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Our Food and Health Writers Share Their Favorite 5 Easy Recipes

May these become your go-to favorites, too!

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A mix of five favorite recipes from our Ethel food an health writers on a table
Linda Xiao (Prop stylist: Marina Bevilacqua; Food stylist: Judy Haubert)
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As The Ethel’s senior editor, I often assign food and wellness stories, categories very popular with our readers. I asked four of our culinary and health writers what they often prepare in their own kitchens. Here are some of their favorites:

Emily Listfield’s Pureed Sweet Potatoes on a green and plaid background
Linda Xiao (Prop stylist: Marina Bevilacqua; Food stylist: Judy Haubert)

Emily Listfield’s Pureed Sweet Potatoes

This favorite recipe of mine is sinfully rich and sweet — and incredibly healthy. Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and antioxidants including beta carotene, which bolsters your vision and immune system. Low-fat yogurt and milk add calcium to your bones. But really, I love it because it tastes great, and is ready in a flash.

Serves 4-6


3 medium-sized sweet potatoes

¾ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt

¼ cup low-fat milk

3 teaspoons butter


Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, then prick them with a fork. Microwave them on high for approximately 10 minutes — until you can easily pierce them with a knife. Slit each sweet potato open and place a pat of butter inside. Let the butter melt. When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to touch, scoop out the flesh and put it in a large bowl (if you are using an immersion blender) or in a blender.

Add the yogurt and milk and puree until smooth.

Add salt to taste.

Reheat to serve.

Marcia Kester Doyle’s Spinach and Artichoke dip in a yellow ceramic dish on a teal background
Linda Xiao (Prop stylist: Marina Bevilacqua; Food stylist: Judy Haubert)

Marcia Kester Doyle’s Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I tasted my first spinach and artichoke dip many years ago at a dinner party long before restaurants started serving it as an appetizer on their menus. My sister copied the recipe, and after one bite, I was hooked. Since then it has been my favorite appetizer to serve, or bring to parties, and is always a huge hit!

Serves 6-8


1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed with liquid squeezed out

1 can artichoke hearts, drained

2 cups parmesan cheese

1 cup mayo

¼ cup sour cream

1 small can of green chili peppers, diced

1-2 jalapeno peppers

Dash of Tabasco sauce (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste


After draining all the liquid from the spinach, place it in a mixing bowl. Chop the artichokes and add them to the bowl. Then add the remaining ingredients and mix well until blended. Scoop the dip into an attractive, oven-safe dish and run it under the broiler until it becomes lightly brown and bubbly on top. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers. Adjust peppers to taste.


Candy Sagon’s Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs paired with rice and asparagus
Linda Xiao (Prop stylist: Marina Bevilacqua; Food stylist: Judy Haubert)

Candy Sagon’s Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs

I wrote about this in 2006 as a “staff favorite” recipe for The Washington Post food section. The recipe was as popular with readers as it was with my picky kids and was included in the 2013 Post cookbook. Not only is this dish easy, but the recipe is flexible. You can increase or decrease the amount of wine (or substitute with chicken broth). Don’t have thyme? Use tarragon, and try adding a little curry powder or soy sauce.

Serves 4


1 cup honey mustard

¼ cup white wine

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste

2 pounds skinless chicken thighs, either boneless or bone-in

To make ahead: The thighs need to marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or they can marinate for several hours in the refrigerator.


Combine the honey mustard, wine, thyme and pepper in a resealable food storage bag or in a container with a secure lid. If the mixture seems too thick, add a few more tablespoons of wine or chicken broth to make it thinner. Add thighs and mix thoroughly to evenly coat the chicken in the marinade. Seal the bag or the container and marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or for several hours in the refrigerator.

After marinating, the thighs can be baked or grilled. To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove thighs from the marinade and bake in a shallow baking dish for 40 to 45 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees.

To grill, preheat the gas grill to medium heat (450 degrees). Oil the grates so the chicken doesn’t stick, then place the thighs on the grill, discarding the marinade. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side, depending on thickness and whether thighs are boneless or bone-in. They’re done when an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F.


Jenn Segal’s Baked Ziti from above on a yellow background
Linda Xiao (Prop stylist: Marina Bevilacqua; Food stylist: Judy Haubert)

Jenn Segal’s Baked Ziti

This bubbling baked ziti loaded with Italian sausage is one of the few dishes that everyone in my family agrees on (I’ve got a picky eater who requests this!). It’s similar to a meat lasagna but without the fuss. It’s perfect for feeding a crowd, and — bonus — it freezes well, too.

Serves 8-10


1 pound ziti noodles

1.5 pounds ground spicy or sweet Italian sausage (or removed from casings)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1½ teaspoons sugar

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup heavy cream

⅓ cup plus 3 tablespoons grated pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano) cheese, divided

⅓ cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for serving

8-ounce whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook ziti according to package directions for very al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain and add pasta back to the pot.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and set an oven rack in middle position.

Heat a large sauté pan (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat. Crumble sausage into pan and cook, breaking apart with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and just cooked through for about 5-6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer sausage to a plate. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and set over low heat (if not have enough fat in the pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil). Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until soft but not browned, about 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, sugar and red pepper; simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Add cream, ⅓ cup pecorino Romano, sausage and basil to pan; stir until combined. Pour contents of sauté pan into the large pot with pasta and gently combine. Spoon half the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half the shredded mozzarella and half the remaining pecorino Romano. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and pecorino Romano. Transfer to oven and bake, uncovered, until cheese has melted and browned, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with more basil; serve.

Dish can be frozen for up to 3 months. (Defrost in refrigerator overnight.) Bake, covered tightly with foil, at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned and pasta is hot throughout.

And here is an easy-delicious meal from me!

Iris’ Simple Salmon from above on a teal background
Linda Xiao (Prop stylist: Marina Bevilacqua; Food stylist: Judy Haubert)

Iris’ Simple Salmon

Take as many salmon filets as you have people. Mix up a small container of half soy sauce (I veer toward brands laced with garlic) and half mayonnaise. Slather each filet with a medium coat of the mixture. Dust with panko crumbs and bake at 375 degrees F until done to taste — I go for 12-13 minutes, so the fish is moist but not rare.

What's your simple go-to meal to make on a weeknight? Let us know in the comments below.

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