Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jackie's back!

I can't say how excited I am about this. Very pathetic I know, but I really do love Bravo and of course Jackie. And to think an OC housewife is one of the contestants! I'll have to read extra articles in the New Yorker to regain some brain cells....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Seafood chowder

I will preface this by saying that I sadly don't have a photo. I had one but no one liked how they looked in it. At any rate, the impetus for this was to use up 10 ears of corn I had made and cut off the cobs. I kept eating it by the handful in the fridge. I also had cooked green beans in the fridge.

I found a recipe on Epicurious that I kind of followed, but only partly. Here is what I did...And for the future I would halve the recipe, unless serving it to a LOT of people, like 10.

Saute some onions and celery in butter in a big soup pot. (one is supposed to use pork salt but I forgot to buy it. I probably used 2 onions, half a package of celery and 1.5 tbs butter.

Add a box of fish stock and cut up 5 or so medium red bliss potatoes (preferably organic and skin on) and simmer until potatoes are about half done - or maybe 15 minutes.

I then added 3 pounds of cod and two plastic pint containers of fresh clams and their water. Here is where it gets a bit dicey in terms of recreating the recipe. I bought the seafood at Stop and Shop, not a fancy fishmonger, but I was on Cape Cod after all.  I wonder if it was extra good because it was local, and if this whole recipe would be horrible if I didn't have such good seafood. I actually don't know. And all this seafood cost $40, which seems like a lot, but it made an enormous amount of soup.

The seafood is simply placed on top. After it starts to steam and break up it can be stirred. Eventually, after another 15 minutes or so, it all breaks up and basically disintegrates, along with about 50% of the potatoes. At this point I added about one and a half cups of half and half with the burner turned off. The result was a thick stew, more than a soup.

A few notes:
I used as much butter as I felt was necessary, which in reality is not much, but seems like a lot in a big hunk. After a lot of practice I can kind of eyeball how much is needed to add flavor without adding too many calories. As for the half and half, I did use a cup and a half, I think - I was just pouring until I liked the look of the consistency. I estimated that at 400 calories, but again that's over 10 or so servings. So all in all it was a low-fat, low-calorie, extremely healthy stew. Full of starch, yes, (corn, beans, potatoes) but very low in calories, low fat, and full of healthy seafood. Traditional chowders start with a roux and have tons of butter or pork fat and some flour. When I tasted it after it was done I thought it was not rich enough, but as it turns out, you could eat a whole bowl, or even two, without feeling overly full. I also didn't find any recipes that called for both fish and clams, but I decided to try it and it was delicious.

I added salt and pepper as I cooked, but not enough and people added more. I don't see this as a problem but done on purpose to allow everyone to adjust the soup to their own tastes. I also used veggies I had in the fridge but frozen would work fine. I meant to add carrots and forgot - that would have been pretty as I had yellow, green and pink flecks already.

Perhaps the best part about this dish was the clean-up. It was a one pot dish, and I even put the whole pot back in the fridge after we ate it - it was still so full! The stove didn't get splattered during the sauteing as the veggies were cooked in the high-walled pot.

I was happy because I took a traditionally dense and fattening food and made it healthy while still retaining a lot of flavor. I don't always succeed at that. I often make things too healthy and not rich enough, or I throw caution to the wind and make things unnecessarily caloric and greasy. So when I get it right I'm quite pleased with myself-and so were all my guests for 3 days!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer posting

Obviously I haven't been posting much lately. This is due to two main reasons: 1. I had a very hectic summer. 2. All things diet and exercise were just not on my mind that much. Number 2 is good, as it is evidence that I'm able to maintain my weight and healthy life-style without being obsessed, but also reflects that I was extremely pre-occupied with other angst - child care inadequacies, sibling rivalry, long-term planning (or lack thereof) and the time-consuming reality of a adopting a puppy. I certainly had time over my two week vacation, but was feeling decidedly not like posting. I just wanted to veg out and walk on the flats - which I did, every day. As a note - my kids were arguing over who got to hold the dog leash when this lovely picture was taken.

I will post again, hopefully soon. I would like to share my seafood chowder recipe. It was quick, easy, healthy, and delicious. I served it to three different groups of guests! I'll try to make that top priority, as soon as I get back on track in other areas.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Crunchy salad

I found this product at Trader Joe's. It's called "Healthy 8 Crunchy Salad"  It includes carrots, broccoli, jicama, green peppers, cabbage, radish and some other stuff. It is very crunchy. It is pretty good with just olive oil, lemon and salt, but super crunchy. Not so great for TMJ sufferers. But I decided to make a meal with quinoa and chicken. 
Pictured left is the plain salad. I think it's less than $3.

Pictured here is my dinner. Blogger is rotating my photos but for food it doesn't matter much. At any rate, I cooked quinoa, didn't wait long enough for it to cool, mixed it in with the salad and as little olive oil as I thought necessary, as well as some rice wine vinegar. I also added a good amount of salt. You could certainly add any number of other spices or use different oils or vinegars. I like the mild flavor of rice wine vinegar. After this photo was taken I added some beans. Edamame are good, or black beans. Beluga lentils (available pre-cooked at TJ's) are also a nice companion to quinoa. 

The hot quinoa softened the veggies a bit, which I kind of enjoyed, especially with my TMJ issues, but it does make the jicama not quite as crisp. 

I pan cooked chicken breasts with a heavy top on a non-stick skillet. I then deglazed the pan with a bit of butter, balsamic glaze, mustard and a little water. Very tasty. Somehow, I find these very healthy salads to be not so filling. I guess my portion size is just unrealistic. I had to go eat more later in the evening. 

But that was a pretty fancy looking and tasting dinner that took just about 15 minutes to make.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Worth a listen

I really generally don't like diets that advocate a specific nutrient, but I would like to read this book, or at least browse through it. The other day I heard a nutrition episode on the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU and I couldn't turn it off. I brought it into my headphones on my iPhone in the supermarket. A lot of what was said wasn't exactly news to people who have read the Omnivore's Dilemma, What to Eat, etc. but those books were written and researched a few years ago now so it was interesting to hear the new studies, especially from an NIH researcher. There was a lot discussed about Omega 3s and depression. I found one study particularly interesting where they went to an army base and used all the same recipes that the base normally uses but switched out higher Omega 3 / lower Omega 6 ingredients like grass-fed cow milk and beef and olive oil instead of corn oil and violence  was reduced on the base. Now as I have often said, working at NIH has made me wary of all studies. There's always a new one around the corner, but it was certainly worth a listen and some of the articles may be worth looking-up.

Here were the guests:

Joseph Hibbeln
Acting chief, Section on Nutritional Neurosciences, NIH; Captain, U.S. Public Health Service
J. Thomas Brenna
Professor of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University
Evelyn Tribole
Registered Dietitian; Nutritional Counselor; Author, "The Ultimate Omega-3 Diet" (McGraw-Hill)

At any rate, while I don't like the idea that one nutrient is the key to life, as this hypothesis seems to suggest, but I do like reading about those theories, even if I don't totally trust them.