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Hearty, healthy fall fare

October 29, 2020 | Kristina Lindgren
Miso salmon and cauliflower fried rice

Miso is the secret to this savory and low-calorie pairing of salmon and fried cauliflower rice, says UCI chef Jessica Van Roo.

Autumn is here and even in sunny Southern California, there's often a chill in the air.

It's a time we seem to crave warmer, more substantial meals. How to do that without breaking the bank — of cash or calories?

Consider these appetizing and nutritious meals. They will stick to your ribs, not your waistline.

They’ll tickle your taste buds, too, while delivering more than a day’s worth of nutrition, says Katie Rankell, director of the UCI Health Weight Management Program.

This month's recipes were created by Chef Jessica Van Roo, assistant director of Culinary Recreation & Experiential Programs at UC Irvine, who teaches students and others how to cook healthy, low-cost meals with fresh ingredients. 


Fall Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash

Serves 4-6 (Total cost: $9.47/$2.37 per serving)

Fall Sausage and Sweet Potato HashThis meal-in-a-pan not only tastes rich, it has plenty of lean protein and fiber to fortify your loved ones for the day ahead.

Sweet potatoes are great for promoting gut and eye health because they are rich in vitamin A and antioxidants — which also help our bodies fight cancer-causing free radicals. The high fiber content in sweet potatoes and apples also aids in digestion and helps lower cholesterol.

By using turkey sausage rather than its pork cousin, this dish is far lower in saturated fat, keeping the calories way down.

Combine it with eggs and you have a gooey, delicious protein-laden mash-up that will keep your body humming for hours.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb turkey sausage
  • 1 peeled medium apple, grated on large holes
    of box grater
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium peeled sweet potatoes, diced in
    ½ inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 6 to 8 eggs
  • salt and pepper


  • Heat large pan over high heat, coat with oil when hot.
  • Crumble sausage and apple mixture into pan, cook until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add more oil to pan if needed, add onion, pepper and garlic. Cook just until onions begin to brown.
  • Stir in sweet potato, cover and cook until sweet potatoes soften.
  • Taste, season with salt and pepper, then stir in sausage mix and paprika.
  • “Dig” 6 to 8 depressions in the mixture and crack an egg into each hole.
  • Cover pan, cook on low heat for 3 to 6 minutes, or until eggs set to your liking.
  • Remove from heat and serve.

If your pan is too small, preheat oven to 400 degrees and spoon the cooked hash mixture into a larger baking pan to allow room for eggs. Bake in oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the eggs are set.

Calories per serving: 468

Lemon Pesto Sautéed Chicken & Pasta

Serves 4 (Total cost: $5.93/ $1.48 per serving)

Lemon Pesto Chicken Pasta

Boneless, skinless chicken breast is always a heart healthy protein choice. And using lemon juice and zest in place of butter and salt-based seasonings drives down the calorie and sodium count.

Adding superfoods like spinach or kale — which promote bone health and are packed with important vitamins and minerals — ups the nutrition value of this midday meal.

If you were to substitute whole wheat pasta, you'd be increasing the fiber and staying power of this delectable meal.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons pesto, homemade or store bought
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves or kale, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 10 oz bow tie or penne pasta, cooked and drained;
    reserve ¼ cup of pasta water.
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat, add chicken, cook until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add onion and tomatoes to pan, cook until onions turn translucent.
  • Stir in pesto and lemon zest.
  • Add cooked pasta, then chicken and accumulated juices.
  • Stir to coat ingredients with pesto, adding reserve pasta water if needed.
  • Add spinach and cook 1 to 2 minutes more until spinach wilts.
  • Turn off heat, stir in lemon juice, parmesan cheese.
  • Taste, add seasonings as desired and serve.

Calories per serving: 224

Miso Salmon With Cauliflower Fried Rice

Serves 4 (Total cost: $21.17/ $5.30 per serving)

Miso Salmon With Fried Cauliflower Rice

Miso, a Japanese condiment usually made from fermented soybeans, adds a delightful savory flavor to so many dishes. It's also full of essential minerals, B vitamins, folic acid and vitamins E and K. And as a fermented product, it contains beneficial bacteria that are great for gut health.

Pair it with salmon, which is high in omega 3 fats, and you have a main course that is heart healthy and helps lower cholesterol.

Serve it with cauliflower fried rice for a huge calorie savings. A cup of rice equals about 240 calories versus 25 for a cup of cauliflower granules, which contain way more nutrients.

Moreover, these versatile vegetable granules assume the flavor of whatever they are cooked or eaten with. It could be your new go-to side dish!



  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine, sake or water
  • 4 salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each

Cauliflower fried rice

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (or any bean!) rinsed, drained
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • ½ cup frozen peas and carrots, or leftover veggies
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, rinsed or 24-ounce package frozen riced cauliflower
  • 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped, or other leafy green like kale
  • 4 scallions or green onions
  • 2 to 4 tablespoon soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (optional)



  • Mix sesame oil with rice wine or water, coat salmon fillets with the mixture.
  • Wrap each fillet in plastic wrap, marinate at least 2 to 3 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Heat broiler, line a baking sheet with foil.
  • Unwrap fillets, wipe off any excess marinade and set on foil.
  • Place sheet about 6 inches from the heat source and broil for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  • You may also bake the fish in a 450-degree oven. Cooking time will vary based on the thickness of the fish; it is done when the fish flakes when touched with a fork.

Cauliflower fried rice

  • Place cauliflower florets in food processor, pulse until reduced to size of rice grain. Set aside.
    You may also use a box grater.
  • Heat pan, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat, coat with oil when hot.
  • Add onion and garlic cloves, cook until onions turn translucent and soft.
  • Add turmeric, beans and veggies, cook 2 to 3 minutes to heat beans.
  • Add riced cauliflower and mix well.
  • Cover, cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until cauliflower is slightly crisp on the outside, tender in the middle.
  • Push ingredients to one side. Add oil if needed and scramble the eggs.
  • Stir egg and rice mix together, then stir in spinach, green onions and soy sauce.
  • Cook until spinach wilts, turn off heat and stir in sesame oil.
  • Serve immediately.

Calories per serving: 390