Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuna and Pepper Stew -- a real winner

Here is a lovely recipe from the Health pages of the New York Times earlier this week The author suggests using albacore tuna, which you can get frozen at Trader Joe's. Just thaw the tuna a bit in advance and this will be an easy fix. You also could omit the anchovy if that ingredient bothers you -- I personally think it adds a depth of flavor that you can't get anywhere else, but this stew will be yummy either way.

Recipe: Tuna and Pepper Stew

This recipe is loosely based on a Basque tuna soup called marmitako, a fisherman’s dish with simple origins. It was originally made with bread and tuna, but in later years was greatly enhanced with the arrival of peppers, tomatoes and potatoes from the New World. Every cook has a version of this dish, and I am no exception. Fresh albacore tuna from North America are often lower in environmental contaminants than other types of tuna and the most eco-friendly choice.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 to 6 garlic cloves (to taste), minced

2 anchovy fillets, rinsed

4 large green bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped, or use a combination of green bell peppers and red bell peppers

1 teaspoon medium-hot chili powder

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes with juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound red potatoes, diced

1 quart water

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or a pinch of cayenne

1 1/2 pounds albacore steaks (preferably from domestic or Canadian fisheries), skin and blood lines removed, cut in 3/4 inch cubes

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1. Heat the oil in a large, wide-lidded pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, and cook the onions until they begin to soften, about three minutes. Add the garlic and the anchovy fillets, and stir together for about a minute until fragrant, breaking and mashing the anchovy fillets with your spoon. Add the bell peppers, and cook, stirring, for about five minutes until the peppers have softened. Stir in chili powder, paprika, red pepper flakes or cayenne, and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook slowly, stirring every five to 10 minutes for 30 minutes.

2. Add the potatoes, water, wine and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the mixture is fragrant. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Add the tuna and parsley, and simmer for five to eight minutes until the tuna is just cooked through but still moist. Taste, adjust seasonings and serve.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: You can make the stew through Step 2 up to three days ahead, and keep it in the refrigerator. Bring back to a simmer, and proceed with Step 3. The finished soup can stand off the heat for two or three hours before serving. Bring back to a gentle simmer before serving.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Linguine with artichokes, shallots and pancetta

I adapted this pasta entree from the cover recipe of April's Food and Wine. Instead of using fresh artichokes, I went with frozen artichoke hearts for convenience, and I substituted my favorite shallots for ordinary onion.

It was easy to make, and we loved the flavors. Feel free to double the recipe for your family. We drank a California chardonnay with it, but a light Tuscan red is what the magazine suggests as wine accompaniment.

Recipe: Linguine with Artichokes, Shallots and Pancetta
(Serves 2)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces chopped pancetta
1 large shallot, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 12-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, slightly thawed (leaving in the fridge for a couple of hours before you prepare the dish is sufficient)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces whole-wheat linguine or spaghetti
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more at table

1. Heat olive oil over moderate heat in a large skillet. Add pancetta, shallot and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes until vegetables are tender.
2. Slice semi-frozen artichoke hearts lengthwise into 1/3-inch pieces and add to skillet. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for a few minutes (about 5-8). Add lemon juice and wine, cover again and simmer.
3. Meanwhile, cook the linguine according to package directions, drain and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.
4. Add pasta to the skillet with the artichokes, season with salt and pepper, and stir 1/2 cup of cheese. Serve with extra cheese, if desired.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dietary tips for preventing breast cancer

Dr. Andrew Weil writes interesting books on healthy aging, alternative medicine and related topics. He also issues daily tips via an email list. Here's today's email about a few things that women should include in their diets to help ward off breast cancer.

"Diet and nutrition can play a significant role in the chances of developing breast cancer, especially if you have a family history of the disease. The following foods may help to prevent or lessen the risks:

  1. Use healthy fats: monounsaturates such as extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground flaxseed and oily fish such as wild Alaskan salmon and sardines (which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids) may help reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
  2. Include whole soy products in your diet. Soy foods contain many cancer-protective substances, including isoflavones. Try to eat one to two servings of whole soy-based foods a day.
  3. Eat more fruits and vegetables! Especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, bok choy, and cauliflower, which contain many different cancer-protective phytonutrients. "

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Organic (farmed) salmon: Friend or Foe?

We love salmon and would like to eat it at least a couple of times a month. Trouble is, fresh wild salmon is only available for a few months of the year, and it's very expensive.
You can buy frozen wild salmon, but I have had no luck with it--I just can't seem to make it taste good no matter what cooking method I use.
Meanwhile, farmed salmon has gotten a lot of very bad press for high PCB levels, crowding wild salmon out of the market, and other criticisms.
For a few dollars more a pound, you can buy "organic" farmed salmon year-round. Is it any better for us than the regular farmed stuff?
Frankly, I haven't been able to find any reliable information about organic farmed salmon, and that's a red flag.
Bottom line advice for the healthy foodie now seems to be that we should minimize consumption of any farmed salmon, even if it's labeled "organic."

The photo shows an organic salmon dish I made with fennel, red pepper, capers, and shallots for a simple sauce. It was tasty, of course, but alas, this should be as infrequent a dinner entree as rib-eye steak!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ways to control appetite (& weight) -- from Berkeley Wellness Letter

Here are some useful tips about keeping off the pounds. Have tips like this sent to your in-box by signing up for Berkeley Wellness Alerts.

If you’re trying to lose weight and calorie counting hasn’t worked, making changes in your environment and behavior may help keep your appetite in check. Here’s a look at what drives overeating and how you can gain control.

The volume of a meal. We tend to eat about the same amount of food regardless of its calories. Thus, many weight-loss plans stress foods that have a lot of volume relative to their calories (that is, bulky foods with more water and fiber and less fat, such as fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, and cooked whole grains), in place of low-volume, calorie-dense foods (such as cheese and crackers).

Specific food components. There’s some evidence that, for many people, foods high in protein increase satiety more than high-carb foods. For example, an egg breakfast may keep you full longer than a bagel breakfast.

Palatability. Most people find foods high in fat and sugar more pleasurable. It’s theorized that sugar and fat activate the brain’s “reward system” and blunt the body’s normal response to satiety signals, thus making it easier to overeat.

Portion size and visual cues. Many people eat to “clean their plates,” relying on visual cues rather than hunger to tell them when they are done. In a “bottomless bowl” experiment, people who ate from soup bowls that automatically refilled (without them realizing it) consumed 73% more soup.

Distraction. Eating while watching TV, working, or engaging in other tasks can make you eat more. When distracted, you 
are more likely to use visual cues rather than hunger/satiety signals to tell you when to stop eating.

Variety. The greater the variety of foods, the more people tend to eat. Eating the same food dulls the palate, and you become satiated sooner. Introduce a food with different sensory qualities, however, and appetite returns, which may be why there’s often “room for dessert.”

Emotions and social circumstances. People often eat for reasons other than hunger—when they are stressed, depressed, angry, lonely, even happy and excited. And they often eat because of social pressures, such as at parties, or simply because it is mealtime.

Putting it into practice

Use small plates, bowls, and cups; buy single-serving snacks, or portion out servings in small bowls or plastic bags; avoid all-you-can-eat buffets; and don’t eat in front of the TV or computer, or while reading or driving. Perhaps most important, practice mindful eating. This includes eating slowly, taking pleasure from each bite, and being aware of your surroundings—and eating only when you are hungry.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lunch @ the Palace

My husband, George, and I are at the end of our "spring break" week between winter and spring quarters at the University of Cincinnati, where we are both profs.
To celebrate, we gussied up a bit and went downtown to the Palace Restaurant at the Cincinnatian Hotel.
Maitre d' John McLean welcomed us to the recently updated dining room.
There's a prix-fixe lunch option at this upscale restaurant--$20 for either appetizer and entree or for entree and dessert. Given the high quality of the ingredients, ambiance, service and food prep, that is a great deal.
George chose appetizer/entree--pictured, his tangy/sweet citrus salad appetizer and perfecto fish tacos, a chef's special. I went with appetizer/dessert because I didn't want to miss trying something from acclaimed pastry chef, Summer Genetti.
My lunch was less healthy than my husband's, but quite a treat in lieu of an actual spring break vacation this year. (I had skirt steak, roasted potatoes and broccolini, followed by Summer's intense and sinful chocolate pot de creme.)
We fully intend to return for a leisurely dinner before spring is over -- Summer says they are ready to roll out their spring menu within days.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Watch this TV show

You may have seen the ads on ABC-TV for the new series "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." Last Sunday they ran a preview of the series, which starts for real on Friday 3/26 at 8 PM on ABC.

I watched the preview and found it intriguing, impressive -- and daunting. He is spending time in Huntington, WV, a city with extremely high rates of obesity, diabetes, and early deaths caused by heart disease and stroke, and linked to horribly poor dietary habits and inactivity. Oliver is on a crusade to turn this town around. If you watch the show, you get a real sense of what he (and a lot of other good-intentioned people) is/are up against.

As you probably know, Michele Obama is leading an effort to reduce childhood obesity in our nation, a cause that goes hand in glove with Oliver's.

If you go to the link above to Oliver's website, you can find out more about how to join this effort.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Healthy Foodie Rule #8: Monitor your health

Even if you follow all the best health habits to the letter, you can't control every variable. Genetics (family health history) plays a huge part in our fate, and those factors are totally out of our control.

Therefore, be sure to get regular checkups and all recommended screening tests for your age and gender. Pay attention to your body and don't ignore feelings that you know in your gut aren't right.

I have personal experience to attest that even healthy foodies can have life-threatening health challenges well before old age. It's not something I want to share in detail on my blog, but suffice to say that we should never take our good health for granted.

Healthy Foodie Rules (recap)--scroll down for these postings:
1. No supermarket or fast-food meat
2. Minimize liquid calories

3. Cook your food
4. Eat 9 servings of fruits and veggies daily
5. Exercise 45-60 minutes each day

6. Eat good fats
7. Snack smart
8. Monitor your health

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Arugula, tomato and watermelon salad

As odd as it may seem, I made this summer salad in March. Of course, it will be better when the ingredients are locally grown and farm fresh, but I was able to find good tomatoes (try Whole Foods), watermelon chunks and nice arugula (also Whole Foods or Trader Joe's).

Here's how you put it together for two people -- and double it if you want.

Recipe: Arugula, Tomato and Watermelon Salad
Two small or one medium tomatoes, diced, lightly salted (optional on the salt)
1 cup watermelon, cut into bite-size pieces
4 cups arugula (may substitute spinach or another lettuce)
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 T goat cheese or blue cheese crumbles
2 T chopped pecans

Toss the tomatoes and watermelon lightly with the greens.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and pepper.
Toss lightly with the salad.
Top with cheese and pecans, and serve.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wine winnings

Here are the delightful French wines I came home with after scoring a winning bid at the Cincinnati International Wine Festival silent auction last weekend.

It's just shy of a case--10 wines, 4 reds & 6 whites. Three of the reds were rated 90 or 91 by the Wine Spectator, and the best whites include a lovely Sancerre, a Graves (white Bordeaux) and a Macon (white Burgundy).

To me, the silent auction is the best thing about the wine festival. Sure, it's fun to try a lot of wine at all the booths, meet new people and run into friends, but that's all so transitory compared to acquiring wines I'd never have picked off the shelf at a store.

We went to the Grand Tastings both Friday and Saturday night. On Friday, I failed to win any wine, so by Saturday night I was determined to nab something.

These wines turned out to be a value--only three others bid on them all night. I think people may know less about French wines than all the California stuff in the auction. My friend had a similar experience when she placed the winning bid on a mixed case of Spanish wines.

The 10 French wines had a retail value of $175, and my bid was $125. I checked all the wines online and found that $175 was a correct retail estimate. When you add sales tax, it would be over $190 to buy these wines in a store.

What fun!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Bonbonerie Cafe

What used to be the Cafe on Madison Road has been reborn as a restaurant outpost of Cincinnati's great Bonbonerie Bakery. The previous incarnation was all about the coffee and a place to hang out with your laptop--the food was adequate but almost an afterthought.

Now it's tea-licious (great for a tea lover such as yours truly) and pretty darn serious about the food. They're not trying to do a lot of different things, but it seems that they're starting off by doing a few things rather well.

Bonbonerie Cafe has a few breakfast items until 11 am (until 2 pm on Sunday) -- quiche, crepes and a breakfast burrito, mostly.

Lunch choices are only somewhat more extensive, but the high quality of all the offerings I saw makes it hard enough to decide what to eat.

Everything looked lovely. In the photograph is my friend's asparagus quiche with a side salad. A couple of tea cookies come with all the lunches.

I'm writing an article about the cafe for the Enquirer's "Under $25" Weekend Section column, so be on the lookout for the details in a week or so.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Broiled fish and corn succotash

Here's a simple dinner combo that is beautiful to look at and delicious to consume -- and packed with healthful ingredients.

Broiled red snapper
(any white, flaky fish could substitute): Brush a one-pound filet of fish lightly with with olive oil; season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Broil in a preheated overn with skin side down for 8-10 minutes--monitor carefully and do not overcook! Remove fish to a platter than has been lined with freshly picked herbs or lettuces--I used arugula, basil and parsley. Sprinkle with chopped almonds (or other nuts) mixed with chopped parsley and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Corn and broccoli succotash (can be made in advance and reheated): Saute one diced red or green bell pepper and two minced cloves of garlic in 2 T canola or olive oil over medium-high heat until the pepper is soft, stirring constantly so the garlic does not burn. Add 2 cups of steamed broccoli florets that have been cut into bite-size pieces and kernels from 2-3 ears of fresh corn. Reduce heat to medium and stir until heated through, adding salt, pepper and fresh or dried thyme and a little water (2-3 T), if needed. Serve immediately.

The extra plate in the photo shows sliced tomatoes.

Another serving idea: crusty whole grain bread with olive oil, and a crisp white wine.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Healthy Foodie Rule #7: Snack Smart

I don't skip meals, and I don't skips snacks, either.
While not all nutritionists agree about the wisdom of snacking, I find it helps me keep from eating too much at mealtime.
The key, of course, is to choose your snacks wisely. Having healthful snacks at hand makes it far less likely you'll grab a coworker's cookies or hit the vending machines.
As I've posted here in the past, my top snack strategy is to make several days' worth of raw veggie and fruit snacks, put them in single serving zip-lock plastic bags and grab one when needed.
My baggies usually include slices of orange bell pepper, crispy-sweet sugar snap peas, and apple slices. As summer approaches and apples become mealy, I'll find a substitute fruit.

What else to snack?
I'm a huge fan of Trader Joe's peanut butter pretzels, the variety with "no salt on the pretzel." You still get salt in the PB itself, so you won't feel deprived of a salty snack. At the same time, you won't be overdoing the sodium.
In the evenings I want something sweet, so I might go for a few squares of dark chocolate -- a favorite "everyday" chocolate is Lindt's Intense Orange. Stopping at 3-4 squares can be a challenge, though, so don't go there if your tendency is to eat the whole bar.

Otherwise, I like the single serving puddings you can find in the dairy case--Kozy Shack rice pudding or chocolate pudding are both quite good. And no temptation to eat too much, since it's portion controlled.

Other recommended snacks -- choose the ones you like best -- include a container of low-fat or fat-free, no sugar added yogurt; a handful of no-salt-added nuts; a small bowl of cereal with skim milk; crackers with a smear of crunchy, natural peanut butter.

Smart snacking can help keep your blood sugar level, your energy on an even keel, and minimize the danger of falling off the healthy foodie wagon!

Healthy Foodie Rules so far:
1. No supermarket or fast food meats

2. Minimize liquid calories

3. Cook your food

4. Eat 9 servings of veggies and fruits daily
5. Exercise 45-60 minutes a day, minimum
6. Eat good fats

7. Snack smart

Friday, March 12, 2010

Avocado and papaya salad

Thank goodness, we can start to believe that winter is behind us.
As soon as the ice melts, I start wanting more salads. This one began with a ripe avocado and a sweet papaya -- both tropical fruits at the peak of their season now.
For dressing, I went ultra-simple--lime, olive oil and light seasonings.

Recipe: Avocado and Papaya Salad
(Serves 4)

4-5 cups greens of your choice (I used Boston lettuce)
1 ripe avocado, cut into bite-size cubes
1 medium papaya, peeled, seeded and diced
1 medium tomato, diced
2-3 T chopped olives (optional)
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large salad bowl, toss together the first five ingredients (greens through olives). Be gentle--both the avocado and the papaya are delicate fruits.
In a small bowl, whisk the lime juice and olive oil; add salt and pepper.
Poor dressing over greens, toss gently and serve.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Healthy Foodie Rule #6: Eat Good Fats

Unless a physician tells you otherwise, there's no reason to avoid all types of fat. The ones from plant sources known as monounsaturated fatty acids (abbreviated as MUFA) should be part of the healthy foodie's diet. The fat in many types of fish is also good for us.

Conversely, we should minimize or avoid "bad" fats, which include those from animal sources--found mostly in meat, poultry and dairy products--as well as the largely man-made stuff known as trans fats that extends shelf life in a range of processed foods.

This posting is about what we should be eating, and less about what to avoid, so I'll make the avoidance part brief. For packaged foods, read labels. If the ingredient list includes the words "partially hydrogenated," put the thing back on the shelf and step away! Avoid fatty cuts of meat--or avoid meat/red meat altogether; remove all skin and visible fat before you eat meat, fish or poultry; choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.

OK, enough of what not to do. Here are some of the fats we CAN and SHOULD eat. Of course, fat of all kind has more calories by weight than do the other food groups (proteins and carbohydrates), so if weight control is an issue, be careful not to overdo.

AVOCADO not only tastes marvelous, it also is a very healthful food.
NUTS of all kinds are loaded with MUFA and satisfy hunger longer than many other snacks; add nuts to cereal and/or salads for a MUFA boost.
OLIVE OIL as well as CANOLA OIL are great for you. The lauded Mediterranean diet is based on cooking with olive oil -- and eating it on bread (instead of butter or margarine) and salads, among other uses. Olive oil is our go-to oil for dipping and for salad dressings, while I usually cook with canola oil thanks to its higher smoke point. (It works better for stir-frying or sauteeing, I find).

Click here to read an article from the American Heart Association about the health benefits of monounsaturated fats.

Healthy Foodie Rules so far (a recap):
1. No supermarket or fast food meats

2. Minimize liquid calories
3. Cook your food

4. Eat 9 servings of fruits & (especially) veggies every day

5. Exercise 45-60 minutes daily, minimum
6. Eat good fats

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pop a cork: good news about alcohol and weight control

This is cause for celebration in my book: according to the results of a large and very well designed research study, drinking alcohol does NOT make you gain weight. Au contraire, even! This from a New York Times article earlier in the week:

"Dieters are often advised to stop drinking alcohol to avoid the extra calories lurking in a glass of wine or a favorite cocktail. But new research suggests that women who regularly consume moderate amounts of alcohol are less likely to gain weight than nondrinkers and are at lower risk for obesity.

The findings, reported this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, are based on a study of 19,220 United States women aged 39 or older who, at the start of the study, fell into the “normal weight” category based on their body mass index. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston tracked the women’s drinking habits over 13 years. About 60 percent of the women were light or regular drinkers, while about 40 percent reported drinking no alcohol."

While the non-drinkers in the study gained an average of 9 pounds over 13 years, moderate drinkers gained only 3 pounds, on average. The article goes on to explain the study in detail and offers explanations as to why this is so. Also it reports that for men, drinking alcohol does correlate with weight gain and obesity.

Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Healthy Foodie Rule #5: Exercise 45-60 minutes a day -- minimum

To stay fit and healthy while also being a committed foodie, you simply must exercise every day of your life.
Obviously, that can be a tall mountain to climb -- so to speak.
That 45-60 minute minimum refers to cardiovascular exercise, such as the clip-art photos that I've posted here.
Weather permitting, my day (and my husband's too) starts with a walk through our hilly neighborhood. Even if I don't walk especially fast, humping up our hills definitely elevates my heart rate. If your walking location is on flat terrain, you need to speed up your gait so that you are working your heart -- and burning calories.

Most exercise specialists agree that if you can't do 45-60 minutes of cardio in one time period, it's okay to spread shorter bursts throughout the day. Take a 20-30 minute walk in the morning and another on your lunch break or after work -- whatever works best in your schedule.

But cardio exercise isn't the whole story. You also need to incorporate strength training and stretching. Pilates counts as strength training, and yoga gets the stretching in, making both of those practices quite beneficial.
I belong to a gym, where I get a few group classes per week, including cardio (spinning and aerobics) and weight training (a class available in many gyms called "power" or something similar). Stretching I have to do on my own, and it's an area where I could improve.
I recently read an exercise-advice column saying that everyone should get 30 minutes of stretching per week, so I have tried to meet that goal.

Are there days when I don't get my minimum 45-60 minutes of cardio; are there weeks when I don't do enough muscle work or stretch for 30 minutes? Yes, but it's rare. Snowstorms wreak havoc, as do travel and illness. But as anyone who knows me well would agree, I find ways to exercise through almost anything -- on the road, snowed in, or fighting a cold. (Thankfully, I have not had any major illnesses or injuries to slow me down.)

I find that my health and happiness -- including managing stress -- depends on keeping up this exercise regimen. Exercise is vital.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chicken with Slow-Cooked Mushrooms

I am a huge fan of shiitake mushrooms, and marveled at the plump, meaty ones in Suzie Wong's delectable Wild Mushroom Trio entree. Unlike my usual way of slicing and quick-cooking most mushroom preparations, Wong's kitchen presented them whole.

When making this dinner with organic chicken breast and shallots, I tried keeping the mushroom pieces larger -- whole for the smaller ones, cut in half if they were larger than a couple of inches in diameter -- and turning the heat down when they entered the pan.

I liked the result.

Recipe: Chicken Breast with Slow-Cooked Mushrooms
Serves 2

2 small, organic chicken breasts, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper
2 T olive or canola oil
1/2 cup finely diced aromatic vegetables (carrots, onions, shallots or any combination)
1 cup chicken broth, divided
2 cups whole or thickly sliced shiitake mushrooms

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute chicken on one side until golden, then turn and brown on the other side. Remove to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
Reduce heat to medium. Add aromatic vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth, cover, and continue to cook until vegetables begin to tenderize, about 3-4 minutes.
Stir in mushrooms and remaining broth. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover the pan again. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Return chicken to the pan, spoon sauce and mushrooms over the chicken, and cover again. Cook until the chicken has heated through -- exact time will depend on how thick your chicken is, but it should be no more than another 5 minutes. Chicken breast can easily be overcooked, so be sure to remove the pan from the heat when the chicken feels firm to the touch but still has some "give" in it.
Adjust seasonings as needed, and serve immediately.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Healthy Foodie Rule #4: Eat nine (9) servings of fruits and (especially) vegetables every day

Nine servings, say what? If that sounds impossible, keep in mind that nutritionists' agreed-upon serving sizes are pretty small.

One serving =
1/2 cup cooked vegetables
1/2 cup whole berries, sliced strawberries or fruit salad

1 small apple (a large apple cut into slices would be 2 servings)
1/2 large banana, or one whole small banana

1 cup salad greens

1 cup raw vegetables, such as carrots, bell peppers or sliced cucumbers

Healthy foodies should eat nine (or more) servings of vegetables and fruit each day for several reasons. They are the best sources of vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, as well as excellent sources of dietary fiber. They fill up your tummy and keep you from eating empty calories full of fat and sugar.

My best advice for achieving this daily goal is to have fruit and/or veggies with every meal and most snacks.
For instance, I always have fruit with breakfast, no matter what time of year it is. Right now I'm eating half a red grapefruit most mornings along with oatmeal or cold cereal heaped with berries. Salad (with fruit on it as well as raw veggies) or vegetable soup make up lunch whenever possible. And half our dinner plates are filled with cooked vegetables every night...unless we're eating out, which is a horse of a different color, naturally. (It's very hard to eat enough vegetables when dining out, alas.)

That's probably not going to be enough fruits and veggies, so I always have cut-up veggies for a mid-morning snack and/or with my lunch, and fruit snacks at least once but more likely twice a day.

It can be done, so give it a try!

Healthy Foodie Rules so far (a recap):
1. No supermarket or fast-food meat

2. Minimize liquid calories
3. Cook your food
4. Eat 9 servings of fruits and veggies every day

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jungle Jim's -- for lunch

I hadn't been out to the amazing foodie emporium Jungle Jim's in a couple of years, but my friend from Atlanta wanted to check out the new expansion. (The latest addition is a really nice housewares department, by the way.)
We had lunch at the cafe, and were pleased to see the healthy choices. There are three soups, one of which -- tomato basil with chunks of other veggies -- had nothing but good ingredients. The sub sandwiches are available in half size or whole, and one of the bread choices is a multigrain bun. I had black bean hummus with roasted red pepper and other fresh veggies along with a low-fat yogurt dressing. That and the tomato soup were both quite delicious.
Then we spent hours perusing Jim's fabulous store.
I wish it wasn't 20 miles from my house (in Fairfield) or I'd be a regular visitor.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Eggs poached in tomato sauce - yum!

This is so easy, and so good. Just make your tomato sauce -- or pour it from a jar -- in a skillet. When it's steamy hot, carefully break one egg into a small bowl, then place it atop your sauce. Do the same for however many you are feeding. In our case, it was just me and my husband. If you have a larger crowd, use a larger skillet. The sauce doesn't need to be more than a half-inch or an inch thick.

Cover the pan and cook on medium-low until the egg is set. Spoon one egg and some sauce onto pasta or toasted bread -- we did it on pasta.

This was delish!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Healthy Foodie Rule #3: Cook your food

This is a simple one, really: we should eat most of our meals at home, and prepare them ourselves.
I'm all for some shortcuts, such as pre-peeled and cut veggies, but in general your meals will be healthiest when made yourself, from scratch.
Otherwise, you really don't know what's going in your mouth.

I heard Michael Pollan on the radio not long ago saying it's OK to eat as much "junk food" as you want--as long as you cook it yourself. He was talking about French fries, as I recall. That used to be a very occasional treat, if only because deep-frying potatoes makes a huge mess in the kitchen and most people don't want to hassle with that very often. Now you can drive through you-know-where and get a piping hot, salty hit of crispy potatoes any time of day or night, any day of the week. Insanely, French fries are by far the most widely consumed "vegetable" in the U.S.

So get out in that kitchen & rattle those pots and pans.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Local restaurants team with Christ Hospital to flag their healthiest dishes

This interesting news was posted today by Enquirer Dining Critic Polly Campbell. Click here to read her full piece.

Healthy foodies, rejoice! Among the restaurants that have participated so far are Chalk Food + Wine, Local 127, Lavomatic and the Summit -- places I already really like. The idea is that the restaurant puts a special Christ Hospital logo next to dishes on its menu that meets certain nutritional standards. For instance, the dish cannot contain more than 650 calories.

I think this is great; let's hope more restaurants sign up. And thanks, Polly, for sharing this news.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stir-fry with pork tenderloin and snow peas

This dish started with a small piece of pork tenderloin that had been in my freezer for a couple of weeks--perhaps 6 or 7 ounces. It wasn't enough to make the centerpiece of our plates, but plenty to use with a veggie-heavy, Asian accented dinner.

Slice the pork into thin strips so it cooks as fast as your thinly-sliced vegetables do. Served over brown rice, it's a great weeknight supper.

Recipe: Stir-fried pork, shiitake mushrooms, and snow peas

Serves 2 -- can be doubled

2 T canola oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (orange or red)
2 T minced garlic
6-8 ounces pork tenderloin, cut into strips and lightly salted
2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup shredded carrots (optional)
1 cup chicken broth or stock
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 T sesame seeds (optional)
3 T sodium-reduced soy sauce, plus more for serving

Heat oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add onion, pepper and garlic. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes until veggies start to tenderize. Increase heat to medium-high, add pork and stir fry until it begins to lose its pink color. Add mushrooms and carrots, continuing to stir constantly.
When mushrooms begin to lose their juices, add stock and reduce heat back to medium.
Stir fry for another couple of minutes, adding sesame seeds, pepper and soy sauce.
Serve immediately over brown rice, if desired, and pass soy sauce at the table.

Healthy Foodie Rule #2: Minimize Liquid Calories

I try to limit beverages to these (in order of amount consumed):
Water, tea, wine, coffee and cocktails.
Plain water, whether bottled or tap, should be every healthy foodie's main beverage. If you drink alcohol -- as we often do, having wine with dinner -- be sure to drink one glass of water for each glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage.
Tea is my morning caffeine drink of choice -- I make a large pot with loose-leaf black tea every day. Many studies conclude that both tea and coffee can be part of a healthful diet, with green tea having the most beneficial substances. (I don't like the taste, however, so it's a non-starter for me.)
As you probably know, wine and especially red wine has been shown to have health benefits, although consuming more than a drink or two a day of any alcohol should be avoided.
Cocktails are a recent addition to my beverage list--a perhaps once a week indulgence. I can't really defend it on health grounds but as I said in an earlier posting, I'm not super-strict in my dietary habits.

The drinks I actively avoid are those that add nothing but empty calories to my daily tally--or the vitamins in them are overwhelmed by the sugar and/or fat they contain. This means no soda -- I even minimize diet sodas to a very occasional indulgence -- and no fruit juices. Not to mention no milkshakes or obscenely caloric coffee drinks.

It's not that hard to stick to water when you're thirsty and simple coffee or tea when you need a caffeine boost. Save those calories for something you can sink your teeth into!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Coho Salmon with Mixed Roasted Vegetables

Here's a 30-minute dinner that's nice enough for company. For an overnight guest, I whipped up wild coho salmon (found at Whole Foods) with a generous side dish of roasted winter veggies. We drank Champagne with it!
For the fish: sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper, add 1 T canola or olive oil to a skillet heated to medium-high. Brown on one side, turn with a spatula and finish cooking. For a simple sauce, I spooned some of my standby Trader Joe's artichoke and red pepper tapenade.
For the veggies: cut into bite-size pieces 2 large sweet potatoes (unpeeled), 1 1/2 cups Brussels sprouts, sliced in half, 1/2 fennel bulb and a few florets of broccoli or cauliflower. Toss with canola or olive oil -- go light for fewer calories -- and whatever herbs and spices you feel like adding. Roast in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes.