Whole Grains Council Culinary Advisor and New York Times bestselling author Ellie Krieger helps people of all ages to live life in healthy balance, nurturing a richly satisfying, sumptuous – and attainable — lifestyle without gimmicks and crash diets. She’s the author of Small Changes, Big Results (2005) and The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life (2009), winner of both the IACP Cookbook award and the James Beard Foundation award. In addition to her Food Network show, Healthy Appetite, Ellie appears regularly as a guest expert on dozens of programs including Today, Good Morning America, CNN, and CBS’s Saturday Early Show. She was a contributing editor and columnist with Fine Cooking magazine and columnist for Food Network magazine, and USA Today. She has been featured in numerous publications including Parenting, Shape, Woman’s Day, Self, Glamour, Men’s Journal, Prevention, and many more.
Her newest cookbook, Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less is every busy person’s weeknight (and weekend, for that matter!) dream come true. Making use of the freshest, most nutritious ingredients, Ellie’s Weeknight Wonders is an exploration of all of the deceptively easy yet amazingly delicious dinners you can prepare in 30 minutes or less. We are so excited to chat with Ellie and ask her some questions about the new book!
OLDWAYS: There are so many appealing recipes in Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less! Have you been collecting the recipes for several years or have you more recently been developing (and testing!) them speciﬁcally for this book?
ELLIE: I feel I am constantly in the process of collecting recipes—I really live my work in that way, always exploring, experimenting and creating. But once I establish the concept for a book I am very purposeful in developing and testing recipes expressly for that work—bringing all that cumulative experience with me.
For this book I tested every recipe with a timer and made sure it came in at less than 30 minutes, including any chopping, preheating the oven or any time needed for something to come to a boil.
OLDWAYS: One of the problems with making home cooked meals every night is not having ingredients on hand. What are your best tips for planning ahead and making sure you are successfully stocked create weeknight wonders?
ELLIE: It’s really important to have a well stocked pantry and freezer, and in the book I give an extensive list. With that, you can pull a great meal together in a ﬂash, even if you haven’t had time to get to the store all week,
Some of my must-haves are quick cooking whole grains, like quinoa, ﬁne bulgur, and whole grain pasta, canned tomatoes and beans (no-salt-added), frozen shrimp and vegetables like peas and spinach. I can think of a number of great dinners you can make just from those ingredients. Orzo with Shrimp and Peas, for example, is a favorite in the book.
OLDWAYS: On a similar note, you emphasize using whole, fresh ingredients in your recipes – which we love! Do you have any substitutions, suggestions, or tips for those days when you don’t have time to go to the market but still want to make a nutritious and delicious dinner?
ELLIE: I do focus on whole, fresh, seasonal ingredients—I don’t use any pre-packaged mixes or anything with artiﬁcial ingredients—but I do believe in taking advantage of what I call healthy short-cuts: foods like pre-cut butternut squash, pre-washed greens or frozen fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, ingredients like that can mean the diﬀerence between a home-cooked meal and ordering in a greasy pizza. Besides, these convenient short-cut ingredients are still loaded with good taste and nutrition.
OLDWAYS: You introduced your “Usually-Sometimes-Rarely” list in Small Changes, Big Results and discuss how that list came into play in Weeknight Wonders. Did you consider organizing this book according to those guidelines or is there a “Usually-Sometimes-Rarely” cookbook in your future?
ELLIE: Actually my Usually-Sometimes-Rarely list is the conceptual basis for every recipe I have created, and for my personal approach to food. I don’t cook by the numbers, I use that list as a foundation for balance in my dishes. I am constantly amazed that by cooking with that in mind, when I ﬁnally do the nutritional data, the numbers just work out!
OLDWAYS: How much and in what ways did your background as a dietitian come into play when you were developing recipes for Weeknight Wonders?
ELLIE: I developed the Usually-Sometimes-Rarely lists when I was in private practice as a dietitian, working one-on-one with clients. I found that most of my clients had an extreme, all-or-nothing approach to food, and this list really helped them escape that trap. So, I would say that my work as a dietitian has been instrumental in the development of my food philosophy and in turn all of the recipes I have created, including those in Weeknight Wonders.
My work as a dietitian also helped me understand the barriers for people trying to get a good meal on the table, and time is a big one. So Weeknight Wonders sprung from that as well. It is a book of real, practical—-and tasty!—solutions for breaking down that barrier.
OLDWAYS: Would you be willing to share a recipe with our readers? We love the Salmon with Savory Rhubarb Sauce. The idea of a savory rhubarb sauce is a welcome and delicious change to all the rhubarb desserts we are so used to seeing.
ELLIE: I love that recipe too, and it speaks to my M.O. of using ordinary ingredients in extraordinary ways. The citrusy ﬂavor of rhubarb makes perfect sense as a savory sauce for ﬁsh. I can’t believe we don’t see it more often. Maybe now we will!
Salmon with Savory Rhubarb Sauce
Why limit rhubarb, with its tart, citrusy appeal, to pie and other desserts? Here it makes for a glorious savory sauce to adorn a rich salmon ﬁllet. The sauce is a stunning deep pink color with a zingy punch of ginger, a little cayenne pepper kick, and a tempering sweetness from orange juice and honey. A ﬁnishing sprinkle of fresh basil adds a ﬂoral essence that ties it all together. Serve with whole-grain rice or couscous and another spring staple, steamed asparagus.
2 medium shallots (2 ounces)
One 1 ½-inch piece fresh ginger
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup white wine
¼ cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons honey
Pinch cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 skinless salmon ﬁllets (6 ounces each)
⅓ cup fresh basil leaves
Peel and dice the shallots. Peel the ginger and ﬁnely grate it. Dice the rhubarb.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, 1 minute. Stir in the ginger and cook for 30 seconds or more. Add the wine and orange juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook on high until the liquid is reduced by three-quarters, about 4 minutes. Stir in the rhubarb, return to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and simmer until the rhubarb loses its shape and the sauce is thickened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the honey, cayenne, and ⅛ teaspoon of the salt. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until the salmon is ready. The sauce may be made to this point up to 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to serve, gently warm over low heat.
While the sauce is simmering, spray a grill or grill pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Cook the salmon for 10 minutes total per inch of thickness, ﬂipping once. While the ﬁsh is cooking, cut the basil leaves into ribbons. Right before serving, stir all but 2 tablespoons of the basil into the sauce.
To serve, spoon about ¼ cup of the sauce onto each plate. Top each with a salmon ﬁllet and garnish with the remaining basil.
1 serving (¼ cup sauce and 1 salmon ﬁllet): Calories: 370; Fat: 14g; Carbs: 20g; Protein: 35g; Sodium: 230mg; Fiber: 1g
Credits: Excerpted from WEEKNIGHT WONDERS, © 2014 by Ellie Krieger. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Miﬄin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Recipe photo credit: © Quentin Bacon