The Easy, Healthy Dinner Recipes for Two That a Food Genius Swears By

Updated 05/04/19

Lauren Volo

Summoning the energy needed to prepare a healthy dinner for two on a busy weeknight is difficult enough—never mind the creative stamina needed to whip up easy, nutritious, flavor-packed meals all week long. So in search of quick-and-easy recipes to add to our weekly rotation, we turned to none other than Liz Moody, food writer and frequent contributor to MindBodyGreen, Goop, and Vogue.

She also just so happens to be the author of Healthier Together, a cookbook filled with over 100 healthy recipes designed to be cooked and enjoyed by two people. But don't be fooled by the seemingly aspirational title—Moody's approach to healthy eating is approachable, relatable, and, frankly, fun. "I believe that the second trying to be healthy makes you less happy, it's no longer healthy," she told MyDomaine. "People should eat cookies and pasta and things they enjoy, and I've made it one of my specialties to tweak those foods so they balance blood sugar and keep hormones stable, so they make you feel really good too." 

Ahead, the author of Healthier Together divulges the pantry staples she relies on for whipping up quick weeknight meals, discloses the number one thing cooking has taught her about life, and shares three easy, healthy dinner recipes for two, straight from the pages of her new cookbook. (Psst: the frozen broccoli and basil soup with sweet and spicy cashews is a game changer.)

You've garnered a loyal readership, dedicated podcast listeners, and over 50k followers on Instagram—why do you think your recipes resonate with so many people?

"I've spent years as a health food writer, and in that time, I've been lucky enough to have access to some of the country's best chefs and the best functional doctors. I've been able to take the chef's brilliant knowledge of food and turn it into easier, more accessible home cooking, and take all the latest science and health information from the doctors and turn it into something that's actually delicious, that people really want to eat. I view myself as the bridge between the two worlds—if you want something you can make on a Tuesday night that will make you actually feel good, and that you'll look forward to eating, I'm your girl, and I think that was a missing piece in the food world.

 

"Beyond that, I've always been both a super open and super curious person—I don't hesitate to share vulnerable personal parts of myself (my anxiety struggles, self-doubts), and I also really want to know about other people and their lives. I don't see social media as a one-way channel—I see it, at its best, as a place I can really connect with people. I think this curiosity and vulnerability make it easy to connect to me as a real human and has especially resonated with my Healthier Together podcast, where I want my listeners to feel as if they're in the room with me and my guest, having an intimate, exciting, informative conversation." 

What's your secret to getting an easy, healthy dinner on the table on a busy weeknight?

"I have a whole fast, cheap, and easy section of the book dedicated to weeknight dinners, but I'd say it's having a few dishes that you absolutely love as go-tos, and having a well-stocked pantry and freezer.

"I love making soups out of frozen vegetables (my frozen broccoli soup in the book is one my faves (recipe below), and actually has more nutrients and flavor than a soup made from fresh broccoli); pizzas, or quick quesadillas with Siete grain-free tortillas (I store 'em in the freezer and just remove what I need on any given night, so they never go bad—and I always have a can of chickpeas on hand that I can sauté up with onion, garlic, fine grain sea salt, some red pepper flakes, and whatever vegetable I have in my freezer or fridge at the moment.

"I'm also a firm believer that tacos are the great unifier of foods—almost any disparate ingredients you can find in your fridge can generally be sautéed quickly (maybe with some eggs, maybe with some black beans, definitely with a generous amount of spices) and folded into a tortilla. When in doubt, turn it into a taco—especially if you top it with some hot sauce." 

What are the pantry staples you always have stocked and ready for quick dinners?

"I always have a good amount of spices on hand, since they have a long shelf life, tons of healing powers (I always say spices are the original superfoods; you don't need trendy adaptogenic powders when you have cinnamon, turmeric, and coriander, and they taste way better). 

"I always, always have a can of chickpeas—I usually buy Eden Organic, a brand that pressure-cooks their legumes to remove lectins, which can sometimes be the culprit for the gas and bloating many experience after eating beans and chickpeas. I love to have udon noodles for quick ramen (I like to make mine with bone broth for extra gut healing and umami flavor); a jar of organic tomato sauce can be turned into a soup with some bone broth, serve as a pizza topping for my cast iron tortilla pizza, or act as a base for a veggie-spiked pasta dish." 

What is the number one thing cooking has taught you about life?

"Food is the one thing that all people in the world have in common. Especially in times where we feel more divided into our individual, like-minded groups than ever, I love how powerful sharing a meal can be, especially if you cook it, allowing you to take your appreciation of the ingredients to the next level. I've never had a bad time with someone when we're sharing a kitchen (and maybe a bottle of wine), tasting as we go, chatting and laughing and creating something together we're proud of.

"At the same time, I love the power of food to transform people's health: Through my work, time and again, I've seen people overcome serious health problems by changing their diet, and I've experienced a drastic change in my own anxiety by adjusting my plate.

"Finally, I think food has the power to bring us so much joy. I'm the kind of person who wakes up excited for breakfast, who leaves breakfast excited for lunch, who travels with a list of restaurants to hit up in each town. Food makes people smile; it makes them gasp; it makes them experience wonder; it makes them connect to other people, to other cultures. Cooking has taught me how much power and beauty there are in so many of the moments that we may have labeled as the mundane parts of life, and that's a philosophy I now try to apply universally."

Frozen Broccoli & Basil Soup With Sweet and Spicy Cashews

Frozen Broccoli & Basil Soup With Sweet and Spicy Cashews
Lauren Volo

“I’m always frustrated with how infrequently cookbooks call for frozen ingredients, especially given what nutrient powerhouses they can be, not to mention their convenience. Frozen broccoli doesn’t sit on trucks or the shelf losing nutrients for weeks on end, so it’s likely to be more nutrient-dense than its fresh counterpart—and [they're] often more cost-effective and likely to be readily accessible. (I don’t know about you, but my fresh broccoli often gets lost in my fridge before dying a mushy death.) Of course, this recipe works with the fresh stuff, if you have it on hand.

With just a few other pantry staples, broccoli turns into a herbaceous soup, brought to life with sweet and spicy cashews for a satisfying crunch in every bite. If you’re making this with a partner, have one of you handle the cashews and the other whip up the soup.”

Ingredients for the soup:

1 tablespoon high-heat oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cups frozen or fresh broccoli florets
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt, plus more to taste
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk (either full-fat or reduced-fat works fine)
Juice of 1 lime

Ingredients for the cashews:

1/3 cup raw cashews, chopped
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

Directions for the soup:

Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium, and stir in the broccoli, 1/2 cup water, and the sea salt. Cover and cook until the broccoli is bright green and tender, about 5 minutes.

Transfer half the mixture to a blender with the basil, coconut milk, and lime juice. Blend until very smooth, then add the remaining half of the mixture and pulse until it is mostly smooth, with a bit of desired texture. (You could also use an immersion blender to do this right in the pot; just remove half the mixture first, then add it back.)

Return to the pot and rewarm to the desired temperature. Sprinkle with additional salt to taste.

Directions for the honey-chili cashews:

Place the cashews in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Cook until the cashews begin to turn golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the honey, paprika, and salt, and stir until the cashews are well-coated. Remove the pan from the heat.

Divide the soup between 2 bowls, and top each with half the nut mixture (it’ll be a generous portion—you want cashews in every bite!).

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Crispy Orange Chicken with Lemon-Ginger Broccoli Rice

Crispy Orange Chicken with Lemon-Ginger Broccoli Rice
Lauren Volo

“When I was in high school, my friends and I would spend hours at the local Panda Express. We flirted with boys, complained about our parents, and did our homework, all while eating the Chinese food chain’s infamous orange chicken. This version of the dish provides a far more adult-friendly center to gather around, although it still has the crunchy bite and that sticky, sweet orange syrup that makes the fast-food version so cravable—but this one utilizes real orange juice (gasp!) and the zippy zest (double gasp!), so it tastes even better.

Paired with bright-green, super-fresh lemon-ginger broccoli rice, it’ll leave your gut happy and you feeling energetic, not weighed down. I love doubling or even tripling this one to wow a crowd. If you’re prepping it with a partner, have one of you make the chicken while the other handles the broccoli rice.”

Ingredients for the chicken:

1/2 cup vegetable broth
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon peeled, minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
4 teaspoons arrowroot powder, plus ⅓ cup for coating chicken
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
White sesame seeds, to garnish
2 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced, to garnish
Red chilies, seeded and chopped, to garnish

Ingredients for the broccoli rice:

1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon peeled, minced ginger
3 cups broccoli rice (purchased or from about 1 head of broccoli, see tip)
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Directions for the chicken:

Combine the vegetable broth, orange zest and juice, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, ginger, garlic, tamari, and toasted sesame oil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce until it’s reduced by one-quarter, about 5 minutes. Add the 4 teaspoons of arrowroot powder, a little bit at a time, whisking until the sauce thickens. Remove the pan from the heat.

Set up a frying station next to the stove with the beaten egg in one wide, shallow bowl and the 1/3 cup of arrowroot powder in a separate wide, shallow bowl. Melt the coconut oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Dip the chicken in the egg, allowing any excess to drip off, then into the arrowroot, turning to coat and pressing to adhere.

Add the chicken to the pan, working in batches to avoid overcrowding, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side, until deep golden brown all over.

Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Directions for the broccoli rice:

Melt the coconut oil in a large skillet with low sides over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until very fragrant.

Add the broccoli rice and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes, until the broccoli is softened.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Taste and add more salt as needed.

Wipe out the pan, then add the fried chicken and the orange sauce, and toss to coat and warm through.

Serve immediately over the broccoli rice, topped with sesame seeds, green onions, and red chilies.

Tip: While riced vegetables are increasingly available to purchase in grocery stores, you can easily make your own from any cruciferous vegetable. Simply wash and dry it well, trim any woody ends, and roughly chop it (stems and all). Pulse in a food processor until it reaches a rice-like texture.

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Fun-Size Chocolate Nougat Candy Bars

Fun-Size Chocolate Nougat Candy Bars
Lauren Volo

“This recipe was inspired by my dad, who would always keep a bag of fun-size Snickers stashed in the freezer, should a candy emergency strike. I love candy, but I hate how time-consuming and finicky it is to make at home (not to mention the questionable ingredients), so I eliminated all of that. Instead, you’ll whip up a healthy, almond-flour nougat, fold in some nuts, and shove that all inside a ripped open-date. Yes, a date—Mother Nature’s caramel (she has a sweet tooth, too!). Packed with fiber and minerals, these treats take on a gooey quality that’ll 100 percent satisfy any candy crisis.”

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons melted cacao butter or coconut oil
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond flour
1/8 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts or almonds
15 Medjool dates
1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
Maldon salt, for sprinkling

Makes 15 mini candy bars

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of cacao butter, the milk, maple syrup, vanilla, almond flour, and salt until well combined. Stir in the nuts.

Tear each date open lengthwise and remove the pit. Stuff each date with a spoonful of filling, then close them up as best you can (it’s okay if they don’t seal completely) before placing them on the prepared baking sheet. Place the dates in the freezer for at least 10 minutes.

Melt together the chocolate and the remaining 1 tablespoon of cacao butter in a double boiler or the microwave until homogenous, 1 to 3 minutes, stirring at 20-second intervals. Dip each date in the chocolate, using a spoon to turn to coat completely. Return the coated dates to the baking sheet and sprinkle them with the Maldon salt.

Chill in the fridge until the chocolate is set, about 1 hour (or 40 minutes in the freezer). These will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Tip: Cacao butter is the raw, cold-pressed oil from the cacao bean. It’s used in chocolate bars and is filled with heart-healthy polyphenols. You can find it online or in most health food stores.

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Recipes reprinted with permission from Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships. Copyright © 2019 by Liz Moody. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Lauren Volo. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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