Fast, Healthy and Easy Dinner Ideas

This post includes a few great recipes I’ve tried lately. I’ve wanted to get back into trying new recipes because we’ve honestly been really lazy with dinners. I like cooking (especially making soups and stuff in the crockpot) and it was time to try something new.

Beef and Barley Stew

I don’t know that this would qualify as a “Fast” dinner but it was fairly easy. I found several recipes for the crockpot but didn’t get around to trying them. I had a free evening last week and decided to give it a try.

I didn’t have celery so I added frozen peas instead. The recipe was actually quite delicious. I loved the flavors of the soup and the barley was fantastic. It might be new favorite thing. I’ve never had barley before and it went great in a soup. The meat, however, was tough. I wasn’t a fan of that and would probably make this recipe again but leave out the steak. I think it would be great as a simple barley and vegetable stew.

I topped the stew with some shredded Parmesan cheese. The dinner was super filling and felt nourishing and homey.

Baked Salmon

This is nothing new on the blog. Salmon is a basic meal in our house; we eat it probably once a week. Michael blackens the salmon in the skillet and we often have that with steamed veggies or on top of a green salad. Another method I use is to mix together Dijon mustard with brown sugar, pour it on top of the salmon and bake it. That’s a great one!

This method is just as easy and quick and it tastes great. I spray foil with some coconut oil, lay the salmon down and season it with Lemon Pepper seasoning, a little salt, regular pepper, dried dill, fresh chopped rosemary from the garden and put lemon slices on top. I loosely wrap the foil around the salmon and depending on the thickness of the cut I bake it at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Perfect salmon every time!


I love the combination of dill, rosemary and lemon. This time around I cooked some jasmine rice in the rice cooker and I also roasted some carrots. For the carrots I sprinkled some grapeseed oil on them, seasoned with salt and pepper, a little of the Costco seasoning and fresh rosemary. I baked the carrots about the same time as the salmon. Everything came together at the same time and was absolutely delicious! The best part: the whole meal was around 600 calories.

Taco Soup

I have a book of soup recipes that I’ve been slowly working my way through. I wish I could say I’ve tried a bunch but somewhere between last winter and this one, I’ve slacked off and only cooked about 5 or 6 of the recipes. There are so many in there to choose from. Of the handful I’ve made, most were pretty decent. The good thing about this book is that it’s broken down into chapters according to the protein and there could be several variations of a similar recipe you can choose from.


For example, this recipe came about because of what we had on hand. I had 1/2 a pound of ground beef I had to use up and looked at the 4 different beef taco soups in the book. I ended up picking this one because I had almost all of the ingredients it called for.

I didn’t have green peppers and I didn’t have enough V8 (only 2 cans were left) so I added a can of Rotel. It made up the difference on missing 1 can of V8 juice and it also had diced chilies in it. It worked! I wasn’t too concerned about the spicy V8 being too spicy. It’s the V8 I use when I make my Bloody Mary’s and it’s fantastic.


But…yeah, two cans of spicy V8 is pretty damn spicy! I told Michael I hoped it was edible and not too spicy. I followed the recipe’s instructions and served it up with some shredded Colby Jack cheese, a spoonful of sour cream and some corn tortilla chips.


It was indeed edible and the sour cream and cheese helped to offset the spiciness. The dinner was delicious! I was glad it turned out and marked it as a winner in the cookbook to definitely make again. Even better: it’s less than 500 calories for the soup and toppings!

I will make the taco soup again and probably VERY soon, too!

Harvesting My Garden

My vegetable garden is really flourishing! The lettuce has gone wild and is starting to overpower the other plants in the garden. I decided it was time to eat the spoils of my garden.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so to the internet I went. I read a bunch of different websites on how to harvest the things in my garden. For the pizza party we had on Saturday night I clipped fresh basil and rosemary for our homemade pizza and it turned out wonderfully.  I loved that I could just walk outside and clip off fresh basil for the pizza.

Michael and I eat mountains of salads. I think my garden has enough variation of lettuces that we won’t get bored eating them. Monday morning before work I went out and broke off the outer, big leaves of the romaine plant. I didn’t want to use scissors because I felt like that might brown the leaves, even though some websites recommended cutting. I think this will be a trial and error experiment. I will figure out which one works best.

Tips on Harvesting Romaine Lettuce

1. Pick lettuce early in the morning when the leaves are still crisp.

2. Start harvesting leaf lettuces as soon as they’re big enough to use. Cut leaves from the outside of the plant, letting the inner ones continue to develop. You can also take the whole plant, cutting it off about an inch above the ground, and letting it re-grow.

3.  Use all lettuces immediately for best flavor and texture.

4. Store lettuce in sealed plastic bags in your refrigerator’s crisper. Depending on the variety, it will last from a few days to two weeks.

I snipped off a bunch of the big outer leaves and cleaned them with a veggie cleaner I bought at Trader Joe’s. It worked really well.

I dried off the lettuce and stored it in the fridge until dinner time. Monday night when we got home from work, Michael and I walked the track near the house. It was nice and sunny out and neither of us just wanted to sit inside. We walked for a little over an hour and probably did about 3 miles. I was tired and hungry by the time we were done! Michael relentlessly tried to convince me that we needed to go out for burgers–pretty much the whole walk–but I resisted! I was already defrosting salmon for dinner and I was excited about eating my lettuce from the garden. The salad I made to go with dinner turned out great. I don’t know why, but the lettuce from my garden tasted better than the store bought lettuce!

For our salads I tore up the romaine lettuce and added chopped celery, one slice of crumbled bacon for each of us and topped it with a little bit of Gorgonzola cheese. I also added a few toasted walnuts. The salad was delicious and hit the spot. I loved the smokey flavor of the bacon with the cheese.

I like having “lighter” meals on my Rest Days–not just because of the calories but I also find that I don’t really crave certain foods on Rest Days. Instead of craving a big steak or a juicy turkey burger, I almost always crave something like fish or a chicken salad. I don’t know if that would be considered Intuitive Eating, but I listen to what my body craves. It took me awhile to learn how to listen to my body and feed it the nutrients it needed after hard workouts (almost always protein) but I’m doing much better.

For dinner I baked two salmon fillets. First I sprinkled some sea salt on the fish, then lemon pepper seasoning. Next I sprinkled lots of dill on it, a little bit of butter and freshly sliced lemons. I wrapped each salmon fillet loosely in foil and baked them at 350 Degrees for about 16 minutes. I also steamed some broccoli and baby carrots as a side.

I wanted to create some sort of topping for the fish–like plain Greek yogurt mixed with freshly squeezed lemon and dill–but I decided I was too lazy to try and create something. In the end the fish didn’t need it. It was delicious in its simplicity. I squeezed the lemon on the fish before throwing the lemon away. It was tangy and delicious. I love how versatile fish is.

I’d say our first meal from the garden was a success. I’m dying to eat some fresh tomatoes and strawberries from the garden! Portland just needs some hot, sunny weather….

QUESTION: If you are a gardener, what’s your opinion on cutting or tearing the leaves?