Junk food makeover

Did your recent attempt at gourmet lentil and kale casserole meet with resounding and collective moans at your table?  Does your family only like a few flavor profiles? Pizza, Nuggets, Burgers?  Sound familiar?

If you know the flavors they like, don’t reinvent the wheel each dinner time. Introduce your family to healthier variations on the theme.  Below are several recipes to get you started.

Tasty Turkey Burgers

Burgers are on the menu every Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  And of course they aren’t always hamburgers.  My family has easily adapted to a variety of healthier burgers…although I had an epic failure with a lentil walnut burger.  (I liked it!)  These turkey burgers are easy and flavorful.  Mix a bit of dark-meat, ground turkey with leaner meat for more flavor.  Additional chopped or shredded vegetables can be added too.

1 lb. ground turkey

  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped onion
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped red pepper
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme

Mix the onion, pepper, and spices into the turkey meat.  Form into four patties and grill outdoors, or cook on stovetop in a non-stick skillet.  Serve on whole wheat buns with your favorite toppings. For a low-carb option place the patties between hearty leaves of iceberg or romaine lettuce.  A bit sloppier to eat, a lettuce burger can be a fun and healthier way to enjoy.

Zucchini-Crusted Pizza

Zucchini-crusted pizzaI’ve seen six year olds inhale this!  If it looks like pizza and tastes like pizza, it must be pizza.  Again, this is a favorite that fits the flavor profile most families adore.  This is adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook.

  •  2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 egg whites or whole eggs
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup mozzarella
  • ½ cup parmesan
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. Italian herbs
  • More cheese and favorite toppings

Preheat the oven to 400.  Grease a ten inch pie pan.  Combine zucchini, eggs, flour and two cheeses in a large bowl.  Pat the zucchini into the prepared pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until it begins to brown.  Remove from oven, let cool 5-10 minutes.  Use a spatula to loosen the edges of the crust.  Combine tomato sauce with garlic powder and herbs.  Top the pizza with sauce and favorite toppings.  Put pizza back in oven and bake until toppings are heated.  Remove and allow to sit for five minutes before cutting.  Makes 6-8 pieces. This can be doubled and baked on a sheet pan.

Crunchy Parmesan Chicken Strips

Do you ever wish the term “nugget” was not part of our vocabulary?  But unfortunately kids identify with a piece of chicken covered in a crunchy coat.  So give them something better.  Use free-range, hormone free chicken and whole wheat bread crumbs and omega-3 rich flax seeds.

  • For bread crumb mixture:
    • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (see note on how to make)
    • ¼ cup ground flax seeds
    • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
    • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
    • ½ tsp. garlic powder
    • ¼ tsp salt
  •  2 -3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 free-range chicken eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray or a light coating of vegetable oil.  Combine all the ingredients for the bread crumb mixture in a shallow bowl.  Cut chicken breasts into strips.  In a separate shallow bowl whisk the eggs.  Dip a piece of chicken into the eggs, then into the bread crumb mixture to coat.  Place on prepared cookie sheet.  Continue to dip the remaining pieces of chicken in the same manner.  Place the cookie sheet on the bottom shelf of the preheated oven for 8 minutes.  Using tongs, flip each piece of chicken over.  The side that was down should be a bit brown and crispy.  Put chicken back in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes until the second side is crispy.

Note: Whole wheat bread crumbs can be made out of lightly toasted whole wheat bread or bread left out overnight to dry out a bit.  Whirl the dry bread in a food processor or blender.  Alternatively, whole wheat crackers can be used for a different flavor.

No Jar Marinara Sauce

The worst part about jarred sauces is the sugar.  This uses only a sprinkle of Stevia – a natural alternative.  I use this sauce every week.  It is super easy, cooks in less than 30 minutes and is filled with nutrients! In place of the spinach you can use 1 cup of any other shredded or chopped vegetable.  Zucchini, red peppers, carrots, kale and carrots all work well.  Use organic tomatoes and sauce to make an even healthier version of this sauce.

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. chopped garlic (or a ½ tsp. garlic powder)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 15oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt to taste
  • If you like a sweeter sauce, I suggest a sprinkle of Stevia – an all natural sweetener that doesn’t act like sugar

Add olive oil to a medium sauce pan and heat over medium-medium high heat.  Add the chopped garlic and onion. (if using garlic powder – add this when you add the tomato sauce). Cook, stirring occasionally until translucent.  Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, and tomato paste.  Bring to a simmer and then add the spinach (or other vegetables) and seasonings.  Cook at a low simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Sneaky Marshmallow Treats

The addition of flax seed and natural sugar free peanut butter adds nutrients that are missing from traditional krispie treats.  This recipe also uses fewer marshmallows.

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • ½ cup all natural peanut butter
  • 6 cups whole grain o’s cereal (like Cherrios)
  • ¼ cup ground flax seeds

Melt butter in microwave in a glass bowl for 45 seconds on high power.  Add the mini marshmallows and peanut butter and cook in microwave on high for 1 minute 45 seconds.  Remove from microwave and immediately stir to combine.  Add the whole grain o’s and flax seeds.  Stir well.  Grease a 9 x 13 pan and press the cereal mixture into the pan.  Allow to cool/set for 30 minutes.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

  • 1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
  • 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dried chives
  • ½ tsp. dried dill
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients.  Thin with a drizzle of water if too thick.

No Fault Mocha Frappucino

  • 1 cup coffee frozen into ice cubes
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 2 Tbs. agave nectar
  • 1 Tbs. cocoa powder
  • 2-4 Tablespoons skim milk, almond milk or soy milk

Use a powerful blender and blend all ingredients until smooth.  Besides saving on sugar and fat, you’ll also save some cash!

Copyright © 2008 – 2016 Kathy Parry. All rights reserved.