To eat better, try a weekly meatless meal

It’s one way to reach the common goal of eating healthier and more mindfully in the new year

    It’s the new year, a time when many people have made vows to get healthier.
    For some, that means exercising more. For others, it means lessening the stress of daily life or decreasing screen time.
    But one popular resolution is to eat healthier. It’s sometimes a daunting goal, but one sure way to ease yourself into the habit of eating better is to take small steps.
    Instead of a sugary snack, eat fruit or some chopped up veggies. Instead of your morning muffin, make some quick-cook oatmeal and top it with fruit or a little granola. Or have some eggs. They’re high in protein and will make you feel full for longer.
    Instead of a steak, make fish. Or try a salad, but instead of using a creamy dressing try a vinaigrette or just a splash of lemon juice.
    Instead of a sugar-filled soda, try a flavored seltzer or carbonated water. And instead of drinking juice, which is high in sugar, eat the whole fruit instead.
    If you’re making a sandwich, use whole-grain bread instead of refined grain bread.
    Bake or roast your dinner meals instead of frying them. Choose baked potatoes over fries, and eat the greens on your plate before anything else.
    Cook at home more often, using healthy ingredients, and try a new recipe every week. Use a smaller dinner plate to fool your eye — and your stomach —into thinking you’re eating more than you are.
    When you’re at the dinner table, eat slowly to give your body time to register that it’s full.
    Make sure you drink plenty of water during the day, and when you’re in the grocery store, read labels. Compare nutrition information and select products with the lowest amounts of sodium, added sugars, saturated fat and trans fat and without partially hydrogenated oils.
    And consider having at least one meatless meal each week.
    To help you get started, here are some meatless meal recipes from

Broccoli Pesto Pasta

Pasta (1 pound, cooked)
4 cups broccoli florets
2 cups basil leaves, lightly packed
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated

    Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add broccoli, then bring the water back up to a boil for two minutes. Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer broccoli to a colander and place under cold running water.
    Bring water back to a boil, add pasta and cook according to the package. Reserve at least one cup pasta cooking water before draining.
    In a large blender or food processor, blend broccoli, basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt and Parmigiano-reggiano until smooth. Slowly add reserved pasta water until a sauce is formed. If sauce is too thick, add more pasta water, one tablespoon at a time.
    Toss hot pasta with sauce until completely coated. Top with extra Parmesan, pine nuts and chili flakes if desired.
    Makes six servings.


Hungarian Mushroom Soup

4 tablespoons butter
2 cups onions, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons dried dill
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley

    In a heavy pot or Dutch oven, sauté onions and mushrooms in butter over medium heat about 15 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent. Add dill, thyme, paprika, broth, soy sauce and white wine. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid reduces by half.
    In a small bowl, whisk flour into the milk until smooth. Add mixture to the soup and cook about 10 minutes, until soup begins to thicken. Turn the heat to low and slowly stir in the sour cream and lemon juice.
    Garnish soup with parsley and serve hot.
    Makes five cups. If you want to serve it to four people as a main dish, you may want to  double the recipe.


Spinach Mushroom Strata

1 loaf day-old baguette or crusty bread, crust removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion
2 tablespoons fresh thyme or rosemary
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 cups fresh spinach, packed
2 cups Swiss cheese, grated
8 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated

    Place bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in a 400-degree oven about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside.
    In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook onions, mushrooms and herbs in butter about seven minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add spinach and cook five minutes, until spinach is wilted and completely cooked down. Pull the pan off the heat and let cool.
    Measure out enough bread cubes to fill a nine-inch square or round casserole or baking dish. Place bread into a bowl and add onion-mushroom mixture and Swiss cheese. Toss to combine.
    In a blender, combine eggs, milk, cream, salt, pepper, mustard and nutmeg. Blend 10 seconds, until combined.
    Line baking dish with parchment paper or lightly grease it. Add bread and mushroom-onion mixture, then carefully pour egg mixture over the bread. Press bread cubes down to make sure they are totally submerged.
    Bake, uncovered, in a 350-degree oven for about one hour, 15 minutes, until strata has puffed slightly, is golden brown on top and does not shimmy when you shake the pan. If it gets too dark, cover with foil and continue cooking.
    Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temp.
    Makes eight servings.


Tomato, Basil and Caramelized Onion Quiche

For filling:
1 small sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
6 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 ounces Parmigiano-reggiano cheese finely grated
1 medium heirloom tomato, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Handful of basil leaves, thinly sliced
For crust:
1-1/2 cups flour
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 tablespoons ice water

    Place 9 tablespoons cut butter on parchment paper and put in freezer.
    Melt one tablespoon butter in a small frying pan over medium-low heat until foaming. Add onions and sugar and cook about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are deep golden brown and caramelized. Add garlic and cook five minutes longer. Season well with salt and pepper, remove from pan and let cool.
    Place flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a food processor with fitted blade. Pulse to combine. Add butter from the freezer. Pulse eight to 12 times, until butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour ice water down the feed tube and pulse until the dough begins to form a ball. Place dough on a floured board and roll into a ball.
    Press dough into an eight or nine-inch pie or quiche pan and refrigerate.
    Combine eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender, then blend one minute. Layer tomatoes, cheese and basil in the bottom of the crust-lined quiche pan. Evenly disperse onion and garlic over top, then pour egg mixture on top of that. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until egg mixture is set. Cut into eight wedges.
    Makes eight servings.


Sweet Potato Tacos

2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
6 to 8 corn tortillas, 6 to 8 inches, warmed
2 ounces goat cheese crumbled, optional
Vegan queso
Guacamole or avocado slices
For quick slaw:
2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro

    Spread sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and taco seasoning, toss until combined. Bake in a  375-degree oven about 25 minutes, until tender. While still warm, toss potatoes with the black beans.
    In a medium sized bowl, mix the quick slaw ingredients.
    Place a scoop of the sweet potato mixture into a warmed tortilla shell. Top with quick slaw, crumbled goat cheese, a scoop of guacamole and a drizzle of vegan queso.
    Makes five servings.


Crockpot Vegetable Lasagna

1/3 cup basil, chopped
15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
25 ounces pasta sauce
1 pound box lasagna noodles
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 small zucchini, sliced
2 small yellow squash, sliced
2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Parmesan cheese, to taste

    In a medium bowl combine basil, ricotta, eggs, salt, garlic powder and pepper.
    In a five-quart crockpot, spread 1/4 cup pasta sauce and top with a single layer of uncooked lasagna noodles. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture on top, then layer with one-third each of the mushroom, zucchini and yellow squash.  Top with one-third of the chopped spinach, one-third of the grated mozzarella and one-quarter of the remaining sauce.
    Starting with the dried lasagna, repeat all the layers two more times, finishing with layers of dried pasta, sauce and the fresh mozzarella.
    Place a clean kitchen towel between the slow cooker and its lid, then close the crockpot and cook on high heat for three hours, until noodles are tender and sauce is absorbed.
    Garnish with fresh Parmesan cheese and any extra basil.
    Makes seven servings.

Baked Gnocchi with Broccoli

1 pound gnocchi
3 cups broccoli, florets roughly chopped
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
4 ounces cream cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Add broccoli and cook two minutes, then add gnocchi and cook one minute longer. Drain water and set aside.
    In a large oven-proof skillet, bring broth to a simmer. Add cream cheese, stirring until mostly combined. Add one cup mozzarella cheese and stir until melted.
    Stir in the broccoli and uncooked gnocchi. Top with mozzarella and bake on the center rack of a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes, until the top is bubbly. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve immediately.
    Makes six servings.


Kung Pao Tofu

2 14 to 16-ounce blocks extra-firm tofu
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons sesame oil
1 red bell pepper, cubed
1 green bell pepper, cubed
1 bunch green onions, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 cup cashews or peanuts
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
6 garlic cloves, minced
10 whole dried red chili peppers
For sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar

    Place two paper towels on a plate. Drain tofu, then place it on the paper towels. Place two more paper towels on top, then place a heavy item on top to squeeze out remaining liquid. Drain the tofu for 30 minutes, changing the paper towels halfway through.
    To make the sauce, combine soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar in a bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.
    Slice tofu into one-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch and gently toss with your hands until all the pieces are coated.
    In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons sesame oil over high heat. Working in batches, stir-fry half the tofu until all four sides are lightly browned, a total of about 15 minutes. Remove tofu and place onto a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining tofu.
    Heat one tablespoon sesame oil in the skillet over medium heat. When hot, stir-fry bell peppers about four minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the green onions, cashews, ginger, garlic and dried chili peppers and stir-fry two minutes. Add the sauce and fried tofu. Bring to a simmer and cook about two minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
    Serve over white or brown rice.
    Makes six servings.


Braised Chickpeas With Chard

15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained 4 tablespoons olive oil or butter
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
28 to 32-ounce jar marinara sauce
2 teaspoons smoked paprika, optional
2 cups finely chopped chard or kale

    In a large skillet, heat four tablespoons olive oil or butter over medium heat. Add drained chickpeas and cook until butter just begins to brown. Add garlic and paprika and cook, stirring, about two minutes, until fragrant. Pour in marinara sauce and simmer about 10 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken. Add greens and stir until they are just wilted.
    Serve warm over crusty bread or crispy potatoes. If desired, top with cheese.    Makes four servings.


Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

1 pound uncooked elbow pasta
4 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Optional toppings:
Freshly cracked pepper
Cooked peas or other veggies

    Place pasta, water and salt into the base of an Instant Pot. Stir, then lock the lid and cook three minutes using the pressure cook or manual function. Quick release the steam.
    Once there is no more pressure, open the lid and mix in the cheeses and heavy cream. Stir until combined and serve.
    Makes six servings.
    There should only be a very small amount of water left in the pot when you open it. If there is a large amount, drain most of it off before adding the cream and cheese.


Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup celery, minced
1 cup onions, finely minced
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup dried lentils, brown or green, rinsed in a fine mesh sieve
24 ounces marinara sauce
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound cooked wide pasta noodles, such as pappardelle or tagliatelle
Parmesan cheese or vegan Parmesan, optional

    In a large saucepan or braiser, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and onions and sauté about six minutes, until tender. Add walnuts and lentils along with the salt, water and marinara. Stir to combine.
    Simmer on medium-low for 45 minutes stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens.
    When the lentils have reached desired tenderness, transfer two cups of the sauce to a blender or food processor. Blend until nearly smooth. Add blended sauce to the pan and stir to combine.
    Remove from heat, serve over cooked pasta and top with freshly grated or vegan Parmesan cheese.
    Makes eight servings.



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