Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lemon Curry Lentils and Rice

Another lentil recipe, even simpler than my first curried lentil recipe. Lentils are a great source of protein, fiber, potassium and other vitamin and minerals. Many disabled people have swallowing or chewing problems and this dish packs great nutrition in an easy to eat package. The combination of lemon curry and grated ginger will fill your kitchen with a delightful fragrance. Makes 4 side dish servings.

½ cup brown rice, prepared per package directions.
1 cup green or red lentils
2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
¾ tsp. lemon curry (or ¾ tsp. curry and ½ tsp. grated lemon zest)
½ tsp grated fresh ginger

1. Combine lentils, broth curry and ginger in a medium saucepan with tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Serve over brown rice. About 265 calories, 2 g. fat, 15 g. protein and 16 g. fiber per serving.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tempeh fajitas

Tempeh is a meat substitute made from soybeans that originated in Indonesia. Unlike tofu, tempeh is made from the whole soybean and has a higher fiber. Tempeh can also be made of other grains. I must give credit to my son Jon for telling me about tempeh and how to cook it for good results. Jon made tempeh fajitas for my wife and it sounded like a good idea.

The marinade for this recipe was my own invention. The ingredients are nothing like what you would expect for fajita marinade but believe me, it works. Shoyu sauce is similar to soy sauce but it does not have any MSG in it, so it is available in organic versions. The marinade can be used for tempeh, tofu or chicken. I’ve never tried it on beef (God forbid!), but I suppose it would work. Using tempeh, this recipe tastes very close to chicken fajitas with much less fat and cholesterol.

Ingredients: (enough to fill four medium tortillas)
¼ cup ketchup
2 tbs. Shoyu sauce
1 tbs. brown sugar
2 tbs. water
A dash or more hot pepper sauce (optional)
8 oz. tempeh, sliced
1 tsp. olive oil
2 medium red and/or yellow bell peppers, julienned
1 large Vidalia onion, cut in half and sliced thin
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine ketchup, Shoyu, sugar, water and hot sauce in a small bowl and mix well. Combine with tempeh in a zip lock bag, coat well and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.

2. In a large non-stick skillet sauté onions and peppers in olive oil until almost tender. Add tempeh and continue sautéing until tempeh is heated through and veggies are tender. Serve on tortillas as desired. About 185 calories, 8 g. fat, 13 g. protein and 3 g. fiber per serving.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are Bragg’s Liquid Aminos Really Healthy?

More than once someone has recommended Bragg’s liquid aminos as a healthy alternative to soy sauce. Being thorough and just a little obsessive about what I eat, anything new gets researched and so did Bragg’s.

It started with the simplest option, a good old google search which resulted in the manufacturer’s website for nutrition facts, then a few sites selling Bragg’s products. And  just few links down things got a little ugly and the questions started. Does it have MSG? Apparently it does. Is it low sodium? Definitely NOT. Is it a good source of proteins? That’s questionable.

MSG or monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer most of us are familiar with. It’s use or value is a highly charged issue which I will not go into here. Some people have an intolerance for MSG, but used in moderation most people are not affected by it. MSG is found in many foods, especially processed foods and condiments like tamari sauce and soy sauce.

Bragg’s liquid aminos had originally been labeled as having no MSG, but the FDA required Bragg’s change the labeling. There is no MSG added to this product, but contains MSG because of the way it is manufactured. For an explanation check out the following link: http://www.welikeitraw.com/rawfood/2005/06/bragg_liquid_am.html

A quick look at the nutrition facts on a bottle of Bragg’s might make it look low sodium but there’s a little misdirection going on there. The serving size listed is just one-half of a teaspoon and it contains 160 mg. of sodium, which is 960 mg. per tablespoon or about 40% of recommended daily value of sodium. Compare that to Kikkoman regular soy sauce at about 920 mg. of sodium per tablespoon or lower sodium soy sauce at 575 mg. sodium per tablespoon. This same tablespoon of Bragg’s yields 1860 mg. of protein, but that’s only 3% of the daily recommended protein intake for a 180 pound adult. You can get more protein from one ounce of black beans or one-fifth of an ounce of chicken, neither of which will load you up on sodium.

Is Bragg’s a healthy alternative to soy sauce? It doesn’t seem to be. It tastes similar to soy sauce, but for me lower sodium soy sauce provides the flavor I’m looking for with about 40% less sodium. The very small advantage Bragg’s has with it’s protein content can be overcome with an extra nibble of chicken or mouthful of beans.

For another opinion on Bragg’s check out: http://www.justgoodenergy.com/2010/05/27/msg-in-braggs-liquid-aminos/

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wheat Berries

Wheat berries are wheat kernels that have had the husk removed. They are the ultimate ‘whole wheat’ food and can be used in place of other grains in many recipes. Wheat berries have a great nutty taste and very good nutritional values, being low in fat and high in protein and fiber.

I am always looking for something new and a couple weeks ago it was wheat berries. There are only a few decent recipes out there for savory wheat berry dishes and several have flopped for me. The recipe that follows is very simple, but was a hit the first time I made it. My wife didn’t get a chance to try it as the kids finished it off before she even got home. Today I made a double batch so hopefully there will be leftovers.

Basic wheat berry preparation:
1 cup wheat berries (dry)
3 to 4 cups water
In a medium saucepan with tight fitting lid bring wheat berries and water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 40 to 45 minutes. Turn off heat, allow to cool about 20 minutes and drain. Yields about 3 cups.

Wheat Berry Salad with Feta Cheese
I don’t usually have cheese in my recipes, but in this one the feta cheese is used more like a spice for its saltiness and flavor. This has quickly become a favorite in our house.
1 cup wheat berries, prepared as above
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 oz. feta cheese, finely crumbled
1 tbs. olive oil
3 to 4 tbs. red wine vinegar
¾ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine wheat berries, tomatoes and feta and set aside.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over wheat berries. Chill. Makes 8 ½ cup servings. About 110 calories, 3 g. fat, 4 g. protein and 3 g. fiber per serving.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Naan Bread Pizza

Naan is an Indian bread similar to pita that is cooked in a tandoor or clay oven. I began eating it a couple years ago just because I spied it in a health food store and it looked good. It is a great alternative to Italian bread for those of us with trouble chewing, as it has a firm texture but is not hard or chewy. Naan is also good with dips, especially hummus. I am sure it’s not an original idea, but one rainy night with very little in the fridge I came up with the idea for naan bread pizza. The first recipe is what I came up with that rainy night, but anything you can imagine on a pizza will work.

Greek Pizza
Ingredients (per pizza)
1 naan, about 4-5 oz.
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium tomato, chopped & drained
Garlic salt to taste
A little oregano
1 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the bottom of the naan with the olive oil.
2. Combine tomato, garlic salt and oregano in a small bowl. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours to let flavors meld.
3. Spread tomato mixture on pizza and top with feta. Place naan on a cookie sheet and bake about 10 minutes or until hot. Feta will not melt. 515 calories, 19 g. fat, 14 g. protein and 3 g. fiber per pizza.

Zucchini Pizza
Ingredients (per pizza):
1 naan, about 4-5 oz.
1 tsp. olive oil
2 oz. tomato sauce
Garlic salt and oregano to taste
½ cup zucchini, sliced very thin
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the bottom of the naan with the olive oil.
2. Spread naan with tomato sauce and add garlic salt and oregano to taste.
3. Arrange zucchini slices on top of pizza as desired. Place naan on a cookie sheet and bake about 10 minutes or until hot. 440 calories, 15 g. fat, 14 g. protein and 4 g. fiber per pizza.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I was asked again today about my weight loss “How’d you do it?”. It’s a difficult question to answer. The questioner is usually looking for a short answer, like “give up butter”, “switch to diet soda” or another easy fix. That’s what we have come to expect in our instant society - take a pill and poof, problem solved.

The truth, however, is a more difficult answer. Was it really hard? As a whole, yes it was. But I didn’t do it all at once. Each piece of the puzzle was easy to place. Listed below in no particular order, each individual step was easy:

Give up red meat
More fish
More chicken
Only whole grains
More beans
Give up cheese
Switch to light mayonnaise and then give it up all together
A banana every day
A salad every day
A fat-free yogurt every day
Go meatless 2 or 3 days per week
Give up butter
Switch to low fat milk
Dried fruit instead of cookies
More tofu
Only brown rice, never white
Take fish oil
Take a vitamin
Give up tortilla chips
Get more sleep
More tea, less coffee
More water, less diet soda
And probably a dozen other things I’ve forgotten.

I never made a decision to do all these things at once. It began with dropping red meat and making sure I got plenty of fiber. Every week or two after that I added something new or made an improvement to my diet - a better food, new recipe or supplement. Each incremental change pushes just a little further towards my goal. I’m in a wheelchair - I don’t do anything fast! I’ve got 20 more pounds to lose and if it takes another year or so big deal.

What increments are coming up soon? Quinoa, Goji berries, red bush tea, an excellent rice and lentils recipe, marinated tofu (still perfecting that one) and a little more on supplements.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Able Chef's Healthy Sausage & Peppers

Turkey sausage is the reason this version of sausage and peppers is healthy. Combine that with lots of veggies and whole wheat pasta and you can indulge that savory, spicy urge without guilt. Now don’t turn your nose up at turkey sausage until you try it. My favorite part of turkey sausage? None of those little nasty hard bits of who knows what you find in pork sausage. Plus they have about one-third the fat and half the cholesterol of pork sausage. Colorful, flavorful and satisfying, this will become a family favorite. We like Shady Brook Farms brand turkey sausage. Makes 6 generous servings.

13.25 oz. package Barilla whole wheat pasta, prepared per package directions
1-1/4 lb. (6 links) Italian turkey sausage, sweet or hot
1 tsp. olive oil
1 or 2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
3 to 4 bell peppers, a mix of red, green and yellow, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
3 or more cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
Red pepper flakes, cayenne powder or Tabasco sauce to taste

1. Cut sausage links into bite-size pieces and lightly brown in oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and continue sautéing until translucent.

2. Add peppers, garlic, tomatoes, oregano and red pepper flakes and simmer until peppers are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in pasta, heat through and serve. 460 calories, 12 g. fat, 28 g. protein and 12 g. fiber per serving.