Very Best Healthy Recipes Series: Part 1
~ Looking for the best healthy cooking tips, tricks and swaps? We’ve always got a lot up our own sleeves here at Two Healthy Kitchens, but we were curious about other bloggers’ favorite secrets, too. So we asked them … hundreds of them! And here’s what they had to say … ~
The best. Absolute favorite. Most loved. Bestedy-bestest.
That’s what we’re all about here at Two Healthy Kitchens – the very best final version of all our recipes, the very best ways to make recipes more healthy and also more delicious, the very best resources and tips and secrets for healthy cooking.
Sure, we’ve got our THK-favorites. But we were curious: what about other bloggers? What are their very best, most beloved, healthy recipes and secret strategies?
So … we just came right out and asked.
We asked literally hundreds of other food bloggers for their favorite, best, tip-top, bestedy-bestest. And we’re so excited to share their answers with you over the next few weeks! So much wonderful inspiration!
First up, this week: we asked those hundreds of fellow bloggers to tell us about their favorite healthy cooking tip, trick or swap … and to share a recipe that showcases it.
You’re gonna love what they had to say!
So many ideas that are perfectly in line with what we’re always doing here at THK, plus many more great suggestions and recipes that we’re dying to try … and we know you will be, too!
In no particular order, here we go … enjoy! (And try not to drool on your keyboard.)
#1 – Eat More Veggies
By far, this seemed to be the most common theme, woven through so many responses we received. And food bloggers are insanely creative in their strategies with veggies! From swapping in “zoodles” (you know … Zucchini + nOODLES = zoodles!), and that darling-of-the-moment (cauliflower), to simply amping up ingredient lists with more vegetables … the tips came pouring in!
One of the hottest, amp-up-the-veggies strategies right now is subbing in vegetables in place of pasta … like using spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti (because … well, they’ve both got that spaghetti-thang going on). Or using shaved or spiralized veggies like zucchini as your noodles – yup, seems like “zoodles” are everywhere these days!
We’re absolutely ga-ga over these four brilliant sub-in-the-veggies recipes (clockwise from top left):
- Eggplant Parmesan Using Eggplant Noodles from Courtney at Know Your Produce
- Spicy Avocado Sauce Over Chicken & Zoodles from Kelly at Tasting Page
- Lasagna Stuffed Spaghetti Squash from Ari at Ari’s Menu
- Asian Peanut Spaghetti Squash Stir-Fry from Lisa at Snappy Gourmet
Christine at Cook the Story pretty much hit the veggie-nail on the head when she told us, “We skip the meat a couple of times a week and make the vegetable and/or a healthy grain the star!” So easy, right? (And about those healthy grains … be sure to see tip #2 below …)
Christine continues, “To that veg or grain, we add a bit of decadence so that it’s not boring and so that everyone wants to dig in. In my meatless Italian Cauliflower and Quinoa Bake we have a lot of veg, healthy quinoa and then some oozey melted cheese to make it all come together.”
Mmmmmm … we hear ya, Christine! It’s hard to argue with this …
All in all, we think Kirsten from Farm Fresh Feasts sums Tip #1 up perfectly: “Get vegetables into your kitchen! Because once you’ve got healthy food (already paid for) in your kitchen, you have more incentive to figure out what to do with it, or you’re wasting your own money!” Brilliant, right? And so simple!
Kirsten shared her wonderful post, filled with lots of other great suggestions for wheedling in tons more veggies, plus her recipe for Roasted Celeriac and Potatoes, as a delicious example:
And hey – if you’re loving this idea for pumping up nutrition, simply by adding in loads of veggies, you’ve found a home here at THK. It’s one of our favorite healthification strategies, too! We could go on and on listing recipes where we’ve used that very same technique, but here are just a few you’ve really gotta try (clockwise from top left):
- Hoisin-Glazed Mini Meatloaf “Muffins” Over Asian Noodles and Vegetables
- Parmesan Spaghetti Squash with Italian Sausage
- Lightning-Fast Cheesy Three-Pepper Ravioli with Italian Sausage
#2 – Cook with More Whole Grains
Ok, this is another of our favorite little tips here at THK – there are just so many nutritional benefits to subbing in whole grains to replace white pasta, white rice and other less healthful choices. From more vitamins and micronutrients, to a big wallop of fiber, to better glycemic index profiles – whole grains are a quick, easy swap with big dividends!
Dara at Cookin’ Canuck had an awesome take on this, saying, “If I had a dollar for every healthy benefit that whole grains offer … well, I’d go out and buy more of them!” Yup – well played!
Here’s her recipe showcasing just how jaw-droppingly gorgeous that big nutritional wallop can really be: Hearty Mushroom, Farro & Ginger Soup (yeah … yum …)
Kevin over at the blog Kevin is Cooking swaps wheat berries in place of basmati rice, specifically for his better half, who suffers from Type 2 Diabetes, since wheat berries “are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore, insulin levels.”
But wonderfully nutty, chewy wheat berries are a nutritionally fabulous sub even if you don’t have diabetes! Try Kevin’s recipe for Saffron and Orange Wheat Berries with Pomegranate and see for yourself …
Want even more nutrient-rich, fiber-pumped, whole-grain inspiration? Here at THK, we’re bursting at the seams … from quinoa to freekeh to farro to whole wheat pasta … the list goes on and on! And we’ve written a couple of posts to help you get started. You’ll be cooking whole grains like a pro in no time …
#3 – Ditch the White Flour in Baked Goods
Now that we’ve got you on board with swapping out white rice and pastas in favor of more nutritious, whole-grain options, let’s talk about baking. White flour just doesn’t have the nutrition – the fiber, the protein, the micronutrients – that lots of other options offer. It’s one of the first places we look when we’re trying to amp up the healthfulness of baked goods.
Johlene at Flavours and Frosting offers a brilliant idea for this. She explains, “I love making my own flour with whole almonds like in my Homemade Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies.” Be sure to check these cookies out because (double-score!) they’ve even got honey instead of refined white sugar!)
Since baking is such a science, subbing out flour can be tricky at first, but it’s worth the effort. Start slowly, by swapping out just a quarter or maybe a third of the white flour in your favorite baking recipes, and gradually increasing from there.
Or, start with tried-and-true recipes … where someone else already did all the recalculating and testing for you! Here are some of our THK faves for cookies, muffins … even pancakes … that all feature nutritious whole grains … and are a fully-tested slam dunk, every time! (clockwise from top left):
- Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars
- Whole Wheat Pancakes
- Healthy Double Chocolate Muffins with Fresh Strawberries
#4 – Swap Avocado for Butter in Baking
Wait … what?!?!?
No, really, stick with us on this one for a sec!
Since we’re talking cookies and baking, now’s the perfect time for this crazy-awesome swap!
We’ve all been subbing things like applesauce and fruit purees into certain baked goods for years now. So, this isn’t really such a big leap at all, and Taylor over at Food Faith Fitness is a true healthifier extraordinaire (so, we were really intrigued to see which make-it-healthier strategy from her arsenal she chose to share with us as her fave)!
Taylor explains, “This recipe uses avocado as the fat, which contains the super heart-healthy mono and poly-unsaturated fat that is so key for our bodies to function.” And – yay, Taylor – she’s also cut out the processed white flour and subbed in whole wheat pastry flour! Bonus! (See the subbing whole grains tip, above.)
Still not convinced? She swears, “You know when you freshly bake a batch of cookies and they’ve got that pillowy-soft-fresh-from-the-oven thing goin’ on? These cookies keep that always. Even days after baking them, and letting your freezer do it’s worst. No joke.”
And you know we don’t joke about yumminess around here, friends. Give Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies a try! And then … mail us some … 🙂
5) Make Recipes Creamy-Dreamy … Without the Cream!
Sure, making sauces, casseroles, and even drinks wonderfully, lusciously creamy is super easy if you use cream, full-fat milk, even half-and-half.
But … with a little creativity, you don’t have to! We thought these much healthier ideas were deliciously fabulous!
Laney at Life is But a Dish explains, “You don’t need heavy cream to make soup silky smooth! Try using almond or coconut milk instead!” Works like a charm in her crazy-richly-creamy yet so-much-healthier Butternut Squash Soup:
And hey there, mac-and-cheese! You could use a little makeover, too, you fat-filled, comfort-food little devil!
We’re so impressed with how Sam at Pancake Warriors ingeniously used (wait for it … ) VEGGIES ( ahem … refer to trick #1, above!) to create the creamy, satisfying sauce for her Secretly Healthy Macaroni and Cheese. So smart! She says, “All of the flavor with none of the guilt! Seriously, this cheese sauce made me rethink everything I knew about macaroni and cheese.”
Well, ok then … how do you NOT give this one a shot?!?!
Kristy, who blogs over at The Wicked Noodle, gave us other great options. She suggested, “I use cottage cheese or tofu in smoothies. I also use tofu in creamy soups in place of cream.” Such simple swaps that add up to a big difference in the long run!
#6 – Bake Instead of Fry
French fries, fried fish, fried pickles … well, it’s right there in the name, isn’t it?!? “Fried”! And it’s gonna end up right in your arteries, too. But you can get all the crispy-crunchy texture you love without the frying! Simple and so much better for you!
Case in point: these scrumptious Za’atar Baked Onion Rings from Carla at Chocolate Moosey. Panko bread crumbs yield a big crunch, without the frying!
Mmmmmmm … and while you’ve got that oven fired up, you might want to try our own spin on healthier fries … Cheesy Oven-Baked Pizza Fries!
#7 – Sub Greek Yogurt in Place of Butter, Oil and Mayo
Ahhhhhh … another of our THK-favorite strategies! Gotta love Greek yogurt! Thick and rich and tangy … and loaded with protein but not all that fat. No wonder so many bloggers said using Greek yogurt as a sub for naughtier, higher-fat ingredients was their favorite healthy cooking trick!
Christie at Food Done Light showcases this in her recipe for Thyme, Rosemary & Yogurt Marinated Turkey Breast:
And Ari at Ari’s Menu uses Greek yogurt in place of mayo in her Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad (just like we do in our own Healthy Chicken Salad with Grapes, Apples and Tarragon-Yogurt Dressing).
Ari promises, “No one will know the difference when there are other flavors hangin’ out in there.” We couldn’t agree more! This strategy is a must-try, and so is Ari’s chicken salad recipe …
We’ve got lots more Greek yogurt inspiration for you, too! From dips to salads, sweet to savory … here are just a few more ideas from our own blog (clockwise from top left):
- Hearty Fruit and Nut Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing
- BLT Egg Salad
- Greek Yogurt Coleslaw (one of our all-time most popular recipes EVER!)
- Healthier Reuben Dip
#8 – Make Your Own Condiments
A surprisingly large number of the bloggers we polled said that one of their favorite healthy cooking strategies was making their own condiments and dressings. Makes sense, though, right?!?
When you make your own, you can totally control what goes in, and avoid the preservatives, fat, high-fructose corn syrup and soaring sodium levels that sometimes ride along inside those store-bought containers. As an added plus, making them yourself can often save money, too!
With these easy recipes for all sorts of condiments and dressings, making your own is a snap … and so very delicious! (clockwise from top left):
- Asian Salad Dressing from Meggan at Culinary Hill
- Easy Enchilada Sauce from Debi at Life Currents
- Tahini Dressing from Debi at Life Currents
- 5 Minute Homemade Ketchup from Tracy at Served from Scratch
- Vegan Mayonnaise from Charlene at That Girl Cooks Healthy
- Fiery Habanero Hot Sauce from Mel at A Virtual Vegan
#9 – Plan Ahead
What can save you from swerving into the McDonald’s drive-thru, glumly ordering a dinner that you really don’t feel good about serving up? Planning, friends … planning!
You know we’re always looking for ways to help you pre-plan for healthy eating success … with make-ahead tips, freezing instructions, and big-batch cooking ideas. So, we were thrilled to receive these great, save-the-BUSY!-day ideas from other bloggers, too!
As Sara over at The Organic Dietician says, “… a little thinking ahead can make a huge difference between fast food and real food. Keep your freezer full of already prepared meals, prepped recipe ingredients, and grocery staples.” She’s got a great post full of ingenious freezable meal ideas, plus this terrific recipe for (totally freezable!) Green Lentil Chili …
Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean (a fellow Ohioan – shoutout on that one!) is in total agreement, and with her Freezer Chicken Tenders, which bake straight out of the freezer, you won’t need to head to the drive-thru … and your kiddos won’t want you to! Total win, even on busy nights! And so easy …
Mmmmmmm … and the great make-ahead recipes ideas just kept coming! We’ve been drooling over this super-easy Layered Chicken Enchilada Pie from Marjory at The Dinner Mom. (Psssst … this one’s doubly-awesome because it includes a Greek yogurt swap, too! Yep – tip #7 is woven right in, along with all the make-ahead convenience! Double bonus points for this one!)
Whew! That’s gotta be enough healthy cooking inspiration to keep ya busy for at least the next week!
But don’t worry … we’ll be back next week with a brand-new healthy recipe! And we’re so excited to share more bloggers’ best recipes in this Best Healthy Recipes Series in the weeks to come.
So many more deliciously nutritious ideas we just can’t wait to tell you about!
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