Friday, February 26, 2010

Black bean fudge cakes

I am very excited: My first subscription issue of "Clean Eating" magazine arrived in the mail yesterday, and I've just about read it cover-to-cover. My only gripe: I don't know which one of the many recipes to try first. Most sound beyond appealing, and some are so unusual, I know I have to give them a try. I'm also going to share two recipes here -- one for Black Bean Fudge Cakes that have no wheat, perfect for my wheat allergy -- and the second for Chicken a la King that gets wrapped in a tortilla.

But first, it's Friday, my time to reflect. And this week, like the past few, was terrific. I'm still in control, and it didn't even bother me too much when I only lost .2 of a pound at Weight Watchers last night. I even felt great for Jack's more than 2-pound lost, which means he's lost 10 pounds in three weeks. It's OK: He needs to get healthy too!

One of the week's biggest successes was the slice of birthday cake I allowed myself Monday night, when we were celebrating our soon-to-be son-in-law, Byran's, birthday. One slice, with the emphasis on one. And that one slice didn't have me searching my pantry for other things to eat. I was satisfied. I was in control. For once, I felt like a skinny person who only ever eats one slice of anything.

I have also been trying to eat three meals a day with no snacks between meals, and have found that incredibly hard. I actually do better when I let no more than 4 hours pass without eating something, and since I always get up before 5 in the morning, and have breakfast at 6, I would have to finish eating for the day at 2.

So this week's goal is another one of Clean Eating's 13 ways to Eat Clean: Eat five to six times a day -- three meals and two to three snacks, including a lean protein, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and a complex carbohydrate with each meal, which is exactly the prescription for success that my wellness coach Heather Pierce preaches to me. The magazine says this keeps your body energized and burning calories efficiently throughout the day.

And now for the recipes.

This first one was from a reader of Clean Eating magazine, Wendy McMillan, who created it for a friend with gluten intolerance. It's unusual enough to get my attention, and after reading the ingredients, I think it might actually be terrific. She suggests eating them two ways -- cold and heated in the oven -- because each way makes for a different taste experience.

Olive oil cooking spray
1 ounce organic dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa or greater)
1 1/2 cups soft-cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
2 eggs
1 egg white
2 Tblsp. olive oil
1/4 cup heaped unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup raw organic honey
1/4 to 1/2 cup unsalted walnuts, chopped
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mist 8 individuals ramekins or an 8-inch square baking dish with the olive oil spray.
  • Melt dark chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat with 1 tablespoon water mixed in.
  • Combine chocolate with remaining ingredients -- except walnuts -- in a food processor; process until smooth. Stir in walnuts and pour mixture into prepared ramekins or baking dish.
  • Bake in oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes for the ramekins and 30 minutes for the baking dish. Garnish each pieces with a dollop of nonfat Greek-style yogurt, if desired.
  • Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 230 calories; total fat, 12g; sat fat, 2g; carbs, 28g; fiber, 4g; sugars, 19g; protein, 5g; sodium, 120mg; cholesterol, 45mg.
Olive oil cooking spray
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup white onion, diced
1 cup white mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 4 oz.)
1/2 cup fresh carrots, diced
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 Tblsp. whole wheat flour
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
4 whole-wheat tortillas, 8-inch diameter
1 to 2 Tblsp. flat-leafed parsley, chopped
  • Heat a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet over high heat for 1 minute.Reduce heat to medium-high, mist pan with cooking spray, and saute chicken about 5 minutes, until cooked through and no longer pink. Remove chicken from pan.
  • Mist same pan again with cooking spray. Add onion, mushrooms and carrots, and saute until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add peas and saute until cooked through, about 3 minutes.
  • Add chicken back to pan and stir in flour. Add stock and milk, 1/4 cup at a time. Stir constantly until sauce is thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • To serve, put 1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken/vegetable mixture into each tortilla. Sprinkle with parsley and roll up tortilla.
  • Makes 4 servings. Per serving: calories, 270; total fat, 5g; sat fat, .5g; carbs, 34g; fiber, 4g; sugars, 5g; protein, 20g; sodium, 310mg; cholesterol, 30mg.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pick of the Week: Farro

When my friend Ronnie Fein posted a recipe that starred farro, I decided it was time to talk about one of my favorite grains in Pick of the Week. I am allergic to wheat, and although farro is a wheat, I can tolerate it in small amounts. Definitely not every day, because that would send me back for my weekly visits to my allergist, but once every other week -- I can do that!

And when I do, farro is the grain I would grab. But what is it?

Some say it's spelt, but I was never convinced. My mom would soak farro before using it in recipes, while spelt needs no soaking. A few years ago I did some digging, and came across a notation in Garzanti's Italian-English dictionary that agrees with me! Farro and spelt might look similar, but there is a difference. Once cooked, farro is firm and chewy -- one of the reasons I love it so much -- while spelt is softer.

This recipe is my mom's, and one she would make toward the end of Lent, when asparagus first started to pop up at the market. I soak the farro in the morning, so it's ready for dinner.

1 cup farro, soaked in 2 cups water for 8 hours
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, sliced
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 red onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tblsp. olive oil
1 Tblsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tblsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives
  • Drain farro. Cook farro in large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer to large bowl.
  • Cook asparagus in another saucepan of boiling salted water 3 minutes for slender stalks, 5 minutes for thick ones. Drain. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Add to farro.
  • Gently fold tomatoes, onions and parsley into farro.
  • Whisk oil, lemon juice and vinegar in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Dress farro.
  • Gently fold in feta and olives. Taste and adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Recipe Exchange

Ronnie Fein, my friend, food and cookbook writer, and one of the best cooks I know, sent this recipe that stars farro, because she has been eating more meatless meals. This also fits in with Terri Vanech's request for a meatless meal for Lent. I plan on trying this one night, and am prepared for husband, Jack, to look at the plate and ask -- where oh where is the chicken or fish? I'll simply tell him he has to wait 24 hours!

Tomorrow, in Pick of the Week, I'll take a look at farro, the original grain from which all others grew.

1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro
3 Tblsp. extra-virgin olive oil, approximately
3 thick scallions, chopped
1 large tart apple, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Place the farro in a saucepan and add enough water to cover by one inch. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the farro is tender. Drain the farro if any liquid remains and place it in a bowl. Let cool slightly.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the apple, peas, cranberries and thyme and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the farro and toss ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour in the remaining olive oil if desired and toss ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4–6 servings.
The next recipe is one I make all the time because it is so tasty, filling and really nutritious. When I am really busy, I just add the beans and corn with purchased salsa and chop up some scallions for added flavor.

2 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 10-oz, pkg. frozen corn (Trader Joe's roasted corn is the best)
4 medium tomatoes, diced, or when tomatoes are out of season, 1 16-oz. jar roasted peppers, diced (or make your own)
2 medium red onions, diced
3 scallions, chopped, with some of the green parts for color
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 or 2 jalapeno chilies, chopped (depending on how hot you like your food)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Zest from 2 limes
Juice from two limes
Flour tortillas for serving
  • When black beans have drained and are dry, place in bowl.
  • Place corn in strainer and run under hot water until no longer frozen. Add to beans.
  • Add remaining ingredients to bowl. Let beans sit about an hour to allow flavors to blend.
  • Serve with flour tortillas. Great as a wrap. It also makes a wonderful side dish for dinner, or as a salad -- hold the tortillas -- as part of a party buffet.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Life rules!


1. Get physical: Make time to exercise, be it walking, dancing or running. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week. This can be as easy as just walking part of the way to the office, or the grocery store. A dog is often a better walking partner than an exercise buddy. Choose an activity you enjoy; if you're having fun, you're more likely to stick with it.

2. Let the sun shine in: Try to get at least 20 minutes of daily sun exposure (torso, arms and legs) without sunscreen, preferably at noon in the summer (but take care to avoid sunburns!). This will boost your body's natural production of Vitamin D. As an alternative: discuss the option of taking a Vitamin D3 supplement with your doctor.

3. Banish bad chemicals: Avoid exposure to common household contaminants. You should air our your dry-cleaning for two hours before storing or wearing it; use organic cleaning products (or wear gloves); don't heat liquids or food in hard plastics; avoid cosmetics with parabens and phthalates; don't use chemical pesticides in your house or garden; replace your scratched Teflon pans; filter your tap water (or used bottled water) if you live in a contaminated area; don't keep your cell phone close to you when it is turned on.

4. Reach out (and touch someone!): Reach out to at least two friends for support (logistical and emotional) during times of stress, even if it's through the Internet. But if they're within arms reach, go ahead and hug them, often!

5. Remember to breathe: Learn a basic breathing relaxation technique to let out some steam whenever you start to feel stressed.

6. Get involved: Find out how you can best give something back to your local community, then give it.

7. Cultivate happiness like a garden: Make sure you do one thing you love for yourself on most days (it doesn't have to take long!).

My goal for this week is No. 5 from Dr. Servan-Schreiber’s list: Learn a basic breathing relaxation technique to let out some steam whenever you start to feel stressed. I actually bought an Andrew Weil breathing technique CD a few years ago, and although enjoyed using it for a few weeks, life got in the way and it was put aside. I think it's time to dust if off. Now all I have to do is find it and start breathing.

And building on Clean Eating magazine’s list of "How to Eat and Live Clean," I am sharing another one of the mag’s 13 suggestions. This week: Reduce your carbon footprint. Clean Eating suggests eating produce that is seasonal and local, since it is less taxing on your wallet and on the environment.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

First the food!

2. Mix and match your vegetables: Vary the vegetables you eat from one meal to the next, or mix them together -- broccoli is an effective anticancer food, and is even more effective when combined with tomato sauce, onions or garlic. Get in the habit of adding onions, garlic or leeks to all your dishes as you cook.

3. Go organic: Choose organic foods whenever possible, but remember it's always better to eat broccoli that's been exposed to pesticide than to not eat broccoli at all (the same applies to any other anticancer vegetable).

4. Spice it up: Add turmeric (with black pepper) when cooking (delicious in salad dressings!). This yellow spice is the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory agent. Remember to add Mediterranean herbs to your food: thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, mint, etc. They don't just add flavor, they can also help reduce the growth of cancer cells.

5. Skip the potato: Potatoes raise blood sugar, which can feed inflammation and cancer growth. They also contain high levels of pesticide residue (to the point that most potato farmers I know don't eat their own grown potatoes).

6. Go fish: Eat fish two or three times a week -- sardines, mackerel, and anchovies have less mercury and PCBs than bigger fish like tuna. Avoid swordfish and shark, which the FDA says pregnant women should not eat because they contain a high concentration of contaminants.

7. Remember not all eggs are created equal: Choose only omega-3 eggs, or don't eat the yolks. Hens are now fed on mostly corn and soybeans, and their eggs contain 20 times more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids than cell-growth regulating omega-3s.

8. Change your oil: Use only olive and canola oil in cooking and salad dressings. Go through your kitchen cabinets and throw out your soybean, corn and sunflower oils. (And no, you can't give them to your neighbors or your relatives. They're much too rich in omega-6 fatty acids!)

9. Say "Brown is beautiful": Eat your grains whole and mixed (wheat with oats, barley, spelt, flax, etc.) and favor organic whole grains when possible since pesticides tend to accumulate on whole grains. Avoid refined, white flour (used in bagels, muffins, sandwich bread, buns, etc.) whenever possible, and eat white pasta only al dente.

10. Keep sweets down to fruits:
Cut down on sugar by avoiding sweetened sodas and fruit juices, and skipping dessert or replacing it with fruit (especially stone fruits and berries) after most meals. Read the labels carefully, and steer clear of products that list any type of sugar (including brown sugar, corn syrup, etc.) in the first three ingredients. If you have an incorrigible sweet tooth, try a few squares of dark chocolate containing more than 70% cocoa.

11. Go green: Instead of coffee or black tea, drink three cups of green tea per day. Use decaffeinated green tea if it gets you too wired. Regular consumption of green tea has been linked to a significant reduction in the risk for developing cancer.

12. Make room for exceptions. What matters is what you do on a daily basis, not the occasional treat.

How much do you love No. 12? Even the good doctor recognizes we are not meant to be perfect.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pick of the Week: Capers

True aficionados of capers pass over those cured in vinegar, instead reaching for capers cured in sea salt. I admit to being a food snob about many products, and yes, I like those cured in salt better, but I'll take ones packed in vinegar any day over not enjoying capers.

I love them all, these tiny flavor packed jewels, that are ancient enough to be mentioned in the Bible. Capers are the immature buds of a small perennial bush that grows wild in the Mediterranean and Middle East. From what I have read -- never experienced -- the buds are not especially flavorful, but sun dry and pack them in vinegar or salt, and they come to life. Either method requires rinsing under cold water to remove some of the salty taste. The flavor is intense, so only a few added to a recipe works wonders.

A few years ago, I went on a tour of The Bronx's Little Italy, Arthur Avenue, with Wilton, CT, cooking school teacher Sally Maraventano. (By the way, if you have never been on one of Sally's tours, do yourself a favor and book one. Her next one is scheduled for Wednesday, March 24, and although the cost may seem steep -- $150 -- it includes a 3-course wonderful lunch, and is worth every cent. Check it out at her cooking school, Cucina Casalinga's Web site, It's a day you won't long forget.)

But I digress. On that tour, Sally introduced us to caper berries, capers past the immature bud stage. They are much larger and less salty than the caper berries, and I love tossing them into salads or simply eating as is from the jar.

In recipes: Capers must be rinsed. For vinegar cured capers, place in strainer and rinse under cold, running water. For salt cured, soak in water 15 to 30 minutes. Any longer will make the caper mushy. Once soaked, rinse in strainer and use.

The following recipe for a caper paste is from "Red, White & Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables," by Faith Willinger, and is wonderful spread on bread, thinned down with a bit of olive oil on grilled fish, or added to tomato sauce for that WOW factor.

1/2 cup capers
3 cups water (optional for vinegar-brined capers)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for packing
2 tsp. dried Sicilian oregano
  • Soak salt-packed capers for 30 minutes in the 3 cups water, drain, and pat dry with paper towels. Or, rinse brine-packed capers and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Process the capers with the remaining ingredients to make a fine-textured paste. Pack into a jar and cover the caper paste with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil. Store in the refrigerator, where it will keep forever. Makes 1 cup.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fat Belly!

Walk into any bookstore today, and the words "Flat Belly" will be staring you in the face. But when I look at the word "flat," my eyes drop the "l" and all I see is "FAT." And since I have one big FAT BELLY, I take this assault personally.

And I should.

Research shows that those of us with fat bellies are prone to diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. I'm just praying it is not too late to do anything about mine.

I have never had a waistline. Even when skinny -- and there have been a few times in my life I fit this category -- I was not curvy, but more up and down. In fact, before the days when the PC police ruled all, I had a city editor who told me I had an ass like a man. (Barry, you out there? It's my blog, it's payback time, and sometimes life is sweet.)

Yesterday, Jack and I went to Borders, and I finally gave in and bought a copy of the "Flat Belly Diet!" by Liz Vaccariello and Cynthia Sass. I was actually looking for Jorge Cruise's version, but Borders did not have it. My buying the book now is interesting since last week I joined Weight Watchers, to put all of my wellness coach, Heather's Pierce's advice, into the context of portion control.

Practical Jack asked me why I would be buying another diet book, and my answer was simple: I want to start finding out about the foods that researchers think make us hold onto mid-body flab. This is a matter of life and death. Mine.

Like every other diet book I ever buy, it's the recipes that have to win me over or I know my relationship with that diet will be short lived. The recipes in the "Flat Belly Diet!" are terrific, and I am a pushover when it comes to new recipes.

My plan is simple: Avoid the foods that cause flat to go fat, eat within the Weight Watchers POINTS plan, and see Heather for support. behavior modification, and gentle reminders of the foods I should be eating and those to avoid. It's my three-pronged attack, and if this doesn't work, I've failed. And for those of you who know me, a failure is something I never want to be.

This is one recipe from the "Flat Belly Diet!" -- actually the first one I saw when I opened the book. Since I am having a love affair with scallops right now, I thought someone was sending me a message. As for the Bok Choy -- it was the present Heather Pierce gave me at our first session. Memories!

2 bags chai tea
2-4 heads baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise or halved if small (about 3/4 pounds)
1 Tblsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 lb. sea scallops, halved horizontally
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup cashews
1 lime, cut into quarters
  • Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil. Remove from the heat and steep the tea bags for 3 minutes. Remove and discard the tea bags. Reserve the brewed tea.
  • Sprinkle the bok choy with ginger. Steam over rapidly boiling water in a covered steamer for about 8 minutes, or until bright green and easily pierced with the tip of a knife.
  • Pat the scallops dry and sprinkle with salt. Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallops in a single layer. (Work in batches if necessary.) Cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until opaque. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the tea and coconut milk to the skillet. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, swirling the pan and allowing the sauce to thicken. Divide the sauce evenly among 4 shallow bowls. Top with the bok choy, scallops, and cashews, and serve with the lime wedges.
  • Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 250 calories, 23g protein, 12g carbohydrates, 13g fat, 2.9g saturated fat; 37mg sodium; 1g fiber. Make it a flat belly meal: serve with 1/2 cup steamed brown rice (109 calories) and 1 cup grapes (60 calories), which would make the total meal 419 calories. (The premise of this diet is to eat four 400-calorie meals a day.?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Meatless Monday

The idea of eating meatless at least one day of week is appealing, It fits in with my never-ending quest to eat healthier, in addition to expanding my recipe files.

Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative operating in association with Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. The goal: To help reduce meat consumption 15 percent to improve not only personal health, but the health of our planet. Sounds like a good goal to me!

You can check it out at What I love most about the Web site is the recipe section, so when I am stumped for a meatless meal, I know where to turn. Tonight, thanks to the this section, we are eating Curried Lentils with Mint Rice, not only nutritious, but it all goes in the slow cooker. Right before serving, I'll have to make some brown rice, but that's second nature in this family.What makes it even better is that all the ingredients are in my pantry.

2 cups lentils
8-10 cups low sodium vegetable stock
2 Tblsp. curry powder
1 tsp. chili flakes
1 tsp. fresh ginger, chopped
2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups baby carrots or 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
6 small potatoes, quartered
Salt and pepper to taste
Mint Rice:
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 Tblsp. olive oil
2 Tblsp. fresh mint, chopped, plus extra for garnishing

  • Place lentils, stock, curry powder, chili flakes, ginger, onion, garlic, carrots and potatoes in a slow cooker.
  • Cook for 4 to 6 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low, or until lentils are cooked and carrots and potatoes are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • For mint rice: In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups water, olive oil and rice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer about 35-40 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
  • Remove saucepan from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes, covered. Toss rice with mint.
  • Spoon some of the mint rice onto a plate and top with lentils. Garnish with mint on top. Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 538 calories; 5g fat; no cholesterol; 57mg sodium; 27g fiber; 7g sugar.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I made it through another week, and what a week it has been!

My goal for last week was to drink more water, and I certainly accomplished that. I also took the advice of my wellness coach Heather Pierce, and added peppermint oil to my water. Wow! An explosion of taste with every sip, even better than flavored seltzer and so much less expensive. I am headed back to Whole Foods this week to see what other natural extracts might be just as appealing. So thank you Heather for yet another terrific suggestion.

I wrote last week that every Friday I will share another of the 13 suggestions Clean Living magazine makes for eating and living clean. Last week, it was to drink at least two liters of water a day. Done!

This week, I'm getting label savvy. Clean foods contain just one or two ingredients. Any product with a long ingredient list is human-made and not considered clean.

Perfect timing, since today I hit the market. Now all I have to do is remember to bring my glasses!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This week

I cannot wait for this week to be over. It hasn't been the worst week in my life, but if I wanted to rank it, it would be right up there. And tomorrow is our anniversary, and I have no desire to go out to dinner. Instead, I've been scouring my cookbooks looking for a dinner that will be festive, delicious -- and most importantly -- heart healthy.

Last night, I paid a visit to my basement stash of cookbooks, trying to separate the fat-laden books from the good-for-you ones, and came across some old favorites that I haven't seen since we made the move from Fairfield to Trumbull six years ago. Before I began my search, I knew one side dish would be a melange of roasted seasonal vegetables, which ones determined when I hit the market tomorrow. Brown rice -- one of Jack's favorite things to eat -- would also be on the plate. It was the main event that had me stumped.

Until I found Time Life's "Italian Cooking," one of the books in it's "Great Taste-Low Fat" series. The recipe is for rolled stuffed sole that sit on a bed of tomatoes. Tomatoes in February? Not a chance. Instead, our sole will sit on a bed of a roasted red peppers.

1/3 cup plus 1 Tblsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured olives, pitted, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tblsp. plain dried bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
4 sole or flounder fillets, any visible bones removed (about 1 1/2 lbs. total)
8 thick slices tomato
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. paprika
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a small bowl. combine the 1/3 cup parsley, olives, garlic, bread crumbs, lemon zest, lemon juice and oregano.
  • Lay the fillets, flat skinned-sides down. Spoon the parsley mixture over the fillets and, starting form a short side, roll up each fillet.
  • Lay the tomato slices in a 9-inch square baking dish, slightly overlapping them. Sprinkle with the salt. Place the fillets, seam-sides down, on top of the tomatoes. Drizzle the fish rolls with the oil and sprinkle with the paprika. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until the fish is just opaque in the center.
  • Divide the tomatoes among 4 plates. Top the tomatoes with the fish rolls, spoon the pan juices over the fish, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley, and serve. Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 249 calories, 8g fat, 10g carbohydrates, 34g protein, 82mg cholesterol, 513mg sodium.
  • Lightly spray baking sheet with olive oil.
  • Cut roasted red peppers in half, remove seeds and core, and place on baking sheet, skin side up. Place under broiler and broil until charred all over.
  • Carefully remove peppers from pan and place in a bowl, skin-side up. Be sure to include any of the juices that might have accumulated in the pan. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
  • Keep in bowl until peppers are cool enough to handle. Then remove skins. I make a bunch of peppers once a week, and then use them on sandwiches and in salads throughout the week.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pick of the Week: Quinoa

Today, it's all about one of my favorite grains, an ancient one that works so well in today's modern kitchens. It has what to me is the triangle of appeal: It cooks fast, is extremely nutritious, and it's yummy. What more could you ask from a food?

Quinoa -- say ke no uh -- is a perfect protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids, which are critical to life and a properly functioning metabolism. It is especially high in the amino acid lysine, essential for tissue growth and repair.

Still not convinced? Quinoa is a great source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels. Studies have shown the mineral can help migraine suffers, preventing the constriction and rebound dilation of migraines. In addition, low levels of magnesium have been associated with increased hypertension and heart disease.

And although it is considered a whole grain, it is actually a member of the leafy green family. So if you can't get your loved one to eat their spinach, pass the quinoa instead.

This recipe I clipped years ago from Prevention Healthy Cooking, terrific as a side dish, with enough protein to stand on its own when you’re looking for a meatless meal.


3 Tblsp. chopped pecans

2/3 cup quinoa

2/3 cup orange juice

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup dried apricots

¼ cup golden raisins (I recently have been using dried cranberries)

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 Tblsp. chopped fresh cilantro

1 Tblsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. olive oil

½ tsp. salt

  • In small nonstick skillet, toast pecans over medium heat, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly toasted. Tip onto a plate; let cool.
  • Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer; rinse under cold running water 2 minutes.
  • In medium saucepan, stir together quinoa, orange juice and water. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl. Add apricots, raisins, scallions, cilantro and toasted pecans. Stir in lemon juice, oil and salt.
  • Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 240 calories 240; 7g fat; no cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 5g protein.

The following recipes I used years ago in The Advocate/Greenwich Time, and both have become like old friends, perfect to reach for when I want something really healthy. And since both can be served at room temperature, double or triple the amount for a party. I make both a lot during Lent, which might help Terri Vanech with yesterday’s request for meatless recipes for Lent.


1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 14-oz. can black beans, rinsed, drained

1 cup frozen corn kernels (I love Trader Joe’s roasted corn)

4 scallions, chopped

½ cup salsa of your choice (Huskie medium hot rules!)

Juice and zest from 1 lime

2 Tblsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. oregano

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. chipotle chili powder

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer; rinse under cold running water 2 minutes. Place in boiling salted water about 15 to 20 minutes. Place in large bowl.
  • Add beans, corn, scallions and salsa
  • Place lime juice and zest in a small bowl. Whisk in oil. Then whisk in remaining ingredients, except cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Add dressing to quinoa. Gently add cilantro. Quinoa can be served warm, or bring to room temperature.
  • Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 223 calories, 7 g fat, no cholesterol, 38 g carbohydrates, 8g fiber, 530 mg sodium, 8g protein.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

2 14-oz. cans cannellini beans

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

3 Tblsp. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

4 large cloves garlic, minced

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

½ tsp. salt

Pepper to taste

  • Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer; rinse under cold running water 2 minutes. Place in boiling salted water about 15 to 20 minutes. Place in large bowl. Add cannellini beans.
  • Place balsamic in small bowl. Whisk in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Add dressing to quinoa and beans. Quinoa can be served warm, or bring to room temperature.
  • Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 380 calories, 7g fat, 47g carbohydrates, 155mg sodium, 10g fiber, 16 g protein.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Recipe Exchange

Recipe Exchange was a column I wrote for more than two decades. It was a way for me to connect weekly with the readers of The Advocate and Greenwich Time in Fairfield County, CT, a wonderful way to share what so many of us cherish: Our favorite recipes.

So from time to time, when I have a request or a recipe to post from a reader of Diet? Not again!, Recipe Exchange will make a comeback. Today is such a day.

  • The first request comes from a dear friend, who edited Recipe Exchange -- and everything else that came out of the features department, Terri Vanech. Terri and her family will be abstaining from meat for all of Lent, and writes: "I need some meatless meal ideas beyond mac and cheese and spinach and rice." And I thought I had a problem with abstaining only on Fridays!
  • The next request is from my lovely daughter-in-law, Kim Foster. She so disagreed with yesterday's posting about soy, because she really loves tofu. But even Kim admits that besides edamame, her favorite soy is fried. What Kim needs are some tofu recipes that taste terrific, are baked, but have the consistency of fried. Now that's a challenge!
A few days ago, "Admirality" posted a recipe, which I decided to repost because it made me do some homework. Years ago, I "translated" English cookbooks into ones an American audience could understand, and what I thought was going to be an easy project was anything but. When I saw the term "punnet" used in this recipe, I knew Admirality is probably from the British Isles, Australia or New Zealand. Am I correct? There was also an ingredient I had never heard of before -- Camu Camu from Madre Labs -- and it turns out it is a super form of Vitamin C, and something I might actually order after I delve a little deeper.

About this recipe, Admirality writes: " I do what I can to keep my diet simple, but when I start making smoothies it usually ends up with about ten ingredients, though the one I had this morning was fairly simple and tasted delicious."


1 punnet (basket) cherries (I would add cherries to taste)
2 Tblsp. organic freeze-dried
acai powder
1 Tblsp. raw honey
10 cashews
1 tsp. M
adre Labs camu blend
1 Tblsp. bee pollen
Water for desired consistency!

  • Admirality's directions: I like mine thick and creamy so it gets as little water as possible. This tastes amazing and would be even better with raw cacao liquor or powder. I also recommend raw honey -- if up until now you have deprived your poor taste buds thereof!! I get it from -- and the rest I get from


Last week my friend, Ronnie Fein, posted a comment about her dislike of soy. Ronnie wrote that she is always trying to shed a few pounds and eat healthy, that she is in the food "biz" (an understatement from this very prolific cookbook author and food writer), and that she knows a lot about ingredients, another understatement.

And she wants me to help her get over balking about any recipe that has the word soy in it? Ronnie thinks all soy is, and I quote: "some kind of white shaky thing that reminds me of junket."

The problem is, I'm not the one to convince Ronnie. Years ago, I got on the soy bandwagon, and even went as far as making tofu chili for my family. I tried passing off the white chunks as cheese, but not one of them bought it. The chili went in the garbage. It was actually quite tasty, but even for me, it was the consistency of the tofu that turned me off. I also question why I would eat something with no taste, something that takes on the flavors of the other ingredients you pare with it. But I tried and tried because I thought it was so healthy for me, something I should be eating.

Fast forward a few years, and we begin to discover the downside to soy. It is not easy to digest, which is actually interesting since it is found in so many baby formulas. Today, I turn to "Integrative Nutrition," in which Joshua Rosenthal sums up what I have been reading in dribbles about soy the past few years. Here are some of Rosenthal's tidbits:
  • Because of soy's natural occurring isoflavones, soy can suppress thyroid function.
  • Soy products can cause allergic reactions and digestive upset because most soy products are highly processed.
  • Some research shows that genistein, a chemical found in soy, can potentially damage fertility, especially in men.
  • Soy isoflavones can also increase estrogen, and some researchers claim that eating soy during menopause can cause some negative symptoms.
  • Some research links increased estrogen levels with a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • This is my favorite: In Zen monasteries, men eat tofu to help reduce their sex drive so they can live celibate lives.
Rosenthal suggests adding it to your diet in moderation, but when you do, to listen to your body. I have included a recipe from his book for tofu, because I have to admit that I did make this a few weeks ago and thought it was terrific. Jack was away, because he will never let the stuff pass his lips, so I avoid making tofu when he is around. Except for edamame, which everyone in my family -- even Jack -- likes. Edamame, young whole soybeans, are harvested at the peak of ripening. We eat them as a snack. (Alton Brown's recipe below includes an easy way to fix edamame.) To eat, you run the pod through your lightly closed front teeth, sucking out the pod. A half cup of edamame has 100 calories, 3g fat (no saturated), 260mg sodium, 4g fiber, and a whopping 8g protein.

What follows are two recipes, the first from Rosenthal, the second from Brown, found at What bothers me about this post is I'm not sure I convinced anyone to give either a try! We are so fortunate to have a wealth of ingredients at hand, to make wonderful meals. Why force it just because you think you should. So Ronnie, that's my advice to you!

1 block firm tofu
2 to 3 Tblsp. olive oil
2 Tblsp. sesame oil
1 Tblsp. ginger juice (directions follow)
1/2 Tblsp. tamari soy sauce
1.2 cup brown rice vinegar
1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves shredded garlic
  • Drain liquid from tofu
  • Press excess water from tofu by placing it in a strainer over a bowl.
  • Cover tofu with a plate and place a heavy object on top, pressing the tofu. Leave for 1 hour.
  • Make ginger juice: Grate about 2 inches of ginger into a piece of cheesecloth or dishtowel. Then wrap the cloth or towel around the ginger and squeeze into a bowl, and you'll get the juice.
  • Cut tofu into 1-inch squares after draining.
  • Set tofu aside and prepare marinade by mixing all ingredients.
  • Marinate tofu for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  • Heat oil and sesame oil in skillet.
  • Add tofu and quick stir-fry until tofu become golden brown.


12 oz. shelled, cooked, and cooled edamame, about 2 cups, recipe follows
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
1 large garlic clove, sliced
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 Tblsp. brown miso
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. red chili paste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
5 Tblsp. olive oil

  • Place the edamame, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, miso, salt, chili paste and pepper into the bowl of a food processor and process for 15 seconds. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl and process for another 15 to 20 seconds.
  • With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
  • Once all of the oil has been added, stop, scrape down the bowl and then process another 5 to 10 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning, as desired. Serve with chips or crackers. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes 2 cups.


1 lb edamame, fresh or frozen, in or out of shell

1/4 cup water

Kosher salt, optional

  • Place the edamame and water into a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 4 to 6 minutes. Drain any excess water and serve as is or salted. Makes 4 servings.