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Video: 6 steps to a healthy weeknight dinner

  1. Closed captioning of: 6 steps to a healthy weeknight dinner

    >>> at the office or running around with the kids, the thought of spending the evening slaving away in the kitchen is exhausting to read and imagine doing it.

    >> that's right. well, we've got cynthia here with a simple, six-step program that will help you build easy, nutritious, and most importantly delicious dinners for the entire week. cynthia, good to see you.

    >> absolutely. great to be here.

    >> with a little prep, you can be ready to go for the whole week?

    >> six simple steps. let me tell you what they are. first, you're going to choose a healthy complex carbohydrate. can be a whole grain, like wild rice or sweet potato . that's going to give you filling, fiber, but only keep the portion to 1/2 cup. then our next step is learning to add green. for a hot dish , it could be steamed spinnage or any kind of salad greens . that's going to add a lot of bulk to the meal and little calories compared to the starchy foods. and they're so filled with nutrients for potassium, vitamin "a," then a lean protein is your next step. a plant-based protein like beans or lentils, a hard boiled egg , that will keep your metabolism, so that meal sticks with you. and then we're going to add more vegetables. we're going to add color, texture, broad spectrum of nutrients in the meal. whatever you have frozen is fine.

    >> okay.

    >> then we're going to add a healthy fat. it could be avocado, extra virgin olive oil , nuts, that will help you stay fuller longer and help you absorb vitamins, including vitamin "b."

    >> once you're armed with the six, let's launch into the weekday.

    >> salsa, marinara, something to bring that all together. you probably have a lot of these things in your home already. here we have the mediterranean chicken pasta salad . we've got spinach as our base, healthy whole grain pasta there. you can use a brown rice pasta if you want to go gluten free. lots more vegetables in there. and then we've got a balsamic vinaigrette for our sauce. and you can add a little goat cheese on top.

    >> nice.

    >> very simple.

    >> that's great. terrific.

    >> all right. second salad here.

    >> we have a tuna pasta salad . you can use a different shaped pasta here, but canned tuna. for the sauce here, we have guacamole and humus.

    >> if you're not a fan of tuna, what do you use?

    >> hard boiled egg instead.

    >> okay.

    >> now a healthy taco salad . doesn't look a traditional taco salad . we have mixed greens , we have quinoa. you can do a half and half with the protein, maybe half beans, half meat. adds more fiber to the meal.

    >> what's your sauce?

    >> well, our sauce is going to be a salsa which you can actually buy or make your own and add a little hot sauce on there. add a little kick to it.

    >> look at how gorgeous this is. we have a shrimp and wild rice salad. we have actually water crest here at the base, you can do grilled or broiled or even boiled shrimp, some wild rice , and then we have some pesto for our sauce here. just drizzle that over the top . and for our good fat, we have sliced almonds.

    >> i'm a taste tester.

    >> and then for flavor, we have fresh mint leaves . anything you have, any kind of herb or spice you have at home, you can toss it in here. and finally, this is our sweet potato black bean bowl.

    >> okay.

    >> and we're going to add marinara sauce to this. which you might not think of this kind of combination. but it's amazing.

    >> yeah, you don't think about it. and i love you incorporate the sweet potatoes , as well.

    >> baked sweet potatoes on a bed of spinach. and put a little bit of spice in there, a little bit of cinnamon. adds flavor and aroma to the meal.

    >> good idea.

    >> thank you so much. you can find the recipes on today.com. we'll be back in a moment, but first this is "today" on nbc.

    >> very good. that's nice.

    >>> oh. hmm.

    >> kathie lee and hoda.

    >> hoda here.

TODAY recipes
updated 3/18/2014 5:02:08 PM ET 2014-03-18T21:02:08

Recipe: Sweet potato and black bean bowls

Ingredients
  • 4 cups packed fresh baby spinach
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, baked or microwaved until tender, halved, or chopped
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta, shredded Cheddar, or grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, warmed
Preparation

1. Divide spinach among 4 bowls. Microwave each, uncovered, for 1 minute on high to wilt, if desired.

2. Divide sweet potatoes, beans, tomato, peppers and cheese among bowls with spinach.

3. Stir cumin and cinnamon into marinara sauce. Divide among bowls or serve on the side.

Serving Size

Serves 4

Recipe: Pesto shrimp with radish, watercress and mint

Ingredients
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1 small bunch watercress, tough stems discarded
  • 1 small fennel bulb, halved, cored, and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 5 thinly sliced radishes
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pesto
Preparation

1. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp to pan. Cook until shrimp are opaque, turning often, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Toss shrimp with 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

2. In a large bowl, combine watercress, fennel, radishes, remaining olive oil and remaining lemon juice, tossing well.

3. Divide salad among 4 plates. Top each evenly with shrimp, wild rice, mint and almonds.

4. Drizzle each salad with 2 tablespoons of pesto.

Serving Size

Serves 4

Recipe: Healthy taco salad

Ingredients
  • 4 cups salad greens
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup chopped grilled or roasted skinless chicken, shredded, optional (if you leave it out, add an extra cup of beans)
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, seeded and chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hot sauce, optional
Preparation

1. Divide greens among 4 bowls. In a large bowl, gently toss together remaining ingredients, except hot sauce.

2. Divide bean mixture among bowls with greens. Add hot sauce, if desired.

Serving Size

Serves 4

Recipe: Tuna and vegetable pasta salad

Ingredients
  • 4 cups packed fresh baby spinach
  • 2 cups cooked whole-wheat pasta (preferably a short shape, such as cavatappi)
  • 4 single-serve packets (2.6 oz each) or cans (3 oz. each) water-packed chunk light tuna
  • 2 cups cooked peas, thawed if frozen
  • 1/2 cup hummus
  • 1/2 cup guacamole
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
Preparation

1. Divide spinach among 4 bowls. Microwave each, uncovered, for 1 minute on high to wilt, if desired.

2. In a large bowl, gently toss together remaining ingredients, except dill. Divide tuna mixture among bowls with spinach. Sprinkle with dill and serve.

Serving Size

Serves 4

Recipe: Mediterranean chicken and pasta salad

Ingredients
  • 3 cups zucchini, chopped
  • 4 cups packaged fresh baby spinach
  • 2 cups cooked whole-wheat pasta (preferably a short shape, such as penne)
  • 1 cup chopped grilled or roasted skinless chicken, shredded, optional
  • 1 6.5-oz jar marinated quartered artichoke hearts, not drained
  • 1 2.5-oz can sliced black olives, drained
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp, chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh goat cheese
Preparation

1. Place zucchini in a bowl. Add ¼ cup water, cover (leaving it slightly open to vent steam) and microwave on high until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Uncover, drain and let cool.2. Divide spinach among 4 bowls. Microwave each, uncovered, for 1 minute on high to wilt, if desired.3. In a bowl, toss pasta, chicken and artichoke hearts with marinade, olives, tomato, basil and oregano. Toss in zucchini. In a separate bowl, whisk oil, vinegar and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with pasta mixture.4. Divide mixture among bowls with spinach. Top with cheese and serve.

Serving Size

Serves 4

Recipe: Roasted squash and lentil salad

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped, skinned
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 pound butternut squash, halved, seeded and cut into 8 wedges
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 5 cups mixed winter salad greens (such as red leaf lettuce and radicchio)
  • 2 cups cooked lentils (canned, rinsed is okay)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced
Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place the nuts on a baking sheet in middle of oven. Bake for about 5 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside.

3. Coat a 13- x 9-inch nonstick baking pan with cooking spray. Place squash on pan, cut sides down. Cover with foil and roast in middle of oven about 20 minutes or until tender.

4. Whisk together the maple syrup, vinegar and mustard in a serving bowl until blended. Add greens and toss until well-combined.

5. Divide the dressed greens onto each of 4 plates and surround with 2 squash wedges. Top each serving with 1 cup diced tomatoes and  ½ cup lentils. Sprinkle evenly with nuts and Parmesan. Serve.

Recipe: Brown rice turkey bowl

Ingredients
  • 1 1/3 cups dry short-grain brown rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 1 2-pound bone-in turkey breast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, optional
  • 1 cup of carrots, shredded or chopped
Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine rice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 cups broth, 1 cup of shredded or chopped carrots and 1 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 45 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil. Place turkey on sheet and coat with oil. Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and brush with 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce. Roast, turning halfway through, until turkey is cooked and a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 165 degrees, about 50-55 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer turkey to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let rest for about 5 minutes.

4. Stir spinach, scallions and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce into rice with remaining 1 cup warmed broth. Thinly slice turkey. Divide rice and sliced turkey among 4 bowls. Drizzle each with sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

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