Vacation eating — joy or fear?

I’m trying to walk a middle ground, which has meant ordering seafood as often as possible and minimizing my pasta, pastry and gelato intake.

Maintaining a heart-healthy diet takes a lot of inner discipline given that we’re surrounded by so many food options that are high in salt, saturated fat and sugar. The task becomes even more daunting when you’re on vacation, especially in a foreign country with even more foods you love.

I’ve been vacationing in Italy, my ancestral homeland, with a large group of cousins. That means meals here have been wonderful family affairs with so many food options its difficult to count them all. But most involve salt and sugar. What to do, fear everything I eat or put diet concerns aside for the duration of the trip?

Pasta portions are smaller in Italy, thankfully.

I’m trying to walk a middle ground, which has meant ordering seafood as often as possible and minimizing my pasta, pastry and gelato intake. Southern Italy is a wonderful place to eat seafoods. I had a piece of amberjack in a light tomato sauce last night, for example, something I rarely see on US menus.

I’ve also had oysters and clams, albeit with pasta. Pasta portion sizes are smaller here than in the US, which is a good thing since we tend to fill plates to overflowing at home.

Gelato, of course, is the hardest goodie to pass up, especially when everyone else keeps pushing for it. And with that, I don’t do small portions well.

Grilled vegetables are on every menu in Italy, a wonderful, simply side dish .

I’m assuming I’ll gain weight on this trip, we’ll see how much when I’m back in the States and have a scale again. Then it will also be back to strictly watching the salt, fat and sugar,

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Mustard-crusted salmon, a quick, tasty dinner option

Salmon really has become like steak once was for me, a satisfying, relatively quick main course that I now have at least once and often twice a week. My recipe page has a variety of ways to prepare it, many involving salt-free Mrs. Dash and other brands of marinades as well.

But as I was getting ready to make dinner recently, I recalled an old favorite I hadn’t made in years, mustard-crusted salmon. Mustard is a condiment I can eat without worries since it usually does not include salt, saturated fat or sugar. I grew up in New York eating, more often than not, a spicier brown mustard, the  Gulden’s brand to be specific.

So I still look for brown mustard today and used it in this recipe from Rachel Raye instead of Dijon mustard. Another substitution I made was using a slat-free spice mixture from a local spice story instead of herbes de Provence which I did not have handy. I also served it with asparagus instead of rice.

Cooking it was easy in the oven and it came out flaky and moister than when I’ve done it on the stove top in a  frying pan.

Here are the details from Rachel’s site, she is the queen of quick meals, nice to see such a healthy one:

Ingredients
1 1/3 pounds center-cut salmon fillet
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1-1/2 tablespoons dried dill
1 1/2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Baking it:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Rub the salmon with the olive oil. Place on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with the dill and herbes de Provence. Spread the mustard over the top, using a table knife or rubber spatula to cover completely.

Bake the salmon until no longer translucent, about 15 minutes.

 

 

12 days of no-salt, no-sugar Christmas recipes — try a simple scallop dish

We started our 12 days of no-salt, no-fat, no-sugar Christmas meals with a great new chicken recipe I tried recently that includes a strawberry/pineapple salsa. So let’s follow that tonight with a simple but delicious scallop dish.

low salt low fat recipes
My finished scallops, seared brown and delicious.

Scallops can be made simply on the stove-top in hot oil. Add flavorings that you enjoy to spice them up, or have them plain as I do and enjoy the natural flavor.

I’d pair the scallop with a fun side-dish like the roasted carrots with red onions, fennel and mint that I wrote about as a possible thanksgiving side-dish option. It’s a bit more complex and so would be a nice accompaniment to the simple scallops. One simple, one complex makes a nice combination for your taste buds.

 

 

Salmon so simple anyone can make it

Some people shy away from cooking fish at home because they think it too complicated. But eating fish at restaurants often means getting more salt and fat added than you want or need. So check my recipe page for a variety of fish recipes I think you can handle. Or start with this simple yet tasty way to make salmon at home.

My lemon salmon. I used leek instead of scallions and it came great. I loved the garlic flavor.
My lemon salmon..

Salmon is a great fatty fish, with what’s being called good fat these days, so enjoy it in place of steak or other meats you once ate but are giving up now because of “bad” fat concerns. Continue reading “Salmon so simple anyone can make it”

New guidelines for safer fish consumption, will these be the last?

The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency recently put out new guidelines regarding fish consumption that includes this handy infographic showing which fish have less mercury (that’s the interpretation of healthy, or best choices, here).

fish-consumption

The chart is aimed especially at pregnant women and parents but we all should be aware of mercury content in the fish we eat. The FDA and others position fish as a healthier alternative to fatty meats, but mercury content is the wild card here that throws a wrench into all of that. Continue reading “New guidelines for safer fish consumption, will these be the last?”

Garlic-herbed scallops — hold the butter, still delicious

The end product was a very tasty dinner that was simple to make, enjoy.

Recipes cards at supermarket fish and beef counters seem a bit old-school, bu I still like to pick them up when looking for new ideas to meet my low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar diet requirements. I recently grabbed one for garlic-herbed scallops because I knew I had a package of scallops in my freezer and hadn’t been sure how to cook them.

My dinner of garlic-herbed scallops, zucchini slices and whole-wheat spaghetti.
My dinner of garlic-herbed scallops, zucchini slices and whole-wheat spaghetti.

I love garlic, herbs are fine, so I thought this would be worth a try. When I looked at the recipe, I saw it included butter and salt. I decided to leave those out. The result was a still very tasty olive-oil-based basting sauce that conveyed a wonderful taste to the scallops. Continue reading “Garlic-herbed scallops — hold the butter, still delicious”

A fun seafood restaurant in food-heavy Highwood, Il.

The atmosphere is very casual and the staff was very helpful and friendly. And the menu had several other offerings I hope to try on future visits.

Highwood, a far northern Chicago suburb, has been known traditionally for its Italian restaurants but the foodscape there is becoming much more diverse these days. Lucky Fish Deli is just one example, a fun seafood shack that can make you feel like you’re in some sleepy East coast fishing town. Indeed, the decor was inspired by a trip the owner took to Maine, according to one story I’ve read.

Grilled octopus and asparagus at Lucky Fish, loved it.
Grilled octopus and asparagus at Lucky Fish, loved it.

The seafood was excellent. I went with a half-dozen oysters, which came out clean, fresh and cold as they should be served. I think the waiter said they were bluepoints. I was a little surprised there weren’t several varieties to choose from, but was very happy with what was available. Continue reading “A fun seafood restaurant in food-heavy Highwood, Il.”