Tag Archives: Cooking for your Health

Cooking for your Health: Chicken Gumbo Light

Gumbo TasteFood~ Louisiana-style Chicken Gumbo ~

There are several reasons to make a gumbo this month. First off, gumbos are one-pot wonders, piping hot and loaded with spice to warm the belly on a cold day. They may be prepared in advance and reheated for a later meal, which is perfect fare for the ski cabin or a busy winter work week at home. Finally, gumbos originated in Louisiana, home to New Orleans and Mardi Gras, and this year Mardi Gras (or Carnival) falls in mid-February. What better way to feed a hungry crowd of revelers than with a bowl of bright and spicy Louisiana-style Gumbo?

There are many variations of gumbo, incorporating shellfish, poultry and/or sausage in a spicy soup thickened with a roux. For this month’s installment of Cooking for your Health, I’ve lightened up a  Chicken and Sausage Gumbo just in time for Carnival festivities. The result is a vibrant and deeply flavorful stew with less fat than the traditional gumbo. White chicken meat and light turkey (or chicken) sausage stand in for the protein. I’ve crumbled the sausage in order to stretch it a long way while still capturing its essence in the flavor of the soup, and I’ve kept the roux to a minimum, ensuring color and flavor while relying on the okra as an additional thickener. Don’t hold back on the spices, though, and be sure to add extra hot sauce in the end. This stew is meant to spicy – enough to get you partying in the streets on Mardi Gras.

Chicken Gumbo

If you would like to further reduce the fat, the sausage may be omitted; add 2 teaspoons smoked paprika for extra flavor.

Serves 4 to 6

4 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil, divided
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch pieces
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound turkey or chicken sausage, crumbled
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large celery stalk, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups chicken stock
1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
2 cups frozen sliced okra*
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco or hot sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Chopped green onions for garnish
Cooked rice (brown or white)

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch-oven or pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pot in one layer without overcrowding and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pot and brown sausage over medium heat. Transfer to another plate. Drain off fat from the pot. Add 2 tablespoons oil and flour. Cook, stirring, until roux turns light brown in color. Very carefully add the onion, celery and bell peppers (the pan will spatter). Saute for 1 minute. Add garlic, paprika, thyme, oregano and cayenne. Stir to coat the vegetables and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Carefully add chicken stock, and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add tomatoes, okra, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Return chicken and sausage to the pot. Cover and simmer for 30  minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add sugar if needed. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with green onions and serve with rice.

*Note: Fresh okra, when available, may be substituted for the frozen okra. Add 2 cups sliced fresh okra with the onion, celery and peppers.

Cooking for your Health: Smoked Salmon Tartare

~ Smoked Salmon, Greek Yogurt, Lemon, Dill, Chives, Whole Grain Bread ~

Party food can be healthy, too. In fact, during the festive season, it’s important to have a few healthy recipes up our sleeves that are fancy enough to be invited to the holiday table while balancing the season’s excess. Smoked Salmon Tartare is a perfect multi-tasking appetizer: It has fresh, bold flavors, is rich in protein, B vitamins, and calcium and is low-fat to boot. It may be dressed up and served on brioche toasts, or kept more casual, presented on baguette slices, or, in this case, whole grain pumpernickel bread. Garnish it with fresh herbs and lemon, and don’t forget to pass the champagne – it’s the party season, after all.

Smoked Salmon Tartare

For best results, finely chop the salmon, onion and chives in similar minced size. I prefer to do this by hand with a knife, rather than use a food processor, which will often create a paste.

8 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
Whole wheat or pumpernickel rounds
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Finely dice the smoked salmon. Transfer to a bowl. Fold in the onion, yogurt and lemon juice. Add the dill and chives and gently combine. Mound spoonfuls of the salmon on pumpernickel or whole wheat rounds. Sprinkle with sea salt (to taste) and freshly ground black pepper. Serve garnished with lemon segments.

Cooking for your Health: Homemade Granola Bars

In this installment of Cooking for your Health, the theme is brain food: Healthy high energy snack food that’s a perfect pick-me-up during the work or school day or following a workout, providing a nutritional boost of energy which improves concentration and stamina. A diet rich in iron, B vitamins, essential fatty acids and complex carbohydrates comprises a winning menu for your brain, increasing focus and memory. While nailing the nutrition may be easier to accomplish when preparing a sit-down meal, it’s often difficult to find in a snack when you are grabbing food on the go. What can you eat that’s portable, delicious and healthy? Look no further than these homemade granola bars.

The beauty of homemade granola bars is that you can pick and choose your ingredients, omitting excess sugars, fat and additives without sacrificing flavor. These granola bars are studded with dried fruit and nuts, including anti-oxidant rich blueberries and almonds, B-vitamin heavy lifters oats, coconut and wheat germ, and coconut oil which provides lauric acid, known for its anti-oxidant and antibacterial properties. Come to think about it, snacking never felt or tasted so good.

Homemade Granola Bars

Feel free to substitute the fruit with other dried fruit such as raisins, cherries, dates or figs to your taste. Walnuts may be used in place of the almonds. Recipe adapted from Ina Garten. Makes approximately 24 small bars.

2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1/2 cup raw wheat germ
3 tablespoons coconut oil or unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Butter a 9 inch by 12 inch (20 x 30 cm.) baking pan. Line with parchment and butter the parchment. Toss oats, almonds, coconut and wheat germ together in a bowl. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake until fragrant and lightly toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 300 F/150 C. Heat coconut oil, brown sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Pour over the oats, mixing to thoroughly combine. Stir in the dried fruit. Spread batter in the prepared pan, spreading to firmly and evenly distribute. Bake in oven until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove and cool completely in pan until firm, at least 2 hours. Cut into squares or rectangles. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Salmon Wrapped in Kale Leaves with Harissa

Salmon Kale
~ Salmon Wrapped in Kale with Dill and Harissa ~

In this latest installment of Cooking for your Health, the focus is on promoting health and weight loss without sacrificing the pleasure of good food. Low-fat, nutrient-rich diets do not need to be boring or tasteless. This recipe for Salmon Wrapped in Kale Leaves with Dill and Harissa proves just that. It’s a healthy and delicious meal which will nourish your body and provide essential vitamins, nutrients and protein.  It’s also an easy recipe to prepare, yielding elegant, dinner-party results which will be enjoyed by all, whether they are on a diet or not.

Salmon is a top protein choice low in saturated fat, rich in vitamins B and D, minerals and Omega-3 amino acids. Teamed up with kale, a cruciferous superfood packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants, you have a dream meal that is a nutritional powerhouse and tastes great, too. The earthy kale leaves pair beautifully with rich and buttery salmon. A squirt of harissa and a few frizzy dill sprigs crown the wraps with vibrant heat, color and spice. Eating for your health doesn’t get any better than this.

Baked Salmon and Kale Wraps with Dill and Harissa

A spoonful of homemade harissa brightens this simple recipe. Sriracha may be substituted for the harissa. Serves 4 as a dinner course or 8 as a light lunch.

16 large kale leaves
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large bunch dill sprigs with stems
1 lemon, halved
4 thick salmon fillets, about 8 ounces each, halved
Freshly ground black pepper

Harissa or Sriracha sauce

Remove and discard the tough stems and ribs from the kale, leaving the leaves in tact. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add kale leaves, and blanch briefly, 15 seconds. Transfer to ice water to cool. Drain and dry thoroughly on a kitchen towel.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat bottom of a baking pan with olive oil. Select 8 large dill sprigs without stems and set aside. Scatter remaining dill sprigs with stems over bottom of pan. Brush salmon filets with olive oil. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over the salmon. Lightly season all over with salt and pepper. Place salmon on kale leaf. Wrap leaf around salmon. If necessary, use another kale leaf to sufficiently cover.  Arrange the the kale-wrapped salmon over the dill in the baking pan, seam side down. Repeat with remaining salmon and kale. Brush olive oil and squeeze more lemon over the fish. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper. Bake in oven until salmon is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with a spoonful of harissa.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Roasted Salmon with Green Olive Tapenade
Sriracha Baked Salmon and Cauliflower
Kale and Carrot Salad with Pecans and Cranberries
Mushroom Barley Soup with Miso and Kale

Cooking for your Health: Greek Couscous Salad

For the latest installment of Cooking for your Health, which nicely coincides with the Meatless Monday initiative, I present you with this recipe for Greek Couscous Salad. It’s still winter in this part of the world, although the weather is behaving more like spring. Hefty winter salads are a healthy, satisfying and an economical way to get our daily dose of vitamins and nutrients during the cold season, while providing light yet substantial sustenance. This recipe looks to the Greek salad for inspiration. Chopped cucumber, onion, sweet peppers and fresh herbs, rich in Vitamins A and C, are tumbled with whole wheat couscous and protein-rich chickpeas, then topped with a sprinkling of feta cheese. Boosted with lemon, garlic and cayenne, this salad is at once healthy and ridiculously good. I like to serve it simply as-is or scooped into pita bread with a dollop of tsatsiki and harissa. Healthy and meatless don’t get better than this.

Greek Couscous Salad

This salad is very forgiving in its ingredients. The couscous may be substituted with another favorite grain such as farro or quinoa. Feel free to add more or less of the vegetables to the couscous to your taste. The important thing is to have a variety of texture and lots of crunch. Serves 4 to 6.

1 1/4 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, green and white parts thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1/2 small English cucumber, seeded, cut in 1/4 inch dice, about 1 cup
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
1 small red jalapeno or Fresno pepper, seeded, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Black olives (kalamata, oil-cured or niçoise) for garnish

Bring water, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in couscous and lemon juice. Cover and let sit until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and transfer the couscous to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Gently mix to thoroughly combine. Taste for salt and seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with olives.