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Start 2022 on a lighter note with these 3 healthy recipes

Roasted cauliflower and cherry tomatoes with Israeli couscous and crispy spiced chickpeas. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Roasted cauliflower and cherry tomatoes with Israeli couscous and crispy spiced chickpeas. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

The excesses of the holidays are behind us in the new year. Traditionally, January is "diet season" — a time to start anew and focus on healthy eating. But once again, in the midst of a pandemic and winter, dieting doesn't seem too attractive an idea. Rather than try to follow a prescribed diet (that is almost always a challenge to stick to), I try to focus on eating more vegetables, less meat, and fresher, lighter fare.

These three new recipes are definitely not "diet" food, but instead focus on color (a true challenge in winter months), texture and big bold flavors. This is food that makes you feel good and satisfied.

All these dishes work well for virtually any meal and can easily be doubled depending on the size of your family. To a healthy new year!

Mushroom tacos

When you want to reduce the amount of animal protein you're eating, the meaty texture and rich umami flavor of mushrooms are a great alternative. Corn tortillas are heated with a touch of sharp cheddar until melted and bubbling, while mushrooms are sauteed over high heat with scallions. The sauteed mushrooms are piled on top of the cheesy tortilla and then topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream, chopped tomatoes or salsa and lime. The tacos can be made from start to finish in around 20 minutes. They are equally good for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and the recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

Serves 2 to 4.


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms (I used a combination of shiitakes and king oyster mushrooms), ends trimmed and cut into ½-inch thick slices
  • 3 scallions, ends trimmed and thinly sliced (white and green sections)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 1/3 packed cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 medium tomato, finely chopped, or ½ cup salsa
  • About ¼ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • A few sprigs fresh cilantro or parsley, optional
  • 1 lime, cut into quarters
  • Hot pepper sauce
  • Instructions

  • Saute the mushrooms: In a medium skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and half the scallions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until golden brown and tender.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet (or two skillets) set over moderate heat, warm the tortillas for 2 minutes, flip the tortillas over and divide the cheese between them. Cook, moving the tortilla around from side to side to prevent burning, until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
  • To serve: Divide the mushrooms between the warm tortillas. Scatter with the tomatoes, remaining scallions and a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle on the cilantro or parsley, and serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze on top and a dash of hot pepper sauce.
  • Stir-fried rice with vegetables and fried egg

    All you need for this dish is some leftover rice, fresh ginger, a few fresh vegetables and an egg, and you have the makings of a satisfying breakfast, lunch or dinner. Add any type of vegetables you have on hand — broccoli or cauliflower florets, cubes of winter squash, green beans, etc. Think of this as a master recipe of sorts, and adapt it according to what you have in your refrigerator.

    Serves 2 to 4


  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh ginger
  • 1 leek, dark greens removed, sliced lengthwise, washed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, or 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 scallions, ends trimmed, and white and green sections cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups raw vegetables (see ideas above), cut into small cubes or pieces
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste, preferably white or a mild variety
  • Touch of chile paste or hot pepper sauce
  • About 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 ½ cups kale, spinach, or Swiss chard (if using kale, remove the rib down the center)
  • ½ cup salted cashews or walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups cooked rice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro or parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped
  • The eggs:

  • 1 tablespoon safflower or vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch red chile flakes
  • Instructions

  • In a wok or large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add half the minced and sliced ginger and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Add the leek or onion and the scallions and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring for 4 minutes. Add the celery and then stir in the miso paste, chile paste, and soy sauce. Cook for 30 seconds. Add the greens and the remaining ginger and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the greens are wilted and the vegetables are almost tender. Add half the cashews or walnuts and the rice, making sure to separate the rice so it doesn't clump up. Stir everything together until hot and the vegetables and greens are fully incorporated. Add ¼ cup water and another teaspoon of soy sauce if the mixture seems dry.
  • While the rice and vegetables are cooking, heat the oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Crack the eggs into the skillet, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a pinch of chile flakes. Cook for 2 minutes until the edges are crispy and begin to turn golden brown. Gently flip the egg over and cook for another minute.
  • Serve the hot stir-fried rice, topped with the fried eggs, the remaining nuts, and the cilantro. Serve hot pepper sauce or chile paste on the side.
  • Roasted cauliflower and cherry tomatoes with Israeli couscous and crispy spiced chickpeas

    This salad/main course offers great color, texture and enormous flavor. The whole dish can be made hours ahead of time and tossed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil right before serving. Warm pita bread, a crisp baguette or your favorite crusty bread would be a great addition. This is a vegan dish but can be made more substantial with the addition of crumbled feta or bite-sized pieces of leftover cooked salmon or chicken.

    This dish can be served warm or at room temperature.

    Serves 4.


    The chickpeas:

  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained, washed and drained again
  • 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Pinch chile flakes
  • The cauliflower and couscous:

  • 1 small to medium-sized cauliflower, washed and left whole
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch red chile flakes
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried and crumbled
  • 1 cup Israeli or pearl couscous
  • Juice from 1 large lemon or 2 medium
  • ⅓ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Place the washed chickpeas on a cookie sheet with low edges in a single layer. Toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, and chile flakes. Roast on the middle shelf for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
  • Meanwhile, place the whole cauliflower in an ovenproof skillet or small baking dish and cover with 1 ½ tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of chile flakes. Roast for about 20 minutes, gently flip the cauliflower over and roast another 15 to 20 minutes or until it feels tender when tested with a small, sharp knife. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, cut or separate the cauliflower into small florets.
  • In a medium ovenproof skillet or baking dish, toss the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the oil, salt, pepper and rosemary. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until just about bursting.
  • Bring 1 1/2 cups lightly salted water to boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the couscous and 1 tablespoon of the oil, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 8 minutes or until the couscous has absorbed almost all the water. Remove from the heat, cover and let sit another 5 to 8 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  • To assemble: Gently toss the couscous, cauliflower florets, tomatoes (as well as any juices from the bottom of the skillet or pan) and half the chickpeas together. Just before serving, toss with the lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Top with the remaining roasted chickpeas and the parsley.
  • Find more light recipes here.

    This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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