Monday, July 3, 2017

Quick sweet red pepper soup


I love soup. This sweet, red pepper soup is going to be one of my favorites. I'd serve this elegant soup to company but it is so quick and easy to make that I'll be making it often for my wife.

Dice one, large shallot and fry in a medium sized pot until the shallot pieces begin to show transparency. Don't burn. This may take five minutes.

When the shallot is done, add two, diced, sweet, red peppers and continue to fry all for another five minutes. Add just enough milk to cover the peppers. Simmer for about fifteen minutes. The peppers should be soft but not mushy.

Using an immersion blender mix all to a thick but smooth consistency. Add one Tbsp of potato flakes and two Tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Optional: I added a pinch of dried, hot pepper flakes. I liked the kick of heat but, as I said, this is optional. Stir all until well mixed.

Serve and garnish with a few dollops of low fat sour cream. I also added a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes and a twist of freshly ground pepper. My wife added a little Parmesan cheese instead. Both approaches yielded great looking and great tasting soup.

By the way, I used one percent milk but one with more fat would probably make a thicker, creamer soup but such a soup would not meet the demands of my heart-healthy diet.

Ingredients

1 large, diced shallot
2 diced sweet, red peppers
2 Tbsp good olive oil
1% milk to cover peppers fried in olive oil in medium sized pot
1 Tbsp dried potato flakes
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
A good pinch of dried, hot pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese and dried, hot pepper flakes available to diners for adding if desired.
A little low fat sour cream to garnish

Friday, June 30, 2017

Orecchiette with cherry tomatoes and baby spinach


Pasta is fun. It comes in so many different shapes. Tonight I used a pasta called orecchiette or little ear. It's a shape that originated in Southern Italy. Mini penne would also be a good choice. The trick is to use a pasta shape that allows the successful blending into the pasta of other ingredients. I find this is very hard to do when using spaghetti. The added vegetables tend to separate from the long strands of pasta.

Ingredients (2 servings)


10 oz. cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 small, minced garlic clove
3 Tbsp olive oil 
150gr orecchiette
1 cup of packed, baby spinach
2 oz. grated Parmesan
A sprinkle of dried, crushed, hot pepper 
Salt, fresh ground pepper

Cooking details


Set ample water for the pasta on the stove set to high. While the water is heating, gently fry two crushed garlic cloves over medium heat in 3 Tbsp of olive oil. Let the cloves sizzle gently for ten minutes but don't let them burn. At the end of ten minutes, remove the crushed cloves and add the minced garlic. Again, do not burn. Thirty seconds may be all the time needed for the minced garlic to start turning a light, golden brown. Add the cherry tomatoes and continue frying over medium heat with occasional stirring.

At this point the pot of water should be at a rolling boil, add the orecchiette. Keep stirring the tomatoes now and then and, if the tomatoes should start to shrivel, turn the heat to low. When the pasta is done al dente, remove a cup of pasta water, pour off the remaining water and add the pasta to the deep pan with the tomatoes. Stir all and then fold the baby spinach into the mix. Add as much of the retained pasta water as necessary and serve as soon as the small spinach leaves have wilted.

At the table, sprinkle on the grated Parmesan, add a twist or two of grated, fresh pepper plus a pinch or two of dried, crushed, hot pepper. Salt if necessary. Oh, I forgot to mention the red wine. Something Italian and dry goes very nicely but I cheated and served a Jackson Triggs red wine from a box. I am, after all, on a budget.

After thought: My wife and I chatted briefly about my dinner time creation. We both agreed that sprinkling a little Italian seasoning, from Club House or McCormick, over the tomatoes while simmering would add a little extra punch of flavour.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

$5 U.S. a month is worth it to subscribe to NYT Cooking.

I made this cod with sweet peppers and olives following a NYT Cooking recipe. Excellent.

The following is taken from, and edited from, the New York Times website.
_____________________________________________________________

The New York Times has done it. The newspaper erected a paywall around many of the recipes, collections and features offered on its Cooking website. Readers are being asked to pay for a subscription in order to access the Cooking site.

Here's the scoop: subscribers to The Times have access to Cooking. Those who are not subscribers to the newspaper will receive a free, 28-day trial subscription to Cooking, at the end of which they will be asked to subscribe. A subscription to Cooking costs $5 a month.

The newspaper posted this change in policy saying:

"It is a core belief of The New York Times that we produce journalism good enough that people are willing to pay for it. That journalism includes our recipes and instruction here on Cooking, and the digital features we use to support them on all your devices . . . "

The newspaper went on to explain that it did not make the decision to charge for access to Cooking without a lot of thought. Giving readers access to the very best recipes in the world, along with the ability to save and organize them, and to use them on whatever device they wanted to, with accompanying instruction to make them delicious, every time, is expensive. It would be great to be able to continue to provide all that for free forever but that is simply not possible.

Times writers travel ceaselessly, cook every day and test recipes relentlessly. Photographs are taken and videos made to help readers make cooking, and planning, and shopping for meals easier, more enjoyable, and yes, even fun.

Paid subscriptions will help the New York Times to continue to do just that.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Experimenting with a white sauce that's low in saturated fat


All my heart doctors, and I have a slew, agree on one thing: keep saturated fat to a minimum. Fats, like olive oil, are not a worry. But saturated fats are another matter all together. In other words, watch that butter.

If you don't believe me, I'm not surprised. Lots of people don't. And that includes friends and relatives. They all quote articles like the one that ran in the local paper. It proclaimed that saturated fat was not bad for you. It was wrong.

Please read: Setting the record straight: It’s best to swap out saturated fats for healthier fats. You will discover that a new advisory from the American Heart Association (AHA) concluded that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats will lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

So tonight I decided to try and make a white sauce for my penne that did not rely on cream. I used four ounces of one percent milk and thickened the sauce with 50gr of chopped cauliflower, 1 Tbsp of instant potato flakes, and one minced garlic clove.

First, I quickly browned the garlic in some hot olive oil. This took but 30 seconds. I added the previously microwaved chopped cauliflower and stirred. After a couple of minutes, I added the milk and kept stirring with the heat set to low. I added the instant potato flakes and kept stirring. The sauce was soon thick enough for my purposes. I set the sauce aside in the still warm pot.

I put 150gr of penne in some fast boiling water and while the penne was cooking I heated some olive oil in a deep frying pan. With the oil hot, I added 7 ounces (200gr) of asparagus. The spears were cut into 3/4 inch long pieces. The asparagus was done just about the same time as the penne.

I put the cooked penne into the deep pan with the pan-grilled asparagus, added the warm white sauce, some salt and pepper, sprinkled on a little grated Parmesan and about a Tbsp of basil chopped into long, thin strips. I tossed all until everything was well mixed.

At the table I added some dried red pepper flakes but this is optional. My wife liked the dinner just as served, unless you count the extra grated Parmesan she added. If she were making a change, she said, it would be to add some chopped nuts, possibly pistachios.

This recipe is all my own. If it interests you, try it. But the reason I'm posting this is to encourage readers to strike out on their own. Set some goals and try to meet them. My goal was to serve a filling dinner for two that was not too high in points, my wife goes to Weight Watchers, and that contained very little saturated fat, while delivering lots of flavour.

I think I was successful. My wife agrees.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Even my wife has been liking the fish I cook

My wife likes to say she hates fish. She doesn't. She doesn't realize it but she doesn't hate fish. She hates poorly handled fish. Fish, as a rule, should not taste fishy. If it does, there is a problem.

I got a large bag of frozen sole containing more than two dozen small filets. Each serving works out to about $1.30 for two filets. This is affordable even for a senior.

Would you like to try it? Here's a link to the New York Times recipe I used: Sole Meuniere.

Note: My wife had some basil growing in her garden. I couldn't resist and at the table I sprinkled fresh chopped basil liberally on each serving. It looks a little messy but it tasted just fine.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Getting Kids to Eat

I am always on the lookout for recipes that I think would appeal to my granddaughters. The kids can be damn picky. Tonight I came across a penne with roasted cherry tomatoes recipe on the New York Times Cooking site. I think I might be able to sell this one to my little girls.

What makes this recipe so appealing is that it contains only seven ingredients: penne, cherry tomatoes, bread crumbs, olive oil, pecorino romano cheese or Parmesan, salt and pepper. Note: No spices and no herbs. This is a plus when cooking for kids.

Personally, I have a hate on for pasta with an abundance of sauce. This recipe does not call for any sauce at all. None. Just the fresh flavour of roasted cherry tomatoes and the clean flavour of pasta. This sounds good to me and I think it may also sound good to Fiona and Isla. I'll find out next week.

Another link to a fine New York Times recipe



I'm in a rut. I cook too much pasta.

I like pasta. My wife likes pasta. Pasta is both easy to make and exceedingly malleable. It can be the base of a fine vegetarian dinner one night and the base of a complex meat dish another evening. That said, it is still pasta.

I decided to force myself to make something without pasta. I went with a garlicky chicken with lemon-anchovy sauce recipe on the New York Times Cooking site. Click on the link to discover all the details.

And what did I serve with my chicken? Uh, rice. A pasta replacement.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Use it or lose it: good guidance for cooks


As I work my way through the recipes posted by the New York Times, I find I have lots of great ingredients remaining and begging to be used. Millions of dollars of food is wasted every year. Allowed to spoil and get tossed, this wasted food runs up food costs. I say use it or lose it.

To pare your food budget, a good place to start is food use management. For instance, I bought a bag of frozen cod at Costco. I saved money on the purchase by buying in bulk. I then did a search of my favourite food sites to find a number of recipes featuring cod.

I've been busy. But that big bag of frozen cod fillets is now down to one large piece of fish. Nothing will be wasted and the dinners were great and one was even memorable. Judy was particularly fond of the grilled cod recipe.

Another cod recipe used both olives and sweet red peppers. The picture at the top of this post shows the second time I served this dinner. I had served a warm olive appetizer a few days earlier and with all the ingredients on hand it just seemed reasonable to serve again my roasted cod with sweet peppers. I added some chunks of mushrooms both to add flavour and texture and to get rid of one more lingering ingredient.

So, eat well and keep costs down by keeping waste to a minimum.

Grilled Fish with Salsa Verde

A sprinkle of chopped pistachio nuts added a nice crunch and burst of flavour.

My wife loves using our outdoor grill. Well, actually she loves me using our outdoor grill. Why? Less mess and less heat in the kitchen. The fact that my wife rarely uses the grill, that it is usually me standing in front of the grill, is just one more appreciated perk in my wife's eyes.

I've heard that cod can be difficult to grill. The meat can be too soft, too flaky and possibly too moist. The risk is that the cod will disintegrate on the grill. Flip this fish with care. That said, the recipe called for cod and I had no problem grilling it as instructed.

I used a generous amount of olive oil to prevent the fillet from sticking to the hot grill. It didn't. I used a large, stainless steel flipper for lifting and a smaller one for holding it steady. From the picture, it is clear all went as planned.

Like so many of my recipes, this one comes from the New York Times Cooking online pages. Here is a link: Grilled Fish with Salsa Verde.

And the taste? My wife says she hates fish. I don't believe she does but she is convinced that fish usually tastes "fishy." I argue any off flavour is the result of poor handling after the fish was caught. Good fish should not taste off. And this fish didn't. My wife loved this recipe. She wants me to put fish on the grill more often.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Stir-Fried Sesame Shrimp and Spinach


I am absolutely loving the cooking pages posted by the New York Times. The recipes are often easy to follow and quite delicious. This stir-fried sesame shrimp and spinach served on a bed of brown rice was quick to make, 25 minutes, and wonderful to eat. I microwaved the asparagus right at the end and it was done in 45 seconds. This was an easy meal to get to the table on time.

The only downside to this recipe were the ingredients. I had to buy both the light and the dark (roasted) sesame oil, plus the sesame seeds (I opted for roasted seeds) and I even had to buy some crushed dried red chili. I had some chili in the kitchen cupboard but it was too old and I feared the flavour would have faded.

I spent a lot on those ingredients. I'll have to find stuff to make in the near future that uses these ingredients. I don't want all this stuff to follow the same path as the out-of-date chili that got tossed.

The next time I make this I'm going to make a few small changes. I'm going to increase the amount of minced ginger. I'll use about 1/2 a Tbsp more. Also, I'm going to put a small bowl of crushed dried red chili on the dinner table. My wife thought this dish was hot enough but I didn't. I sprinkled some chili onto the meal at the table. This approach kept both my wife and me happy.

If you didn't notice the link to the New York Times and the posted recipe, here it is again. Enjoy:
Stir-fried Sesame Shrimp and Spinach.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Warm olives make a great dinner starter

Had lunch the other day at Little Red's Pub and Eatery in St. Marys. The lunch was absolutely excellent. Both Judy and I always enjoy a visit to Little Red's.

Judy ordered a starter for the table, a plate of warm olives. I had forgotten how good a mix of various types of olives can be when simply warmed in a pan with olive oil and a sprinkle of rosemary.

I am sure chef Chris Woolf did more, he's a true kitchen magician. Both Judy and I agree his version seemed more flavourful, more complex, than my take on the old standby. That said, my mix of warm olives with a sprinkle of rosemary tasted awfully good at dinner tonight.

For olives, the North London Loblaws on Fanshawe Park Road at Richmond St. is a good store if it is close to  you. What edged them to the front of the line were the good packaged olive mixes by Delallo I found there. Olive Medley and Pitted Olives Jublilee were the two mixes that I took home.

Note: these are in the specialty foods area of the store and not on the shelves with the regular canned and bottled olives. Look for the serve yourself olive counter. I believe the Olive Medley and the other packaged olives are on a shelf below the display.

Tonight I simply warmed some olives in olive oil in a fry pan with a sprinkle of rosemary. Start simple I say. Next, I'm going to try some of the recipes I found on the Net:

Warm Spiced Olives (Taste.com.au)
Warmed Spiced Olives (Epicurious)  
Warm Marinated Olives (Martha Stewart)
Warm Marinated Olives Two Ways (Merci Mama)

Google "warm olives." I got more than 30 million hits. Take your time. Fine a recipe that appeals to you and give it a try. You can't miss -- unless, of course, you don't like olives.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Leftovers can make a heart healthy dinner


My doctors insist that I eat healthy meals. That advice translates into lots of vegetables, very little red meat, minimal dairy and reduced consumption of both simple carbohydrates and sugar. My doctors prefer complex carbohydrates to the simple ones found in processed foods such as white bread.

The pasta may have been the enriched and not the whole grain type which would have been better, but we practised careful portion. And even regular, refined and enriched pasta is not anywhere near as high on the glycemic index as white rice or a baked Russet potato.

Dinner tonight answered all the demands, tasted great and was put together in ten minutes from leftovers found in the fridge.

Last night my wife and I enjoyed spaghetti squash with a tomato sauce. A lot of folk don't like spaghetti squash. I think they compare the squash to pasta and this is a mistake. You must enjoy spaghetti squash as the interesting vegetable it is. It has a light, clean flavour with lots of crisp snap if it is not overcooked. It goes well with a variety of sauces. One must keep an open mind.

For tonight's meal, first we dumped 75 g of pennine pasta into a pot of boiling water. It would be done al dente in seven minutes or so. While the pasta was cooking, we tossed our leftover veggies into a skillet with two cloves of lightly fired diced garlic. After 30 seconds, we added diced sweet peppers, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes and spaghetti squash to the skillet.

All was heated over medium heat with frequent tossing. After about four minutes, some fresh grated Parmesan, do not use the grated stuff that comes in a shaker box, was sprinkled onto the veggie mix. The cheese disappeared into the mix immediately. At this point the left over spaghetti squash, chopped into pieces about the length of the pennine, was added to the pan. About an ounce of low-fat goat cheese was crumbled on top and the entire mix stirred until the cheese melted, coating the hot vegetable mix.

At this point the pasta was done. It was drained and added to the fry pan, mixed with the veggies and served. My wife called the resulting dinner "delicious." I called it good and satisfying. My doctors, I am sure, would call it healthy.

As you can probably tell from the picture, a little extra Parmesan was added at the table. And when I got seconds, I sprinkled some chopped cashews on top as well. At this point, I came around and agreed with my wife. This dinner was now "delicious."

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Be bold in the kitchen. Good ingredients make good meals.


I didn't have a recipe for tonight's dinner but I had lots of good ingredients handy: cod fillets, apples, sweet red peppers, cherry tomatoes, asparagus and basmati rice. I baked the veggies for various lengths of time. I thought the asparagus could need the most time and the tomatoes the least. I'd say more about my approach to this dinner but the result was not what I was seeking and so I'll stay mum. I wanted caramelized. I got simply cooked.

I sprinkled some hot pepper flakes on the fish hoping for a big burst of heat but I didn't use enough and the effect was way too subtle.

But, and it is a big and important but, the ingredients were excellent. Nothing was burned. The fish was flaky. All the veggies were fresh and they all tasted it. My wife gave the dinner a thumbs up. It wasn't what I wanted but it still worked.

The lesson? Good ingredients tend to give good results. I failed to add much to this dinner but it had a lot going for it right from the get-go. It was a rather delicious failure. My doctors would give my cooking attempt  two thumbs up even if my dinner wasn't going to qualify me for a cooking competition on television.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Check out the New York Times Cooking pages for asparagus recipes


All I am trying to promote is healthy eating. I am certainly not promoting my cooking. When it comes to imaginative ways to prepare and present asparagus the New York Times Cooking site is doing a damn fine job.

I grilled the asparagus illustrating this post but that's all. For recipes please click on the link. New York Times Cooking: asparagus.

I'm not sure that eating well will make one live longer but I do believe it will make your live a healthier life and make dining, even at home, much more fun.

Cheers!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Quick and healthy; not fine dining but still good


My mother was not a great cook but a practical one. Practicality was common back in the early '50s when I was a boy. Give her a holiday and she'd give you roast chicken or turkey, depending upon the number of guests at the holiday banquet. A day later she'd give you leftovers. There was never any waste.

One of her favourite solutions for dealing with holiday leftovers was chicken or turkey pie. And her not-so-secret ingredient was a Campbell's condensed cream of chicken soup. And so in memory of my dear, departed mother, my wife made Margaret-inspired chicken pie complete with Easter dinner leftovers. Even the pie crust was a leftover, made from the remnants of pastry used to make Sunday's lemon meringue pie.

The big difference between my wife's version and the '50s original is that Judy uses low fat condensed soup. Four cans have approximately 5 g of saturated fat and no trans fats at all. Judy tells me she puts two cans of cream of chicken into a pot, adds a cup each of carrots and peas, adds up to two cups of chicken chunks, sprinkles on some thyme and heats all with frequent stirring.

When thoroughly heated, Judy pours the mixture into a suitable pie plate. To keep the fat, and total calories in check, Judy does not line the pie plate with pastry. She uses one layer of pastry on top of the pie and that's it. It looks messy when served but still attractive.

The turnip served with the chicken pie was also leftover from Easter. The broccoli was bought for the holiday but not cooked. It still had nice crunch and its presence added freshness to an arguably faded entrée.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of Campbell's condensed, low-fat, cream of chicken soup 
  • 1 cup of frozen peas if leftovers are not handy
  • 1 cup of diced, cooked, but not over cooked, carrots
  • A sprinkle of thyme. If dried thyme is used, use sparringly. Fresh thyme is not so intense.
  • And enough pastry for a top crust.



Monday, April 17, 2017

Asparagus pesto is more common than I thought



My wife and I both like pesto. The other day we had a chance to sample a vegetable lasagna with a basil-based pesto replacing the common tomato sauce. It was good. We were surprised at how much we enjoyed it.

When I told our youngest daughter about the lasagna, she said said she was familiar with pestos and note the plural. There are a lot of pesto recipes and some are completely new to me -- but not to our daughter. She told us she made a green pea-based pesto and it was excellent.

This started me thinking. Why not an asparagus-based pesto? After all, it is spring. It would be the perfect creation to celebrate spring's arrival. A search of the New York Times Cooking site found a recipe. A simple Google search found lots more. One of my favourite takes is a Williams Sonoma recipe Rigatoni with Asparagus Pesto and Ricotta Salata.

I took a crack at the NYT's recipe but found it wanting. The next night I took another try. This time, I made the pesto first. I'm not much of an ingredients-juggler when it comes to making dinner. I'm still in the KISS stage: Keep It Simple Stupid.


Let's go over my ingredient list:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus (230 g used for the pesto with six spears held aside to be served whole.)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced (I actually used more but I'm going to cut back to one clove.)
  • 20 g of pine nuts
  • 25 g of walnuts plus a few to adorn the finished dish when served
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed grated Parmesan cheese plus some to sprinkle on finished dish
  • 1 Tbsp of olive oil
  • Juice from half a lemon (Squeezed the remaining half over the dinners at the table.)
  • 1 good pinch of salt
  • 150 g of pennine (I cook 75 g of pasta per person. Sometimes I cook even less.)
  • 50 g of chopped baby spinach
  • A handful of small cherry tomatoes and four large cherry tomatoes 
  • 4 ounces of cooked ham or cooked chicken

I grilled and caramelized the asparagus for the pesto but my wife has convinced me the result wasn't worth the effort and time. The next time, I'll just steam the asparagus. I'm sticking with my amount: 230 g.

With the asparagus steaming, toast 20 g of pine nuts in a skillet over medium high heat. When these begin turning golden brown, remove from the heat and set aside. Next, toast the 25 g of walnuts. When done, set aside with the pine nuts, keeping a few walnuts separate as a garmish for the dish when served.
Next, fry the minced garlic in a little olive oil for possibly 30 seconds over medium high heat. The garlic should not turn dark brown. It should be a golden colour. Place this aside with the toasted nuts, as well.

Grate half a cup of Parmesan cheese. Don't tamp it down. Leave loose in measuring cup. Lastly, squeeze the juice from half a lemon and set aside. Now, take the steamed asparagus and dice well. This is especially important if using a food blender. If the pieces are too large, they hang up, jam and require a lot of finagling to be coaxed into making contact with the spinning blades.

Drop the well diced asparagus into the blender, add the toasted pine nuts, toasted walnuts, golden minced garlic, a Tbsp of olive oil, half a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and the fresh squeezed lemon juice. There should be about two Tbsps of juice. Give the mixture a couple of good shakes of salt and blend all into a light green pesto. Remove pesto from blender bowl and set aside. It won't sit long.

Chop the cooked ham or cooked chicken into large chunks and toss into a frying pan with a little olive oil. While the meat is heating, drop the pennine into a pot of fast boiling water. Give the pot a stir to keep the pasta from sticking. It will be done in about eight minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, add the tomatoes to the skillet with the ham or chicken. If all goes well, the tomatoes will be just beginning to split from the heat as the pasta closes in on al dente. Drop the chopped baby spinach into the pot with the pasta, swirl the pasta and spinach around and drain. I find smaller bits of spinach clump less than large pieces. The goal is to have the spinach spread out through the pasta.

Place the remaining asparagus spears in the microwave and cook for a minute or less. The spears will cook quickly. Take care not to overcook.While the spears are cooking, add the asparagus pesto to the cooked pasta mixed with spinach. Toss in the chunks of heated ham or chicken and the cherry tomatoes and mix well. Serve.

Decorate each serving of pasta with a few roasted walnuts and sprinkle on a some Parmesan cheese, too. Place the larger, cherry tomatoes and the whole steamed or microwaved asparagus spears on the side. It should look good and taste even better. I'm working on improving my presentation but the flavour demands no serious tweaking.

There was a lot of pesto. I can see stretching this to coat four servings of pennine. (This assumes you are content serving only 70 g of pesto per person.) With more pasta, the pennine might be easier to see. The pennine seems hidden with this presentation.

We eat a lot of asparagus in the spring. There is an asparagus farm just minutes from our London, Ontario, home. I'm confident I'll get this looking beautiful at some point in the near future.

Friday, April 14, 2017

It is not always what you eat but what you don't



It was lunch time, I was hungry and I didn't feel like cooking. The situation had all the ingredients for a recipe for disaster. I could see a gilled cheese sandwich on the horizon. Not good. I opened a can of Campbell's low sodium chicken with rice soup. Better but still not good.

My heart doctors have been very clear. Don't overdo the saturated fats, keep to chicken and fish as much as possible when it comes to meat, and eat nutritious meals and not just filling ones. A quick check of the Campbell's label confirmed that this soup was not going to meet all the demands. And when I took a taste, I realized it wasn't even going to be a sinful delight. It was too bland for my liking.

I emptied the contents of the can, plus a can of water, into a small pot and placed it on the stove to heat. I added two tablespoons of basmati long-grain rice to the soup. It needed more rice. I coarsely chopped an ounce of chicken and added that to the pot as well. I grabbed a large carrot, peeled it and quickly diced it into small pieces. I added this to the pot as well.

Next, to kick up the flavour, I added about a quarter teaspoon of fresh thyme. My mother loved thyme with chicken and so when I think of chicken, I think of thyme. Judy, my wife, doesn't have the same memories. She likes to use less thyme than I.  I dropped a bay leaf into the heating soup. It would remain in the mix for five minutes and then out it comes. Such a small pot of soup very quickly takes on the flavour of the bay leaf.

Lastly, I added a little salt and pepper to taste and then tossed in about a half a teaspoon of Paese Mio bruchetta calabrese. This can be hard to find. When I run out, I substitute dried hot pepper flakes. The goal here is to up the kick of heat delivered by the soup.

Because of the rice, my soup needed to be left on simmer for about twenty minutes. On the bright side,  it didn't take a lot of attention. I essentially left the soup on simmer and went off to watch a little television. In twenty minutes, the rice was fluffy and nicely cooked and the soup was ready to enjoy.

If I make this again, the next time I'd love to add one celery stalk diced into smallish chunks. I like my soups to be filling. Celery would add bulk but not calories. Perfect.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Weight Watchers recipes are good for everyone


This shows the orecchiette the second night. Note the addition of the mushrooms.

My wife decided to lose a little weight and so she joined Weight Watchers. My doctors told me I had to lose a little weight and so I ate the Weight Watchers meals prepared by my wife and I did so without complaint. And not because I'm a saint but because the WW meals were excellent with lots of nutrition but not lots of calories.

The other night my wife made lemony one-pan orecchiette with sausage and broccoli. Orecchiette is a type of pasta shaped like little shells. The name comes from the Italian word orecchia meaning ear. It is said to resemble small ears, hence the name. But I don't see it. I'll stick with little shells. I find it more appetizing.

For my wife's take on the WW recipe we used the following:

  • 8 ounces hot Italian turkey sausage (meat removed from casings)
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large, minced garlic cloves
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Paese Mio bruchetta calabrese (may be difficult to find)
  • 4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 8 ounces orecchiette pasta
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli
  • 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 4 Tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Over medium-high heat my wife lightly fried the Italian sausage in a little, possibly a teaspoon, of olive oil. When half cooked, I removed the meat from the skillet and chopped it into smaller pieces on a plastic chopping board. When nicely crumbled, I returned the meat to the skillet where my wife cooked it until well-browned. When almost done, I stepped in an mixed a teaspoon of Paese Mio bruchetta calabrese with the meat. This was my idea. I wanted the sausage to have a lot of zip. When done, my wife removed the sausage to a bowl and set aside.

In the now empty fry pan, my wife cooked the onion until soft and translucent. She stirred the onion often and added the half teaspoon of salt.

When done, she added the garlic and red pepper flakes. She stirred the mix for a minute and then added the reduced sodium chicken broth. The chicken broth is the clue that this is a one-pan pasta recipe.

She turned the heat to high and when the broth began to boil she added the pasta. The pasta was done in about eight minutes with frequent stirring. At the five minute mark, she added the broccoli pieces. When the pasta was al dente, she stirred in the cooked sausage, 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, tomatoes and basil. She sprinkled on the remaining Parmesan at the table.

This made enough for four dinners but we found ourselves still hungry. We grumbled but stuck to the a serving size. Truth be told, WW claims this is will serve six. Admittedly, we had made a change in the amount of sausage used. We cut the sausage from 16 ounces to 8.

The next night, it was time for leftovers. We chopped up eight, large mushrooms and sautéd them in a little olive oil with some finely diced garlic. As the mushrooms fried, water from the mushrooms gathered and began to boil at the bottom of the pot. Before the mushroom juices could boil away, we added the leftover pasta from the night before. The pasta absorbed the liquid and became moist and delicious. The big chunks of mushroom added appetite filling bulk without upping the calorie count. The next time we make this, we will add four, chopped mushrooms to the original recipe and then add four more the next night.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

My wife hates fish but she loved tonight's dinner


Before launching into my post, let me give credit where credit is due. The following was inspired by the New York Times recipes Roasted Hake With Sweet Peppers and Asparagus with Anchovies and Capers. Now, to my post:

Saturday evening dinner was fun to make and fun to eat. I've been playing in the kitchen with cod for the past month or more. I'm getting feel for cooking this fish. I feel comfortable putting cod on my dinner menu.

From recent past experience, I know I like sweet red peppers  and Kalamata olives served with hot, flaky cod. And I know my wife likes this, as well.

What I didn't know was whether or not my wife and I would like asparagus with capers and anchovies. But the description had a nice ring and I knew the green of the veggie would look great on the plate next to the bright red of the pepper.

I made my rice first. This is quick and easy. Boil 7.5 ounces of water, add 4 ounces of brown rice and let sit over very low heat for fifteen minutes. When all water is gone and the rice is nice and fluffy, leave the pot covered and simply set aside. The hot pot will help the rice retain heat.

  • 7.5 ounces of water
  • 4 ounces of brown rice (I used a mix composed of a number of varieties of brown rice.)

Next, I made the achovy/caper mix. It should sit for 15 or 30 minutes or even longer before being served. The wait time mellows the flavours.

I finely chopped:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 small anchovy fillets
  • 1 teaspoon of capers, rinsed

. . . and blended all together into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Finely chopping the three ingredients made the blending go faster.

Next, over medium heat, I heated about a tablespoon of olive oil. This might have been a little generous but I like olive oil. You can use a little less, if you like. Then, I added about a tablespoon of finely chopped red onion and cooked it until tender. It should be translucent but not browned. I combined the cooked onion with the anchovy/caper paste and blended in two teaspoons of fresh squeeze lemon juice. A sprinkle of salt and a grind or two of pepper and I set the paste aside to mellow. Here is a list of the ingredients just mentioned:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped red onion
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice

It is now time to turn our attention to the cod. I had two, inch-thick-plus pieces of cod weighing about 165 grams. Enough for two servings. I patted the cod dry. Then I finely chopped 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves and sprinkled this over both sides of the cod. I also lightly salted and peppered the fish at this time. With the seasoning of the fish complete, I set the cod aside.

I had half a sweet, red pepper in the fridge. I chopped this into long strips and placed these in a medium sized pan to fry with a little olive oil. I thought I my dinner could use more red pepper and so I opened a jar of grilled, red peppers, removed two large pieces, chopped these into long strips and dropped them into the skillet with the fresh, red peppers. Next, I added about an eighth of a cup of diced red onion to the frying mixture.

With the onion translucent and the red peppers softening, I cleared a circular spot in the middle of the fry pan and added a little olive oil -- maybe a tablespoon. I placed the fish in the opening, pushed the red peppers up against the fish and covered all to cook over medium heat for four minutes.

While the fish cooked, I combined 1 teaspoon of sherry vinegar, a finely diced clove of garlic and a pinch of salt. I whisked in two teaspoons of olive oil and about four ounces of chopped Italian parsley.

At this point, it was time to flip the fish. To prevent the cod from sticking, I splashed a little olive oil onto the pan before returning the fish to the skillet. I sprinkled 2 tablespoons of chopped Kalamata olives onto both pieces of fish. Just to be clear, that's one generous tablespoon for each piece. I covered the skillet again and in four minutes this would be ready to serve.

I microwaved my eight stalks of asparagus for a minute and then tossed the vegetable into a fry pan to finish cooking. As  the asparagus cooked, I tossed it with the caper/anchovy paste.

Time to serve:
  • Divide the warm, cooked rice in half and place half on each plate. 
  • Place four stalks of asparagus on the side of each plate. If necessary roll the stalks in the paste as serving.
  • Now, place a piece of olive-topped cod in the centre of each plate, right on top of the bed of rice.
  • Surround the cod with the red pepper/onion mix.
  • Lastly, sprinkle some of the Italian parsley mix onto the fish. Taste first to judge how generous you want to be with this. I was very generous.

Beautiful. My wife hates fish. Clearly, our cod had been well handled. It had no off flavours. The red pepper and the black olives went beautifully with the white, flaky fish. We were both surprised at how good the anchovy and caper paste was with the asparagus. Again, there was no off-putting fishy flavour. My wife tells me that when the anchovies are good, they add a pleasant depth to the flavour of the dish. Our anchovies were good.

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!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Navel oranges: an annual heart healthy treat


Around our house, navel oranges are an annual treat. When I worked in produce back in the late '60s, the business owner confessed navel oranges were his favorite. Valencias were nice but navels were the best: sweet, seedless, with an easy-to-peel skin. (To peel: quarter the orange and peel the skin free starting at the pointed ends.)

I love 'em, and so does my wife and granddaughters. Navels make a good afternoon snack, are wonderful accents when mixed into a green salad and they even make a great heart-healthy dessert when served alone or mixed with other fresh fruit. According to the Cleveland Clinic, orange coloured fruit such as oranges, cantaloupe and papaya are all rich in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and fiber.

In doing a little research to write this post, I've learned that there are a number of varieties of navel oranges. I gather, the Washington navel orange is the original and best known navel orange. And many folk claim that California oranges bearing the heritage sticker are the best of the best. I gather that oranges, like tomatoes, have been bred more for ease of handling and shipping than for flavour. The heritage oranges harken back to a time when flavour was king (or queen). For more info on heritage oranges click the link:
What is the Difference Between Heirloom and Regular Navel Oranges?

Here in London, Ontario, I buy my navel oranges at the Remark store on Hyde Park at Oxford Street. Often their oranges carry little, black, oval stickers emblazoned with the word "Heritage". If memory serves me correctly, these oranges are available each year mainly from January through April. It seems they are gone from the shelves by May at the latest.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cauliflower Soup Seasoned with Medium Hot Curry


 I saw this on the Harvard Public Health site. It is really good advice:

Forget calories and focus on food quality. Let your body do the rest. . . . Any weight-loss approach that involves deprivation wears you down, psychologically and biologically. Give your body what it needs and it will reward you. Work with, rather than against, your body. (edited version)

Ingredients

1 lb. cauliflower
400 ml of 1% milk
1/4 teaspoon of medium hot curry powder
2 quarter-inch thick large slices of red onion
9 oven-roasted garlic cloves
a sprinkle of dry tarragon
a sprinkle of chopped or crumbled feta
salt and pepper to taste

I love making soup using cauliflower as the base. Cauliflower makes a thick, smooth soup but without adding fat-heavy cream. I used 1% milk for this soup but often I use low sodium chicken stock in the box. In these cases, I use no milk at all.

Put a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil in a large pot and fry the red onion until it is translucent. Don't be cheap with the olive oil. We all need some fat and olive oil is one of the good guys. With the onion translucent, add the cauliflower and milk. Simmer until the cauliflower is soft. This may take about twenty minutes. Take care not to boil. When the cauliflower is done, add the medium hot curry and the oven-roasted garlic cloves.

Using an immersion hand blender, mix the cauliflower, garlic, curry and milk until thick, creamy and smooth. If necessary, turn up the heat under the pot for a few seconds to bring the soup to serving temperature. Spoon into bowls, add a sprinkle of dry tarragon and some crumbled feta cheese, and serve.

Time-saving tip

A small, grocery store near my London, Ontario, home has oven-roasted garlic in the antipasto bar. I used this in my soup. It saved me from having to roast my own garlic. Roasting the cloves isn't difficult but it does add another step to the prep time. Look for oven-roasted garlic cloves in a grocery store near you. Maybe you will get lucky.

Equipment tip

Many sources claim the Breville BSB510XL Control Grip Immersion Blender is one of the best. I found it available at Best Buy on sale for a hundred bucks. Regularly it sells for $120. If you don't have an immersion blender, the Breville is worth a look.

A fine recipe from the New York Times

Tonight I made a ragout recipe that I saw in the New York Times. It was very good but a little on the hot and spicy side. I might have over done the cayenne pepper. I put a dollop of no-fat sour cream on top of the ragout and this plus the rice helped to lessen the heat.

I wish I could have gotten a picture of this dinner. Visually, it was a ten. First, I laid down a circle of white, basmati rice. I left a hole in the middle to cut the calories. Then I laid down a second circle of rice but this time it was black rice. I got the wonderful, black rice on sale at HomeSense. It had a nice texture but it was the dramatic look that made this rice worth the effort.

And the rice did take a little effort as I cooked two pots of rice. I did not mix the rice during the cooking. I've learned the black colour comes out in the water and stains the white rice a dark, almost black shade. The lovely white and black contrast is lost.

I spooned the ragout into the middle of the plate and then one side of the plate I placed a large bunch of bright, green broccoli and on the other side I placed a grilled, spicy, turkey sausage. If I make this again, and I think I will, I will cut the grilled sausage into large sections and drop all into the ragout. I found the turkey sausage dry. I think finishing it in the ragout for about ten minutes will add moisture.

I don't have a proper flash and the window light was gone at 5:30 p.m. when I served dinner. The room lights make the food look funny. I need daylight to get good pictures. I either have to get my meals together by 5 p.m. at the latest or wait for spring before taking any pictures.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Zucchini ribbons topped with hot sauce rich with flavour

This was one of the best vegetable dishes we have ever made.

Mix oodles of good, healthy stuff and put the mixture on top of noodles carved from a few raw zucchini squash and you have one fine dinner. And, it's quick to make plus very heart healthy to boot.

It took but a couple of minutes to shred the zucchini.
Kitchen shops sell inexpensive tools to carve vegetables into long strips resembling spaghetti. I got one for Christmas and tonight my wife and I used it. Wow! The results were wonderful.

First, we made the ersatz spaghetti using two fresh zucchini and then we set the zucchini noodles to the side. The next time we will use three zucchini. When briefly fried, the zucchini shrinks in volume.

Next, we fried four large, chopped mushrooms in a clean, light, virgin olive oil. Before the mushrooms were done, we added a teaspoon of coarsely chopped garlic. This coats the mushrooms, giving them a hint of garlic flavour. We often use chopped garlic that comes in an incredibly large jar from Costco. It keeps well and the taste is very light.

Low in calories.
Quickly, and in order, we added eight, quartered small tomatoes, about two ounces of chopped, bottled artichoke, some zucchini disks made from the stubs leftover from the noodle making, two chopped green onions, eight roasted garlic bulbs halved, and four tablespoons of Paese Mio Hot Chili Pesto. (If you cannot find the Paese Mio, chop up a small, hot, chili pepper.) As soon as the mix was evenly coated with pesto, we pushed the mix to the side of the large, deep non-stick frying pan. (The next time we made this, we used a second large pan for frying the noodles.)

We added a little more olive oil, keeping it on the clean side of the pan, and then we dropped the strands of zucchini into the hot oil. Being thin, it cooked quickly. Before the zucchini could lose all its raw crunch, we mixed it with the mix sitting off to the side. As a finishing touch, we added two ounces of soft, low-fat, goat cheese. We mixed all and served it with a light dusting of grated Parmesan cheese.

This meal was a nine. It could have been a ten but the rich mix of colours were a bit too muted. I think serving the zucchini as a base, maybe "buttered" with a little Becal margarine containing olive oil, and then topped with the sauce mixture would have added the missing visual punch.

Another day, another salad. This one is a salmon salad.



Yesterday I published a post on making heart healthy salads. Today, my wife and I threw another heart healthy salad together and even though little changed it was a new salad. The main substitution was canned salon for the bottled tuna. Without the spicy, Mediterranean tuna the salad was able to welcome a completely new flavour -- the canned salmon. We also eliminated the apple chunks.

I am going to get my cholesterol under control. That's a promise. I'll wait a couple of months and then I'm going to ask my family doctor to run some tests.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A bad heart leads to a pleasant life


I had my annual heart and stroke check-up Friday. My cholesterol is down from its highs but it is not as low as the doctors would like. Damn. (Forgive the language.)

I'm now off Lipitor and onto Crestor at the 40mg level. I am also taking 10mg of ezetimibe. The two drugs have been found to work very well together at controlling cholesterol numbers. The Harvard Medical School health publication reports:


After an average of six years, those in the statin-plus-ezetimibe group had an average LDL level of 54 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) — well below what was once considered a “good” LDL level.

This morning I cut the maple syrup in my steel cut oats to 1 tsp from 1 tbsp. I'm lowering my sugar intake. (I thought the oats actually tasted better with less syrup.) And for lunch my wife and I made a wonderful tuna salad containing:

  • romaine lettuce - am't is your decision
  • baby spinach - am't is your decision
  • green onion (2-chopped)
  • half a sweet pepper (1/2-chopped)
  • spicy, bottled Mediterranean tuna (65 g)
  • a sweet, navel orange (1-chopped)
  • a sweet, Ambrosia apple (1-chopped)
  • a smattering of chopped pistachios (10 g-chopped)
  • lemon juice - a generous squeeze
  • I used a light dressing from Remark in London. - The dressing is your choice but go lite and use sparingly.

The salad that my wife and I made was delicious, filling and heart healthy. I had no idea having a heart condition could be so pleasant.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Soup can be easy, tasty, inexpensive and very healthy

Isla enjoys making and eating soupespecially when trusted with a Corningware mug.
I just read a great New York Times produced article on how to make soup. Check it out. It is a beautiful piece of writing, very inspiring. Tomorrow I'm heading over to Best Buy to get myself a Breville 1.2L 280-Watt Control Grip Immersion Blender. According to the Times and others, this is the toy to use when making certain soups. Just be careful not to burn out the motor. Read the instructions.

Friday, January 6, 2017

To lose weight, eat well while thinking quality

As I stated at the birth of this blog, I am not going to try and do it all. I am going to share my sources with you. I will share the stuff that shapes my own beliefs about dieting and about eating well to improve one's health. In this vein, today I am linking to a Harvard Public Health post: Off the Cuff.

Click on the link and read what the Harvard professor has to say about focus on food quality and not simply calories when trying to lose weight.

Have a good day,
Cheeers,
Ken

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Breakfast: steel cut oats, fruit and nuts


What did I have for breakfast when I was losing weight? The answer is steel cut oats with added fresh and dried fruits, plus two kinds of nuts, a tbsp of Qia mix plus two tbsp of 1% milk. I hate to admit it, but I also added a tbsp of maple syrup. Let's be honest. Adding the syrup is simply adding sugar.

And now that I have lost the weight, this is still my breakfast of choice. I like the flavour, the texture and its quick to make. 14 minutes and, when I'm done and I leave the kitchen, the kitchen is tidy. My wife likes that.

The complete ingredient list is as follows:
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill quick cooking steel cut oats
1 tbsp on Qi'a mix (chia, hemp and buckwheat)
1 peeled and mashed banana
1 peeled, cored and coarsely chopped Ambrosia apple
1 Tbsp of maple syrup 
5 grams of chopped dried cherries
10 grams of chopped dried Goldenberries (cape gooseberries)
2 chopped Brazil nuts (about 8 grams)
6 chopped cashews (about 8 grams)


  • Put 3/4 cup of water in a large microwave-safe bowl and heat at high for two minutes.
  • While the water is heating, measure out 1/4 cup of steel cut oats and set aside, mix the Qi'a and milk in a small bowl, and measure out both the dried fruit and the two kinds of nuts.
  • With the water heated to boiling, mix the 1/4 cup steel cut oats with the hot water. Set the microwave to about 40% power and return the bowl to the microwave to gently cook for ten minutes.
  • While the oats are cooking, chop the nuts and dried fruit. I like the nuts and dried fruit coarsely chopped. It's quicker and I prefer the texture.
  • Peel and mash the banana.
  • Peel, core and chop the Ambrosia apple.
  • When the oats are done, remove from the microwave and cook the apple for a minute or more on high. Remember, cooking times will vary depending on the power of your microwave.
  • While the apple is cooking, combine the chopped dried fruit and nuts plus the Qi'a mix with the moist, cooked oats. Scrape the mashed banana into the bowl, too.
  • At this point the apple will be cooked but still a little crunchy. Add the apple to the bowl with the other ingredients.
  • Finish by mixing a tbsp of maple syrup into the mix.
  • I find heating the completed breakfast in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds on high is often necessary. If it still is not warm enough, give it a stir and a further 20 to 30 seconds.

If you are an efficient cook, you will have found time during the microwave cycles to return any remaining ingredients to the fridge or cupboard and you will have washed all plates, measuring cups and utensils. I don't waste time towel drying the stuff but leave all in a dish rack to air dry.

About the ingredients:

  • The steel cut oats have lots of fibre and are low in saturated fats. There is no trans fat and no added sodium or sugar.
  • The dried fruit is in the mix for the sweetness, for the natural sugar. I like boosting the sweetness of the mix with the addition of a healthy berry, the cape gooseberry. I prefer the dried berries to refined, white sugar. The berries add flavour and not just naked sweetness. Plus, the cape gooseberry adds fibre: another benefit. Click on the link and you can read why some folk call this berry a superfood. I don't make that claim.
  • The nuts taste great and are a prized addition to any Mediterranean diet. The Brazil nuts gain bragging rights when it comes to selenium. Just two Brazil nuts deliver enough selenium to meet one's daily requirements for this trace metal.
  • The banana adds smooth bulk and body along with sweetness and lots of nutrition. Think potassium for a start but bananas contain lots more. Bananas are popular for good reason.
  • The Ambrosia apple adds flavour, crunch, a bit of sweetness and looks good in the mix. Apple and banana are great additions to any breakfast. When available, and selling for a reasonable price, I like to substitute chopped fresh strawberries for the apple.
  • The maple syrup should not be here but I'm a sinner. The maple syrup may add more flavour than refined white sugar but let's be honest: This is adding sugar, a small amount, but sugar nevertheless.

I make no sweeping claims about this breakfast. For overblown claims, click the links. I feel that some of the claims are ones that Ponce de Leon would have appreciated.  When I read such claims, I find myself questioning their veracity. If something seems just too good to be true . . .

I will say this: my heart doctors would approve of this breakfast, especially if I removed the maple syrup. This breakfast delivers adequate calories to power one through to lunch and it is pleasantly filling. It may keep the need to snack at bay. I say "may" because if it is your habit to snack between meals you have a habit to break.

I believe an important ingredient in any successful weight loss or weight maintenance program is will power. -- and maybe an orange. If you must snack, a bit of fruit is much better than a couple of cookies or a candy bar.