The Italian dishes of my youth were loaded with high-fat, high-salt cheeses. So much for my Mediterranean diet since my angioplasty in 2012. I’ve been redoing Italian recipes in recent years to get out the fat and salt in most cheeses.
My eggplant parmesan recipe calls for low-salt panko breadcrumbs to bread slices of eggplant which have been coated in an egg-white wash.
Use a salt-free tomato sauce (I make my own but you can buy prepared ones like the Trader Joe’s variety I reviewed here).
Next add fat-free shredded mozzarella. I build mine like a lasagna, putting tomato sauce in the bottom of an oven-safe baking dish first, then a layer of eggplant slices, then more tomato sauce, then more eggplant until the top layer of sauce and then mozzarella. If you’re less worried about the salt in the cheese than I am, add more as layers while you built. Continue reading “Low-fat, low-salt eggplant parmasan”→
Easter dinner traditionally means one of two main courses — either ham or lamb. But neither is an acceptable choice if you’re on a low-salt, or a low-fat, or a low-salt, low-fat diet as I am. That can make being a guest at someone else’s Easter feast a problem for you.
Embeya, a progressive Asian restaurant in Chicago, has quickly become a favorite of mine for its great food and its total openness to making dishes that meet my low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar requirements.
I enjoyed my first visit there so much that I suggested my wife and I dine there with friends. We went at the start of Chicago’s restaurant week, an annual event (running through Feb. 6 this year) during which restaurants offer special menus at special prices to lure Chicagoans out of their warm homes on the coldest winter days and nights.
Embeya is offering either a three course meal for $33 or a four-course meal for $44. We went with the four-course offering and were not disappointed. And while everything was served family style, my portions were served separately since they had less salt, an extra touch I really appreciate.
I wrote recently about my low-salt, low-fat baked mossaccioli. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making it.
Start with wheat pasta and low-fat ricotta cheese, about 13 ounces of each (these once came in 16-ounce packages but food makers have cut package sizes rather than raise prices in recent tough economic times).
Most of the Italian-American classics I grew up with, lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, are off-limits to me now because of the fat in the cheese used, not to mention the high salt content of most cheese as well. I also can only eat whole wheat pasta now to get away from simple carbs that could impact my pre-diabetic sugar levels.
I have found whole wheat pastas I enjoy and I have begun finding low-fat and even no-fat Italian cheese. The cheeses still contains high salt levels, though, so I use them sparingly and as a treat.
I recently spent two days working as a movie extra, something I’ve wanted to try as part of my new effort to become an actor as a hobby and future possible career. As one of 650 people on the set those two days, I had no control over what I would eat and the planners of the event certainly were not thinking about my restricted diet amidst the mountain of other things they needed to consider.
So I went off my diet, first reluctantly and then hungrily as the two 14-hour days drained me physically. The first morning, I stuck with fresh fruit for breakfast but lunch was a roast beef sandwich, something I’m not supposed to eat. I took off the cheese to save some salt and fat and put all the meat in half a sandwich so I would eat less bread. I also only munched a few salt-laden potato chips instead of a whole bag. But I gave in to the chocolate chip cookie for dessert and even sought out a second one.
Day two, I started with a Boston cream doughnut which was fabulous. I used to eat those weekly, but have largely stayed away from them for the past year.
My days of eating ham or steak or a big rib roast on holidays are over, thanks to the angioplasty I had Aug. 13, 2012. So how can I continue to celebrate important days with food I enjoy? Have you been asking yourself that question too?
The answer for me is to go back to my roots. Italian-Americans at one point traditionally had a meal of seven kinds of fish on Christmas Eve. The tradition goes back to the old country and a time when Catholics could not eat meat on the night before Christmas. It also was a way for poor fishermen to feast with banquets that would have made the rich feel right at home.
Most seafood is allowed on my no-salt, no-sugar, no-fat diet. Cold water varieties like salmon are even encouraged because of the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, although I’ve already seen one study saying those aren’t the superfood some had thought they were.
When my grandmother did the seven fishes, she included clams, eel, an Italian salted cod called baccala, squid, snails and I’m not sure what else, likely crabs and flounder.
I’m going with fish I prefer to some of those and which are available to me here in the Midwest — salmon, tilapia, crab, shrimp, mahi mahi, lobster, and a second salmon variety, coho salmon. I’m also making some squid for me, that’s a delicacy my wife doesn’t eat.
I’m using Mrs. Dash no-salt marinades to flavor some, tomatoes and lemons to flavor others. For side dishes, I’m making a pepper trio salad, portobello mushroom caps, broccoli and some small red potatoes.
When we sit down to that meal, we will have much to be thankful for, including all the new recipes I’ve created since completely changing my diet. I wish you similar success, keep reading and I’ll do my best to keep posting new recipes. Send me yours as well.