Vegetables don’t have to be dull; here are 25 alternatives

Eating more vegetables has been a way of life for me the past two and half years since my 2012 angioplasty. Indeed, the first nutritionist I saw wanted me to become a vegetarian. I didn’t go that extreme but I am eating a lot more vegetables and so have been looking for more interesting ways to make the same broccoli, asparagus and green beans. I have some recipes on my recipe page that bring fun twists to these.

But recently I got a posting from thekitchn.com headlined 25 Simple Green Sidedishes that I thought would be worth exploring. It breaks down recipes by grilled, steamed, sauteed and raw so you can match your favorite cooking technique with your favorite veggie and find something new here.

Grilled cabbage with a lime dressing, leave out the salt.
Grilled cabbage with a lime dressing, leave out the salt.

Most of the recipes I scanned include salt. I would simply leave that out. If you’re watching sugar, beware of the ones calling for sugar as well. Some have cheese too, so if you’re watching fat, find fat-free cheese alternatives.

I tended to be most interested in the grilled/roasted category. A garlic broccoli appealed to me as did grilled cabbage wedges. Some recipes included bacon, again leave that out if you’re worried about fat, or a vegetarian like my first nutritionist!

John

Meal planning is a must; here’s a handy how-to guide

Anyone on a restricted diet, either by choice or necessity as I am since my angioplasty in 2012, has to learn meal planning skills. So much food you buy prepared, either at a supermarket or a restaurant, is simply not acceptable because of its high levels of fat, salt and sugar, so eating on the spur of the moment is out.

Meal planning has always been part of my routine. I normally scan supermarket ads on Wednesdays, decide what I will buy that’s on sale, and then create meals around what’s available to minimize my food costs. So I feel my planning skills are pretty good. But a recent post I received from MyFitnessPal gave me some new worthwhile tips as well.

If you’re not normally a planner, or even if you are, there are tips here that can help you do a better job of planning meals and buying what you need to minimize waste by using ingredients for more than one meal. The illustration here is a good start, clcik through to the article for more details.

Recipe planning tips from MyFitnessPal.com
Recipe planning tips from MyFitnessPal.com

What is a food hack? And how can you benefit?

Have you heard the term food hack? It was a new one for me when I saw a recent piece headlined 28 Brilliant Food Hacks. So I did some research.

Apparently the term has been around for about a year and basically means doing creative things with your cooking. Fair enough, the article I mentioned above has some things I’d never do, but some that sound tasty and fun.

Here's an easy way to turn soft tortillas into hard taco shells.
Here’s an easy way to turn soft tortillas into hard taco shells.
A tasty idea, grill fish on a bed of lemon slices.
A tasty idea, grill fish on a bed of lemon slices.

I’ve written about low-salt tortillas I found at Whole Foods. One of the hacks shows how to turn these into hard taco shells using only some cups and a microwave. I plan to try this next time I make my low-fat, low-salt tacos. Continue reading “What is a food hack? And how can you benefit?”

Lentil-crusted salmon: wild for me, maybe perfect for you?

I regularly receive e-mailed recipes from Blue Apron, a home delivery food site, and find an interesting mix of ideas. I wrote recently about matzoh-crusted chicken, which sounded like a good low-salt alternative to traditional breading for chicken.

Lentil-crusted salmon from Blue Apron.
Lentil-crusted salmon from Blue Apron.

Another Blue Apron recipe that caught my eye was one for lentil-crusted salmon. Honestly, I may not try to make this one because it’s an Indian dish and the spiciness of much Indian cuisine I’ve tried is too much for my stomach. But I’m posting it for those of you who enjoy Indian food and want to try making it at home. Continue reading “Lentil-crusted salmon: wild for me, maybe perfect for you?”

Matzoh-coated chicken: a low-salt recipe from Blue Apron

Most recipes include salt, so I often modify them to remove it. But I was happily surprised to come across a recipe for chicken that uses salt-free matzoh as a coating instead of high-salt breadcrumbs. Salt is in the recipe, but I would simply leave it out. The recipe comes from Blue Apron, which is a food home-delivery service.

Matzoh Chicken from Blue Apron; hold the salt...and maybe the sugar.
Matzoh Chicken from Blue Apron; hold the salt…and maybe the sugar.

Click through to this Blue Apron recipe page to see not only how to make this, but great photos showing you a step-by-step guide. I’ve written about matzoh pizza I made, and served guests. It’s a great low-salt alternative to traditional pizza. Getting back to the new chicken recipe, however.

The basic ingredient list is:
2 Chicken Cutlets
½ Cup Matzoh Meal
1 Fennel Bulb
1 Golden Beet
1 Red Onion
1 Navel Orange
1 Bunch Parsley
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Sugar
¼ Cup Dijon Mustard

The orange, fennel, onions and beets go into a side salad for the chicken. There’s mention of a pickling liquid that does include salt, I’d try to leave it out and see how it tastes. I eat fennel regularly, it doesn’t need salt to bring out its natural flavor.

I plan to try this and report back on how it goes. Another note, there is sugar in this, if you’re watching your sugar, consider reducing or eliminating it.

John

McDonald’s chicken recipe is getting simplified; Bravo!

McDoanld’s is a difficult place to get anything low-salt, low-fat or low-sugar. These days all I eat there are salads and yogurt parfaits. The parfaits have come in for criticism for being high in sugar. The salads have a lot of salt, and an impossible amount if you add any of the dressing supplied, so I usually bring my own vinegar and oil packets instead.

I’m not the only one eating there less, Millennials who grew up with Ronald are turning away in droves. The Big Mac seems to be getting the message and is moving as fast as a major company can to change some things. I applaud the changes and say do more, more quickly, now.

McDonald's planned artisan chicken sandwich, with fewer harmful ingredients.
McDonald’s planned artisan chicken sandwich, with fewer harmful ingredients.

A major recent change was announced for its chicken. “The biggest change is the removal of sodium phosphates, which it said was used to keep the chicken moist, in favor of vegetable starch. The new recipe also does not use maltodextrin, which McDonald’s said is generally used as a sugar to increase browning or as a carrier for seasoning,” reported Fox News, and other outlets, recently.

Anything to cut sodium is great for me. A McChicken sandwich at the moment has 650 mgs of sodium, about half what I can eat a day, which is why I never buy one.

McDonald’s new Artisan chicken also will be cooked in an olive oil blend instead of margarine, according to another report. That can only help as well.

“McDonald’s new grilled chicken sandwich recipe has been introduced in response to consumer demands for simple ingredients, the company said. By removing artificial ingredients consumers are not familiar with, the company is making an effort to simplify their recipes and respond to increasing demands for natural foods,” reported Olive Oil Times.

Keep it up McDonald’s keep it up.

John

Pearl Tavern — A Chicago seafood must try place

I love seafood, having grown up surrounded by it in New York. I particularly love oysters, clams and other shell-fish (mussels) which thankfully I can still eat on my post-angioplasty diet. Chicago’s Pearl Tavern is a must-go place for anyone who loves the types of seafood I just described.

The setting might be upscale bar, the space used to be long-time Chicago Irish bar Coogan’s and relatively little has changed, layout-wise (we were seated in the main bar room unfortunately, not one of the quieter side rooms), but the oysters, etc. are East (and West, they have both) Coast delicious. A full meal for my wife and I recently set her back (she treated) over $150, including wine. So be prepared to pay for the great tastes.

My incredible oyster plate at Pearl Tavern.
My incredible oyster plate at Pearl Tavern.

I started with a dozen oysters, six East and six West Coast. A small chalk board on the table lists the varieties available each night. Each was fabulous, smooth and just dreamy, the way an oyster should taste. Continue reading “Pearl Tavern — A Chicago seafood must try place”

Check the salt content when buying whole wheat pasta

Whole wheat pasta is supposedly better for me on my restricted diet than regular pasta.

Something to do with complex carbs and simple carbs. I don’t know if I buy it all, but to be safe, I have been eating almost exclusively whole wheat pasta in recent years.

I wrote earlier this week about a weekend my wife and I had in Milwaukee recently. One of our stops was a wonderful, long-time institution in Milwaukee’s Italian-American community, Glorioso’s Italian Market. The market has moved to larger quarters than it was in during my long-ago college days there, but it’s still a very special place to find wonderful Italian specialties, like a world of different pastas. You can buy freshly made pasta there as well as a variety of packaged options.

Glorioso's home-made linguini is extremely high in sodium.
Glorioso’s home-made linguini is extremely high in sodium.
470 mgs per 3 ounces
470 mgs per 3 ounces

We bought a whole wheat pasta that was made there and a packaged brand I hadn’t seen before, Garafolo, which comes from Naples, the area my ancestors also came from. Comparing the salt content in the two provided a good illustration of the importance of always reading nutrition labels. Continue reading “Check the salt content when buying whole wheat pasta”

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