Take-Out Favorites Made Healthier at Home
Text | Photographs: Danielle Gaebel
At the end of a busy day, who doesn’t love the treat of take-out food? It’s fast, convenient and tasty, and makes family dinner a snap. However, take-out food can get expensive, and it does not always provide the healthiest menu for you and your family. So, join me on a tour of some of my favorite ethnic “take-out” dishes that you can make at home.
Not only do you get to cook dishes from your favorite cuisine, you can become creative in your own kitchen. The recipes that follow do not include measurements. They are not meant to be “followed” but to provide a basic blueprint to let you discover how to create the dish you want. I have found that I generally ignore the suggested amount of, say, garlic: a recipe may call for a teaspoon of garlic, which, for me, is nowhere near enough. Or, a recipe may call for black olives; you may prefer green. You may love ginger and add lots of it, or you may go for a more subtle effect. You may season with soy sauce rather than salt, or you may like flavored salt or pure sea salt. The idea is to further your culinary skills by following your intuition and taking some risks. Have fun, experiment and create your own signature dishes according to your taste, dietary and portion needs. Try it, you might just like it…it’s liberating.
Aside from a traditional pie with tomato sauce and mozzarella, I enjoy a “gourmet pizza” from time to time. It’s easy and super delicious.
Pre-made pizza crust (I like to use the personal size pizza crusts so each family member gets their own.)
Fresh garlic, chopped finely
Leeks, finely sliced
Salt and pepper
Melt some butter in a pan, add garlic and sauté (don’t brown). Toss in leeks and sauté (don’t brown). Toss in spinach and mushrooms; cook until tender.
Add thyme, salt and pepper.
Spoon mixture over crust; sprinkle shredded cheese on and pop in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until cheese is melted. Serve with a side salad.
Chicken & Broccoli
Yes, I do crave General Tso’s Chicken and a pork egg roll, but my waistline and health don’t agree. Try my palette-pleasing version of Chicken & Broccoli.
Boneless, skinless chicken breast
Broccoli, cut into bite size florets
Start by preparing your brown rice. Cook accordingly and set to the side.
Chop garlic and ginger into fine pieces and set to the side.
Cut chicken into thin strips or bite-sized chunks.
Toss chicken, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, peanut oil and sesame oil into a bowl. Coat the chicken and let it marinate. The longer the chicken marinates, the more flavorful it will be. I like to prepare this the day before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.
Prepare broccoli by cutting into bite-sized florets and pieces.
Prepare a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Add broccoli and allow it to boil about 3-5 minutes (broccoli should be crisp & deep green). Strain and rinse with cold water. Set to the side.
In a large skillet, wok or pot, toss your marinated chicken and all the juices and cook over medium to high heat until chicken is cooked all the way through.
Toss in your broccoli and combine until all the flavors merge.
Add some soy sauce to your brown rice (just enough to give the rice a little flavor).
Plate the brown rice and add your chicken and broccoli.
Substitute shrimp or beef for the chicken. Don’t like broccoli? Try bok choy, asparagus, mushrooms… the choices are limited only to your imagination.
Taco Bar & Mexican Quinoa Salad
All I have to say is… YUM! Tacos are one of the easiest dishes you can make, and can be custom-made to the individual tastes around your table.
For the taco bar…
Ground turkey or beef
Taco seasoning (salt, pepper, cumin, chili etc. Use prepackaged seasonings or create your own.)
Black olives, sliced
Shredded cheese (I like to shred cheese from Calkins Creamery)
Homemade Simple Guacamole (see recipe below)
Homemade Fresh Salsa (see recipe below)
Brown turkey or beef and drain any excess grease, or warm beans. Add in taco seasoning (or perhaps you’d like to add salsa instead; have fun, mix it up).
Assemble your taco to your liking.
Fresh lime juice
Salt & pepper to taste
Cut avocado into chunks; toss in some finely chopped fresh garlic and cilantro. Squeeze some lime juice and mash up really well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Diced fresh or canned tomatoes, including juice
Red onion, diced
Chopped green chili or jalapeño peppers
Salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and season according to taste, reserving some for your Mexican Quinoa Salad.
Mexican Quinoa Salad
Cooked quinoa, chilled
Fresh Salsa (recipe above)
Chipotle, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine chilled quinoa with enough salsa to make it wet (not soupy). Dice some avocado and add in along with chipotle.