Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern
Healthy cooking becomes a chore when it involves extensive ingredient lists, advanced preparation and lengthy cooking times. Lucky for us, Food Network’s Robin Miller has made it her mission to help us simplify the process so we can spend more time enjoying our food with the people we love most. Her latest book, Robin Takes 5 for Busy Families, offers a wide variety of 5-ingredient recipes for breakfast, lunch, snacks and gluten-free dishes that taste gourmet with little work required on your end. During a recent visit to New York City, Robin dished how she keeps every meal quick, healthy and delicious so pull up a seat and dig into this!
What inspired your career in educating others on how to make quick and healthy meals for themselves and their families?
My kids, to put it simply. Before kids, I had all morning or all afternoon to deglaze, caramelize, test recipes and play in the kitchen. After kids, I didn’t have that amount of time, but I still wanted those flavors. It was my goal to create delicious meals that I can enjoy with my family in minimal time with minimal ingredients. I didn’t want to sacrifice flavor, but I wanted to get to the table faster and then spend more time there.
What do you find to be the greatest challenge with quick and healthy cooking?
I can’t start making dinner at 6 o’clock at night, chopping the onions and the mushrooms and the carrots, or deciding what to cook. So I like to plan ahead. I don’t do a week’s worth of meals on Saturday, but I’ll say in the morning, “What can I do today that’s going to make tonight easier?” And I find that that’s other people’s struggle, too, finding time in their head to prep ahead so that they can make meal time easier during the week. I like meal time to almost be assemble and serve, not start from scratch and wait.
Now that summer is over, how do you cope with the more limited selection of fresh fall and winter produce in your cooking?
I still feel like there are plenty of delicious produce items that are available throughout the fall and winter. We’re getting into grapefruits and oranges and other really nutritious fruits. The acorn squash, butternut squash and spaghetti squash are phenomenal. They’re loaded with nutrients and just scream fall. Also, frozen vegetables and fruits that don’t have any sugar or butter added and they are quickly frozen at the peak of their ripeness, which is at the peak of their nutrient value. So you should never feel guilty about going down the frozen vegetable and fruit aisle and loading up on that stuff too. I have plenty in my freezer, because I like to add them to soups and stews. They have all the nutrients I would hope to get from a farmer’s market or something I just got at the grocery store. They’re so convenient—always there in your freezer and ready to go.
Along with a nutritious diet, how do you keep fit?
I used to be an avid runner and speed walker. I kind of combine the two now and do a 10-minute walk, then run for 10 minutes, and keep alternating. I love it because a 10-minute interval, to me, makes the workout fly by. When I want to see a new town or a city, I feel like there’s no other way to see it than exercise by speed walking through it. And then running around and chasing my boys!
Do you have a favorite “quick fix” meal?
It’s so hard because I have so many that I love and I always say that my favorite meal is the one I’ve never made before. My kids love my Sloppy Joes. And my lasagnas, they love those. And all my different breakfast items for getting out the door, which aren’t just for kids. I love reinventing them—they’re five ingredients, and you put it in your hand and run out the door!
Do you have a healthy food that you swear by?
Egg whites. The only reason I don’t eat the whole egg is because I’m horribly allergic to the yolk. I swear I have egg whites every single day because I love the flavor. I jazz them up and I know I’m getting protein—especially when I travel. And avocados! For many years, I never really had them as a part of my regular diet and once I added them it changed my skin and just made me feel healthy.
If you could give us just one tip for healthy cooking, what would it be?
Don’t try to make fabulous, multi-ingredient recipes just because you think that’s going to fit into your diet plan! If it’s too hard, too complicated or labor-intensive, you’re not going to make it again. So keep it simple and try to plan in advance so when it comes to dinner, it’s not a stressful time. You can really focus on the healthy ingredients, sit down and enjoy them.
Watch the video below to find out which 3 seasonings you'll always find in Robin's pantry:
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