Variety is the spice of life, but too often, people find themselves eating the same thing for dinner. Besides being boring to your taste buds, this can be unhealthy if your regular diet doesn’t include all essential nutrients. A joint study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard’s School of Public Health found that women who eat a variety of only nine healthy foods have a mortality rate 42 percent higher from common diseases than those who eat a variety of 16 to 17 items.
Fortunately, it’s not hard to add variety to your diet. Here are three easy recipes to help you expand your dinner menu.
Spice Up Your Regular Diet: Chicken Curry
One strategy for adding variety to your diet is taking a food you’re already eating and spicing it up differently. Chicken is a good example, as illustrated by this chicken curry recipe, which can be prepared ahead of your meal and stored in the fridge sealed for three to five days. To make four to six servings, you’ll need:
- 1 and 1/2 pounds of cubed boneless and skinless chicken
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 1 sliced onion
- 3 crushed garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon of ginger
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of curry powder
- 2 teaspoons of red chili powder
- 2 chopped Roma tomatoes,
- 2 green chilies (optional)
To make your chicken curry, heat your oil over medium heat in a large pot. Let your onions brown in the oil for four to six minutes, then add your ginger and garlic. Mix your chicken cubes in, then add your curry powder, red chili powder and salt, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Next add your tomatoes and chilies, and simmer covered over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with rice or naan flatbread.
Try Another Culture: Paella
Another strategy for diversifying your dinner is to try out something new from another culture. A good example is paella, a staple rice dish of the Spanish city of Valencia. For best results when making paella, you’ll want a traditional shallow two-handled paella pan.
To make eight servings of paella, you’ll be making a herb blend to go with your paella, which calls for:
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 cup of fresh chopped parsley
- 2 large minced garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
In a saucepan, you’ll also be preparing:
- 3, 16-ounce cans of chicken broth (fat-free and low-sodium)
- 1 teaspoon of saffron threads
- 1 cup of water
For the paella itself, you’ll need:
- 3 cups of uncooked Arborio rice or another short-grain rice
- 4 skinned and boned chicken thighs sliced in half
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 links of sliced Spanish chorizo sausage or turkey kielbasa
- 1, 4-ounce slice of prosciutto or sliced low-sodium ham
- 1 cup of finely chopped red bell pepper
- 2 cups of finely chopped onion
- 1 cup of undrained canned diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
- 1 cup of frozen peas
- 3 large minced garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 8 unpeeled jumbo shrimp
- 8 scrubbed and debearded mussels
- Lemon wedges (optional)
To begin, combine your herb blend ingredients in a bowl and set it aside. Then to prepare your paella, combine the broth, water and saffron in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer without boiling. Keep this warm over low heat while you peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails intact, and then set the shrimp aside.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large paella pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, sauté for two minutes on each side and remove from pan. Then add sausage and prosciutto, sauté two minutes and remove from pan. Repeat with the shrimp, letting it sauté for two minutes before removing from the pan.
You can now reduce your heat to medium-low. Add your onion and bell pepper and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add three garlic cloves with your tomatoes and paprika and cook for five minutes.
Now it’s time to add the rice, stirring it for one minute. Stir in your herb blend, broth mixture, chicken, sausage mixture and peas. Bring to a low boil and stir frequently for 10 minutes. Mix mussels into the rice mixture and cook for five minutes or until the shells open, tossing out any unopened shells. Place the shrimp in the rice mixture with their heads down and cook for about five minutes until done. Sprinkle the lemon juice. Remove from heat and place a towel over the paella as it stands for 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.
Add a New Food Group: Arugula Salad and Lemon Vinaigrette
Another way to add variety to your dinner is to add a new food group to a meal you usually eat. One of the simplest ways to do this is to add a salad. The key to a tasty salad is selecting good ingredients. A good example is an arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette. For the vinaigrette, you’ll need:
- 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2/3 cups of olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the salad, you’ll need:
- 8 ounces of arugula lettuce
- 1/4 cup each of shaved and grated Parmesan cheese
To make the vinaigrette, add the vinegar and lemon juice to a small bowl, whisk in olive oil and add salt and pepper. For the salad, put the lettuce in a large bowl, pour on your vinaigrette dressing and toss to coat, add grated cheese and toss again to mix, and top with shaved cheese and serve.
Adding variety to your diet can be as simple as spicing up something you already eat, trying out a new dish or adding a new food group to what you normally serve. Try out these recipes and use them as inspiration for other ideas with chicken, rice and salad.