Healthy and fast food? Yes, it’s possible! These tasty, good-for-you dinners are on the table in less than 40 minutes.

SWEET & SOUR CHICKEN

Cooking the chicken over high heat quickly gives it a nicely browned look and taste without needing to deep fry. Fresh orange juice in the sauce and lots of vegetables keep the dish and the nutrition balanced.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons peanut oil
  • 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint small, sweet mixed peppers, quartered, or 2 mixed bell peppers, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 6 scallions, whites cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, greens cut into 1-inch pieces and thinly sliced vertically into thin strips
  • 8 ounces snow peas, trimmed
  • Serving suggestion, cooked brown rice
  • Chopped peanuts for sprinkling, optional

Directions:
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, chili-garlic sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, orange juice and cornstarch; set aside.

Meanwhile, coat the chicken with 2 teaspoons oil and heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken to taste with salt and pepper and cook, turning occasionally with a wooden spoon, 2 minutes. Transfer the partially-cooked chicken to a plate. Reserve the pan.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the pan; add the peppers, scallion whites, and snow peas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the reserved chicken; whisk the sauce again and add it to the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve over rice and sprinkle with the scallion greens and peanuts, if using.

Nutritional analysis per serving (does not include brown rice and chopped peanuts) Calories 238; Total Fat 6g (Sat Fat 1 g, Mono Fat 2g, Poly Fat 2g) ; Protein 23g; Carb 23g; Fiber 4g; Cholesterol 49mg; Sodium 329mg

VEGETABLE GUMBO

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (preferably hot)
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 pound kale or Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen black-eyed peas
  • Brown rice, for serving (optional)

Directions:

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, 3 tablespoons water and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 8 minutes.

Add the soy sauce and paprika and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Stir in the vegetable broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, then cover and bring to a boil.

Add the greens and black-eyed peas to the pot. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the rice, if desired.

Nutritional Info:Per serving: Calories 249; Fat 12 g (Saturated 1 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 530 mg; Carbohydrate 32 g; Fiber 6 g; Protein 9 g

ORANGE CHICKEN FINGERS

I lightened chicken fingers by coating them with a crunchy breading of crushed rice cereal and baking them. Paired it with a sweet tart low-sugar orange dipping sauce and crisp pea and carrot salad with a touch of honey and sesame oil, it becomes a complete meal.

For the salad:

  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 8 ounces snow peas, sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, about 8 ounces, peeled and julienned, or 2 1/2 cups storebought shredded carrots

For the chicken fingers:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 4 cups (3 1/2 ounces) crispy rice cereal
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium teriyaki sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into tenders 4 by 1 1/2-inches, about 18 pieces

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup low-sugar orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium teriyaki sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

Make the salad: In a large bowl whisk the vinegar and honey until combined and then whisk in the sesame oil. Add the snow peas and carrots and toss well to coat. Set aside for the flavors to blend while the chicken and sauce cook.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and lightly mist with nonstick cooking spray.

Put the sesame seeds in a small nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Put the cereal in a plastic storage bag and crush with a rolling pin or heavy can until coarsely crushed. In a shallow bowl combine the toasted sesame seeds, crushed cereal and orange zest and lightly season with salt and pepper.

In a second shallow dish, beat the egg whites with the teriyaki sauce. Dip each chicken tender in the egg mixture and then the cereal mixture, pressing to coat well. Place on the rack and mist the chicken with nonstick cooking spray. Bake until the crust is golden and the chicken is cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepot heat the marmalade, teriyaki and ginger over medium heat until melted and well combined. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Serve the chicken with some of the sauce for dipping and the salad. 

Nutritional analysis per serving Calories 274; Total Fat 4.6g (Sat Fat 0.8g, Mono Fat 0.4g, Poly Fat 0.4g) ; Protein 30g; Carb 27g; Fiber 2g; Cholesterol 66mg; Sodium 357mg

PORK CHOPS WITH PINEAPPLE RELISH

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 jalape no pepper, minced (remove seeds for less heat)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 thin bone-in pork chops (2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions:

Soak the onion in a bowl of cold water, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, puree 3/4 cup pineapple with the lime juice, peanut butter, fish sauce and jalapeno until smooth. Toss the cucumber and the remaining 1 1/4 cups pineapple in a bowl, then add the pureed pineapple dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Pat the pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over high heat, then add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Lay 3 chops in the pan and sear until golden on one side, about 3 minutes; flip and finish cooking, 1 to 2 more minutes. Transfer the chops to a plate and loosely cover with foil. Repeat with the remaining chops, adding the remaining 2 tablespoons oil as necessary.

Drain the onion and add to the pineapple relish. Serve with the pork chops.

Per serving: Calories 618; Fat 39 g (Saturated 11 g); Cholesterol 165 mg; Sodium 390 mg; Carbohydrate 13 g; Fiber 2 g; Protein 52 g

NY STRIP STEAK W/BRANDIED MUSHROOMS

Ingredients:

  • 4 New York strip steaks, each about 1 1/2 inches thick
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds wild mushrooms, trimmed, brushed clean with a towel and stemmed, caps left whole
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until smoking. Sprinkle the steaks all over with salt and pepper. Put the steaks in the pan and cook, turning to brown all sides completely, until medium-rare, 8 to 10 minutes depending on how thick the steaks are. Remove the steaks to a platter with tongs and cover loosely with a tent of aluminum foil to keep the meat warm while you make the sauce.

Put the saute pan back over medium-high heat and add 1/4 cup olive oil. When the oil is smoking, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Then add the thyme and garlic, and season well with salt and pepper. Toss a few more times to cook the garlic, then dump the mushrooms out onto a platter. Take the pan off the heat, add the brandy, and cook until almost evaporated. Add the cream and cook that down 2 to 3 minutes until reduced by about one-half and thickened. Return the mushrooms to the pan with whatever juices have collected on the platter and simmer the whole thing another 2 minutes until thickened again. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the steak thin against the grain. Taste the sauce for salt and pepper and serve.