Spinach Salad with Seared Misoyaki Tofu

Aida Mollenkamp Healthy Easy Dinner Recipe Raw Spinach Tofu Salad

It’s that time of the year when some of us have ditched our healthy eating New Year’s resolutions while others are still attempting to hold on with dear life.

I’m in that second group and am doing my best to eat clean and healthy — with the help of a ton of lighter soups, healthy grains, and wintry salads. I know, when I write winter salads, you’re probably saying, “oh, great, that’s sure to be boring,” but  it really doesn’t have to be that way.

My search for an interesting seasonal salad combined with my recent time in Hawaii led me to create this green salad topped with some seared miso-marinated tofu. It’s meatless, healthy, and made with ingredients available (to most of us) throughout the winter. The element that separates it from other, more predictable salads is the misoyaki tofu. Here I used the marinade with tofu but, if you’re not a fan, you could use it with salmon, tuna, or chicken. But, another resolution of mine has been to eat less meat so meatless sources of protein like tofu and I have become close friends.
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The Original Fusion Food

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Shrimp and Vegetable Saimin

I had a revelation this trip: food in Hawaii was fusion long before the term was ever coined.

Sure, some modern dishes are historically Hawaiian and others have been slightly tweaked from a distinct ethnic dish, but a good amount of food in Hawaii is the result of a mash up of numerous cuisines and flavors. One such dish is Saimin: it’s origin dates back to sugar cane plantation days when various immigrants worked and cooked together and saimin reflects all those influences. Saimin has a broth reminiscent of Japanese dashi, uses egg and wheat noodles reminiscent of Chinese chow mein noodles, and is garnished with an assortment of toppings hailing from Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Filipino cuisines.

My first taste of saimin was a late-night meal at the Hawaiian fast food chain, Zippys, which was forgettable, to say the least. Fortunately, I’ve had better tasting saimin since, but every one has been so MSG-filled that I walk away feeling like I’ve made out with a salt lick. Recently, my friends in Hawaii asked me to craft them modern, homemade, healthier versions of their favorite local grindz (aka only-in-Hawaii foods) and when I asked which to start with, one of them blurted out, Saimin!
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Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without the token Green Bean, Mushroom, and Crispy Onion casserole, but one look and you can tell it isn’t good for you. This recipe is a makeover of that Thanksgiving classic made with sauteed fresh mushrooms, Greek yogurt, and roasted onions instead of condensed soup and canned fried onions. The result is a dish that’s way better for you yet is such a dead-ringer for the real deal, guests won’t know what they’re missing. 
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Whole Grain Stuffing with Apples and Toasted Walnuts

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Whole Grain Stuffing

More often than not, the alternative eaters get left out of Thanksgiving and are given a paltry plate of sides instead of a real meal. While working with The Biggest Loser, I learned that trainer Bob Harper is vegan, so I focused on making the menu accessible for him as well. The result is this whole grain stuffing that, when served in a roasted squashed half, doubles as a main so the non-meat eaters still feel the holiday love. As is, this recipe is very low in fat and calories, but feel free to add more to it like, some roasted chestnuts, crumbled chorizo, or some crisp bacon if you’re feeling indulgent.
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Herb-Orange Turkey with Pear Gravy

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Roasted Turkey Breast

From the moment I started working on this Thanksgiving menu, I kept thinking about the turkey. All the other recipes fell into place but the turkey was a bit of a puzzle. I wanted a recipe that would measure up to The Biggest Loser nutritional standards, but also be worthy of the Thanksgiving supper spotlight. And then, it came to me: craft a simple yet elegant turkey that used flavors from the rest of the menu to tie everything together.

While it’s no secret that the white meat on the bird is a lot better for you, it tends also dries out really easily so roasting it for the holiday can be a crapshoot. In this recipe, there are three major precautionary measures to ward off dry turkey. First, the turkey should be bone-on because that will help the bird cook more evenly and infuse it with more turkey flavor. Secondly, the turkey gets roasted in broth for the first half, which ensures it stays super moist despite the 90 minute cooking time. Third, the honey-orange baste brings another layer of flavor and moisture to the finished dish. Then, to further boost the flavor, the pears and onions in the roasting pan get blended up and used as the base of the gravy for a take on turkey that’s a fraction of the fat and calories.

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Pumpkin Pie Custard with Spiced Streusel

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dessert Recipe Pumpkin Custard

As part of the menu I developed for this year’s The Biggest Loser Thanksgiving menu, I made this lower fat, lower calorie take on pumpkin pie. Yes, removing the crust immediately helped, but I also tweaked it in a few other ways: using lite coconut milk instead of cream, fewer eggs, and a whipped tofu topping so it’s also vegetarian and dairy-free. It may sound like a lot of substitutions, but the result is a spiced, subtly coconut crustless pie that’s every bit as decadent (in flavor) as the original.

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Mushroom Agrodolce Bites

Aida Mollenkamp Easy Healthy Dinner Recipe Mushroom Ragout

Cocktail parties are my favorite. And, no, it’s not because of the cocktails. Okay, it’s partly because of the cocktails, but it’s mostly because, to me, a good party is made up of a range of small bites with a variey of tastes. With the holidays around the corner we’re heading into high-gear party season, so I thought I’d share one of my go-to cocktail party recipes: Mushroom Agrodolce Bites.

These little numbers have a lot going for them — they’re affordable, a cinch to make, and can be made ahead of time — but what I’m drawn to is the sweet-sour flavor. Agrodolce is a sweet-sour sauce hailing from Sicily and though it’s classically made with just onions, here it’s combined with roasted mushrooms for a recipe packed with a mix of sweet-sour and earthy flavors. If you aren’t entertaining anytime soon, serve the mushrooms (without the endive) as a side-dish as they a natural pairing with a variety of cold-weather fare from roasts to slow-cooked foods.

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