‘Young professional by day and culinary adventurer by night, Alicia loves to share hospitality and homecooked meals with friends. She writes Jaybird, a blog about finding home and happiness wherever life takes you. Say hi on Facebook or Twitter, and check out her recipe collections on Pinterest!
Want to prepare a special dinner, but find yourself with neither time nor energy after work? Never fear! The three simple recipes that follow will result in a beautiful spread to cover your table and delight your taste buds in under 45 minutes.
Impress your guests (or just treat yourself) with wild-caught salmon, a colorful salad, and sweet plantains sprinkled with cinnamon. Preheating the oven once will make it easy to whip through all three of these recipes.
When you’re cooking an easy meal, it’s important to consider the quality of the ingredients. Using high quality ingredients that are as close to fresh as possible will ensure that you need minimal seasonings or special preparations to create a stunning meal. For the three dishes that follow, here’s how I source the best possible ingredients:
Spinach: Until the freezing winter temperatures took over, I could get fresh spinach from my garden. Consider buying baby spinach from the market or store, or buying spinach and removing the tough stems.
Salmon: I buy frozen, wild-caught sockeye salmon at Trader Joe’s for $10.99/lb. While this is a splurge on my tight budget, it’s a healthy treat that I’ll spring for once a month or so. The better the fish, the more it will shine with a simple recipe.
Plantains: If you aren’t familiar with plantains, they basically look like huge bananas. For this dish, you want sweet plantains that are almost entirely brownish-black on the outside with only hints of yellow peeking through. My grocery store offers large, super ripe plantains at the price of six for $1.49.
Ready to get cooking? Here are three recipes to get your new year off to a healthy and happy start.
Baked Salmon with Lemon and Dill – Serves 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
2 skin-on salmon fillets totaling about 1 pound
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 juicy lemon
freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Parchment will give you slightly crispier skin on the cooked fish. Cut the lemon into quarters.
Place salmon fillets skin side down on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze one lemon quarter over each of the fillets. Gently rub the salmon to distribute the liquids. Measure dill and use your fingers to sprinkle it evenly over the fish. Lightly salt and pepper the fish according to your taste.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until opaque in the center. Serve each fillet with one of the remaining lemon quarters.
Rainbow Salad — Serves 2
Prep time: 8-10 minutes (less if you use leftover chopped vegetables already on hand)
Cook time: 5 for coconut flakes
Large bunch or bag of spinach
1/4 red onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1 ripe, medium-size avocado
scant 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
Dressing of choice or half-and-half extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Spread unsweetened coconut on a baking sheet and toast for five minutes or until lightly golden. Watch carefully to make sure it does not burn.
Wash spinach, dry, and fill two salad bowls. Finely chop your onion and pepper and sprinkle them over the spinach. Halve your avocado and remove the pit, then remove each half from the peel. Slice each half into about eight slices and lay out over the salad. Cover with toasted coconut flakes and serve with the dressing of your choice.
Baked Plantains with Cinnamon– Serves 2
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1 large, very ripe plantain
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut off the two ends of the plantain. Slice once right across the middle, then cut each half down its length. Sprinkle the open face of the plantain quarters with cinnamon. Place plantains directly on the rack of the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove with tongs. Plantains should be fork-tender and will be nicely gooey underneath.