It’s the week after Thanksgiving, and the holiday season is officially in full swing. If your family is anything like ours, the weeks seem to get more jam-packed as the new year approaches, making take-out a tempting option when it comes to providing dinner for your loved ones. Cravings for foods we don’t normally make at home can also cause us to break out the take-out menus. But with a little planning and creativity, you can whip up a unique, tasty, and nutritious meal inspired by a different cusine with no trouble at all. What’s better is that your version is almost guaranteed to be cheaper (which means you’ll have more money for holiday shopping) and much more healthful since you get to control exactly what goes in it. Below are the ADA’s suggestions for preparing ethnic meals that are sure to snap you and your clan out of your winter food rut!
Italian – Whip up a big batch of minestrone, a hearty tomato-based soup with beans, vegetables and pasta. Adding kidney beans to your minestrone will provide folate, fiber, and protein. Another plus is you can send leftovers to school with your kids the next day or reheat portions for quick meals throughout the week. Tired of plain old penne? Usually made from potatoes and flour, gnocchi are another unique option. If making your own batch of these delicious dumplings is too much work for a weeknight, pick up one of the many varieties available at the grocery store and pair them with lycopene-rich tomato sauce and a side salad.
Greek – Tzatziki sauce is a creamy dressing of yogurt, garlic, and cucumbers. This Greek favorite is so simple to make at home and can be used to dress up pita sandwiches or as a dip for raw vegetables. We also love to use homemade tzatziki as a refreshing topping for broiled salmon. In addition, dolmas are grape leaves commonly stuffed with ground meat, vegetables, rice, dried fruit, or pine nuts. Consider making these with lean ground turkey to cut down on fat and using brown rice to increase the fiber.
Mexican – Jicama is a crisp and slightly sweet root vegetable that can be found in the produce aisle. Peel it, slice it, and serve it on salads with a lime vinegairette for a refreshing crunch, or chop it finely for a unique addition to salsa. Add this crisp veggie to salads and dips and you’re also adding a healthy dose of Vitamin C and potassium. If you’re starting to tire of hot soup, try your hand at gazpacho, a cold tomato and vegetable soup with limitless options. It can also be made green by using spinach, or white by substituting cucumbers.
Thai – Wrapped in rice paper and stuffed with shrimp or crab, fresh herbs like basil or mint, and vegetables such as shredded carrots or spinach, spring rolls are a fun and dippable finger food that offer beta carotene, vitamin K, and protein. In college we often frequented a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant that made the best pad thai, and we’ve been in love with the dish ever since. Lucky for us this meal featuring stir-fried noodles, bean sprouts, shrimp or other protein, lime juice, and ground peanuts can be made super nutritious by choosing lean meat, seafood, or tofu and bumping up the vegetables.
We hope these ideas have inspired you to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to preparing ethnic food at home. Not only is it better for your wallet and your waistline, but it gives your little ones (and maybe your picky spouse) the chance to try something new!
As always, we invite you to visit the ADA website at www.eatright.org for more meal ideas and recipes, and feel free to let us know which cuisine you’re loving lately! Just search FamilyFoodLLC on Facebook and Twitter!