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Healthy mid-week winter dinners

Chef Lance Seeto
Sunday, July 16, 2017

IT'S that time of the year when we reach for that long forgotten jersey, long pair of pants and pom pom - welcome because of the cold season!

The nights are becoming chillier each year but this season seems to have that extra bite that can even be felt during the day. Chances are you know someone right now who is sniffling or in bed with the flu.

Cooking for the family when it's this cold requires some extra thought as it should not only be great tasting but also have a little medicine to stave off unwanted sickness. Weeknight dinners can also be overwhelming for working parents with little time to prepare and cook.


If you have water or coconut water, you can make a good healthy soup for winter nights. Coconut bu water makes the perfect stock base for meat, seafood or vegetable soups as it's vegan, wholesome and full of natural medicine. The thicker viscosity and sweetness of the young coconut provides a solid base for anything you have in the fridge or garden.

Root crops also make a good base for soups as they thicken and enrich as they break down in the pot. No matter the stock base, just throw all the ingredients in the pot, simmer for a few hours and you have an instant meal that you can add cooked rice, noodles or green leafy vegetables that is sure to warm your tummy on a cold night.

One-pot stews

The last thing you want to deal with during the working week is a sink full of dirty pots and pans. One-pot recipes are the perfect mid-week remedy as the only things you'll have to wash, apart from the pot, is a chopping board and utensils.

Stews are easy to cook like soup, as once everything is in the pot, you just need to wait for it to simmer.

One secret to a good stew is to ensure the aromatics at the start of the recipe provide a strong flavour-base to build upon. It may be as simple as onions and vitamin-enriched garlic, or more floral flavours of herbs and aromatic spices. Another is to ensure the meat is properly seasoned, browned and sealed so as to lock in the natural meat juices to avoid drying the meat.

And if you are not watching your cholesterol, the rendered skin of chicken will guarantee your stew has a deeper and richer chicken taste without the use of booster cubes. Stews are also a great way to introduce more vegetables into the diet, so don't be shy to fill the pot with whatever you have laying around.

Roasting in a pot

Pot roasts typically use the tougher, cheaper cuts of beef or lamb like a chuck roast or shoulder roast, which have the most flavour and make a perfect meal for the meat lovers in the family.

The slow cooking at low heat is what melts the tough connective tissue between the muscle fibres, leaving you with tender meat that flakes apart with your fork.

Red meat also supplies vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and keeps nerve and red blood cells healthy, and zinc, which keeps the immune system working properly. And if you're looking for a turbo-charged way to build bones and muscles, red meat provides essential protein to turn that skinny frame into body building mass.

Faster pasta

You don't have to spend ages in the kitchen or be a professional chef to rustle up a tasty, filling dinner the whole family will love.

Quick, easy and delicious pasta recipes make the perfect midweek meal or special weekend treat. From creamy dishes like Alfredo and Carbonara, to meat feasts of Bolognese and meatballs, fish delights and tomato-based dishes will please even fussy eaters.

Served hot or cold, pasta dishes are filling and highly nutritious especially when you use fresh tomatoes, garlic and herbs and there's something fun about serving a pasta dish using the different types that are readily available at supermarkets. Don't just try spaghetti when our supermarkets are filled with all shapes and sizes!

Healthy salads

Raw salad vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, leafy greens and onions combine well with grilled or baked vegetables and a great sweet and sour dressing.

If you have eggplant, zucchini or okra in the garden, roast them off with salt, pepper and herbs before combining them into a bowl of salad that is healthy, weight reducing and full of vitamins. The secret of course is to dress them with a tasty dressing that could be as simple as lemon, garlic and olive oil, to a sticky reduction of balsamic vinegar with sugar or honey. The tastier the flavour, the more chance the family is going to finish off a bowl of raw and cooked vegetables which can be served with just about anything.

Make your weeknights more exciting with hearty meals filled with nutritious produce — the family and your immune system will love you.

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