything you might steam will go well in the oven. Your taste buds wont know what hit them.
  • Extra steamed veggies tossed with some stock and a pinch of fresh pepper.
  • Homemade coleslaw with a vingear dressing for crunch and a bit of bite.

And anything else you can think of! This works best when your loading up on what you enjoy. Have a favorite veggie style? Please, share in the comments!


Greek beef salad with tzatziki dressing for a healthy lunch or dinner

Greek Beef Salad

An easy, satisfying salad that’s packed with flavor and won’t leave you feeling hungry again in an hour, this salad is a great opportunity to maximize your veggie intake. It’s equally good as a one-off dinner or lunch, or you can prep a big batch and assemble when you need a quick meal. Best of all, this is easy to individualize – if you don’t like something, leave it out!

 

Greek Beef Salad

Serves two

  • 400g / 1 lb Ground beef
  • 1 Tbs Fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 small zucchini, grated
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cups of lettuce (torn) or fresh spinach
  • ½ – 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • ½ – 1 cup diced red capsicum or red bell pepper
  • ½ – 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • ¼ – ½ cup finely diced red onion
  • ¼ – ½ cup chopped Kalamata olives
  • ¼ – ½ crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ – ½ Tzatziki

Tzatziki

  • ½ large cucumber, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, regular or greek style
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs dill or mint – optional

Using a medium to large pan over medium heat, cook the beef, garlic, zucchini, and onion until the meat is browned and the vegetables are soft. Mix in the oregano.

Split the remaining salad ingredients between two bowls, using as much as you like of each one. Health tip: The feta will be the most calorie-dense, and has a big flavor, so start small with it. Both the feta and the olives are high in salt and can be omitted if you are limiting your sodium intake.

Spoon half the beef into each bowl, and top with tzatziki for a healthy salad dressing. Yum!


Beef san choi bao in lettuce wraps for fast easy healthy dinner with lots of vegetables

Very Veggie San Choi Bao

If there’s one thing I love, it’s delicious food. If there’s one things I love even more, it’s delicious food that also happens to be healthy!

San choi bao has long been a family favorite. The traditional recipe is a flavored mince (ground pork) served in lettuce cups, which makes it perfect for low-carb and low-gluten meal plans, or even gluten free (see the recipe tips for how-to).  We’ve upped the ante on this by adding a boatload of veggies, which has two added benefits:

You get more veggies, without having to eat a pile of veggies (not that there’s anything wrong with that either!). This means more fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and a more balanced meal in general.

More veggies, and especially the mushrooms, means you can use less protein and still get the same amazing results. This makes the meal more budget-friendly, and is also more eco-friendly, since meat production has a much higher environmental cost.

This recipe is a beef base, but you can use the traditional pork or chicken if you prefer. And while the ingredient list looks long, it’s somewhat deceptive – this meal comes together quickly and easily, so still works well for a weeknight dinner.

Very Veggie San Choi Bao

500g / 1 lb beef mince or ground beef

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced or pressed

Generous 1/2tsp minced ginger

1.5 cups finely diced mushrooms of any variety

1 small onion, diced

1 small carrot, grated

1 small zucchini, grated

1/2 red capsicum or bell pepper, finely chopped

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup oyster or hoisin sauce

1/2 cup water or beef stock

2 tsp cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of water

Lettuce leaves, for serving

Optional – red or wombok cabbage leaves, for serving

 

In a large pan, brown the beef with the garlic and ginger. Set aside.

Using the same pan, cook the mushrooms and onion for 3 minutes or until soft, adding a splash of water if they are dry and sticking to the pan. While these are cooking, combine the soy cause, oyster or hoisin sauce, water or stock, and cornstarch mixture in a bowl.

Add remaining vegetables to the pan and cook an additional 2-3 minutes or until slightly softened. Return beef to the pan and mix to combine. Add the sauce mixture and stir through, cooking until the sauce has thickened.

Separate lettuce leaves, and cabbage leaves if using. Layer two to three leaves together, and spoon mixture into the center. Cup or wrap, and enjoy!

 

Pro tips:

  • To make this meal gluten free, choose GF soy and hoisin sauces, and use arrowroot or tapioca powder in place of the cornstarch.
  • As you brown the beef, spoon out the liquid and save it to add to your water or beef stock. This improves the flavor and will decrease meal prep time.
  • Cabbage leaves give more heft to the lettuce cups, lending some sturdiness and crunch to the meal.

 

If you’re Brisbane-based and want to try this with beef, Rangeland Quality Meats offers amazing locally raised, free range and grass fed beef at an excellent price. They haven’t sponsored this post – we just love their product! It’s a cut above anything you get at the supermarket (sorry, pun intended!). You can get it via home-delivery, though we always grab ours from the Rocklea Markets on Saturdays.

 


Food Friday: Instant “Overnight” Oats

I’m a big fan of oatmeal for both enjoyment and health reasons, but in the middle of summer a hot breakfast is less… enticing.

Overnight oats are a good solution for this. Mix them all up and stick them in the fridge, and in the morning you have a great cold breakfast.

…Except that I NEVER think to set that all up the night before.

Good thing you can have “overnight” oats in about 15 minutes! Rather than letting the oats hydrate overnight, using hot water hydrates them quickly without actually “cooking” them as you traditionally would. Giving it time to sit and hydrate also gives it time to cool, so when it comes time to eat, you actually get the “overnight” experience. I set them up to soak when I make my coffee, so when I’m done with my first cup they’re ready to eat. Throw on your toppings of choice, add a splash of milk, and enjoy!

The Super Simple Base Recipe
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup boiling water

Pour water over oats and let sit until water is absorbed and cool, at least 15 minutes.

 

Great Topping Combinations

Peanut Butter Crunch
1 green apple, chopped
1 tbsp natural peanut butter

Berries and Cream
1 cupped handful of fresh or frozen berries
1/2 cup of plain yogurt
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Banana Nut
1 small banana, chopped
1-2 tbsp chopped walnuts

These topping combinations are just a few options. Try these oats with whatever suits your fancy and let us know what you used – we’re always looking for great ideas!