Healthy Basics Recipes

The Physicians Committee

Healthy Basics Recipes


In PCRM’s proposed improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, participating grocers must supply basic healthful foods, referred to as “Healthy Basics.” Here are delicious recipes prepared from "Healthy Basics."

Always Great Brown Rice

Makes 6 1/2-cup servings

Brown rice supplies more vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber than does white rice. This cooking method ensures perfect rice and actually reduces the usual cooking time. Short-grain brown rice tends to be a bit chewy; long-grain brown rice is slightly more tender and fluffy. If brown rice is new to you, you may want to start with the long-grain variety.

1 cup dry brown rice
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Rinse rice in a medium saucepan of cool water. Drain off water as thoroughly as possible. Put the saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes, or until rice dries. Add 3 cups water and salt, if using. Bring to a boil, then lower heat slightly. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until rice is soft but still retains a hint of crunchiness. Drain excess liquid. This liquid can be saved and used as a broth for soups and stews, if desired.

Cinnamon Oatmeal

Makes 2 1-cup servings

1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/4 cup raisins or 1 banana (optional)

Combine oats, water, and cinnamon in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in fruit, if using. Let stand 3 minutes before serving.

Breakfast Rice Pudding

Makes 6 1/2-cup servings

2 cups cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups vanilla rice milk
3 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium saucepan combine all ingredients and bring to a slow simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until thick. Serve hot or cold.

Couscous Confetti Salad

Makes about 8 1-cup servings

1 1/2 cups dry whole-wheat couscous
2 cups boiling water
3-4 green onions, finely chopped, including tops
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 carrot, grated
1-2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup golden raisins or chopped dried apricots
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

In a large bowl, combine couscous and boiling water. Stir to mix, then cover and let stand until all the water has been absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Add green onions, bell pepper, carrot, cabbage, parsley, and raisins or apricots.

In a small bowl mix lemon juice, vinegar, curry powder, and salt. Add to salad and toss to mix. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Curried Lentil Soup

Makes about 2 1/2 quarts (10 1-cup servings)

1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 cups water or Vegetable Broth
1/2 cup dry couscous
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Combine lentils, onion, celery, garlic, cumin, and water or broth in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, then cover loosely and cook until lentils are tender, about 50 minutes.

Stir in couscous, tomatoes, curry powder, and black pepper. Continue cooking until couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Red Lentil Curry

Makes 6 1/2-cup servings

This curry is made with small, brightly-colored lentils called masoor dal that are sold in natural food stores, ethnic markets, and some supermarkets. They are ideal for quick meals as they cook in just 20 minutes. If you are not able to locate these lentils, yellow split peas may be substituted in this recipe.

1 cup dry red lentils
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Rinse lentils and place in a pot with salt and boiling water. Cover loosely and simmer until completely tender, 15 to 20 minutes (45 minutes if using yellow split peas), and set aside.

Add spices.

Easy Bean Dip

Makes 6 servings

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup salsa
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

Easy Stir-Fry

Makes 4 servings

1 15-ounce can of your favorite beans, or 1 package vegetarian chicken substitute
1 16-ounce bag frozen stir-fry vegetables
1/4 cup low-fat stir-fry sauce

Heat beans in a large skillet or wok. If using vegetarian chicken substitute, cook according to package directions. Mix in vegetables and sauce.

Fantastic Fruit Smoothie

Makes about 2 to 2 1/2 cups (2 servings)

1 frozen or fresh banana, broken into chunks (see Tip, below)
1 1/2 cups soymilk, rice milk, or other plant milk
1/2 cup sliced fresh or frozen unsweetened fruit or berries

Combine all ingredients in blender and process until very smooth and creamy. Serve immediately.

Tip: With a few ripe bananas in your freezer, you can always create a quick breakfast smoothie. Simply peel bananas, place them in plastic bags, and store in the freezer. They will last for several weeks, depending on your freezer's temperature.

Hoppin' John Salad

Makes about 10 1/2-cup servings

2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, or 1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup finely sliced green onions
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tomato, diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed

Combine black-eyed peas, rice, green onions, celery, tomato, and parsley in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl, mix together lemon juice, oil, salt, and garlic and pour over the salad. Toss gently. Chill 1 to 2 hours if time permits.


Makes about 2 cups

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained, liquid reserved
2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup roasted red peppers (optional)

Put beans, tahini, lemon juice, green onions, garlic, cumin, black pepper, and roasted peppers, if using, in food processor and process until smooth. Add reserved bean liquid for a smoother consistency.

Kwick Kale

Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup water
1 bunch kale (any variety) (6-8 cups chopped)
2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar

Wash kale, remove stems and chop leaves into 1/2-inch strips. Heat water in large skillet with a lid. When boiling, add kale. Cover and cook over medium heat until greens are bright green and tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with vinegar and stir to heat. Serve warm.

Southern Beans and Greens

Makes 4 servings

1 cup vegetable broth or water
3 cups drained cooked or canned beans (your choice of any kind)
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
4 cups chopped fresh kale, stems and center ribs removed, lightly packed
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
tabasco sauce, to taste

Combine beans, broth or water, and garlic in a large saucepan. Place chopped kale on top of beans and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until kale is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in oil, salt, black pepper, and Tabasco sauce to taste.

Spinach Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing

Makes about 6 1-cup servings

1 bunch fresh spinach (about 5 cups of leaves)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 orange
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoon water

Trim off spinach stems. Carefully wash the leaves, dry them, then tear any large leaves into bite-size pieces. Place in a salad bowl along with bell pepper and onion.

Peel the orange, then cut it in half from top to bottom. Slice each half into thin half circles and add to the salad.

Spread sesame seeds out on pan and toast in a 400°F toaster oven (or regular oven) for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender and grind into a powder. Transfer to a separate bowl and mix with vinegar, orange juice concentrate, and water. Pour over salad and toss just before serving.

Pasta with Lentil Marinara Sauce

Makes 5 servings

1 pound dry pasta of choice
1 26-ounce jar fat-free low-sodium tomato-based pasta sauce
1 15-ounce can lentils, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup dry red wine (can be nonalcoholic) or low-sodium vegetable broth
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions, then drain.

Meanwhile, combine pasta sauce, lentils, and wine or broth in a medium saucepan. Heat gently and season with the salt and black pepper. Serve over pasta.

Almost-Instant Black Bean Chili

Makes 6 1-cup servings

This is a perfect make-ahead recipe, since this chili is even better the second day.

1/2 cup water
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 small bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
2 15-ounce can black beans, undrained
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Heat the water in a large skillet or pot. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, beans and their liquid, chilies, and cumin. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until flavors are blended.

Quickie Quesadillas

Makes 8 servings

These quesadillas are a truly happy marriage between cultures: Middle Eastern red pepper hummus served with Mexican corn tortillas and garnished with salsa makes an absolutely delicious meal or snack.

1 container of hummus
8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2-1 cup salsa

Spread a tortilla with 2 to 3 tablespoons of hummus and place in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle with onions, tomatoes, and salsa.

Top with a second tortilla and cook until bottom tortilla is warm and soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook second side for another minute. Remove from pan and cut in half. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Fruited Breakfast Quinoa

Makes about 6 1/2-cup servings

Quinoa is a highly nutritious grain that was a staple in the diet of the ancient Incas. It has a delicious flavor and a light, fluffy texture.

1/2 cup dry quinoa, well-rinsed
1 1/2 cups soymilk, rice or almond milk
2 tablespoons raisins
1 cup chopped fresh or canned apricots
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine quinoa and rice milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a slow simmer, then cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the quinoa is tender. Stir in raisins, apricots, and vanilla, then transfer about 1 1/2 cups to a blender and purée. Return puréed mixture to the pan and stir to mix. Serve warm or chilled.

Baked Apples

Makes 4 apples

These baked apples contain no added sugar or fat, yet are delicious and satisfying. Cook them the night before for a quick breakfast treat.

4 large tart apples
3-5 pitted dates, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Wash apples, then remove cores to within 1/4 inch of the bottoms. Combine dates and cinnamon, then distribute equally into the centers of the apples. Place in a baking dish filled with 1/4 inch of hot water and bake until apples are soft, 40 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Beans, Greens, and Grains

Cook any favorite bean with any favorite grain in a pot until tender. Add greens of choice (kale, collards, spinach, broccoli, etc.) for last 5 minutes until steamed through. Spice to taste. This dish is inexpensive, nutrient-dense, and easy to make in bulk for ready meals throughout the week!