Fast, easy recipes leave more time for play

When spring fever hits, we’re antsy to leave the house and spend more time outdoors. Between housework, school work and work work — phew! — the only place we can trim some time is in the kitchen.

It might also surprise you that cooking healthfully takes less time, is easier, and for savvy shoppers is less expensive than dining out. Here’s a menu of some of my healthy short-order faves that’ll give you the luxury of soaking up some divine vitamin D-enriched sun rays.

My salad days

Easy salads can be delicious, hearty meals when jazzed up with some protein, be it fish or fowl, cheese or hard-boiled eggs. Whip up a new-age Greek salad with organic feta, grilled shrimp or scallops; do a healthy twist on the Tuna Niçoise by swapping out the mercury-laced, bad-boy fish with heart-healthier chunks of wild-caught salmon; do an organic turkey or chicken Cobb with crumbles of turkey bacon; arugula with pine nuts and goat cheese; or concoct a breast of duck mandarin Asian salad with crispy whole-wheat noodles.

Let’s get cracking

Italian frittatas can be a gourmet clearinghouse — tossing in everything from last week’s leftover sausages and chicken to an eclectic assortment of veggies in your produce drawer. Mushrooms, zucchini, — asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers — whatever is available and your taste buds desire that night. Frittatas can be served vegetarian- or carnivore-style, hot or cold, in a big skillet sitting on the tabletop, sliced in pie-shaped portions. Add a side salad, and dinner is served.

Use your noodle

My family’s favorite pasta dish is Grenadier Marche — a carbo-loaded treat blending pasta with boiled potatoes, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions and baby broccoli tossed in a golden olive oil-turmeric-based dressing.

This authentic dish actually fortified the Austro-Hungarian troops under Emperor Franz Josef’s command during the Napoleonic Wars. They combined their nonperishable food rations of spuds and grains with the herbs and mushrooms they picked in the fields during their marches.

Another quick, easy and healthy meal is pasta primavera that takes 20 minutes from stove to table. Healthy comes in when the pasta is whole-grain non-GMO organic, the fiber-loaded veggies (also organic) are fresh or frozen, and the sauce can be homemade garlic olive oil or marinara in glass jars (also organic).

Spill the beans

All you need here is a can opener and five minutes of creative seasoning. Blend a can of organic black beans with sauteed onions, sea salt, cumin and brown sugar, serve with brown rice, and you have a Costa Rican treat. Red kidney beans do turkey, chicken, beef (if you must, make it organic, grass-fed), or veggie chili. The latter can have chunks of zucchini, yellow and red tomatoes, multicolored peppers and cauliflower florets, topped with a dollop of sour cream, over flour tortillas. White navy beans combined with fresh garlic and marinara sauce over penne pasta with a slice of garlic toast is a quick Italian fix.

Veg out

Other quick dishes include the all-versatile stir-fries, which completely depend on what you yen for that day. You can do any vegetable from broccoli, asparagus, Chinese long beans and Brussels sprouts to tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms and cauliflower. Toss in a veggie protein such as tofu or tempeh or chicken or seafood, and for that carb craving, some soba noodles.

Get your just desserts

A sweet ending to a meal doesn’t have to take hours of measuring, creaming, mixing and baking. If you have an assortment of dried and fresh fruit, whipped cream and chocolate, you’ve found your dessert bliss. Compotes with pears, apricots, apples and dried cherries take minutes to whip up, then seconds to top with a splash of your favorite liqueur and whipped cream.

Chocolate fondues are also heart-healthy and fun. Just melt a generous chunk of bittersweet chocolate and make skewers – watermelons spears, bananas, strawberries, apricots, ginger chunks or angel food cake squares and dip away.

My latest easy, breezy recipe is a wild mushroom ragu tossed with whole-wheat linguini. In the time it takes to read the recipe, you could have prepared it.

The Kitchen Shrink’s Quick and Dirty Mushroom Linguini

  • 12 ounces of whole-wheat linguini
  • 1 pound of assorted mushrooms — oysters, crimini, beech (washed and sliced)
  • 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Sea salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano to taste

Cook linguini to desired texture, drain and set aside. In a large skillet, saute the onion and garlic in the oil and add the mushrooms and seasonings until tender. Toss the sauce with the pasta and eat hot or cold.

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