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Some 30-minute recipes that are good for you

March 11, 2014 - 7:06am

As the hard-working husband of a hard-working wife and father of a very busy first-grader, I’m lucky if I ever get a single hour to myself. It sometimes happens, as it did one recent night when my wife took my son to music lessons and I happened to already be home from work. I had an hour all to myself, to do whatever I wanted!

As long as I made dinner.

That had me talking to a cookbook:

“OK, Ellie Krieger, show me what you’ve got.”

I had in hand the latest by the ever-fresh-faced cookbook author, TV celebrity and registered dietitian, who’s long been a favorite in our family. Her food is good for you, but it’s also good. In every sense, she keeps it real.

But this book, “Weeknight Wonders” (Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt; Jan. 1, 2014; $29.99), is subtitled “Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less.”

What busy family doesn’t want that? It’s the dinnertime holy grail. All three recipes were quick, interesting and quite tasty.

Savory red lentil, quinoa and vegetable stew

5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 large onion

1 large carrot

2 tablespoons olive oil

2-inch piece fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic

½ small bunch kale (2 cups packed leaves)

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste

1 cup red lentils

1 cup quinoa, preferably red

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup peas, fresh or frozen

½ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons packed fresh cilantro leaves

Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan, then keep warm over low heat until needed.

While the broth is heating, chop the onion and dice the carrot. Heat oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and carrot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mince the ginger and garlic. Stem the kale; discard the stems and coarsely chop the leaves.

Add ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, salt, and cayenne to onion-carrot mixture and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add lentils, quinoa, and all but 1 cup of the boiling broth. Stir in kale leaves and cinnamon stick. Cover, decrease heat to medium-low, and simmer until the quinoa and lentils are nearly tender, about 10 minutes. Add the peas and cook until the peas, quinoa, and lentils are tender, 2 to 3 minutes more. Stir in the remaining broth as needed if the mixture seems too thick. Serve garnished with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of cilantro leaves.

One-pot Dominican-style chicken and rice

1 small onion

1 large green bell pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil

3 cloves garlic

4 large pimento-stuffed olives

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

2¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup quick-cooking brown rice

4 skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 1 pound total)

Thinly slice the onion into half-moons and chop the bell pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet that has a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the onion and pepper and cook until soft and browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mince the garlic and quarter the olives.

Add the tomato paste to the skillet and cook, stirring, until it is incorporated and slightly darker in color, 1 minute. Add the minced garlic, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne if using, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the broth, rice, and olives, then add the chicken. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until nearly all the liquid is absorbed, the rice is soft, and the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Grilled tandoori chicken breasts

Cooking spray

1 large lemon

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each)

¼ teaspoon salt

2 medium cloves garlic

2-inch piece fresh ginger

½ cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

If using a grill, spray it with cooking spray and preheat it over medium-high heat. Otherwise, wait to preheat a grill pan. Halve the lemon. Cut 1 half into wedges and set aside for serving.

Place the chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap and pound out to an even thickness of about ½ inch. Place the chicken in a medium baking dish (about 8 inches square). Make 4 shallow cuts into each piece of chicken, then sprinkle both sides with the salt and the juice from the remaining half of the lemon.

Mince the garlic, peel and finely grate the ginger, and place both into a small bowl. Add the yogurt and the rest of the spices and stir to combine. Pour over the chicken and turn to coat. Marinate for 10 minutes.

If using a grill pan, spray it with cooking spray and preheat it over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until cooked through and grill marks are formed, about 5 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings.