Food Ideas For A Fresh & Healthy Start

The new year has arrived, and you are searching for that perfect dish—healthy enough to make you forget about those holiday indulgences yet satisfying enough to fill the comfort-food gap left by sweet potato casseroles and Christmas cookies.

You want food that makes you feel good about yourself and your way of living, but facing a bowl of greens for supper is not going to cut it. You want more. What if you didn’t have to skimp on flavor in lieu of healthy eating? What if you could grab your ingredients from your local farmers market, support your local community by doing so and have a filling meal that’s easy to prepare and nutritious, too? Try these simple recipes for feel-good food to satisfy your hunger without the guilt

Green Papaya Soup: A Hearty Winter’s Stew

Shorter days and cooler weather make you crave heavier comfort food, and this Green Papaya Soup is hearty enough to be considered a stew and can be served as a main entrée. The beauty of this versatile, gluten-free dish is you can change it up to suit your tastes. You can substitute the papaya for any other hard squash, like acorn squash, butternut squash or chaoite. For a vegetarian option, leave out the chicken and trade the chicken stock for vegetable stock.

Green papaya is just unripe papaya, and you can find it at your supermarket or the farmers market. Choose the hard ones. They are good for making slaws as well. Wash your hands well after dealing with the papaya skin, as the oils on this fruit’s skin can cause redness and itchiness in some people. Use a knife to cut the skin from the papaya. To de-seed papaya, cut long-wise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

Green Papaya Soup

I was introduced to the Filipino dish, Chicken Tinola, by Chef Robert Shum when we worked together at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel. This is a variation to the classic Asian dish.

  • 3 cups large diced green papaya chunks
  • 6 oz chicken, cooked, diced large
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp red curry paste (Asian store)
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 6 spring onions, shaved thin
  • garnish of Chinese parsley (cilantro)

Clean papaya, peel and de-seed. › Dice into medium-size chunks, and then set off to side. › Heat oil in a large saucepan, add diced chicken and cook for a couple minutes; then add onion, peppers, celery, garlic, ginger and curry paste, and stir over a medium heat for a minute. › Add stock, bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. › Add papaya, and continue to simmer on low for 15 minutes or until papaya is tender. › Place into bowls, garnish with the spring onion and cilantro, and serve. › This stew also goes well accompanied with a warm loaf of fresh multigrain artisan bread.

Roasted Beet, Citrus, and Kale: A Flavor-Packed Winter Salad

Take advantage of the season’s bounty for this winter salad. A marriage of color and flavors, this dish was created to ignite your palate. The beets provide rich, earthy tones against the peppery taste of kale and sweet tang of in-season citrus. You can find all of these ingredients fresh this time of year at your local farm stand or farmers market.

Purchase beets with the greens if you can. Beet greens are tender and sweet. Braise them with a little olive oil, garlic, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. They make a great accompaniment to any meal. Treat them as you would sautéed spinach.

Florida citrus is in season this time of year, with each cold snap sweetening its flavors. Using the juice from the orange will help prevent the apple slices from going brown. And although kale can be purchased in stores year-round, this winter green is best fresh from the garden. If you buy your kale from a farmers market, make sure to wash it well to remove any dirt.

Roasted Beet, Citrus, and Kale Salad

  • 2 medium beets
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 package baby kale, washed and cut
  • 1/4 cup candied walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit
  • 2 Florida oranges, peeled and sliced
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese
  • garnish of fresh mint

Wash beets, and place on baking pan. › Drizzle beets with oil, and roast at 350°F for 30 minutes. › Remove from oven, and place beets into a plastic zip baggie, and let them rest for 20 minutes. › Then, using a cloth, peel beets by rubbing them. › Discard peels, and slice beets. › In a bowl combine the kale, walnuts and dried fruit, and set to one side. › In a separate bowl, combine the oranges and apple together, and let macerate for a couple minutes. › Drain off the juice onto the kale, walnuts and dried fruit. › Add oil and vinegar, and toss. › Place kale mix onto a platter, and decorate the top with the oranges, apples, sliced beets and goat cheese. › Garnish with mint, and serve.


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