Have you ever been in this situation? You just got home after a long day of work, you are hungry, tiered and want something quick and tasty to eat, but it’s been a while since you last went food shopping? And, on top of it, you need to prepare a healthy meal to manage your blood pressure. What do you do? This is a dilemma that many people deal with regularly? Many of us live hectic lifestyles and struggle to stay on top of everything: work, family, personal time, friends and health.

Since all of us at Resperate also have busy lifestyles, we decided to see if we could resolve this common and very frustrating question. We challenged ourselves to cook something fabulous, healthy and quick with minimal food in the refrigerator from Mayo Clinic’s DASH Recipes. And  we succeeded. Actually, once we put ourselves to the challenge, preparing dinner became far easier than we expected.

This is how we went about preparing a great dinner after work with whatever food we could find in the refrigerator. First, we checked our refrigerator, freezer and cabinets and – with a little digging – we discovered that we have far more food and condiments than we originally thought: chicken, broccoli, quinoa, herbs, garlic, 1 onion, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, chopped almonds and some brown sugar. Then we skimmed through Mayo Clinic’s great DASH Recipes and found a recipe that sounded great and included most of the ingredients we had.

Since we were missing some of the ingredients, we decided to improvise and be creative. Instead of approaching the recipe as a do it all or nothing, we looked at it as a suggestion. Whoever said you have to follow a recipe 100%? For example, we did not have fresh or dry rosemary herb so instead of moving on to the next recipe, we replaced the dry herbs we did have in our cabinet – thyme, oregano, and basil – with the rosemary and it worked. We figured, all herbs are tasty and healthy so let’s experiment with what we have.

Check out how we improvised:

The Mayo Clinic DASH Chicken Balsamic Recipe Replaced with…

1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds with  2 small chicken thighsIMG_9616-300x200

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary with  teaspoon of dry thyme, basil, oregano

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

Our preparations:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2) Rinse the chicken with cold running water. Pat it dry with paper towels.

3) In a small bowl add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, thyme, oregano, basil and chopped garlic.

4) Remove the skin from the chicken and then pour the herb mixture over the chicken. Most people refuse to remove the chicken skin not only because they love the taste, but also they believe without it the chicken will be dry. Our trick to preparing juicy skinless chicken is to either cook it in a covered pot or cover the pot with aluminum paper. This way you keep the moisture in and the chicken will not dry up.

5) Sprinkle the chicken with black pepper.

6) Place the chicken into a roasting pan (it can also be the disposable aluminum kind) and roast for 20 to 25 minutes at about 250 F – slow roast.  Do not forget to cover the pan. When browned and juices run clear, transfer the chicken to a serving platter.

Our own Broccoli recipe:

1) 1 broccoli head

2) 1 garlic clove or more if you really garlic

3) ¼ cup of quinoa

4) 1/8 teaspoon of ground pepper or more if you like

5) 1 tablespoon of olive oil

6) 1 onion chopped


1) Cut the broccoli flowers from their stemIMG_96291-300x200

2) Chop up the garlic clove

3) Chop the onion

4) Heat up the olive oil in a sauté pan and then add the chopped garlic, when slightly gold in color add the chopped onion.

5) When the onion is slightly gold add the chopped broccoli, reduce the flame low

6) Add pepper and cover the pan

7) Cook the broccoli on a low flame to avoid over cooking. You want the broccoli to be soft, but slightly crispy. If you over cook broccoli – or any vegetable – it loses most of its nutrients.

8 ) Boil the quinoa in a separate pot

9) When the broccoli is bright green and just the right texture sprinkle on the quinoa

10) Add the broccoli to a plate and then the chicken on top. Add some more chicken sauce to the chicken and broccoli. Then sprinkle on some chopped almonds.

The preparations took us about 30 minutes and was really easy, and delicious. We were surprised to discover that it was very easy to replace ingredients and improvise with the food we had in our refrigerator. Next time try this experiment and let us know if it worked for you.

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