Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cauliflower Soup Seasoned with Medium Hot Curry

 I saw this on the Harvard Public Health site. It is really good advice:

Forget calories and focus on food quality. Let your body do the rest. . . . Any weight-loss approach that involves deprivation wears you down, psychologically and biologically. Give your body what it needs and it will reward you. Work with, rather than against, your body. (edited version)


1 lb. cauliflower
400 ml of 1% milk
1/4 teaspoon of medium hot curry powder
2 quarter-inch thick large slices of red onion
9 oven-roasted garlic cloves
a sprinkle of dry tarragon
a sprinkle of chopped or crumbled feta
salt and pepper to taste

I love making soup using cauliflower as the base. Cauliflower makes a thick, smooth soup but without adding fat-heavy cream. I used 1% milk for this soup but often I use low sodium chicken stock in the box. In these cases, I use no milk at all.

Put a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil in a large pot and fry the red onion until it is translucent. Don't be cheap with the olive oil. We all need some fat and olive oil is one of the good guys. With the onion translucent, add the cauliflower and milk. Simmer until the cauliflower is soft. This may take about twenty minutes. Take care not to boil. When the cauliflower is done, add the medium hot curry and the oven-roasted garlic cloves.

Using an immersion hand blender, mix the cauliflower, garlic, curry and milk until thick, creamy and smooth. If necessary, turn up the heat under the pot for a few seconds to bring the soup to serving temperature. Spoon into bowls, add a sprinkle of dry tarragon and some crumbled feta cheese, and serve.

Time-saving tip

A small, grocery store near my London, Ontario, home has oven-roasted garlic in the antipasto bar. I used this in my soup. It saved me from having to roast my own garlic. Roasting the cloves isn't difficult but it does add another step to the prep time. Look for oven-roasted garlic cloves in a grocery store near you. Maybe you will get lucky.

Equipment tip

Many sources claim the Breville BSB510XL Control Grip Immersion Blender is one of the best. I found it available at Best Buy on sale for a hundred bucks. Regularly it sells for $120. If you don't have an immersion blender, the Breville is worth a look.

A fine recipe from the New York Times

Tonight I made a ragout recipe that I saw in the New York Times. It was very good but a little on the hot and spicy side. I might have over done the cayenne pepper. I put a dollop of no-fat sour cream on top of the ragout and this plus the rice helped to lessen the heat.

I wish I could have gotten a picture of this dinner. Visually, it was a ten. First, I laid down a circle of white, basmati rice. I left a hole in the middle to cut the calories. Then I laid down a second circle of rice but this time it was black rice. I got the wonderful, black rice on sale at HomeSense. It had a nice texture but it was the dramatic look that made this rice worth the effort.

And the rice did take a little effort as I cooked two pots of rice. I did not mix the rice during the cooking. I've learned the black colour comes out in the water and stains the white rice a dark, almost black shade. The lovely white and black contrast is lost.

I spooned the ragout into the middle of the plate and then one side of the plate I placed a large bunch of bright, green broccoli and on the other side I placed a grilled, spicy, turkey sausage. If I make this again, and I think I will, I will cut the grilled sausage into large sections and drop all into the ragout. I found the turkey sausage dry. I think finishing it in the ragout for about ten minutes will add moisture.

I don't have a proper flash and the window light was gone at 5:30 p.m. when I served dinner. The room lights make the food look funny. I need daylight to get good pictures. I either have to get my meals together by 5 p.m. at the latest or wait for spring before taking any pictures.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Zucchini ribbons topped with hot sauce rich with flavour

This was one of the best vegetable dishes we have ever made.

Mix oodles of good, healthy stuff and put the mixture on top of noodles carved from a few raw zucchini squash and you have one fine dinner. And, it's quick to make plus very heart healthy to boot.

It took but a couple of minutes to shred the zucchini.
Kitchen shops sell inexpensive tools to carve vegetables into long strips resembling spaghetti. I got one for Christmas and tonight my wife and I used it. Wow! The results were wonderful.

First, we made the ersatz spaghetti using two fresh zucchini and then we set the zucchini noodles to the side. The next time we will use three zucchini. When briefly fried, the zucchini shrinks in volume.

Next, we fried four large, chopped mushrooms in a clean, light, virgin olive oil. Before the mushrooms were done, we added a teaspoon of coarsely chopped garlic. This coats the mushrooms, giving them a hint of garlic flavour. We often use chopped garlic that comes in an incredibly large jar from Costco. It keeps well and the taste is very light.

Low in calories.
Quickly, and in order, we added eight, quartered small tomatoes, about two ounces of chopped, bottled artichoke, some zucchini disks made from the stubs leftover from the noodle making, two chopped green onions, eight roasted garlic bulbs halved, and four tablespoons of Paese Mio Hot Chili Pesto. (If you cannot find the Paese Mio, chop up a small, hot, chili pepper.) As soon as the mix was evenly coated with pesto, we pushed the mix to the side of the large, deep non-stick frying pan. (The next time we made this, we used a second large pan for frying the noodles.)

We added a little more olive oil, keeping it on the clean side of the pan, and then we dropped the strands of zucchini into the hot oil. Being thin, it cooked quickly. Before the zucchini could lose all its raw crunch, we mixed it with the mix sitting off to the side. As a finishing touch, we added two ounces of soft, low-fat, goat cheese. We mixed all and served it with a light dusting of grated Parmesan cheese.

This meal was a nine. It could have been a ten but the rich mix of colours were a bit too muted. I think serving the zucchini as a base, maybe "buttered" with a little Becal margarine containing olive oil, and then topped with the sauce mixture would have added the missing visual punch.

Another day, another salad. This one is a salmon salad.

Yesterday I published a post on making heart healthy salads. Today, my wife and I threw another heart healthy salad together and even though little changed it was a new salad. The main substitution was canned salon for the bottled tuna. Without the spicy, Mediterranean tuna the salad was able to welcome a completely new flavour -- the canned salmon. We also eliminated the apple chunks.

I am going to get my cholesterol under control. That's a promise. I'll wait a couple of months and then I'm going to ask my family doctor to run some tests.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A bad heart leads to a pleasant life

I had my annual heart and stroke check-up Friday. My cholesterol is down from its highs but it is not as low as the doctors would like. Damn. (Forgive the language.)

I'm now off Lipitor and onto Crestor at the 40mg level. I am also taking 10mg of ezetimibe. The two drugs have been found to work very well together at controlling cholesterol numbers. The Harvard Medical School health publication reports:

After an average of six years, those in the statin-plus-ezetimibe group had an average LDL level of 54 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) — well below what was once considered a “good” LDL level.

This morning I cut the maple syrup in my steel cut oats to 1 tsp from 1 tbsp. I'm lowering my sugar intake. (I thought the oats actually tasted better with less syrup.) And for lunch my wife and I made a wonderful tuna salad containing:

  • romaine lettuce - am't is your decision
  • baby spinach - am't is your decision
  • green onion (2-chopped)
  • half a sweet pepper (1/2-chopped)
  • spicy, bottled Mediterranean tuna (65 g)
  • a sweet, navel orange (1-chopped)
  • a sweet, Ambrosia apple (1-chopped)
  • a smattering of chopped pistachios (10 g-chopped)
  • lemon juice - a generous squeeze
  • I used a light dressing from Remark in London. - The dressing is your choice but go lite and use sparingly.

The salad that my wife and I made was delicious, filling and heart healthy. I had no idea having a heart condition could be so pleasant.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Soup can be easy, tasty, inexpensive and very healthy

Isla enjoys making and eating soupespecially when trusted with a Corningware mug.
I just read a great New York Times produced article on how to make soup. Check it out. It is a beautiful piece of writing, very inspiring. Tomorrow I'm heading over to Best Buy to get myself a Breville 1.2L 280-Watt Control Grip Immersion Blender. According to the Times and others, this is the toy to use when making certain soups. Just be careful not to burn out the motor. Read the instructions.

Friday, January 6, 2017

To lose weight, eat well while thinking quality

As I stated at the birth of this blog, I am not going to try and do it all. I am going to share my sources with you. I will share the stuff that shapes my own beliefs about dieting and about eating well to improve one's health. In this vein, today I am linking to a Harvard Public Health post: Off the Cuff.

Click on the link and read what the Harvard professor has to say about focus on food quality and not simply calories when trying to lose weight.

Have a good day,

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Breakfast: steel cut oats, fruit and nuts

What did I have for breakfast when I was losing weight? The answer is steel cut oats with added fresh and dried fruits, plus two kinds of nuts, a tbsp of Qia mix plus two tbsp of 1% milk. I hate to admit it, but I also added a tbsp of maple syrup. Let's be honest. Adding the syrup is simply adding sugar.

And now that I have lost the weight, this is still my breakfast of choice. I like the flavour, the texture and its quick to make. 14 minutes and, when I'm done and I leave the kitchen, the kitchen is tidy. My wife likes that.

The complete ingredient list is as follows:
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill quick cooking steel cut oats
1 tbsp on Qi'a mix (chia, hemp and buckwheat)
1 peeled and mashed banana
1 peeled, cored and coarsely chopped Ambrosia apple
1 Tbsp of maple syrup 
5 grams of chopped dried cherries
10 grams of chopped dried Goldenberries (cape gooseberries)
2 chopped Brazil nuts (about 8 grams)
6 chopped cashews (about 8 grams)

  • Put 3/4 cup of water in a large microwave-safe bowl and heat at high for two minutes.
  • While the water is heating, measure out 1/4 cup of steel cut oats and set aside, mix the Qi'a and milk in a small bowl, and measure out both the dried fruit and the two kinds of nuts.
  • With the water heated to boiling, mix the 1/4 cup steel cut oats with the hot water. Set the microwave to about 40% power and return the bowl to the microwave to gently cook for ten minutes.
  • While the oats are cooking, chop the nuts and dried fruit. I like the nuts and dried fruit coarsely chopped. It's quicker and I prefer the texture.
  • Peel and mash the banana.
  • Peel, core and chop the Ambrosia apple.
  • When the oats are done, remove from the microwave and cook the apple for a minute or more on high. Remember, cooking times will vary depending on the power of your microwave.
  • While the apple is cooking, combine the chopped dried fruit and nuts plus the Qi'a mix with the moist, cooked oats. Scrape the mashed banana into the bowl, too.
  • At this point the apple will be cooked but still a little crunchy. Add the apple to the bowl with the other ingredients.
  • Finish by mixing a tbsp of maple syrup into the mix.
  • I find heating the completed breakfast in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds on high is often necessary. If it still is not warm enough, give it a stir and a further 20 to 30 seconds.

If you are an efficient cook, you will have found time during the microwave cycles to return any remaining ingredients to the fridge or cupboard and you will have washed all plates, measuring cups and utensils. I don't waste time towel drying the stuff but leave all in a dish rack to air dry.

About the ingredients:

  • The steel cut oats have lots of fibre and are low in saturated fats. There is no trans fat and no added sodium or sugar.
  • The dried fruit is in the mix for the sweetness, for the natural sugar. I like boosting the sweetness of the mix with the addition of a healthy berry, the cape gooseberry. I prefer the dried berries to refined, white sugar. The berries add flavour and not just naked sweetness. Plus, the cape gooseberry adds fibre: another benefit. Click on the link and you can read why some folk call this berry a superfood. I don't make that claim.
  • The nuts taste great and are a prized addition to any Mediterranean diet. The Brazil nuts gain bragging rights when it comes to selenium. Just two Brazil nuts deliver enough selenium to meet one's daily requirements for this trace metal.
  • The banana adds smooth bulk and body along with sweetness and lots of nutrition. Think potassium for a start but bananas contain lots more. Bananas are popular for good reason.
  • The Ambrosia apple adds flavour, crunch, a bit of sweetness and looks good in the mix. Apple and banana are great additions to any breakfast. When available, and selling for a reasonable price, I like to substitute chopped fresh strawberries for the apple.
  • The maple syrup should not be here but I'm a sinner. The maple syrup may add more flavour than refined white sugar but let's be honest: This is adding sugar, a small amount, but sugar nevertheless.

I make no sweeping claims about this breakfast. For overblown claims, click the links. I feel that some of the claims are ones that Ponce de Leon would have appreciated.  When I read such claims, I find myself questioning their veracity. If something seems just too good to be true . . .

I will say this: my heart doctors would approve of this breakfast, especially if I removed the maple syrup. This breakfast delivers adequate calories to power one through to lunch and it is pleasantly filling. It may keep the need to snack at bay. I say "may" because if it is your habit to snack between meals you have a habit to break.

I believe an important ingredient in any successful weight loss or weight maintenance program is will power. -- and maybe an orange. If you must snack, a bit of fruit is much better than a couple of cookies or a candy bar.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Many doctors not sweet on sugar

I used to be fat. Many people would not have said I was fat but I was. In fact, according to the linked body mass index (BMI) calculator I was borderline obese. The reason few folk noticed was that I was thin compared to many of my friends. Click the link and discover where your body sits on the BMI scale. 

A big driver of my steadily increasing weight in my senior years was sugar. The damn stuff is everywhere if you are lazy and eat a lot of prepared foods. I've cut most prepared foods from my diet and in doing so have slashed my sugar consumption.

Do I miss the sugar? No. And neither does my wife. We have both taken control of our diets and it feels good. When I hit a bump while driving, I no longer feel a jiggling band of fat at my waist quivering above my all-too-tight belt.

Click on the following link to a New York Times opinion piece: Take the no sugar challenge.

Oh, and by the way, today my BMI is 23.1.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

When it comes to your gut, you are what you eat

Today, I'm starting a new blog. A blog looking at food, healthy eating and personal well being. My new blog will feature recipes, personal insights and links to stuff I think you will find interesting. I am not going to stress out trying to write a new, original post every day.

I want to skirt the "know-it-all" trap that eventually takes down many good newspaper columnists and talented bloggers—and, I must confess, me. Not this time: a man's gotta know his limitations...

Today I'm directing you to an article in the New York Times: A Gut Makeover for the New Year.