A fast healthy lunch of Asian soba noodle salad or soup with chicken and vegetables

Veggie and Soba Noodle Salad

This never lasts more than a day at my house.

It’s so good, and as a two-for-one recipe for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast, it’s really versatile. You can make this into a cold salad (perfect summer recipe) or a hot soup (perfect winter recipe). It’s also easy and fast. I go overboard on veggies, which means more prep time, and I can still have it ready in about 10 minutes.

Soba noodles definitely do not fit into a wholly low-carb diet, but carbs are not the enemy. If you prefer to keep your diet low-carb, substitute zucchini noodles (or “zoodles”) for the original soba noodles. To make gluten-free, also substitute tamari for the soy sauce.

 

Soba Noodle Salad/Soup – Per serving

90g/3 oz soba noodles

1/3 – 1/2 cup each of at least four of the following:

  • Thinly sliced red or yellow capsicum or bell pepper
  • Thinly sliced cucumber
  • Snow peas, sliced diagonally
  • Grated carrot
  • Grated zucchini
  • Thinly sliced red or green cabbage
  • Bean sprouts
  • Spring onions

One small chicken breast, thinly sliced

Dressing – Makes enough for four servings

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Juice of 1/2 a small orange

Zest and juice of one lime

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 coin-sized round of ginger

1 tablespoon sesame oil

For soup:

2-3 cups chicken stock

 

Make dressing by combining all ingredients and mixing well.

Tip: To easily mix salad dressings really well, keep an old glass jam jar with a tight fitting lid. Place all dressing ingredients in the jar, tightly close the lid, and shake well. 

Chop desired vegetables and chicken, and then cook noodles according to package directions. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl with 1/4 of the dressing, and combine well. For soup, add desired amount of warm chicken stock.

Watch it disappear!

For low-carb, substitute zucchini noodles.

For gluten free, substitute rice or zucchini noodles and tamari.

 

Tried it? Share your review in the comments!


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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One skillet zucchini and mushroom omelette for a fast healthy breakfast

Veggie and Cheddar Open Omelet

I love a recipe that works for any meal, and this omelet does just that – and it’s everything else I look for in a meal as well…

Easy? Check.
Quick? Check.
Delicious? Check.
Healthy? Check!

Many people stay away from traditional folded omelets because flipping them can be a delicate operation at best, and a total disaster at worst. To take the “pain” out of this pain-in-the-butt, this recipe gives you an open-style omelet that requires no flipping at all! Once done, all you have to do is slide it onto your plate and enjoy!

Veggie and Cheddar Open Omelet

1/2 C mushroom slices
1/2 C zucchini slices
1 clove or 1/2 tsp minced garlic
3 eggs
1/4 C loosely packed grated cheddar
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley – optional

Spray small non-stick pan with spray oil and heat over medium heat. Cook mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic, stirring frequently, until soft. Meanwhile, beat eggs in a small bowl, with a pinch of salt and pepper. Re-spray pan and veggies with oil, give a quick stir, and pour in eggs. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the eggs. Turn heat down to medium-low or low, and put the lid of a large pot over the pan (see note). Let cook for 5-7 minutes or until eggs are set. Use a spatula to lift and slide omelet out of the pan and onto plate. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if using, and an extra crack of black pepper.

NOTE: Using a pot lid or something similar to cover the pan helps the eggs cook evenly as they will be heated from the top and the bottom. The lid to a large stock pan will work well for this, or if unavailable, a cookie sheet also works in a pinch.


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.

 


Fast Facts: Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the best known micronutrients. However, the average daily intake is often lower than expected. You might not be getting as much as you think.

Vitamin C is perhaps best known for immune system support. Interestingly, while some immune cells need vitamin C to function (and you may be more susceptible to illness if deficient), there is no concrete scientific proof that increasing your intake makes a significant difference in the duration or severity of colds. Of course, if you’re otherwise generally healthy, it’s also not likely to do you any harm, as our bodies are excellent at secreting excess.

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, working to help balance the body’s chemical reactions and prevent cellular damage from free radicals. It helps your body absorb iron and protects levels of vitamin E, and is needed to produce collagen (a key structural protein) and several neurotransmitters (the chemicals that carry signals throughout your brain and nervous system). It also plays an active role in cholesterol management, helping to convert cholesterol to bile acids, which in turn lowers cholesterol levels.

Much of the research on vitamin C has shown greater health benefits when you get your C through food rather than tablets or pills. Of course, eating whole foods provides you with many other nutrients as well, so food is almost always a better option than supplementation. Individual variation exists of course, so it’s worth trying a few approaches to find the right method for you.

Vitamin C is involved in:
  • Protecting cells from free radical damage, as an antioxidant
  • Improving dietary iron absorption
  • Regenerating vitamin E levels
  • Building collagen, an important structural protein
  • Production of norepinephrine and serotonin
  • Chemical transformation of cholesterol to bile acids
  • Maintaining the functional ability of some immune cells
Food sources of vitamin C include:
  • Citrus fruits (lemon, orange, lime, tangerine, etc.)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.)
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Berries and melons
  • Squashes and carrots
  • …and most other fresh fruits and vegetables!
  • Organ meat, if that’s your thing
Getting too much vitamin C can lead to:
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas and/or upset stomach
  • Increased risk of kidney stones

There is little to no evidence that high vitamin C intake from food sources leads to any signs and symptoms of excess intake.

Not getting enough vitamin C can lead to:
  • Poor wound and structural repair
  • Poor dental health
  • Poor immune response
More on vitamin C:
  • Vitamin C levels in food are quickly reduced by heat, oxygen, and storage. You can slow these losses by refrigerating your fruit and veggies and storing them whole.
  • Nicotine decreases the effectiveness of vitamin C, and smoking in particular leads to higher levels of free radicals, so tobacco users may need greater dietary intakes of vitamin C
  • Some research has shown that vitamin C may help slow plaque buildup in arteries and keep blood vessels more elastic, leading to decreased risks of heart attack and stroke. However, this research needs more support, and there is no evidence that taking vitamin C supplements will help (it needs to come from food sources to be protective).
  • Evidence also shows that people who eat diets rich in vitamin C are less likely to be diagnosed with arthritis, though there is no specific evidence that vitamin C supplements will help treat or prevent this.
Vitamin C combined with other medications and health conditions:

Taking vitamins may have adverse effects when combined with some over the counter or prescription medications, and some medications can decrease vitamin absorption. Some health conditions can be impacted by high vitamin C intakes. Talk to your doctor prior to increasing your vitamin C intake if you have or are taking:

  • Kidney problems
  • Regular use of aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen – These can increase vitamin C excretion. Somewhat confusingly, high vitamin C intakes can decrease drug excretion, leading to increased blood levels of the drug.
  • Regular use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) – High vitamin C intakes can decrease drug excretion, leading to increased blood levels of the drug.
  • Antacids containing aluminum – Vitamin C can increase aluminum absorption, which can make medication side effects worse. Aluminum-containing antacids include Mylanta, Maalox and Gaviscon.
  • Barbiturates – Including phenobarbital and others, these may decrease vitamin C effectiveness.
  • Chemotherapy drugs – Vitamin C may interfere with some chemotherapy drugs, though it is also speculated that vitamin C may make them more effective. Don’t increase vitamin C intake (or any other supplement) without talking to your oncologist!
  • Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – When taken with these drugs, vitamin C can increase estrogen levels; Oral estrogens can decrease vitamin C effectiveness.

Food Friday: Chickpea and Feta Salad

This is one of my FAVORITES.

Not your normal lettuce or spinach-based salad, this salad is packed with flavor thanks to the punch and crunch of parsley and celery, set off by creamy feta cheese. It’s also quick to put together and keeps well – I like to make a big batch and take it to work for a week’s worth of lunches so I have something fresh, healthy, and satisfying on hand.

I usually stick to the recipe as written because it’s so quick, but this salad is super flexible. You can add other veggies in for a bit more color or crunch, or fill it out with additional leafy greens of your preference. My go-to additions include spinach, cucumbers, finely chopped red onion, and/or red or yellow capsicum or bell pepper. (Not a celery fan? I’m generally not either, but I actually really enjoy it in this combination.)

This salad is also packed with nutrients.

Parsley – High in vitamins A, K and C, as well as iron and other nutrients like beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, which helps protect and support eye health

Celery – Significant anti-inflammatory properties come from more than a dozen different antioxidants, as well as high levels of fiber, which is essential for a healthy digestive tract

Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) – A great plant-based protein source, and also high in fiber, folate (vitamin B9), and minerals including copper, molybdenum, manganese, and phosphorus

Feta – Additional protein, plus calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin B12. Feta is also sodium-heavy, so if you’re on a sodium-restricted diet, use less of this – a little goes a long way!

Lemon – Even the small amount of lemon in this will give you a big dose of vitamin C

Olive oil – As well as being high in monounsaturated fats, which are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, olive oil has high levels of vitamins E and K, and numerous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecules

Your taste buds and your body will love it!

 

Chickpea and Feta Salad (serves 2 as a main dish)

4-5 cups of chopped parsley and celery leaves

3 large or 4 small celery stalks, chopped into 1/2 inch or 1cm pieces

1 can of chickpeas, drained

1/2 – 2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Small wedge of lemon, for dressing

Small drizzle of olive oil, for dressing

Notes: Celery and parsley leaves have similar flavors, so you can use any amount of either. A can of chickpeas equals about 1 3/4 cups – if you want to cook your own, start with a little over a half-cup of dry chickpeas. The canned chickpeas will be a little softer, but either option works well.

Combine all ingredients, using more or less of anything as desired, and including any additional veggies you might like. Squeeze lemon wedge over salad and drizzle with olive oil right before serving.