Our 21 Top Recipes of 2021 – Cooking Light

It doesn’t get much easier, or more satisfying: a complete chicken dinner in one pan in half an hour. Lemon brightens this cozy winter meal, but the classic flavors are sure to elicit cries for a second helping any time of the year. This one-pan chicken dish is a whole meal in one skillet, but serve with a simple side salad to sneak in another serving of veggies. We call for tender haricots verts because they’re quick cooking; traditional green beans likely won’t be tender enough after the brief cooking time at the end. If that’s all you have on hand, steam them first, and then add them to the pan for the final step.
A whole pork tenderloin can take anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes to reach doneness, depending on how you cook it. But thinly sliced medallions take only 6 minutes.
This air-fryer riff on the Chinese takeout classic saves the day with nearly half the saturated fat of restaurant versions and loads less clean-up than deep frying at home. Air fryer sizes vary (hence the cook time’s wide range); if you have a smaller air fryer, commit to cooking in batches so that there’s plenty of room for the air to circulate and crisp up the chicken.
Marsala cooking wine is a worthy addition to your pantry; it’s dry and sweet without being overpowering, and can cut through the richness of cream or stock. The alcohol will cook off as the sauce simmers. Adding butter at the end, a classic technique, gives the sauce its body and gloss. Serve this skillet main over polenta, mashed potatoes, or hot cooked brown rice. If you have leftover thyme, try steeping in chicken stock before making a risotto, tossing with roasted vegetables, or adding to a frittata.
This one-pot pasta dinner is simple, fresh, and healthy—what’s not to love? Cooking the pasta right in the sauce saves time and cleanup while infusing the noodles with more flavor. This speedy recipe is also endlessly adaptable, and lends itself to plenty of easy ingredient swaps, too. 
For quick weeknight meals, go for the broiler. It preheats in a flash and acts like an upside-down grill, bringing salmon and veggies to perfect doneness in just 10 minutes. Don’t sweat it if you slightly overcook the salmon. Serve it with a luscious dipping sauce, or drizzle a bit of olive oil over top to bring back instant moisture.
The simple, scalloped shell made from thinly sliced rounds of sweet potatoes make this version of a popular brunch (or supper) dish gluten-free. Choose potatoes with comparable diameters to create uniform slices for the easy-to-make crust. A mandoline makes slicing quick and precise, but a sharp chef’s knife will work too. You can also slice the potatoes in the food processor by using the slicing blade.
A Spanish dish from the Valencia region, paella is named for the cooking vessel itself: a round, shallow pan made of carbon steel that heats quickly and evenly. A good paella pan helps develop the socarrat, or crispy layer of rice crust on the bottom that’s the most prized part of the dish. A large skillet will work as well if you don’t have a paella pan. Look for short-grain Bomba or Valencia rice at specialty markets. Be aware that risotto rice like Arborio won’t work here, since paella rice isn’t meant to be creamy.
Sweet potato chips sound like a nutritious snack, but store-bought versions can still pack significant amounts of fat and sodium. Enter air fryer sweet potato chips. These healthy homemade chips have a third of the fat — and they’re just as crunchy and addictive.
While the sauce cooks, shred the chicken. For a spicy kick, top with chopped jalapeños.
A creamy base helps the cheese go further and keeps the chicken moist. For a crisp exterior, coat the filled tortillas with cooking spray instead of coating the pan.
Think the flavors of slow cooker meals are always too bland? It’s true that the long, slow cooking period mellows flavors. But bold spices in bold amounts will hold their own over time.
Here, we start with big flavor from a large amount of curry paste and fish sauce, and we finish with fresh touches of cilantro and lime juice that perk up the taste of the whole dish. Serve over a bed of brown rice or brown rice noodles to catch all the sauce.
This is the perfect way to cook chicken breasts. You’ll end up with a golden brown platter of delicious chicken ready for the tasting. Use this recipe to shred over baked potatoes, make chicken salad, slice over fresh greens, or enjoy with classic sides such as haricot verts and roasted potatoes.
Go ahead and flag this recipe—it’s sure to become a family favorite. For convenience, we call for precooked wild rice; if you can’t find it, you can substitute 2 cups of your own cooked wild rice or a package of precooked brown rice.
This recipe is one of our highest-rated recipes ever. Most of the praise is due to the ingredient itself: lean, grass-fed New York strip steak. Besides being more sustainable and nutrient-dense, grass-fed beef simply tastes beefier. The technique is the second part of this recipe’s genius. Letting the meat come to room temperature before it hits the pan and rest when it’s done allows the steak to cook evenly. A butter baste is appropriate for such a lean cut, adding a glossy finish and keeping the meat moist. 
No mayo, no problem. This healthy tuna salad uses probiotic-rich Greek yogurt as its creamy, tangy base. Crunchy celery, earthy chives, and delicate microgreens keep this easy lunch recipe fuss-free, so you can customize it with your own healthy ingredients. Give it a Mediterranean spin with chickpeas, cucumber, and Kalamata olives—or add a little sweetness with sliced grapes. Spread this tuna salad over a slice of whole-wheat bread, stuff it into an avocado, or spoon it into crisp lettuce cups for a low-carb version.
This Vietnamese sandwich is typically a combination of meat (usually pork) and vegetables, but our take here is plant-based and calls for crispy marinated tofu and a combination of fresh and picked vegetables. A swipe of sriracha mayonnaise adds a layer of creamy richness. Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list—all of the items are easy to find at well-stocked grocery stores and once you prep your ingredients, the sandwiches come together very easily.
This 20-minute dish provides 32g of protein and is just 261 calories per serving. To ensure this comforting soup’s velvety texture, whisk a little of the hot broth into the eggs before adding them to the pot; it cooks them gently and prevents curdling.
Dinner doesn’t get much easier than this eight-ingredient, one-pan dish. The secret is jarred apricot preserves; much more than a spread for toast, it balances the earthy sage and pungent mustard in the pan sauce and gives everything a glossy coat. You can also thin the preserves in a small saucepan over medium heat and brush over roasted pork tenderloin, salmon fillets, or a rustic apple tart. A little butter stirred in at the end adds body to the sauce.
Creamy peanut butter moves beyond snacks and sandwiches and into a beautifully balanced tart, sweet, and savory sauce. This easy, versatile condiment puts bottled versions out of the running, thanks to the warmth and zing of fresh ginger and garlic. If you’d like a little heat, try stirring in a generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
When it comes to meat sauces, Bolognese is the heavyweight champion of the pasta world, clocking in at over 800 calories with almost 1,800mg sodium. The traditional dish has a rich cast of characters—up to three kinds of meat, cream, cheese, pasta—and packs half a day’s worth of sat fat into just one serving. Here, tempeh and two types of mushrooms mimic the texture of ground meat while adding plenty of savory depth. By upping the veggies and nixing the cream, we leave plenty of room for the good stuff—Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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