Cooking to be healthy does not need to be a bland exercise. It also does not need to be exceedingly challenging, or something that puts you off altogether. I remember the days of dieting and having protein shakes for dinner and that, in my opinion, is cruelty to one’s self.
Food is gorgeous, colourful, tasty and MADE to be eaten. Why do we torture ourselves so?
I can quite confidently say that I would rather spend 30 minutes prepping a dinner that
1. Tastes amazing, and is most often better than your average restaurant
2. Cost and time effective.
I get sad, like genuinely sad, when I hear people say they can’t eat healthy because it is too expensive. If you are buying healthy “fad” or “trendy” foods, then yes I agree, but buying good WHOLE food should not be expensive.
Full disclosure here; living in one of the most expensive, if not THE, most expensive city in the world (Genéve), I cannot justify eating out regularly, especially when I am let down most of the time. Paying the equivalent of €34 for a steak makes my blood boil, especially when it is overcooked, and especially when my groceries (I live over the border in France so I shop at Carrefour) cost me €150-€200 per week, to feed 2 people, 3 cats (occasionally a 4th), 1 dog and includes household products.
My tips to make your life easier in the kitchen and save money, while being healthy are:
- Grow your own herbs as well as have a pantry with the basics like, thyme, rosemary, chilli, cayenne pepper, curry powder, cumin, paprika, turmeric, herbs de provence and cinnamon.
- Plan your meals for the week before shopping to get exactly what you need and prevent waste
- Use what’s left in your fridge to make a bizarre meal. I literally go on to Pinterest and search the ingredients and see what I can find.
- Other pantry items should include; mustard, coconut milk, tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, lentils, sweet corn, tuna in water, chickpeas and stock cubes (if you don’t make your own).
- In the freezer load up on frozen berries as well as greens like spinach, brussel sprouts and peas. There is nothing wrong with frozen veg, but make sure they are predominantly green.
- Choose a protein for every meal and buy them on one day and freeze. But do choose the free range, sustainably sourced variations etc, because it is your health after all and if you consider a whole chicken can cost €15, or a 120-150g steak €8, but a restaurant charges 10 times that, then it’s not that much.
Once you have the basics in store you really just need to buy fresh produce every week.
This recipe is an example of an inexpensive, quick to prepare and healthy recipe, with carbs, fats and protein.
It’s one of the simplest type of recipes, where you chuck everything in one tray and cook unattended for ages. All you are using are the spices and natural flavours to really crank up the flavour profile. Tips like these can make anyone a major contender in the home kitchen.
Covering with foil to bake on a low heat will make sure your chicken doesn’t dry out and cooks slowly, enhancing its flavours. Don’t skip this step!
After a patient 2 hours of cooking on low heat, you should have something that looks like this
And then it is time to crank up the heat and remove the foil to get an insanely good caramelisation of your vegetables and lemon skins, as well as crisping up that delicious skin.
And finally, you will have one of the best cooked chickens you’ve ever made, and guess what? It’s healthy!
Lemon Harissa Chicken Tray Bake
A throw it together type of dinner, with the most insanely delicious flavours and tender, fall-off-the-bone, chicken. It makes great leftovers too.
- 4 chicken thigh & leg pieces
- 2 tsp Harissa (or more)
- 1 red pepper, diced in chunks
- 1 tomato, cut into eighths
- 1 red onion, diced in chunks
- 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- fresh thyme, roughly torn
- fresh rosemary
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- lemon, cut into eighths
- 60ml dry white wine
- salt & black pepper
- Preheat oven to 160°C
- Put chicken pieces in baking tray. Score chicken skin and rub with Harissa and a sprinkling of salt.
- Scatter the tray with peppers, onions, tomato, garlic, thyme and rosemary.
- Drizzle olive oil all over.
- Squeeze the lemon juice all over and scatter the used lemon pieces amongst the other ingredients.
- Pour the wine over.
- Grind black pepper over the top.
- Cover tray with foil.
- Bake on low for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, turn up the heat to 200°C and remove foil
- Bake for another 30-45 minutes until the chicken skin is crispy.
Approximate Nutritional Value per serving: Calories 359, Protein 29.7, Carbohydrates 5.7g, Fat 21.9