Category Archives: Healthy

Falafel, Origin Uncertain

I recently visited a local Mediterranean style restaurant, Mediterranean Cruise Cafe – http://www.medcruisecafe.com – and enjoyed the delicious falafel, among other tasty dishes.  That scrumptious meal inspired me to search for a falafel recipe.  I admit, until I started researching recipes, I was ignorant and didn’t know that falafel was essentially a garbanzo bean fritter (croquette in international settings).  I learned fava beans are also used in many parts of the world and may have been the original primary ingredient.

Wikipedia sources note that the origin of falafel is unknown and somewhat controversial.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falafel
It is thought to have originated in Egypt.  In modern times (did I really write that?), falafel is considered a street food or fast food and often served as a sandwich.  It seems the question of origin has been so passionate that it has generated accusations of copyright infringement.

I was delighted to discover that creating falafel is quite simple, especially if you bake it, rather than the traditional method of deep frying.  End result – baking is healthier and just as tasty!

I discovered various falafel recipes in my search.  Most included flour and some included baking powder.  I did find my preferred baked falafel recipe on the about.com internet site.  http://video.about.com/mideastfood/Baked-Falafel.htm

Baked Falafel

•1 – 15 oz. can garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas)
•3 cloves garlic
•1 small onion, diced
•3 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
•2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
•1 tsp. cumin
•1 tsp. coriander
•Juice of 1 lemon (about 1 Tbsp.)
•1/2 tsp. kosher salt
•1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
•2 Tbsp. flour
•1 tsp. baking powder
•2 Tbsp. olive oil

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees.
Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse well.
Place the garlic in a food processor, and pulse a few times to chop it roughly. Now add the onions, the chickpeas, the parsley, cilantro, cumin, coriander, and lemon juice to the food processor. Add the salt, the red pepper flakes, flour and the baking powder.
Cover and pulse until the mixture is well combined. You don’t want a complete puree, just a mash, sort of like the texture of a chunky hummus. Now, drizzle about a tablespoon of the olive oil onto a baking sheet.
Form the falafel into 1-1/2-inch rounds and flatten slightly with your fingers. Place on the oiled baking sheet. When you’re finished, brushed the falafel with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven 15-18 minutes until golden brown on the bottom.
Turn, and return the falafel to the oven to bake another 5-7 minutes until browned on the other side.

When I made this recipe, I did not measure the olive oil on the pan and used an olive oil spritzer to coat the tops of the falafel patties.  It was definitely not enough olive oil and the cook time was much longer.  I think the longer cook time was due to using canned garbanzo beans.  You may have a different experience with dried beans.  Use best judgement on olive oil and monitor the baking.  If the patties are not getting firm, increase cooking time and/or add olive oil.  I had to do both.

I mixed up a yogurt-cucumber dressing for the falafel, but it is not my favorite – too bland.  I will share a recipe when I find a good one.

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Yes, Soup for You

As I finished the autumn leaf round-up and migrated the lawn mower to the shed for the winter, I was in the mood for a savory and comforting soup.  I flipped through a stack of hard copy recipes and found a Weight Watchers soup that I had not yet made.  Great bonus – it’s multi-grain!  I adore the nutty, crunchy, earthy flavor of wild rice (see below recipe for breakfast wild rice), so it was a perfect choice.
https://twocutes.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/winter-breakfast-mahnomin-porridge/

This is a great basic recipe that has multiple variation options.  Weight Watcher recipes are often bland, so I almost doubled the spices in the recipe.  I also used a bit of chicken broth along with the vegetable broth, since I had it available.  I did not use an instant rice mix; but, rather, cooked both the wild rice and barley in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Wild Rice, Barley, Corn, and Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

1 cup(s) water
1/4 cup(s) uncooked barley
2 tsp olive oil
|1/2 cup(s) carrot(s), grated
1/2 tsp minced garlic
3 cup(s) mushroom(s), sliced
5 1/2 cup(s) vegetable broth
3/4 cup(s) instant long grain and wild rice mix
1 cup(s) frozen corn kernels
1/8 oz fresh sage, chopped (use 1 tablespoon)

Instructions

In a small saucepan, combine water and barley. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered, for time specified on barley package directions.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat oil; add carrots and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in mushrooms and cook just until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes more.  Add cooked barley, broth, rice, corn and sage to vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until rice is cooked and mixture is thoroughly heated, about 10 minutes. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

PointsPlus™ Value: 3
Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 30 min
Level of Difficulty: Easy 

http://www.weightwatchers.com/
© 2011 Weight Watchers International, Inc. © 2011 WeightWatchers.com, Inc. All rights reserved.  WEIGHT WATCHERS and PointsPlus™ are the registered trademarks of Weight Watchers International, Inc. and are used under license by WeightWatchers.com, Inc.

Saturday Beans

It started about three weeks ago.  My body started sending me subtle messages – “winter is coming,” “you need to store up.”  I have cravings for carbohydrates and comfort food.  Chocolate cravings also seem to be up.  This is empirical evidence that human biology is impacted by changing seasons.  In the Upper Midwest of the U.S.A., the number of daylight hours is declining and  mornings are getting colder.

I’ve noticed that when a person pays more attention to what is consumed (food or drink),  a person also more quickly notices the effects.  I heard those subtle messages and unconsciously took action on them.  It occurred to me, yesterday, that I had to actively manage this situation to avoid certain disaster.

Beans are a logical answer.  They are an almost-perfect food – high fiber, high protein, low fat, low calories.  Black beans are a staple in my healthy eating regimen, but they were left out of today’s cooking experiment.

The goal was baked beans, but not something usual.  I surveyed the cabinets and refrigerator for ingredients and just kept adjusting.  The results slightly exceeded expectations.  The key is to taste frequently and adjust, as necessary.  I even made flatbread pizza with the resulting bean concoction for this evening’s dinner.

Here is what I came up with today – adjust to your preferred tastes.

Ingredients
1 small poblano pepper, chopped (if less heat desired, use green pepper)
3/4 large onion, chopped
1 clove hot and spicy garlic (local food artisan)
3-4 oz. Jimmy Dean reduced fat pork sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilis, drained
15 oz. can pinto beans, undrained
1/3 cup dried lentils – prepared
1/3 cup dried small red beans – prepared
1/3 cup chunky salsa (local friend)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3  teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon salt
2 slices cooked turkey bacon (just use the real thing, believe me), chopped
1 slice cooked center cut pork bacon, chopped

Sauté onion, pepper, garlic, sausage, and bacon (if not previously cooked) in olive oil.
Add all other ingredients, cover, and cook on low heat for 2 hours.  If mixture appears too thin or soupy, remove cover.

Flatbread pizza —

Spritz Flat-Out Light Original flatbread with olive oil.  Spread thin layer of reduced fat mozzarella cheese.  Spread thin layer of bean mixture.  Place turkey pepperoni slices.  Spread another thin layer of reduced fat mozzarella cheese.  Bake in oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until cheese is browned.

Food Rut

I recently realized I was slipping into food dullness, relying on the same old staples and experimenting less.  That must stop!

Cooler weather arrived this week; so, this morning,  I had a craving for a savory dish.  I wanted something simple and easy and decided to use the slow cooker.  I had the perfect main character in the freezer – pork tenderloin.  I found a pork marinade on the Food Network internet site.

My pork tenderloin was 1.5 pounds.  I used almost the same ingredients and amounts as in the below recipe, but I omitted the vegetable oil.  I also omitted the orange juice, as there was none in the house.  I added a teaspoon or so of lime juice – seemed to fit.  I also added a pinch of garlic chips from the Herb Man, a local organic grower.
http://www.herb-man.com/

I put all the ingredients in the slow cooker pot and whisked together.  The pork tenderloin was frozen, so I cut it in half and placed it in the slow cooker pot with the marinade.  I set the cooker to the low setting and left it for three hours.  It was perfectly done.  Initial testing results:  savory, sweet, tender.
This will be perfect for future sandwiches!  Primary flavors are honey, ginger, and rosemary.  I will save the marinade and try using it as a base for cooking rice.  If you aren’t into sweet flavors, reduce the amount of honey.

Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/saras-secrets/marinated-grilled-pork-tenderloin-recipe/index.html
 Ingredients
  • 3 (3/4 to 1 pound) pork tenderloins
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

Directions

Trim the tenderloins of all fat and silverskin. Place them in a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them without crowding.

Combine the soy sauce, sherry, honey, vinegar, oil, and orange juice in a medium bowl, whisking until well blended. Stir in the rosemary, shallots, and ginger. Pour the mixture over the tenderloins. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate at room temperature for 2 hours.

Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan.

Remove the pork from the marinade, shaking off any excess. Place the tenderloins on the grill and cook, turning frequently, for about 18 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 155 degrees F. Transfer to a platter and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, place the marinade in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Slice the pork into 1/4 inch-thick slices, spoon the hot marinade over the pork.

Nothing as Cool as a Cucumber

This is the first year I have successfully grown a cucumber to maturity and harvest.  I have little full sun exposure in the yard, so, this year, I chose to plant the cucumbers in a container.  I selected a variety that is specifically designed for small spaces (Spacemaster).  I made a fresh and yummy cucumber feta salad with the first harvest.  I also used some of my abundant mint crop, so I’m feeling just a bit more self-sustaining today than usual!


Cucumber Feta Salad
Cucumber, diced small
Scallions or any onion variety, chopped
Kalamata olives or any olive variety, chopped
Olive oil
White wine or champagne vinegar
Mint, fresh chopped
Feta cheese, crumbled
Black Pepper,  ground

Combine all ingredients and toss.  I did not measure amounts, but I think a proportion of 2:1:1 – cucumber:onion:olives – is a good start.  Otherwise, just toss and surprise yourself.

If olives aren’t a favorite, try replacing them with fresh tomatoes.  The result will still be delicious!

Single, Healthy Quiche

Healthy cooking is challenging, but single-serving healthy cooking is doubly challenging.  I normally use a small pie pan to make quiche and heat up the remaining portions for future meals, but a great idea leaped into my head this morning.  Why not just use a single size container?

Years ago, my sister came up with a simple and healthy quiche crust – wheat germ, regular oats, and olive oil as a binder.  Mix it up until it sticks together and press into your pan.  Cook at 350° – 400°, depending upon pan size, for 10 to 20 minutes, until lightly toasted.  This provides a solid base for the egg mixture. 
Today, I didn’t have wheat germ, so I mixed up cracked wheat, regular oats, olive oil, and pressed into a Corning Pyrex 8 ounce custard cup.  It’s the perfect size for a single serving quiche!

I surveyed the refrigerator and freezer and found baby portobellos and cooked bacon.  Penzey’s Herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, and shredded Parmesan cheese finished the dish.  I used an immersion blender (excellent invention) to blend 1 egg and the egg white equivalent of one egg.  I cooked the mixture for about 20 minutes at 350° Fahrenheit.  It was wonderful and satisfying!

Salmon and Cucumber – Good Eating!

Awoke this morning to a few, wet inches of April snow.  It was a delightful scene, but somewhat unsettling for the middle of April.  No need to panic, it should disappear in the next day or two.

I am working to incorporate more protein into my diet, so I cooked an Atlantic salmon fillet today (0.73 lb raw with skin).  I purposely cooked it late this morning, so it would be ready when I was hungry for it and wouldn’t have to wait.  I recommend this tactic for people with limited time and a desire to eat more healthy.  So many negative food choices are made when a person is really hungry and feels desperate.  I know, I’ve been in that place more times than I can count.
 
I coated a pan with a thin layer of olive oil and made a small bed of coarse sea salt for the salmon.  I placed the fillet skin side down on the salt, seasoned with ground pepper, a bit of salt, and dried dill weed.  [It impresses me that the dill plant offers its seed and foliage and flowers for culinary use – quite efficient.]
I then used an olive oil mister (required kitchen tool) to give the fish a light top coating of olive oil.  I cooked the salmon at 350°F until I was able to flake it with a fork – about 25 minutes.

I had a few midday nibbles on the fish, but separated the flesh from the skin and put most of it (the flesh) in the refrigerator.  As I went about daily tasks, I thought about what I would do with the salmon.  I considered a salmon and cream cheese dip, which is delicious, but would tempt me to pair it with a sumptuous French bread or gourmet crackers.  Breads and baked goods are my food weaknesses.  I find them difficult to limit.  I decided upon a fresh and Spring-like combination of salmon, cream cheese (fat free, in this case), and cucumber.  It was definitively satisfying with no bread-guilt.

For the rest of the meal, I wanted something a bit more substantial, so I made Creole-seasoned baked sweet potato fries.  Incidentally, there is confusion in the USA about the difference between a sweet potato and a yam.  They are not the same and my mother had an amusing story about just this subject last year.  I admit, I’m not sure which one I actually cooked.  The root was definitely firm, but the cooked product was soft.  Here is a Library of Congress link that explains the mystery.
http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/sweetpotato.html

The Creole seasoned sweet potatoes were not an original idea, as the local co-op makes and sells them in the deli.  Again, I used a light coating of olive oil in a pan, cut the orange sweet potato in strips, seasoned with Tony Chachere Creole seasoning and ground black pepper.  I baked them at 375-400°F for about 45 minutes.  I prefer more crunch than mush.

It was a great meal, but I did consume the entire salmon fillet in a single day!  Oh, well, it is certainly better than consuming an entire loaf of French bread in a single day and I believe I have met my omega-3 oil target values for the day.  I partnered the salmon and sweet potato fries with a Sauvignon Blanc from Nova Wines – Marilyn Sauvignon Blonde.  It is moderately priced and quite good.