Saturday, July 31, 2010

Baked Salmon with Herbed Wild Rice

Some of my favorite dinners are the simplest and this is one of them. Granted, it’s more expensive than my usual recipes but fish made at home is cheaper than going to McDonald’s. If salmon is not your ‘thing’ go ahead and make what you like. The key with fish is cooking it until just done. If your fish is fresh it shouldn’t be dry when cooked right. No need to drown fish in butter or oil to keep it tender and flaky. Makes 4 ample servings.

For rice-
1 cup wild rice or brown rice
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock.
1 tsp. dried minced onion
¼ tsp. ground sage
½ tsp. dried thyme
A pinch dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried parsley

For fish-
An approx. 1-1/4 lb. salmon filet gently rinsed and patted dry
A few dashes soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
Garlic salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

1. In a saucepan with a tight fitting lid, combine wild rice, chicken broth, minced onion, sage, thyme rosemary and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until rice is tender and water is absorbed, about 35 to 45 minutes. Different types of rice vary, so you may need to add additional water or broth.

2. For the fish, preheat the oven to 350⁰. Prepare a shallow pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place fish skin side down in pan.

3. Brush fish with soy sauce and sprinkle on the garlic salt and black pepper. Place in oven and bake, uncovered, for 18 to 20 minutes or until fish is just done.

4. Serve fish on a bed of the herbed rice with a salad or steamed vegetables. 450 calories, 18 g. fat, 35 g. protein and 3 g. fiber per serving.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thai Red Curry Tofu

This may be way out of the comfort zone for many people, but it is more than worth the effort. Thai red curry has become a staple in our house because it is simple and versatile, flavorful and nutritious. With a few standard Thai items in your pantry you can whip it up whenever the urge hits.

Some of the ingredients are not familiar to most Americans, so I will try to describe them. Everyone knows what soy sauce is, but my Thai dishes will call for low sodium soy sauce. I go with low sodium soy sauce because some of the other prepared Thai ingredients already have significant sodium content, particularly fish sauce. Fish sauce is a pleasantly pungent, salty, light brown clear liquid, made from brined small fish, usually anchovies. Without fish sauce, the flavor of Thai dishes just fall flat.

Thai red curry paste is a mixture of lemongrass, galangal (Thai ginger) and fresh red chilies mashed into a paste. Keeping these ingredients in the fridge would be cumbersome if you could even find them, so the prepared paste is a real time saver. Plus, a jar of paste can keep for months, not days like the fresh ingredients. Use cautiously until you get used to the heat in curry paste. It’s easy to overdo it.

To tone down the heat and spice, the dish is finished with coconut milk and a little sugar. I use light coconut milk in my recipes because it has less than half the fat and calories than regular coconut milk.

This is another easily adaptable recipe. Instead of tofu, you can use about ¾ pound of boneless, skinless chicken or fish. A friend caught some striped bass and dropped off a nice filet that was fantastic prepared this way. This recipe makes 4 generous servings.

1 tbs. olive oil
12 to 14 oz. package extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
1 large sweet onion thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 to 3 tsp. Thai red curry paste
1 tbs. fish sauce
1 cup chicken broth
14 oz. can light coconut milk
2 to 3 tbs. low sodium soy sauce
2 tbs. brown sugar
2 medium zucchini, julienned, about 3 cups
2 medium red bell peppers, julienned, about 2 cups
1” piece of fresh ginger, minced
8 oz. rice noodles, prepared per package directions
1. Sauté tofu in olive oil over medium high heat until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add onions and continue sautéing until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, combine garlic, curry paste, fish sauce, chicken broth, coconut milk, soy sauce and brown sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
3. Add sauce mixture, zucchini, peppers and ginger to tofu mixture, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes. Add prepared rice noodles, stir and simmer for an additional minute. Serve. 490 calories, 16 g. fat, 16 g. protein and 4 g. fiber per serving.

In the beginning...

I’ve been toying with this blog for a month, busily hashing out recipes and compiling nutrition facts. My family has been happily eating (for the most part) through all sorts of meals. Since it’s summer all three of my sons are home, along with their friends. On any given night there are three to ten college age kids inhaling my meals.

The best part is the challenge of keeping up with who is vegetarian, are they tired of Thai red curry (my fav) or can I get away with rice and beans one more time? The best test of a recipe has been getting thumbs up from a dozen unrelated critics. How can it go wrong?

In 1996 I was diagnosed with oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy (OPMD). OPMD is a genetic disease that causes atrophy of all muscle groups, but mostly the muscles of the face and throat. My OPMD was further complicated when I broke my left leg in 2003, got my right hand stuck in a belt sander in 2004 and finally broke my right leg in 2005. I have not been able to walk or stand since 2005. I have had pretty good luck learning to do most things with my left hand too. Put it all together and I have become a one handed chef. It’s not pretty sometimes but the job gets done and it always tastes good.

The genesis of all this was two years ago. I was sick and nauseous for a couple months with no idea what caused it. Eventually it turned out to be an intestinal problem (I’ll spare you the details) and I was staring at surgery that could leave me incontinent for the rest of my life. With any kind of disability, surgery is dangerous. For people with muscular dystrophy the anesthesia alone is dangerous. After seeking a second and then third opinion, I found a doctor willing to do more than just slice and dice me. It was the first time any of these GI doctors even mentioned changing my diet. After 60 days of a nasty but effective antibiotic and a high fiber diet, I got past the infection and healed surprisingly well.

About a year ago, I was diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure). My doctor’s reaction? More pills! No diet pointers, nothing. There seems to be an expectation over the years that because I am disabled my doctors don’t expect much. Toss ‘em another pill and see ya in six weeks. WTF? My father had the same disease I do but it was heart disease that killed him at the ripe old age of 75. Any healthy guy like me under 50 would or should be told to change his ways and eat better. So I decided to do it myself.

Since about January 2009 my diet has been evolving. No red meat, more fish, nothing but whole grains, beans, no cheese, and so on. It didn’t happen overnight and that was deliberate. I am not dieting but changing the way I eat. There have been a lot of experiments, which has expanded the family recipe book. In turn, eating well has become habit instead of a novelty. Now the whole family looks forward to my low fat vegetarian chili, tofu stir fry and Asian chicken noodle soup.

How has the diet experiment worked? Great! I’ve lost 25 pounds, lowered my blood pressure to 108/70 from 130/95 and my resting heart rate is down to 64 bpm from 85 bpm. No more hemorrhoids, heartburn or scary blood test results. Due to my disease I can’t exercise much so diet was the only solution. Remember- it won’t happen all at once. Add a new recipe every week and within a year you won’t miss the garbage you were eating. I love cheeseburgers but they don’t love me!

The recipes I post will usually have basic nutritional information including calories, fat, protein and fiber content per serving. Blog content will not be limited to food and diet, but also disability issues and an occasional rant when something pisses me off. I want to hear from disabled chefs or people who cook for a disabled person. Healthy food doesn’t need to be boring and I’ll do my best to make it taste better.