Super Bowl Chilis That Won’t Sack Your Weight Loss Plan

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Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday:  Bring out your chips, your dips, your party mixes, your Buffalo wings, your cheeseburgers and your Dominoes pizzas.  And your beer.  Lots of beer.

Is it a celebration of football, or junk food? 

Could be both.  But because we’re parked in front of the TV for three-plus solid hours, often with our nearest and dearest football-loving friends,  there is a tendency to overconsume — especially if it’s not a real exciting game.   (Just what is there to do at half-time besides wait for the ads and … eat?) 

We don’t have to limit ourselves to artery-clogging junk foods tomorrow; we can at least create for ourselves the opportunity to eat healthily while rooting for … whoever.  (I think Green Bay for me, although it’s kind of immaterial without the Giants.)

Here are two hearty, healthy and tastey chili recipes that will you help you get through the Super Bowl without busting your gut.  Although they are both vegetarian, you could, if you like, incorporate some ground beef or turkey.  Seasonings, as always with chili, are to taste.  These are filling dishes, which, with a light beer or two, should leaving you feeling satisfied and content (and consoled, should you require consolation) without eating huge quantities.

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Contemplate This: Eating Just One Potato Chip

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You really can eat just one.

My friend Nancy just gave me The Complete Tassajara Cookbook a lovely book of “recipes, techniques and reflections” from the kitchen of Tassajara, a Zen monastery in the Santa Lucia mountains of California, which I visited some years ago for a yoga and meditation retreat.  A beautiful, serene and remote place, Tassarjara serves up absolutely delicious vegetarian fare in a huge family-style dining room for guests who come for retreats and classes — or just to get away from the world for a while. 

The author of The Complete Tassajara Cookbook, Edward Espe Brown, is an American Zen priest and teacher, and a founder of the famous Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.  I’m looking forward to immersing myself in this delightful and wise book — and not just for the recipes.  In fact, one of Brown’s essays so enchanted me that I felt I had to share it right away.

It’s called “Eating Just One Potato Chip,” and it’s about, well, eating just one potato chip.  But with complete mindfulness — that is, with complete attention to the experience of eating  a single potato chip, like it’s “the only chip in the universe.”

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Fighting the Evil Joneses: What To Do When You Crave a Stuffed Potato

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Re-imagined stuffed potato with red pepper sauce and sea scallops on the side

Winter tends to bring out the evil joneses. You know, those terrible comfort food cravings that are so hard to deny. 

Out of the blue the other day, I wanted a stuffed potato.  Really, really badly.  And not just any kind of stuffed potato, but one stuffed with bacon and every evil thing imaginable, and — very important — smothered in melted cheese, preferably cheddar. 

I don’t know where my head was that day, because I got hit by yet another cheese-related jones.  I wanted broccoli, the way my mother used to make it:  smothered in melted Cheez Wiz and topped with seasoned bread crumbs. (This was the ’70s — that’s what we did with broccoli in those days.)

So here I am, a mature, responsible adult trying to lose a bunch of weight and eat healthily, struggling with these very evil twin joneses.  What to do?

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Enjoy Your Salad Days

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A kitchen sink salad

Salads are too often taken for granted — yet they are not only delicious and healthy but they are also diverse and ripe for imagination and experimentation.

A friend recently lamented that she finds the salads she makes at home “boring.”  The ones in restaurants, she said, seem so much better.

I couldn’t disagree more!  Restaurants either throw together some random greens with a few pallid tomatoes and watery cucumber slices — hardly my idea of a real salad — or they “compose” an artifice for which they charge $12 and which you could have made yourself for about $2!

Upon further investigation, I discovered the truth.  My friend, who, like me, is trying to lose weight, makes salads that have close to zero calories and fat.  No wonder she finds them uninspiring.

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Cooking for Company: Marinated Flank Steak

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Normally I have only myself to think of when it comes to meal planning and preparation.  But, social butterfly that I am, I love to have people over for a nice dinner.  And many of them, bless their skinny little souls, aren’t engaged in losing weight.  My strategy for such occurrences is pretty simple:  Prepare a healthy, delicious meal that would please anyone — in particular the person or persons I happen to be entertaining, if they have a favorite food, for example — and eat less of it than they do.  Much less.  (Sigh.)

And so the other day when my nephew James turned out to be free for a home-cooked dinner at my place, I remembered having recently tucked this flank steak recipe into my file.  It’s from epicurious.com, and it’s terrific.  What’s more, it’s very easy to prepare, which was important that particular day, as one of my goals for the afternoon was to undecorate my Christmas tree.  Just remember to leave at least 4 hours for the meat to marinate.  I served the steak with baked sweet potatoes (I only ate half a potato!), Brussels sprouts and a salad.  The steak was both tastey and tender.  And James did his job by eating most of it for me!

Seared Marinated Flank Steaks

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 1-pound (about) flank steak, well trimmed
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

 Cut steak in half crosswise. Using a long sharp knife, split each steak in half, creating a total of 4 thin steaks. Combine wine, soy sauce, garlic, rosemary and thyme in 9×13-inch pan. Add steaks and turn to coat. Season generously with pepper. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 8 hours, turning occasionally.

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Add 1 steak at a time and cook to desired doneness, about 2 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to platter and let stand while cooking remaining steaks.

Per serving: calories, 200; fat, 10 g; sodium, 372 mg; cholesterol, 57 mg
Nutritional analysis provided by Bon Appétit 

Tuscan Beans with Sage

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This delicious dish, only slightly adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites, is a go-to for me.  And it is so simple it’s ridiculous.  I don’t even measure anymore.  I just use lots of everything – lots of sage, lots of garlic, careful with the lemon juice; everything to taste.  The honey is my own addition.  I find it counteracts the tinny flavor of the canned tomatoes and softens the pungency of the sage.  Also, I admit it:  I frequently use bottled minced garlic!  One thing I do find is important, and that’s to mince the sage very finely.  I use a mincer for that.  With a little grated Parmesan and a nice salad, you have a healthy and yummy supper.

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes ( 28-oz can, drained)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups cooked cannellini beans (two 15-ounce cans, drained)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

 Combine the sage, garlic and oil in a saucepan and sauté on medium-low heat for several minutes, until the garlic is golden.  Add the tomatoes, lemon juice, cannellini, and honey, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, until everything is hot.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.  Serve immediately or chill to serve. 

 Per 8 oz serving:  147 calories, 7.6 g protein, 3.1 g fat, 492 mg sodium, 0 cholesterol,  9.1 total dietary fiber

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