Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Weight Watchers: a good source for healthy recipes


Before all my heart stuff began, I weighed a little more than 200 lbs. Today, I weigh about 165 lbs. I owe my weight loss to the encouragement of my doctors, to the support of my loving wife and to a certain extent to the inspired meal ideas provided by Weight Watchers.

I didn't join Weight Watchers; my wife did. She went on the program and I tagged along. Many of the Weight Watchers meals follow the same rules that guide my heart healthy diet. Where the two diets differ, my wife and I make a few small changes and all falls back into sync.

A person taking the Weight Watchers path to weight loss doesn't so much go on a diet as learn a new way of approaching eating. Diets are over when the weight is lost. For this reason, many folk put back the pounds they've shed as soon as they've also shed the diet. Weight Watchers teaches its adherents a new way, a better way, to eat with the accent on flavour.

We eat lots of fruits and vegetables and we minimize the meats, especially red meats. We've both learned to love the rich variety of fish available in our local stores. My doctors are very pleased with my success.

This morning my wife picked up a new Weight Watchers magazine with 35 new recipes. Tonight, we tackled the recipe featured on the cover: lemony one-pan orecchiette with sausage and broccolini. We substituted broccoli for the broccolini and one low-fat turkey sausage for the pound of spicy sausage used in the recipe.

Ingredients

1 ground meat from one large, spicy, turkey sausage
1 large onion diced
1/2 tsp salt
3 minced garlic cloves
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 900ml box chicken broth
8 oz. orecchiette pasta
2 cups chopped broccoli
4 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped, fresh basil

  • Remove the sausage meat from the skin, break up and cook in the skillet over medium heat for about eight minutes. When nicely browned, transfer to a bowl.
  • Add the onion to the skillet and cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Add the salt while the onion is cooking. This may take five minutes
  • Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.
  • Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  • Add the pasta and cook for about eight minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add broccoli and cook for another four minutes. The pasta should be al dente at the finish.
  • Turn the heat down to low, add the cooked sausage, three Tbsp of Parmesan, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Sprinkle in tomatoes. Bring everything up to temperature. You may have to boost the heat briefly.
  • Sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan and serve.
  • A little heart healthy vegetable oil for frying the various ingredients: sausage, onion, garlic . . .

Depending on how you feel about lemon zest, you may want to cutback on the suggested Tbsp. My wife and I loved the strong hit of lemon. You might feel differently. We also like heat and we may double the amount of red pepper flakes.

Using only a small amount of spicy, turkey sausage kept the saturated fat content of this recipe quite low. But, the flavour hit is quite high. This dinner does not come across as a heart healthy or diet meal. And, that's the way it should be.

Keep an eye out for the Weight Watchers magazine. Many magazine stands carry them. You might be pleasantly surprised at the recipes inside.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Should you eat eggs? Do you feel lucky?

I wrote a blog piece under the headline: Should you eat eggs? Do you feel lucky?

If you want to know the answer, please click the above link.

I'll give you the answer as a teaser. Should you eat eggs? The answer is maybe and I'm not joking. Only you and your doctor can say for certain. Unless your doctor is my heart and stroke specialist and then the answer is a firm "No."

Now, click the link and get the whole story.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Broccoli and cauliflower soup

 
The broccoli was on sale. Two for one read the sign at Remark. I got two. And the cauliflower was on sale as well. I bought one. And then I took all home, put all in the fridge and discovered I already had both broccoli and cauliflower in the fridge.

By the time the old veggies were eaten, the new veggies were old. Oops. Hating waste, I decided to put my aging purchases to immediate use. I made broccoli and cauliflower soup.

I chopped one small onion and three garlic cloves and dropped these into a deep pot with a splash of olive oil. With the onion turning translucent and the garlic taking on a deep toasty tone, I tossed my broccoli and cauliflower into the mix. Both the broccoli and cauliflower were, of course, chopped into large chunks. When the cauliflower started to show signs of being pan roasted, I dumped 900 ml of chicken stock into the pot. Then I immediately added 500 ml of 1% milk to the mix. I placed a cover on the pot and left all to simmer.

Half an hour later all the veggies were tender. Using a handheld blender I turned my bubbling mixture into thick, smooth soup. My wife liked the result but I found it wanting. I sprinkled a little paprika and a little herbs de Provence into the pot. I made sure to taste the soup as I went as both can pack a strong punch. Too much would overpower the simple flavour undertones on which my soup was based.

At the table I added a swirl of no-fat sour cream and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. A quick pass of the pepper grinder and the soup was ready to enjoy.

I've got enough soup to last for days and the cost was minimal.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A fine vegetable peeler at a fair price

Kuhn Rikon peelers are the best.
I use my peeler everyday. But despite its constant use, it has stayed sharp. Why? Good Swiss quality combined with the fact I bought two.

But all good things come to and end. Saturday I tossed one of my Kuhn Rikon peelers. It was getting dull.

I bought my Swiss-made peeler at the suggestion of some fine cooks I know. Since buying my two, I came across a review by America's Test Kitchen. It said about the Kuhn Rikon product:

3-packs were out of stock in London, Ont. Ordered online.
It's a featherweight (3/8 of an ounce), but surprisingly sturdy, and its razor-sharp blade effortlessly skinned anything we threw at it—and at $3.50, it’s a steal. (I'm paying $15.00 for a three pack at Bed Bath and Beyond in London, Ontario. Not so much of a steal but I'm not complaining.)

Is this an ad? No. This is a review. As I blog on cooking, at times I will mention stuff I use in the kitchen and like.

If you are Canadian and feel $15 is too much for a peeler, buy one 3-pack and share the cost with a couple of friends.

Add: Bed Bath and Beyond e-mailed me to say that they did not have these peeler packs in stock in London. The pick-up they promised would be impossible. They sent me an number to call and told me to order the peelers online. There would be no charge for the shipping.

When I called, I was told that Bed Bath and Beyond was very sorry for the inconvenience, it might take as long as ten days for the peelers to arrive at my home if I decided to order them, for this reason I was being offered a thank-you-for-your-patience discount. I'm now getting three peelers for $12 plus the Ontario sales tax.

Now I think I'm getting a steal.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Go light on the butter

Some folk actually prefer the light, clean flavour of margarine to butter.
My heart doctors all agree: go light on the butter. My heart-healthy diet demands spreads like Becel or Olivina. Butter is a no-no.

It's tough convincing folk that margarine, with its long list of ingredients and additives, is superior to butter. But, trust me, it is. At least, it is if you pick the right kind.

First, look for tubs of soft, spreadable margarine. These are generally trans-fat-free. You want to stay as far away from trans fats as possible. These fats are the worst fats. Next, check the saturated fat content. Less is better. Again, soft margarine is generally preferable to hard. Lastly, make sure the margarine is "non-hydrogenated."

I have some friends who often invite my wife and me for dinner. They keep a tub of Becel in their fridge just for me. But they insist on using butter despite the fact the husband has heart problems. And his brother has had to have stents inserted to open plugged arteries. They believe my fears are overblown and direct me to newspaper articles to support their position. Don't fall into the same trap. Newspapers can be poor sources for health information.

According to a recent article in a Harvard University health publication, many studies "have suggested that the type of fat in the diet is extremely important, and that replacing trans fat and saturated fat with unsaturated plant oils can have major health benefits."

The linked article quotes Harvard nutrition expert Walter Willett: "Making healthy types of fat in the diet a priority is one of the most important things people can do about their long-term health and well-being."

If you need more convincing, check out the following:

Is Butter Really Back? (Harvard Public Health magazine)
We Repeat: Butter is Not Back. (The Nutrition Source)
Butter is not back: Limiting saturated fat still best for heart health (Harvard Chan School release)

Monday, February 13, 2017

More from the New York Times

The New York Times has a wonderful cooking section. It is so good, and I use it so often, that I may subscribe to the paper as my way of saying thank you.


I grabbed the above image to tempt you to click on the link: Linguine With Lemon Sauce.

Because of my heart condition, I substituted no fat sour cream for the heavy cream and I used two tablespoons of olive oil spread instead of butter. If I wasn't avoiding saturated fat, doctors' orders, I'd have left the recipe alone. I like the taste and texture of cream and butter adds more flavour than the spread. Still, if you want a heart healthy meal, make my changes and enjoy. My wife still gave my dinner four stars.

The dinner is deficient in vegetables. I served asparagus on the side with a squeeze of lemon. The addition of the green stalks of asparagus kicked up the visual beauty of the dinner and the squeeze of lemon tied all together. When I make this again, and I will, I will again added asparagus off to the side.

Monday, February 6, 2017

America's Test Kitchen offers some excellent cookbooks


Having a heart condition does not mean giving up good cooking. In fact, I dine better today than I did before my condition was diagnosed. A few months ago I began following America's Test Kitchen online. I soon realized they often put their cookbooks on sale. I bought a number.

Tonight I made its braised cod peperonata recipe. It was excellent, both the recipe and the result. I made two modifications: I substituted herbs de Provence for the thyme and I added large chunks of mushrooms.

Here is a link to the recipe online: Braised Cod Peperonata. And here is a link to the America's Test Kitchen site where the book, The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook, was on sale at the time that I wrote this post.

The next time I make this, I'm going to serve it on a bed of white and black rice. It will be a show stopper. Hmmm. Maybe I should invite some friends for dinner. If you make this, don't forget to have a glass of white wine with dinner. A quarter cup of white wine goes into the recipe. You must use the remainder within a day or two or it will go off. That would be such a waste.

Cheers!