Three Fresh Dishes to help you strike a Healthy Balance and Start The New Year off Right

Three Fresh Dishes to help you strike a Healthy Balance and Start The New Year off Right

Every year, we have to straighten up after overindulging in sugar, booze, and decadent holiday dinners for a month. January serves as a kind of national reckoning: it’s time to start eating and drinking more healthfully and to change the things we own.

The issue is that I want to eat everything in sight just by hearing the term “diet.” Healthy eating habits are not produced by “see-saw” eating patterns, which alternate between heavy and light foods. Additionally, as with a lot of things, moderation and balance are the key terms to search for. Savour the foods you are passionate about. Just don’t go overboard.

I’m not a nutritionist, but if you find yourself wanting to change your eating habits in January, instead of going into extreme denial, cut back on dairy and heavy fats, and prepare meals that are vibrant in colour, texture, and brightness. Winter calls for balance!

There is no connection between deprivation and these recipes. You’ll note that there’s a lot of olive oil, garlic, veggies, whole grains, and vibrant flavours and colours instead of butter or cream. You need those things in order to feel content and full—not like you’re on a dreadful “diet.”

For vegetarians or vegans, or anyone who prefers a diet higher in vegetables, the first dish is perfect.

Broccoli florets and roasted winter squash slices are combined in the winter roasted vegetable and grain bowl. The roasted veggies are accompanied by sesame seeds, roasted seaweed sheets, avocado slices, and lemon on a bed of brown rice (you could also use quinoa, couscous, whole grain pasta, or bulger). The dish is finished with a tahini sauce flavoured with lemon and garlic.

In the second dish, sautéed prawns and roasted cherry tomato sauce are served over quickly cooked polenta. Lastly, fast pickled cucumbers are served alongside chicken meatballs on a bed of spicy yoghurt.

Winter roasted vegetable and grain bowl

Winter roasted vegetable and grain bowl. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Winter roasted vegetable and grain bowl. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
You could substitute nearly any winter vegetable – wedges of fennel, roasted carrots, leeks, small wedges of cabbage – in this dish and also use quinoa, bulger, or any whole grain for the brown rice. Roasting brings out the natural sugars in root vegetables. All the elements of this dish can be made in advance.


The vegetables:

1 small delicata or butternut squash, peeled, cut down the center, deseeded, and cut into ½-inch moon shapes
1 small head broccoli, stemmed and cut into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

The lemon and garlic tahini sauce:

2 ½ tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons hot water
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

The rice:

2 cups water
Pinch salt
1 cup long-grain brown rice

Optional garnishes:

About 1 to 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 almost fully ripe avocado, thinly sliced
1 scallion, finely chopped
8 sheets seaweed snacks (roasted seaweed sheets)
1 lemon, cut into wedges


Set the oven to 425 degrees in order to roast the vegetables. Arrange the broccoli florets at one end and the squash slices at the other in a sizable ovenproof pan or rimmed baking sheet. (The purpose of keeping the veggies apart is in case they require different roasting times.) Toss the vegetables gently with the oil, pepper, salt, and garlic. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes on the middle rack, or until the broccoli is almost done and the squash is just soft when checked with a tiny sharp knife. Take out of the oven, preserving in the baking pan.

Make the tahini sauce in the meanwhile by gently combining the tahini and water in a medium-sized bowl. Add the vinegar and soy sauce first, then the lemon juice and olive oil. To taste, add spice. The sauce can be stored for several days in the refrigerator, covered.
To cook the rice, fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add some salt for seasoning. Return to the boil, stir in the rice, and stir again. Once the rice is soft and all of the water has been absorbed, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes. Take off the heat and let it rest for five minutes.

To assemble the bowl, start with the rice in the bottom of one large bowl, or two to four smaller ones, depending on whether you plan to serve this as a side dish or a main meal. Place some of the roasted vegetables on top, then line the sides with the garnishes. Present the tahini sauce as a side dish.

Sauteed garlic shrimp over polenta with slow-roasted cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes, garlic, and herbs are roasted to create a fast sauce that is finished with white wine. Serve this sauce over a bed of polenta with the prawns that have been sautéed.


The shrimp and cherry tomatoes:

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, left whole if small and cut in half if large
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup very thinly sliced red or white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, deveined and peeled
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped basil or oregano or 1 teaspoon dried basil or oregano, optional
  • 1 tablespoon seeded and chopped fresh chile pepper (like serrano or jalapeno), or several shakes hot pepper sauce
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges for serving

The polenta

  • 3 cups water
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup polenta


Set the oven to 300 degrees in order to roast the tomatoes. Gently combine the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper in a medium ovenproof skillet. For twenty minutes, roast on the middle shelf. Take it out of the oven, turn the heat up to 400 degrees, and pour in the wine. For an additional ten minutes, roast.
In the meantime, prepare the polenta by heating water in a medium pot to a rolling boil. Add the olive oil and salt. Reduce the heat to low and mix in the polenta slowly. Stirring occasionally, cook for 5 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. After turning off the heat, cover and leave for five minutes. To prepare the prawns, place a large skillet over medium-low heat with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Stir-fry the onion for five minutes after adding the garlic, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat up to medium-high and sauté the prawns for two minutes, adding half of the parsley, basil or oregano and chile pepper or sauce. After flipping the prawns, sauté them for a further two minutes, or until they are cooked through but still firm. Take off the heat.
When the broiler is ready, put the shrimp under it as close to the heat source as you can. Broil for one to two minutes, or until the shrimp start to become golden brown. Cover the prawns with the cherry tomatoes, wine and entire sauce. Spoon the polenta into two or three dishes for serving. Sprinkle some of the tomatoes, shrimp and juices on top. Garnish with the leftover parsley and present the lemon wedges separately.

Chicken meatballs over Greek yogurt sauce with quick pickled cucumbers and pomegranate seeds

This is a very tasty dish with Middle Eastern influences on the flavours. The creamy yet healthful bed for little chicken meatballs seasoned with cumin, dill, and oregano is a rich, spicy yoghurt sauce. The meal is topped with vibrantly coloured crimson pomegranate seeds and served with quickly pickled cucumbers (you could also add thin slices of red onion). It’s a gorgeous dish with lots of vibrant winter hues, flavour, and crunch.

This dish only requires a few ingredients, but since everything can be prepared ahead of time, it’s the perfect weekday meal.


The meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 small egg
  • 2 scallions, very finely chopped
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt or regular plain yogurt, see tip below
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • About ⅓ to ½ cup panko or regular breadcrumbs
  • About 1 to 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

The quick cucumber pickles:

  • ¼ cup rice wine or apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fine salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 large or 2 small (Persian) cucumbers, peeled or unpeeled and fairly thinly sliced
  • Optional: ½ small red onion, very thinly sliced

The yogurt sauce and pomegranate:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt or labneh*
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds, from 1 large pomegranate

To make the meatballs, thoroughly combine the chicken, egg, scallions, yoghurt, dill, oregano, cumin, and a good pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Just enough breadcrumbs should be added to keep the mixture cohesive. To test, use your hands to create one tiny meatball; it should feel wet but not crumble. If necessary, add extra breadcrumbs. One whole day before cooking, the meatball mixture can be covered and stored in the refrigerator.
To make the pickles, mix the vinegar, sugar, salt, and water in a medium-sized bowl. After adding the red onion slices and/or cucumber slices, let everything “pickle” for at least half an hour at room temperature. You can keep the pickles covered and chilled for up to two days.

To make the yoghurt sauce, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and adjust the seasoning by tasting. For at least a day or two, the sauce can be covered and kept in the refrigerator.
Cook the meatballs: make 16 meatballs with your moistened hands. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs, working in batches, for three to five minutes on each side. When the meatballs are thoroughly cooked and have no pink in the centre, they are done.
To serve, spread the yoghurt onto a medium serving plate using the back of a kitchen spoon. Put the meatballs in order on top. Serve the pickles in a bowl next to the entrée, or arrange them on the side of the plate. While the meatballs are still warm, top the yoghurt and meatballs with the pomegranate seeds.


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