It was only about twelve or thirteen years ago that I became a foodie. I have always loved food and have battled with weight since I hit puberty. When I found the Food Network my interest really took off and I fell in love. It wasn’t like an instant romance, I only teetered on the edge of devotion making a few things here and there and trying my hand at foods that were mostly diet kinds of things like cauliflower soup and turkey meatloaf.
Food started becoming a way I could show love to my friends and to myself. I balanced my creations with comfort foods like Braised Beef and Buttered Noodles on one side and Fennel and Orange Salad on the other – all in one meal. I noticed the Zen moments I found in chopping and stirring and just playing around with all the utensils when I was living with Guy for a few weeks. After listening to many people complain that coming home to cook was a chore, I regretted telling Guy I would cook dinner each night to pay him back for his hospitality. What I didn’t know until I tried it was how much I loved coming home around 6 p.m. and cooking a lovely meal. I would get all the prep done and start the cooking before I mixed my martini (so as not to forget what I was doing) and found this routine to be sublime.
We dined well on Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Herbs, Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Almonds, Roast Pork with a Mustard and Grape Sauce, Tilapia with Peach Jalapeno Salsa and Grilled Kabob Salad. This honeymoon was short lived, but I made sure to keep the faith. Even while I was in massage school I would cook my own meals, though that was at a time when semi-homemade meant homemade to me (like frozen pasta dishes that I added a couple touches to or Chicken Tonight chicken Marsala.) It struck me then that my love of food was not in the norm. The other students were in awe that I would cook such things especially, “just for me.” See, I had a boyfriend at the time that wouldn’t eat my cooking, not that my cooking was bad, he was just too picky. He liked about five things and preferred to eat out daily. The only time I got to cook was for me. The “just me” attitude floored me. If I wouldn’t cook well for “just me” why would I ever cook for anyone else? To my Oprah-sensibilities I was important and didn’t miss the accusation, instead I ran with it finding more exciting things to cook.
Now it is a way of life, though I am leaning towards a nutritious, healthy side rather than traditional comfort foods. My first step is adding more vegetables to my diet. I am a veggie fiend, but when Dr. Weil recommends eating 5-6 servings a day, even I was stunned about how few I actually ate. Compared to regular America, I eat a lot of fruits and veg, but not enough to be healthy. So now I have crafted some recipes to put more health into my diet while not skimping on taste.
(Note: When it comes to recipes, I usually scan ones I find on TV, Web or magazines, and then see what I can come up with just from memory – both a test to keep my mind agile and a way to let the food muses get their share of playtime.)
Carrot Salad (Two Versions)
(I usually eat this for breakfast since it has a sweet taste and also I just can’t do any bread first thing in the morning.)
Both versions contain:
Matchstick carrots (about 1-1/2 to 2 cups)
Sliced or diced apples
Raisins and/or dried cranberries
Nuts (I prefer walnuts)
Diced hot pepper or scallions (for a punch)
Orange or tangerine sections
Then to bring it all together I have two dressings.
Vanilla yogurt (I use fat-free Stonyfield organic). This makes a coleslaw kind of salad, but packed with nutrients, a sweet taste and very satisfying texture.
Walnut oil/balsamic vinaigrette. 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil with a teaspoon or two of mustard ( I like grainy mustards for this) and ground pepper. I toss it over the salad and it lends a rich warm flavor that is also nice for breakfast, but of course you can eat this anytime.
Coconut Curry with Couscous
(This was inspired by one of Rachel Ray’s dishes, but I added my own spin)
Any chopped veggies you have – I like broccoli, carrots, celery, green beans, cabbage, onions, zucchini and summer squash (but you can use anything you have. This is sort of like my end-of-week meal since I use up any veggies I still have to make room for new on Sunday.)
Turkey loin, chicken, tofu, shrimp or only veggies if you want
Minced garlic and ginger and lemongrass (if you have it)
Finely diced hot pepper (or two) or you can use ground
1 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons (or more if you like) red curry paste
I heat the oil, cook the meat if I am using it to where it’s almost cooked through, but not quite. Then I throw in the veggies and stir fry with the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and hot peppers until they are almost done. Add the curry paste and mix it in then the coconut milk to bring it all together. Salt and pepper to taste and some chopped cilantro on the top.
1 part couscous to 1 part liquid (I use veggie broth)
Broth with the juice of one lime and the zest of that lime as well.
Ginger and lemongrass add a nice touch too (in small amounts)
When the liquid comes to a boil, take the pot off the heat and add couscous, cover for 5 minutes. Toss with a fork and there you go.
Crunchy Fish Filets
(I had some leftover coconut milk and not sure what I would use it for, I came up with this recipe)
Fish filets (I have used Mahi Mahi and Salmon)
Mustard (I used a dill Dijon, because it was what I had)
Salt, pepper, cayenne
It’s a three plate process before it gets to the baking sheet. I seasoned the fish on both sides, dredged in the flour, shook it to get the excess off. The into dunk plate number two which is a mixture of the beaten egg, coconut milk (about ¼ to a 1/3 cup) and the mustard. Then lastly into the seasoned breadcrumbs (I add salt, pepper and cayenne) and onto the pan.
I cooked these for about 8-10 minutes at 350 and then a shot under the broiler to add some color to the top.
For the mahi, I made a peach salsa with a peach, tomato, onion, garlic and Thai chile and lime juice.
For the salmon, I made a creamy sauce with yogurt, lemon zest and juice, finely diced red onions and cucumbers, and a healthy dose of dill (I just love it.)
There were a few failures, and other lessons learned, but I thought I would share the successes, enjoy!!