Healthy Eating and Portion Control
Researchers at Louisiana State University have concluded that a low calorie diet can lower your insulin levels, reduce your core body temperature, and reverse signs of aging. However, those same researchers urge people to avoid going overboard when it comes to restricting calories. Consuming less food and using low calorie meal plans can undoubtedly be beneficial to your health. However, you should set realistic and healthy expectations for yourself.
If you regularly eat around 2000 calories a day, switching to a 500 calorie a day meal plan won’t be healthy or realistic. On the other hand, switching to a 1500 calorie meal plan wouldn’t be detrimental to your health or particularly difficult for you to do, especially if you were armed with the right strategies.
Strategies To Help You Plan Low Calorie Meals
If you’ve made the decision to change your diet and adopt healthy low calorie meal plans, you’re going to have to change the way you eat and what you eat. First and foremost, you should adjust your food portions. By learning to visually identify some simple serving sizes, you can better control your portions. When eating a typical serving size of meat, it should be about 3-4 ounces or the size of a deck of cards. A standard serving of grains or raw vegetables is about the size of a tennis ball or your fist.
Your low calorie meals don’t have to be the same as everyone else’s, particularly if you aren’t trying to adhere to any particular diet. If your primary goal is to reduce your caloric intake, you should plan your meals based on what you like. You may want to make a list of all the low calorie foods you normally enjoy eating and include those in your healthy meal plans.
Online tools can help you plan out your meals and count the calories you consume. Your goal should be to calculate all the calories you plan to consume each day as a part of your overall meal planning efforts. Excellent free online tool: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/SuperTracker/default.aspx
Drinking water throughout the day will help curb your appetite. And drinking a glass of water before each meal has been proven to reduce food intake. When you reduce your caloric intake, hunger is going to be your biggest hurdle. Drinking more water will help you overcome that hurdle.
Plan to eat two or three low calorie snacks a day, and bring those snacks with you to work or wherever you go throughout the day. Some ideal snacks are baby carrots, apple slices, grapes, and whole-wheat pita bread with hummus. Eating snacks throughout the day will help prevent overeating at meals and keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Lower Calorie Italian Dinners
Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Shrimp
Serve with a Garden Salad.
- 1/2 cup dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) whole tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano or basil
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
PASTA AND SHRIMP:
- 10 ounces multigrain angel hair pasta
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 red or green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
To make the pesto:
Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl, cover with hot water, and let soak for 10 minutes, or until softened. Drain and reserve the liquid.
Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Add the walnuts and garlic and process briefly to combine. Add the whole tomatoes, parsley, oregano or basil, cheese, and oil and process until smooth. Add just enough of the reserved tomato soaking liquid to form a paste; process until smooth.
To make the pasta and shrimp:
Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain and place in a serving bowl.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque. Sprinkle with the black pepper and salt. Place in the bowl with the pasta and top with the pesto. Toss well to combine.
Stuffed Boneless Pork Chops
Serve with Braised Fennel (recipe below)
4 servings (serving size: 1 pork chop)
- Cooking spray
- 4 garlic cloves, minced and divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 5 sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil, diced
- 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
- 1/4 cup block-style fat-free cream cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add half of the minced garlic cloves; sauté 1 minute. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, tomatoes, and spinach; sauté until moisture evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and lemon rind.
Cut a horizontal slit through thickest portion of each pork chop to form a pocket. Stuff about 1/4 cup spinach mixture into each pocket. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper over pork. Arrange pork on the rack of a broiler pan or roasting pan coated with cooking spray; place rack in pan. Combine remaining garlic, lemon juice, mustard, and oregano in a bowl; stir well. Brush half of mustard mixture over pork. Broil 6 minutes; turn pork. Brush remaining mixture over pork; broil 2 minutes or until done.
- 3 medium fennel bulbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
Slice the fennel into 1/2″ thick pieces (try to keep each piece with some of the root base so it stays together.)
On medium-high, heat a large saute pan then add olive oil. After oil is hot, add fennel and caramelize on all sides (3-4 min side.)
Add stock, wine, thyme and bay to fennel and reduce heat to medium-low.
Cover and gently simmer for 25 min., or until fennel bulbs are tender, (you may need to add more stock as you simmer).
Salt and pepper to taste.
Pan-Roasted Fish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce
Use any firm white fish fillet. Serve with quick cooking brown rice and sauteed kale.
Serves 4 (serving size: 1 fillet and 1/2 cup sauce)
- 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 2 cups chopped seeded plum tomato or 1 -14 oz can low sodium diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 1/2 tablespoons capers
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 4 (6-ounce) fish fillets, skin on
1. Heat the 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomato to pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in capers, Dijon mustard, and minced garlic; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, chives, oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and red pepper; keep warm.
2. Heat remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add fish to pan, skin side down; cook 3 minutes or until skin is browned. Turn fish over; cook 3-4 minutes. Pour sauce over fish.
Whole Wheat Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables
Add a garden salad to round out this meal.
- One 1 1/2 pound acorn squash, scrubbed—cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rings, seeds discarded
- 1 small red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 6 large plum tomatoes, halved and cored
- 12 unpeeled garlic cloves
- 1/2 pound whole wheat rigatoni
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 4 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash and onion with 1 tablespoon of the oil; season with salt and pepper and spread in a single layer. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil on another rimmed baking sheet; add the tomato halves and garlic and roll to coat with oil. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and turn them cut side down.
Transfer both sheets to the oven. Roast for about 40 minutes, until tender. Using tongs, transfer the garlic to a bowl; continue roasting the tomatoes for about 20 minutes longer, until very soft. Roast the squash and onion for about 45 minutes total, until tender and golden brown. Remove skin from squash rings and cut the squash into bite-size pieces. Discard the tomato skins and coarsely chop the flesh. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins.
In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al-dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain pasta.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and add the pine nuts and toast over moderate heat until golden. Add the crushed red pepper and olives and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetables and stir over moderately high heat until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the reserved cooking water, basil and parsley and toss. Serve the pasta in bowls, topping each with 1/2 tablespoon of the pecorino.
Grilled Mustard Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette
Serve with green beans and store-bought focaccia or grilled bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons lightly cracked fennel seeds
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 oz. each)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil
Prepare a medium-hot grill fire. In a small bowl, whisk the mustard and fennel seeds. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Trim any excess fat from the breasts and then rinse and pat dry. Season the breasts with salt and pepper and rub them all over with the mustard-oil mixture.
When the grill is ready, grill the chicken until one side is nicely browned and grill marks appear, 2 to 3 min. (There may be some flare-ups at first; if they don’t go out, move the chicken off to the side until they do.) With tongs, rotate the breasts 90 degrees (to get a crosshatch of grill marks) and continue grilling until grill marks form and the sides of the breasts are fully opaque, another 2 to 3 min. Flip the breasts and grill in the same way until the second side is browned and the inside has just a trace of pink, another 4 to 6 min. Transfer to a clean cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for about 5 min.
Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons oil with the lemon juice, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Slice the chicken on an angle and serve drizzled with the vinaigrette.
- 30 Minute Meals: 5 Meals / Monday’s Menu – 8.20.2012 (alittlebitme.com)
- Make Ahead Meals Come To The Rescue (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Cool Off With Light Pasta Salads (jovinacooksitalian.com)
Dieting? Low And Slow May Be The Way To Go When It Comes To Dieting
Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
If you’re dieting, you know you’ve got to count calories, carbs and fats. But if you really want to take off the weight and keep it off, you might want to pay more attention to the glycemic index, which is essentially a measure of how quickly foods are digested.
That’s because high glycemic foods cause a surge in blood sugar, followed by a crash. That biological reaction releases hormones that stimulate hunger and actually lower metabolism, adding up to a dismal recipe for people who want to lose weight and keep it off. According to David Ludwig of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, “One of the unfortunate aspects of weight loss maintenance is that it takes fewer and fewer calories to just stay the same. As the body loses weight, it becomes more efficient and requires fewer calories,making it harder and harder to continue losing and making it difficult to maintain weight loss without continually dieting.” By some estimates, only 1 in 6 Americans who lose weight are able to keep it off after one year.
But Ludwig and colleagues recently published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that offers some tools you might use to fight back. Researchers compared the low-carb, low-fat and low-glycemic diets to see which one burned the most calories per day. The low-carb diet was the clear winner. The low-fat diet was the loser. But it was the diet in the middle, the low-glycemic index diet, that Ludwig suggests is more promising. It burned more calories per day than the low-fat diet and proved easier to stick to over the long term than the low-carb diet.
Mike Rogers, 43, was a participant who managed to keep off the 40 pounds he lost. He says the difference in the three diets was “enormous,” adding that “the low-glycemic diet reminded me of the way my mom and grandmom cooked while I was growing up; I felt far better on the low-glycemic diet than on either of the other two.”
Still trim, Rogers now eats far more fruits and vegetables than he did in the past, and, when it comes to carbohydrates, he opts for those with a lower glycemic index. That means brown rice versus white, whole grain pasta and steel cut oats instead of “quick-cooking” oats. He pretty much stays away from all processed foods.
Highly processed and refined foods, like packaged items, white bread, white rice, prepared breakfast cereals and crackers have a high glycemic index. “The body can digest these foods into sugar literally within moments after eating,” says Ludwig.
Low-glycemic foods tend to be natural foods like most vegetables and fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains. They actually wend their way slowly through the body’s digestion system, using up more energy and burning more calories in the process. And, best of all, says Ludwig, they actually “increase the metabolic rate and decrease hunger, giving us a biological advantage” in losing and maintaining weight.
Ludwig is quick to caution that his study was short and not conclusive. He’s working now to design a long-term study that looks at diet and weight loss maintenance over a number of years.
Registered dietitian Joy Dubost, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says the low-glycemic diet is hard to follow. In large part, that’s because there are many factors that affect how the body digests food, including the combination of food we eat, food preparation, whether vegetables and fruits are ripe, and our individual differences in how we digest food.
And eating too many low-glycemic foods that are also high in calories, sugar or saturated fats can be problematic.
Dubost urges moderation of carbs and fats. But equally important, she says, is a “part of the equation often ignored”: exercise. She points to research that shows people who were successful in maintaining their weight a year after losing it added a significant ingredient to their daily regimen: at least 60 to 90 minutes of moderate exercise every single day.
It can be challenging to serve healthy meals on a budget, but with planning you can eat better for less. Many people save money by adding meatless meals to their weekly menus. Meatless meals are built around vegetables, beans and grains — instead of meat, which tends to be more expensive. Meatless meals also offer health benefits.
A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and legumes, and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. Just eating less meat has a protective effect. A National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate 4 ounces of red meat or more daily were 30 percent more likely to contract a serious illness. Sausage, luncheon meats and other processed meats also increased the risk. Those who ate mostly poultry or fish had a lower risk of serious illness.
The fact is that most Americans get enough protein in their diets. Adults generally need 10 to 35 percent of their total daily calories to come from protein. Of course, you can get protein from sources other than meat. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends choosing a variety of protein foods, including eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. The guidelines also suggest replacing protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories. The fats in meat, poultry and eggs are considered solid fats, while the fats in seafood, nuts and seeds are considered oils.
You don’t have to go cold turkey. Instead, try easing into meatless meals. Consider going meatless one day a week. If you don’t like the idea of a whole day without meat, start with a meatless dinner each week or choose to eat meat free lunches or breakfasts. Plan meals that feature entrees you like that are typically meatless, such as lasagna, soup or pasta salad.
When your meals include meat, don’t overindulge. Choose lean cuts and avoid oversized portions. A serving of protein should be no more than 3-4 ounces or about the size of a deck of cards and should take up no more than one-fourth of your plate. Vegetables and fruits should cover half your plate. Whole grains make up the rest.
Finding ideas for cooking meatless meals isn’t necessarily easy. You can get bored with the same foods every day, so here a few suggestions on how to vary your meal plans.
1. Vegetable Stew
You don’t have to put meat in your stews to get the same taste. Hearty vegetables like potatoes and carrots make meals by themselves. When you make your vegetable stew, use good portions of these vegetables in your recipe. Also add green beans and sweet peas. Tomatoes and corn also round out this type of stew.
2. Vegetable Stir-Fry
Stir-fries are delicious ways to cook meatless meals. Most traditional stir-fries add chicken, beef or pork into the recipe. You can substitute mushrooms for meat in your favorite stir-fry recipe.
A salad is a healthy meatless meal that has numerous nutritional benefits. Of course, you’re probably thinking a salad won’t fill you up much. Salads can be complete and sensible meals if you add items that have protein. Top your salads with nuts or beans. Protein is great for building muscle tissue and warding off heart problems. The fiber in beans keeps constipation away.
Omelets aren’t just for breakfast anymore. They make great lunch and dinner meal options. Make your omelet delicious and fulfilling by using low fat cheese, egg whites and vegetables. Also avoid too much salt and use small amounts of healthy oils when preparing your omelet. These ingredients can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart-related problems.
5. Bean Soup
Beans are high in fiber and protein. They are delicious in soups as well. Pinto, kidney and black beans are perfect for soups. They provide a heartier taste than lighter colored beans such as lima and navy beans. You can make your soup even more filling by adding pasta, onions, tomatoes and carrots.
Here are some recipes that may tempt you to try a meatless dinner, soon.
Pour 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil (from the jar) into a small skillet and heat and add:
- 1 small eggplant (about ¾ lb.), peeled and chopped fine.
- 1 large garlic clove, chopped fine
- 3 sun-dried tomatoes chopped fine
- 1/4 cup finely chopped carrot
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/4 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Cook over medium low heat until very soft. Turn into bowl and mix in 1/4 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs. You may need a little more breadcrumbs so that the mixture holds together. Chill.
Form into 4 patties. Brush each side with a little olive oil and grill for about 3 minutes on each side. Serve each with 1 tablespoon of basil sauce on a hamburger bun.
Can be frozen and reheat in a 350 degree oven..
- 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
Process all ingredients in food processor or blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
Roasted Vegetable Crepes
Thin pancakes with a savory vegetable filling are great for dinner or brunch.
- 1 cup quick-mixing flour, such as Wondra
- 2/3 cup reduced-fat milk
- 2/3 cup cold water
- 3 eggs or 3/4 cups egg substitute
- 6 tablespoons melted butter, divided, or Smart Balance Spread
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 medium zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
- 1 bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 cups grape tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- Coarsely ground black pepper
To prepare crepes:
1. Place flour in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in milk and water until smooth. Whisk in eggs, 3 tablespoons butter and salt. Let stand 10 minutes. (This allows the flour to absorb the liquid.)
2. Heat an 8- or 9-inch crepe pan over medium-high heat until hot. Lightly brush pan with some of the remaining melted butter.
3. Pour 1/4 cup batter into the center of pan. Quickly tilt in all directions. (Batter should lightly cover the bottom of pan.) Cook 30 seconds. Lift edge with a spatula to check doneness. Shake and jerk the pan by its handle to loosen crepe. Turn crepe over with your fingers or a spatula and flip. Cook 15 to 20 seconds. (Second side will be spotty brown.)
4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter and melted butter. Makes 10 crepes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
To prepare filling:
Place zucchini, bell pepper, onion and tomatoes in a large baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Add salt, thyme and pepper. Roast 30 minutes or until tender. Makes about 3 cups.
5 ounces brie cheese or softened Alouette or light cream cheese
Spread 2 tablespoons cheese on half of each crepe. Top with about 1/3 cup roasted vegetables. Fold in half then in half again.
Polenta and Vegetables With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- 1 cup uncooked instant polenta
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or oregano) or 1 tablespoon dried
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 asparagus stalks, ends trimmed
- 8 scallions, trimmed
- 2 small eggplants, trimmed and halved
- 1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 jar (12 oz) prepared roasted red peppers, drained, or make your own, see post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/24/the-italian-way-with-red-peppers/
- 1/3 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, basil or parsley (plus extra for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Add polenta in a stream, whisking to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in 1/3 cup Parmesan and season with cayenne and salt.
Coat a 9″ pie plate with cooking spray. Transfer polenta to pie plate, smooth into an even layer and let cool 15 minutes.
Heat broiler or outdoor grill or indoor grill.
Whisk garlic, thyme, lemon juice and oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Toss vegetables with dressing. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange vegetables in 1 layer (or layer in a grill basket).
Broil or grill vegetables about 4 inches from heat until tender and lightly brown, 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter.
Combine all sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Sprinkle polenta with remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Broil the polenta in the pie plate until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, then cut polenta into 8 triangles. Or, you can grill the triangles until lightly brown.
Divide polenta among 4 plates. Top with vegetables, drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with chives. Serve any remaining sauce on the side.
Chunky Vegetable Pot Pie
You can use any combination of vegetables that you like – just keep the amount the same. You can also vary the seasonings according to taste.
- 1/2 medium (about 8 ounces) butternut squash, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
- 1 large sweet potato, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thick 1-inch long matchsticks
- 1 cup cauliflower florets (from ½ of a cauliflower)
- 2 medium beets, trimmed and scrubbed, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into thick 1-inch long matchsticks
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch long matchsticks
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 medium shallots, minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon, divided
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or an alternative, such as Smart Balance Spread
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place squash, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower, beets and parsnips in a roasting pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil; Italian seasoning and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring twice during the cooking. Remove; reduce oven to 375°F.
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the garlic and shallots; cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to high, and add the wine. Let the wine reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and simmer over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Set aside.
Combine 1 cup flour, the baking powder, 2 teaspoons tarragon and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the milk and Parmesan, process until combined, and set aside.
Transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Add zucchini, remaining 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons tarragon; toss to combine. Stir in the stock mixture; season with salt and pepper.
Transfer to a shallow ovenproof casserole and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and drop heaping tablespoons of the biscuit dough over the vegetables, leaving some of the vegetables exposed.
Place the dish in the oven and bake until the biscuits are golden, about 25 minutes. Serve hot.
Total Servings: 6
- Quick and Healthy… Meatless Monday! (dietitiandrive.com)
- Motivational Monday: Going Meatless (the-healthy-diva.com)
- No Meat, No Problem – Join the Meatless Monday revolution with these vegetarian cookbooks (theinsider.retailmenot.com)
- Top 10 Budget-Friendly Foods (Healthy Ones!) (everydayhealth.com)
- Meatless Meals: The Benefits of Eating Less Meat (habwwe.wordpress.com)
- Make It a Meatless Monday (massageenvy.com)
- 25 Tasty Vegetarian Crock Pot Recipes (wisebread.com)
Cauliflower, which literally means cabbage flower – is not the flower of the cabbage. The history of cauliflower is traced to the origin of wild cabbage. This wild plant used to have a similar look to kale and is believed to have originated in the ancient times in Asia Minor. After a lot of transformations, the vegetable, as we know it, developed in the Mediterranean region around 600 BC. It has been widely accepted in Turkish and Italian cuisines.
Described by Arab botanists and known to the Romans, the cauliflower originally came from Cyprus, and was introduced to France from Italy in the middle of the 16th century. Today, food writers are extremely fond of quoting Mark Twain’s contention that “Training is everything,” he wrote, “A peach was once a bitter almond; a cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.” Twain could be saying that a cauliflower is just a cabbage that resembles a brain (which, indeed, it does); the absence of many other quotes about this vegetable, however, speak clearly to the cauliflower’s humble status in the food world.
Though cauliflower has a bland taste of its own, it is highly regarded by vegetarians, however, in Italian cuisine, cauliflower is often paired with sausage in pasta dishes or other meats. Cauliflower tends to absorb flavor from the spices and sauces used in preparing cauliflower recipes. As a vegetable, it is often used in stews, casseroles and even in salads. Usually, cauliflower is eaten as a cooked vegetable that can be boiled, steamed or fried before adding to any dish. Baked cauliflower dishes are quite popular in Western cuisine. Cauliflower, like broccoli and cabbage, belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables which has been shown to be effective in fighting certain forms of cancer, however, these vegetables also contain sulfur compounds that can smell unpleasant.
Remove the green leaves. Core out the stem. Then cut the cauliflower in florets.
The florets can be steamed, which takes between 12 and 15 minutes, or microwaved, which takes 8 to 10 minutes. Remember, shorter cooking is better for retaining nutrients and reducing the smell in your kitchen.
The best way to prevent these compounds from turning your kitchen into a chemistry lab is to minimally cook the cauliflower. For stir-frys and in salads, cook the cauliflower about halfway, then refresh in cold water.
A majority of recipes cover cauliflower in cheese sauces. A healthier option is lemon butter with chives. In addition to putting florets in omelets, try them in quiches.
In addition to the smell, overcooking also diminishes the nutrients significantly. In fact, you can reduce the levels of some vitamins in vegetables by cooking them with one method over another. A while back, food writer Mark Bittman quoted a Cornell University study in a New York Times article, that stated that 100 grams of cauliflower had 55 mg of vitamin C after boiling, 70 after steaming, and 82 after being cooked in the microwave oven.
Unfried Cauliflower Italian Style
This recipe is an adaption of my mother’s Italian Breaded Parmesan Cauliflower recipe which she fried. The trick with baking them is to make sure they don’t overcook or undercook. The recipe features an egg dipped cauliflower with a simple coating of flour, spices and cheese. No breadcrumbs needed, and while being lower in fat than the fried version, it tastes just as good.
1 whole cauliflower broken into small pieces
3 eggs or ¾ cups egg substitute
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Cut apart the Cauliflower into small pieces.
Rinse them off and drain them.
Grease 2 large 13×9 inch glass baking dishes with olive oil.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl beat the eggs with a fork or fill with egg substitute, and then fill another bowl with the flour, cheese, and spices that will be used for the coating.
Dip each piece of cauliflower first into the egg, and then into the flour mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.
Put them on the greased baking dish, and bake for a half hour, flipping them over with a fork halfway through the cooking time. You can also add more oil to the baking dish if it gets too dry.
5 whole eggs plus 3/4 cups egg substitute
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper taste
3 cups steamed or microwaved cauliflower florets
2 teaspoons butter
Combine eggs, cheese and seasonings in a mixing bowl. Mix well and stir in cauliflower. Turn oven to broil.
Put butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat until hot – when it stops sizzling. Add egg mixture and reduce heat to as low as possible. When the eggs are set on the bottom but the top is still slightly runny, put the pan under the broiler at least six inches from the flame. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until just set. Be careful not to overcook. Turn the pan to cook evenly. When done, remove from the broiler and slide onto a plate. Let cool until warm or room temperature and cut into 4 wedges.
Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
- 1 – 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed or 2 cups cooked dried beans
- 1 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss cauliflower, garlic and chickpeas with the olive oil along with the salt and red pepper, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast in a single layer, turning once during cooking, until chickpeas are golden and starting to turn crunchy, 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley.
Roasted Peppers and Cauliflower
- 1 medium head cauliflower, broken into florets
- 2 medium roasted red peppers, cut into strips, see post for roasting http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/24/the-italian-way-with-red-peppers/
- 2 red onions, cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Penne with Italian Sausage, Cauliflower and Rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound whole wheat penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 links Italian sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-28oz. container Pomi chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1. Bring a large pot of water and the salt to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot and shimmering, add the onions and sausage and stir briefly. Leave the sausage alone to brown for 2 minutes. Stir it again then add the rosemary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn soft, another 2 minutes.
3. Add the cauliflower and season it with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes. Add the tomatoes and a splash of the pasta water and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender, 6 minutes.
4. Drain the pasta and toss it with sauce, adding more pasta water if it looks too dry. (There should be just enough liquid in the pan to coat the pasta.) Stir in the parmesan.
Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Red Onions
- 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1⁄2 lb), cored and sliced 1⁄2-in. thick
- 1 red onion, cut into 1⁄2-in.-thick wedges
- ⅓ cup fresh sage, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 12 ounces whole-grain penne
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- Heat oven to 425ºF. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower, onion, sage, oil, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper; roast for 15 minutes. Add the raisins and toss to incorporate. Continue roasting until the vegetables are golden brown and tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
- Add the vegetable mixture, pasta water and Parmesan to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve with additional Parmesan, if desired.
- Two New Ways to Eat Cauliflower (lifeovereasy.typepad.com)
- Bored with Cauliflower! Cauliflower and Feta Mash (from my What’s left in the Fridge series) (devonium.wordpress.com)
- Roasted cauliflower and white bean soup (theitalianfork.com)
- Recipes for Health: Lasagna With Spicy Roasted Cauliflower – Recipes for Health (nytimes.com)
- Cauliflower: Simple, Hearty, Delicious (theepochtimes.com)
Are veggie haters born or made? The answer seems to be both. Some of us have negative veggie experiences from our childhood that come back to haunt us as adults. Maybe you were forced to eat vegetables, or had to plow through a stack of green beans to get to dessert. Maybe you were served overcooked, mushy vegetables. “If veggies are only served in ways that don’t match your personal flavor preferences, they won’t seem exciting,” explains Karen Collins, MS, RD, nutrition adviser for the American Institute for Cancer Research. So if you love spicy food, you won’t like veggies served plain; or if you love simple, earthy flavors, veggies covered with a rich sauce won’t be appealing.
When my children were young, they struggled with eating some vegetables that were on their dinner plates. I, also, know that many parents struggle to get their kids to eat their vegetables – it’s a never-ending battle in many households in America. Nagging and taking away dessert are often futile remedies. What can help is, if a parent can involve their children in food preparation and find healthy ways to make vegetables taste good.
Deep frying or adding butter and cheese make everything taste so good. The real challenge is how to make vegetables taste good without it, if you are trying to make your meals more healthy. Cooking vegetables with the right herbs can make a difference, such as oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, coriander, dill and garlic. Adding chopped nuts to vegetable dishes is another way to bring more flavor and nutrition into the meal. Using cooking techniques other than boiling in water, such as roasting and grilling, are ways to improve the taste of vegetables without adding a lot of fat.
Prep veggies, like carrots, asparagus and peppers, place in foil, mist with extra virgin olive oil, drizzle with a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar or another flavored vinegar or with a low-fat dressing, sprinkle with herbs like thyme, rosemary and cracked black pepper and place the package on the grill. Some take as little as 10 minutes to become tender. Or use the same seasonings on vegetable kabobs, alternating vegetables of your choice with cherry tomatoes and onion slices.
You can roast just about anything, but vegetables especially benefit from the high, dry heat of the oven. Their flavor becomes concentrated and their natural sugars caramelize, transforming them into richly satisfying sides. For every 2 pounds of vegetables, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil prior to roasting. Spread in a single layer, with space in between the pieces or they’ll just steam instead. You can roast different veggies together if their cooking times are similar.
The recipes below are ones I have made, adjusting ingredients, cooking techniques and utilizing Italian flavors to make these dishes just right. These are vegetable side dishes that my family likes and enjoys at our family dinners.
Mashed Potatoes With Kale
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
- 1 pound (1 large bunch) kale, either curly or cavolo nero, with the ribs removed and the leaves washed
- 1-1/4 cups low-fat milk
- 2 garlic cloves
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain off the water, return the potatoes with the garlic to the pan and mash with a potato masher.
While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the kale. Cook the kale for 4 to 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil) until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop into small pieces and add the olive oil.
Stir the chopped kale into the hot mashed potatoes along with the milk. Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper.
Tip: This is a good dish to make ahead and reheat for dinner.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Oven-roasted Vegetables with Rosemary, Bay Leaves and Garlic
The process of roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables and intensifies their natural flavors
- Sea salt
- 1 lb red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 lb butternut squash, seeded and cut into chunks
- 2 medium red onions, cut into eighths
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and cut into chunks
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, smashed
- 4 sprigs of rosemary
- 4 sprigs of bay leaves
In a large baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray place potatoes, squash, onions and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Toss to coat, then roast for 20 minutes.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the remaining ingredients to the baking pan.
Roast for another 20 minutes, turning the vegetables occasionally until tender and edges slightly brown. Salt and pepper to taste.
Remove bay leaves before serving.
Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Vegetables with Basil Dressing
Makes 8 servings
- 1 small eggplant, sliced into chunks
- 1 zucchini, cut into chunks
- 1 yellow summer squash, cut into chunks
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into squares
- 1 small red onion, sliced and cut into 8 segments
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons reduced-fat olive oil mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Thread skewers with alternating pieces of eggplant, zucchini, squash, bell pepper and onion. Place skewered vegetables in shallow pan.
Make the marinade for vegetables by blending vinegar, oil and 1/4 cup fresh basil. Pour over vegetables. Let stand 10 minutes, occasionally turning skewers so marinade coats all sides.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place yogurt, mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon fresh basil and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Transfer to small serving dish.
Grill vegetables, adjusting height of rack to avoid charring, if using an outdoor grill.
Serve vegetables as a side dish, as a sandwich filling in ciabatta rolls or on sliced Italian bread or bruschetta. Pass basil-yogurt dressing to use as a topping.
Baked Spaghetti Squash
What I like about this spaghetti squash dish is that when it comes out of the oven, it’s ready to serve. It does not need any additional cooking to give it flavor.
- 1 small to medium spaghetti squash
- Olive oil cooking spray
- Kosher or salt and fresh pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and fibers with a spoon. Place on a baking sheet, cut side up, spray lightly with the cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl mix together the paprika, onion powder, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Sprinkle over squash.
Bake at 350° F for about an hour or until the skin gives easily under pressure and the inside is tender. Remove from the oven and let it cool 10 minutes.
Using a fork, scrape out the squash flesh a little at a time. It will separate into spaghetti-like strands. Place in a serving dish and serve.
Spicy Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Lemon Zest
- 2 pounds broccoli rabe
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Cook broccoli rabe in water for 4 to 5 minutes until tender and bright green. Drain well in a colander and set aside.
In a large saute pan heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes then toss in the broccoli rabe.
Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, gently tossing it in the pan. Finish with the lemon zest and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Vinaigrette
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon small capers
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Wash the head of cauliflower and trim off the outer leaves. With a sharp knife, remove a cone-shaped piece from the core, keeping the head intact.
With your fingers, rub a little olive oil into the bottom of a deep oven-safe baking dish, rub the remainder on all over the cauliflower, working the oil into the crevasses as best you can. Place core-side down in the baking dish and sprinkle with salt and breadcrumbs.
Bake for 1 hour or 1-1/4 hours, until the exterior is brown and crusty and the center soft. With a spoon, drizzle the vinaigrette over the top of the cauliflower and let it seep slowly.
Crispy Parmesan Broccoli
- 1/2 lb broccoli, rinsed, dried, and cut into flat sided bite-size pieces
- 1/2 cup egg substitute
- 1/4 cup Italian seasoned Panko Crumbs
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs and cheese.
Put the broccoli in a large bowl, add the egg substitute, and toss with your hands to coat.
Sprinkle in the bread crumb and cheese mixture and toss to combine.
Transfer to a baking sheet, flat side down, and roast for 12 minutes.
Italian Green Beans Marinara
- 2 pounds fresh green beans, cleaned and stem ends removed
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, no salt added
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
Roasted Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
- 1 1/4 lb thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
- olive oil spray
- fresh cracked pepper to taste
- 4 slices (2 oz) thin sliced prosciutto
- grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Lightly spray asparagus spears with olive oil cooking spray. Season with fresh cracked pepper and divide into 4 bundles.
Bundle 1/4 of the asparagus together and wrap a slice of prosciutto around it. Place on a baking dish seam side down.
- Herbed Spaghetti Squash – Emerill (bookcasefoodie.wordpress.com)
- Roasted spaghetti squash with Parmesan (culinaryengineering.me)
- Vegetable Lasagne. (gwenacaster.wordpress.com)
- Never Fail Roast Vegetables: A Dish for All Seasons (currentmom.com)