Monday, January 17, 2011

Just another manic (meatless) Monday...

Today is my last day of winter break before hitting the books. I'm glad I made a shopping list for the next few nights' meals yesterday because today I was somehow in a last-minute rush at the grocery store ;) I adapted a recipe from the book Pot Luck by Mable Hoffman. I have made this several times and always wondered how it would taste without the ground beef. Turns out it doesn't need the meat, especially with all the extra spices I added...

1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (or 2 med tomatoes, chopped)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 15 oz can black beans (I think I'd add another can of beans next time)
2 medium sweet potatoes (yams) peeled and thinly sliced (I left the peels on)
1/3 cup chopped raisins
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/2 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 9 x 11 baking dish with olive oil. Spread beans in even layer in dish and sprinkle with half of the cumin, chili powder, turmeric, cinnamon, and salt. Layer the potatoes over the beans. Sprinkle with the raisins, tomatoes, and onion. Sprinkle with the other half of the spices. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour or until sweet potatoes are done. Serve hot.

I think this would be really yummy served over basmati or jasmine rice.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pasta Puttanesca

I heart puttanesca -- it is my favorite pasta sauce. I've been experimenting with my own "semi home made" version to replace the $6 jar at the grocery store and I think I've finally done it! Tonight was a true test for this recipe since the husband opted for no meat this time (must be on a roll! :), and after a few bites he said "I don't even miss the meat." I feel like I'm on a major winning streak after a chili disaster last weekend. It turns out the "secret" ingredient in perfect puttanesca is red wine! I used Cabernet Sauvignon since it is supposed to have a higher concentration of the anti-cancer and heart-healthy antioxidant resveratrol than some other red wines. It also doesn't hurt that it tastes delicious!

"You won't miss the meat" Puttanesca:

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (with juice)
1/2 cup cabernet sauvignon
4 cloves garlic - finely diced
1/2 red onion - finely diced (red onion has more color, therefore more phytochemicals)
1 Tbsp capers
1/3 cup pitted, chopped kalamata olives
1 small zucchini, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning (rosemary, oregano, thyme, and basil)
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a medium skillet and add onions, garlic, and zucchini. Saute until tender.

In a medium saucepan add remaining 1 Tbsp of oil, both cans of tomatoes, capers, olives, and wine.

Add onions, garlic, and zucchini and simmer on low heat for 1 hour.

Salt and pepper to taste.

 Serve over whole wheat pasta with a nice dark-leafy green salad and enjoy!

I think next time I might add a couple of anchovies and some red pepper flakes to the olive oil before sauteing the onions, garlic, and zucchini because I like really strong flavors and the husband likes the spice.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Links and Labels

A quick note to anybody who happens to read my blog: I think it is very important to independently research any statement made online, especially some random person's blog ;) To make this easier for readers, I will include links in my posts to abstracts of articles published in peer-reviewed journals. Most of these will can be found on pubmed, an excellent resource for anyone interested in educating themselves about current issues in health and medicine. If you follow the links, I encourage you to dig further and use links on the site to sources and related citations. The information is out there for the public and it's up to us to inform ourselves! Stepping off my "soapbox"...

Yesterday's post talked about the yummy vegetarian chili I cooked up for Meatless Monday. Besides being delicious, the meal turned out to be educational. As we sat scooping up our über healthy, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory chili and shoveling it into our faces with saltines, my husband decided to read the nutrition label on the saltines sitting on the table. I have recently started buying an organic brand, more because they taste much better than our usual crackers than for any nutritional reason (since after all a processed food is a processed food).

Well, according to the nutrition label our "healthy" crackers are not so healthy after all ;) A serving size is 4 crackers and contains 60 calories, 20 of which come from fat. They contain no dietary fiber and 1 measly gram of protein. This got me curious so I pulled out the box of "regular" saltines. A serving size of those is 5 crackers and contains 60 calories, 10 of which come from fat. I don't general worry too much about fat intake and since neither types of cracker had trans or saturated fats, but all-in-all neither cracker is providing much nutritional benefit. And I don't know about anyone else, but my husband and I can easily polish off at least 12 crackers each with a bowl of chili. That's 144-180 "extra" calories added to our otherwise nutrition-packed meal. It wasn't enough to make us switch back from our buttery-tasting saltines to the old kind, let alone quit enjoying saltines with our chili, but it did stop us both from reaching into the box for a second helping.

I don't currently count calories or even worry too much about them, but this was a good reminder that it is important to read nutrition labels and plan a meal accordingly. Serving sizes can be deceptively tiny so munching "blindly" from the box might not be the best idea. I also might try to find some whole grain saltines with at least a little dietary fiber next time - we'll see ;)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Meatless Monday

I finally have a reason to blog about something! My 2011 resolution is to put into practice some of the many dietary and exercise changes I have been researching. Step 1: Eat a plant-based diet. Right now I am not vegan or even vegetarian, but the more research I read about nutrition the harder it is to ignore how heavily meat-based my diet is. Even switching to grass-fed and pastured meats doesn't seem to be a big enough step to reap the greatest health benefits - I still need to replace a good portion of meat with MORE vegetables. I sometimes choose vegetarian meals at restaurants (I had some delicious sautéed pumpkin and eggplant last night at Afghan Grill in Dallas) but as a relatively new cook my home meals tend to be traditional American and meat-based. I love Thai food, Indian food, Greek, Lebanese, and now Afghan food and I am excited to incorporate some of these cooking styles into my meals. The best part is that many of the dishes I love are packed with anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices!

My wonderful husband who loves these same foods (but is hesitant to cut back on meat consumption much) is finally open to trying a fully vegetarian meal tonight: vegetarian chili. My challenge will be to serve a spicy, hearty chili that tastes as good or better than my usual ground beef version. Neither of us is into meat "substitutes," but luckily chili doesn't really need that anyway and we both love beans in chili :) I also want to incorporate some potent ant-inflammatory spices such as turmeric and cinnamon, and some dark chocolate since we both love molé.

Here is the recipe I am starting with. It was adapted from a Whole Foods recipe. I may change it slightly when I make the chili and I'll update how it turns out.

3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained (or kernels from 1 ear corn)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced (about 3 cups) (I left the skin on)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced, more or less to taste (Add if you like more heat)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Sea salt and black pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can fire roasted or regular diced tomatoes with juices
1 cup gluten-free vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a large heavy skillet, roast corn kernels over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet over medium heat and cook eggplant with a pinch of salt until golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in jalapeño, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in tomatoes, beans, vegetable broth and lime juice. Bring to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in corn and eggplant. Add chocolate and stir just until melted. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.


Success!!! This chili was delicious! I made a few changes to the recipe above: I doubled the cumin and tripled the chili powder, used 1 Tbsp of cocoa powder instead of the chocolate chips, added 1 tsp of turmeric, and left out the paprika (I was out). I left the eggplant skins on and they were a little too chewy, so next time I will either peel the eggplant or use zucchini instead. I didn't use a jalapeño and my husband missed the heat, but once he added about an eighth cup of cayenne pepper (as he does to everything) he gave it an 8 out of 10. That's about as good as I could have hoped for!