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Big Losers (March 21, 2011)

What a ghastly winter for most everyone; bet a lot of you did just as we did... hunker down and eat rich, warming meals with plenty of good wine to match! Bulky sweaters managed to hide a burgeoning waistline; this, umm, larger silhouette all balanced off with furry hat and heavy boots. Warm, but not a pretty sight...

Wait, is that a crocus peeping out of the melting snow patch? Did a friend just to the south say she saw a robin? Could spring be coming soon? The weather reports are improving, and we can't wait, but warm weather means lighter clothes and bathing suits... Oh Dear. The scale was dusted off, and approached with dread; we slowly stepped on it feeling rather like Winnie the Pooh, who asked anxiously, "How long does getting thin take?"

Reality check! Not ready to give up the good life but having to do something about these extra pounds, we looked for ideas that would trim calories and still give us good-looking food bursting with flavour. Forget grapefruit and tofu, we want FOOD!

Thank heavens that Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook has just come out, and it's got more than 500 terrific, tasty recipes and suggestions for the healthy cook's kitchen. We loved the loose-leaf, lie-flat format filled with colour photographs, and all the help and how to sections; they range from Kitchen Tools ("Must Have and Nice to Have") to "Healthy Pantry: shelf staples and refrigerator staples" to the every important "Food Safety." And oh, those recipes... Fifteen separate sections from Breakfasts and Brunches through Vegetarian, Slow-Cooker Classics to Pizzas, Yeast Breads and, ahhh, Desserts.

They're all healthy, and just to prove it, nutritional information is listed for each. Thumbing through the book, Chicken with Orange Gremolata caught our eye, as did Venison Steaks with Blackberry Sauce! Moving on to Desserts we were thrilled to find a recipe for that rich and sinful old Southern classic, Pecan Pie! Just imagine! It's all here, and it's wonderful.

Live in the USA or Canada? Lucky you, as purchasing the cookbook gives you a free year's subscription to Weight Watchers magazine!

Not to be outdone, ever popular Better Homes and Gardens magazine has produced a terrific spiral-bound cookbook, Eat Well, Lose Weight, and it's one of the best guides to a healthy lifestyle we've seen. The opening chapter, "Eat for Health," gives basic, sound nutrition advice with explanations and fun titles such as "Are you getting enough?" to keep it an upbeat and interesting read. Tips on adding colour and fibre while making sure your portions are correct are helped along with juicy colour photographs for each recipe. We especially appreciated the page on estimating your total caloric needs and making up your own weight loss plan of action.

We loved paging through the 500+ recipes and completely agree with the editors, who say, "If you think diet food is all rice cakes and protein powder, you're in for a surprise!" These dishes are full-flavour, low-calorie versions of everyone's favourites from appetizers to sinful-sounding desserts; best of all, you'll know they're healthy, as they were developed by registered dietitians and tested thoroughly in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen.

Anne Lindsay is a household word in Canada, and for good reason. Her five bestselling cookbooks have sold over 2 million copies in 17 countries. Her latest, an instant best seller as well, is Lighthearted at Home, a collection of her most popular recipes and ideas. Anne knows her stuff; she was the Nutrition Editor at Canadian Living magazine and has written food and nutrition many other popular publications as well. She's helped change the way North Americans eat, bringing flavour to healthy foods in easy-to-make, absolutely delicious food. These recipes are all fresh and up to date and include a slimmer version of your old favourites or that divine dish you ate at the charming bistro last night.

We've known Anne for years and are always impressed with her knowledge and experience, and this book sums it all up beautifully. Not yet acquainted with Anne Lindsay? Then get hold of a copy today. We promise it will move to the front of your A-list cookbook shelf in the kitchen.

Every see a fat caveman? Those hairy-chested Paleolithic-era fellows draped in skins always looked strong and sturdy as they marched out to find a mastodon. This was no easy task; clearly they had to be in great shape just to survive! We know they got exercise, but what did they eat anyway?

We looked on line and, to quote Wikipedia, "the Paleo Diet is based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various human species consumed during the Palaeolithic era. (2.5 million years duration that ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture.) Today's version of the Palaeolithic diet consists mainly of meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils."

While variations on this regime have been around for a long time, to actually follow it a workable cookbook was needed; it took Loren Cordain, PhD, professor in the Health and Exercise Science Department at Colorado State and one of the top researchers in the area of evolutionary medicine, and the equally accomplished Lorrie Cordain, a Paleo chef, marathon runner and former triathlete, to put this information into a readable, usable form that has helped great numbers of people lose weight and keep it off!

Dr. Cordain says, "fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and seafood are high in beneficial soluble fibre, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbohydrate that promote good health. The Paleo Diet is low in refined sugars and grains, dairy, trans fats, salt, high-glycemic carbohydrates, and processed foods that frequently may cause weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and numerous other health problems. The Paleo Diet encourages dieters to replace dairy and grain products with fresh fruits and vegetables – foods that are more nutritious than whole grains or dairy products."

Quick! Send the hunter-gatherer in your family out to shop! Bird, bison and game meat recipes abound as do delicious ideas with eggs, seafood, vegetables and fruit. You may not take the premise as seriously as the Cordains do, but you will be smiling with these menus and the results of your smaller waistline! Arrrgh... where's my club? Ostrich tonight!

On today's menu:

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (178 KB)

 


 

Brunch Blintzes

You're celebrating this weekend with friends over for brunch; surprise and delight everyone with blintzes! You'll get compliments on your new figure and the exquisite meal, and no one will guess that it's a light weight version of the original! Hey, you'll save so many calories that you can open the champagne! From Better Homes and Gardens Eat Well, Lose Weight.

Makes 15 blintzes
Prep: 30 minutes

  • 1½ cups fat-free milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 15-ounce carton light ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp low-sugar orange marmalade
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 8-ounce carton light dairy sour cream
  • Shredded orange peel (optional)
  • 1½ cups fresh raspberries and/or blueberries
  1. For crepes, in a medium bowl combine milk, flour, and egg; beat with a rotary beater or wire whisk until smooth. Lightly coat an unheated 6-inch skillet or crêpe pan with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat over medium heat. Remove skillet or crepe pan from heat and pour in about 2 Tbsp of the batter. Lift and tilt skillet to spread batter evenly. Return skillet to heat; cook 30 to 60 seconds or until crepe is browned on bottom. Turn out onto paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter to make 15 crepes total. When necessary, coat skillet with additional non-stick cooking spray, removing skillet form heat before coating.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 15×10×1 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. For filling, in a medium bowl combine ricotta cheese, orange marmalade, and cinnamon. Spread about 2 Tbsp of the filling on the unbrowned side of a crepe. Fold in half. Fold in half again, forming a wedge. Place in prepared pan. Repeat with remaining filling and crepes, overlapping as necessary to fit in pan.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through. To serve, spoon sour cream onto blintzes. If desired, sprinkle with orange peel. Top with berries. Makes 15 blitzes.

Nutrition Facts per blintz:
Calories: 101
Total Fat: 3g (2g sat. fat)
Cholesterol 27mg
Protein 5 g
Carbohydrate 12 g
Fibre 1g
Sodium 51mg
Exchanges: 1 other carbohydrate, 0.5 g

Tony's wine recommendation:
Extra Dry Prosecco
 


 

Vietnamese-Style Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

Our Toronto neighbourhood has several Vietnamese restaurants, all with wonderful food. Vietnamese cuisine is lighter, with different seasonings that those in China and other neighbouring countries; this is thanks to the legacy of the French, who occupied the country for more than a century. Today, their ubiquitous quick meal is the banh mi, a flavour-packed sandwich served in a crusty buttered baguette. Variations might include pickled vegetables, sliced meats, a spread of pâté; whatever combo you choose, it will be some of the best out-of-hand eating ever! The Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook has given us a wonderful version; you'll want to plan ahead to marinate the vegetables and assemble the ingredients; we keep extra on hand just in case the hunger pangs strike suddenly!

Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 4 (5 ounce) skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup matchstick cut carrots
  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup fat-free mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 (10-ounce) whole grain baguette, cut into 4 equal pieces
  • 12 baby romaine lettuce leaves
  • 20 thin slices peeled cucumber
  • 24 fresh cilantro leaves
  1. To make marinade, combine lime juice, oil, and cayenne in large zip-close plastic bag; add chicken. Squeeze out air and seal bag; turn to coat chicken. Refrigerate, turning bag occasionally at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together carrots, vinegar and sugar in small bowl; let stand about 15 minutes. Stir together mayonnaise, ketchup and chilli powder in another small bowl.
  3. Spray grill rack with non-stick spray. Preheat grill to medium or prepare medium fire using direct method. (Or spray non-stick ridged grill pan with non-stick spray and set over medium heat.) Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place chicken on grill rack (or in grill pan) and grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plate; let stand 5 minutes. Cut on diagonal into half-inch slices.
  4. Drain carrots. Cut each piece of bread lengthwise in half, cutting almost all the way through. Spread mayonnaise mixture on bottom half of bread. Layer each sandwich with 3 romaine leaves, 5 cucumber slices, 1/4 cup of carrots, one-fourth of chicken and 6 cilantro leaves.

Nutritional Information:
Per Serving (1 sandwich): 295 grams, 396 Cal, 7 g Total Fat, 1 g Sat at, 0 g Trans Fat, 82 mg Chol, 689 mg Sod, 48 g Total Carb, 8 g total Sugar, 6 g Fib, 37 G Prot, 55 mg Calc.
PointsPlus value: 10

Hint: If the fresh cilantro you purchase comes with the stems attached, do not throw them away after trimming. They are jam-packed with flavour. Wash and pat them dry, then chop and use in your favourite soup, salad or marinade.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Semi-Dry Riesling (or Kabinett)
 


 

Marinated Shrimp and Mango Salad

Oh, Anne Lindsay, you've done it again! Lighthearted at Home came just at the right time as we were getting discouraged about getting into better shape. What a great way to dive into the new regime... this salad has it all. Even small seconds won't hurt, and we'll bet you can't resist. Hint, it's just as good with chicken, and this dish is a perfect pot-luck bring. Trust us, it will go first!

Makes 12 appetizer servings or 6 main-course servings

  • 2 lb (1 kg) large peeled raw shrimp (or thawed and dried)
  • 1 tsp (5 mg) canola oil
  • 2 bunches watercress (8 cups/2 L lightly packed)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) packed fresh coriander sprigs
  • 2 sweet red peppers, cut in thin strips
  • 2 large ripe mangoes, peeled and cut in thin strips
    Shrimp Marinade
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) each ground cumin, ground coriander and paprika
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) low fat plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp (25 mL) minced gingerroot
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) minced garlic
  • 2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped, or 1 Tbsp (15 mL) chopped bottled peppers
  • Grated rind of 1 lime
  • ¼ tsp or less (1 mL or less) salt and freshly ground pepper
    Dressing
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) mango chutney
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) fresh lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp (50 mL) canola oil
  • Dash hot pepper sauce

Shrimp Marinade
In a small non-stick skillet, dry roast cumin, coriander and paprika over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes or until darkened slightly and fragrant. Let cool. In a large bowl, stir together yogurt, gingerroot, garlic, jalapeño peppers, lime rind, roasted spices and salt and pepper to taste. Add shrimp, mix to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or for up to 1 day.

Dressing
In food processor, purée chutney. Add lime juice, oil and hot pepper sauce, process to mix. Set aside.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat, cook shrimp and marinade, turning once, for 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp are pink and opaque.

In a large bowl, toss together watercress, coriander, red peppers, mangoes, shrimp and marinade left in the pan, and dressing. Arrange on individual salad plates.

Hints:
Make ahead: Marinate shrimp, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Prepare dressing up to 1 day in advance; keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Note: Use whole sprigs of watercress and coriander but remove bottoms of large, touch stems. You could also replace half watercress with arugula.

Chutney replaces some of the oil in the dressing in this recipe. Not only does it reduce the overall amount of fat, it adds flavour and helps to emulsify and thicken the dressing.

Nutritional Information:
391 calories, 35g protein, 10g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 287 mg cholesterol, 42 g carbohydrate, 5 g fibre, 776 mg sodium, 841 mg potassium.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Alsace Pinot Gris or Viognier
 


 

Bison Steak with Caramelized Onions

In The Paleo Diet cookbook, Loren Cordain says, The proven benefits of eating grass-fed bison convinced us that this meat dish should become a regular part of your Paleo meals. Whether you serve this for breakfast, lunch or dinner, your body with thank you for this powerful protein indulgence. OK, Loren, that's heavy going... what we loved is the convenience and flavour. You will too.

Serves 4

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, sliced into thick rings
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 4 bison filet mignon steaks, 4–6 ounces each
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a cast iron skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of the oil over medium flame. Add onion rings and cook for five minutes, turning at the halfway point for even browning. Pour in orange juice and continue cooking for one minute. Remove onions from pan, place in a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining Tbsp of oil to skillet and add steaks, cooking for five minutes on each side. Remove from pan and tent with foil for five minutes. Top steaks with onions and parsley.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Zinfandel, California Merlot or Côtes du Rhône
 


 

Ostrich Almandine

The hunters have come home with a giant flightless bird, and an ancestor of Julia Child plucked some tangy plants and bulbs from the bush, and cracked open a handful of nuts she'd been saving. These were nudged into the coals until just browned, and added to the roasting meat, perhaps under the skin. We can only imagine how it happened, but we know that our Paleo ancestors did spice up their food with flavourful grasses, seeds and fruit and nuts were part of their diets. Your caveman will love this dish! From The Paleo Diet Cookbook.

Serves 4

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 ostrich medallions, 4–6 ounces each
  • 2 Tbsp brandy (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp slivered roasted almonds

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium flame. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for three minutes. Place ostrich medallions in skillet and cook for eight minutes, turning at halfway point. Turn flame to high and pour in optional brandy. Sauté for one more minute. Remove from heat and sprinkle with almonds.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Oregon or New Zealand Pinot Noir
 


 

Harvest Vegetable Curry

Oh Yum! We love this dish, as it's hearty, satisfying and even better the next day. The colours are bold as are the flavours, and the chickpeas and grain complement each other to form a complete protein! This dish satisfies even the die-hard carnivores, especially when accompanied by just the right red wine!

More please? From Lighthearted at Home.

Serves 4 as a main course

  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups (500 mL) cubed, peeled squash (about 1-inch/2.5 cm pieces)
  • 2 cups (500 mL) broccoli florets
  • 1 sweet red pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 small yellow zucchini, cut in chunks
  • 1 red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 can chickpeas (19 oz/540 mL), drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp (25 mL) minced gingerroot
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) curry powder or paste
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sodium-reduced vegetable broth or water
  • 2 Tbsp (25 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups (750 mL) hot cooked brown rice, couscous or bulgur
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped fresh coriander or parsley

Steam carrots and squash for 5 minutes. Add broccoli, red pepper, zucchini and red onion; steam for 5 minutes. Add chickpeas; steam for 3 to 5 minutes or until all vegetables are tender-crisp.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat, cook gingerroot, curry powder, cumin, garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring often for 2 minutes. Add broth and lemon juice, simmer, covered, for 2 minutes. Toss vegetables with sauce.

Serve over hot rice. Sprinkle with coriander or parsley.

Nutritional Information:
402 calories, 13 g protein, 7g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 76 g carbohydrate, 11 g fibre, 335 mg sodium, 865 mg potassium.

Anne says: If you don't have a large steamer, cook vegetables in as little water as possible, or microwave the carrots, squash and zucchini together, covered, on High for 6 minutes, then add chickpeas and microwave for another minute. I simmer the broccoli, onion and sweet pepper together in a small amount of water for 5 minutes or until tender-crisp, then drain and toss all the vegetables with the curry mixture.   

Tony's wine recommendation:
California Sauvignon Blanc or Ontario Semi-Dry Riesling
 


 

Pecan Pie

This has always been the most calorie-laden pie going, and also one of the most popular. Warm and rich, with heavy undercurrents of dark brown sugar in which lay nestled loads of sweet pecans... and why yes, I'd love some whipped cream on the side.

Who dreamed that we could still have our favourite dessert in the world and not gain 5 pounds? Weight Watchers, that's who, and it's within their Point Plan! Well sure, the portions are small, but even a sliver of this pie is better than yogurt any day!

Serves 20 (now don't cheat...)

  • Pie dough for single crust
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup pecans
  1. On lightly floured work surface with lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into 12-inch round.* Gently fold dough in quarters and ease into a 9-inch pie plate, pressing it against side of pie plate. Trim edge, leaving 1-inch overhand. Decoratively crimp edge of dough. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F.
  3. Whisk together all remaining ingredients except pecans in large bowl, stair in pecans. Pour into pie shell and spread evenly.
  4. Bake pie 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until edges area set and filling is jiggly in center, 30–35 minutes longer. Loosely cover pie with foil to prevent overbrowning, if needed. Let cool completely on wire rack.

Nutritional Information:
Per serving (1/20th of pie): 50 grams. 169 Cal, 6 g Total Fat, 2 g Sat. Fat, 0 g Trans Fat, 14 mg Chol, 62 mg Sod, 27 g Total Carb, 18 g Total Sugar, 1 g Fib, 2 g Prot, 10 mg Cal.

*Hint: If you have a 9-inch fluted pie dish, roll the dough into an 11-inch circle and fit into the dish.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Tawny Port
 


 

Chocolate Cream Cheese Pie

Oh just look at that dessert... it's got everything, chocolate and more chocolate, creamy topping, sprinkles and a couple of raspberries tossed in. Could life be better? Yes, if the calories have been shaved out like those sprinkles; how decadent can only 180 calories per serving be? Right, and there's no guilt quotient here either. Goes together in less than half and hour, and ready a few hours later for dessert! Oh, thank you Better Homes and Gardens Eat Well, Lose Weight!

Makes 10 servings

Prep: 20 minutes
Chill: 4 hours

  • 1 4-serving-size package fat-free sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1¾ cup fat-free milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce container frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 1 6-ounce chocolate-flavour crumb pie shell
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 Tbsp grated semisweet chocolate
  1. In a medium bowl prepare pudding mix according to package direction using the 1¾ cup milk. Stir in vanilla, set aside.
  2. Place cream cheese in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on 100% power (high) for 15 seconds, stir. Microwave on 100% power (high) for 15 seconds more. Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed for 15 seconds. Add remaining pudding mixture; beat until smooth. Fold in half of the whipped topping. Spread mixture in pie shell. Chill about 4 hours or until set.
  3. Top individual servings with remaining whipped topping, raspberries and grated chocolate.

Make-Ahead Directions: Prepare as above through step 2. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Serve as above in step three.

Nutrition Facts per serving:
Calories: 180
Total Fat: 8g (4 g sat. fat)
Cholesterol: 9 mg
Protein: 4 g
Carbohydrate: 22g
Fibre: 1 g
Sodium: 285 gm
Exchanges: 1.5 Other Carbohydrates, 1.5 g Fat.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Icewine, Beaume-de-Venise
 


 

*With thanks to A.A. Milne, author of Winnie-the-Pooh (1926).

We wish to thank:

John Wiley and Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ and Mississauga, Canada for permission to publish photographs and information from the following:

Better Homes and Gardens Eat Well, Lose Weight. © 2010 Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, Iowa. All rights reserved.

and

WeightWatchers® New Complete Cookbook. © 2011 Weight Watchers International, Inc. All rights reserved.

and

The Paleo Diet Cookbook. © 2011 Loren Cordain. All rights reserved.

and

Lighthearted at Home, the Very Best of Anne Lindsay. © 2010 Anne Lindsay & Associates Ltd.

Ostrich Painting: Archaeological Site, Rabisa (Magura), Bulgaria
Warrior, archer, and an ostrich-like bird, painted with bat excrement. Mural from the Rabisa (Magura) Cave, Bulgaria Hallstatt period (900-400 BCE). www.lessing-photo.com

Bison Painting: Adapted from cave paintings in Altamira, Spain. For more information, go to:
whc.unesco.org/en/list/310
museodealtamira.mcu.es/ingles/cueva_altamira.html

 

Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (178 KB)

 

 

 

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