Robin Miller’s Healthy Cooking Shortcuts

Featured Article, Healthy Cooking Tips, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition, Nutrition
on December 15, 2011

Robin Miller is a master at quick, easy and healthy. In case you have any doubt, the star of Food Network’s “Quick Fix Meals” proves her prowess in her new book, Robin Takes 5: 500 Recipes, 5 Ingredients or Less, 500 Calories or Less, for 5 Nights/Week at 5:00 PM. Here are her secrets for getting healthy meals on the table in a hurry.

Think the “Take 5” way. “Carefully select five key, flavorful ingredients and you’ll need little else to pull a great meal together,” Miller says. Great choices include oil-packed sundried tomatoes (drain the oil and save it for future stir-fries), marinated artichoke hearts (drain the marinade and save it for future marinades), jarred roasted red peppers, capers, olives, strong cheeses (blue, goat, feta, smoked Gouda, parmesan—a little goes a long way) and toasted nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans—all add flavor, crunch and protein).

Roast and caramelize. This allows you to get more flavor from fewer ingredients. For example, caramelize yellow onions in olive oil until they’re golden brown; spoon them over chicken, fish or pork tenderloin. Roast fresh vegetables and garlic cloves to create a golden crust and sweeter flavor.  Great veggies for roasting include squash (summer and winter), eggplant, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

Take advantage of healthy, semi-prepared foods. These items are often found in the produce aisle and refrigerated section of the grocery store, but you can also hit up a salad bar. Some of Miller’s favorites include basil pesto, olive tapenade, mango chutney, sliced cremini mushrooms, shredded cabbage, baby carrots or shredded carrots, chopped Romaine lettuce, fresh salsa and guacamole and florets of broccoli and cauliflower.

Keep herbs on hand. “Fresh herbs do wonders to brighten up any dish,” Miller says. Just before serving, add fresh mint and/or cilantro to Asian, Indian and Mexican dishes. Add basil and parsley to all Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Fresh thyme and oregano work great on fish, chicken and pork. Sage is strong and works well with pork and turkey. Chives and scallions also add a terrific, mild onion flavor and can be added last too.

Don’t save “pizza night” for the weekends. Top store-bought pizza crusts or whole wheat tortillas with your favorite toppings and dinner’s ready in 20 minutes. Robin’s favorite toppings include (“Not all on the same pie!”) basil and sundried tomato pesto, smoked Gouda and mozzarella, grilled or rotisserie chicken pieces, shrimp, baby spinach, pineapple, bell peppers, onions, olives, wild mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini and parmesan cheese.

Wrap it. Leftovers make the perfect filling for wraps, burritos and baked egg rolls. For wraps and burritos, stuff whole wheat tortillas with leftover chicken, pork, beef, seafood and vegetables and roll up. Serve at room temperature. Bake burritos smothered in salsa for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees. For egg rolls, stuff egg roll wrappers with the same fillings, roll up, spray with cooking spray and bake for 10-15 minutes at 375 degrees, until golden brown.  Serve all wraps, burritos and egg rolls with your favorite dipping sauces (tomato sauce, light Caesar dressing, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Thai peanut sauce, mango chutney, pico de gallo, etc.).